UFC 246 main card preview: McGregor vs. Cerrone
On Saturday night, January 18, The Notoriuous One, Conor McGregor steps back into the octagon for the first time since being submitted in October of 2018. His opponent, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has fought the most fights in UFC history, including five times since McGregor’s last fight. The Cowboy has compiled a 3-2 record in that time, including losing his last two fights. The fight marks McGregor’s first fight at welterweight since August of 2016 and Cowboy’s first welterweight fight since November of 2018.
In addition to the Connor McGregor vs. Cowboy Cerrone fight, the co-main event of UFC 246 features a rematch between the 4th ranked women’s bantamweight Raquel “Rocky” Pennington and the former bantamweight champion, seventh ranked Holy Holm.
The main event card is rounded out with a heavyweight bout between Aleksei Oleinik and Maurice Green, a women’s strawwight fight featuring Cláudia Gadelha vs Alexa Grasso and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis facing off against Carlos Diego Ferreira at lightweight. You can watch the entire weigh-in below.
Let’s take a look at each fight and predict the winners.
Conor McGregor vs. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone
When you’re the most popular fighter in the history of the UFC, any fight that you take part in is sure to be the main event and demand the attention of UFC diehards and casual fans alike. The reality is, however, based on recent history, this fight doesn’t necessarily deserve main event status. Conor McGregor hasn’t won a UFC fight in over three years and is a mortal 2-2 in his last four fights. Cowboy Cerrone has lost two in a row and sports a 4-6 record in his last ten fights dating back to January of 2017. Nonetheless, the these two are both very popular fighters and their names at the top of the card guarantee a huge buy-rate and has already taken in a $10,000,000 at the gate.
McGregor’s two recent losses have come via rear naked choke and rear neck crank, respectively. Neither of these moves are in Cowboy Cerrone’s current repertoire . Odds-makers are keenly aware of this and have slotted McGregor as a -330 favorite. Bookmakers also see this being a quick fight, setting the over/under at 1.5 rounds, very significant given that the fight is scheduled for five rounds. Donald Cerrone has become easy to hit over the last couple of years and his durability has declined as he approaches 40 years of age. This is a bad combination coming into a fight with a man five years younger that has knocked out his opponent in 18 of his 25 professional fights. Conor will look to catch Cowboy flat-footed and knock him out early with one his powerful left hands. Cerrone traditionally struggles with lefties and has always been a relatively slow starter.
Given everything stacked against him, is there a path to victory for Cowboy Cerrone? Of course there is. Cerrone will need to attempt to take the fight to the ground early and stay away from that left hand of Conor’s. Expect McGregor to press the action, so Cowboy will want to look for a hard knee or a kick to stun and/or stop McGregor. If Cowboy can hold off McGregor’s striking early, things could begin to get favorable for him and this fight will get much more interesting. That’s a tough proposition, however, and McGregor and Dana White know this. There is little chance that Conor takes this fight and little chance that White books this fight if either oft them think that the Notorious One is going to lose. There is a big payday on the horizon for Conor McGregor and the UFC later this year if they can schedule Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov II.
Prediction: Conor McGregor by TKO, round 2
Holly Holm vs Raquel Pennington
Holly Holm enters the octogon for the first time since being knocked out by Amanda Nunes in July. Like McGregor and Cerrone, recent history hasn’t been kind to the former women’s bantamweight champion. Since being annointed as the next women’s superstar after knocking out Rhonda Rousey at UFC 193 in November of 2015, Holm has lost five of her last seven fights. Pennington has struggled a bit recently, as well, losing two of her last three fights since winning a decision over Meisha Tate in November of 2016. This has been a rematch long in the making as, in February of 2015, Holm won a decision over Pennington at UFC 184. Holm, a -140 favorite is a heavy striker with fast hands. Pennington, however, has shown that she can absorb punishment, going five rounds with Amanda Nunes. Holm will push the action with jabs and kicks and look to counter when Pennington reaches and overextends, which she typically does. For her part, Pennington will need to let her hands fly and look to catch Holm as opposed to try to calculate her strikes. She will also look to score a takedown or two. When it comes down to it, Pennington just doesn’t have the athleticism and physical tools to compete with Holm over the course of the fight.
Prediction – Holly Holm unanimous decision.
Aleksei Oleinik vs Maurice Greene
Continuing with the theme of the night, Aleksei Oleinik has struggled recently, losing his last two fights. His opponent, Maurice Greene lost his last fight in October and is looking to avoid the first losing streak of his career. In this fight, experience is certainly on the side of Oleinick as he will be fighting in his 62nd professional fight. Nicknamed “The Boa Constrictor” Oleinick is a submission specialist gaining 45 of his 57 wins in that manner, particularly using his patented Ezekiel choke. Greene is a powerful striker with a devastating overhand right.
In order to win, Oleinick will need to get close enough to take Greene down. By doing so, he puts himself at risk of getting knocked out by a Greene right hand. Greene comes into the fight as a -135 favorite in what should be an entertaining fight. During his last fight, Oleinick was destroyed by Walt Harris who simply walked forward and landed strikes. Look for Greene to try to do the same here.
Prediction – Maurice Greene 2nd round KO
Alexa Grasso vs. Cláudia Gadelha
***** UPDATE***** This fight has been canceled as the Nevada State Athletic Commission has forced the UFC to cancel this fight due to Grasso being 5.5 pounds overweight. Stay tuned to see if there is a late replacement
Alexa Grasso is coming off of a UFC Fight of the Night majority decision loss at UFC on ESPN+ 17 in September. She faces Cláudia Gadelha who recently had to withdraw from UFC on ESPN 7 in December due to a torn ligament and ruptured tendon in her ankle. Despite being a jiu-jitsu black belt, Gadelha has struggled recently with conditioning. This is disappointing as she has few true weaknesses in her repetoire. Gadelha will look to roll away from Grasso’s strikes and score takedowns in rounds one and two. Grasso is a pure boxer that lands hard, heavy punches that wear her opponents down. The key for Grasso will be her takedown defense and counter striking off of those defenses. That is an area, however, that Grasso struggles in, stuffing only 63% of takedown attempts. As mentioned earlier, she will look for Gadelha to keep moving, fatigue, and try to start landing those heavy strikes. Gadelha enters that fight as a very slight -120 favorite.
Prediction: Cláudia Ghadelha via split decision
Anthony Pettis vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
Ferreira is easily the hottest fighter on the main card, coming in with a fight fight win streak. Pettis, on the other hand, has been extremely mediocre, alternating wins and losses over his last nine fights and winning only four of his last eleven fights. It stands to reason that Ferreira enters the fight as a -240 favorite. If you do not pressure Showtime, there is a good chance that you will get knocked out.
Pettis is at his best with room to move and be creative. Pettis has tremendous striking ability and can litterally strike from anywhere, in any manner. Ferreira is an in your face fighter that will look to back Pettis into the cage and strike. Additionally, Ferreira’s grappling game is underrated. Showtime struggles to defend against strikes as he absorbs 2.5 more significant strikes per round than he delivers. Look for Pettis to get backed into the fence here and be hit, a lot.
Prediction: Ferreira, TKO round 3