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UFC 250 predictions, preview, and analysis

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to its Las Vegas “Apex” for another night of mixed martial arts (MMA) action this Sat. night (June 6, 2020), bringing with it a title fight and plenty of supporting violence. The main event sees double champ Amanda Nunes defend her Featherweight belt against Canadian submission ace Felicia Spencer, while Raphael Assuncao welcomes Cody Garbrandt back to the Octagon in the 135-pound co-feature.

The UFC 250 main card also features what looks to be a Bantamweight final eliminator between Aljamain Sterling and former champion Cody Garbrandt, plus Neil Magny vs. Anthony Rocco Martin (Welterweight) and Sean O’Malley vs. Eddie Wineland (Bantamweight).

Our usual main card guy was tabbed to replace Henry Cavill in the Justice League “Snyder Cut,” so I’m on oracle duty once again. Get your “Prelims” fix here and here, then wash ‘em down with some odds and betting lines here.

145 lbs.: Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes vs. Felicia “Feenom” Spencer

I’m just going to go ahead and get all of my praise for Spencer out of the way. She’s a legitimately solid grappler, boasts some solid wrestling with which to impose those ground skills, and is serviceable on the feet.

That said, she’s completely screwed here.

Beating Megan Anderson, whose ground game is so thoroughly underdeveloped that Holly Holm wrestled her to death, and Zarah Fairn, who got outgrappled by the aforementioned Anderson, in no way prepares “Feenom” for Nunes. The champ’s boxing outclasses Spencer’s by a frankly unfair margin, she can match Spencer’s kicking arsenal, her takedown defense is too much for Spencer’s wrestling, and she’s too adept a jiu-jitsu artist to get caught in a Hail Mary submission.

To make matters worse, the commentators’ attempts to sell Spencer’s chances by calling her a natural Featherweight are built on false pretenses. The last time Spencer fought for a 145-pound title, she came in a full 1.3 pounds under the limit, and she’s actually the shorter of the two by an inch. If she does enter the cage as the larger woman, it won’t be by much.

All Spencer really has going for her is the durability she showed against “Cyborg,” but it’s been more than four years since Nunes’ cardio last failed her. “The Lioness” comfortably went five rounds against Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie and racked up over 120 significant strikes in 4.5 rounds against Raquel Pennington without slowing.

Spencer might have had a chance back in Nunes’ Strikeforce or Early UFC days, when the Brazilian had one good round in her. Unfortunately, that opportunity has passed. Unable to consistently take Nunes down or reliably wear her out, she falls to an accumulation of blows somewhere in the middle rounds.

Prediction: Nunes via fourth-round technical knockout

135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Cody “No Love” Garbrandt

Unreal as it sounds, Garbrandt hasn’t actually won a fight since his 2016 upset of Dominick Cruz, and these last 3.5 years have not inspired optimism. Though losing to T.J. Dillashaw is completely understandable, falling victim to the exact same gameplan in the rematch isn’t, and neither is throwing away a winnable matchup against Pedro Munhoz by needlessly brawling.

Assuncao has had struggles of his own, falling to Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen, but both of those fighters offer a level of striking variety that Garbrandt doesn’t. As good as Garbrandt’s boxing is when he keeps his head on straight, it’s far easier for the counter-happy Assuncao to deal with than Moraes’ lightning-quick kicks or Sandhagen’s rangy, free-flowing offense.

None of this is to say that Garbrandt’s outclassed. After all, he took apart a masterful technician in Cruz by forcing “The Dominator” to lead; there’s a tactical mind buried beneath all that machismo and weak trash talk. Expecting him to actually heed that tactical mind after years of failing to do so, however, feels a bit presumptuous.

A razor-sharp counter-puncher against a chinny slugger with composure issues sounds like a recipe for disaster. Assunacao isn’t quite as brick-headed as Munhoz, so Garbrandt could feasibly knock the Brazilian’s block off before he has a chance to get settled, but expect to see Garbrandt overcommit to an exchange yet again and pay dearly for it.

