It’s time! The UFC returns and all the sports fans rejoice. The idea of a card being ‘stacked’ is thrown around, much like saying a fighter has a ‘punchers chance’, but to call this card stacked is an accurate description. We have the pleasure of two intriguing title fights as well as the two heaviest hitters in the division (with the exception of maybe Derrick Lewis) as well as fighters such as Calvin Kattar, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Michelle Waterson, Vincente Luque, Fabricio Werdum and Ronaldo Souza, to just name a few. Below we have previews for all the main card bouts as well as a couple of undercard picks to lead you into the UFC 249 Main Card in fine fettle. It’s time fight fans and let’s delve into the card below.
Once you get over that Khabib v Tony is off yet again you can really get hyped for this matchup. While fights like Lewis v Ngannou looked like fireworks on paper but let us down, this fight basically cannot let us down. Neither man knows how to fight on the back foot and not take risks and that is why it is such an exciting bout. I could talk about how Tony has skills that could exploit Justin on the ground or that Justin lands 8.57 strikes per minute to Tony’s 5.71 but realistically this is a fact of does Tony get caught by Justin’s power in the early rounds or can he weather the storm and come over the top of him in the championship rounds. Tony can adapt like no other and has not lost since 2013 and although he has been hurt on multiple occasions he has survived well and ended up suffocating his opponents with his pressure and output. He is as well-rounded of a fighter as there is in the division and has the most insane cardio I have seen.
The factor that worries me for Tony is that he often leaves his chin up when backing back from punches and while this hasn’t cost him so far all it takes is Justin to catch him much like he caught Barboza and it could be lights out for Ferguson. The three weeks extra for Justin to prepare has swung my opinion on who I see winning this fight. I did have Tony clearly but now I really think it could go either way. With Justin’s extra conditioning it means Tony will have to absorb more of Justin’s pressure as he will throw everything he has behind every punch and kick. I am probably leaning towards Gaethje to win this inside three and he could cause Tony’s troublesome knee real problems, but I cannot bring myself to tip against a man like Ferguson. With the likelihood Gaethje only has two to three rounds in him I am backing this to be finished before the final round as I see either Gathje putting Tony away early or gassing and Tony sticking to him like glue with a barrage of punches getting the finish on a tiring Gaethje. Regardless I don’t see this making the fifth round. I cannot wait for this one.
Do you believe in ring rust? Cruz doesn’t and he has come off a three-year layoff before and won convincingly and is one of the best Bantamweight’s to ever do it so you would be a brave man to rule him out here. It is a hard ask for him to come back against the rampant Henry Cejudo but Cruz’ movement is technical, and his footwork is unorthodox but causes his opponents to struggle to get a read on him and sort their footwork out. Cejudo is the champion for a reason and I have doubted his ability before and I will not doubt him here but if you watch the start of the Cejudo vs Moraes fight he has shown that he is very beatable. Cruz needs to keep this at range and I believe his wrestling isn’t as big of a discrepancy as many see it. I definitely will have to lean towards Cejudo but Cruz is one of my all time favourites who I cannot rule out. However, as I don’t see Cruz being able to knock Cejudo out and I believe Cejudo may have trouble closing the distance and getting a hold of Cruz I am backing this fight to go to the judges scorecards and from there take your guess how they will score this.
Two scary scary men throwing bombs to see who drops if either. This fight is the perfect lead in to the title fights. Ngannou is coming off two first round KO’s of JDS and Velasquez and he looks as good as ever. Rozenstruik comes into this fight after one of the greatest single punch knockouts I have seen, against Overeem. You can question Overeem’s chin and rightly so but that punch was as well placed as it gets. Both men can get any heavyweight out of there in an instant but both also can take a punch well and I see this fight seeing at least the second round. As for who wins I think Ngannou is the better striker and his technique is getting better every time he steps into the Octagon. Neither man has taken anyone down a single time in their UFC careers and this plays into the hands of Ngannou as I see him as the more dangerous striker. Either way do not miss this fight or miss a second.
This is the most underrated fight on the card in my opinion. Jeremy Stephens will never put in a poor showing as he is always raring to go and I hate to mimic Joe Rogan but Kattar really is on the up and one to watch. He was finishing all over the top of Zabit and has a KO of Ricardo Lamas on his resume already. While I don’t view Kattar as an elite fighter in the division he is a scrapper with a solid chin and has a fighter’s heart that is a coach’s dream. This will be three rounds of standing and banging it out and if you don’t believe me a quick delve into the stats will show you Stephens has taken his opponent down only once in his last 10 fights which was following the fight where he failed on all twelve of his takedown attempts against Max Holloway. Then we have Kattar who has never even attempted a submission in his UFC career. Expect three rounds of mayhem but with both men being able to take a shot I am backing Kattar to outpoint Stephens and take the win by decision.
Hardy has had fighters thrown at him to pad his record until he fought Volkov who he put up a better than I expected showing against. I see De Castro as a real chance of upsetting Hardy here though as his knock out of Tafa impressed me greatly. While De Castro is a solid underdog play I am going to instead bank on this not lasting more than two rounds.
Oleinik has a staggering 46 submission victories in his career and although his top game is exceptional, choking out someone of the calibre of Fabricio Werdum seems a tough ask. I believe both men’s ground game will cancel out the submissions to some extent and instead see this fight finishing on the feet. Werdum has a tendency to retreat with his chin up and Oleinik will throw looping overhands that may catch Werdum. However, the more likely option is Werdum will catch Oleinik in a clinch and use his brutal knees to put Oleinik to sleep. With the similar odds of a Werdum KO to a KO in general though the play will be the fight to finish by KO as Oleinik does have a genuine chance to KO the ageing Werdum
Ryan Spann to beat Sam Alvey ($1.25)
Bryce Mitchell to beat Charles Rosa ($1.62)
Vicente Luque to beat Niko Price ($1.36)
Combined Odds: $2.76
Spann is the faster more polished striker in all aspects and Smiling Sam’s only real hope is to land a one punch KO. Mitchell has the strength to outmuscle Charles Rosa and threaten submissions to either take this out by a comfortable decision or submission. Luque outworked Niko Price last time they fought, and Price’s wins usually come from a freakish KO when he is behind on the scorecards. As long as Luque keeps his head he really should be winning and finishing Niko.
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