Max’s Last week predictions – 9/11
Total Predictions – 27/43
The second PPV event following the UFC’s return is underway tonight – the nearly consensus greatest woman MMA fighter of all time Amanda Nunes defends her featherweight title against Canadian rising sensation Felicia Spencer. In addition, the UFC’s bantamweight division with feature three marquee matchups in an effort to find its new champion following Henry Cejudo’s retirement. Let’s dive in.
Tonight’s main event features a championship bout in which UFC History could be made. Defending champion Amanda Nunes (19-4 Career, 12-1 UFC) joins Conor McGregor, Henry Cejudo, and Daniel Cormier as 1 of 4 fighters to ever hold UFC championship belts in two weight classes simultaneously. However, Nunes has the opportunity to do something no one has ever done in the UFC, defend both of those titles while holding them at the same time. Nunes has defended her belt at 135 lbs 5 times, but tonight will be her first defense at 145.
The woman looking to dethrone Nunes is rising star Felicia Spencer (8-1 Career, 2-1 UFC). Spencer is unquestionably one of the best three women’s featherweights on the planet, and has an opportunity as a +475 betting underdog to shock the world and add a legend to her resume.
It may seem strange that Spencer has so few fights in the organization and receiving a title shot, but the reason for that is…the UFC doesn’t EXACTLY have a women’s featherweight division. It’s a long story, but to keep it short, the division was created years ago to have a place to land top featherweight at the time Cris Cyborg in an attempt to make a super fight between her and global superstar Ronda Rousey. Nunes ultimately derailed those plans by smashing both of them, and here we are.
The UFC does not have official rankings for 145, but if they did Spencer would be at the top. She was an undefeated champion in Invicta FC, the best organization for women’s 145ers outside the UFC, and her only loss was a tough loss to Cyborg, a living legend.
What to Expect?
The questions that each fighter is going to have to ask themselves to claim victory are: Can Spencer take the bombing assault early from Nunes that many fighters haven’t been able to do? And if she does, how will Nunes hold up in a heavier weight class if this fight gets dragged to late rounds?
Nunes has never fought a 5 round fight at 145 lbs outside of her fight with Cyborg, which only lasted 50 seconds. If Spencer can find a way to absorb the bludgeoning shots early the way she did against Cyborg, it will be interesting to see how Nunes adjusts. My guess? Prepare for lots of chaos early with Nunes throwing fastballs out the gate.
The Co-Main Event
Just before the main event, we have a former bantamweight champion taking on one of the best fighters at bantamweight to never fight for a title, when Cody Garbrandt (11-3 Career, 6-3 UFC) squares off with Rafael Assunção (27-7 Career, 14-6 UFC/WEC).
Cody Garbrandt has reached a point of true adversity in his career. He started his MMA journey 11-0 and claimed UFC Gold on the way vs legend Dominick Cruz. In his first title defense, he lost his title, which turned into a three fight losing streak which he still sits on.
Garbrandt, strangely enough, has lost all three fights in very similar fashion. He hurts his opponent early, turns on the aggression and gets knocked out in a flurry of strikes. Losing four straight this way would not only have dangerous career implications, but certainly a cause for concern in terms of his health.
He has relocated from Sacramento to New Jersey to link up with world renowned trainer Mark Henry, in an effort to rally his career back to dominance.
In his way, however, is a gritty veteran with a lot of tools to win in Brazilian Rafael Assunção. Assunção makes his 21st walk under the UFC/WEC umbrella tonight, and looks to leverage victory to achieve something he has never had, a chance to fight for a UFC Title.
Assunção won 11 of 12 fights from 2011-2018, earning a championship fight against then title holder Renan Barao, but was injured and replaced by TJ Dillashaw who would go on to claim gold. Since 2018, he has lost back to back fights against top contenders Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen, and a redeeming win over a former title holder puts him on a short list of top dogs at 135.
What to Expect
Cody Garbrandt said to ESPN’s Megan Olivi “Even couch coaches know what I have to do differently to win Saturday.” As a couch coach myself, I whole heartedly agree. Garbrandt NEEDS to be patient. End of story, he has ballistic power and exceptional footwork, but in his three straight losses he struggled with getting carried away in slugfests and getting caught. Mark Henry will want to carry out a game plan to pick shots intelligently and make Assunção work to get inside.
Assunção is a grappling monster, and while he has knocked fighters out before, his black belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is what sets him apart from his peers. I’d expect a ton of circling and movement from Garbrandt early with him turning on his jets in the late rounds, if it turns into a war early, I’d be shocked.
Fighters To Watch
The PPV’s first fight tonight features a fighter that I once predicted three years ago will reach Conor McGregor level star power, 25 year old Sean O’Malley (11-0 Career, 3-0 UFC).
O’Malley shot on the scene with his pristine performance on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017. Since then, he has only fought three times in three years due to a USADA suspension that resulted from a tainted supplement. Since his returned he has gone back to his highlight reel performances.
This will be his first veteran test, taking on hard hitting Eddie Wineland (24-13-1 Career, 11-9 UFC/WEC). Wineland is a former WEC champion that is on his way out of the sport in due time, but an O’Malley victory over a tough competitor with name recognition can be the star push he needs to get a UFC ranking and start to fight contenders at 135.
On the topic of rising stars, the last fight of the prelims features the youngest fighter on the UFC Roster with 20 year old Chase Hooper (9-0-1 Career, 1-0 UFC) makes his second UFC walk.
Hooper is a charismatic personality with a dynamic fighting style. He is extremely tall for the 145 weight class at 6’1, and is known for getting on fighters really early with aggressive attacks. A balanced skill set, with nearly equal submissions and knockouts, he will look to deal with a well rounded veteran in Alex Caceres (15-12 Career, 10-10 UFC).
Caceres is the type of fighter who has served as a difficult gatekeeper for young fighters such as Sergio Pettis in 2014 or Rolando Dy in 2017, and looks to derail another hype train in Hooper.
If the young Hooper can find away to tackle the obstacle that is Caceres, it is a great foreshadowing for well rounded limitless potential.
Remember last week when Brazilian sensation Gilbert Burns kept his hot streak alive following his demolishing of former champion Tyron Woodley? Well today, his younger brother Herbert (10-2 Career, 1-0 UFC) takes the stage to set off the prelims at 3pm.
Burns traditionally fights at 145 lbs, but agreed on short notice roughly 10 days ago to fight at 150 against lightweight veteran Evan Dunham (18-8-1 Career, 11-8-1 UFC). It would be a huge week for the Burns brothers if Hebert can seal a victory, and his high octane style that mirrors his brother should make for a wild contest to start the day of fights matching with Evan Dunham’s ridiculous cardio and ability to consume damage. Look out for Burns to make some fans today.
(Main Card, PPV – 7pm pst)
Nunes def. Spencer (KO)
Assunção def. Garbrandt (SUB)
Sterling def. Sandhagen (Decision)
Magny def. Martin (Decision)
O’Malley def. Wineland (KO)
(Prelims, ESPN – 3pm pst)
Hooper def. Caceres (Decision)
Meerschaert def. Heinisch (SUB)
Kelleher def. Stamann (KO)
Byrd def. Pitolo (Decision)
Perez def. Formiga (Decision)
Menifield def. Clark (KO)
Burns def. Dunham (Decision)