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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington - Main card preview

Get the scoop on the early main card action of UFC 245, featuring a title contest between dominant women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie.

It’s rare I get the opportunity to preview a title fight, but that’s what I get to do here!

UFC 245 features three title fights and Phil and Dave are covering the usual top two contests… meaning a I get the overflow. It’s a bit of a relief for me as the two non-title fights on the card don’t exactly excite me. It isn’t the name value of the participants; Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber are legendary figures in the sport. But an ill-advised weight cut and a return from retirement leaves those with an inkling of what is up with these contests feeling ill. Regardless, the three title fights make this a can’t-miss card.

The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Saturday.

(C) Amanda Nunes (18-4) vs. Germaine de Randamie (9-3), Women’s Bantamweight

Out of the three title fights on UFC 245, this one by far is the one that is getting the least amount of attention. While it is a conundrum in that Nunes is the most dominant champion on the card — in addition to being the longest reigning current champion, she’s also considered by most to be the most dominant women’s fighter of all time — in a weird way, it also makes sense few seem to be emphasizing this contest.

First of all, we’ve seen this fight before. Many don’t believe there is going to be a big difference between what happened the first time and what is going to happen this go-around, but that’s simplifying things too much. Everyone knows Nunes is a far superior fighter to what she was for their first contest, providing even more reason to believe she is once again to grind de Randamie into the ground for a second time. However, de Randamie is also much improved from their first fight, improved enough that she hasn’t lost since that contest. Hell, she even became a UFC champion in that time. Granted, the quality of her title reign can be debated – I’ve said it’s one of the lowest quality title reigns in the UFC’s history – but she was a champion nonetheless.

Secondly, Nunes’ dominance has offered little reason to believe there is anyone out there who is capable of dethroning her. It’s comparable to Demetrious Johnson’s reign in that sense. Throw in the fact that Nunes hasn’t been a brash champion ala Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor and the UFC has had problems putting promotional muscle behind her, it makes sense there isn’t a lot of buzz.

Now, for the nitty gritty. Nunes may be the best athlete in women’s MMA, any competitors in that field not yet in their prime. It took a while for her mind to catch up to her body, but she may be just as cage savvy as she is athletic. She blitzed Cris Cyborg when that was the last thing anyone expected her to do. She found the right time to counter Holly Holm, a far cry from the aggressive blitzer who looked to finish her fights with every second available. She’s powerful. She’s strong. She’s technical. She’s a hell of a grappler too. There isn’t an area Nunes is notably weak.

That doesn’t mean de Randamie might as well give up right now. De Randamie has done a lot to improve her takedown defense since their first contest. In fact, she hasn’t been taken down since that fight. I’ll admit that statistic isn’t as impressive as it sounds off the bat given de Randamie’s lack of activity – she has fought less than once a year since that time – but it’s nonetheless worthy of note. She likes to stay near the cage as she uses that to great effect to stay standing. It does create cause for concern if she is forced to the middle of the cage, but de Randamie does a great job of keeping the action where she can utilize the cage.

A former kickboxer who was undefeated in that department, de Randamie may be one of the few who is more technical than Nunes on the feet. Taller and longer than Nunes, de Randamie often pumps a jab to keep the opposition at bay. If that doesn’t work, she’s quick to clinch up and utilize her knees and elbows to great effect. De Randamie usually maintains a tight defensive stance, but she tends to expose herself when she looks to sit down on her punches.

When all is said and done, I’ll be shocked if de Randamie pulls off the upset. It isn’t that I don’t like her. Despite the ridiculous nature of her title reign – refusing to fight Cyborg in addition to the controversial nature of her title win against Holly Holm – de Randamie has always come across as a pleasant and likeable person. It’s just that Nunes is that damn good and continues to improve despite already being great. I’ll be happy if de Randamie can make it a competitive contest. Nunes via TKO of RD2

Marlon Moraes (22-6-1) vs. Jose Aldo (28-5), Bantamweight

Up until his most recent contest against Alexander Volkanovski, there was no indication that Aldo was no longer the elite at featherweight. Sure, he had a stretch of three losses in four fights, but there was a flukish feel to his loss to McGregor – not to delegitimize McGregor’s victory – and the other two losses came against reigning champion Max Holloway. However, against Volkanovski, Aldo looked like he was waiting for the perfect opportunity to counter the Aussie and ended up frozen. Volkanovski recognized Aldo’s intentions and rarely sat down on his strikes, chipping away with LOTS of low kicks as Aldo did nothing.

