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UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington staff picks and predictions

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Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s blockbuster UFC 245 card in Las Vegas.

The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC 245, and we are fairly split on the main event between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Most of us are backing Max Holloway to defend his title successfully against Alex Volkanovski, while only Ed Gallo is going for the upset and choosing Germaine de Randamie to unseat Amanda Nunes as women’s bantamweight champion.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.

Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington

Mookie Alexander: If Covington wants to wrestle with Usman then he’s going to lose. Usman is stupidly strong and I don’t believe he has what it takes to outwrestle Kamaru, and Usman does a far better job of maintaining top control and getting to dominant spots than Covington does. However, even if Covington’s striking isn’t super impressive from a technical standpoint, his volume and ability to wear people out with his constant pressure is something we have to acknowledge. Furthermore, how often has Usman fought high-volume fighters? RDA is probably his most notable one and RDA is just not that hard to put on the backfoot. Will Covington succumb to Usman’s pressure? I don’t know about that. The longer this stays a kickboxing match, the more I favor Covington. So no, I will not let my dislike of the Covington persona cloud my perception of this fight, I actually think that if Usman cannot keep him on the mat or in sustained clinch battles, Colby is going to have more offense to win rounds. Colby Covington by unanimous decision.

Anton Tabuena: Covington might have a chance if he’s able to again push an incredibly fast pace to tire Usman in the latter rounds. But that’s not enough for me to pick him, as I think Usman is just the better fighter everywhere from striking to wrestling and to grappling. Kamaru Usman by Decision.

Lewis McKeever: This is one of the most intriguing fights of the year, but I feel Covington is the superior wrestler and has a stronger work ethic. Colby Covington via Decision.

Staff picking Usman: Ed, Stephie, Tim, Anton, Phil
Staff picking Covington: Mookie, Dayne, Lewis, Shak

Max Holloway vs. Alex Volkanovski

Mookie Alexander: Volkanovski is going to start fast but I don’t know if he can keep it up. This is his first five-round fight of his UFC career, and Holloway has a level of pace and precision to his game that Alex has frankly not faced before. He certainly has some power and strong leg kicks to make Holloway think a bit on the feet, but he may have to rely heavily on his wrestling and find ways to close the distances without getting countered to shreds. Holloway’s distance control, combination striking, and footwork are just a cut above everyone else at 145. This is going to be a great fight and one that Volkanovski has a real shot to win given his rapid improvement over time, but I can’t go against the champ. Max Holloway by unanimous decision.

Anton Tabuena: Volkanovski has the skill and power to make this far more interesting and competitive than Holloway’s bout against Edgar, but I feel like this will look a tad similar, with Volkanovski getting controlled at range by the more technical striker. I think Volkanovski will have a few moments, but overall, it will be Holloway dictating the pace and distance en route to yet another title defense. Max Holloway by Decision.

Lewis McKeever: Max Holloway looked a little sleepy during the UFC embedded series, which leads me to believe he’s still not fully recovered from his undiagnosed, mystery health condition. Also, Volkanovski is a beast. Alex Volkanovski by Decision.

Staff picking Holloway: Ed, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Anton
Staff picking Volkanovski: Lewis, Shak

Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine de Randamie

Mookie Alexander: This might not actually be a great fight? There’s very much the chance that De Randamie can pull the surprise given she’s an outstanding striker, and Germaine’s takedown defense has drastically improved. However, Nunes is still the more well-rounded fighter and De Randamie is not going to get a pace that will even come close to tiring Amanda out. My read on this fight is fairly similar to Phil’s, which means Amanda Nunes by unanimous decision.

