Saturday night marks the UFC’s last PPV event of the year and they are going out with a bang. Three titles will be on the line along with an excellent supporting card, as well. Max Holloway will be defending his featherweight belt against former rugby player Alexander Volkanovski, Dutch striking machine Germaine de Randamie will attempt to dethrone Amanda Nunes and Colby Covington hopes to lift the welterweight strap from reigning king Kamaru Usman. From top to bottom, this show is well and truly stacked, a treat for fight fans everywhere.
My task is to select the four fights I believe are most likely to end in an upset. With 13 fights to choose from, all of them well-matched, I had my work cut out for me this week. I did manage to get the job done,
though, so let’s get started with a brief breakdown of each.
Ian Heinisch $8,400 vs. Omari Akhmedov $7,800
Ian Heinisch is a relentless athlete who pushes a furious pace, wearing down fighters who have average to poor cardio. He’s got a decent striking game, and is a seasoned grappler, but he suffers under controlling wrestlers, as was demonstrated in his fight with Derek Brunson.
Akhmedov isn’t exactly an endurance specialist, but he’s tough and has a serviceable standup with plenty of power. He’s a fantastic wrestler, and I think this will be the difference-maker. He’s looked good since returning to middleweight and holds wins over Tim Boetsch and the ultra-tough Zak Cummings.
This is your classic coin toss fight, but Akhmedov has all the tools to take the win.
Prediction — Omari Akhmedov via Decision
Amanda Nunes $9,200 vs. Germaine de Randamie $7,000
Amanda Nunes is an aggressive, strong striker with a tendency to come straight up the middle launching all manner of haymakers. She’s got a fantastic submission game and demonstrated that when she seamlessly transitioned to back control and sunk in a nasty rear-naked choke on Sara McMann and she did the same against Meisha Tate to win the belt. She doesn’t have many flaws, which is why she’s been such a dominant champion, but there may still be a path to victory for Germaine de Randamie.
De Randamie is a powerful Dutch kickboxer, who uses her height and reach exceptionally well. She’s become much more aggressive recently, and the way she dispatched Aspen Ladd in her last outing is a testament to that. Valentina Shevchenko was able to keep Nunes at bay and still score on her by controlling the distance with counterstriking and de Randamie can employ a similar plan to that end, but with her power, she can be much more effective. The key is to ramp up the volume and not be so patient in picking her shots, as she is wont to do.
The “Iron Lady” has a lofty task in front of her, but she has the tools to get the job done.
Prediction — Germaine de Randamie via Decision
Max Holloway $8,700 vs. Alexander Volkanovski $7,500
Max Holloway is a very well-rounded fighter who almost always has the height and/or reach advantage on his opponents, and he uses them both effectively, but this time, he’ll give up the reach advantage. He’s a volume striker with excellent movement and what he lacks in one-punch knockout power, he makes up for with versatility. He’s very good on the ground, but we don’t see him much there as his takedown defense is fantastic and he prefers to keep things standing where he can pick you apart. He sometimes takes the entire first round to get his rhythm established, and that might be the opening Alexander Volkanovski can use to get his offense going.
Volkanovski is a former rugby player, a juggernaut of a man, and has an even longer reach than Holloway — 2.5 inches longer, to be exact. Alex has great wrestling, a very solid kicking game and works well in the clinch, especially with those vicious elbows. His ground-and-pound is some of the best in the sport and he has a strong instinct to finish fights. He does not hold anything back whatsoever.
Both men have sound cardio, although this will be Volkanovski’s first five-round fight. It’s a bold pick, but if anyone is going to beat “Blessed” from the current crop of featherweights, Volkanovski has the best skill set to do it.
Prediction — Alexander Volkanovski via Decision
Kamaru Usman $8,900 vs. Colby Covington $7,300
Kamaru Usman is a crazy-strong wrestling machine. His top game is outstanding and once he’s on top of his opponent, it’s like being slowly smothered with a lead blanket. He has demonstrated flashes of power, but his striking is still very raw. The unknown variable here is how he will fare against a diverse volume striker like Covington. His pressure has always been dependent on him being able to bully his opponents, but he may not be able to do that in this contest.
Colby Covington is also a marvelous wrestler, but he sets that up with some of the most effective volume striking in the business. It’s not overly powerful, but much like the Diaz brothers, he smothers with barrages of punches. Both men have excellent cardio, but we’ve seen Usman take some time off in the last round on more than one occasion. I would wager that Covington has the better gas tank and he also has a very durable chin. He’s willing to get right in the pocket and trade, so that durability will come in handy.
Of the three titles on the line, Usman’s might be the one that is most in jeopardy. Covington has a very good chance at taking home the real belt.
Prediction — Colby Covington via Decision
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