Tag: conor mcgregor

PREVIEW | UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor – Full card and predictions

THE UFC’s first pay-per-view event of 2021 sees its biggest draw return to the octagon atop a stacked main card to be hosted at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

Fighters littered up and down the card will be keen to latch onto the attention garnered though the highly-anticipated main event, with plenty of statements to be made on the famed Fight Island.

>> SCROLL for the full card and predictions

Just over a year removed from his spectacular showing at UFC 246, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor steps into the octagon for a second time against Dustin Poirier, but much has changed since their first meeting in 2014.

Both have gone on to claim UFC gold in the lightweight division but will be out to impress current title holder, Khabib Nurmagomedov and potentially earn rematches against the undefeated Dagestani champion.

They won’t be the only 155-pounders eager to claim their contendership status, with the co-main event pitting vicious New Zealand striker Dan Hooker against UFC newcomer Michael Chandler.

Hooker’s last bout saw him edged by Poirier in a five-round war, while Chandler has held brass in Bellator’s lightweight division and now makes the long-awaited move to MMA’s leading promotion.

Another title eliminator of sorts takes place as women’s flyweight contenders Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood lock horns, with both eager to climb back into the top five and claim challenger status.

Another women’s bout slots into the main card as Brazilian prospects Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Ribas do battle, both on hot streaks and holding the potential to rise steeply with an impressive outing.

A potential banger between two men with some of the best monikers going around rounds out the main card action, as Matt ‘The Steamrolla’ Frevola meets Ottman ‘Bulldozer’ Azaitar. The undefeated Azaitar has shown plenty during his short time in the UFC, but comes up against a tough Long Island favourite in this bout.

FULL CARD AND PREDICTIONS:

FOTN: Hooker vs. Chandler
POTN: McGregor, Ribas, Azaitar
Prelim banger: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Nasrat Haqparast

MAIN CARD

Lightweight | Dustin Poirier [2] vs. Conor McGregor [4]
Prediction: McGregor by T/KO

Lightweight | Dan Hooker [6] vs. Michael Chandler
Prediction: Chandler by decision

W. Flyweight | Jessica Eye [6] vs. Joanne Calderwood [7]
Prediction: Eye by decision

Lightweight | Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar
Prediction: Azaitar by T/KO

W. Strawweight | Marina Rodriguez [8] vs. Amanda Ribas [10]
Prediction: Ribas by submission

PRELIMINARY CARD

Lightweight | Arman Tsarukyan vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Prediction: Tsarukyan by decision

Middleweight | Brad Tavares [14] vs. Antonio Carlos Junior
Prediction: Tavares by T/KO

W. Bantamweight | Julianna Peña [7] vs. Sara McMann [9]
Prediction: McMann by decision

Light Heavyweight | Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Marcin Prachnio
Prediction: Rountree Jr. by T/KO

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD

Middleweight | Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov
Prediction: Muradov by T/KO

Catchweight (150lbs) | Nik Lentz vs. Movsar Evloev
Prediction: Evloev by decision

Flyweight | Amir Albazi [15] vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Prediction: Albazi by submission

Image Credit: UFC – (Retrieved via) Main Event

UFC Rankings update: May-June 2020

THE UFC has resumed full-time operations and with it comes the ever-changing rankings landscape. Four events have gone down since the promotion’s emphatic return at UFC 249 on May 9, with the only belt to change hands that of the interim lightweight strap belonging to Justin Gaethje. Among the big winners have been Gilbert Burns, Glover Teixeira, and Alistair Overeem, while their opponents all suffered drops down the rankings. The full, updated UFC rankings can be found here, and pound-for-pound list, here with changes soon to come after the weekend’s event.

HEAVYWEIGHT (206-265lbs)

Augusto Sakai ⬆️ [10]
Blagoy Ivanov ⬇️ [15]

Sakai’s co-main event decision victory over Ivanov saw him jump three places into 10th spot, while the Bulgarian slid the same amount to number 15 as the last of the ranked heavyweights. A random shuffle saw former champion Junior dos Santos move down to fifth, leaving Derrick Lewis clear in the number four spot. Those ranked 11-14 also moved around the two active men, with the MMA community now eagerly awaiting a trilogy fight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier at the top.


WELTERWEIGHT (170lbs)

Gilbert Burns ⬆️ [1]
Tyron Woodley ⬇️ [4]

The big story to come out of the welterweight division was Burns’ rise to number one contendership, leapfrogging his opponent in former champion, Woodley, and the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, and Leon Edwards. The Brazilian earned a title shot against Kamaru Usman with his dominant decision victory, and it remains to be seen whether Conor McGregor, who swapped places with Anthony Pettis down to number 15, will be removed upon his shock retirement.


LIGHTWEIGHT (155lbs)

Justin Gaethje ⬆️ [IC]
Beneil Dariush ⬆️ [14]
Drew Dober ⬆️ [15]

The big risers at 155 pounds were Darisuh and Dober, who each earned berths in the rankings of late. Most recently, Dober’s eye-catching TKO of former ranked lightweight Alex Hernandez earned him a spot, while stretching his win streak out to three. Random shuffles saw the aforementioned pair land at 14 and 15 respectively, while Donald Cerrone swapped places with Islam Makhachev to move to 12th, and the McGregor situation makes for some confusion at the top. Of course, Gaethje earned a title unification bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov after defeating perennial contender, Tony Ferguson at UFC 249.


FEATHERWEIGHT (145lbs)

Calvin Kattar ⬆️ [6]
Dan Ige ⬆️ [11]
Arnold Allen ⬇️ [12]

A couple of rising prospects made the most significant leaps at featherweight, with Kattar moving to number six after defeating Jeremy Stephens at a 150-pound catchweight, while Ige continued his impressive run by defeating former lightweight contender, Edson Barboza via split decision. Allen, whose last fight was in January, was level with Ige in 11th spot, but moved one down to 12th in a random restructuring. A rematch between champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway has also been marked for UFC 251.


BANTAMWEIGHT (135lbs)

There will soon be some division-defining movement at 135-pounds, with three massive bantamweight fights going down on the UFC 250 main card. Number two ranked Aljamain Sterling made yet another claim for his long-awaited title shot by submitting Cory Sandhagen in quick time, but it seems Jose Aldo [6] and Petr Yan [3] will scrap for the vacant belt. Former champ Cody Garbrandt [9] got back to winning ways with a massive knockout of veteran contender Raphael Assuncao [5], while Sean O’Malley pushed his case for a ranking with his own statement KO on the same night.


FLYWEIGHT (125lbs)

Brandon Royval ⬆️ [11]
Tim Elliott ⬇️ [12]
Mark De La Rosa ⬇️ [NR]

Royval is the new prospect on the block, debuting at number 11 in the flyweight rankings after defeating former title challenger, Elliott in a fight of the night scrap on the Woodley vs. Burns undercard. Numbers 12-15, including Elliott were shuffled down, with De La Rosa pushed out of his number 15 spot and thus, the rankings altogether. Alex Perez [9] will also be a big mover having defeated Jussier Formiga [4] on the latest card, with Joseph Benevidez and Deiveson Figueiredo set to rematch for the vacant title.

