UFC 245: A Trilogy of Title Fights — Keys to Victory

Labelling the upcoming UFC 245 card, set to take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend, as stacked would be an understatement.

Saturday is packed top to bottom with what promises to be an enthralling night of fights, but undoubtedly, the spotlight is shining the brightest on the three title fights at the top which may very well shatter the promotion’s pay-per-view record, for the year at least.

The trilogy of championship showdowns set to take place on this card are all intriguing in their own ways. At the top of the bill there is the ultimate grudge match between Welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, who will look to defend his belt for the first time, and the outspoken, and some may say controversial, Colby Covington. Who doesn’t like a fight between two of the very best mixed martial artists with bad blood? This bout has showtime written all over it.

Then, Max “Blessed” Holloway is back, this time in the co-main event slot, and ready to continue his pursuit of Featherweight G.O.A.T status in a blockbusting duel against the always dangerous Aussie, Alexander Volkanovski. This will be Holloway’s fourth title defense, and this time it comes against an unpredictable enigma with a 7-0 UFC record.

Speaking of G.O.A.T status, the arguably greatest female fighter to ever do it will kick the triple threat off with a title defense of her own, as Amanda Nunes is set to take on Germaine de Randamie. Nunes’ greatness is all but set in stone already, but she seems more determined than ever to defend both of her belts after comfortably dispatching of Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm in her last two outings, and decorated muay Thai specialist in de Randamie will look to cause the ultimate upset in her first crack at the 135-pound gold.

Keys to Victory

Usman vs. Covington

This is going to be a good one. But it’s almost difficult to predict how the action may unfold. It could really go anywhere. Both fighters are extremely tough and durable, and they both like to stick to what they are good at — which is their wrestling. Usman and Covington both relentlessly play to their strengths in their fights, and just because they wrestle a lot doesn’t mean they aren’t entertaining. It just means that perhaps a stoppage is not the likeliest of outcomes for this bout. All but one of Usman’s UFC victories have come via decision. The reigning champ is 9-0 in the UFC, and his sole stoppage was a KO of Sergio Moraes back in 2017.

Make no mistake, Usman carries power and can strike. But as he showed in the masterclass against Woodley, wrestling is his bread and butter. Covington is very similar, although he started his promotional career with more of a bang. Four of his first five UFC wins came by way of stoppage as he got off to a 5-1 start, but his last five have been decisions, and very dominant ones at that.

It would be easy to sit here and predict that whoever can impose their wrestling better here will be the victor, but as often seen with grudge matches, that might not be the case either. Sometimes the screws can’t handle the pressure that raw emotions bring, and these two fierce competitors may very well throw all game-plans out the window and start swinging for the fences in order to make a statement. But as keys to victory go, the grappling will probably be the deciding factor.

Both guys are tough, and any early striking exchanges may be used as a way of getting an edge in the opening sequences, but over five rounds, whoever can nail their transitions and set up their takedowns will likely come out on top. Whichever way it goes, it’s going to be great to finally see these two locked in the cage together and how their wrestling backgrounds play into their respective tactics.

Holloway vs. Volkanovski

It’s difficult to go for anything but a Holloway win as the outcome of this one. And this is with no disrespect to Volkanovski or his talent, but “Blessed” has just established himself as such a killer in that 145-pound division, that it feels not wise to bet against him. How Holloway controls the distance and uses his size against usually smaller opponents, as will be the case on Saturday too, is simply exceptional. The Hawaiian epitomizes the “hit and don’t get hit” boxing motto. The reigning champ has been erasing contender after contender during his five year unbeaten streak at Featherweight, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Volkanovski can pose a real threat and ask questions of Holloway in his first career title shot.

With the way Holloway controls distance and picks his shots, landing strikes at a 45 percent clip while boasting a significant strike defense rate of 63 percent, it’s going to be crucial for the smaller fighter in Volkanovski to cut the distance and force the champ to engage in close exchanges. Having beaten Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo, fighters of similar physique to him, in his last two outings, it’s going to be interesting to see how Volkanovski adapts to Holloway’s style and length. With all that being said, it feels like this fight has a classic, dominant Holloway performance written all over it.

Nunes vs. De Randamie 

We all saw how “The Lioness” has dealt with gifted strikers in the past, and it feels like her power and aggressiveness may very well be too much for De Randamie on Saturday, too. The fact that De Randamie opted to vacate her Featherweight belt after becoming the first ever UFC champion in that division rather than fight Cris Cyborg is also a little worrying. Was it the pressure of fighting someone of Cyborg’s stature? Was it her power? Only De Randamie knows the real reason for what happened, but after seeing how Nunes steamrolled past the then most dominant female fighter ever does not fill me with confidence for the Dutch contender.

Nunes simply seems to have all the answers every time she fights. And this is all without her ever needing to resort to her Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. And the chances of De Randamie shooting for a good old fashioned double leg are very unlikely, so we probably won’t see the champ’s ground game in action in this one either. But for what it’s worth, “The Iron Lady” is confident in her striking, as she should be, and feels like Nunes will not want to stand with her after feeling her out in the early exchanges. It’s going to be interesting how that materializes, because the power with which Nunes hits may also change De Randamie’s game plan once she gets hit. Either way, this fight is likely going to be resolved on the feet, and it’s near impossible to look past Nunes getting another stoppage in this one on the way to her fifth title defense at 135.




Sports journalist based in CA, USA. Twitter: @ArionArmeniakos

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