Really looking forward to this one.
UFC 245 tomorrow night in Vegas. Three title fights, a compelling undercard that features former champions and challengers, plus intriguing storylines across the board.
Here’s a look at the five pay-per-view fights that top the bill:
Main event: Kamaru Usman (C) vs. Colby Covington (welterweight)
Intriguing fight in the fact that both guys have a similar style. They want to push you up against the fence and apply constant pressure and use their wrestling backgrounds to smother their opponents.
Let’s start with Covington, who is a total tool but a fantastic fighter, rolling with a Donald Trump MAGA gimmick. He’s a guy who is moving forward for the entirety of the fight, throwing nonstop strikes and then chaining that into takedowns with smart level changes. Sometimes the Trump thing I think distracts people from the fact that he’s really good, a guy with incredible cardio who can keep up his routine well into the championship rounds. Colby doesn’t hit particularly hard, but he has a solid chin and just stays on top of you the whole time, which is exhausting to deal with. Robbie Lawler had a ton of trouble handling it.
Usman, however, is pretty big and strong at 170, and his wrestling knowledge should help him combat Covington’s pressure. I wonder if he can land some early strikes to keep Colby off him and break that pressure game a little bit, slow down the pace. Kamaru was absolutely fantastic in the Tyron Woodley fight, pinning the former champ against the fence for most of the fight while scoring takedowns, avoiding guillotines, and just winning a war of attrition.
Because of their preferred styles, both guys have a reputation of being “boring,” which is the same thing people say about Khabib Nurmagodomedov, which I think is a bit shallow. It takes a lot of skill and conditioning to exhibit the amount of octagon control that these guys show, and in the case of this fight, it’s going to be two similar dudes trying to beat the other at their own game.
Prediction: Usman via unanimous decision
Max Holloway (C) vs. Alexander Volkanovski (featherweight)
Big height and reach advantage for Max Holloway, who I think will win this in pretty straightforward fashion. He’s so good at using his range and his jab and just piecing up opponents with precision striking. It’s really been fun to watch his evolution since 2013, a time frame in which he’s gone 14-1 with the lone loss coming to Dustin Poirier at a higher weight class.
Volkanovski is a well-rounded pressure fighter with good footwork who typical overwhelms inside. He’s gonna have to try to assert his style on Max, which will be difficult since both guys like to set the tone and lead from there. I just don’t know if he’s got the chops to close the gap on Holloway and make him uncomfortable.
It’s honestly less about Volkanovski and more about how elite Max is.
prediction: Holloway via fourth round TKO
Amanda Nunes (C) vs. Germaine de Randamie 2 (bantamweight)
Nunes is the women’s GOAT, but de Randamie is a capable striker. She doesn’t hit as hard or throw with as much violence as Nunes does, but she can time a strike pretty well and is smart inside the cage.
The key for de Randamie is probably to survive the first two rounds and try to get Nunes to tire out a bit. Amanda has taken out Cyborg, Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey, and Miesha Tate in the first round, but she looked most beatable recently when Valentina Shevchenko was able to stretch their two fights to the limit, when Nunes slowed down and stopped throwing those brutal knockout shots that you often see early.
This will be the second fight between the pair, and while both are different competitors now, here’s the first contest from way back in 2013:
prediction: Nunes via 2nd round TKO
Jose Aldo vs. Marlon Moraes (bantamweight)
Jose Aldo’s debut at 135 after 30+ fights at 145.
He hasn’t looked fantastic during recent media appearances, though he hit the scale at 136 a short time ago and it seems like the weight cut wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. He’s 33 years old now and just 3-3 since his loss to Conor McGregor a few years back.
Moraes looked really, really good before losing to champion Henry Cejudo in June. He was coming off of three straight finishes before Cejudo stopped him in the third round, and if we see the Moraes we saw in the Rivera and Assuncao fights, Aldo might be in trouble. I’m interested to see how both guys use their legs, because they are both elite at throwing and checking kicks.
prediction: Moraes via unanimous decision
Urijah Faber vs. Petr Yan (bantamweight)
This will be Faber’s second fight since un-retiring to face Ricky Simon in July.
Hes 40 years old now, the Hall of Famer, but he looked really good in that bout, weathering some early pressure before landing a right hand, dropping Simon, and then finishing with ground and pound.
It wasn’t a long fight, actually less than a minute, so there wasn’t much of a sample size to show us where Faber really truly is after sitting out more than two years between fights.
Yan is a tough opponent for him, a 26 year old who is 5-0 in the UFC with just one career loss. He’s a Muay Thai guy and a pressure striker, which Faber has typically handled well in the past. I’m interested in seeing specifically how Yan approaches this one.
prediction: Yan via unanimous decision