MENS POUND-FOR-POUND

Francis Ngannou ⬆️ [14]
Dominick Reyes ⬆️ [15]
Tyron Woodley ⬇️ [NR]
Henry Cejudo ⬇️ [NR]

WOMEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

Nina Ansaroff ⬇️ [15]


WOMEN’S DIVISIONS

There has been no movement in any of the women’s divisions, but that may be soon about to change as flyweights Jessica Eye [1] and Cynthia Calvillo [10 SW] headline the promotion’s upcoming Fight Night. Amanda Nunes of course successfully defender her featherweight belt against Felicia Spencer in the latest PPV event, while number two flyweight Katlyn Chookagian dismantled Antonina Shevchenko [12] in their bout, and Angela Hill was denied a berth in the rankings after losing a tight decision to Claudia Gadelha. Carla Esparza and Sijara Eubanks were other ranked winners, and Mackenzie Dern may find herself among the strawweight numbers after submitting Hannah Cifers in quick time.

Card preview – UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje

FROM Brooklyn New York, to a short-lived secret fight island, and its eventual home in Jacksonville Florida, UFC 249 is finally set to go down this weekend – albeit with an improvised starring cast. The long-awaited Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson fight may have been scrapped for a fifth time, but fans are set to be treated to a barn-burning headliner as Justin Gaethje steps in for a shot at the interim lightweight title, capping off what is set to be the most stacked UFC event in some time. Combat will once again carry the sporting world on its shoulders with this 11-fight showcase, despite one of the scheduled athletes, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza testing positive for COVID-19. The show must go on.

Check out the full card below, as well as our predictions from top to bottom in our UFC 249 card preview.
Spoiler, there are no boring fights on this card.

MAIN CARD:

Lightweight [IT] | Tony Ferguson [1] v. Justin Gaethje [4]

The wait for a Khabib-Ferguson bout continues after the undisputed champ revealed he would not be able to leave his homeland amid the current global pandemic, but we get an absolute belter in the meantime as Gaethje squares off with El Cucuy for his first shot at UFC gold.

Many bouts have had all the promise of fight of the year contendership, but this is one which should truly deliver with the pair in question two of the most entertaining fighters on the roster, period. Ferguson’s endless weapons and unique flow meet Gaethje’s knockout power and perennial forward movement, making for an interesting clash of styles.

The former WSOF champion is most dangerous in the early stages and Ferguson has been known to get hit much more often in the early rounds, meaning the challenger will have to strike while the iron is hot. Ferguson cuts up his opponents as they wilt in the later rounds, which has hardly been the case for Gaethje in his fights, but he’ll want to get it done quickly nonetheless.

While Gaethje is deserving of recognition as one of the world’s best, fans would largely agree that Ferguson should be next in line for a shot at the undisputed throne given his UFC-record 12-fight winning run. It won’t be easy, though, with his submission game pending on Gaethje’s underrated grappling prowess. We still back El Cucuy.

Prediction: Ferguson via submission.

Bantamweight [T] | Henry Cejudo [C] v. Dominick Cruz

Legacy is on the line as Cejudo defends his bantamweight strap against former champion, and the greatest 135’er of all time, Cruz. The bout will stand as Cejudo’s first 135-pound title defence since capturing the vacant belt at UFC 238 against Marlon Moraes, while Cruz steps back into the octagon he once dominated for the first time since losing the belt to Cody Garbrandt in December, 2016.

Those who see this as a one-sided, hand-picked fight are mistaken, as Cruz’s credentials need no introduction, and the lay-off period clearly has not impacted him in the past. His unlikely title victory over TJ Dillashaw in January, 2016 should be all the proof anyone needs, it is just a question of whether the 35-year-old still has what it takes and if his body can hold up.

Cejudo will test every bit of it with his heavy hands and dominant wrestling as he looks to take out another legend of the game. Cruz’s movement makes him almost impossible to hit, though Garbrandt managed to of late, and he is a high-level wrestler himself. That means the champ’s key strengths will be answered to, but he has proven before that he is capable of working through adversity to come out on top, even against the seemingly unbeatable. The new age wins again here.

Prediction: Cejudo via decision.

Heavyweight | Francis Ngannou [2] v. Jairzinho Rozenstruik [6]

A match-up between two hard hitting heavyweights jerks the curtain for the main and co-main events, as Ngannou and Rozenstruik look to push their case for entering the championship frame. Both men have achieved the feat of knocking out legendary striker Alistair Overeem in brutal fashion, and come in off incredible win streaks.

In the red corner, Ngannou has won three-straight bouts via first round KO after suffering the only two consecutive defeats of his professional career, while Rozenstruik has left it a touch later in two of his four promotional finishes. The Surinamese contender sits at a formidable 10-0, a winning run which his opponent had also previously managed – albeit after a loss.

For that extra bit of experience both in the octagon and cage overall, it seems that Ngannou should have the edge in this one. But either man can win at any time with just one blow, it will just be about who lands it first, or better. We doubt there’ll be much grappling, but keep our fingers crossed to avoid a Ngannou-Lewis repeat.

Prediction: Ngannou via T/KO.

Catchweight (150.5) | Jeremy Stephens [7] v. Calvin Kattar [9]

Stephens may have missed weight for this would-be featherweight match-up, but fans should forgive the veteran given the circumstances. This ranked bout between two terrific stand-up combatants should be an instant fan-favourite, and is an underrated choice for fight of the night.

Neither man has been known to take a backwards step, and have earned their notoriety among the world’s best having brought it to some of the greatest contenders of the time. That being said, both men come in off losses, with Stephens’ 0-3-1 run in his last four bouts reading worse than Kattar’s 2-2. With the chance to challenge for top five status and latch onto some winning momentum, this one should bang.

Prediction: Kattar via T/KO.

Heavyweight | Greg Hardy v. Yorgan de Castro

Another highly-anticipated bout between two (massive) heavyweights with serious power opens the main card, as Hardy and de Castro look to crack the rankings. Somewhat still on a quest to fully win fans over, Hardy has nonetheless made waves every time he has fought, not afraid to take on more seasoned opponents. Scary as de Castro may be, the 6-0 fighter lays claim to one-less professional fight than Hardy, and the American also has the edge in terms of dealing with the promotion’s bright lights.

That may not help him when he meets de Castro though, with the Cape Verde native putting away four of his six opponents within the first round. Hardy has tasted defeat within the octagon, and that sometimes puts fighters in better stead should the deep waters arise. It is difficult to split the pair, but their raw talent should deliver a good show in a test of their true credentials.

Prediction: Hardy via T/KO.

PRELIMINARY CARD:

Welterweight | Anthony Pettis [15] v. Donald Cerrone [6 LW]

Two men who are no strangers to headlining shows this time spearhead the undercard, as Cerrone continues his welterweight dabble against Pettis. ‘Cowboy’ is of course coming in off his loss to Conor McGregor and two more before that, but there is no reason to doubt the promotion’s winningest fighter given he has faced the stiffest of competition.

Pettis has also had a difficult time of it of late, losing three of his last four bouts to similarly tough opposition while finding it hard to consistently find his form of old. ‘Showtime’ does boast a win over Cerrone though, back in 2013 via a body kick, so may look to test the veteran in a similar fashion given his susceptibility in that area.

