The UFC is back in action, as the GOAT returns in Amanda Nunes. She looks to defend her Featherweight Championship for the first time since defeating Cris Cyborg for it. The challenger comes forth in the way of Felicia Spencer. The Canadian offers a formidable threat to Nunes, as she has the durability and pressure to drag this fight into deep waters. Whatever happens, Spencer might be the last of Nunes challenges for some time at 145.
UFC 250 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: UFC Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer – I’m not going to sit here and call this a runaway for Nunes. Spencer gets her due here. She’s got the grappling and is a submissions threat. She’s already shown the ability to take punishment and keep marching forward over three rounds in her fight with Cris Cyborg. She’s got the cardio and confidence to really be a threat in there. However, I’ve got Nunes. She’s got the power, the wrestling and is very technical. Since losing to Cat Zingano, I think we can put to bed the cardio issue. I see Nunes either knocking Spencer out early or taking a fun five round fight via decision.
135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Cody Garbrandt – I’m torn with this prediction, as Assuncao has all the tools to beat Garbrandt. Problem is, Garbrandt switched camps and is working with Mark Henry. I expect a more technical and less street brawler-like Garbrandt, which has been his crux. While you can question his chin, it’s these brawls and trading one’s best punch for mine mentality that has saw the former Bantamweight champion drop three straight fights via knockout.
I however see a new leaf being turned here and Garbrandt toning down the aggression. I see this fight taking place solely on the feet due to Garbrandt’s unblemished takedown defense, thus taking away the grappling that Assuncao often mix’s in with his striking. The power edge, the head movement and speed all goes to Garbrandt. Honestly, I don’t see a result other than Garbrandt winning unless he reverts to brawling. So with that, I’ve got Garbrandt winning via knockout.
135 lbs.: Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen – This should be the co-main event and for the vacant Bantamweight title, but I digress. The fight itself is a tough one to predict, given these are two of the very best Bantamweights. I feel as if Sterling is the more dynamic and unpredictable striker, but Sandhagen still gets the edge in the striking department given his volume and pressure.
The area of concern is Sandhagen’s takedown defense, which sits at a mere 27%. Given Sterling’s wrestling and grappling, I’d say that’s an area where Sterling is going to exploit. While Sandhagen undoubtedly has trained to improve that disadvantage, Sterling can still make things difficult. In the end, I thing Sandhagen might be the fresher fighter, but it’s Sterling who I give the nod too. Think a healthy mix of striking, clinch work and a takedown or two edges out a few round en route to a decision victory.
170 lbs.: Neil Magny vs. Anthony Rocco Martin – I can’t help overlook all the advantages Magny has in this fight. He’s got a three inch height and seven inch reach advantage. He’s a volume striker with cardio through the roof. Martin doesn’t nearly have striking to match, nor cardio (not that it’s bad). The grappling is where it could get dicey for Magny, but Martin doesn’t necessarily have the wrestling to takedown Magny at will like Johny Hendricks. In my opinion, the longer this fight goes, the easier it goes for Magny. So with that, I have Magny winning via decision.
135 lbs.: Sean O’Malley vs. Eddie Wineland – While this is the best opponent O’Malley has fought, its an aging veteran whom fights infrequently. I see an all striking battle won by a quicker and craftier O’Malley. While the finish may be hard given Wineland’s durability, I see still a clean sweep on the scorecards. So with that, I have O’Malley winning via decision,
UFC 250 ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN (8 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Chase Hooper – I honestly believe Caceres is a better fighter than he has shown. He fights up to his competition and down too. His problems often stem from an inability to follow a game plan. When it’s clear he has a striking advantage, he grapples. When he has the divisive grappling advantage, he strikes. It’s a mystery what Caceres we get, so I’m siding with the youngster Hooper. I just have a feeling, there is going to be grappling initiated by Caceres in which he falls into a disadvantage position. From there, Hooper will win via submission.
185 lbs.: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Ian Heinisch – At first, I thought I saw something special in Heinisch. A grinder with good cardio and the inability to quit no matter the round. Now, I’m seeing a guy who’s striking defense, takedown defense and hell takedowns really lack. If he can shore up his defense, he can climb the rankings. However, this fight in particular I don’t see that happening just yet. Meerschaert has good striking, excellent grappling, a real submission prowess and solid durability. He refuses to lose and often has taken punishment early to weather storms. In this fight, I believe Meerschaert has the ability to control this fight wherever it goes. Particularly on the ground, where once it gets too, I see Meerschaert sinking in a submission.
135 lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs. Cody Stamann – I’m conflicted on this fight. I see one scenario where Stamann uses his strength advantage and bullies Kelleher to the ground, controlling him for three rounds. The other scenario involves Kelleher timing a takedown and clenching up his signature guillotine choke. While normally I’d side with the wrestling of Stamann, I’m instead taking Mr. Boom Kelleher via submission.
185 lbs.: Charles Byrd vs. Maki Pitolo – I wasn’t impressed with Pitolo in his debut, as he showed a real lack of takedown defense. It’s something I expect the bigger Byrd to expose heavily in this fight. Although Byrd showed some real striking chops in his last fight against Darren Stewart, it’s the wrestling advantage that will lead to an eventual submission victory.
UFC 250 ‘Prelims’ Card On ESPN+ (6:30 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Jussier Formiga vs. Alex Perez – I don’t want to make this out like I’m shutting Perez down in this fight because I’m not. He’s got fast hands and slick submissions. He’s a potential contender. However, the last taste of stepping up in competition saw him get dealt with. I think the same happens here. Formiga has been in a rut of late, but this is still the man who made Deiveson Figueiredo look bad on the feet. I see counter striking leading the way to an important back back decision victory for Formiga.
205 lbs.: Devin Clark vs. Alonzo Menifield – A question of durability is a big topic in most of these fights. It’s something that Clark has struggled with. Whether it be the fact that he’s fighting up from Middleweight, where he probably fits best or that his ability to endure punishment isn’t there.
Regardless, I’ve got Clark. I believe Menifield is a talent and a feared striker. However, he’s yet to be truly tested in fending off takedowns thus far in the UFC. Throw in the fact that the longest fight of Menifield’s career was five minutes and thirty two seconds, and the question of cardio and success in deep waters is a real question. So with that, on the heels of wrestling and surviving the first round, I believe Clark will grind out a decision victory.
150 lbs.: Herbert Burns vs. Evan Dunham (catchweight) – I’m curious what the durability of Dunham will look like after a 24 month break from fighting. I mean, Dunham possesses the tools necessary to be a contender. He’s brings forth wrestling, volume and pressure. However, his body has failed him as he’s aged. And, I see it failing him again. Burns stormed into the UFC with a knockout via knee. Known for his BJJ, Burns utilizes his grappling edge to bring the fight to the mat and submit his foe. Whether it’s a takedown or pulling guard, Burns thrives on the mat.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Burns. I am concerned that Dunham could overwhelm Burns with volume striking, but I believe the threat of the takedown will not exist because of the dangerousness of Burns off his back. That takes a big element from Dunham’s game away. Now, will Burns take Dunham down? Maybe not. However, will Dunham avoid the body punishment on the feet that has halted his last two fights? Unlikely. So with that, I think Burns connects with some knees to the body and finishes Dunham via TKO.