SPORT | May 7, 2020

UFC 249: Preview and Predictions


This weekend the UFC returns with a behind closed doors pay per view from Jacksonville, Florida. As there have been so many cancelled cards due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this has resulted in UFC 249 being stacked top to bottom with great fights. You’ll be able to catch all the action from 1am Sunday morning on BT Sport.

Let’s get down to business, I’m going to break down each fight, starting with the prelims and give my predictions on what the outcome will be.

Jacaré Souza vs Uriah Hall

A must win fight for both men, Jacare has lost 4 of his last 6 fights including his ill-fated light heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz. At 40 years of age Jacaré must be thinking about hanging up his gloves in the near future and if he can’t find a way past the number 10 ranked middleweight Hall, then we might not see too much more of Souza. Uriah Hall has on the other hand won his last 2 fights and seems to have hit a bit of form, always dangerous with his lethal unorthodox striking (look up his KO of Adam Cella on “The Ultimate Fighter”). Personally I think Jacaré takes this, I feel he still has something left in the tank and Uriah has always struggled in fights against more accomplished fighters.

Jacaré Souza via 2nd Round TKO

Carla Esparza vs Michelle Waterson

This fight is all about how Michelle Waterson reacts to the most devastating loss of her career. She was lined up for a Strawweight title shot before her lopsided loss to Joanna Jędrzejczyk and it will be interesting to see how Waterson looks as she attempts to rebound from such a devastating loss. She has a tough fight in store for her as she faces inaugural UFC Strawweight champion Carla Esparza. This will be an incredibly tight fight but I feel like Waterson will have just enough to get it done.

Michelle Waterson via Split Decision

Aleksei Oleinik vs Fabricio Werdum

It’s great to see former UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum back in the octagon. He’s welcomed back by 72 fight veteran Aleksei Oleinik, in what is going to be a battle of the elite grapplers. Both men’s ground game is unparalleled in the Heavyweight division, so in fights like this, it usually comes down to the weaknesses in both fighters. Although not incredibly high level, Werdum’s striking can cause people problems. Oleinik’s on the other hand is below average to put it nicely, so that’s why I see Werdum doing some damage on the feet and then taking it to the ground and getting the submission victory.

Fabricio Werdum via 2nd round Submission

Donald Cerrone vs Anthony Pettis

This is a tough one to call. We have two fighters who are almost certainly in the twilight of their careers but who can pull out a highlight reel victory from nowhere. Definitely earmarked by many as a fight of the night candidate, this fight sees both men coming off a string of losses, 3 in Cowboys case and 2 for Pettis. It really is a coin flip for this fight, with either fighter capable of taking the W, but I‘m going to pick Cowboy to avenge his 2013 loss to Pettis.

Donald Cerrone via Unanimous Decision

Greg Hardy vs Yorgan De Castro

Not too much to go over here. We have two large power punching heavyweights. De Castro is the greener of the two at this level, with only one fight in the UFC thus far compared to former NFL defensive end Hardy’s five. I’m picking solely on who will have had the better preparation and I believe Hardy who trains out of American Top Team, will be the better prepared.

Greg Hardy via 1st round KO

Jeremy Stephens vs Calvin Kattar

Another fight definitely in the running for fight of the night. We have Jeremy Stephens (Yes the “Who the f*** is that guy” guy) taking on Calvin Kattar. Two fighters are of similar age but at very different stages of their careers. Stephens a UFC veteran with vicious knockout power may be coming to the end of a lengthy career, amassing a crazy 15-16 record in the UFC. Kattar on the other hand is still relatively young in his UFC career, with a record of 4-2. His last fight against Zabit Magomedsharipov despite being a loss, earned him many plaudits for his performance against a fighter who is tipped to wear UFC gold in the near future. Much like Cerrone vs Pettis this one could go either way but I’m going to pick Kattar to come out on top in this fire fight.

Calvin Kattar via 2nd round TKO

Francis Ngannou vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik

I hesitate to say this as I know it has been said about so many fights which retrospectively been terrible but there is absolutely no way this one goes to the judges. Both men in a combined 14 UFC fights have 12 finishes, the only non-finishes coming in Ngannou’s two losses. With both men being two of the biggest hitters in combat sports today, this is guaranteed to be fireworks (crosses fingers). As for the winner, I believe Francis gets it done. I feel over the past couple of years his game has become more rounded and despite winning, I wasn’t overly impressed with Rozenstruik’s performance against Alistair Overeem in his last outing.

Francis Ngannou via 1st round KO

Henry Cejudo vs Dominick Cruz

Dominick Cruz coming back from a long injury layoff to possibly recapture the UFC Bantamweight Championship, sound familiar? This is a similar story to 2016 when Cruz game back from injury hell to regain his championship against T.J Dillashaw. This time he’ll have to outclass “Triple C” himself Henry Cejudo. The doubleweight champion and Olympic Gold medallist is unarguably one of the best pound for pound fighters on the planet right now and Cruz will have to recapture his absolute peak to come out victorious on Sunday morning. Personally I feel this is just too big of an ask. Cejudo is on an absolute tear right now and after nearly 3 and a half years away from the octagon, I question if we’re going to see the best version of Dominick Cruz.

Henry Cejudo via Unanimous Decision

Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje

After Tony vs Khabib fell through for what felt like the 100th time, fight fans everywhere were pretty crestfallen. If there was one fight though that could soften the blow it’s Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje. Tony has amassed a ridiculous 12 fight win streak making him the consensus challenger to the lightweight crown. While Justin Gaethje is a walking post fight bonus. With 6 fights in the UFC, all have had either a fight of the night bonus or a performance of the night bonus for Gaethje. Although my head says that Tony is the better fighter I can’t discount the punching power and chin on Justin Gaethje which will definitely make this very dangerous fight for Tony. I still feel Tony finds a way here and finishes Justin to become the two time UFC Interim Lightweight Champion.

Tony Ferguson via 3rd Round TKO

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