The UFC’s final pay-per-view and penultimate event of 2019 features a rare tripleheader of championship bouts. In the UFC 245 main event, Kamaru Usman makes the first defense of his welterweight title against the talented but villainous Colby Covington. The co-main is a mouthwatering clash between men’s featherweight champion Max Holloway and Australia’s Alex Volkanovski, while the first title match sees “champ-champ” Amanda Nunes put her women’s bantamweight belt on the line against former women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie.
Cards don’t get much better than this. It’s stacked from top to bottom with prospects such as Chase Hooper and Geoff Neal, as well as former WEC/UFC champions Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber in respective bantamweight bouts. Before Dec. 14 arrives, let’s take a brief look at some of the fighters on UFC 245 who can help close out 2019 with big scores for your DraftKings lineups.
Max Holloway ($8,700) vs. Alex Volkanovski ($7,500) – Men’s Featherweights
Considered by some to be the best featherweight ever, it’s been six years since Holloway has lost in this weight division. After an unsuccessful bid to win the interim lightweight title against Dustin Poirier, Holloway returned to 145 lbs to defend his title, besting Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision in July. Volkanovski is a perfect 7-0 in the UFC, and he’s more than confirmed his status as the top contender after knocking out Chad Mendes and outclassing Jose Aldo over his last two fights. The former rugby player has turned into an absolute force, and it’s more than reasonable to think that he could be the toughest defense of Holloway’s career.
How can you not love this fight? Holloway’s high-volume, masterful offensive striking has been a hard puzzle to solve. Volkanovski has power, strong leg kicks pressuring footwork, quality wrestling skills, and vicious ground-and-pound to boot. He’s perhaps one of the few who can match Holloway’s cardio and at least try and slow the pace down. Ultimately, it’s easier said than done to take Max down, ditto closing the distance on him without getting countered and picked apart by his silky-smooth combos. Volkanovski cannot afford to stay in mid-range boxing distance, or else he’ll get chewed up. I see this being a back-and-forth thriller but Holloway will pull away late in the championship rounds.
Number of Note: 300. Over the course of his three title defenses, Max Holloway has out-landed his opponents by a combined 300 significant strikes, 593 to 293.
Geoff Neal ($9,100) vs. Mike Perry ($7,100) – Welterweights
Neal is one of the rising stars at 170 pounds. The Texan is on a six-fight winning streak, including a 4-0 mark in the UFC. His most complete performance to date was arguably his decision victory over Belal Muhammad, but his highlight-reel moment was a second-round KO of Frank Camacho at UFC 228. “Platinum” Perry does not know how to be in a boring fight. He is all action, all the time, win or lose. Perry is coming off a close decision loss to Vicente Luque, in which he suffered a gnarly broken nose in the final round. Prior to that “Fight of the Night” defeat was a “Fight of the Night” win over Alex Oliveira.
Given Perry’s knockout power and aggressive style, he could halt Neal’s progression up the ranks. However, Neal will have a four-inch reach advantage on Perry and he’s the more technical striker of the two fighters. He picks his shots well and if there’s one obvious weakness for Perry, it’s losing the footwork battle. It’s happened to Perry too often and for that reason, I’m backing Neal to get the win, and if he stops him, then that’d be a major feather in his cap.
Number of Note: 20. When these two get into the cage, they’re there for the finish. Neal and Perry have combined for 20 finishes out of 23 wins. Perry has only been stopped once in five losses, while Neal has been KO’d once and submitted once.
Matt Brown ($9,300) vs. Ben Saunders ($6,900) – Welterweights
It’s been a while since we’ve seen “The Immortal” inside the Octagon. He spectacularly knocked out Diego Sanchez with an elbow in November 2017, snapping a three-fight losing skid in the process, but an ACL tear prevented him from fighting Carlos Condit in April of last year. Saunders is in the middle of a 1-5 stretch, with a TKO of Jake Ellenberger representing his lone victory. He is known for his “Killa B” knees, which have hurt and felled many opponents over the years, including a memorable domination of Marcus Davis in 2009. His body shots could pose a problem for Brown, who’s notoriously weak there.
Brown has been out of action for two years, so the potential for rustiness is there, but Saunders’ chin has just been compromised way too often for me to pick him. These two are both very willing to get into a brawl and will likely cancel each other out on the ground. I trust Brown’s durability over Saunders, and Matt’s got the edge in knockout power, so Matt Brown by KO is the outcome we’ll most likely see.
Number of Note: 8. Saunders has been knocked out in eight of his 12 career losses. That’s trouble against Brown, who’s won by knockout or TKO in six of his last seven wins.
Viviane Araujo ($8,600) vs. Jessica Eye ($7,600) – Women’s Flyweights
Araujo debuted in the UFC in spectacular fashion, knocking out Talita Bernardo in the third and final round. In her next appearance, she started strongly and held on to beat veteran Alexis Davis at UFC 240. Araujo’s athleticism, speed, and unpredictability make her a serious contender at 125 lbs. Eye is coming off a title shot against Valentina Shevchenko, which ended in a brutal and quite scary head kick knockout defeat. Prior to facing the champ, Eye had been perfect since returning back to flyweight, including a split decision over upcoming title challenger Katlyn Chookagian.
Eye is the more experienced fighter who tends to thrive off of being the more physically imposing fighter and the superior boxer. With that said, her defense is not particularly sound and Araujo has the larger set of striking tools, along with good takedowns and a dangerous armbar. The athletic disparity is just too much to overcome for Eye, so as long as Araujo’s cardio holds up, I expect her to get the W.
Number of Note: 7. Araujo has finished her opponents in seven of her eight victories, and interestingly enough three of them have come in the third round.
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