Yet another stacked weekend of fights approaches as we edge towards UFC 245. Three title fights sit at the top of the card, and I’m going to break all three down and give a (hopefully accurate) prediction on how it all goes down. The greatest female fighter of all time Amanda Nunes defends her Bantamweight championship against Germaine De Randamie in a battle of talented strikers. In the co main event; Max Holloway faces one of his more interesting challenges in former 200lbs Rugby player turned Featherweight ; no.1 contender Alexander Volkanovski. In the main event; newly crowned Welterweight king Kamaru Usman takes on the UFC’s resident pantomime villain in Donald Trump supporter Colby Covington in a battle of two men with very similar styles. Without further ado, let’s get into the breakdown.
Amanda Nunes (c) vs Germaine De Randamie
Germaine De Randamie has found herself back in the mix for the belts; winning two fights after vacating her then inaugural Featherweight belt. De Randamie perhaps finds herself as no.1 contender by default rather than merit here, as there is simply no-one for Nunes to fight. With this being said; De Randamie is a world class kickboxer who is a dangerous night out for any woman at Featherweight or Bantamweight in the UFC right now. Amanda Nunes is the unstoppable force who has failed to meet any kind of immovable object. It is hard to see any woman in the UFC (with the exception of an unlikely move back up to Bantamweight for Valentina Shevchenko) being able to defeat Nunes right now.
If De Randamie is able to keep a long jab in Nunes face and keep busy with leg kicks; she might be able to frustrate the champion and have success as the fight wears on, as Nunes’ savage power will be less of a factor the longer the fight goes. The two fought once previously; Nunes took De Randamie down and finished her with ground and pound inside the first frame. De Randamie will have to establish her striking early in order to keep Nunes off of her and avoid a repeat performance.
Nunes’ game has improved no end since the last time the two came face to face in 2013. Her boxing is more polished; she is more efficent with her energy, and her kicks are excellent. With all this being said; the path of least resistance will still be the same, take GDR down and don’t let her up. Nunes’ ground game is a long way ahead of GDR; and if she can take her down early, the fight is not likely to last long from that point. It’s hard to know what Nunes will decide to do though; as she just knocked out world class boxer and kickboxer Holly Holm via devastating head kick in July this year; so she may fancy her chances of outstriking her opponent as she would likely carry a significant speed and power advantage in the striking realm.
I predict there will be a tentative start to this fight as both women will be wary of the other’s ability. There will be a feeling out process with both women trying to find their range. Around half way through the round both fighters will start to exchange with both landing clean shots. At this point I believe Nunes lands a devastating combination which puts GDR on her back; Nunes will aggressively follow up and begin ground and pounding. After taking some punishment on the ground; GDR will give up her back allowing the champion to sink in a rear naked choke for her fourth defence of the Bantamweight strap.
Amanda Nunes via TKO (Round 1)
Max Holloway (c) vs Alexander Volkanovski
This is a very intriguing fight for a number of reasons; it is arguable Alexander Volkanovski is the most modern fighter Holloway will have faced during his reign as Featherweight champion; having only been fighting a total of six years. Volkanovski has a pressure heavy style; combining solid boxing and power strikes with a very physical wrestling game. A former Rugby player; he may be the strongest Featherweight Max Holloway has faced, and he likes to start fights fast, which should be an interesting contrast with Holloway’s slow starting cardio based style.
Alexander Volkanovski has established himself as a world class fighter in the last 12 months with impressive wins over all time greats in Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. Whilst it’s arguable those two fighters are not what they once were; they were both dangerous and formidable opponents. He will look to add to this by defeating arguably the best Featherweight of all time in Max Holloway. Being the shorter fighter; Volkanovski will need to close the distance and rough up Holloway on the inside in order to avoid the superior range kickboxing of the Featherweight champ. With Holloway typically a slow starter; the challenger should look to put the pressure on early and either look for the finish or build a good lead going into the later rounds. We have seen Volkanovski is powerful; and Holloway for all of his qualities is able to be hit so I wouldn’t rule out a knockout win for the Australian. This being said; if he is unable to finish the fight; keeping pace with Holloway for 25 minutes is a significant challenge for a fighter who has never fought 5 rounds before.