Both men can win the fight in a multitude of ways, with terrific, crisp striking combining with their high-level grappling talent. Given Pettis’ recent loss via submission, Cerrone may look to exploit him on the mat, but every bout begins on the feet. If Cerrone can avoid Pettis’ power and respond in due course, it will be a tough night for the former champ.

Prediction: Cerrone via submission.

Heavyweight | Aleksei Oleinik [12] v. Fabricio Werdum

This bout between two veteran heavyweight grapplers and mixed martial artists is somewhat of a sleeper on the prelims, with former champion Werdum making his long-awaited return to competition against submission extraordinaire Oleinik.

Both men are 42 years old, but Oleinik’s 72-fight career is no mean feat, especially given someone as credentialed as Werdum only lays claim to 32 professional MMA bouts. There is no questioning the talent and experience of these two competitors, and it should prove a good test of just how ready the Brazilian is as Oleinik poses many threats on the ground.

But Werdum may look to gain the ascendancy on the feet despite his BJJ prowess, with an underrated striking game and some solid power behind him. This kind of step-up in competition has often proven one too far for Oleinik, and he will need to get the fight to the mat as quickly as possible to stand any chance. The two may cancel each other out on the ground, however.

Prediction: Werdum via decision.

W. Strawweight | Carla Esparza [7] v. Michelle Waterson [8]

The sole female fight on the card poises two strawweight contenders against each other in inaugural champion, Esparza, and women’s MMA staple, Waterson. The ‘Karate Hottie’ is a fan favourite, but fell short in her run to the 115-pound strap after going down to Joanna Jedrzejczyk last October.

Of course, it means both women have a loss to Joanna on their records, but can still lay claim to sharing the octagon with some fantastic fellow contenders. A revamped Esparza looks to be on the right track having lost her belt in 2015 and since embarked on a patchy run. Now an experienced member of the rankings, she will have to be at her best against an absolute OG of the game. Wrestling seems her most viable avenue, but Waterson is crafty on the ground and maintains distance well with her kicks.

Prediction: Waterson via decision.

Welterweight | Vicente Luque [13] v. Niko Price

This absolute gem of a fight, hidden at the bottom of the prelims is set to kick off a stacked card in style. Two of the most dynamic welterweights in Luque and Price face-off as they look to secure their status as ranked fighters, with the Brazilian currently locked in among the top 15. Price is not far off, especially after his vicious upkick victory over James Vick.

The enigmatic American has had just one of his 18 fights go to decision, and he has shown he can win the fight from just about anywhere. But Luque has already beaten his next opponent, in 2017, and possesses a slightly more consistent UFC record. His six-fight losing run was brought to an end by Stephen Thompson, and the top 10 kind of opponent has often tested him.

There are nine ‘of the night’ bonuses between the pair, and neither man will take a backwards step here. it should be another fun fight, and an interesting clash of unique styles. It could end in absolutely any way, so do not count out the fighter who may seem to be losing at any point.

Prediction: Luque via submission.

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD:

Featherweight | Bryce Mitchell v. Charles Rosa

One of the most highly-touted promotional up-and-comers in Mitchell faces one of the toughest tasks of his young career as he looks to take out an experienced foe on the early prelims. Rosa, a six-fight UFC veteran has competed against some solid names while returning three fight of the night performances. Mitchell has been similarly entertaining in his three-fight UFC career having pulled off a twister, and boasts an undefeated professional record at 12-0. It’s tough to split them, but it’s always great to see the new age shine.

Prediction: Mitchell via decision.

Light Heavyweight | Ryan Spann v. Sam Alvey

A fun light heavyweight bout is set to open the show altogether, as the unranked Spann and Alvey go toe-to-toe at the bottom of the card. Spann is undefeated since earning a UFC contract via the Contender Series, showing a great all-round game along the way. ‘Smiling Sam’ has long been a promotional staple, but comes in having lost his last three bouts despite his notable experience.

Prediction: Spann via T/KO.

UFC Rankings update: January 2020

WITH two memorable pay-per-view cards marking the end of 2019 and start of the new year respectively, there have been plenty of movers and sliders in the Official UFC Rankings. A raft of up-and-comers have staked their claims for top-10 status, while others have found homes in new divisions, with the promotion also introducing a new pound-for-pound system which splits the men’s and women’s rankings. The full, updated list of UFC rankings can be found here, and the new pound-for-pound format, here.

HEAVYWEIGHT

Derrick Lewis -1 [6]

There was plenty of potential for movement among the heavyweights as two top-fivers went to war in the UFC Raleigh main event, but both Curtis Blaydes [3] and Junior dos Santos [4] maintain their spots after the American’s TKO victory. Derrick Lewis, who is set to face the unranked Illir Latifi at UFC 247, has now been officially moved down to number six after previously being ranked equal-fifth alongside Jairzinho Rozenstruik. With the title picture remaining murky, this could be a division to watch in 2020 despite early stalling.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

Volkan Oezdemir +1 [7]
Alexander Gustafsson -1 [8]

A rather uneventful month for the light heavyweights, but that could soon all change as Jon Jones takes on Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 for the world title. Latifi could move out of the rankings upon his heavyweight debut on the same card, while Corey Anderson [5] fights Jan Blachowicz [6] in a possible title eliminator, and former title challenger Anthony Smith [3] makes his return against veteran Glover Teixeira [9]. The only change comes as Volkan Oezdemir swaps places with the questionably retired Alexander Gustafsson to slot into rank number seven.

MIDDLEWEIGHT

Omari Akhmedov +1 [12]
Ian Heinisch -1 [13]

Another division with seemingly not much happening over the last month, but plenty to occur over the next few. The only ranking change sees Omari Akhmedov [12] swap places with Ian Heinisch [13] after defeating the American in their December bout, but all eyes will be on shuffling at the top end. Champion Israel Adesanya gets his wish in a match-up with former challenger Yoel Romero at UFC 248, while Derek Brunson [8] will look to shake the gatekeeper tag when he meets undefeated prospect Edmen Shahbazyan [9] on the same card. Former champion Robert Whittaker has left Jared Cannonier [4] without an opponent on the night, with potential fill-in, Darren Till [5] remaining on the sidelines alongside worthy number one contender, Paulo Costa. Plenty to play out here, it should be a big year at 185lbs.

WELTERWEIGHT

Michael Chiesa NR [7]
Rafael dos Anjos -3 [8]
Anthony Pettis -2 [13]
Conor McGregor NR [15]
Neil Magny NR

Division-shifters defined much of the movement at 170lbs, with Conor McGregor‘s statement-making return helping him debut at number 14 in the welterweight rankings, since moving down to 15 with Neil Magny omitted. Another to do so was Michael Chiesa, who beat-out perennial contender and fellow former lightweight Rafael dos Anjos via decision to slot in at number seven. ‘RDA’ slid down three spots to be eighth-ranked, while Anthony Pettis – another former 155lbs champion – moved down two spots following his loss at UFC 246. The top of the tree is set to shake as Jorge Masvidal [3] jockeys for a fight against champion Kamaru Usman, while Tyron Woodley [1] and Leon Edwards [4] are set to meet in London for a bout which could decide the next number one contender.

