UFC 272 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IIMarch 3, 2022

UFC 272 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    UFC 272 goes down this Saturday in Las Vegas, and while it doesn't include a title fight—a real rarity for a pay-per-view—it looks like it could be a very exciting night.

    The card will be topped by a welterweight grudge match between former teammates Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. Covington, a wrestler with a bottomless gas tank, will be looking to rebound from a decision loss to Kamaru Usman in a failed bid for the welterweight title—his second loss to the champ. Masvidal, a veteran striker, will also be looking to get back on track after a pair of losses to Usman, having been knocked out by the champion last April and defeated via decision the summer before.

    UFC 272 will be co-headlined by a 160-pound catchweight bout between Brazilian rivals Rafael dos Anjos and Renato Moicano. Dos Anjos, the former lightweight champion, had originally been expected to fight Rafael Fiziev on the card. When Fiziev was forced off the bill, however, Moicano bravely stepped up on just four day's notice.

    The UFC 272 main card will also feature a fan-friendly featherweight fight between Brazilian knockout artist Edson Barboza, who is looking to regain his footing after a loss to Giga Chikadze, and submission specialist Bryce Mitchell, who will be hunting for the biggest win of his career.

    Beyond that fight, the UFC 272 main card will be rounded out by a fight between skidding welterweights Kevin Holland and Alex Oliveira, and a heavyweight showdown between Moldovan grappler Sergey Spivak and former NFL player Greg Hardy.

    It's all just days away, and you know what that means: It's once again time for the B/R combat sports squad to come together and risk their reputations with a round of pre-fight predictions.

Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal

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    Scott Harris: I mentioned this in my new weekly mailbag feature (check it out every Wednesday morning), but I think Covington has this in the bag. Two-bit villain or no, Covington will use pace and forward pressure as weapons then will use takedowns and his mat game to grind Masvidal down over five rounds. Masvidal has only gone past the third round three times in his entire career, and lost all three. Covington has reached the fifth round in each of his last five bouts. That portends a punishing night for Masvidal and a win for one of MMA's true black hats.

    Covington by unanimous decision

              

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: I'm not a giant fan of either guy, to be honest. If it's a personality contest, give me Masvidal by a mile. But if we're talking a potential 25 minutes of violence that's entertaining and sopped with trash talk, I've got to lean more toward Covington. I think Scott's got the recipe here. If all things are equal through three rounds, they won't be afterward. Colby's gas tank wins the day.

    Covington by unanimous decision

             

    Tom Taylor: It's hard to argue with my colleagues on this one. Covington has the perfect style to win this fight. A Masvidal Hail Mary can never be discounted—he proved that against Ben Askren—but he will most likely be pressed into the cage, taken down, and ground into dust by his former teammate. I suspect that somewhere, deep down, he knows this. The big question, if you ask me, is whether the 37-year-old is still game enough to survive the onslaught for five frenetic rounds. I'll say yes, but I'm not confident.

    Covington by unanimous decision

Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Renato Moicano

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    Scott Harris: He's no Islam Makhachev, but Moicano has been in big fights before. After a 2021 that saw him compete only once, he'll try to make it 2-for-2022 against Dos Anjos and 4-1 in his newish home at lightweight. 

    It's a tall order against a fully camped Dos Anjos. Moicano's Plan A, Plan B and Plan C rely on his grappling—he's not a bad striker, but he knows where his bread is buttered. Moicano won't be able to get it working against Dos Anjos, one of the few lightweights who can credibly claim he's better than Moicano in this area.

    Dos Anjos by unanimous decision

            

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Gotta love a guy who agrees to jump in a locked cage with a former world champion on four days' notice. And you gotta love him even more if he jumps in with a real chance to win. Moicano has scored his last four wins by submissions, so it'll be fun to see him chase one against a guy who's got 10 of his own in a distinguished career. Call it a hunch, but I think Moicano gets it done. 

    Moicano by submission, Rd. 3

              

    Tom Taylor: I'm with Scott. Moicano is a great grappler, but so is Dos Anjos. The former lightweight champion has just become such a buzzsaw on the feet that we tend to forget it. 

    I don't think Moicano will bring anything to the table that dos Anjos hasn't seen and beaten before, particularly on such short notice. Unless the former champ has declined significantly since we last saw him, he wins. Look for a performance reminiscent of Jose Aldo's win over Moicano. 

