UFC 245: Previewing the Biggest and Best Fights Set for Las Vegas
UFC 245 is the final pay-per-view on the promotion’s 2019 calendar, and it’s a doozy.
The card, scheduled for Dec. 14 at the T-Mobile Arena in shimmering Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of just a handful in UFC history to feature three title fights. Moreover, all of those title fights stand out as legitimately competitive matchups in which no championship reign is truly safe.
The biggest of those title fights -- and the one that’s been given top billing -- will pit welterweight champion Kamaru Usman against polarizing challenger Colby Covington. The UFC struggled for some time to put this fight together, but after some very public negotiations, managed to do so on the final pay-per-view event of the year.
Then there’s the co-main event.
At featherweight, champion Max Holloway—one of the most dominant titleholders in the UFC at present—will attempt to defend his strap against Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski, who is perhaps his toughest challenger to date.
The other title fight on the bill -- and the one we’ll see first on fight night -- will pit women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, who also holds the women’s featherweight title, against former featherweight champ Germaine de Randamie. The two stars have fought once before, but have both evolved significantly since their first meeting, and figure to give each other some new looks in Sin City.
And that’s not where the fun ends, either.
The aperitif for this tasty trio of title fights? A potent cocktail comprising names like Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber, and Mike Perry. We’ll be lucky to be standing by the time the belts are on the line.
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at what’s on the menu this December in Sin City.
UFC 245 Main Card (PPV)
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine de Randamie
Jose Aldo vs. Marlon Moraes
Urijah Faber vs. Petr Yan
UFC 245 Preliminary Card
Mike Perry vs. Geoff Neal
Ketlen Vieira vs. Irene Aldana
Matt Brown vs. Ben Saunders
Chase Hooper vs. Daniel Teymur
Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France
Jessica Eye vs. Viviane Araujo
Punahele Soriano vs. Oskar Piechota
Ian Heinisch vs. Omari Akhmedov
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
In many respects, UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and No. 2 ranked contender Colby Covington could not be more different.
Usman, who moved from Nigeria to the United States when he was a boy, is a proud immigrant. Covington, who was born in California and raised in Oregon, is an outspoken Donald Trump supporter and is more likely than not sporting a MAGA hat at the precise moment you’re reading this. He might sleep in it.
The pair’s starkly differing views of Americanism have already burbled to the surface and will undoubtedly continue to do so—perhaps even to a downright ugly extent—as the fight grows closer.
“This country is built off of immigrants, so when did we get to the point where it’s like we need to divide, we need to push this immigrant out, or that immigrant, or separate, and so I feel like that’s what he’s pushing,” Usman said of Covington in an interview with Kristine Leahy on FAIR GAME. “That’s what he’s trying to say, and I need to let him know that I am more American than he is. I am absolutely more American than he is.”
You can see how this might end up getting heated.
As easy as it is to focus on Usman and Covington’s differences, however, the pair are quite similar in a number of ways.
Both had huge success on the high school and college wrestling circuits. Both chose Florida as the headquarters for their MMA careers—Usman trains at Hard Knocks 356 in Fort Lauderdale, and Covington trains at American Top Team in Coconut Creek. Both boast 15-1 professional records. Usman’s lone career loss came against Jose Caceres; who Covington defeated. Covington’s lone loss came against Warlley Alves; who Usman defeated. Both hold recent decision victories over Demian Maia and Rafael dos Anjos.
The list goes on.
What we have in this welterweight title matchup is a clash between two fighters who, though extremely different on a personal level, have had remarkably similar careers, and possess remarkably similar skillsets. The result will almost certainly be a fiery build-up and an incredible fight.
Who wins? Without the aid of a soothsayer, that’s downright impossible to say.
Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Max Holloway, 21-4 overall, has been the picture of dominance at featherweight.
Since becoming the division’s undisputed champion with a TKO defeat of the legendary Jose Aldo in June of 2017, the Hawaiian "braddah" has defended his belt with a second drubbing of Aldo and lopsided wallopings of Brian Ortega and Frankie Edgar.
Prior to winning the belt, he also picked up impressive wins over contenders like Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens, Charles Oliveira, Cub Swanson and Andre Fili.
Sure, he lost to Dustin Poirier back in April, but that was in the lightweight division. As a featherweight, the Hawaiian has not been challenged in ages.
Enter Alexander Volkanovski.
The Australian challenger, who is 20-1 overall, is on a borderline ridiculous 17-fight win-streak. His last 7 wins have occurred inside the UFC’s Octagon, where he’s thumped top-flight opposition like Darren Elkins, Chad Mendes, and Aldo.
Suffice it to say that he’s looked almost as impressive as Holloway.
In Sin City, of course, somebody always loses. But who?
From the early vantage point, both men’s advantages are quite clear. Holloway will be the taller, longer man in the cage. He’ll also probably have an edge in terms of speed and striking output, and perhaps in terms of submissions.
Volkanovski, on the other hand, will probably be the stronger man in the fight, and the more potent puncher. He’ll also seemingly hold an edge in the wrestling department.