Max Holloway rebounded from his loss at 155lbs to Dustin Poirier with a significant performance against Frankie Edgar. He was able to completely nullify Edgar’s wrestling whilst outstriking him at distance as he has done with the vast majority of his opponents. He looks to add another impressive name to his ever-growing resume and cement his status as the greatest to ever do it at 145lbs. Volkanovski will most likely bring an early storm; however if Holloway is able to come through the other side in one piece, his endurance and striking ability should allow him to pick apart the tough contender. What Holloway may not have seen is an opponent who will come at him as willingly as Volkanovski will and as with most of his fights in recent times, the big question is how much is this weight cut taking out of the champion? Will he move to Lightweight permanently? In spite of his unsuccessful foray against Dustin Poirier; there are often stories about how hard Holloway’s weight cuts are, is it taking a toll on his body?
As stated; I fully expect Volkanovski to start strongly here, using boxing on the inside an clinching against the cage where possible as he did against Jose Aldo. He will use his physical strength to wear down Holloway, who will be unable to find his range in the first frame. He will clip Holloway a few times however the Hawaiian’s chin will hold up. In the second Volkanovski will start off the same way; however he’ll eat a couple of shots coming in this time. Holloway will be able to nullify him in the clinch and will establish more distance to land his shots. In the third Holloway will start to take over; and will land combinations as Volkanovski starts to slow down as in so many of his performances. In the fourth Holloway will turn up the heat and tee off on Volkanovski; at this point the challenger will not be able to take anymore and the referee will pull Holloway off.
Max Holloway via TKO (Round 4)
Kamaru Usman (c) vs Colby Covington
The main event of the evening is a clash between two fighters with two of the best motors in the entire UFC. It is also a heated rivalry; with Colby Covington getting a lot of negative attention for his trash talk recently, regularly affirming his support for Donald Trump and making disparaging comments about a great number of UFC fighters; even UFC President Dana White has been in the line of fire. This has resulted in a lot of resentment from fans and fighters alike directed at Covington; and this may obscure the judgement of some relating to his fighting ability. Both these fighters are world class and their games are very similar; they are excellent wrestlers who set a great pace on the feet; which is why this fight may come down to striking technique.
Colby Covington has been on a tear as of late; with his seven fight win streak showing no signs of slowing up. He has been the 25 minute distance in his last two fights, dominant performances against Rafael Dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler respectively. Covington’s striking has come on leaps and bounds in these outings; and he has combined these skills with his NCAA Division I background to put a serious pace on his opponents; breaking a total strikes landed record over five rounds against Robbie Lawler. It is very possible he will not be able to outwrestle Usman. It is quite possible neither of them will be able to implement a wrestling heavy attack, due to each man’s skill in the area; so Covington’s best road to victory is to use long range kickboxing to utilise his technical striking advantage, and to take any opportunities to shoot on Usman.
Kamaru Usman has looked invulnerable in all of his UFC outings, the only loss on his MMA record was a submission defeat in his second fight. He is coming off an incredible victory over Tyron Woodley; where he put his pressure and wrestling together to dominate to hard-hitting american. Usman has decent striking; however his wrestling against the cage is where he has recently excelled. He is excellent in the clinch; and lands some sneaky elbows on clinch breaks, which could be a great weapon in this fight; as Covington and Usman are clinch heavy fighters, it’s reasonable to expect at least some of the fight will take place there. Once again; I don’t see either of these guys outwrestling each other; so they will need to resort to other skills. Whilst there is a narrative Usman has the power to KO Covington; it is hard to see this happening, as Usman has one KO win inside the octagon, and Covington has taken shots from multiple fighters who hit harder than Usman. It is possible to see either fighter winning using the correct gameplan.
I can see this fight being at a high pace; and being very competitive. It will be somewhat reminiscent of Johnny Hendricks vs GSP; save for the power shots landed by Hendricks. I feel this fight will go all five rounds; with both fighters having their fair share of the action. I feel they will both take each other down at points; however neither will be able to hold the other down for long. I can see Usman cutting Covington up with a couple of elbows in the clinch; but it won’t deter Covington’s attack. Covington will be the superior kickboxer; and this is what will get him the edge. Every round will be competitive and some will be razor thin; however I believe Colby Covington will land the cleaner shots, and this is what the judges will remember. And new…
Colby Covington via Split Decision