UFC 245 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks
UFC 245 includes three championship fights, several legendary all-time greats and a slew of up-and-coming challengers looking to make huge splashes by winning the biggest fights of their careers.
That's not a bad way to end 2019, and probably an even better way to get the jump on all the massive promotions that are already scheduled to happen early next year.
But with so many good fighters competing in such important matchups, which of the 10 UFC stalwarts throwing down on the main card this weekend at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will walk out of the Octagon with important victories under the belts?
Your favorite MMA media crew here at Bleacher Report is back again with UFC 245 main card staff picks.
Petr Yan vs. Urijah Faber
I'm sure UFC would love to see Urijah Faber try for the UFC title he never won during his earlier run with the company, but Petr Yan just seems like too much for the 40-year-old former WEC featherweight champion to handle at this point.
Yan has won eight straight fights entering the contest, and it seems like the 26-year-old is on the verge of getting his first title shot. Faber would be wise to take Yan to the mat as much as humanly possible, but I don't think he'll be able to trap Yan there enough based on how strong Yan is and how he most assuredly will do everything in his power to keep the fight from going there.
Yan, unanimous decision
Faber turned 40 this year. That's about 127 in fighter years, especially considering some of the grueling fights the "California Kid" had over the course of his long career.
Suffice to say, that's not a good thing. I see Yan backing the legend up against the cage and turning his lights off when an overhand right.
Yan, KO, Round 2
As Jonathan reminds, Faber is 40 years old. This isn't “The California Kid” we're talking about, but a full-grown, child-rearing California Man whose best fighting days are behind him. I realize that sounds a little harsh, but I just don't see him being able to compete with the apex predators of today's bantamweight division.
Yan, a rabidly aggressive 26-year-old who trains at the suitably named Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand, is one of those predators. He hasn't been much of a finisher recently, but I expect him to win this one decisively.
Yan via unanimous decision
Marlon Moraes vs. Jose Aldo
Older fighters going down a weight class after successful campaigns in higher divisions almost always ends badly. Jose Aldo is 33, and some people consider him the best featherweight in UFC history. But Marlon Moraes isn't just some random trial horse Aldo is facing to get his feet wet at bantamweight.
Moraes looked great for two rounds against UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo in his last fight before the tide suddenly turned and he suffered the knockout. The 31-year-old needs to make a big statement to get another crack at the title, and beating Aldo will go a long way toward helping him do that.
Moraes via unanimous decision
Aldo is the most accomplished featherweight in history, a living legend whose name is mentioned in elite company when you start listing off the greatest to ever do it. Long-time fans likely feel like they've been watching him forever—and it's kind of true. His eight-second knockout of Cub Swanson with a spectacular flying knee was more than a decade ago, and he won what would become the UFC featherweight title in his next fight.
All this is just a prelude to set up this amazing tidbit: Despite all this history, Aldo is just 33 years-old. That's why, even though he looks like the poster child for a diet pill gone wrong as he tries to drop to 135 pounds, I'm going with the veteran. It's too soon to give up on greatness.
Aldo via unanimous decision
I'm part of the large and vocal group of fight fans that think Aldo is making a mistake by dropping down to bantamweight. He was always a pretty slender featherweight, and it's hard to imagine him safely stripping any more mass off his body without compromising his durability and endurance. But you know what? He says the drop has been "easy" so far, and I'm going to take his word for it.
So long as the weight cut doesn't kill him, I see Aldo winning this one pretty handily. Moraes is good, no doubt, but Jose Aldo is truly great. Even at 33, even after an extra-tough weight cut, he's great. I suspect the difference between very good and great will manifest itself in some kind of late stoppage, perhaps when Moraes starts to slow down.
Aldo, TKO, Round 3
Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine de Randamie
Part of me wants to go full hipster mode and pick Germaine de Randamie via shocking upset. The 35-year-old hasn't lost since Amanda Nunes stopped her in the first round back in 2013, and she's a good enough kickboxer to present some problems for Nunes assuming she can withstand the early barrage this time around.
The problem for De Ranamie is that Nunes seems to be peaking right now, and that says a lot since Nunes is already considered the greatest women's division MMA fighter ever. History will repeat itself this weekend when the two fight for the second time, only this time it will probably happen ever faster. Because everyone seems to make the same mistake against Nunes as of late. They show up for the fight.
