UFC 246: Previewing Conor McGregor-Donald Cerrone and Other Matches on the Card
Just admit it.
You’re hyped about the way the UFC is kicking off next year’s terrific-looking first-quarter schedule: Superstar Conor McGregor will make his long-awaited return to Octagon against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 in Las Vegas.
You're excited because McGregor, 31, from Ireland, is arguably the biggest draw in the sport today.
Heck, judging by the top pay-per-view buyrates in UFC history, he absolutely is still the top dog in terms of star power. The Irishman is the main attraction even though he hasn't won a fight in the UFC since stopping Eddie Alvarez in November 2016 at UFC 205 to become the promotion’s original "champ champ."
Besides, the plain truth is that if you’re any kind of MMA fan at all, you either love watching McGregor fight or you love to root against him because you want to see the guy lose.
Honestly, those in both of the aforementioned categories should find themselves super happy about McGregor’s slated comeback bout against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone.
Because Cerrone, 36, from Denver, is one of the most accomplished and popular contenders in the entire MMA world. The American is ranked No. 5 in the UFC’s 155-pound lightweight division, and he holds UFC records for total wins in the company at 23 and most finishes at 16.
If that doesn't get you, consider the fact that both fighters are known for providing high-quality action fights, so there’s almost no way that doesn’t happen when the two run into each other next month in Sin City.
UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cowboy Fight Card and Info
While the UFC has yet to publish how the action will officially be spread across the ESPN+ PPV, ESPN and ESPN+ platforms, it appears the main card will include the four fights listed below as well as one matchup that is yet to be determined.
Moreover, it’s important to note that UFC 246 will mark a return to a higher PPV price point. When the UFC moved its PPV distribution over to the ESPN+ streaming platform last year, UFC PPV prices dropped from $64.99 to $59.99.
However, beginning with UFC 246, the price will go back up to $64.99 per MMA Junkie.
UFC 246 takes place live on Saturday, Jan. 18, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The main card is scheduled to begin at 9 pm ET. The fight schedule shown below is per ESPN, and the card is subject to change.
UFC 246 Main Card (ESPN+ PPV)
Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone
Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington
Anthony Pettis vs. Diego Ferreira
Claudia Gadelha vs. Alexa Grasso
TBA vs. TBA
UFC 246 Prelims (ESPN)
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Maycee Barber
Andre Fili vs. Sodiq Yusuff
Drew Dober vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Maurice Greene
UFC 246 Early Prelims (ESPN+)
Chas Skelly vs. Grant Dawson
Sabina Mazo vs. JJ Aldrich
Tim Elliott vs. Askar Askarov
Brian Kelleher vs. Ode Osbourne
Aleksa Camur vs. Justin Ledet
The Main Event: Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone
McGregor vs. Cerrone is an important matchup for both fighters, albeit it’s one being fought at the 170-pound welterweight limit rather than at 155 pounds.
While both fighters have some history in the division, neither is ranked among the top 15 welterweight contenders in the UFC, and both would probably be better off staying in the lightweight ranks unless an opportunity arises that’s just too good to pass up.
For McGregor, that would probably mean a third fight against Nate Diaz or a one-off against Jorge Masvidal who defeated Diaz at UFC 244 for the first-ever "BMF" title.
As for Cerrone, the fight against McGregor is a chance that was too good to pass up, so he’s likely to return to lightweight no matter what happens at UFC 246.
While none of the B/R MMA crew who debated the result of the fight picked Cerrone to pull the shocker, it’s important to note that none of the three writers polled viewed Cerrone as a pushover.
In fact, B/R’s Tom Taylor noted that while Cerrone is five years older and has lost his last two fights by stoppage, those marks against his ledger came against Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaejthe, who Taylor hailed as "two of the lightweight division’s apex predators."
Should McGregor still be listed among that elite crop of stalwart lightweights?
The truth of the matter is that no one knows at this point. After all, McGregor hasn’t won a fight in over three years, so there’s no telling whether he’ll be able to get back to proper form.
That’s precisely why McGregor vs. Cowboy is happening at all, and at the end of it, we should have a pretty good gauge of where McGregor stands among the rest of his 155-pound peers.
The Epic Rematch: Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington
Holly Holm and Raquel Pennington are set to face each other again at UFC 246 in a hotly anticipated rematch of the UFC 184 contest back in 2015 that Holm won via split-decision.
That was Holm’s UFC debut, and the former boxing champion went on to capture the UFC bantamweight title via stunning knockout against Ronda Rousey later that year at UFC 193 in one of the most shocking upsets of the era.
