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UFC Vegas 11 preview, ‘Covington vs Woodley’ predictions

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UFC 225 Open Workouts Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back in action this weekend with the UFC Vegas 11 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, scheduled for Sat., Sept. 19, 2020 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, headlined by the 170-pound collision between former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington and ex-division titleholder Tyron Woodley. Elsewhere on the main card, which airs exclusively on ESPN+, battle-tested “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone collides with welterweight “Hybrid” Niko Price in a fan-friendly display of fistic fireworks.

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the complete UFC Vegas 11 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by the jet-setting Patrick Stumberg here and here. Fighter-turned-writer-turned-fighter again, Andrew Richardson, did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Covington vs. Woodley” odds and betting lines click here.

Let’s get to work ...

170 lbs.: Colby Covington vs. Tyron Woodley

Colby “Chaos” Covington

Record: 15-2 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -360
Wins: 2 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.17 | Striking accuracy: 37%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.02 | Striking Defense: 55%
Takedown Average: 4.91 (51% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 78%
Current Ranking: No. 2 | Last fight: TKO loss to Kamaru Usman

Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley

Record: 19-5-1 | Age: 38 | Betting line: +300
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.38 | Striking accuracy: 49%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.65 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 1.11 (39% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 90%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Decision loss to Gilbert Burns

Tyron Woodley was criticized during his welterweight title reign for embracing (and in many ways flaunting) his inactivity, at one point keeping the belt on ice for nearly 14 months. After all, those shitty rap albums won’t record themselves. But even after losing his 170-pound strap to Kamaru Usman, it took “The Chosen One” another 14 months to find his way back into the cage. That’s why it came as a surprise to many UFC fans to learn that Woodley was competing less than four months after his second-straight loss, a lopsided defeat to top welterweight contender Gilbert Burns. At first I was elated because I thought maybe we’d get to see a motivated version of Woodley, who remains a legitimate threat to anyone in the division. Then court papers leaked, revealing an expensive divorce, and now his prompt return looks to be more about paying his bills and less about recapturing his former glory.

I understand that motivation, or lack thereof, is not enough to completely sink a fighter. But Woodley is now 38 and coming off two defeats where he looked completely lost inside the cage. Colby Covington, despite his antics and persistent tomfuckery, is currently in his fighting prime at 32. You can say what you want about losing to Usman at UFC 245, but his performance against “The Nigerian Nightmare” proved he belonged at the top of the 170-pound heap. “Chaos” has a solid chin, is a top-shelf wrestler, and demonstrated in his domination of Robbie Lawler that he’s not afraid to stand and bang. It’s not unusual for a fighter to struggle or lose their way after dropping a high-profile fight, but Covington still thinks he got screwed by referee Marc Goddard at UFC 245, so I wouldn’t expect his confidence to suffer. That matters in a fight like this where aggression is the probable key to victory.

Woodley is a terrific wrestler who fell in love with his right hand, not uncommon among fighters with knockout power. But when he can’t land the big shot it’s almost like he has no idea what to do aside from backing himself into the cage and covering up. Two takedown attempts against Gilbert Burns in a five-round fight? One against Usman? Takedowns are not always about getting the fight to the floor, they also force your opponent to adjust offensively. No threat of the takedown means anything goes in the striking department and why that remains permissible against a Big 12 Conference Champion is baffling to me. Covington, meanwhile, has amassed over 100 takedown attempts in the last five years, 31 between his wins over Rafael dos Anjos and Demian Maia. He also threw a combined 936 strikes against Usman and Lawler. Right now there is no reason to think we won’t see the same Covington — or the same Woodley — we’ve seen over the last two years, which spells bad news for “The Chosen One.”

Prediction: Covington def. Woodley by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Niko Price

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone

Record: 36-15, 1 NC | Age: 37 | Betting line: +130
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 17 SUB, 9 DEC | Losses: 7 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 7 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 73” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.33 | Striking accuracy: 46%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.27 | Striking Defense: 53%
Takedown Average: 1.23 (35% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 73%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Decision loss to Anthony Pettis

Niko “The Hybrid” Price

Record: 14-4, 1 NC | Age: 30 | Betting line: -150
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.32 | Striking accuracy: 38%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.46 | Striking Defense: 49%
Takedown Average: 1.08 (23% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 61%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: TKO loss to Vicente Luque

Donald Cerrone managed to compete for an entire decade with just two losses by way of knockout, a span of 40 professional fights. Over the last three years, however, it’s happened five times. Couple that with the fact that “Cowboy” has lost four in a row — and looked awful each time out — and we can probably agree that his future could be decided this weekend in Las Vegas. Sooner or later the promotion is going to have to justify its decision to keep trotting him out there and anyone who’s been following the career of Cerrone understands he’s probably not going to stop until he’s dead. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that but again, the former lightweight’s performance against Niko Price will be the deciding factor.

Price, seven years younger than Cerrone at age 30, is very Cowboy-ish in his approach to the fight game. In fact, “The Hybrid” has never been to the scorecards in 11 trips to the Octagon, registering four “Performance of the Night” bonuses along the way. I’m actually kind of surprised to see Price back inside the cage so soon after having his eye blown apart at UFC 248 last March, but I guess that’s to be expected from an athlete who competes an average of three times a year, a stat that shouldn’t be impressive in this day and age but nevertheless is. Unfortunately that whole live/die by the sword mentality comes at a price (no pun intended) and the Floridian is just 4-4 across his last eight, leaving him outside the Top 15 at 170 pounds.

I don’t know what we can say about Cerrone that isn’t already known or hasn’t been said 1000 times before. He’s a talented kickboxer with sneaky submission skills who can bang with the best of them. I’m not exaggerating when I say the “angry” Cerrone who walks forward and unleashes hell is a Top 5 contender in both weight classes. That other “Cowboy” who sometimes shows up, the one who is mentally checked out or dreaming about his next wakeboarding vacation, is when things start to go off the rails. Price is a talented fighter with a knack for violence, but when you consider Cerrone’s experience level and trail of carnage across the last 15 years, what version of “Cowboy” we get is more important than what Price brings to the cage, at least in terms of picking a winner. That said, I’m a sucker for nostalgia and I still think the old dog has one or two new tricks.

Prediction: Cerrone def. Price by submission

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 11 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 11 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 11: “Covington vs. Woodley” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete UFC Vegas 11 fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.