UFC 250 Predictions: Bleacher Report Staff Main Card Picks

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2020

UFC 250 Predictions: Bleacher Report Staff Main Card Picks

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    Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    UFC 250 features women's bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda "Lioness" Nunes making the first defense of her 145-pound title against rugged Canadian featherweight Felicia Spencer.

    While Nunes is already one of the best UFC champions ever, the 33-year-old hopes to separate herself from the pack by becoming the first UFC "champ champ" to defend both titles as reigning double champion.

    Plus, a slew of high-profile contenders for the newly vacated men's bantamweight championship are competing on the card, with each man hoping to make his case for being in the title picture soon.

    UFC 250 takes place on Saturday at UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

    Here, the Bleacher Report MMA writers offer our picks for each of the main card fights. Click through to read our takes and be sure to leave your own in the comments.

Eddie Wineland vs. Sean O'Malley

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    Sean O'Malley seems to have it all, but will Eddie Wineland pull the upset?
    Sean O'Malley seems to have it all, but will Eddie Wineland pull the upset?Mike Roach/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    Eddie Wineland! Dude! I'm so excited to see you! This is only the leather-tough Indianan's fifth contest in the past four years, and his first in a year. Dare I pick him against the rising star and enthusiastic cannabis entrepreneur O'Malley? I dare not. O'Malley is like Wineland 3.0, but truly is he standing on the shoulders of giants.

    O'Malley via unanimous decision.

           

    Tom Taylor

    I would love to see Wineland, one of the most underrated bantamweights ever, derail the UFC's big plans for O'Malley with a huge upset win. But it's just not happening. O'Malley is going to be faster, stronger, and more durable in the cage. I expect him to pick up a flashy stoppage win, not unlike the one Renan Barao earned at Wineland's expense in 2013.

    O'Malley, TKO, Rd. 1.

                 

    Lyle Fitzsimmons

    This one isn't about Wineland or how rugged, durable and respectable he is. He's all those things. Rather, it's about how good O'Malley is and how good he will be. He's won 11 fights in a row. He's won two straight fights in the UFC—earning a Performance of the Night bonus and sharing in a Fight of the Night bonus along the way. He's busier and more accurate with his strikes and can handle himself when he gets to the ground as well. He'll win and look good doing it.

    O'Malley, TKO, Rd. 1.

                

    Kelsey McCarson

    Fans really seem to love Wineland, but love and ardor don't win fights. Rather, talent, skill and youth usually prevail inside the Octagon, and O'Malley has all three checks by his name. He's more talented, better skilled, and on his way up toward the prime fighting days of his life.

    O'Malley, TKO, Rd. 1.

Neil Magny vs. Anthony Rocco Martin

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    Does Neil Magny have what it takes to score a win over Anthony Rocco Martin?
    Does Neil Magny have what it takes to score a win over Anthony Rocco Martin?Harry How/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    Neil Magny is the ultimate can't-rule-him-out guy. He'll always have cage smarts and a reach advantage (he has 6.5" on Rocco Martin here), which should prevent Martin from mixing it up at close range. Martin has some solid highlights in his UFC career, but he won't be able to get off his jiu-jitsu against a grappler in Magny who, after a whopping 21 career UFC bouts, will show he still has plenty in the tank.

    Magny via unanimous decision.

                

    Tom Taylor

    Magny is talented, but I think he's a fighter with a very clear ceiling. He will dominate every fighter he faces up to a certain skill level, but when he crosses into the next echelon, he starts to lose. He beats the Li Jingliangs and Hector Lombards of the world but comes up short against guys like Demian Maia and Rafael dos Anjos. Martin is good, but I believe he's the kind of fighter Magny should be able to handle. I see Magny winning this one by unanimous decision.

    Magny via unanimous decision.

               

    Lyle Fitzsimmons

    Had this fight occurred at lightweight, Martin might have been a favorite because he relied on the type of ground game that's given Magny fits. He's been more vertical than horizontal since moving to welterweight, though, which may play into Magny's hands. Magny won seven fights in a row early in his UFC run and looked ready for high-end achievements, but he's found a level in the years since. It's not the championship level, but it's higher than Martin's.

    Magny via unanimous decision.

                

    Kelsey McCarson

    I doubted Magny before his last fight and paid for it. He's rangy, skilled and a cut above Martin in most areas. More importantly, I believe now in Magny's ability to perform at a high level even in the face of the things that usually derail other fighters, such as the long layoff he had before winning his last fight.

    Magny via unanimous decision.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen

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    Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling in a pick 'em fight.
    Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling in a pick 'em fight.Josh Hedges/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    I can't be the only person who thinks of golf when I see the word "Sandhagen." In competition, the streaking bantamweight has won all five of his UFC contests, with a game that's more three wood than sand wedge. Sterling's a strong a grappler as he's ever been, and his hands have come a long way. This will be a close fight. But Sandhagen, his proven toughness and punishing all-around game will win the day and keep the streak going. A serious new contender incoming.

    Sandhagen via unanimous decision.

                 

    Tom Taylor

    This is a great fight. A really great fight. Both guys are fantastic grapplers. Both guys have solid standup. Both guys are young and healthy and at the top of their games. When forced to pick a winner, though, I can't shake the feeling that Sandhagen will be a few steps ahead in the Octagon. A little quicker, a little slicker. I'm not expecting a blowout, but I think he'll be the more aggressive, creative fighter on the feet and on the mat, and capture a close decision win. If he succeeds, there will be no denying him a bantamweight title shot.

