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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 17 main card predictions

UFC Fight Night: Roberts v Pereira Photo by Michael Owens/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., Dec. 19, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain in the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 17, the final event of 2020. Like most of the recent events, this card was ravaged by COVID-19. Fortunately, it was a deep show from the beginning, and while there’s still time for key fights to fall out, UFC appears set to end the year with a bang.

Let’s take a closer look at some main card fights:

Welterweight: Michel Pereira vs. Khaos Williams

Best Win for Pereira? Danny Roberts For Williams? Abdul Razak Alhassan
Current Streak: Pereira returned to the win column last time out, while Williams has won his first two UFC bouts (and eight total)
X-Factor: Both men hit very hard
How these two match up: This is a battle of powerful crazy man vs. a crazy powerful man.

Pereira’s short-notice loss to Tristan Connelly seemed to be a wake up call. He’s still acrobatic, explosive and flashy, but Pereira has since tuned down the goofiness, instead opting to gain fans by beating the tar out of his opponents. The massive Welterweight seems to have solved his conditioning issues too, allowing him to throw hard for the full three rounds.

How much do we know about Khaos Williams? Not a ton, but it’s hardly his fault. His two UFC fights have lasted for a combined 57 seconds, as “The Oxfighter” has wasted zero time in immediately destroying his opponents with blistering power punches.

It is hard to have a ton of faith in either man despite their obvious talents. Pereira may have turned over a new leaf, but it’s going to take multiple wins before we can be too certain of his evolution. Meanwhile, there could be huge gaps in Williams’ game that will eventually be revealed, and we simply have no idea.

This is likely to end in dramatic fashion one way or another, so at this point, I’ll remain in the corner of the more proven man. Pereira has nearly three-times the professional experience of his opponent, and he’s only been stopped by strikes once in all of those fights. Plus, between his jab, snap kick and head movement, Pereira should prove a more rangy and difficult to hit target than many of Williams’ previous opponents.

Prediction: Pereira via knockout

Bantamweight: Marlon Moraes vs. Rob Font

Best Win for Marlon Moraes? Aljamain Sterling For Font? Ricky Simon
Current Streak: Moraes came up short last time out, whereas Font has won two straight
X-Factor: How will Moraes respond from a dominant loss?
How these two match up: This is a high-level kickboxing match.

After his rise to the title seemed imminent, Moraes has hit a rough patch. He’s lost two of his last three bouts, and the win sandwiched by defeats is a controversial decision opposite Jose Aldo. On the bright side, Moraes remains a pretty nasty Muay Thai striker and is still lightning quick.

On the other end of the equation, Font is picking up momentum. His rugged kickboxing has grown more and more effective, as Font is better able to establish his jab and hold up in firefights.

It’s still hard to pick against Moraes in a kickboxing match. Sandhagen managed to pick him apart, but Sandhagen’s level of activity, footwork and range separate him from most of the division to a large degree. Font, meanwhile, is very skilled and powerful in his own right, but he’s a much more straight-forward hitter.

Moraes is well-equipped to handle Font’s style of striking. He should find openings for his heavy counter shots, and even if he doesn’t, those “Magic” kicks are just as capable of ending the fight in an instant.

Prediction: Moraes via knockout

Welterweight: Marcin Tybura vs. Greg Hardy

Best Win for Tybura? Andrei Arlovski For Hardy? Maurice Greene
Current Streak: Tybura has won three straight, while Hardy has picked up two wins in a row
X-Factor: Hardy’s improvement between fights
How these two match up: This is a stiff test for Hardy but not an unreasonable one.

Tybura has always been something of a dark horse contender. At one point, he was given a real chance to break into the title mix in a main event slot against Fabricio Werdum, which did not work out. However, he’s a well-rounded veteran, one able to strike from range or grind for takedowns along the fence.

Hardy is still figuring himself out as a fighter. He came into UFC as an aggressive slugger before slowing it all down and kickboxing at range almost for points. He showed a real improvement at finding the balance last time out, smashing Greene without getting sloppy or giving up his range advantage.

Tybura presents a different challenge to Hardy than most of his recent opponents. He’s a crafty enough range striker to (hopefully) avoid the big swings of his foe, yet can likely return with counter shots and kicks of his own. Plus, if Hardy swarms too wildly, Tybura has a decent chance at putting him on his back with a reactive shot.

Thus, the question becomes whether or not Hardy can apply pressure and push his power advantage without exposing himself in the process. That’s the path he’s currently on, but given Hardy’s inexperience. it’s too early for me to trust him to pull it off against “Tybur” just yet.

Prediction: Tybura via decision

Welterweight: Anthony Pettis vs. Alex Morono

Best Win for Pettis? Benson Henderson For Morono? Max Griffin
Current Streak: Both men bounced back with a win last time out
X-Factor: Will Morono wrestle?
How these two match up: It’s a far cry from Pettis’ past bouts, but this should still prove rather fun.

It’s no secret that Pettis’ best years are behind him. He’s lost his volatile x-factor to a real degree, that special something that allowed him to simply melt foes with single strikes. Plus, everyone knows the gameplan for making his life difficult with pressure and cage wrestling.

All the same, “Showtime” is still a dangerous striker and grappler with lots of tricks up his sleeves.

Morono cannot match his foe’s athleticism even at this stage of Pettis’ career, but that’s never been his game anyway. He’s a hard-nosed scrapper, someone who pushes the pace and grinds opponents down often through sheer force of will. Oh, and a jiu-jitsu black belt helps too!

If I trusted Morono to wrestle constantly, I’d probably pick him. He’s the bigger man with the deeper gas tank, and if he just commits to making this an ugly fight, he probably wins. However, that’s not his style. Morono goes where the fight takes him, and while he’s always pushing the pace, willingly stepping into Pettis’ wheelhouse of range kickboxing is a bad idea.

In addition, the Keita Nakamura loss sets a bad precedent for Morono. In that bout, Nakamura went Southpaw and won with a left straight and footwork, largely nullifying his opponent and slowing his output.

Pettis has the tools to do the same.

Prediction: Pettis via decision

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 17 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 17: “Thompson vs. Neal” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2020: 55-26

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