UFC 250 Predictions: Nunes vs Spencer
By Cathal Geeney
The only reigning two-weight champion in the UFC takes to the octagon on Saturday night to defend her UFC featherweight title for the first time.
The Brazilian is regarded by many as the greatest female martial artist of all time and has amassed a very impressive ten fight win streak.
Her sole UFC loss came against Cat Zingano back in 2014 where Nunes was comprehensively outclassed and her grapping was shown up.
‘The Lioness’ has clearly worked extremely hard since that defeat and has evolved into a totally different fighter. Nunes has added a high-level grappling game to her powerful striking.
The American Top Team fighter is a lethal striker, working off her jab, she will add powerful hooks and an array of kicks, while constantly walking her opponent down. And if required, she will mix in a takedown to exert her dominance, as she demonstrated against accomplished strikers such as Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie.
This is a huge test for Felicia Spencer. She has benefitted from a lack of competition in the Ladies 145-pound division and has been presented with this title shot despite a UFC record of just two wins and a loss.
The Canadian fighter has a background in Tae Kwon Do, yet relies primarily on her grappling and this will likely be her only path to victory here.
Nunes will have the speed and power advantage and it will be a long day in the office for Spencer if she tries to keep this fight standing. However, the former Invicta FC featherweight champion has shown a lot of durability and has never been stopped, even going three rounds with Cris Cyborg. She is powerful in the clinch and will take advantage with ground and pound and submission attempts if she can get the fight to the canvas.
Prediction: This is a huge ask for Spencer and I can’t see her coming out on top. I expect a big disparity in striking on display, in favour of Nunes. The grappling exchanges could be very interesting, but with the takedown defence and BJJ skills of the defending champion, I expect her to overcome any adversity and win comfortably.
Prediction: Amanda Nunes
Corey Sandhagen vs Aljamain Sterling
Unlike the main event where Felicia Spencer has benefitted from a lack of competition in the featherweight ranks, the depth of talent in the bantamweight division has been to the detriment of both co-main event fighters. They feel they should be fighting for the title that Henry Cejudo has recently vacated.
Corey Sandhagen is an exciting striker, constantly switching stances and letting his hands go, as well as mixing in kicks to the legs, body and head of his opponent.
The Colorado native continuously looks to come forward and has a high-volume output.
His style does leave him somewhat exposed for a takedown however, and it is no surprise that he has been taken down at least once in all five of his previous UFC bouts. That’s not to say he isn’t a competent grappler; he will look for a submission using his wiry frame or a scramble to get back to his feet.
Sterling comes from a wrestling background but has added a lot to his stand-up game. The Serra-Longo fighter is a fast starter and is dependent on his kicks to maintain a distance.
Similarly to Sandhagen, he too switches stances regularly, attacking from both an orthodox and a southpaw stance. Although Aljo has not secured a takedown in his last two outings, the constant attempts are there, which keeps his opponent guessing. In what should be a tight affair, landing a takedown could be the difference between winning and losing a round.
Prediction: I have gone back and forth on this one. I believe Sandhagen will have the edge in terms of striking ability and volume and should be able to secure a victory here, likely going to a decision. I predict the rounds will be tight and this could go either way, but I will take Sandhagen as a very slight underdog in this one.
Cody Garbrandt v Rafael Assunção
The second bantamweight contest on the card features two fighters desperate for a win.
The reputation of Garbrandt has certainly been hurt and there is a huge question mark over his fight IQ and his chin after suffering three consecutive knockouts.
However, it is important to look at the skill set that led to him becoming the UFC bantamweight champion and one of the most exciting fighters on the roster.
He is a highly skilled striker. He doesn’t necessarily look to the jab to set up a shot, he relies on his foot work and head movement to stay just outside of range and likes to counter with big combinations, letting his hands go with some powerful hooks. And although primarily a boxer, will add some kickboxing to his attack.
The Team Alpha Male fighter is an accomplished grappler also, with a 100% takedown defence in the UFC, allowing him to keep the fight standing.
Despite all the positives, he has allowed himself to get sucked into a scrap too often, forgetting his discipline and just swinging wildly with his chin wide open. He can’t afford to let this happen again or risks another knockout.
Assunção has long been a challenger at 135 pounds and holds some impressive career wins including victories over TJ Dillashaw, Aljamain Sterling and even the current welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal.
The thirty-seven-year-old is certainly not as flashy as his opponent but he is a well-rounded fighter, with solid striking. He is also an accomplished BJJ practitioner, holding ten victories by way of submission in his professional career.
The Brazilian keeps the pressure on his opponent with his boxing and leg kicks and has a powerful overhand right from his southpaw stance to fall back on. He will mix in some takedown attempts or initiate a clinch as he sees fit to vary his game.
Prediction: I am keeping faith with Garbrandt and taking him for this one. Assunção will be a good test, but I feel Cody has the advantage striking and should be able to hold his own in any grappling exchanges.
And while Cody will have to tighten up defensively, I don’t see Assunção possessing the same power as TJ Dillashaw or Pedro Munhoz, who have been responsible for Garbrandt’s three knockout losses.