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X-Factor! Some UFC on ESPN 11 main card predictions

UFC 244: Good v Rencountre Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

This Saturday (June 20, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) continues its stay in the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC on ESPN 11. After last week’s unfortunate dip in quality, a much improved grouping of high-level fights will be on display here. In the main event, we have a classic — but plus-sized! — striker vs. grappler match up in Alexander Volkov vs. Curtis Blaydes. Before the big men throw down, however, we have some solid scraps to analyze.

Later in the week, we’ll be back to preview and predict the biggest fights of the night.

Women’s Bantamweight: Raquel Pennington vs. Marion Reneau

Best Win for Pennington? Miesha Tate For Reneau? Sara McMann
Current Streak: Pennington has lost her last bout, while Reneau is 0-2 in her most recent pair of trips to the Octagon
X-Factor: the sheer inconsistency of both women
How these two match up: This is likely to be a scrap.

Pennington earned her title shot, utilizing boxing, toughness, and conditioning to outwork many of her peers. Unfortunately, she ran into Amanda Nunes, and the fight went about as well as one would expect. Since then, Pennington has struggled with consistency, losing two of her next three and missing weight.

Reneau is a formidable boxer with dangerous jiu-jitsu. However, she’s struggled to find consistent success inside the Octagon for a pair of reasons: she’s willing to fight from her back, and she’s willing to throw fewer punches than her opponent.

Neither woman is trustworthy right now. Pennington, at times, appears to be physically shot, unable to push the pace that her style demands. Meanwhile, Reneau has a proven history of making bad decisions that cost her victories, and Pennington remains difficult to finish.

All the signs point to a frustrating split-decision in which neither woman is really able to pull away. Ultimately, I’ll side with Pennington, largely because she’s a decade younger and does have her single recent victory over a relevant name in Irene Aldana.

Prediction: Pennington via decision

Welterweight: Lyman Good vs. Belal Muhammed

Best Win for Good? Chance Rencountree For Muhammed? Randy Brown
Current Streak: Good rebounded with a win last time out, while Muhammed has won two straight
X-Factor: Muhammed’s pace
How these two match up: Ah, here’s the excitement that was promised.

Former Bellator champion Lyman Good does not play around inside the cage. A sharp boxer with clubbing power and great physicality, Good is a definite veteran of the sport who has really seen it all. On the other hand, Muhammed is quietly putting together quite a record at 170 lbs., having won six of his last seven. Muhammed is all about grit and conditioning, a well-rounded fighter who tends to really take over in the second half of fights.

This bout really comes down to one question for me: can Muhammed take Good down? If Muhammed can land takedowns early, the fight is a wrap. Even if he can start getting his wrestling going in the second round, “Remember The Name” is in great position to continue his winning ways.

If not though? If Good is too strong to be contained? Too experienced to be dragged down? Well, one has to lean towards the man with a brutal jab and 11 knockout wins on his record.

Muhammed has the chin to survive Good’s offense, but at a certain point, eating shots in the hopes that your opponent fatigues and starts giving up openings is an iffy proposition. Good looked exceptionally controlled yet still very violent while denying Rencountre’s wrestling with relative ease, and though Muhammed is much better at mixing it all up, a repeat performance seems possible.

Prediction: Good via decision

Catchweight (160 lbs): Jim Miller vs. Roosevelt Roberts

Best Win for Miller? Joe Lauzon For Roberts? Alexander Yakovlev
Current Streak: Miller came up short in a “Fight of the Night” winner last time out, while Roberts has won two straight
X-Factor: Miller’s durability
How these two match up: Lightweight (basically) action!

Miller has faced some rough streaks that seemed to indicate an end to his career over the last five years or so, but the New Jersey-native has rebounded! That’s not to say he’s a contender, but Miller remains a crafty submission ace with sneaky power in his hands. On the other end of the equation, Roberts is a “Contender Series” pickup with a nice mix of skills. Roberts is primarily a wrestler-grappler probably best known for his guillotine choke, but his hands have never looked weak either.

In this case, I’ll side with the underdog in Miller. There is definitely a chance that Roberts is able to win largely via youth, where a takedown or big connection shifts the momentum to his favor in an otherwise close fight. However, Roberts really struggled against Vinc Pichel, the last veteran he could not overwhelm on the mat.

Miller has proven in recent wins over men like Alex White and Jason Gonzalez that he’s no doormat for any up-and-comer. Miller is still a damn fine opportunist when it comes to snatching the back, and it seems likely to me that Roberts cannot help himself but to initiate grappling exchanges.

Even if he’s not winning them.

Prediction: Miller via submission

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2020: 18-7

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 11 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 11: “Blaydes vs. Volkov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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