LIGHTWEIGHT

Justin Gaethje -1 [4]
Diego Ferreira NR [11]
Anthony Pettis NR

It took a sixth-consecutive win, but Diego Ferreira finally cracked the lightweight rankings with his well-constructed submission victory over former champion, Anthony Pettis. The impressive performance puts him in at number 11, while also seeing Pettis removed from the rankings altogether. A touch further up the order, and Conor McGregor has taken sole ownership of the number three spot after formerly sharing it with Justin Gaethje, with the two likely to face each other next for the number one contender spot. Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is booked to finally face Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, while Paul Felder [6] and Dan Hooker [7] make up another lightweight main event in their Auckland fight night headliner, and Kevin Lee [8] takes on the dangerous Charles Oliveira [13].

FEATHERWEIGHT

Calvin Kattar +1 [10]
Jose Aldo -2 [11]
Sodiq Yusuff NR [14]
Arnold Allen NR [15]
Mirsad Bektic NR

A couple of exciting contenders have fought their way into the featherweight rankings, with ‘Super’ Sodiq Yusuff and Arnold Allen respectively taking up the last two spots after impressive decision wins this month. While Contender Series alum Yusuff debuts at number 14, Allen’s return to the 15th spot sees Mirsad Bektic lose his ranked status. Elsewhere, some shuffling sees Calvin Kattar move up into tenth spot, while former champion Jose Aldo slides to number 11 as he pushes for a bantamweight title shot despite losing via decision in his last bout. There may not be much movement at the top with injuries impacting almost all of the top five, including the champion, but there are obvious match-ups to make in time.

BANTAMWEIGHT

Jose Aldo +1 [7]
Jimmie Rivera -1 [8]
Song Yadong +1 [12]
John Dodson -1 [13]

It has been a rather subdued month or two among the ranked bantamweights, with only a couple of minor shuffles helping to better set the scene for likely future bouts. Former featherweight champion Jose Aldo looks poised to be next in line for a bantamweight title shot with Henry Cejudo also pushing for the bout to go ahead. Thus, Aldo moves up to number seven and pushes Jimmie Rivera down to eighth, making the gap a touch more respectable. Chinese youngster Song Yadong has also moved up a spot to number 12, ahead of John Dodson [13] in a random move, with much of the division appearing a touch stagnant. Hopefully some movement from the champion gets things going.

FLYWEIGHT

Askar Askarov +6 [12]
Alex Perez +3 [9]
Tim Elliott -3 [11]
Ryan Benoit NR

A pair of rising contenders made statements over the last month to push their case in the flyweight rankings, with Askar Askarov and Alex Perez both breaking into the division’s top 10. Askarov defeated former title challenger and TUF alum Tim Elliott [11] to soar up to number six, while Perez shot up to number nine after defeating the now-twelfth-ranked Jordan Espinosa. Somewhat bizarrely, only 14 men make up the flyweight rankings as Ryan Benoit has been cut from his post at number 15, and the upcoming removal of Henry Cejudo as champion could further shorten the roster. They are great to watch, so hopefully the crowning of a new champion and those rising contenders can revitalise the division.

W. BANTAMWEIGHT

Holly Holm +1 [2]
Sara McMann +1 [9]

Another division with a lack of clarity at the top is that of the women’s bantamweights, with a fresh and truly deserving number one contender remaining out of sight. Holly Holm, a former champion and challenger, put up her hand with a dominant decision victory at UFC 246 to swap once again into second spot in front of Aspen Ladd, while Irene Aldana‘s rise into the top five makes her a possible future challenger. Further down the list, Sara McMann jumped into ninth spot upon a victorious return to action, pushing Marion Reneau down to tenth, with not a whole lot of action set to come.

W. FLYWEIGHT

Antonina Shevchenko +1 [11]
Poliana Botelho NR [15]
Paige VanZant NR

The women’s flyweight division is set to heat up in 2020, with contenders shifting up the order in anticipation of February’s title bout. Roxanne Modafferi halted the run of one of those, Maycee Barber [9], to rightfully take up rank number five, while movement down the order is also worth note. Antonina Shevchenko [11] swaps with Montana de la Rosa [12], while Paige VanZant has been removed from the rankings following her injury and bout cancellation. Poliana Botelho takes up her spot at number 15, and former strawweight Alexa Grasso could be another to slot into the numbers after declaring she would be moving up to 125lbs.

W. STRAWWEIGHT

The top end of the women’s strawweight division looks ridiculously good, and is set for a shake-up in the upcoming months with four of the top five fighters set to face off. There has been no movement as of late, or as of yet, but Alexa Grasso looks likely to be removed from the rankings once she completes a move up to flyweight after having her bout with Claudia Gadelha cancelled due to weight-cutting issues.

Card recap: UFC 246 – McGregor returns in style with record-breaking win

THE KING is back, with Conor McGregor becoming the first UFC fighter to claim knockout victories across the featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight divisions after accounting for Donald Cerrone within 40 seconds. It was the showpiece bout of a card which otherwise favoured the experience of MMA veterans, with a range of skills on show from top to bottom.

POTN bonuses: McGregor, Oleinik, Kelleher, Ferreira, Dober

MAIN CARD:

WELTERWEIGHT | Conor McGregor [#4 LW] def. Donald Cerrone [#5 LW] | TKO (Head kick and punches) 0:40 Rd 1

Round-by-round:

Round 1 – McGregor comes out swinging with a huge left, but Cerrone ducks under it well. That puts the two in a clinch, with McGregor landing four vicious shoulder strikes to bust up Cowboy’s nose. A head kick over Cerrone’s guard clips him and spells the beginning of the end, with Herb Dean allowing plenty of time for Cerrone to recover and fight back in the face of some precise ground-and-pound. He doesn’t, it’s over.

Fight-ending sequence: McGregor lands a left high kick on the chin and begins a beatdown on the ground, picking his shots to give Herb Dean no choice but to step in. The King is back.

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Holly Holm [#3] def. Raquel Pennington [#5] | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 30-27

Round-by-round:

Round 1 – 10-9 Holm
An early feeling out process sees Pennington looking to breach the kicking range set up by Holm’s wicked front leg. They clinch after two minutes with Holm holding Pennington against the fence, pushing her weight through and maintaining good head position to keep Pennington there. Not much action as Holm dictates the position with superior strength, earning points for the round.

Round 2 – 10-9 Holm (20-18)
Pennington looks to charge forward again with flurries, not fussed by Holm’s power or counter striking prowess. Holm manages to lock up again and pushes Pennington back toward the fence, wearing down the power punching arms of her opponent with a grinding clinch. Pennington switches the position but is muscled back multiple times, pushed swiftly back to the position after a momentary disengagement. Another dominant round for the former champ.

Round 3 – 10-9 Holm (30-27)
Pennington beings to land early with that right hand as Holm looks to keep the distance, while locking up whenever Pennington gets close. Pennington now engages a clinch against the cage but is easily reversed, and Holm breaks away. Each query from Pennington is answered comprehensively, with the clinch again allowing Holm a straightforward round win. A late break from referee Jason Herzog, and the crowd is seemingly unimpressed by Holm’s tactics – but who cares.

We had it: 30-27 Holm – Dominant in each round, had an answer for everything and worked the clinch beautifully.

