The UFC’s final pay-per-view show of 2019 is all set to serve up a triple-header of world title fights, with Kamaru Usman, Max Holloway and Amanda Nunes all set to put their championship belts on the line in Las Vegas this weekend.
We reckon all three champions have got what it takes to come out of Saturday night’s huge show at the T-Mobile Arena with their championship status intact, but for at least two of them, it could prove to be a long, gruelling night at the office.
Usman to shut down relentless Covington
Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington are both cut from similar cloth in terms of their fighting styles.
Both were outstanding wrestling prospects during their college days, and both have transitioned superbly to the world of mixed martial arts and powered their way up the UFC’s 170-pound welterweight division.
But to say the pair don’t get along would be a colossal understatement.
Covington has adopted a faux pro-wrestler persona, as a Trump-loving, trash-talking would-be champion, and his comments have riled up the UFC fanbase to such an extent that the boos are likely to be deafening when he walks to the cage on fight night.
But while his persona is certainly an irritation for some, it’s gotten much more personal with Usman, and after invoking the name of the champion’s former manager, who died of a suspected heart attack last year, Covington has stepped over the line of what’s considered acceptable in the build-up to a fight.
It means the tension between the pair is palpable whenever they’re in the same room, and that tension will finally boil over on fight night. Covington’s gas tank is a formidable one, but Usman is the more powerful athlete, and that strength and power may prove to be the difference-maker on fight night.
If he can avoid getting too worked up in the opening two rounds, Usman has the game to nullify Covington’s own wrestling threat and win the exchanges on the feet to retain his title.
Both men know all about going to a decision – Usman has gone to the scorecards in eight of his last nine outings, while Covington’s last five fights have all gone to the judges.
It will almost certainly need all five rounds, and Usman getting the nod on the scorecards.
Bet of the Bout: Kamaru Usman to win by points – 11/10
Five-round experience the key for ‘Blessed’
Things are likely to go the distance in the night’s co-main event, too, as Hawaii’s Max Holloway puts his featherweight strap on the line against the relentless Australian contender Alexander Volkanovski.
Volkanovski has the skillset to pose arguably the trickiest threat to Holloway’s title in quite some time, but the five-round duration may well prove to be Holloway’s friend during the contest.
Holloway has a solid chin, and an outstanding gas tank, and that, along with his perceived speed advantage, should hold him in good stead against Volkanovski, who will have to work his way through the champion’s punches to land shots of his own and initiate the takedown attempts that are sure to form a significant part of his game-plan.
But Holloway has the skills to dictate where the fight goes, and I expect him to use his superior striking to outbox Volkanovski through the full five rounds and claim a relatively wide decision win on the scorecards.
Bet of the Bout: Max Holloway to win by points – 8/5
Nunes’ power to prevail once again
While we reckon the two men’s world title fights are likely to go all the way to the judges, we’re more confident of a stoppage in the third title fight of the night, as two-division UFC women’s champion Amanda Nunes returns to action against former featherweight champ Germaine de Randamie.
Dutch striker de Randamie is undoubtedly dangerous, especially in the clinch, but against Nunes, who will likely be much bigger and stronger than her on fight night, she’s unlikely to get much opportunity to use her top-drawer Muay Thai skills at close range.
That’s because Nunes loves to power-strike from distance, and her punch power has only gotten more potent over the course of her last few fights.
She destroyed Ronda Rousey, battered Cris Cyborg and head-kick KO’d Holly Holm to cement her place as the most devastating striker in women’s MMA history. And the woman widely considered to be the female GOAT of the sport will get the chance to claim her second win over de Randamie, who she defeated by first-round TKO back in 2013.
“The Iron Lady” will no doubt have plans of her own to shock the world and stun the Brazilian world champion, but it’s impossible to back against “The Lioness” in this matchup.
Nunes is Evens to win the fight by KO/TKO, but the 5/1 on Nunes to get the stoppage in the second round looks like excellent value, and also allows for her to finish the fight by submission OR knockout.
Bet of the Bout: Amanda Nunes to win in round 2 – 5/1
* All odds correct at time of posting.