Tomorrow night, UFC 252 will see the conclusion of arguably the greatest trilogy in the history of MMA. Stipe Miocic (19-3) and Daniel Cormier (22-2, 1 NC) will go to war for the third time to once and for all settle the debate on who is the greatest heavyweight in UFC history.
The card is absolutely stacked with fights that should have UFC fans feeling the goosebumps already. Let’s take a dive into the main card for some previews and predictions.
Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier for the UFC heavyweight title
The main event of the evening is a fight that is one year in the making as the heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic, takes on the former champion, Daniel Cormier, for the third time.
Both of these men have won a fight against the other by knockout. This fight will truly determine the greatest heavyweight in UFC history.
For Cormier, there has only been two men in his career who have gotten the best of him. That would be Miocic and Jon Jones. Jones beat him twice although one was overturned due to Jones failing a drug test.
After Jones was stripped of his title following the second fight being overturned, Cormier resumed life as light heavyweight champion. He defended the title once before moving up to challenge Miocic for the heavyweight title.
DC knocked Miocic out in the first round. He had become a two division champion. He’s defeated the best that light heavyweight and heavyweight have had to offer. However, he would go on to lose to Miocic in the rematch.
If Cormier were to lose again, the only two men to have ever beaten him, would have both done it multiple times. That will be tough for DC the competitor to take. The Olympic wrestler is one of the greatest fighters of all time, but he needs this win to cement himself.
Miocic is the only heavyweight in UFC history to defend the title three times successfully. Stipe had to work for everything during his career. After back-to-back knockouts of Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski back in 2015/2016, Miocic demanded he get a shot at the title.
He went to enemy territory and knocked out the champion, Fabricio Werdum. Miocic then went on to defeat Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos, and Francis Ngannou before losing the title to Cormier at UFC 226.
The second fight was a back and forth war that DC was controlling. He was landing more strikes and found some success wrestling. However, Stipe made adjustments just like a champion should.
In the fourth round, Miocic found success going to the body. After going to the body over and over, Miocic was able to transition to a head combination that put DC out.
These are clearly the two best heavyweights in the world. They both have knockout power, they both have good grappling, and they both know how to grind and fight their way through wars.
This is just a tough fight to predict. Despite both men having finished the other, I don’t think this one is going to end early. I think this will be the first of their three fights to see the scorecards.
I believe that this fight is going to be razor close because these two men are so equal in their skill. If it does go to the cards, I’m leaning towards Cormier. Especially rounds 1-3, DC’s hand speed and wrestling will really give him an advantage.
I see Stipe being a lot stronger as the fight goes on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Stipe ended up winning rounds 3-5. However, I think DC will do enough to take the first three rounds and survive the onslaught from Stipe near the end. DC will walk away as heavyweight champion on Saturday, but nothing would honestly shock me.
Prediction: Daniel Cormier by Split Decision
Sean O’Malley vs Marlon “Chito” Vera
O’Malley was featured on just the second episode ever of Dana White’s Contender Series. That night, you realized there was something special about O’Malley. Since then, the guy has been like a rocket ship in terms of popularity.
2020 has been incredible for O’Malley. After issues with USADA that kept him out for two years, O’Malley has returned looking like a completely different fighter. He looks so much better than he did a couple of years ago.
His performances show that as he’s knocked out Jose Alberto Quinonez and Eddie Wineland both in the first round. Suga’s very long for the division and his striking is incredibly crisp.
We’ve also seen how tough he is when he fought Andre Soukhamthath. O’Malley broke his foot in that fight and couldn’t even stand. However he hopped around for the final round and gritted it out for a decision victory. O’Malley is the real deal.
Chito Vera is a very tough test for O’Malley. Vera is coming off of a loss to Song Yadong in a fight that some believe that he won. That fight snapped a five fight winning streak for Vera.
Chito has really good striking, and he’s got very good skills on the ground. One of the biggest knocks on Vera is his slow starts. Sometimes Vera can be a bit gun shy out of the gate.
That could be a massive problem fighting a guy like O’Malley. He cannot let himself stay on the outside being too patient or he will be picked apart. For Vera to win, he’s got to be aggressive early and he has to make it an ugly fight.
