The UFC is kicking off the new year (and a new decade) with the return of one Conor McGregor. In the UFC 246 main event at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the former two-division champion will look for his first win since 2016 when he takes on fan-favorite Donald Cerrone in a five-round welterweight contest. If McGregor wins, it’s likely he’ll get the next lightweight title shot against the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson winner.
Truth be told, this is not a very strong pay-per-view offering (Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington II is an uninspiring co-main), but it’s not a bad card overall. There are still several quality matchups, particularly on the prelims where many prospects have a chance to shine. Before January 18th arrives, let’s take a brief look at some of the fighters on this event who can get your 2020 off to a great start with big scores for your DraftKings lineups.
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Conor McGregor ($9,400) vs. Donald Cerrone ($6,800) – Welterweights
This is the Irish superstar’s first fight since losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, with everyone remembering the post-fight brawl that ensued. We have since seen McGregor’s name in the headlines for negative reasons, including footage of him punching a man at a bar. At the height of his career, McGregor dazzled with his sublime showings against Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez, as well as his two thrillers with Nate Diaz. As McGregor seeks to return to the top of MMA, ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is aiming to end his two-fight losing skid that saw him stopped by Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. One of the most prolific finishers in MMA history, Cerrone is far from finished, as evidenced by his wins over Alexander Hernandez and Al Iaquinta prior to those losses.
There are a lot of variables to this one. The McGregor from his peak UFC years would have little trouble with Cerrone given Cowboy has frequently struggled with powerful southpaws and anyone who can pressure him. With that said, Cerrone has the unquestioned better cardio and is more than capable of landing a big head kick for the KO. There seems to be mutual interest in pure stand-up and no grappling, where Cerrone has a path to victory. I’ll take my chances that McGregor will reign supreme on the night. I just cannot trust Cerrone’s chin to hold up to Conor’s left-hand power, but if it does, then this fight could get really interesting in the later rounds.
Number of Note: 23. McGregor and Cerrone have combined for 32 UFC wins, with 23 of them ending in a finish. Conor has seven out of nine wins, while Cerrone holds the all-time UFC records for most wins (23) and finishes (16).
Carlos Diego Ferreira ($9,000) vs. Anthony Pettis ($7,200) – Lightweights
Ferreira may be one of the best lightweights that no one is talking about, and also because he isn’t even ranked. You know a division is stacked when someone like Ferreira can win five in a row and still be outside the top 15. His dispatching of Mairbek Taisumov at UFC 242 was highly impressive, and he’s earned a more notable opponent in the form of ‘Showtime’ Pettis. The former UFC and WEC champion is coming off a one-sided defeat at welterweight to Nate Diaz, which came after a spectacular superman punch KO of Stephen Thompson. Pettis is returning to 155 lbs, with his most recent fight in the division ending in a doctor stoppage TKO to Tony Ferguson in an unsurprisingly wild throwdown.
This is very much a crossroads contest. A Ferreira win will line him up for a bigger fight, whereas Pettis is looking to stay relevant at any weight class. Pettis’ dynamic striking can turn the fight in his favor in an instant, but Ferreira’s volume and willingness to pressure is historically Pettis’ kryptonite. While Pettis has underrated submissions, Ferreira is a high-level BJJ black belt so I doubt he can out grapple him. I think Ferreira is emerging as a dark horse contender, whereas Pettis is hitting the downside of his career, and Diego is going to come away with a statement-making triumph.
Number of Note: 169. During his winning streak, Ferreira has out-landed his opponents by 169 significant strikes (340-171). His 109 landed significant strikes vs. Mairbek Taisumov was a career-high.
Maycee Barber ($9,500) vs. Roxanne Modafferi ($6,700) – Women’s Flyweights
The unbeaten Barber has major star potential in a division that is lacking contenders. At just 21 years old, ‘The Future’ has racked up an 8-0 record, including three stoppage victories under the UFC banner over Gillian Robertson, JJ Aldrich, and Hannah Cifers. As she makes a push for a title shot, she’ll be up against veteran Roxanne Modafferi, a former title challenger and one of the pioneers for women’s MMA. ‘The Happy Warrior’ was unable to get past Jennifer Maia in her last bout, but she notably pulled off an upset win over Antonina Shevchenko (sister of current champion Valentina) at UFC Saint Petersburg in April.
While Barber may still be raw from a technical perspective, she is a vicious finisher and what she lacks in experience she makes up for with a massive athletic advantage over Roxy. Barber is the more powerful striker, she is physically stronger, and unless her cardio fails her or Modafferi catches her in a submission, this is likely to end up with Maycee prevailing in a dominant display.
Number of Note: 7. Seven of Barber’s eight wins have ended in a finish, with her last three by TKO. Modafferi has only been stopped four times in 16 losses.
Sodiq Yusuff ($8,500) vs. Andre Fili ($7,700) – Featherweights
As mentioned earlier, the UFC 246 prelims have plenty of compelling prospects worth watching, and Sodiq Yusuff is one of them. The native of Nigeria has won five straight, most recently knocking out Gabriel Benitez at UFC 241 after some early trouble leading up the finish. His best win to date was an entertaining decision over Sheymon Moraes, an opponent Fili knocked out in his last fight. Andre has long had issues with consistency throughout his UFC tenure, often alternating between wins and losses. He’s currently on a two-fight winning run, looking fantastic in both the aforementioned victory over Moraes and the decision nod over Myles Jury.
This is a sneaky contender for Fight of the Night. They both prefer to strike, with Yusuff figuring to be the more explosive and powerful of the two, but Fili has beaten a higher level of competition over the years. If it does go to the ground, Fili figures to have the advantage. I see Yusuff getting the biggest win of his career and moving up the ladder at 145 lbs.
Number of Note: 0. Through three fights totaling just over 21 minutes of Octagon time, Yusuff has neither recorded a takedown (0 for 3) nor been taken down (no one has officially attempted one). Fili can be a willing wrestler, as shown in his nine total takedowns against Dennis Bermudez and Artem Lobov.
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