    Sandhagen via decision.

                  

    Lyle Fitzsimmons

    If the main event isn't as compelling as I'm thinking it will, this may end up being the fight that generates the most Sunday morning discussion. Both men are impressive specimens with difficult styles and their melding is unique and compelling. The simplest contrast suggests that Sterling will control the action so long as it's on the ground and Sandhagen will have an edge if it stays upright. It may not be quite that elementary, but I do see Sandhagen's edges as more decisive here.

    Sandhagen via split decision.

                

    Kelsey McCarson

    To me, this is the most intriguing fight on the card. Both men are top contenders in the division and both enter the fight having a legitimate case to be part of the UFC's plans to fill the 135-pound title vacancy. While Sandhagen has been on a serious tear as of late, I like Sterling to score the win on the cards in a very close fight.

    Sterling via split decision.

Raphael Assuncao vs. Cody Garbrandt

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    Raphael Assuncao is the favorite but Cody Garbrandt's training changes may be the difference.
    Raphael Assuncao is the favorite but Cody Garbrandt's training changes may be the difference.Josh Hedges/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    Grind fest incoming. No one bangs the Assuncao drum louder than me, but Garbrandt's hard-hitting style is something Assuncao will absolutely look to smother. Garbrandt has the wrestling to hang on the ground, but Assuncao is an extremely smart fighter and will do what he tends to do—win ugly. Don't expect that title shot.

    Assuncao via split decision.

             

    Tom Taylor

    Garbrandt looked like the real deal for a while. Remember his beatdowns of Thomas Almeida, Takeya Mizugaki and Dominick Cruz? I would pick that dude over most bantamweights on the UFC roster—Assuncao included. Unfortunately, that version of Garbrandt has not been seen in years. Instead, he's been replaced by a man who is equal parts overaggressive and fragile. That's a bad combination for a fighter.

    So, unless the Garbrandt of old makes a surprise reappearance at UFC 250, I see Assuncao winning this one by knockout. The Brazilian isn't exactly known as a knockout artist, but as he proved in his 2017 win over Matthew Lopez, he can crack. He has 15 minutes to find Garbrandt's chin, and I suspect he'll be able to do so.

    Assuncao, KO, Rd. 2.

               

    Lyle Fitzsimmons

    Garbrandt comes in with a higher-end resume and a more precipitous drop. He's not won a fight since the final weekend of 2016—having dropped three in a row by KO/TKO—and could be inching closer to danger when it comes to promotional job security. Meanwhile, Assuncao reeled off four wins in a row before a two-fight skid of his own. He's a tough, steady commodity, and while perhaps not as highlight-worthy, he still seems to have a deeper skill set. It'll show.

    Assuncao, TKO, Rd. 2.

               

    Kelsey McCarson

    It's hard to pick a fighter coming off three straight stoppage losses in a row like Garbrandt against a fighter who's been one of the division's best competitors for a long time, but that's exactly what I'm doing here.

    Sometimes, fighters just need a change of scenery. With Garbrandt adding traveling from California to New Jersey to train and adding top-notch coaches like Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida to the mix, I fancy him to turn back the clock a bit to score the win. Assuncao is a tough grinder, but Garbrandt's power will carry the day.

    Garbrandt via unanimous decision.

Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer

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    Will Felicia Spencer end Amanda Nunes' run at history?
    Will Felicia Spencer end Amanda Nunes' run at history?Steve Marcus/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    The jokes write themselves. Spencer is here because she's a female mixed martial artist who fights at 145 pounds. Here's guessing Spencer toughs out a round or two before going out on her shield—don't forget she actually went the distance with Cris "Cyborg" Justino just last year.

    Nunes, TKO, Rd. 2.

               

    Tom Taylor

    Nunes is the greatest female fighter in MMA history. Spencer, while skilled and extremely tough, is not. That, in my opinion, is all that really needs to be said about this matchup. We've got a generational talent taking on a very good fighter. The generational talent should win handily. Spencer's toughness may carry her into the later rounds, but I expect Nunes to finish her with strikes at some point.

    Nunes, TKO, Rd. 4.

                  

    Lyle Fitzsimmons

    I've talked to a lot of fighters readying for a challenge that precisely no one outside of their corner team thought they could accomplish. And the ones who pulled off upsets were the ones so matter of fact about the mission that you almost forgot how unlikely it was. Spencer is one of those fighters. She believes she belongs. She believes she'll get herself into a position to win. She believes she'll not only beat Nunes but finish her. And the more she talked, the more I believed it, too. She'll survive the first couple rounds, get it to the ground and empty the champ's gas tank.

    Spencer, Submission, Rd 4.

                 

    Kelsey McCarson

    I think Tom put it best when he said Nunes vs. Spencer is generational talent against a good fighter. I love Spencer's game. She's tough, smart and the way she mixes karate-style strikes with her strong jiu-jitsu game is top-notch stuff. Unfortunately, Nunes is the best female fighter ever, and it doesn't appear the Brazilian is on her way to slowing down anytime soon.

    Nunes, TKO, Rd. 2.