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UFC 245 predictions: Expect at least one new champion

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

LAS VEGAS — The ties that bind Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington are remarkable. Each has wrestling as a base and each enters their title fight with a 15-1 professional record.

Usman defeated Warlley Alves, the only man to defeat Covington. Covington defeated Jose Caceres, the only man to defeat Usman. Each man has defeated Rafael dos Anjos and Demian Maia.

They were expected to fight each other four previous times in their careers, but each time the fight did not occur. But on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in the main event of UFC 245, Covington will challenge Usman for the welterweight title in the biggest fight of either of their lives.

The animosity that exists between them is deep and is real. UFC president Dana White noted how even the two are statistically.

“There’s definitely bad blood in that one and that fight’s legit as legit can be,” White said

Usman was brilliant in dismantling Tyron Woodley to win the championship in March, overwhelming Woodley with wrestling and winning all five rounds to become the UFC’s first African-born champion.

Covington, though, has been no less impressive recently. He’s coming off a blowout of Robbie Lawler in which the fight was expected to be close.

The difference between them could come down to conditioning. Usman looks to be in magnificent condition, but Covington has an incredible gas tank and he’s able to push the pace in a fight like few others in the UFC.

Usman is a 9/5 favorite at the MGM Grand, but I’m picking Covington, who is plus-150, to win a close decision.

(L-R) Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington face off during the UFC 245 press conference at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 1, 2019, in New York. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Can Volkanovski end Holloway’s featherweight run?

Alexander Volkanovski has everything one would want to win a world championship. He’s a physically big man for the division, he’s quick, he was once a Greco-Roman wrestler and he hits hard.

He’s coming off an impressive victory over Jose Aldo and he knocked out Chad Mendes in his bout before that. He’s also won 17 in a row and is 20-1 in his career.

He will challenge Max Holloway for the featherweight title in the co-main event of UFC 245. Holloway is one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best and hasn’t lost at featherweight since he was decisioned by Conor McGregor in 2013.

Holloway has the takedown defense he’ll need and his output and accuracy figure to cause Volkanovski problems. He is patient and understands how to break down an opponent.

Volkanovski’s best chance would be to take Holloway down, but that’s not easy to do, and turn it into a physical contest.

Volkanovski is plus-150 at the MGM Grand and it would be no shock if he were to pull this off. But Holloway is as good as there has been in this weight class, and I suspect his striking will lead him to a unanimous decision victory.

Will Nunes keep her streak alive?

The first of the three title fights on the show will be the women’s bantamweight title bout between champion Amanda Nunes and kickboxer Germaine de Randamie. They met in 2013 and it wasn’t much of a bout. Nunes dragged de Randamie to the ground and beat her up with hammer fists and elbows before referee Herb Dean stepped in to halt it.

De Randamie said she wasn’t as committed to MMA then as she is now, but she faces a huge uphill battle in this fight. Nunes has won nine in a row and has beaten flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko twice, as well as Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm, among others, during that streak.

Nunes is also the far more well-rounded fighter. She has black belts in karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in judo. She’s the most powerful female striker in the UFC and has knockout power in both hands.

She’s also a great kicker, as she showed by knocking out Holm in the first round in her last fight, and she can fight on the ground, if needed, as she proved in the first de Randamie bout.

De Randamie’s best hope is that Nunes opts to stand and trade with her, but Nunes is too smart for that.

Look for Nunes to have a diverse attack and be able to finish de Randamie again.

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