HEAVYWEIGHT | Aleksei Oleinik def. [#12] Maurice Greene | Submission (Armbar) 4:38 Rd 2

Grappling of the highest level was on show as Aleksei Oleinik managed to submit the man who seemingly would not tap, Maurice Greene in Round 2. Coming up against an out-and-out veteran of MMA, Greene gained a heap of respect for his nous on the ground and willingness to engage there, withstanding some vicious submission attempts in the process. One of them was a minute-long scarf hold grip with Oleinik in mount, but the Russian was unable to yield a tap with his customary ezekiel choke. The wrestling and transitions were made to look easy, but the finish was far from it as Oleinik’s arms were burnt out early upon Greene’s resistance. ‘The Boa Constrictor’ broke through eventually to notch a 58th professional win, and in style.

Fight-ending sequence: Greene remarkably defends the armbar for time with his knee/thigh after giving up the position, but eventually yields as the hold tightened.

BANTAMWEIGHT | Brian Kelleher def. Ode Osbourne | Submission (Guillotine) 2:49 Rd 1

Brian Kelleher took full advantage of the late-notice main card opportunity afforded to him, claiming his 20th professional win and sixth via guillotine against Contender Series alum, Ode Osbourne. The experience and nous of the American proved too much for the Jamaican, who was making his promotional debut, and he looked comfortable after some speedy attacks from Osbourne to start the bout. He landed a big takedown early to go to work in Osbourne’s guard, working away to get the opportunity. When it arose, he took it ruthlessly.

Fight-ending sequence: Osbourne exposed his neck in trying to get up against the fence, with Kelleher grabbing the guillotine and locking it in nicely in time to have Osbourne tapping with his foot.

LIGHTWEIGHT | Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Anthony Pettis [#9 WW] | Submission (Rear-naked choke) 1:46 Rd 2

Diego Ferreira gifted himself the perfect 35th birthday present, putting on a superb show of grappling to submit former UFC lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis. Ferreira started out with an interesting ploy on the feet, coming in with his leg up to avoid those nasty ‘Showtime’ leg kicks. But he moved to more conventional and comfortable work in the clinch, wrestling Pettis to the ground with ease from against the fence and working to back mount. While Pettis managed to spin out from Ferreira’s grasp in Round 1, the Brazilian worked beautifully back into position in the following stanza to put his fellow BJJ black belt away. While he looked to have a limp on post-fight, the long-underrated Ferreira puts himself right into the lightweight rankings frame with a sixth consecutive victory.

Fight-ending sequence: Ferreira grabs a body kick and uses it to get Pettis to the mat, transitioning to back mount before locking in what looked like a neck crank for the quick tap.

PRELIMINARY CARD:

W. FLYWEIGHT | Roxanne Modafferi [#7] def. Maycee Barber [#9] | Decision (Unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-26

We will have to wait a little longer for ‘The Future’ to truly arrive after Maycee Barber was comprehensively shut down by wily flyweight veteran Roxanne Modafferi. Much was made of Barber’s obvious and unfortunate knee injury in the second round after she was dropped while moving back from a grazing jab, but Modafferi was brilliant nonetheless and showcased her superior grappling in a ruthless display to hand Barber her first professional loss. Barber could be heard crying out upon being taken down again in the third round, but fought on valiantly to work a couple of submission attempts and ground-and-pound amid Modafferi’s dominance.

We had it: 30-27 Modafferi – great display, and an easy decision with potential for a 10-8 in there.

FEATHERWEIGHT | Sodiq Yusuff def. Andre Fili | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28

‘Super’ Sodiq Yusuff extended his undefeated UFC record to 4-0, scraping a tight decision win over Andre ‘Touchy’ Fili. In what was somewhat a risky ploy, the Nigerian seemed to coast to the decision during Round 3, with Fili having success with a switch to southpaw. Yusuff’s power was on show early as the two wasted no time in swinging on the feet, but Fili landed some well-timed takedowns in the first. The second round was Yusuff’s best, affecting a couple of powerful low kicks before dominating with four minutes of top position on the ground. His strength was evident in those exchanges, and Yusuff’s jiu jitsu came to the fore – proving he is more than a heavy hitter. A tight decision in the end which could have gone either way, but a ranked opponent is surely up next for the Contender Series alum.

We had it: 29-28 Fili – Razor thin, Fili gets Round 1 due to the takedowns, Yusuff dominates Round 2, and Fili easily takes 3 with forward movement and more strikes.

FLYWEIGHT | Askar Askarov [#12] def. Tim Elliott [#7] | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 30-27

Undefeated sambo specialist Askar Askarov claimed the biggest scalp of his undefeated professional career, trumping former flyweight title challenger Tim Elliott via unanimous decision. The Russian almost had the fight finished early as he stunned Elliott with a slick boxing combination in Round 1, but Elliott survived and cleared out the cobwebs from the bottom as the fight transitioned to the mat. Round 2 was arguably the closest, with Elliott landing three beautiful throws to get Askarov down, but the Russian kept landing heavier blows and brought the same accuracy into Round 3. ‘Bullet’ finished well, moving backwards but finding the chin of Elliott with that cracking boxing.

We had it: 29-28 Askarov – Rounds 1 and 3 to the winner at least, a straightforward decision.

LIGHTWEIGHT | Drew Dober def. Nasrat Haqparast | TKO (Punches) 1:10 Rd 1

Drew Dober overcame the bookies’ odds to claim a beautifully worked TKO win over one of the promotion’s brightest up-and-comers in Nasrat Haqparast. Both men set about bouncing around on the feet early, with Haqparast somewhat overextending in his attempt to land those typcial power blows. But the technical Dober waited for his shot, taking it well just over a minute into the first round to put the youngster away.

Fight-ending sequence: Dober lands a stiff left hook as Haqparast attempts a kick, leaving his head on the centre line. It drops him, and he finishes with some vicious ground-and-pound.

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD:

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT | Aleksa Camur def. Justin Ledet | Decision (Unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 30-27

In five words: Young stud hits the bigtime.

W. FLYWEIGHT | Sabina Mazo def. JJ Aldrich | Decision (Split) 28-29, 29-28, 29-28

In five words: Don’t let the judges decide!

Combat Hat – 20 UFC fights to make in 2020

THE return of Conor McGregor at UFC 246 is set to kick 2020 off in style, with his big game in and out of the octagon often sending fans into a spin in trying to predict who will be next in line for the ‘money fight’. But there are plenty more potential match-ups not including the Irishman which will draw eyes to the leading promotion, with the task of matchmaking looking a little easier in the near future. Note, fighters who feature multiple times are not expected to have every bout eventuate, these are simply the best match-ups to be made.

HEAVYWEIGHT | Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou 2

While we have plenty of love for Daniel Cormier, that is perhaps exactly why we do not want to see him getting the next heavyweight title shot. Having reached the pinnacle of the sport and coming off a KO loss at the age of 40, ‘DC’ has nothing left to prove. That is not the case for Ngannou, whose hype train was halted at the hands of current champion, Miocic in 2018. A rematch seems fitting with Ngannou coming off three-consecutive first round T/KO wins, and Miocic reclaiming his crown in 2019. The question will be whether Miocic can again quell the power of Ngannou over five rounds, and if the 33-year-old Cameroonian has indeed found the right level of maturity in his game. Let’s have it.

