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UFC 245 predictions: ‘Usman vs Covington’ early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+ and ESPN 2 this weekend (Sat., Dec. 14, 2019) when UFC 245: “Usman vs. Covington” storms T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 245 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) looks to end the year strong this Saturday (Dec. 14, 2019) when it hits T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, with a trio of title fights and a whole mess of simmering resentment.

In UFC 245’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington attempt to settle their feud with the Welterweight title at stake, while Max Holloway looks to end the massive winning streak of Alexander Volkanovski at 145 pounds. Ten pounds further south, it’s a rematch between knockout artists as women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes meets former foe Germaine de Randamie.

We’ve got a hefty eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around to preview and predict, including some “Contender Series” debuts and some clashes of ranked fighters. The first four are on Fight Pass/ESPN+; therefore, let’s investigate!

145 lbs.: Chase Hooper vs. Daniel Teymur

Chase Hooper (8-0-1) weathered a vicious striking attack from Canaan Kawaihae to claim victory on “Contender Series,” and though he didn’t receive a full ride to the Octagon, it was enough to pick up a developmental contract. A split draw in Cage Fury followed, after which he picked up a pair of stoppage wins en route to UFC.

“The Teenage Dream” will have a remarkable eight inches of height on Sweden’s Daniel Teymur (7-3).

“Kid Dynamite” didn’t exactly follow in brother David’s footsteps when he first entered UFC, dropping three consecutive fights and tapping in two of them. With his back against the wall, he came up big in his home country with a decision over Sung Bin Jo.

He has knocked out and submitted three opponents apiece.

Hooper on the mat is a nightmarish tangle of spindly limbs. Hooper on the feet is a mess. Kawaihae beat the snot out of him until his cardio gave out and that split draw saw him dropped by a fighter with a losing record. He’s not ready for primetime by my reckoning, but this is a winnable fight. Teymur’s cardio and grappling struggles have prevented his heavy hands from being a factor in the Octagon, two issues that Hooper could very well exploit.

What has me picking Teymur anyway, though, is the fact that Hooper seems mostly unable to take it to the mat on his terms. Teymur — though absolutely foolish enough to initiate the grappling — showed an improved gas tank and defensive wrestling against Jo. It’s a binary fight: either Teymur peels his face off with an overhand right or Hooper tanks his way to a ground battle he’ll undoubtedly win. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the former.

Prediction: Teymur via first-round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France

Brandon Moreno (15-5-1) went from winning his first three UFC bouts to dropping consecutive fights to Sergio Pettis and Alexandre Pantoja, resulting in his exit from the promotion. After knocking out Maikel Pérez to claim the LFA Flyweight title, he returned to the Octagon in September with a split draw against top prospect Askar Askarov.

He has scored 10 submissions and two (technical) knockouts as a professional.

Kai Kara-France’s (20-7) second-round defeat on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and subsequent decision loss to Tatsumitsu Wada gave way to five consecutive wins, leading to a “Fight of the Night” Octagon debut against Elias Garcia in Dec. 2018. His next Octagon efforts saw him edge Raulian Paiva by split decision and defeat Mark De La Rosa unanimously back in August.

He is the shorter man by three inches.

I’ll readily admit that I have a bad habit of underestimating Moreno, so you should take me picking Kara-France with a grain of salt. Not that I can’t justify the pick, though — Kara-France has repeatedly demonstrated his takedown defense and scrambling ability during his Octagon tenure, and if he keeps it standing as I expect him to, he has “The Assassin Baby” out-gunned in both power and technique.

It’ll still be a nail-biter, as Moreno can wrap up a submission out of nowhere. If Kara-France tries to lean on his own takedowns, as he has in recent fights, Moreno will do terrible things to his neck before “Don’t Blink” can blink. I’m going to go ahead and assume he fights with a modicum of self-preservation, though, scrambling out of a bad spot or two to strike his way to a narrow victory.

Prediction: Kara-France via split decision

125 lbs.: Jessica Eye vs. Viviane Araujo

Jessica Eye’s (14-7) drop to 125 pounds paid immediate dividends, snapping a four-fight skid to win three straight and set up a title shot. That didn’t go quite as well for her, though, ending early in the second round by way of a Valentina Shevchenko head kick.

“Evil” faces a two-inch reach disadvantage against “Vivi.”

Former Pancrase Strawweight champ Viviane Araujo (8-1) made a hell of a statement in her Octagon debut, stepping up two weight classes on short notice to knock out Talita Bernardo with one punch. She settled in at Flyweight for her next victory, a competitive decision over Alexis Davis at UFC 240.

Her seven professional stoppages include four by submission.

Now this is a crossroads fight. Eye had finally managed to cobble together some momentum after a dreadful Bantamweight run, only for Shevchenko to dash it in the most deflating fashion possible. Araujo, for her part, exploded onto the scene and maintains that intrigue despite having a bit more trouble than expected against Davis.

Between that, the power discrepancy, and Araujo having the takedown offense/defense to shut down the wrestling Eye occasionally relies on, there just isn’t much going the “Evil” one’s way. Araujo’s heavier blows seal the deal on her third straight Octagon victory.

185 lbs.: Punahele Soriano vs. Oskar Piechota

Punahele Soriano (6-0) had never gone the distance as a professional when he joined “Contender Series,” dispatching all comers inside of four minutes apiece. He had to settle for a decision against Jamie Pickett in the inaugural main event of Season Three, but still came away with a contract.

“Puna” will give up nearly four inches of reach to Oskar Piechota (11-2-1).

“Imadlo” followed up his Cage Warriors title-winning knockout of Jason Radcliffe with wins in his first two Octagon bouts, among them a brutal finish of Tim Williams in under two minutes. He enters the cage this Saturday on the heels of two submission losses, though, gassing against Gerald Meerschaert and succumbing to the legendary grappling of Rodolfo Vieira.

He has knocked out and submitted five foes apiece.

I didn’t agree with Soriano getting a contract for his “Contender Series” victory. That’s because he showed cardio issues, some one-note striking, and an inability to do damage from top position. Having said that, the potential is definitely there between his punching power and All-American wrestling pedigree. UFC definitely isn’t easing him into the Octagon, either, as despite his recent struggles, Piechota’s own power and submission skills exceed those of anyone Soriano’s faced before.

The bookies have this a pick-‘em and they’re 100 percent right. Both have clear avenues of victory and potential weaknesses that the other can exploit. I keep flip-flopping on this, but I think Soriano’s takedowns may be the key. Things start hot before devolving into Soriano grinding his way to victory.

Prediction: Soriano via unanimous decision

Four more UFC 245 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, among them the return of Matt Brown and what figures to be a bonkers Welterweight war pitting Geoff Neal against Mike Perry.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 245 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 245: “Usman vs. Covington” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.