Nunes, KO, Round 1
The first time these two met, six years ago at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Nunes pushed her opponent up against the cage, took her to the mat, calmly moved on to full mount and dropped punches and elbows until referee Herb Dean felt compelled to step in.
I'm not sure how much has changed since then.
If Nunes feels compelled to engage in a standing battle, this could be a five-round grind. But I think she'll eventually take the bout to the floor and walk away with another line item on her GOAT resume.
Nunes, TKO, Round 3
At this stage, Nunes is as close to a sure-thing as you'll find in fighting. She should be massively favored to beat any fighter she's matched up with, especially De Randamie. After all, she's done it before.
Yes, De Randamie has improved since that fateful night at Fort Campbell, but Nunes has done more than change. She's evolved into the kind of fighter you can't possibly pick against. She's smart, she's confident, she's powerful and she's experienced. All signs point to another decisive win from the woman who made Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg look mediocre.
Nunes, Submission, Round 2
Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Max Holloway has won 13 straight contests in the featherweight division and is attempting the fourth defense of the undisputed featherweight title he won by defeating the legendary Jose Aldo at UFC 212 in 2017. He's been one of the very best fighters of the last half-decade, and he's still only 28 years old. But Alexander Volkanovski has been on a serious tear. He's powerful, aggressive and smart, which is the right combination of things that typically give Holloway trouble. I expect this one to be the best fight of the night, with Volkanovski pulling the upset in a fight that people argue over for years to come.
Volkanovski via split decision
The 28-year-old Holloway should be coming into his prime years. But he's seen some things in those 28 years, especially the seven spent in UFC's Octagon. He took quite a walloping against Dustin Poirier in April and those kinds of beatings can have lasting effects.
He survived in the immediate aftermath against Frankie Edgar—but he won't be lucky enough to walk away a second time unscathed. Look for Volkanovski to become just the fourth man to win featherweight gold.
Volkanovski via split decision
I completely understand why Kelsey and Jonathan are leaning toward Volkanovski in this fight. Poirier showed that Holloway can be beaten with the right combination of aggression, volume, and power, and it's easy to imagine the tankish featherweight title challenger Volkanovski putting those things together Saturday. Furthermore, I feel like Holloway's time is coming. As Jonathan pointed out, the kind of punishment he absorbed against Poirier has a lasting effect.
I don't think Holloway's reign will end at UFC 245, though. I think his range, his height, and speed should keep him out of the range of Volkanovski's C-4-packed fists. Even if he absorbs a few impacts, I think he's probably still durable enough to survive. It might not be the kind of decisive win we've gotten used to from the champ, but I think he'll do enough to keep the belt in Hawaii.
Max Holloway via unanimous decision
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
Grudge matches are great, but what's even better is when two elite fighters match up so well against each other that it's almost impossible to pick a winner headed into the fight.
That's what I think we're getting in the main event on Saturday night with Kamaru Usman's welterweight title defense against Colby Covington. Usman looks like he might be physically stronger than Covington and is for sure the harder puncher. But Covington is probably the better wrestler from a technical standpoint, and he's one of the best pressure fighters the sport has to offer.
If Usman can make this fight about strength and power, he should be able to compete. But I think Covington will outwork him over the course of the five rounds and press Usman into making some key mistakes down the stretch that end up giving Covington the biggest win of his career.
Covington via split decision
These men are both outstanding wrestlers. Veteran observers know that can mean only one thing—five rounds of kickboxing.
It's Covington's output against Usman's power. It's a real toss up, but they won't be celebrating at the White House on Sunday morning.
Usman via unanimous decision
I think all of the trash talk has distracted from how good this fight actually is. As Kelsey mentioned, these dudes are evenly matched on paper. About the same age, about the same height, both 15-1, both wrestlers with bottomless cardio and high striking outputs. It's definitely hard to confidently pick a winner.
Having had to do just that for another B/R article earlier this week, though, I've had some time to think about this one, and I'm sticking to my guns. On the feet, I see Covington landing more. On the mat, I see him performing better. He has more submission wins than Usman, and he was a D1 wrestler, while the champ was D2. It's definitely not much to go on, but in a matchup that's this close on paper, you take what you can get.
Covington via unanimous decision