HEAVYWEIGHT | Stipe Miocic vs. Jon Jones

What better way to prove you are the greatest mixed martial artist of all time than jumping up a weight division to claim the mantle of baddest man on the planet. It would be the cherry on top of an unmatched career for Jones, but is of course pending how he fares in his February match-up with Dominick Reyes. It seems a touch unlikely given Jones’ unwillingness to move up, arguing that the weight difference between him and some of the bigger heavyweights is much more stark than the 20lbs gap to middleweight for say… Israel Adesanya. Miocic, of course will have contenders coming, but another superfight would be hard to pass up.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT | Jon Jones vs. Israel Adesanya

These two are already going back and forth and while a fight looks unlikely for as soon as this year, it seems inevitable that they will eventually meet in the octagon. Jones, a generational martial artist is in need of a new challenge and rivalry, and the “freshman” on the block in Adesanya is sure to give him exactly that. ‘Stylebender’s’ two-year rise to the top of the UFC middleweight division makes it easy to forget that he is only two years the junior of Jones, and is a terrific match-up for him on the feet given his storied kickboxing career. But having looked a touch below his absolute best of late, this fight could well provide ‘Bones’ with the right kind of motivation to show exactly why he is the pound-for-pound number one. But again, he needs to get past Reyes first.

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero

Perhaps not the ideal next title fight at middleweight given Romero has lost three of his last four bouts, but is a match-up which tempts the newly-crowned champion. Adesanya has gone on record saying he would prefer to prove doubters of his grappling prowess wrong, and a win over Romero would logically go a long way to proving his status as a well-rounded martial artist. With the rightful number one contender, Paulo Costa out of action and former champion Robert Whittaker already booked, it is almost the only fight left to make. For Romero, another shot at UFC gold would be impossible to pass up, and he is the youngest (scariest)-looking 42-year-old of all time.

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till

England vs. Australia, a rivalry rich in history across all sports. So, why can’t we have Liverpool’s Till vs. Australia’s first ever UFC champion, Whittaker? Whittaker was swiftly booked to fight Jared Cannonier at UFC 248 just as rumours pitting these two against each other began to grow, but a future bout between them is not out of the question. Till remains on the hunt for a worthy opponent, with Costa injured and Romero set to claim the next middleweight title shot, so may even wait on other results before being booked. Nonetheless, do it in either nation and the people will come to see these much-loved fighters do their thing.

WELTERWEIGHT | Tyron Woodley vs. Colby Covington

The top of the welterweight division is arguably the most intriguing across the entire promotion, and poses a ton of potential match-ups. This fight may not be at the forefront, but was poised to happen when Woodley held the welterweight strap and Covington was on his come-up. The two American Top Team (ATT) teammates have history at the famed gym and simply do not like each other. Given they also share the unfortunate title of having lost to Kamaru Usman in championship bouts, it would be a perfect match-up to settle the score. Plenty has been and is yet to be said, with fireworks set to ensue if this goes down.

WELTERWEIGHT | Conor McGregor vs. Jorge Masvidal

We could not have a fights to make piece without ‘The Notorious One’, and the McGregor is intent on remaining active in his soon-to-start 2020 “season”. While a loss to Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 would put a huge spanner in the works of a lot of potential match-ups, McGregor seems to be back in the right mindset. That said, the short-lived BMF title hype could come up again here as McGregor looks to snatch all the belts, and Masvidal has admitted he would be game to opt for this fight over one for the welterweight title. Add to that the Irishman’s wish to stay at 170lbs, and this could be the next logical match-up.

WELTERWEIGHT | Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3

Say McGregor does not emphatically beat ‘Cowboy’ on Sunday, there is another certain lightweight-cum-welterweight who could be next on the agenda. McGregor has long been open to the idea of a trilogy bout with Diaz, but the American has been notoriously selective of his bouts since overcoming the Irishman in 2016. A third bout to settle the score makes sense at any point, so why not now if nothing else can be reached. The pair are two of the UFC’s biggest pulls, and given the legendary status of the first two bouts, this one would again be massive. No promotion needed, it sells itself.

WELTERWEIGHT | Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal

Taking a leaf out of the book which poses Covington against Woodley, a fight with Masvidal would pit another pair of former-ATT teammates against each other. While their relationship now is a far-cry from their former self-admitted friendship, the two know each other very well and there is some serious heat between them. Masvidal is game for anyone and has quickly broken into the mainstream, as well as the title picture, so taking down everyone’s favourite fighter to hate would take him to another level. For Covington, a win would keep him well within the title picture and potentially open up a bunch of other match-ups at the top end of the division, even serving as a title-contender eliminator.

WELTERWEIGHT | Jorge Masvidal vs. Leon Edwards

Alright, this is the last time we will mention Masvidal, but the possibilities are seemingly endless when it comes to the UFC’s BMF. While Edwards looks likely to be booked against Woodley, and Masvidal is either next in line for the title shot or one at McGregor, these two have already landed blows on each other – albeit out of the cage. They met after featuring in the main and co-main events of UFC Fight Night: Till vs. Masvidal, and seemed likely to settle the beef inside the octagon right after the infamous altercation. Now both top five welterweights, this bout still makes sense as both have their eyes on the ultimate 170lbs prize.

LIGHTWEIGHT | Kevin Lee vs. Islam Makhachev

Yes, the lightweight division is stacked and yes, a Khabib vs. Connor fight has been widely spoken of should the two win their upcoming bouts, but this is the 155lb match-up that intrigues us most. Both men have been ramping up their pursuit of each other, seemingly ready to go whenever the UFC wants to make it official. A teammate and long-time friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev could well serve as a sighter for Lee on his way to getting that lightweight strap. But the Russian is no joke, often unable to find a match-up due to his 18-1 record and crushing sambo style. But Lee is game, and very smart, putting himself in the line of fire when few others have dared to. If it goes the other way, Makhachev could prove himself as the next big thing at 155lbs with a massive step up in competition.

FEATHERWEIGHT | Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway 2

Not much to say about this one, an immediate rematch only seems fitting for the consensus greatest featherweight champion, Holloway. Having only just claimed the title at UFC 245 in December, Volkanovski was immediately faced with the idea of granting Holloway a second chance given the Hawaiian did the same for Jose Aldo upon his first title win. It makes sense, and presents the opportunity for Volkanovski to dispel any doubts about his decision win – not that there is much. For Holloway, a chance to get his belt back and overcome one of the rare opponents to have defeated him is only fair.

FEATHERWEIGHT | Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Chan Sung Jung

Two of the scariest and most well-rounded fighters across all divisions, and perhaps the next two in line for the featherweight belt. Magomedsharipov has seamlessly broken through against dangerous ranked opponents on his way to climbing to third spot in the 145lb division, and a win over the ‘Korean Zombie’ would only prove his title credentials. With newly-crowned champion Volkanovski poised to face Holloway in an immediate rematch, why not have these two killers battle it out to become next in line? Of course, Sung Jung was poised to face Brian Ortega in a similar line of thinking, but instead accounted for Frankie Edgar within a round. Hardcores would love this match-up, with so many ways to win on either side.

W. FEATHERWEIGHT | Amanda Nunes vs. Claressa Shields

This one is a little fanciful, we admit, but who the hell else is Nunes going to fight at 145lbs? Cris Cyborg swiftly exited to Bellator after their bout, and is set to face Julia Budd (who Nunes KO’d in 14 seconds), while PFL champion Kayla Harrison seems quite content winning millions of dollars there. The two have already spoken to the idea, with Nunes adamant that a fight would only ever happen in MMA because, well she is an MMA fighter. Shields, a two-time Olympic boxing champion who holds all four major world titles, is open to the idea – albeit if she needs more than a year to train for the bout. Nunes is quite confident she would “wrestle the s**t” out of Shields, so let’s have her prove it – Dana White is not opposed.

