UFC 245 MAIN CARD PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS

Updated odds & predictions for every fight on the main card

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship is back home at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 245 on Saturday night. The main event takes place in the welterweight division where Kamaru Usman defends his UFC welterweight championship against Colby Covington, The co-main takes place in the featherweight division where Max Holloway defends his UFC featherweight title against Alexander Volkanovski. 

Also, on the main card Amanda Nunes defends her women’s UFC bantamweight championship against Germaine de Randamie. Marlon Moraes welcomes Jose Aldo to the bantamweight division and Peter Yan takes on Urijah Faber also in the bantamweight division.

The early prelims will stream on ESPN+ beginning at 5:30 PM (CST) with the prelims airing on ESPN 2 starting at 7:00 PM (CST). The main card will stream on ESPN+ PPV at 9:00 PM (CST).

Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.

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Main Card

Kamaru Usman (15-1) vs. Colby Covington (15-1) – Welterweight 170 lbs.

Current Odds: Usman -180; Covington +150

The only loss of Kamaru Usman’s career occurred back in May of 2013. Since that loss, he’s rattled off fourteen straight wins. His most recent victory was at UFC 235 where he soundly defeated Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision to win the UFC welterweight championship. The fight against Colby Covington will be his first title defense. Of the thirty-two-year-old’s fifteen career victories, seven ended inside the distance. Six via (T)KO and one by submission. Saturday’s fight will be the seventeenth of the “Nigerian Nightmare’s” career.

After his loss to Warlley Alves back in December 2015, Colby Covington is 7-0. His most recent victory occurred at UFC on ESPN 5 where he beat Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision in a one-sided affair. Now, at thirty-one-years-old Covington gets the opportunity to win UFC gold. Of his fifteen career wins, seven ended inside the distance. This will be the seventeenth fight of his career.

Covington’s stand-up is improving. He sets a ridiculous pace, throws punches in volume but lacks power. Covington is an excellent wrestler. He likes to muscle his opponents against the cage and grind on them while constantly working for takedowns. His cardio is second to none, it looks like he can fight for hours. Colby is usually the aggressor, always walking forward. The same can be said for Usman, so it will be interesting to see which fighter takes a step backwards.

Usman is the bigger, stronger fighter. He’ll also enjoy a four-inch reach advantage. Usman’s strength might be the difference in this fight. When he pushes his opponents to the fence, they aren’t going anywhere. He has the strength to keep them there for as long as he wants. I also think he fights better off his back foot. I think Usman can afford to be backed up and still be effective. Whereas Covington needs to always be moving forward in order to get his strikes off and maintain a high pace. Usman doesn’t have the volume, but I think his punches will be the ones doing more damage. While I think Usman will be fine fighting off his back foot, I don’t see it happening. Colby doesn’t have the strength or the power in his hands to force Usman to take a step backwards. I can see Usman walking through the punches of Covington while doing more damage with his own strikes.

I don’t see either fighter getting finished. I think Usman is the more well-rounded fighter. He is better on the feet and his takedown defense is excellent. Covington doesn’t have a smothering top game, so even if he does take Usman down, he won’t be able to keep him on the mat. That said, Covington is a cardio machine who just does not stop throwing punches so it wouldn’t surprise me if he was successful stealing the championship rounds.

My official pick: Usman by decision.

From a betting perspective: Pass. But this fight is so close in my opinion I think there is value on the underdog.

Max Holloway (21-4) vs. Alexander Volkanovski (20-1) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Current Odds: Holloway -190; Volkanovski +155

Max Holloway won the interim UFC featherweight championship by defeating Anthony Pettis via (T)KO in the third round at UFC 206. He unified the title with a victory over Jose Aldo via third round (T)KO in his following fight at UFC 212. He’s successfully defended the UFC featherweight championship three times by beating Jose Aldo in the rematch, Brian Ortega and most recently Frankie Edgar. Twelve of the Hawaiian born fighter’s twenty-one career victories ended inside the distance. Ten by (T)KO to go along with two via submission. The twenty-eight-year-old will make the walk for the twenty-sixth time on Saturday night.

Alexander Volkanovski enters his fight against Holloway on a seventeen-fight win streak. The last time he failed to get his hand raised was at Australian Fighting Championship 5 where he got stopped in the third round by Corey Nelson. That was back in May of 2013. The Australian born fighter has finished fourteen of his twenty career wins. Eleven via (T)KO and three by way of submission. At thirty-one-years-old, Volkanovski will make the walk for the twenty-second time when he steps into the cage opposite Holloway.

Both fighters keep a tremendously high pace. Max’s pace is legendary, and Alexander’s isn’t far behind. Max will enjoy a five-inch height advantage, but Volkanovski will have the advantage in reach by two inches.

While Holloway is primarily a striker, Volkanovski will take his opponents to the mat. That said, Holloway has excellent takedown defense so while Volkanovski might try to get the fight to the ground I don’t see him being successful. When and if he’s successful, I expect Max to be able to get back up quickly. Because of that, I expect the fight to play out on the feet.

On the feet, Max doesn’t possess knockout power. He overwhelms his opponents with pressure and a ridiculous pace. Volkanovski can adapt his style from fight to fight. He can apply constant pressure and smother his opponent in one fight, and then in the next fight he can fight in space and piece his opponent up at range. Watch for Volkanovski’s low kicks, they could be a major factor in the fight. Ultimately, I think this fight comes down to Max’s pace. I think he has to use his length, push the pace and force Volkanovski to match it. Volkanovski might just be the fighter to do it.

My official pick: Holloway by decision.