    Dos Anjos by TKO, Rd. 2 

Edson Barboza vs. Bryce Mitchell

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    Scott Harris: Mitchell's mainly a grappler, and he's a significant -165 favorite here per DraftKings. But this forgets one thing: Barboza's underrated takedown defense. The question is whether Barboza still has it. The last opponent to try him, Makwan Amirkhani, landed 3-of-6 attempts, well below Barboza's career average of 78 percent, according to UFC stats. However, this obscures the fact that the 36-year-old Barboza may be nearing the end of his time at the top. Don't forget the brutalization he suffered at the hands of Giga Chikadze in his last contest. Going with Mitchell here on the sad presumption that Barboza's best is behind him.

    Mitchell by unanimous decision

           

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Call it the Tony Ferguson Rule. Even if your career arc was more breathtaking than your opponent's—as is the case here with Barboza's against Mitchell, as it was with Ferguson's against his recent foes—it matters more what you've been up against lately. Ferguson hasn't been the same since Justin Gaethje splattered him two years ago, and it's my bet that Barboza is on that path, too. Mitchell. Violently.

    Mitchell by TKO, Rd. 3 

                

    Tom Taylor: Unlike my esteemed peers, I'm not ready to cart Barboza's career off to the morgue just yet. Just look what this guy has done over the years. The Terry Etim KO. The Beneil Dariush KO. The wars with Tony Ferguson and Paul Felder. He's been incredible. Even if he's lost a step, I say he's still good enough to beat Mitchell. Barboza drills him with something nasty and leaves town with a bag of cash. 

    Barboza by KO, Rd. 3

Kevin Holland vs. Alex Oliveira

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    Scott Harris: Kevin Holland's career has not been a roller coaster. With all the highs and lows and twists and turns, any self-respecting amusement park would have to suspend its construction over safety concerns. After a 5-0 Fighter of the Year-level run in 2020, Holland lost twice and took a No Contest in three bouts in 2021. Now he's in 2022 and back at welterweight, facing a fellow berserker in Oliveira, who himself has lost three straight. It could be a long way down for the loser. Here's guessing Holland's power and cardio survive the cut down to 170.

    Holland by TKO, Rd. 2 

          

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: I've been all-in on Oliveira in a few of his recent fights and haven't been rewarded for my confidence. Holland, on the other hand, was talking the big talk before Derek Brunson took the air out of his tires a year ago. One of them has to be less of an enigma than the other, so we'll assume that Holland, being that he's younger and closer to something resembling full form, justifies the backing.

    Holland by unanimous decision

              

    Tom Taylor: Holland and Oliveira have two key things in common: Both guys can be very exciting, and both are prone to bizarre performances well below their skill levels. Based on all of that, my estimation is that this one will either end violently or with some kind of weirdness—maybe an inadvertent clash of heads or an illegal knee. Here's hoping it's one for the highlight reel and not the cutting room floor.

    Holland by KO, Rd. 2 

Sergey Spivak vs. Greg Hardy

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    Scott Harris: This rescheduled bout is no more interesting now than it was when it was initially scheduled for January. The UFC wants to get Hardy some visible wins, but the NFL transfer isn't cooperating, having lost his last two, both by knockout, for a total UFC record of 4-4 (1 NC). Spivak will test Hardy's wrestling, and it's a test the hard-hitting but underdeveloped Hardy won't pass.

    Spivak by unanimous decision

            

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: I don't know about you, but the Greg Hardy novelty has pretty much worn off. I admire him for having any sort of success after changing career paths, but it seems like he's traveled about as far up the ladder as he's likely to. Spivak has had his off nights, to be sure, but he's the last guy to handle Tai Tuivasa, so I think he'll do a number on Hardy as well and choke the lingering bluster out of him.

    Spivak by submission, Rd. 3

               

    Tom Taylor: Lyle summed it up nicely. Greg Hardy's spot on the UFC roster has always been a bit questionable, but at least early on, there was some intrigue surrounding his potential in MMA. That intrigue is now mostly gone. We know he's an OK fighter, but not a great one. Based on what we've seen, it's fair to assume he'll lose to most of the higher-level guys he faces, and that includes Spivak, who will take him down and choke him out this weekend.

    Spivak by submission, Rd. 2

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