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UFC 272 predictions, preview, and analysis

UFC 268: Usman v Covington 2 Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

One of the uglier rivalries in mixed martial arts (MMA) finally gets settled this Sat. night (March 5, 2022) when former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Interim Welterweight Champion Colby Covington takes on former American Top Team (ATT) teammate Jorge Masvidal atop the UFC 272 card at T-Mobile Arena in “Sin City.”

LIVE! Watch UFC 293 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

MASSIVE MIDDLEWEIGHT MATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its highly anticipated return to Sydney, Australia, for the first time in five years on Sat., Sept. 9, 2023, with a 185-pound world title fight inside Qudos Bank Arena. In the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight roost-ruler, Israel Adesanya, plans to silence No. 5-seeded contender, Sean Strickland. In UFC 293’s hard-hitting Heavyweight co-main event, No-6-ranked fan favorite, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with towering Russian, Alexander Volkov (No. 8).

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

Your ESPN+ subscription and pay-per-view (PPV) fee will also earn you a five-round battle between the legendary Rafael Dos Anjos and admirably ballsy late replacement Renato Moicano. On top of that, all-action Edson Barboza attempts to return to his winning ways against surging submission ace Bryce Mitchell, Kevin Holland kicks off his return to Welterweight by battling Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira, and Greg Hardy looks to finally live up to his potential in a main card opener opposite Sergey Spivak.

Our usual main card guy got disassembled for spare parts by Godrick the Grafted, so this sacred duty falls to me once again. As always, we’ve got UFC 272 “Prelims” analysis here and here, plus our “Covington vs. Masvidal” odds breakdown over here.

Still here? Good, let’s get started.

170 lbs.: Colby “Chaos” Covington (16-3) vs. Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal (35-15)

I don’t think it reflects poorly on me as an analyst that I want to see Covington get his block knocked off. The guy’s made a career out of instilling that desire in people and then refusing to satisfy it as though we were Tantalus and he was a particularly mouthy bushel of grapes.

Knowing and accepting that ahead of time will make Saturday’s result less disappointing.

Covington’s obviously not going to repeat what Kamaru Usman did to Masivdal in their rematch, but there’s not a lot stopping him from repeating what happened in the first fight. “Gamebred” is going to have a nightmare of a time trying to stay off the fence, especially since Covington doesn’t get flustered by combination striking the way Usman does. Even if Masvidal does manage to stop the majority of takedowns coming his way, Covington has the gas tank and willingness to burn minutes of each round in the clinch, and his sheer durability precludes Masvidal from offsetting that control time by hurting him during his brief windows of opportunity.

It’s not like Covington’s lack of one-shot power will allow Masvidal to exclusively focus on takedown defense, either. “Chaos” has developed into a fairly solid volume striker, not one who could beat Masvidal in a straight kickboxing match but one that demands enough respect to set up his dozens of takedown attempts.

None of this is a knock on Masvidal’s abilities; frankly, I’d favor Covington over everybody in the Welterweight division outside of the champ. He grinds Masvidal into the dirt over five frustrating rounds.

Prediction: Covington by unanimous decision

160 lbs.: Rafael Dos Anjos (30-13) vs. Renato “Moicano” Carneiro (16-4-1)

It’s a hilariously inconsequential fear in the grand scheme of things, but I worry that future fight nerds will look at Dos Anjos’ spotty win/loss record in recent years and forget just how awesome he is. The guy happily threw himself into toxic style matchup after toxic style matchup, often as the much smaller fighter during his Welterweight tenure, and tended to impress even in defeat. Hell, he took two of five rounds from Colby Covington, then went on to fight Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards in two of his next three fights.

Luckily, this win should jog people’s memories.

If both men entered this fight on a full training camp, it would be a coin flip. Moicano is a deceptively sharp striker to go along with his killer submission game, and I could definitely see him circling and potshotting Dos Anjos to a three-round decision victory. Unfortunately for him, doing so in a five-round fight on a week’s notice seems a bit trickier.

Even with all of his wear and tear, few fighters can put forth pressure like RDA. He’s too durable for Moicano to put down with one shot and too adept a wrestler for Moicano to control from top position. As a result, Moicano will have to stay active and away from the fence for 25 minutes, all while dealing with top-tier cage-cutting, relentless takedowns, and a bruising attrition style that’s sapped plenty of top-notch fighters before. All with a week’s prep time.

He’s good, but he’s not that good.

While Moicano’s boxing skills should carry him to an early lead, it won’t be terribly long before his legs start to flag and Dos Anjos takes over. Dos Anjos hunts him down and cracks his historically iffy chin with a big left hand in the second half of the fight.