As always, there’s a lot more to it than that—much of which won’t reveal itself until the pair are pounding each other into applesauce in the cage—but both men have clear advantages, and as such, it’s easy to imagine a win for either.
Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine De Randamie
We throw around superlatives an awful lot inside the combat sports bubble, so much so that phrases like Greatest of all Time can become blunted and superficial. If ever there was a fighter worthy of that kind of parlance, though, it’s Amanda Nunes.
At 18-4, she’s the greatest female fighter in MMA history. There’s just no debating it.
Let’s take a quick walk down Memory Lane—though it's probably more deserving of a name like Carnage Crescent or Bloodshed Boulevard in Nunes’ case.
After a fairly unspectacular run on the Brazilian regional scene and in the Strikeforce and Invicta cages, she migrated to the UFC in 2013. In her first two fights with the promotion, she finished Sheila Gaff and Germaine de Randamie. After a disappointing loss to Cat Zingano in her third UFC bout, she then set off on the most impressive streak of any woman in the history of the sport.
She sprinted toward the bantamweight title with impressive wins over Shayna Baszler, Sara McMann, and future flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. She won the bantamweight title with a hellacious beatdown of Miesha Tate. She defended it with a merciless, 48-second execution of Ronda Rousey, then a second decision defeat of Shevchenko and a TKO of her close friend Raquel Pennington. By that point, she was already a frontrunner in the GOAT debate, but she was not content to rest on her laurels.
Instead, Nunes hiked up to featherweight to battle the division’s seemingly unbeatable champion, Cris Cyborg—perhaps the most feared woman in the history of fighting—and shut her lights out in less time than it takes to warm up leftovers in the microwave. Then it was back down to bantamweight for another effortless title defense opposite the former champ.
At this point, there’s not a woman alive that will enter the cage with Amanda Nunes as anything less than a significant underdog—not unless they’re allowed to do so armed with a sword or a hand grenade.
In de Randamie, however, Nunes will meet the most legitimate threat available.
Yes, the champ has defeated the Dutchwoman before. Yet in the years since their first meeting, de Randamie, now 9-3, has made nearly as many improvements as Nunes has. She even briefly reigned as the UFC featherweight champion until she was stripped for inactivity.
The real x-factor in this matchup, though, is that the former kickboxer de Randamie is probably a better striker than Nunes, at least on a technical level, and probably the champion’s equal in terms of power. That power was on full display when she snuffed Aspen Ladd in her last fight.
Can de Randamie deliver a shocking upset with a knockout of Nunes? The oddsmakers will tell you it’s unlikely, but it’s certainly possible.
Other Attractions: MMA Legends
Start rattling off the names of the most accomplished fighters in MMA history, and before too long, you’ll get to Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber. The pair have both reached championship heights, and have been tremendously influential, specifically with the respect to the lighter weight classes.
In the earlier days of his career, Brazil’s Aldo, now 28-5, reigned as the WEC featherweight champ. When the UFC swallowed up WEC, Aldo was promoted to UFC featherweight champion and ruled the division with an iron first until his infamous, 13-second loss to Conor McGregor in 2015.
Over the last few years, he’s experienced some tough losses, but he remains one of the greatest fighters in history and perhaps the best featherweight ever.
Faber (35-10) is also a former WEC featherweight champion. While he never won gold in the UFC, he contended for the promotion’s bantamweight title a whopping three times—four times if you count interim title fights.
Both Aldo and Faber are slated to appear at UFC 245.
After a featherweight loss to Alexander Volkanovski, Aldo will make his debut in the bantamweight division against former World Series of Fighting champion Marlon Moraes (22–6–1), who is one of the division’s most dangerous contenders, and the man behind recent stoppage wins over Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera and Raphael Assuncao.
Faber, meanwhile, is set to take on streaking contender Petr Yan (13-1), who is riding high on wins over John Dodson and Rivera.
The stakes are high for both these MMA legends and both are likely to walk into the cage in Vegas as underdogs.
The Best of the Rest
Mike Perry vs. Geoff Neal
Mike Perry (13-5) has struggled with consistency in the Octagon, alternating wins and losses through much of his UFC career. Despite his failure to find his footing, he has gained an enormous and dedicated fan base on the strength of his endearing personality and all-action fighting style.
At UFC 245, he’ll take on the streaking Geoff Neal (12-2) who, at the time of this writing, holds the No. 15 spot in the welterweight rankings. Neal, a product of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, has gone unbeaten in his first four UFC bouts, most recently hammering Niko Price to a TKO.
While this fight is not likely to propel the winner into the welterweight top-10, it could well earn them a place on the fringes of the top-15. This matchup also stands out as a frontrunner for UFC 245’s Fight of the Night honors.
Ben Saunders vs. Matt Brown
Ben Saunders (22-12-2) and Matt Brown (21-16) have fought 37 times and 36 times respectively—that’s a whopping 73 times combined.
Despite the amount of time they’ve both spent in the cage, the two welterweights have somehow never found themselves in the cage together. That both Brown and Saunders have track records as incredibly violent fighters, so it’s probably going to be fun as long as they’re both conscious.