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Kamaru Usman v Colby Covington (December 14)
An undisputed welterweight champion will be determined on Saturday night, but will Kamaru Usman enjoy a first successful defence of his UFC crown or will former interim champion Colby Covington back up his trash talk by claiming the throne in the 170lb division? Usman ended the welterweight reign of Tyron Woodley back in March to extend his win streak to 14 fights, while Covington secured his shot at the gold in August when he bested former champion Robbie Lawler over five rounds to take his own win streak to seven fights. Both men are in fine form and as fighters they are cut from the same cloth too – they are both outstanding wrestlers with great cardio and good but not world class striking. That makes this fight a very tough one to call, but I find myself leaning towards Usman having his hand raised here, mainly because of his excellent takedown defence. Covington may have a better takedown ratio, but no man has been able to get the champion to the mat since he arrived in the UFC and in this time he has taken on the likes of Tyron Woodley, Rafael dos Anjos and Demian Maia. This is a huge issue for Covington because he is not a great striker – the threat of being taken down is always in his opponent’s mind and that means they leave themselves susceptible to his rather crude approach to striking. Usman will have no such concerns – he is a huge and powerful welterweight who could not be taken to the canvas by somebody as talented as Woodley, so the chances are if this fight hits the mat it is because the champion has taken it there. So if Covington’s biggest threat is erased, how can he win this fight? He needs Usman to lose his cool. While Covington may not have mastered the striking game he has certainly mastered the use of his mouth with his nauseating trash talk getting into the heads of previous opponents. If he has got into Usman’s head then we could see the Nigerian make silly mistakes that Covington can pounce on, but I am backing the champion to keep his composure and get the job done with the aid of the judges’ scorecards after a five-round scrap.
Max Holloway v Alexander Volkanovski (December 14)
Max Holloway may have come up short in his quest to become a two-weight world champion earlier this year, but he bounced back to cement his status as the number one featherweight on the planet by beating Frankie Edgar back in July and he will now look to make it back-to-back wins to close out the year when he faces Alexander Volkanovski on Saturday night. For many Volkanovski will provide Holloway with his toughest 145lb outing to date. The 31-year-old Australian is 7-0 since arriving in the UFC and he goes into this bout on the back of wins over ex-champion Jose Aldo and former title contender Chad Mendes. He is a top-notch wrestler but the key factor here could be the finishing power he possesses in the stand-up game. We all know that Holloway has no issues getting involved in a stand-up war and he is more than willing to rely on his chin to take shots in order to land them. That is a dangerous game against somebody like Volkanovski who can scramble your senses with one big bomb, but ultimately it is still very difficult to go against a man who has simply dominated this division in recent years. Holloway is an outstanding striker, so good he was able to give Brian Ortega some tips mid-fight, and he attacks at speed with excellent combinations and flurries of shots that knock the steam out of his opponents. He will not break Volkanovski here and finish him, but this trademark approach will help him successfully navigate the deficit in reach, and earn him the nod from the judges after five full rounds.
Amanda Nunes v Germaine de Randamie (December 14)
Amanda Nunes needed less than a round to take out Germane de Randamie when they met just over six years ago, and since that night I have seen nothing from either fighter to suggest that we will see a different result this time around. Nunes has cemented her status as the queen of MMA over the past 12 months by destroying Cris Cyborg in 51 seconds to become a two-weight champion and halting Holly Holm in less than a round to successfully defend her bantamweight crown in July, and she will once again overwhelm de Randamie to take her out in swift fashion.