Anton Tabuena: Nunes’ resume makes her by far the female MMA GOAT, but skill-wise, it’s not that lopsided as she still has some holes that people could conceivably take advantage of. Is that De Randamie the fighter to do that? I’m not so sure, but this should be a lot closer than the odds portray, especially if Nunes decides to strike for long stretches. If that happens, I believe GDR would be a live dog and could cause a lot of problems, but she also has more significant holes that the champ is more likely to exploit... PS: If all three of my title fight predictions are correct, we are in for a long night because I think this will also be, Amanda Nunes by Decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Nunes has largely evolved as a striker which means that she hasn’t really become that much more likely to beat GdR in an area in which she’s unfamiliar. With that being said, Nunes just has too many ways that she can win. GdR won’t push her with pace, and that means that Nunes just has to hang around, not get countered, and occasionally win a round with a big ground series or just peck away a la Shevchenko. Not a recipe for an exciting fight, but there it is. Amanda Nunes by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Nunes: Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Anton, Lewis, Shak
Staff picking de Randamie: Ed

Marlon Moraes vs. Jose Aldo

Mookie Alexander: Nah man. Why do so many MMA fighters love to go down in weight as they get older? This would’ve been more intriguing at 145 and even then I’d probably still pick Moraes. Marlon Moraes by TKO, round 2.

Anton Tabuena: At 145 lbs, I wouldn’t hesitate picking Aldo, but by getting even more dehydrated and dropping that extra 10 pounds, you’ll really have to question his conditioning, explosiveness -- and perhaps more importantly, his durability. With the way he’s looked, I also kinda doubt he’d be the bigger and much stronger fighter here too. I legit hope I’m wrong, but I think this will be Marlon Moraes by sad and brutal KO.

Phil Mackenzie: I don’t even know what I want to happen. Do I want to see Aldo resurrect some greatness at a new weightclass, or do I want to see him get clobbered for making what is obviously a stupid decision? Marlon Moraes by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Moraes: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Anton, Lewis, Shak
Staff picking Aldo: Tim

Urijah Faber vs. Petr Yan

Mookie Alexander: Faber’s best chance to win on the feet is his favorite overhand right, then there’s the hope that he has the speed and timing on his takedowns to get Yan to the ground and get to work from there. Beyond that, Yan is just going to piece him up standing and he’ll either stop him or win a lopsided decision. Petr Yan by unanimous decision.

Anton Tabuena: The smart pick is clearly Yan, but I have a feeling that Faber can turn back the clock just enough to give Yan a lot of problems here. Styles make fights, and the old Faber can pose some interesting threats with his speed and scrambling ability, but will we see that man in the cage? And if so, will it be enough to actually get a victory? I’m still not quite sure. Yan has looked great, and Faber is 40, so again, there’s one obvious smart pick here. Petr Yan by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: There’s no reason to pick Faber really. Yan isn’t in the top tier of style matchups which have shut Faber out (skilled range kickboxers who can wrestle) but even if he just tries to pressure box Faber, he’s an infinitely better striker and has enough grappling skill that I’d be shocked if Faber picked up one of his chokes. I suspect Faber tries to do what Dodson did when he was losing, and slow the fight down via inactivity... and then gets buzzsawed like Dodson did. Petr Yan by TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Faber:
Staff picking Yan: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Anton, Lewis, Shak

Geoff Neal vs. Mike Perry

Mookie Alexander: Perry may be fighting “smarter” these days but he’s also still someone who routinely loses to more disciplined strikers with better footwork. Geoff Neal ticks those boxes and he has a reach advantage to further help him work his counterstriking and jabbing. It’s going to be a war but it’s one we’ve seen Perry lose several times before. Geoff Neal by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Neal hasn’t been untouchable in his UFC career thus far, but he’s also been fairly gritty and a clean, powerful puncher with good footwork and tremendous handspeed. Perry’s insensate violent powers have been tempered by more focus of late, and if he can push Neal late (as Belal Remember The Name Muhammad did) then perhaps he can do what Price couldn’t when he hurt him. Basically he needs to put together the best pieces of both gameplans, and it seems a bit unlikely. Geoff Neal by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Neal: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Shak,
Staff picking Perry:

Ketlen Vieira vs. Irene Aldana

Mookie Alexander: Thought I’d go with Aldana but I’m switching to Vieira. Ketlen’s wrestling and grappling should be able to negate Aldana’s advantages as a boxer, but Vieira is coming off a very very long layoff that we have to take into consideration. If Vieira looks rusty then Aldana can box her ears off. Ketlen Vieira by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: An oddly similar matchup between two big, aggressive, plodding bantamweights. Aldana is a more skilled boxer, but I think Vieira is a bit more diverse everywhere and a more willing wrestler and submission threat, plus she’s just beaten a much higher tier of athlete than Aldana has. Ketlen Vieira by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Vieira: Ed, Phil, Anton, Tim, Shak, Mookie
Staff picking Aldana: Dayne, Stephie

