UFC on ESPN 5 Staff Picks: Predictions for Covington vs. Lawler

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2019

UFC on ESPN 5 Staff Picks: Predictions for Covington vs. Lawler

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    The UFC hits the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday for UFC on ESPN 5, and the main event will have welterweight championship implications.

    Former interim titleholder and No. 2-ranked contender Colby Covington will battle No. 11-ranked Robbie Lawler in the evening's marquee contest. It will be Covington's first fight since he won the interim title at UFC 225 in June 2018, but in his absence, he was stripped of the gold.

    Lawler will look to steal Covington's position with a big performance and re-enter the title talk.

    Longtime UFC veterans Clay Guida and Jim Miller will be highlighted in the card's co-main event, along with four other main card bouts. The B/R UFC crew put on their thinking caps once again to bring you their predictions for the action.

    Scott Harris, Nathan McCarter and Jonathan Snowden return to give you picks for all six main card contests.

Darko Stosic vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu

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    Nathan McCarter

    Nzechukwu is an alum of the Contender Series, and thus I have to imagine they are trying to find him the most favorable matchup possible. Stosic isn't a pushover, but Nzechukwu should hold the edge. I wouldn't expect much out of this contest outside of a platform to elevate Nzechukwu and the Contender Series.

    Nzechukwu, unanimous decision

                         

    Scott Harris

    There are two general realities at play here: All Contender Series signees are (1) explosive athletes and (2) getting easy matchups to begin their runs in the UFC proper. That argues for a clean Nzechukwu showcase this time, but not so fast—Darko Stosic is no household name, but he is quite the bruiser.

    This one could be fun and not as cut-and-dried as the on-paper matchmaking suggests. The Serbian wins a donnybrook that features more than a few knockdowns on both sides.

    Stosic, unanimous decision

                                  

    Jonathan Snowden

    The UFC undercard these days seems heavily focused on fighters who have come through Dana White's new reality show, which is basically regional MMA where the fighters are tasked with keeping the UFC president from getting bored and looking at his phone. Nzechukwu is the reality "star" here, so my fake money is on him.

    Nzechukwu, unanimous decision

Scott Holtzman vs. Dong Hyun Ma

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    McCarter

    Per Caesars, Holtzman is a -450 favorite. I see no reason to go against Vegas on this one. Ma could be a good choice to take a flier on given the odds, but on a straight-up pick, I wouldn't feel comfortable going against those kinds of odds.

    Holtzman, unanimous decision

                        

    Harris

    This one's a little weird, with both men struggling to find consistency throughout their careers. However, Holtzmann should have a strength edge on Ma, and though neither of them is a consummate brawler, that's how this will play out. It'll either be Fight of the Night or an unsightly snoozefest.

    Holtzman, unanimous decision

                      

    Snowden

    Holtzman is a massive favorite here. Since I couldn't pick either out of a lineup, I'll have to trust that the oddsmakers know more than I do, and I'll make the safe pick.

    Holtzman, unanimous decision

Trevin Giles vs. Gerald Meerschaert

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    McCarter

    Meerschaert has lost three of his last five, but two of those were to upper-echelon fighters (Thiago Santos and Jack Hermansson). In pick 'em bouts, I tend to lean toward the fighter with a better strength of schedule. Meerschaert has been in there with some of the best and held his own, even in losing efforts. He should be able to nab two of three rounds to secure the decision.

    Meerschaert, unanimous decision

                          

    Harris

    Meerschaert is one of those guys who was born grizzled. There's nothing flashy about him, but he's game and he's tough. Giles has enjoyed more notoriety in his young career, and he should use his well-rounded game to rebound after his first professional loss, a late submission to Zak Cummings.

    Giles, TKO, Rd. 2

                              

    Snowden

    Meerschaert has been around the block a couple of times but not enough to have worn a path in the concrete. With two otherwise equal athletes, those reps will make a difference.

    Meerschaert, unanimous decision

Joaquim Silva vs. Nasrat Haqparast

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    McCarter

    This is the first fight for either man in 2019, and both are coming off Fight of the Night performances. It makes sense to expect more of the same here. It will be a high-paced bout with plenty of "swangin' and bangin'" in the center of the cage. Who gets the best of it? Haqparast.

    Haqparast, unanimous decision

                     

    Harris

    I'm not going to pretend like I've seen every Nasrat Haqparast fight, but what I have seen was, while exciting, not enough to make me believe in him as a big-time main card fighter. Silva has been making plenty of his own hay lately. He'll avoid the knockout and piece up Haqparast for a market-correcting win.

    Silva, unanimous decision

                          

    Snowden

    I agree with Nathan, but I think the technical term is "slanging and banging." Either way, these guys are going to throw hands with reckless abandon, and I'm here for it.

    Silva, unanimous decision

Jim Miller vs. Clay Guida

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    McCarter

    This is Miller's fight to lose. I will not buy into a resurgence for Clay Guida because he looked good against BJ Penn. That is fool's gold. Miller has been far more consistent and will win the ground game against Guida. That's enough to suggest a clear-cut decision victory.

    Miller, unanimous decision

                              

    Harris

    These are two guys who have seen better days. I think that needs to be said. Miller will prevent a grindfest by cracking Guida early and grabbing a choke on the ground.

    Miller, submission, Rd. 2

                              

    Snowden

    I love these guys, but this is a fight to decide which fighter is the least washed up. That's what happens in a combat sports athlete's declining years. At some point, you stop trying to gain ground and start fighting not to lose it, and these two are fighting to stave off Father Time. While both will fail eventually, someone will come out of this bout having bought a few precious minutes.

    Miller, unanimous decision

Colby Covington vs. Robbie Lawler

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    McCarter

    Covington is a fantastic wrestler who has matured into one of the division's best fighters. He doesn't overextend himself or get caught up in firefights, but Lawler's defensive wrestling will force him into exchanges in which he will be exposed. After a long night of decisions, Lawler stuns the crowd with a TKO performance to usurp Covington's position in the title picture.

    Lawler, TKO, Rd. 2

                                       

    Harris

    It's almost like Lawler is getting a second chance to close a mouth plenty of people think could do with some closing. Circumstances intervened with Ben Askren. Will they again? I agree with Nathan that Lawler's stout takedown defense will keep him upright long enough to land the big shot. Luckily for Lawler and all those Covington detractors, it doesn't take long. Sound the upset alarms.

    Lawler, TKO, Rd. 1

                         

    Snowden

    This is the closest Lawler could get to running back his controversial loss to Ben Askren, as Covington is a similar competitor stylistically. That means this was the second training camp in a row to focus on wrestling defense, which should serve him well as the UFC's most famous Donald Trump supporter will almost certainly work desperately to get the fight to the ground.

    Here's hoping he fails and Lawler does his part to silence one of the sport's least appealing voices.

    Lawler, TKO, Rd. 3

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