UFC 292 Predictions

UFC 292 takes place on Saturday night in Boston and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.

Main Card

Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley

Bantamweight champion Sterling will show up on Saturday night in Boston hoping to secure his 10th consecutive victory and 4th title defense in a row. He’s facing O’Malley, who earned his shot by defeating former champion Yan in a close split decision, improving his UFC record to 8-1 (+1nc) in the process.

Sterling is a highly versatile MMA fighter who can compete well wherever the action goes. He’s not as dangerous on the feet as he is on the ground, but he has good technical skills and compensates for his lack of power with a high output and the constant threat of takedowns as he is adept at timing his entries. Sterling is a very good wrestler and his grappling control is an essential component of his game, being particularly good at taking and keeping his opponent’s back for extended periods, while he’s also a submission threat too.

And Sterling will surely be looking to make the most of his advantage on the mat in this fight as O’Malley is a very talented striker. O’Malley has a 4″ height and 1″ reach advantage over Sterling, and though he’s not an imposing physical presence his record and highlight-reel speaks for itself, featuring a slew of impressive finishes.  He achieves that with a mix of speed, vision, timing and precision in his punches and head kicks that can end a fight out of nowhere.

O’Malley does have a weakness in defending leg kicks though and I’d expect that to be a main angle of attack on the feet for Sterling, but nevertheless I still think the champ’s main priority will be to exploit O’Malley’s less tha stellar takedown defense and ground game.

O’Malley’s potent striking advantage means he definitely has a chance here, especially in the early rounds, but I think it is more likely that Sterling won’t allow him to get comfortable on the feet and will instead take him down and stay there for prolonged spells until he finds a 2nd round submission finish.

Pick: Aljamain Sterling wins by submission in Rd2.

Zhang Weili vs. Amanda Lemos

Weili became the women’s strawweight champion for the second time in her career in November of last year and now faces Lemos, who has finished her last two opponents.

Weili’s striking is a strong suit, blending punches and kicks together well in a high-volume style with considerable power. She also moves well and has excellent cardio and is very durable. The champ’s all-round ability continues to shine when she works for takedowns and controls the action on top, opening up opportunities for her hard-hitting ground-and-pound and a submission threat too.

Meanwhile, Lemos is an impressive striker with good technique and devastating power in her hands. She is fierce but precise with her attacks, but she has never fought beyond the third round, so her gas tank could be challenged by Weili’s pace and gas tank.

Lemos is capable on the mat, but I think Weili will have the advantage there, and while she may not be as hard-hitting on the feet as the challenger, I think she can still compete there. Together With her cardio and ability to maintain the intensity for five tough rounds I’m taking Weili to win on the scorecards here.

Pick: Zhang Weili to win by decision.

Ian Machado Garry vs. Neil Magny

Garry has been making a name for himself in the UFC as an undefeated prospect with a 12-0 record, including five wins inside the UFC octagon.  He now fights an experienced veteran in Magny, who stepped in on short notice to replace Geoff neal after going 3-2 in his last five outings.

The 25-year-old Garry, is a tall and athletic welterweight who has impressed with his slick kickboxing and knockout instincts. He faced a step up in competition against Daniel Rodriguez in his previous fight and aced the test, stopping him with a head kick TKO in the first round. As such he is riding high on a wave of confidence, but he still has some holes in his striking defense and his ground game has not been fully challenged yet.

The 36-year-old Magny is a well-rounded and durable fighter. He does not have much stopping power in his strikes and is not a great finisher on the mat either, but he has proven to be very successful at winning on the scorecards, having only lost twice in 19 fights that went to a decision.  He’s aided by good stamina and a flexible approach that uses his jack-of-all-trades ability to fight where his opponents are weakest. He can be outclassed by higher-level fighters on the feet or on the ground though, and he does appear to be getting less resilient at this stage in his career.

Magny could play spoiler here by trying to grind out a win from the clinch or on the mat, but in the end I think he will struggle with Garry’s striking abilities, and I’m not convinced his chin will hold up to the younger, faster man’s power, leading to a 2nd round TKO defeat.

Pick: Ian Garry win by TKO In Rd2.

Marlon Vera vs. Pedro Munhoz

Vera saw his four-fight winning streak snapped by Cory Sandhagen via split-decision last time out while Munhoz is coming off a victory and a draw in his last two appearances.

Vera has had a knack for big comebacks in the UFC and has shown impressive stopping power in his hands and feet at times.  However, while his patience has often paid off, last time out against Sandhagen he just seemed hesitant and let the fight pass him by. The 30-year-old will be eager to bounce back on Saturday night and he has some immediate advantages over his opponent, being 6-years younger and having 2″ of height and 5.5″ of reach over him. He will use that to his advantage with good striking from range, as well as being effective in the clinch and on the ground via submissions too.

Munhoz has only won two of his last seven fights, but he faced tough competition during that losing streak. He has something in common with Vera in that both have never been finished by strikes or submissions, but that being said he has taken a lot of damage over the years and that could catch up with him eventually. The similarities don’t stop there as like Vera he also has powerful leg kicks and will also threaten with submissions on the mat.

However, Munoz lacks Vera’s knockout power, patience and ability to snipe from range, instead preferring to get into closer quarters and apply lots of pressure from start to finish.

Munhoz is a fast-starter and could outwork Vera if he’s hesitant, but I think ‘Chito’ will be eager to make up for his last performance and will show more urgency in this fight, and he’ll find his opponent to be quite hittable.  However, while a finish is possible, given Munhoz’s durability I’ll say Vera eventually settles for landing the more damaging offense to emerge victorious on the scorecards.

Pick: Marlon Vera to win by decision.

Mario Bautista vs. Da’Mon Blackshear

Blackshear steps in as a late replacement for the injured Garbrandt against Bautista just a week after he registered only the 3rd  ‘twister’ submission in UFC history.

That was a big win and took less than a round to deliver, but it’s still a risk to take another fight so soon, particularly as it means having to cut weight twice in the space of a week.

Blackshear is a good wrestler, has finished nine of his 14 career victories via submission and has a slight height and reach advantage on the feet to compliment his capable striking.

Bautista is also in fine form, having won his last four fights in the UFC, and though he doesn’t have a twister on his resume he’s stopped his last three opponents inside the 1st round via submission. He’s a talented wrestler too and is aggressive on the feet, looking to throw big flurries while also threatening with dynamic strikes like flying knees.

All things considered this is a well-matched fight, but I never like the idea of a fighter cutting weight twice in a short space of time and I think bautista will have the wrestling edge and push a harder pace on the feet to battle his way to a decision victory.

Pick: Mario Bautista wins by decision.

Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)

Chris Weidman vs. Brad Tavares
Gregory Rodrigues vs. Denis Tiuliulin
Austin Hubbard vs. Kurt Holobaugh
Andre Petroski vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Andrea Lee vs. Natalia Silva
Karine Silva vs. Maryna Moroz

Ross launched MMA Insight (previously FightOfTheNight.com) in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.