BANTAMWEIGHT | Henry Cejudo vs. Petr Yan

‘Triple C’ Cejudo does not seem keen on simply taking on the number one contenders in his quest to become the MMA GOAT, instead looking to take out challengers to that throne in Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo. But let’s be real here, this is the fight that makes the most sense and Petr Yan is as deserving as any contender across the UFC. Three impressive wins in 2019 have put the Russian right in the title frame, and this seems the right match-up for Cejudo to defend his bantamweight belt given he is set to lose his flyweight one. Talk aside, the fight promises to be an intriguing one, with Cejudo levelling up his striking to go with his wrestling pedigree and undeniable heart, with Yan constantly pushing his opponents into deep water. Do the right thing, Henry.

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko 3

These two champions are fast running out of worthy contenders having emphatically accounted for each one to have come their way thus far. And that is just the thing, Nunes is 2-0 up against Shevchenko in the UFC – both wins via decision – but the rivalry is still alive given the closeness of both bouts. Neither fighter is booked for 2020 as of yet, and with Maycee Barber looking like pushing into number one contender status at flyweight, Nunes could face Aspen Ladd at bantamweight if things go the American’s way this year. But in the meantime, with no clear number one contender at either weight, this could be the superfight that the women’s divisions need.

FLYWEIGHT | Henry Cejudo vs. Joseph Benavidez 2

An unlikely match-up given Benavidez is set to fight for the soon-vacant flyweight title, but would have been ideal if Cejudo was interested in actively defending both of his belts. After Benevidez takes on Deiveson Figueiredo and Cejudo accepts a challenge for the bantamweight strap, a second meeting between the two would be feasible. In their previous meeting in 2016 post a heated Ultimate Fighter series, Benevidez got the better of a raw Cejudo via split decision and would relish the chance to do the same against his rival.

W. FLYWEIGHT | Valentina Shevchenko vs. Maycee Barber

This is another fight pending upcoming results, and even more in the case of Barber. The 21-year-old wrecking ball is impatiently climbing the flyweight ranks, proving too physical for many of her opponents. In a rush, she aims to beat out Jones and become the youngest ever UFC champion, so 2020 could be her year with Roxanne Modafferi her first opponent. But Shevchenko, who does not have many clear challengers at the moment, is as dominant a champion as the promotion has and will be a tall order for the youngster. If she does not pursue a third fight with Nunes, Shevchenko could well find herself coming up against ‘The Future’.

W. STRAWWEIGHT | Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 3

The UFC women’s strawweight division is tight at the top, with plenty of moving parts in play during 2020. Jedrzejczyk is already booked to fight for the strawweight crown, and if she wins could have her first defence against one of the two woman to beat her (twice), Namajunas. That also depends on whether Namajunas exacts her revenge on Jessica Andrade, but the two could meet either way. Now both former champions, either fighter could reclaim their title this year and this may well be one of the avenues. Given the intense build-up of the first two bouts and how close the second fight was, a third would be a barnburner.

W. STRAWWEIGHT | Zhang Weili vs. Tatiana Suarez

Suarez is widely touted as the next in line for the strawweight title, dominating each of her opponents on her way to an 8-0 record. No one has yet found an answer for her smothering wrestling, with but the power of Zhang Weili could well take it out of the equation entirely. The champion’s early finish of Andrade makes this an interesting stylistic match-up, but again depends on whether she can hold on to her crown. Suarez looks poised to wait for the next title fight either way, and already has the look of a champion.

Stiff to miss:

Cormier vs. Miocic 3
Cormier vs. Jones 3
Adesanya vs. Costa
Masvidal vs. Diaz 2
Nurmagomedov vs. St. Pierre
Poirier vs. Hooker
Poirier vs. McGregor 2
Gaethje vs. McGregor
Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor
Aldo vs. Cruz

Card preview – UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cerrone

THE first UFC card of 2020 will host the long-awaited return of the promotion’s biggest star, Conor McGregor when he faces Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in the UFC 246 main event. Ranked bouts fill out a fun main card, with the perfect chance for some up and comers down the list to impress those who will inevitably come for ‘The Notorious One’. Check out each match-up, as well as a prediction for every fight from top to bottom.

MAIN CARD:

WELTERWEIGHT | Conor McGregor [#4 LW] vs. Donald Cerrone [#5 LW]

A fight four years in the making headlines UFC 246 as Conor McGregor takes on Donald Cerrone at 170lbs, marking the Irishman’s first fight since tapping to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October, 2018. The fourth and fifth ranked lightweights respectively, these two need no introduction and should produce fireworks to conclude a rivalry which spawned all the way back in 2015 amid a memorable press conference. The shorter man, McGregor will come in with a surprising reach advantage but is naturally the smaller fighter having fought down at featherweight, while Cerrone has jumped between lightweight and welterweight. But the two are game to fight anyone, anywhere, any time, and at any weight, so will do exactly that. Cerrone seems to have more ways to win given his impressive grappling game combined with precise striking combinations, but McGregor has passed similar tests before – with flying colours – and is a phenomenal striker himself. The former double-champ seems to have reconnected with the drive which spurred his promotional come-up, declaring this the start of his 2020 “season”, in which he will be much more active. You love to see it, and deep down hardcore fans will be buzzing for this bout.

Prediction: McGregor by T/KO.

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Holly Holm [#3] vs. Raquel Pennington [#4]

A former women’s bantamweight champion meets a former challenger when Holly Holm takes on Raquel Pennington in the co-main event slot. The two have have history as well, with Holm getting the better of ‘Rocky’ via decision back in 2015 when ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ was still undefeated. But since suffering her first defeat, Holm has gone on to lose four of her last six fights across two divisions – including two championship bouts. That often happens when constantly facing the best, and TUF alum Pennington has done just that across a career dating back to 2009. Pennington’s heavy hands and submission game are what Holm will try to avoid with distance management on the feet, leaning on her storied kickboxing career to pick Pennington off. While this rescheduled bout features third and fourth ranked fighters, it seems only a truly special performance will put the winner back in the title picture.

Prediction: Holm by decision.

HEAVYWEIGHT | Aleksei Oleinik [#12] vs. Maurice Greene

43-year-old MMA veteran and submission specialist Aleksei Oleinik gets a main card slot in his bout against Maurice Greene, with the Ultimate Fighter alum looking to earn his way back into the heavyweight rankings. Both fighters come in off losses though, with ‘The Boa Constrictor’ Oleinik suffering consecutive T/KO defeats, while the American was handed his first promotional loss in October, 2019. This match-up poses a polar opposite in experience, with the 71 fights of Oleinik looking quite daunting over Greene’s 11-fight career. Both know their way around on the ground, as ezekiel choke merchant Oleinik a combat sambo practitioner with a deadly grip, while Greene has four triangle choke finishes despite not landing a takedown in the UFC. This bout could go one of two ways; it could be a great stepping stone for Greene on his way to ranking status, or the experience of his opponent could prove too overwhelming on the big stage. Either way, a finish looms.