For some reason, Aldo believes dropping down in weight to 135 will solve his problems. People weren’t necessarily shocked he was moving to a different division, but everyone expected him to make the move to lightweight given his issues with weight cutting in the past. Even during his incredible run as featherweight champion, Aldo would either fight at an incredibly measured pace throughout a fight or he would fade significantly towards the end. There is no reason to believe his stamina will improve now that he’s dropping an extra 10 pounds. Plus, he doesn’t exactly look healthy in recent photos as he attempts to work his way to his new weight limit.

Nonetheless, if Aldo makes the weight and does so in a healthy manner, he could become the new bully on the block. He still has incredible power and I’ve seen no reason to indicate his low kicks don’t remain the best in the business. Remember what he did to Faber back in the WEC? Aldo can still produce similar results, but he needs to recommit himself to low kicks, an aspect he has rarely pulled out of his bag of tricks in recent years. Throw in the fact that Aldo still appears to be durable and the common rule of the smaller the weight class, the more unlikely a KO occurring, there is an outside chance he could be a juggernaut.

Regardless of how well Aldo holds up despite further dehydration, there is little doubt in the minds of most that Moraes has the ability to put away Aldo with seeming ease. The former WSOF champion disposed of three consecutive high-level opponents within the first round, thanks largely to what may be the most dangerous arsenal of kicks in the business. If that were all Moraes possessed in utility belt, he’d still be dangerous. However, he’s tightened up his boxing mechanics to better take advantage of his fast hands. Moraes did wear down against Henry Cejudo, his stamina being partially responsible for his loss in their title contest. Given how he responded to his loss to Raphael Assuncao in his UFC debut, I’d expect Moraes to address that one way or another.

I really don’t like Aldo moving down to 135. There are far more reasons to believe it will result in failure as opposed to reasons why it will work out. It’s telling nobody is talking about how Moraes will rebound as everyone is flabbergasted Aldo is making this move, no one believing this is a good idea. Bottom line: Moraes is awesome, Aldo is making a mistake, and I’ll be shocked if Aldo wins. Moraes via TKO of RD2

Petr Yan (13-1) vs. Urijah Faber (35-10), Bantamweight

What to make of Faber’s KO of Ricky Simon? Upon his return from retirement, Faber succeeded in putting away the talented prospect in a matter of seconds… leaving many questions yet unanswered. Is he refreshed after his time away from the cage? Or did Simon underestimate the 40-year old legend’s abilities?

Faber wasn’t completely spent when he initially called it a career in 2016, but he was clearly diminished. Not quite as quick as he used to be, his reaction time on the feet is what suffered the most, opponents piecing him up with regularity. In the process, his first step on takedowns isn’t what it once was either, making it hard for him to get the fight where he was at his best: on the mat. Does Faber still have the fabulous scrambling ability that helped define his career? Given that’s another department dependent upon quickness, there’s a lot of reason to doubt he’s still at the top of his game in that field.

Yan has no problem with his speed as he’s in the midst of his physical prime… and he’s a special talent. Fast hands. KO power. A quick shot. Yan has everything in his arsenal to become a champion. He mixes up his strikes perfectly to keep his opponent guessing what is coming next, whether it’s a punching combination or a kick to the head, not to mention the possibility of a takedown. Yan’s maturity belies his experience as he’s only been fighting professionally for six years. Those abilities are all punctuated by a killer instinct to know when he’s hurt his opponent.

There are a couple of things that give Faber the barest of chances to pull off this upset. Yan, for all of his abilities, can neglect his defensive responsibilities at times. Usually, Yan has his armor up the way he’s supposed to, but Faber proved against Simon that he’s savvy enough to know when there’s an opportunity he’s still capable of exposing. Faber has always been a dangerous striker with his powerful hooks, even if he’s never been the best technician. Even if he can’t put Yan away with a heavy hook, his guillotine may still be the best in the business. Regardless, I can’t in good conscious pick Faber with Yan being superior in almost every area. In fact, I really don’t want to see this contest as I expect Yan to piece up the beloved legend. Yan via decision