From a betting perspective: Pass. But again, this fight is so close I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking Volkanovski in this spot.  

Amanda Nunes (18-4) vs. Germaine de Randamie (9-3) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Nunes -320; de Randamie +260

After losing to Cat Zingano back in September of 2014, Amanda Nunes has won nine fights in a row. Her most recent victory was at UFC 239 where she stopped Holly Holm in the first round due to a head kick. The two-division champion has successfully defended the UFC bantamweight title three times and the UFC featherweight championship once. All but two of the Brazilian’s eighteen career wins ended inside the distance, including four of her last five. This will be her twenty-third pro bout.

Germaine de Randamie’s last loss was to Amanda Nunes back in November 2013. Since then she is 5-0. Her most recent victory occurred at UFC Fight Night 155 where she stopped Aspen Ladd sixteen seconds into the fight. Five of her nine career wins went to the judge’s scorecards. At thirty-five-years-old, de Randamie will make the walk for the thirteenth time when she steps into the octagon to take on Nunes for the title.

These two first fought six years ago. Nunes took de Randamie down and finished her with some vicious ground and pound. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the second fight go the same way as the first one. Hopefully for de Randamie she’s worked on her takedown defense and ground game because she really struggles fighting off her back.

Germaine is an elite level kickboxer so she must keep the fight standing where I think she’ll be competitive against Nunes. She’s an excellent striker with plenty of power. One of the issues I have with her striking is she doesn’t throw enough volume. She has to push a pace and increase volume in order to get to Nunes’ suspect gas tank.

I’m very interested to see what type of game plan Nunes comes out with. The clear path to victory is to take de Randamie down and finish her on the ground. However, she has fallen in love with her stand-up striking and might try to beat Germaine at what she does best. Nunes likes to come out fast and put it on her opponents early in the fight. As long de Randamie can get through the first two rounds, I think the fight will get interesting come the championship rounds.

My official pick: Nunes by decision.

From a betting perspective: Pass.

I think the odds are a bit wide here. If you think de Randamie can keep the fight standing, +240 is a steal in my opinion.

Marlon Moraes (22-6-1) vs. Jose Aldo (28-5) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Moraes -200; Aldo +160

Marlon Moraes was on a four-fight win streak when he got the opportunity to fight Henry Cejudo for the UFC bantamweight championship. It didn’t go Moraes’ way. Cejudo finished him in the third round at UFC 238. The Brazilian born fighter has sixteen finishes in twenty-two career victories. This will be the thirty-one-year-old’s thirtieth professional fight.

After losing back-to-back fights to Max Holloway, Brazil’s Jose Aldo is 1-2 in his previous three. His most recent fight was at UFC 237 where he dropped a unanimous decision to Alexander Volkanovski. The former UFC featherweight champion will make the walk for the thirty-fourth time on Saturday night. Eighteen of his twenty-eight wins ended inside the distance. Seventeen by (T)KO to go along with one via submission.

I thought Aldo was done and then he beat Jeremy Stephens and Renato Carneiro. Then, after those two wins, he looked like shit again in the Volkanovski loss. Granted, Volkanovski might just be that damn good, which we’ll see if that’s the case tonight. Moraes is fast and hits hard. He clearly struggled with the constant pressure he saw from Cejudo, but I don’t think we’ll see that level of pressure from Aldo. I expect this fight to play out primarily on the feet which I think suits both fighters.

This will be Aldo’s debut fight as a bantamweight. Quite honestly, I don’t know what to make of the photos of Aldo and the way he looks as he prepares to make 135. I also don’t know if he’ll make weight and if he does what effect it will have on him inside the cage. Will his chin hold up? We saw what happened to Dillashaw when he attempted to drop down. There are too many variables and they’re all on Aldo’s side that makes this fight a hard pass for me. Obviously, this fight being three rounds helps him. If, Aldo’s cut goes as planned and he comes in looking like Jose Aldo, getting him at +170 is great value.

My official pick: Moraes by (T)KO.

From a betting perspective: Pass

Petr Yan (13-1) vs. Urijah Faber (35-10) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.

Current Odds: Yan -525; Faber +350

After losing to Magomed Magomedov at ACB 32 – Battle of Lions back in March of 2016, Petr Yan is 8-0 and 5-0 in the UFC. His most recent victory occurred at UFC 238 where he beat Jimmie Rivera via unanimous decision. Of the Russian born fighter’s thirteen career victories, six ended inside the distance. Five by knockout to go along with one by way of submission. At twenty-six-years-old, Yan will make the walk for the fifteenth time on Saturday night.

After beating Brad Pickett via unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 22, Urijah Faber announced his retirement. Two and a half years later Faber came out of retirement and returned at UFC Fight Night 155 where finished Ricky Simon in under a minute via TKO in stunning fashion. The “California Kid” has twenty-seven finishes in his thirty-four career victories. Ten via knockout and seventeen by way of submission. Seven of his ten career losses went to the judge’s scorecards. At forty-years-old, Faber will make the walk for the forty-sixth time as a professional and the seventeenth time for the UFC.

Look, I expected Simon to have his way with Faber and we all saw what happened in that fight. Unlike Simon, I expect Yan to have his way with Faber on Saturday. Faber showed in his comeback fight he still has some pop in his hands so Yan can’t throw caution to the wind and get careless, but I don’t see a path to victory for the “California Kid.”

Faber is durable so Yan might not be able to finish him, but I expect a one-sided decision going Yan’s way.

My official pick: Yan by decision.

From a betting perspective: Pass. The only way I bet Yan is in a parlay.

Enjoy the fights!

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