Omari Akhmedov vs. Ian Heinisch

Mookie Alexander: Phil went with Akhmedov because he’s just weird about middleweights. Ian Heinisch by TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: No-one believing in the Wolverine eh? Perhaps that is because he is somewhat boring. Anyway, in recent years he’s looked like the kind of fighter who has to be taken out by a skilled specialist, and Heinisch hasn’t looked like that. Somewhat of a flyer, as there’s a decent chance Omari just gets drowned with pace and jitterbug movement, but Omari Akhmedov by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Akhmedov: Phil
Staff picking Heinisch: Ed, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Shak

Matt Brown vs. Ben Saunders

Mookie Alexander: I love ya, Ben. Please prove me wrong. Matt Brown by KO, round 1.

Anton Tabuena: I don’t care. LETS! Ben Saunders by Ninja Rolling Flying Submission

Phil Mackenzie: Man, I don’t even know who I want to win. But the thought of either of these guys losing makes me sad. Unless he gets kicked in the liver instantly, Matt Brown by KO, round 1.

Staff picking Brown: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Shak
Staff picking Saunders: Anton

Chase Hooper vs. Daniel Teymur

Mookie Alexander: Lesser Teymur is just too easy to outgrapple and his cardio is a disaster. As long as Hooper is disciplined and doesn’t get caught by Daniel’s power shots, he will get the W. Chase “Mott the” Hooper by submission, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: It’s the worse Teymur Bro against a determined and tough submission grappler. One of those fights like Elkins-Johnson where it’s hard to see it not playing out in one way: Teymur beats the crap out of Hooper, then gets tired and subbed. Chase Hooper by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Hooper: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Anton, Shak
Staff picking Teymur: Tim

Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France

Mookie Alexander: Moreno is a wild mess of a fighter and that makes him more fun to watch than not. Kara-France is the better striker but if Moreno can get this to the ground then we should get some interesting scrambles and I’d back Moreno to have the edge there. Kai Kara-France by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Moreno looked surprisingly coherent last time out, but I honestly still can’t get that hideous fight against Lil’ Pettis out of my head. City Kickboxing has done a very good job at teaching range kickboxing with a focus on shutting out entries. Kai Kara-France by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Moreno: Dayne, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Kara-France: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Anton, Shak

Jessica Eye vs. Viviane Araujo

Mookie Alexander: Eye missed weight by a bunch, but I’m not picking her anyway. When she can’t physically bully people and is at an athletic and speed disadvantage, her game falls apart. This fight is dependent on Araujo’s cardio and ability to defend takedowns, as she’s otherwise going to have too much offense for Jessica. Viviane Araujo by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Araujo is just too relentless for someone like Eye, who has always seemed to need a strength advantage (or at least parity), and profoundly dislikes being pushed. Viviane Araujo by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Eye:
Staff picking Araujo: Ed, Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Anton, Tim, Shak

Punahele Soriano vs. Oskar Piechota

Mookie Alexander: Seems like it’s mandatory for at least one Contender Series signing to lose, and since I picked Hooper already, that means Soriano draws the short straw. Oskar Piechota by submission, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: Soriano is an interesting prospect: he has natural athleticism and some skill, but seems to be leaning on that fairly heavily. He doesn’t have much snap on his punches or a deep grappling game, and has looked a bit like a raw but promising can crusher. Piechota has some gas tank issues, but he has enough technical depth to be able to turn around some late losses and potentially Blachowicz his way to a more stable position in the UFC. Oskar Piechota by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Soriano: Ed, Tim
Staff picking Piechota: Phil, Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Anton, Shak

Poll

Who do you think takes the win at UFC 246?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Conor McGregor
    (1419 votes)
  • 45%
    Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone
    (1205 votes)
2624 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Max Holloway
    (927 votes)
  • 23%
    Alex Volkanovski
    (292 votes)
1219 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Amanda Nunes
    (976 votes)
  • 18%
    Germaine de Randamie
    (225 votes)
1201 votes total Vote Now