UFC 250 main card: Preview and predictions

Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer, Women’s Featherweight

Amanda Nunes comes into this fight being considered by many as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world and the greatest female fighter of all time. Think of all of the great women fighters you can think of and chances are that Amanda Nunes (19-4) has knocked them out or submitted them. Nunes has won ten in a row, having last lost almost six years ago. Along the way, she has knocked out or submitted Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Raquel Pennington, Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm. Her opponent, Felicia Spencer (8-1), has lost only one of her nine fights. That loss came to Cyborg, who was dominated by Nunes. There is no question as to why Nunes comes into this fight as a huge -625 favorite.

According to odds-makers, there is little to no path for a Spencer victory. Nunes’ striking is among the best in the UFC. To make her even more difficult, her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is just as filthy. The champion is ellusive in the octogon and hard to hit, absorbing only 2.6 signifcant strikes per minute, while delivering 4.3. Nunes will try to end this fight early as she has done in seven of her ten straight victories. Nunes will try to keep the fight standing, given that Spencer’s specialty is wrestling. If Nunes is taken down, she has shown that she can quickly regroup and get back to her feet.

Whiles Spencer’s chances at victory may be very slim, an upset is not competely impossible. While Nunes can typically recover from a takedown quickly, Spencer’s submission game is dangerous. The Canadian Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black belt has submitted her opponent in four of her last five victories via rear naked choke. Spencer could try to keep the fight going into the later rounds, hope that the COVID-19 pandemic has somehow affected Nunes’ conditioning and work some magic to get Nunes’ back. This will be a tall order, as Spencer will have her hands full on her feet, absorbing 6.3 significant strikes per minute, a scary number when coming into a fight with Amanda Nunes.

Prediction: The chances of a Spencer victory seem to hinge on hopes, ifs and miracles. Nunes will pick spencer apart and knock her out in round 2. Nunes – KO/TKO

Raphael Assunção vs. Cody Garbrandt, Bantamweight

The former Bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt (11-3) hasn’t fought in over a year and hasn’t won a fight in three and a half years, getting knocked out in three consecutive fights. Raphael Assunção (27-7), a +119 underdog, has lost two in a row, including a unanimous decision against Cory Sandhagen in August.

Garbrandt has an attacking style that combines a nasty combination of speed and power. That style has that served him well for much of his career. More recently, however, that opponents have used this knock him out in each of his last three fights. Assunção is Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert that has won 37% of his fights via submission, this includes a stretch from 2011-2018 in which he went 11-1. Assunção will look to take this fight to the ground while Garbrandt will want to keep the fight verticle and seek the knockout. This strategy should serve Garbrandt well as he has a 100% take-down defense rate.

Prediction: This will be a striker vs. grappler fight. Garbrant, learnign from his last three fights, will be more cautious and knock Assunção out in round three. Garbrandt, KO/TKO.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen, Bantamweight

Aljamain Sterling (18-3), a former Division III NCAA All-American wrestler, comes into this fight riding a four win streak. Sterling’s ground game is his strength, earning s submission in 39% of his victories. The 30 year old New Yorker has been working tirelessly at his striking and has become a very well-rounded fighter. Sandhagen (12-1), one of the tallest bantamweights in the sport at 5’11”, has won seven in a row, four of those by TKO. With both fighters being on such a streak, it is no wonder that odds-makers have this fight as a pick-em.

Sterling is explosive, and though giving up four inches in height, has a longer reach than his opponent. Sterling’s striking style is unorthodox and can frustrate opponents. With all of that being said, Sterling’s best chance is to take this fight to the mat, as Sandhagen has not fought anyone with the ground game that Sterling has. Sterling has landed only 29% of his take-down attempts while Sandhagen has defended 27%, so, while there is opportunity there, take-downs will not be a given. Sterling will need to particularly careful not to catch a Sandhagen knee as he looks to change levels while mixing striking with wrestling.

Sandhagen’s path to victory could go either way, striking or taking the fight to the mat. While Sterling defends 51% of take-down attempts, Sandhagen has a 50% take down accuracy rate. The stat that really stands out, however, is Sandhagen’s 7.1 significant strikes landed per minute compared to Sterling’s 4.9.

Prediction: This fight is a contender for fight of the night and almost too close to call. I think Sandhagen defends Sterling’s take-down attempts and lands enough strikes to impress judges. Sandhagen, Decision.

Neil Magny vs. Anthony Rocco Martin, Welterweight

Neil Magny (22-7) is coming off of a dominating victory in March against Chinese power puncher Li Jingliang in a fight most thought he had little chance in. Anthony Rocco Martin (17-5) has won five of his last six since moving up to welterweight in April of 2018, with his only loss coming at the hands of Demian Maia.

Magny, a -150 favorite, is a rangy kickboxer with a strong clinch game. Mangy will look to keep the pressure on Martin and make him kick off of his back foot. This strategy will also help smother Martin and allow Magny to use his superior clinch to land short range elbows and knees.

Martin is also a rangy kickboxer with a great counter game. Martin’s ground game is dangerous, as well, having secured nine of his victories via submission. Martin will look to tie Magny up with take-down attempts and ride out a slow paced victory or secure a submission.

Prediction: This could be a slow-paced fight of clashing styles. I think Mangy gets Martin into the clinch enough to land some nasty blows and win a decision. Mangy, Decision.

Eddie Wineland vs. Sean O’Malley, Bantamweight

Eddie Wineland (24-13) is a ten-year UFC veteran who has fought only once per year since 2016. In his last appearance, Wineland reminded everyone of his power with a second round TKO of Grigory Popov. Sean O’Malley (11-0) is a bantamweight prospect that has earned “Performance of the Night” and “Fight of the Night” in his last two fights. After fighting injuries and contaminated supplement suspensions, O’Malley continued his rise in March with a TKO of Josè Alberto Quiñónez.

Wineland is an aggressive fighter with knockout power. With that being said, he lands only 3.4 significant strikes per minute and has a 29% accuracy rate. Wineland will attack in this fight, which could be his undoing.

O’Malley, an overwhelming -500 favorite, is a strong counter puncher that lands 6.9 significant strikes per minute. The undefeated 25 year old has a three inch arm reach advantage and a 3.5 inch leg reach advantage that he will look to use to pick Wineland apart.

Prediction: The O’Malley hype train will stay the course in this fight. O’Malley will spend the early part of the fight welcoming Wineland’s aggression with counter puncher before landing a knockout blow in the second round. O’Malley, KO/TKO.

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Leroy Travers

Follow my coverage of Lacrosse (College and MLL) as well as Georgetown Hoyas Basketball, the Washington Redskins, and most other sports here on the MSB. Living in neighboring Sussex County, Delaware, I have been a huge Maryland Sports fan for almost 40 years. Follow me on Twitter @el_travs, and on Instagram @Letrav.

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