Prediction: Oleinik by submission.

W. STRAWWEIGHT | Claudia Gadelha [#6] vs. Alexa Grasso [#11]

Claudia Gadelha and Alexa Grasso are two strawweights hoping to break the current win-loss trend on their records, poised to do battle in the main card’s second bout. Returning from a frustrating injury spell, Gadelha has the opportunity to break through for her first pair of consecutive wins since 2017, while the up and coming Grasso will want to get back on the winners list after losses in three of her last five bouts. One of those was a razor-thin decision loss to Carla Esparza, with experienced grapplers seeming to trouble the Mexican boxer. A national BJJ champion, Gadelha should test her opponent should the fight get to the ground, but has the heavy hands to win the fight on the feet if she can steer clear of absorbing too many strikes. Either way, a bill of consistency is needed for these two if they are to push for a title shot, and a win here would be the perfect start.

Prediction: Grasso by decision.

LIGHTWEIGHT | Anthony Pettis [#9 LW] vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira

Anthony Pettis’ divisional yo-yoing continues at UFC 246 as he opens the main card in his lightweight return against Carlos Diego Ferreira. The former 155lbs champ will have his work cut out for him against a crafty grappler in Ferreira, who has flown under the radar to notch five consecutive wins in the UFC. That same consistency has evaded Pettis since his last set of consecutive victories from 2011 to 2014, unable to back up some impressive wins over the last three years. In fairness, ‘Showtime’s’ competition has been stiff during that time given his standing in the sport, and the failure to step up to that calibre of fighter is part of why his opponent remains unranked. Ferreira’s only two career losses have come to Dustin Poirier and Beneil Dariush, so a win here against a name like Pettis would put him on the map. The Brazilian will lean on his BJJ background, but has shown strong capabilities on the feet with three promotional KO’s. Pettis is extremely well rounded though, and will fancy himself in each area against the underrated challenger.

Prediction: Pettis by T/KO.

PRELIMINARY CARD:

W. FLYWEIGHT | Roxanne Modafferi [#7] vs. Maycee Barber [#9]

In 25 or less: Experience meets youth. Barber’s a wrecking ball with finishes in seven of her eight fights. She’s in a hurry, but cannot be too hasty here.

Prediction: Barber by T/KO.

FEATHERWEIGHT | Andre Fili vs. Sodiq Yusuff

In 25 or less: A real step up for ‘Super’ Sodiq, who could be the next big thing out of Nigeria. Another DWTNCS alum, but Fili is no slouch.

Prediction: Yusuff by T/KO.

LIGHTWEIGHT | Drew Dober vs. Nasrat Haqparast

In 25 or less: The mini Kelvin Gastelum, Haqparast is about to make waves. A tough and more experienced opponent, but these kids on the prelims are so good.

Prediction: Haqparast by T/KO.

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD:

FEATHERWEIGHT | Chas Skelly vs. Grant Dawson

Prediction: Dawson by submission.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT | Aleksa Camur vs. Justin Ledet

Prediction: Camur by T/KO.

FLYWEIGHT | Tim Elliott [#7] vs. Askar Askarov [#12]

Prediction: Elliott by decision.

BANTAMWEIGHT | Brian Kelleher vs. Ode Osbourne

Prediction: Kelleher by decision.

W. FLYWEIGHT | Sabina Mazo vs. JJ Aldrich

Prediction: Aldrich by decision.

UFC Rankings update: December 2019

THE post-UFC 245 fallout has seen magnets shuffle across seven of the promotion’s divisions, headlined by the crowning of a new featherweight king. We break down every move in the seven featured divisions, with plenty of risers and sliders on the board. You can find the full updated list of UFC rankings here.

MIDDLEWEIGHT:

Ian Heinisch #12 (-2)
Omari Akhmedov #13 (-1)

Omari Akhmedov‘s unanimous decision victory over Ian Heinisch was not enough to see the Russian leapfrog his opponent in the rankings, but it boosted him up to 13th place as Antonio Carlos Junior moves down to 14th. On the other hand, Heinisch moves back two spots behind Brad Tavares and Uriah Hall to 12th, with plenty of journeymen in the back end of the 185lbs top 15th. With not much booked at the top end, we might not see much more shuffling for a little while.

WELTERWEIGHT:

Geoff Neal #12 (+2)

Contender Series alum Geoff Neal moves past Vicente Luque and Gilbert Burns into number 12 among a raft of high level welterweights after his impressive TKO victory over Mike Perry. There was not any movement at the top as Kamaru Usman retained his belt, but we may see some in 2020 with Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards waiting in the wings and some mouthwatering fights to me made among the top five.

LIGHTWEIGHT:

Justin Gaethje #3 (+1)

A simple shuffle for the lightweights with Justin Gaethje moving up into third to join former-champion, Conor McGregor. While the ‘Notorious One’ is booked for a welterweight bout in early-2020, Gaethje may be waiting on next year’s title bout before making his next move. The Khabib-Conor rematch has been hinted at, but this move leans towards McGregor staying at 170lbs pending his fight with Donald Cerrone.

FEATHERWEIGHT:

Alexander Volkanovski CHAMPION (+1)
Max Holloway #1 (-1)
Jose Aldo #8 (-5)

A new king was crowned at UFC 245 as Alexander Volkanovski fought to a decision victory over the consensus greatest ever featherweight champion, Max Holloway. The result obviously saw the two swap places, with a rematch looking likely for 2020. Another former champion, Jose Aldo made the move down to 135lbs and slid five places after his loss, as the third to seventh ranked fighters all moved up one spot. The upcoming bout between Frankie Edgar and ‘The Korean Zombie‘ should also yield some movement. Elsewhere, a random shuffle at the back end saw Ryan Hall move ahead of Arnold Allen into 14th.

BANTAMWEIGHT:

Petr Yan #3 (+1)
Jose Aldo #9 (NR)
Urijah Faber NR

Former featherweight champion Aldo enters the bantamweight rankings at ninth after his tight decision loss to Marlon Moraes, with the latter remaining in the number one spot. Aldo’s entry saw each fighter ranked 10-13 move down one spot, while Casey Kenney jumped Marlon Vera into 14th. The other main card bantamweight bout saw Petr Yan knock Urijah Faber out and also move him out of the rankings, seeing the Russian overtake Cory Sandhagen into third spot.

FLYWEIGHT:

Kai Kara-France #8 (-2)

A simple one for the flyweights with just one fight on the UFC 245 card, as Kai Kara-France slides down two spots after losing to fifth ranked Brandon Moreno via decision. The result sees Tim Elliott and Rogerio Bontorin leapfrog the Kiwi, but the division may be stalled for some time with champion Henry Cejudo looking for a bantamweight matchup against Aldo as Joseph Benavidez waits in the wings.

W. BANTAMWEIGHT:

Irene Aldana #5 (+5)
Ketlen Vieira #7 (-5)

The belt may not have changed hands as Amanda Nunes retained, but new number one contenders have shuffled up the order in the women’s bantamweight division. Aspen Ladd moves up into second after her recent win, with former second ranked Ketlen Vieira sliding down five spots after a knockout loss to Irene Aldana. The Mexican moves up five spots on the back of her highlight reel win, sitting just behind fellow riser, Julianna Pena in fifth.