UFC 272 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Colby Covington
This fight features one of the most deeply personal rivalries we’ve seen in the Octagon over the years as these two former training partners turned bitter rivals finally clash in the Octagon with their reputations, pride and standing in the promotion at stake.
It feels like there’s more pressure on Masvidal in particular here as while he rose to a whole new level of stardom following a stand-out three fight winning streak a few years ago, he’s since suffered two losses in a row in which he was dominated by current champion Kamaru Usman, with the first seeing him manhandled on the mat, while the second was more unexpected as he suffered the first clean KO loss of his career. Covington also holds two losses to Usman, but he was more competitive overall.
So a third loss in a row for Masvidal would be a bitter pill to swallow and may damage his box-office credibility, and the unfortunate truth is that stylistically this feels like another tough match-up for him, as though he is actually better on the mat than he’s sometimes given credit for, he is going up against another dominant wrestler in Covington, who like Usman has a very good chance of putting him on the mat and keeping him there.
On the feet Masvidal is unquestionably the slicker, more technical striker, with his boxing ability always having been a strong aspect of his game. In the past he was more of a point-fighter, looking to just counter his opponent’s work, but his rise to fame and fortune really began when he shed his more cautious, defensive sensibilities and started becoming more aggressive, leading to some stunning finishes.
Covington has improved his own striking ability over time and likes to impose a volume and pressure-heavy approach, but he doesn’t have his rival’s stopping power and if he has to spend too long upright with Masvidal he’ll have to count on his durability more than he’d like.
Nevertheless, I do feel that Covington’s wrestling advantage is going to give him a big edge in this fight and I see him frustrating Masvidal and the crowd by stifling him on the mat for much of the fight to win by decision.
Pick: Colby Covington wins by decision.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Renato Moicano
Originally scheduled to face Rafael Fiziev before he pulled out due to catching Covid, dos Anjos now goes up against Moicano on less than a week’s notice.
It’s only been a few weeks since Moicano’s last fight, which saw him claim his second submission win in a row via rear-naked choke. Those were important victories for him as prior to that he had suffered three losses via strikes in his previous four fights, which had set alarm bells ringing about his ability to take a punch.
It would have been unfortunate if that was the case as Moicano is a talented fighter who doesn’t have much in the way of stopping power on the feet, but is technically proficient, while on the mat he excels with his skilled grappling work that’s led to numerous submission finishes over the years.
RDA is well-rounded too though as you’d expect from a former lightweight champion. For much of the past few years dos Anjos had tried his luck at welterweight with mixed results – starting brightly with a few notable wins, but then slumping to four losses in five fights – though he was never finished inside the distance despite going against some of the top 170lb talents including Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, Leon Edwards and Michael Chiesa.
RDA is better suited to competing back at 155lbs though, and while he is now 37-years-old he’s still a well conditioned fighter who is technically sound enough on the mat to not be afraid of Moicano, while on the feet he is the better, more durable striker and applies pressure well. Throw in the fact that Moicano has had no time to prepare for what’s going to be a five-round fight then it feels like RDA has the advantage here and I’ll take him to win by decision.
Pick: Rafael dos Anjos wins by decision.
Edson Barboza vs. Bryce Mitchell
Barboza comes in off a TKO loss to Giga Chikadze after winning two fights prior to that, while Mitchell is a rising force in the featherweight division with five wins in a row in the UFC so far, leaving him with an undefeated 14-0 record overall.
Barboza has long been considered one of the UFC’s best technical strikers and even though he’s now past his prime at 36 his dynamic attacks of kicks and punches are still fired up with impressive speed and deadly power, while in this bout he’ll have a 1″ height and 5″ reach advantage to work with.
It’s an impressive striking arsenal that Mitchell simply can’t compete with, but nor is he interested in doing so anyway as own stand-up is really just a means to an end as he seeks opportunities to bring the fight down to his world on the canvas where he is a force to be reckoned with due to his high-paced, crafty grappling skills.
Barboza’s striking ability means he always has a chance, but I like Mitchell to doggedly stick to his task to get the Brazilian down and dominate him on the mat to win on the scorecards.
Pick: Bryce Mitchell wins by decision.
Kevin Holland vs. Alex Oliveira
2020 was a huge year for Holland as he went on a five-fight winning streak that marked him as a breakout star, but 2021 proved to be a disaster for him as two dominant decision losses were followed up by a bizarre no-contest fight against Kyle Daukaus in which he was flash KO’d by an accidental clash of heads, only to recover quickly enough that the ref didn’t stop the fight, resulting in him being choked unconscious soon afterwards.
Now he’s looking to wipe the slate clean by dropping down to welterweight after taking time to continue attempting to shore up the shaky takedown defense and mat work that saw him convincingly outgrappled by the likes of Marvin Vettori and Derek Brunson.
His first outing at 170lbs sees him going up against Oliveira, a 34-year-old veteran of the division who has been in many wars over the years, and that appears to be catching up to him as he’s won just two of his last eight fights.
Nevertheless, Oliveira will test Holland as he can mix things up with his hard-hitting offense on the feet being backed up by a willingness to also seek a finish on the mat. He’s not as durable as he once was though and his defensive liabilities on the mat have often came back to haunt him, with several of his losses over the years coming by way of submission.
Holland will be the physically bigger man here, standing 4″ taller than Oliveira together with a 4.5″ reach advantage, and he’ll put that to good use as he’s always been a very effective striker from range who generates real power in his strikes and it’ll be intriguing to see what kind of impact that’ll have in his new weight class.
Oliveira’s willingness to engage with Holland on the feet will prove costly here and even if he does try to grapple he’s not going to have the same dominant success we’ve seen from the high-level wrestlers Holland has struggled with in the past, so I think he’ll secure a stoppage win via strikes here in the second round, if not the first.
Pick: Kevin Holland wins by TKO in Rd2.
Sergey Spivak vs. Greg Hardy
Hardy is now on the final fight of his UFC deal and it’s fair to say that the former disgraced NFL star hasn’t lived up to expectations during his Octagon run so far, going just 4-4 (+1nc), including a TKO and KO loss in his last two outings.
He’s not been handed an easy fight here as though Spivak is coming off a TKO loss to rising star Tom Aspinall last September, he was on a three-fight winning streak beforehand.
Hardy’s boxing has improved over his UFC tenure and it’s an area of this fight that he could find some success here, working behind the jab and looking to back that up with big power shots as Spivak is slower, tends to be a bit awkward in the striking exchanges and his discomfort is most obvious when he’s being pressured.
Hardy will have to be wary of overcommitting to big strikes though as Spivak will be looking for any opportunity to get the fight to the mat where he would have a major advantage with his grappling ability.
If Spivak has some early takedowns stuffed then things could get very uncomfortable for him and he’ll have to be careful not to get caught during his entries too, but I still like him to be able to bring Hardy down and from there it’s only a matter of time before he secures a submission stoppage.
Pick: Sergey Spivak wins by submission in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Jamie Mullarkey vs. Jalin Turner
Yan Xiaonan vs. Marina Rodriguez
Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
Mariya Agapova vs. Maryna Moroz
Brian Kelleher vs. Umar Nurmagomedov
Tim Elliott vs. Tagir Ulanbekov
Erick Gonzalez vs. Devonte Smith
Dustin Jacoby vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk