UFC 248 Predictions: Bleacher Report Staff Main Card Picks

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2020

UFC 248 Predictions: Bleacher Report Staff Main Card Picks

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    Will Israel Adesanya still be smiling after UFC 248?
    Will Israel Adesanya still be smiling after UFC 248?Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya makes the first defense of his undisputed title against Yoel Romero at UFC 248 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

    The main event couldn't be a more compelling matchup, featuring a fighter who appears to be a superstar on the rise and perhaps the greatest uncrowned champion the 185-pound ranks has seen.

    On top of that amazing dustup, women's strawweight champ Zhang Weili is being matched super-tough for her first title defense against former divisional queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

    There's another massive UFC pay-per-view event on the way, and Bleacher Report's MMA crew stands ready to offer predictions for all five fights on the main card.

    Read through our takes, and be sure to leave us yours in the comments section.

Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin

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    Can Alex Oliveira grab the needed win?
    Can Alex Oliveira grab the needed win?Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Kelsey McCarson

    Both fighters enter UFC 248 badly in need of a win. Alex Oliveria has lost three straight, and Max Griffin has suffered setbacks in three of his past four, though he maybe should have gotten the nod against Thiago Alves last year. This one should be a fun scrap between two brawlers. I'm picking Griffin's heavier hands to get the job done in the judges' eyes in a back-and-forth battle of attrition.

    Griffin via unanimous decision.


    Jonathan Snowden

    As Kelsey pointed out, these two combined have lost six of their past seven fights. Honestly, it's hard to understand how this warrants a position on the pay-per-view main card. I'll say Other Cowboy takes this battle of guys who may well be fighting for a roster spot.

    Oliveira via unanimous decision.


    Scott Harris

    Batten down the hatches. Oliveira is the free radical of his division. That doesn't work as well once people figure it out. The solid-chinned Griffin does a quick night's work.

    Griffin, TKO, Rd. 1.

Neil Magny vs. Li Jingliang

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    Neil Magny hopes to score the win over Li Jingliang.
    Neil Magny hopes to score the win over Li Jingliang.Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

    Kelsey McCarson

    Neil Magny hasn't competed since 2018 because he tested positive for a banned substance. He spent the better part of that time trying to clear his name, and he was successful. Still, Magny's most recent fight was a fourth-round stoppage, and Li Jingliang will enter the fray on a hot streak. He's won three in a row and seven of his past eight. He will add to that trend this weekend by stopping Magny in Round 2.

    Jingliang, TKO, Rd. 2.


    Jonathan Snowden

    Jingliang has managed to carve out a decent UFC career without ever stepping into the cage with a great fighter. That's a testament to UFC's commitment to breaking into the Chinese market.

    Magny was brought up differently—thrown to the wolves almost immediately and forced to sink or swim in the incredibly difficult welterweight division. He's fought some of the sport's elite fighters and, had he not had this extended layoff, would be a significant favorite.

    I'm going to wager that despite the time on the shelf, he's still got it.

    Magny via unanimous decision.


    Scott Harris

    Magny may have had one of the most underrated careers in UFC history. He's solid everywhere and has an extremely high fight IQ. The last time he lost two consecutive bouts was 2013. That wasn't sandwiching an 18-month idle period, but knowing Magny, he will have used the downtime to his advantage and will he sharper now. Sound the upset alarms.

    Magny via unanimous decision.

Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose

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    Eight of Beneil Dariush's 17 wins have come via submissions.
    Eight of Beneil Dariush's 17 wins have come via submissions.Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Kelsey McCarson

    This fight was supposed to happen last summer but was scrapped after an injury to Beneil Dariush. Now the two finally get their hands on each other at UFC 248. Dariush is a cagey submission artist, and Drakkar Klose prefers to mix it up on his feet. I like the ground game to prevail in this one. Dariush will make his way to Klose's back and finish him with a submission.

    Dariush, Submission, Rd. 2.


    Jonathan Snowden

    Dariush is a well-rounded fighter, mixing a solid standup game with some underrated grappling. He likes to attack with kicks up and down the body and then drop for a takedown if things don't go his way.