Prediction: Dos Anjos by fourth-round TKO

145 lbs.: Edson “Junior” Barboza (22-10) vs. Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell (14-0)

He might technically be 2-2 in four efforts as a Featherweight, but I do think the cut’s worked out for Barboza. He’s starting to do some real damage with his hands and seems to have somehow maintained his customary speed advantage despite the smaller opposition. It’s unquestionable that he’s the most dangerous striker “Thug Nasty” has ever faced.

Still, how many times have we watched Barboza wilt against ultra-relentless takedown artists? He boasts an impressively stout 78% takedown defense, but his footwork and striking defense consistently fail him when he has to worry about someone getting in on his hips.

I’m not totally convinced the drop to 145 has ameliorated that issue. The most adept takedown artist he’s faced at the weight was Makwan Amirkhani, who downed him on three of six attempts despite having eight minutes of gas and virtually no standup skills to speak of.

That’s not to say he doesn’t have options, though. Outside of the flying knee that stopped Beneil Dariush in his tracks back in the day and his increasingly potent counter-punching, Barboza’s low kicks have the potential to completely neutralize Mitchell’s advance with only a handful of connections. “Thug Nasty” doesn’t historically get hit a lot, but this is Barboza we’re talking about.

Still, if there’s anyone recklessly confident enough to wade through fire, bully Barboza to the fence, and subject him to the same misery he’s struggled with his whole career, it’s Mitchell. Some eye-catching blows from the Brazilian fail to offset Mitchell’s grind.

Prediction: Mitchell by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Kevin “Trail Blazer” Holland (21-7) vs. Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (22-11-1)

There was a time when “Cowboy” Oliveira was legitimately one of the scariest guys in the Welterweight division. His almost Figueiredo-esque blend of reckless violence and underrated grappling produced monstrous finishes of genuinely tough customers like Tim Means, Ryan LaFlare, and Tim Means. Even if it was obvious that he’d never touch a title, he could give just about anyone absolute hell.

That time has passed. He’s 2-6 in his last eight, those two victories uninspiring decisions rather than the lights-out maulings that used to be synonymous with his name. He’s always been a frontrunner, but he seemingly can’t even get in front anymore, certainly not against someone as tricky and durable as Holland. Between “Trail Blazer’s” length and versatility, it seems inevitable that he’ll clip Oliveira once the Brazilian’s gas tank and fighting spirit wane.

There’s definitely an avenue of victory for Oliveira, though, and it’s one he’s been increasingly willing to rely on in recent years: lay-and-pray. Holland hit a wall at 185 because he couldn’t stop a takedown to save his life, a weakness Oliveira has the brute strength and positional grappling skill to exploit if he hasn’t fixed it.

To Holland’s credit, he did a much better job of keeping it standing against Kyle Daukaus than I expected, and not having to deal with physically larger opposition should give him some extra help on that front. I can see Oliveira finding some early grappling success, but once Holland starts landing and his huge edge in cardio shows itself, he’ll take the Brazilian apart.

Prediction: Holland by third-round TKO

265 lbs.: Sergey “Polar Bear” Spivak (13-3) vs. Greg “Prince of War” Hardy (7-4)

The wild thing about the UFC brass’ infatuation with Hardy is that he’s not even that fun to watch. Getting crushed by Tai Tuivasa was the most entertaining thing he’s done in the Octagon, and even his handful of knockout victories left a lot to be desired. Dana White and co. weathered a ton of controversy for a mediocre-at-best Heavyweight who, best as I can tell, has delivered none of the buzz and viewership meant to justify the signing.

It has to be the sunk cost fallacy at this point; there’s zero reason to put him in a pay-per-view opener over guaranteed wars like Marina Rodriguez vs. Yan Xiaonan and Dustin Jacoby vs. Michal Oleksieczjuk. Especially when he’ll probably lose in humiliating fashion.

Hardy definitely hits hard enough to put Spivak out the way Walt Harris and Tom Aspinall did, and he’s a decent-enough defensive wrestler to keep it standing while he’s fresh. Considering how he wilted against Marcin Tybura’s persistent takedown attack, however, it seems terribly unlikely that he can fend fend off Spivak for any length of time.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe getting knocked the hell out will prove the impetus for Hardy to finally live up to his hypothetical potential. You’ll forgive me for not treating that as the likeliest outcome; expect Spivak to survive a hairy first round, drag Hardy to the mat, and start pounding until the ref intervenes.

Prediction: Spivak by third-round TKO

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 272 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 272: “Covington vs. Masvidal” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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