UFC 249 tips: Best bets for the prelims
Guy Giles predicts four exciting fights in his UFC tips for the undercard of Ferguson v Gaethje in Jacksonville on Saturday.
DONALD CERRONE V ANTHONY PETTIS
This promises to be one of the fights of the night as two UFC greats meet in the last chance saloon.
‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is on a three-fight skid, including a 40-second loss against Conor McGregor last time out, after which some questioned whether he had the heart to continue fighting.
Pettis, meanwhile, has dropped his last two, although he does return to welterweight on Saturday after a disastrous submission loss at 155lbs in his most recent fight.
It is the younger Pettis who comes in as favourite and, with everything considered, rightly so.
Cerrone’s chin is all but gone, having been knocked out three fights on the trot, while Pettis’ KO power was still evident in his win over Stephen Thompson in March 2019.
Pettis to win by KO/TKO/DQ
ALEKSEI OLEINIK V FABRICIO WERDUM
Despite seven of their last ten combined fights ending via stoppage, this clash of two wily veterans has decision written all over it.
Oleinik’s best chance of an early victory is on the mat, with an incredible 46 of his 58 wins coming via submission. Unfortunately for him, Werdum has never been submitted in 31 fights.
Werdum is a more proficient knockout artist than his opponent, but he has not won in that fashion since his victory over Mark Hunt in 2014.
Both fighters are now 42 years old, with their powers on the wane. Their build-ups will also have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, so neither is likely to come into this in top shape.
Despite coming in as the underdog, it is Oleinik who has the slight edge thanks to his win over Maurice Greene in January, with Werdum having last entered the Octagon back in March 2018.
Oleinik to win by decision
MICHELLE WATERSON V CARLA ESPARZA
It is easy to forget that Esparza was the inaugural UFC strawweight champion, with the 32-year-old having tumbled down the rankings since that victory over Rose Namajunas in 2014.
She provided a timely reminder of her talent by winning her last two fights, although her victory over Alexa Grasso last time out was a highly controversial majority decision which many felt went the wrong way.
Waterson suffered a brutal five-round dismantling against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her last fight but ‘The Karate Hottie’ remains one of the premier fighters at 125lbs.
Both women have gone 3-2 over their last five fights and, with just one stoppage across those 10 bouts, this one is likely to go the distance.
Esparza is the favourite, but Waterson’s striking pedigree and nine submission wins suggest she may have the edge on both the feet and the mat.
Waterson to win by decision
RONALDO SOUZA V URIAH HALL
Hall is one of the most frustrating fighters on the UFC roster. The Ultimate Fighter alum has so far failed to convert his obvious talent into results against top-level fighters.
He looks to be in good shape for this one, though, having spent lockdown living alongside his coach at Fortis Gym in Dallas, and coming off back-to-back wins over Bevon Lewis and Antonio Carlos Junior.
At 35, Hall knows it is now or never if he wants to fulfil his potential, and a win over former Souza, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, would put him right back in the mix at 185lbs.
‘Jacare’ is coming to the end of a great career that has included famous wins over three former UFC champions in Chris Weidman, Robbie Lawler and Vitor Belfort.
Back-to-back losses, though, have the 40-year-old looking more vulnerable than ever before, and Hall should be able to secure the W on Saturday.
Hall to win by decision
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