Prediction: Assuncao via first-round knockout

135 lbs.: Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen

Giving Jose Aldo a Bantamweight title shot on a two-fight losing streak is dumb as hell, but at least it gives us this final eliminator.

There are oodles of interesting storylines at play here. Sterling, who generally takes people apart from outside their range, faces a four-inch height disadvantage. Sandhagen, who makes up for iffy wrestling with excellent scrambles, has to do so against one of the division’s nastiest top control artists. The outcome will come down to who can survive in his opponent’s comfort zone and reliably drag him out of it.

For me, that’s Sterling. As a result of his constant advance, Sandhagen has been taken down at least once in each of his UFC appearances, and though he comported himself well underneath an excellent BJJ artist in Raphael Assuncao, “The Funk Master” looks more adept in unconventional positions than the Brazilian. Sandhagen’s edge on the feet, though notable, isn’t as much of a threat as Sterling’s ground game, especially considering that nothing stifles a dynamic striking offense quite like takedowns.

Critically, Sterling is ostensibly able to keep up with Sandhagen’s ludicrous pace, racking up nearly 200 significant strikes against Pedro Munhoz. Even with far superior boxing, Sandhagen’s unlikely to make Sterling wilt, especially when Sterling can take it to the mat as needed.

Simply put, Sandhagen’s preferred angle of attack leaves him vulnerable to Sterling’s strongest skill, and his skill in his own wheelhouse isn’t enough to make up for that. Regular takedowns and high-octane scrambles carry Sterling to victory.

Prediction: Sterling via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Neil Magny vs. Anthony Rocco Martin

Genuine props to Rocco Martin, who’s found far more success than I expected at Welterweight. I considered the ridiculous size advantage he enjoyed at 155 critical to his success, but he’s won five of six against similarly sized opposition. Unfortunately, come Saturday night, it’ll be five of seven.

Martin has exclusively fought grappling specialists at 170 pounds, which allowed him to get away with merely above-average standup. Magny is a far better striker than any of those six, with only Jake Matthews coming close, and he has the wrestling chops to take Martin’s submission skills out of the equation. Martin will have to trade strikes with a taller, rangier, more versatile, and more skilled kickboxer, which I can’t see going well for him.

Sprawling and brawling isn’t going to be enough here, especially considering Magny’s bottomless gas tank.

Between the half-foot-plus reach advantage, the significant edge in striking output, the overall superior striking technique, and the wrestling to render Martin’s top-notch top control a non-factor, this looks like a comfortable Magny victory. Martin can absolutely finish things if he gets on top, but that doesn’t seem likely. He outworks Martin on the feet to take a wide decision.

Prediction: Magny via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Eddie Wineland vs. “Sugar” Sean O’Malley

There are really only two feasible explanations for this matchup: either the coronavirus pandemic badly hamstrung the UFC’s ability to find a reasonable opponent for “Sugar” or they just wanted to get him some fresh highlight material.

I don’t mean to denigrate Wineland’s skills, as he’s still a capable striker with one-shot power in his right hand, but there’s just nothing going for him here. O’Malley is taller by four inches, sports a three-inch reach advantage, is a decade younger, and has a more versatile offense than Wineland’s boxing-heavy attack. Outside of a one-punch knockout, there just doesn’t seem to be a winning gameplan that Wineland could execute.

This isn’t the sort of fight O’Malley should be having at this stage, as the favorable style matchup means Wineland, for all his skill, won’t really test O’Malley. Whatever weaknesses remain in O’Malley’s game, Wineland lacks the physical or technical tools to exploit them and force improvement; what we’ve seen so far from the younger man is more than enough to carry him to victory. O’Malley dazzles with another brutal early finish.

Prediction: O’Malley via first-round technical knockout will offer LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 250 event RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” at 6:30 p.m. ET, continuing on with the 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims”, and finishing with the 9:00 p.m. ET pay-per-view main card.

For more on UFC 250: “Nunes vs. Spencer”, including fighter breakdowns and video previews, click here.

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