    Stylistically, Klose is a great matchup for him. He loves to come forward on the front foot, which should make him easy pickings when Dariush drops levels to take it to the mat.

    Dariush, Submission, Rd. 2.


    Scott Harris

    Klose is an unabashed wall-and-staller. He'll throw a few bombs for plausible denial, but don't be fooled. The dude's a grinder. Dariush is a standout grappler who won't let him get away with it.

    Dariush, Submission, Rd. 2.

Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

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    The first UFC champ from China, Zhang Weili, is making her first title defense.
    The first UFC champ from China, Zhang Weili, is making her first title defense.Brandon Magnus/Getty Images

    Kelsey McCarson

    It's the new champ versus the old champ in the co-main event at UFC 248. Zhang Weili is a machine-like terror, but Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the old-school gangster who might push China's first UFC champion to the brink. The fight will come down to whether Weili's power game is better than Jedrzejczyk's relentless pressure. The Polish dynamo is tough as nails, so I don't think Weili finishes her. But I do like Weili to win the decision in a fun fight.

    Weili via unanimous decision.


    Jonathan Snowden

    Jedrzejczyk is an outstanding volume striker, mixing all eight limbs in true muay thai fashion. When she wins, it's with waves of blows that seem to never end.

    Weili is very different. Not content just to outlast and overwhelm, she looks to end fights with devastating power punches. If Joanna tries to stand in the pocket with her, this one could be explosive. 

    Weili, KO, Rd. 2.


    Scott Harris

    It just feels like Weili's time. She has incredible strength and power and seems to not even have showed her full game. What's she's shown has been enough. That 42-second crushing of Jessica Andrade was no fluke; that was someone—a UFC champion in this case—getting picked apart.

    I never have much confidence when I pick against Joanna Violence, and if the old champ gets back into top form and exposes the young pretender for who she is, please forget I ever did so. For now, I see Weili once again bullying the bully, closing distance and punishing the challenger inside. 

    Weili, TKO, Rd. 2.

Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero

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    Will Yoel Romero finally capture UFC gold?
    Will Yoel Romero finally capture UFC gold?Josh Hedges/Getty Images

    Kelsey McCarson

    It's the striking savant against a wrestling god who can end the fight with one explosive maneuver. I love this main event. When Paulo Costa went down with an injury, Israel Adesanya stepped up in a big way by targeting Romero. But I'm not sure it was all that great an idea to rush into facing one of the UFC's greatest uncrowned champions.

    Adesanya is 12 years younger, but Romero competes like he's a much younger man. The optics of the fight favor the champion to retain his middleweight title, but something tells me Romero puts on the performance of his life and finally secures the UFC gold that's eluded him.

    Romero via split decision.


    Jonathan Snowden

    Adesanya is a master of distance, forcing his opponents into ill-advised bum rushes and lunging off-balance punches as they get more and more frustrated just trying to put hands on him. That's when Adesanya connects with his perfectly placed counters.

    Romero may be the first fighter to figure out the champion, in part because he won't be trying to solve a puzzle. He will be in there fighting instead. Sure, he will charge recklessly at Adesanya and come lunging in with punches. But it won't be because he's frustrated—it's just the way he fights. It's what he does. 

    For years Romero has been near the top of every list of "the best fighters never to have won UFC gold." After UFC 248, we can all scratch off his name. He will be wearing a shiny new title belt instead.

    Romero, TKO, Rd. 4.


    Scott Harris

    What a matchup. Any attempt to describe the intricacies here would fall far outside the spatial constraints of a fight pick, so I'll glibly go with the striker-grappler construct. Adesanya has never faced a wrestler with the skill and tools of Romero. I know that because no one has until they have faced Romero. But Romero's herculean feats are countered by long periods of inaction and a, shall we say, finite gas tank.

    Adesanya shouldn't have any problem running rings around the bull, outstriking him and, if he can avoid one of those massive kill shots or ankle picks, earning the decision.

    Adesanya via unanimous decision.


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