UFC 269 is the promotion’s final pay-per-view card of 2021 and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier
The UFC’s lightweight champion Oliveira also has the distinction of having the most finishes in the promotion’s history (17), most submission wins (14) and most performance bonuses (11) as he now looks to make the first defense of his title while attempting to extend his current unbeaten run to 10 fights.
Despite those accolades, former interim 155lb champ Poirier could make a strong case that he’s got a stronger resume in terms of fight competition, having racked up wins over the likes of Conor McGregor (twice), Max Holloway, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis and Dan Hooker over the past four years alone.
There’s an embarrassment of riches here in terms of the skills that both men possess, leaving the fight very much on a knife-edge in terms of who will come out on top. Poirier’s strongest suit is his striking, being an intelligent, high-volume technician on the feet who can maintain that pace for the full five rounds, but also has the power to find a finish beforehand and the heart to overcome moments of adversity.
Oliveira seems more confident than ever in his own stand-up ability too however, providing a significant threat with his muay thai skills, and his naturally dynamic and creative offense always makes him a handful to deal with. On the other hand though he’s not as active offensively as Poirier and we have seen him being stopped by talented strikers in the past.
Of course where Oliveira excels almost without equal is on the mat as he is an exceptional submission specialist who will relentlessly pursue a finish as soon as the fight hits the mat, whether he’s on top or fighting off his back. Poirier is very capable grappler in his own right, but there are levels to the game and so he can’t afford to spend too much time in ‘Do Bronx’ world on the canvas.
Needless to say there’s a strong case for either fighter to emerge victorious here, but by the narrowest of margins I’m leaning towards Poirier as I think he can keep this fight mostly in the stand-up department and as the more efficient and active striker he will find openings to hurt Oliveira and then finish him with a flurry of strikes in the second round.
Pick: Dustin Poirier wins by TKO in Rd2.
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena
Former TUF winner Pena faces a daunting challenge here as she attempts to overcome the greatest female fighter in the sport in Nunes, who has yet to find her equal during her title reigns at both bantamweight and featherweight in recent years.
Pena’s recent resume doesn’t suggest that she’s the one to change that given that she’s only 2-2 in her last four Octagon outings, but to be fair to her she does have wins over notable competition like former flyweight champ Nicco Montano and title contenders like Sara McMann, Cat Zingano and Jessica Eye during her UFC run.
Pena certainly believes strongly in her own abilities and she’s at her best when she’s using her offensive grappling to bully opponents to the mat and control the action while seeking submission opportunities.
That’s going to be very hard to achieve here though as while Nunes is best known for her fast razor-sharp and destructive striking ability that far eclipses anything Pena has to offer on the feet, ‘The Lioness’ is also just as much of a predator on the mat, hunting for submissions from wherever she finds herself.
That could well spell trouble for Pena as she has weaknesses in her grappling defense and even let a striker like Germaine de Randamie secure the first submission win of her career a little over a year ago.
In the end though I think that Nunes won’t even have to flex her submission ablities here as I feel she’s going to have too much firepower for Pena to handle in the early striking exchanges, which will lead her to a first round TKO victory.
Pick: Amanda Nunes wins by TKO in Rd1
Geoff Neal vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
After compiling a seven-fight winning streak, Neal has come unstuck this year with two defeats in a row against Stephen Thompson and Neil Magny, while Ponzinibbio came off a two-year layoff in January and promptly saw his own seven-fight unbeaten stretch come to an end via a KO defeat against Li Jingliang, but has since secured a decision win against Miguel Baeza.
Expect a heating striking battle to develop here as Neal will look to press forward and apply pressure while demonstrating his big punching power, which likely won’t deter Ponzinibbio, who will be eager to unleash the full extent of his own offensive arsenal and has proven many times that he too has fight-ending capability
I do feel that Neal has the bigger one-punch ability here, but Ponzibbio is the better overall striker and is more adept at crafting potent combinations that can cut through his opponent’s defense, while he also has more to offer on the mat too if that ever becomes a consideration here.
I feel it’ll be Ponzinibbio’s swarming attacks that will put Neal on the back foot though and stifle his own offensive output, leading the Argentinian to a decision victory.
If there is any time spent on the mat then Ponzinibbio also holds the edge in that regard too, but I think his swarming attacks on the feet will throw Neal off his own game, leading him to a decision victory.
Pick: Santiago Ponzinibbio wins by decision.
Kai Kara-France vs. Cody Garbrandt
Garbrandt’s unexpectedly swift decline in the sport in recent years has seen him going from dominating Dominick Cruz in a stunning bantamweight title win back in 2016 only to then lose four of his next five fights, including two brutal KO losses and a TKO.
Now the 30-year-old is trying to wipe the slate clean by dropping down to flyweight, where his first test will be against Kara-France, who is coming in off a 2-2 run, including a KO win against Rogerio Bontorin earlier in the year.
Despite his defeats it’s easy to recall why Garbrandt was once at the summit of the bantamweight peak as at his best he’s a highly-skilled boxer with terrific speed and big knockout power, while also having good wrestling too.
However, Garbrandt’s mental game can often let him down at crucial moments, becoming overly aggressive and hot-headed in pursuit of a big finish, which leaves him compromised defensively and has cost him dearly in big fights and now in his ability to take a punch. As such it also leaves a big question mark hanging over him in terms of how both his body and his chin will stand up to dropping down a weight-class for the first time.
He’s also facing a talented striker in his own right in Kara-France, who is coming off a big finish in his last fight, though he’s not typically known to be as heavy-handed as Garbrandt. He does pack a punch though and will adopt a high-volume approach that’ll see him utilize kicks alongside his punches more than his opponent and has a 3.5″ reach advantage here, despite giving up 4″ in height.
it’s certainly tempting to pick Garbrandt here as he still remains a major talent offensively, but I just have too many concerns here after his big knockout losses, multiple injury setbacks and now making a tough cut down to flyweight that I fear might only add to his issues. Even if he gets the better of the early action I think Kara-France’s own striking will keep things competitive and will eventually see Garbrandt get caught and TKO’d in the second round.
Pick: Kai Kara-France wins by TKO in Rd2.
Raulian Paiva vs. Sean O’Malley
O’Malley comes into this fight off back-to-back victories as he continues to live up to the hype, but Paiva will look to de-rail that as he seeks his fourth win in a row in the main card opener.
Though he’s marketed himself well, O’Malley is also backing up his words with action in the Octagon and has been repeatedly racking up highlight-reel finishes, with his last four wins all coming by either KO or TKO.
O’Malley is big for the weight class and will have a 3″ height and 2.5″ reach advantage over Paiva, but it’s also his speed, timing and accuracy that have been key components in his ability to end fights inside the distance so far during his career.
Paiva doesn’t have the same stopping power as O’Malley, having only earned four wins via strikes in 21 career victories to date, but he is a solid technical striker in his own right and will be looking to go the long route and outland his opponent over the course of three rounds to secure a win here.
I don’t see that happening however as I believe O’Malley’s size and power, combined with his penchant for picking the right punch at the right time will deliver a second round TKO finish here.
Pick: Sean O’Malley wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Josh Emmett vs. Dan Ige
Dominick Cruz vs. Pedro Munhoz
Augusto Sakai vs. Tai Tuivasa
Jordan Wright vs. Bruno Silva
André Muniz vs. Eryk Anders
Erin Blanchfield vs. Miranda Maverick
Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell
Ryan Hall vs. Darrick Minner
Randy Costa vs. Tony Kelley
Gillian Robertson vs. Priscila Cachoeira