The biggest fight in heavyweight history is finally here as UFC 252 pulls into the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this weekend.
With Daniel Cormier making the final walk of his career as he looks to reclaim the heavyweight gold against Stipe Miocic, the UFC has filled the undercard with prospects and build-em-up fights rather than stacking the card. There are plenty of good fights on the night and I’ve already made my picks for the prelims, which you can see here.
Last time out, I got 11/12 picks right with 4/11 being perfect picks (winner, round, method) to have a great night. You can see those picks here (main card/prelims). I’ll look to improve on that this time around with this round of predictions.
John Dodson (21-11) vs Merab Dvalishvili (11-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
‘The Magician’ Dodson comes back into the octagon following his big upset knockout win over Nathaniel Wood back in February, while Merab ‘The Machine’ makes a relatively quick turnaround after his decision win over Gustavo Lopez back in June. Dodson is a scramble heavy fighter, very reliant on his big speed advantage and heavy hands. Merab however is a dominant wrestler who’s nickname comes from his ridiculous cardio conditioning. He can go for 30 rounds nevermind 3, and his wrestling is so good that it’s a matter of when not if he gets a takedown. Dodson will of course try to get back to his feet quickly but if Merab can hold him down, then he’ll likely be able to grind out a big decision win.
PICK – Merab Dvalishvili via Unanimous Decision
Herbert Burns (11-2) vs Daniel Pineda (26-13-0 2NC) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Herbert Burns looks to extend his five fight win streak when he takes on veteran Daniel Pineda in his first UFC fight in over six years. Burns earned a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series with a triangle submission win before beating both Evan Dunham and Nate Landwehr in under one round combined. Pineda went 1-4 in his previous UFC run and went on a decent streak following that before a failed drugs test at the end of last year. Burns is an elite jiu-jitsu fighter who is happy to walk forward and throw bombs because his hands are so heavy. Pineda isn’t a pushover but he’s a big submission artist, but he has a big disadvantage on the ground here. Because of that, I can’t see that going anywhere but for a Burns win.
PICK – Herbert Burns via Submission, Round 2
Junior Dos Santos (21-7) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A huge heavyweight bout on the undercard of the biggest heavyweight fight ever seems clever but both men are coming in off a loss. Francis Ngannou knocked both of these men out within a minute, but Dos Santos was also destroyed by Curtis Blaydes after that loss too. JDS is a former heavyweight champion with fantastic cardio and heavy hands but he’s now 36 years old. Rozenstruik took the division by storm, KO’ing Allen Crowder, Andrei Arlovski and Alistair Overeem before the Ngannou bout. Dos Santos looks to be in fantastic shape but his chin has seemingly left him. While Rozenstruik lost 99/100ths of the Overeem fight, he proved that he carries one-punch power through an entire five rounds. This fight is only three rounds and if he lands clean on Dos Santos, this could be a short nights work for ‘Bigi Boy’.
PICK – Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Knockout, Round 1
Sean O’Malley (12-0) vs Marlon Vera (15-6-1) – (Bantamweght/135lbs)
The co-main event sees ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley take on the biggest test of his bright career so far against Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera. O’Malley has a rocket strapped to his back right now and impressive knockout wins keep the momentum going, while Vera lost his last bout to Song Yadong via a decision. O’Malley is by far the better striker but Vera is a very accomplished ground fighter with legit submission skills. O’Malley himself though is a good grappler, competing for Team UFC in the Quintet grappling competition which they won. Vera is a notoriously slow starter in fights, while O’Malley is becoming known for his first-round stoppages. I can’t see this one going any differently, with mistakes the only way I see Vera being successful.
PICK – Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 1
Stipe Miocic (19-3) vs Daniel Cormier (22-2-0 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The greatest heavyweight ever fight. Forget the title for a second, this is a fight between the two best heavyweights in UFC history. They’re currently 1-1 against each other, but it’s Daniel Cormier who has had the more success over the two fights. In the first round he landed the better strikes before a big knockout, while in the second fight he controlled the fight for the first three rounds with his elite wrestling before a mid-fight adjustment saw Miocic land several body shots leading to a knockout win. Cormier is adamant this will be his last ever fight, which means he is going to be willing to give absolutely everything while Miocic is going to come in knowing that he will want to protect himself for any future fights too. Stipe is the better on the feet with excellent boxing and good footwork, but Cormier has the advantage in wrestling and submissions. This is a fight that could really go either way but I feel Cormier has the edge. In the second fight when he was able to control for the majority of the fight with his wrestling, he admitted afterwards that he enjoyed punching Stipe in the face too much and moved away from the game plan. He won’t do that this time and I think he will be able to get the decision win and ride off into the sunset as the champion.
PICK – Daniel Cormier via Unanimous Decision
What do you think about the picks? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.