But Holm was only in action once during 2019, losing by first-round thrashing at the hands of current UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 239 in July. It was a mixed bag of results for Holm prior to that fight. She alternated wins and losses in the five fights prior against mostly solid opposition. Since 2017, Holm has scored wins over Megan Anderson and Beth Correia but suffered losses to Nunes, Cris Cyborg and Germaine de Randamie.
Pennington, 31, was last seen in the ring in July at UFC on ESPN 4 where she defeated Irene Aldana by split decision. That win perhaps looks even better now than it did at the time, as Aldana has gone on to pick up two solid wins in a row against Vanessa Melo in September at UFC Fight Night 164 and Ketlen Vieira in December at UFC 245.
Moreover, Pennington also holds notable wins over Jessica Andrade, Miesha Tate and Bethe Correia.
Holm-Pennington 2 adds some much-needed star power to the UFC 246 undercard. The rematch was originally scheduled for UFC 243 back in October, but Holm was forced to withdraw from the fight due to injury.
The winner of the rematch will maintain her status as one of the top bantamweight contenders in the world, but the loser will likely be left out, at least among the upper tier of that deep group of contenders.
Former Lightweight Champ’s Return: Anthony Pettis vs. Diego Ferreira
Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis is returning to 155 pounds to take on rising contender Diego Ferreira. Pettis won the UFC lightweight strap back in 2014 at UFC 181 by defeating Gilbert Melendez but lost the belt in his next fight against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 185.
But Pettis has gone just 4-7 over his last 11 fights, so the 32-year-old probably hopes the move back down to 155 pounds helps him get back to winning ways.
It was a year of ups and downs for "Showtime" Pettis in 2019. He scored a spectacular knockout against Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson in March but lost via unanimous decision to Nate Diaz five months later at UFC 241.
Meanwhile, Ferreira has reeled off five straight wins since losing by TKO to Dustin Poirier in 2015 at UFC Fight Night 63. The 34-year-old from Brazil defeated Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Jared Gordon, Kyle Nelson, Rustam Khabilov and Mairbek Taisumov on his way to earning this huge chance against Pettis on one of the biggest cards of the year.
That’s important because Pettis would represent a big feather in Ferreira’s cap should the streaking fighter be able to pull off the big win.
As it goes with just about every UFC main card fight, the winner moves up the ladder while the loser falls down a rung or two.
Best of the Rest
UFC 246 features several quality fights in the women’s division.
The main card includes a strawweight matchup between No. 6-ranked contender Claudia Gadelha and No. 11-ranked Alexa Grasso, and the prelims are led by an intriguing flyweight battle between rising star Maycee Barber and veteran contender Roxanne Modafferi.
Claudia Gadelha vs. Alexa Grasso
Both Gadelha and Grasso head into the fight after rotating wins and losses over their last five fights. Gadelha, 31, from Brazil, notched victories over Randa Markos, Carla Esparza and Karolina Kowalkiewicz but suffered losses to Nina Ansaroff and Jessica Andrade.
Meanwhile, Grasso, 26, from Mexico, is coming off a majority-decision loss to Esparza in her last fight, but she defeated Kowalkiewicz the fight prior after losing to Tatiana Suarez last year. Grasso’s other two fights were against Randa Markos (win) and Felice Herrig (loss).
The winner of this fight will maintain her standing among a solid group of contenders in the chase to face strawweight champion Zhang Weili, who became the first Chinese champion in the promotion’s history when she knocked out Andrade in just 42 seconds back in August at UFC Fight Night 157.
Maycee Barber vs. Roxanne Modafferi
Maycee Barber could be on her way to a star turn.
The 21-year-old phenom began studying martial arts at a young age and turned that training into a professional MMA fighting career that began at the tender age of 19. Barber punched her ticket to the UFC soon after that with the hopes of someday becoming one of the youngest and greatest UFC champions ever.
But in order to accomplish that goal, or anything close to it, Barber will have to keep up the fantastic pace she’s set so far. That means "The Future" needs to start becoming the now as she keeps working to tear through the competition that is sure to be made up of increasingly difficult challenges.
Her next opponent is Roxanne Modafferi, a 37-year-old veteran who is ranked No. 7 in the women’s flyweight division. Modafferi is that kind of fight. A win over Modafferi would put Barber on track for the title shot she craves as soon as next year, but a loss would set her efforts back considerably.
As for Modafferi, there’s nothing an aging fighter loves more than to turn back the supposed next big thing in the sport. She’ll have her chance to do exactly that against Barber.