Author: Jonah Ferro
UFC 252 Picks and Predictions
What a summer it has been for the UFC! UFC 251 marked a new era with 3 title fights on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, which was proceeded by 3 more thrilling fight nights at their new venue. Following 2 lower-key fight cards at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, the UFC’s home base is hosting a loaded PPV for UFC 252. Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic square off in a trilogy Heavyweight Title fight marking the end of Cormier’s legendary career. Below are picks and predictions for the 4 premier fights on the main card!
(Lines are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
Bantamweight Bout: Merab Dvalishvili (-240) vs John Dodson (+190)
Merab Dvalishvili comes into this bout with established veteran John Dodson riding a 4 fight winning streak against decent competition, but nobody on the level of Dodson. The Georgian was scheduled to fight Ray Borg back on June 13th, which would have prepared him for the hard-hitting Dodson, but was forced to take a UFC newcomer Gustavo Lopez on short notice. Dvalishvili was able to handle him easily, but I do not expect the same this time around.
Dodson recently has had competitive losses against Bantamweight champion Piotr Yan (who he dropped) and Jimmie Rivera. He is also coming off an impressive TKO win against Nathaniel Wood. Dvalishvili will rely on his impressive sambo wrestling background and his supreme size for the weight class to utilize the ground and pound game in this matchup. Contrary to popular opinion I think Dodson’s speed, power, and experience will be too much for Merab to get this fight where he wants it to go. I expect Dodson to land early and make the Georgian uncomfortable. From there he should be able to pick up enough rounds to secure the victory.
Prediction: John Dodson via Unanimous Decision
Heavyweight Bout: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (-135) vs. Junior Dos Santos (+110)
This fight could headline most cards, but we have another fantastic Heavyweight matchup between rising star Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik and UFC legend Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos. Both men are coming off very early losses to Francis Ngannou, and Dos Santos dropped his previous bout with Curtis Blaydes via TKO as well. If either fighter wants to remain in the heavyweight title mix a victory will be essential.
Both fighters will be looking for an early stoppage, and a TKO is almost certain in this matchup as Rozenstruik has never fought come down to the judges' scorecards. Rozenstruik has tested cardio after going 5 rounds with Alistair Overeem and landing the latest stoppage in UFC history. Cigano has not looked impressive in his previous two fights, and the aging Brazilian’s speed and size have diminished. To me, Rozenstruik’s power should be too much for JDS’s chin, which has proved to flaky at the tail end of his career. I expect an early stoppage, and for Bigi Boy to set up a matchup with Blaydes or Derrick Lewis to work his way back to the top. While JDS has proven his resiliency before, his time at the top of the division could be coming to an end.
Prediction: Jairzinho Rozenstruik via TKO Round 1
Bantamweight Bout: Sean O’Malley (-286) vs Marlon Vera (+225)
Sean O’Malley has become the promotion’s most hyped prospect since his rise on Dana White’s Contender Series, and the UFC have eased him in with 3 fights against weak competition. He has handled it well with two straight TKO wins against Jose Quinonez and Eddie Wineland. Suga Sean’s recent walkaway TKO win against Wineland was one of the top highlights of the calendar year, but he comes into this matchup against Marlon “Chito” Vera who will be the biggest test of his blossoming career. Chito was riding a 5 fight winning streak before a very questionable split decision loss against Song Yadong, which most fight fans were skeptical of.
O’Malley is going to be looking to add another TKO to his highlight reel and work his way into the title mix at 135 pounds. Suga could put this away early, but his price tag at nearly -300 is way too rich for me and I don’t expect a stoppage from him. Vera is an accomplished striker, has several impressive submission wins, and has the proven cardio to withstand a long grueling fight. He also has never lost via stoppage. Without seeing O’Malley face adversity in the octagon I am skeptical to wager on him, but I do expect him to win via decision. His array of power punches and kicks should be able to see him pick up enough points and win this in a close one.
Prediction: Sean O’Malley via Split Decision
Heavyweight Title Bout: Daniel Cormier (-115) vs. Stipe Miocic (-105)
Daniel Cormier will be looking to end his glorious career on a high against champion Stipe Miocic in their trilogy bout for the UFC Heavyweight Champion. Cormier took the first fight via TKO to become the first dual champion at Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight, but Miocic got the better of him with a 4th round TKO nearly one year ago. The first fight had an extremely high pace, with Cormier landing a huge elbow to put Stipe away in round 1. The rematch was more multi-dimensional, with Cormier using effective wrestling and strikes from the top position early. Miocic then showed resiliency by getting a takedown of his own and wore down Cormier significantly with punches and kicks to the body. In the fourth round, Stipe made Cormier stand up with him and put him away via a flurry of strikes to avenge his previous loss.
The obvious key to this matchup will be Miocic’s takedown defense. Miocic is an effective wrestler himself and is confident with his back to the mat, but has been a very slow starter throughout his career. I expect him to be prepared for the wrestling of Cormier early, and keep the fight at a distance. With his reach and superior striking, he should be able to knock out Cormier by potentially feinting shots to the body and landing right hands over the top. This fight is being priced as a pick-em’ for a reason, but I would not bet against Miocic who would solidify himself as the greatest heavyweight in UFC History.
Prediction: Stipe Miocic via TKO Round 3