I’ve been on the O’Malley hype train since day one and I’m staying on it. I believe that O’Malley has that Conor McGregor vibe to him. While Vera will definitely be game, I think O’Malley’s precision and power are just going to be too much.
Prediction: Sean O’Malley by TKO – Round 2
Junior Dos Santos vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik
This is a massive fight for the former champion, Dos Santos. Dos Santos has lost back-to-back fights by knockout. Those losses coming after Cigano had won three consecutive fights.
After losing the heavyweight title back in 2012, Dos Santos has been on a mission to get back to the UFC title. He’s fought for the title twice since losing it and both of those fights he lost by stoppage.
Since the first war with Cain Velasquez, Cigano has been finished five times. Despite that, Dos Santos still possesses arguably the best pure boxing in the heavyweight division.
For Bigi Boy, he’s looking to rebound after a rough first round loss to Francis Ngannou. Rozenstruik came into that fight undefeated, but was finished in just 20 seconds. Had Rozenstruik won that fight, he would have been next in line for the title.
Rozenstruik has tremendous striking with incredible knockout power. He also has shown tremendous heart as shown in the Alistair Overeem fight. Overeem had clearly been winning the fight, but Bigi Boy put him out in the final ten seconds of the fight.
This fight is so interesting because both men bring tremendous striking to the cage. Cigano has beautiful boxing while Rozenstruik has very good kickboxing.
Most people think that this fight won’t go the distance, but I’m in the minority that thinks it will. I think Rozenstruik will be a little more cautious after getting finished by Ngannou in his last one. I think Cigano’s boxing will allow him to score more points over three rounds.
Prediction: Junior Dos Santos by Unanimous Decision
John Dodson vs Merab Dvalishvili
Dodson was able to prove to everyone in his last fight that he’s still a very powerful fighter at 135 pounds. The Magician got a third round TKO win over Nathaniel Wood. That win came after Dodson had lost three out of four.
Now, I will give Dodson a break considering those three opponents are all in the top seven and one is the current champion, Petr Yan. Dodson is going to come at you with ridiculous speed looking to put your lights out.
Dvalishvili on the other hand is going to look to take you down and smother you. The Machine is known for his dominant wrestling and that was on full display at UFC on ESPN 10.
Dvalishvili took on Gustavo Lopez and set a UFC bantamweight record in takedowns with 13. His main training partner is top contender Aljamain Sterling, so you know that Dvalishvili is going to be ready.
When it comes to the prediction, it’s a matter of where the fight takes place. The speed and accuracy of Dodson will win him the fight if he can keep it on the feet. That’s a giant if.
I think that Dvalishvili is going to be able to get Dodson down particularly in the last two rounds of the fight. I expect Dodson to have moments, but Dvalishvili’s wrestling to be too much in the end.
Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili by Unanimous Decision
Herbert Burns vs Daniel Pineda
Kicking off the main card of UFC 252 is a featherweight fight between Herbert Burns (11-2) and the returning Daniel Pineda (26-13, 2 NC). Pineda is returning to the octagon after six years of fighting in other promotions.
Burns, who is the younger brother of top welterweight contender Gilbert Burns, will be making his third appearance in the octagon. He earned himself a contract after a triangle armbar victory on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Burns has won his first two UFC fights by first round stoppage. One by KO and one by submission. The Blaze is elite on the ground just like his brother. Burns competes in top level Jiu Jitsu tournaments all over the world when he’s not fighting.
Daniel Pineda was having himself quite the 2019. Pineda entered PFL’s featherweight tournament and had two first round finishes. Elevated testosterone levels did change those two victories to non contests.
If you would have counted those, Pineda would have been returning to the octagon on a five fight first round finish streak. All 26 of Pineda’s wins have come via finish.
In looking at this fight, I’m struggling to find Pineda’s advantage. I don’t see him being the better striker, and he’s good on the ground (18 submissions), but he’s not Burns good. Burns is world class on the ground.
I think that Burns is going to have the clear advantage in this fight, and the odds speak to that. I’m going with Burns, but I think he’s going to win by showing off his superior skills on the ground.
Prediction: Herbert Burns by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – Round 2
UFC 252 Outlook
This main event and card gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. We are seeing arguably the two greatest heavyweights of all time fighting for the third time to settle once and for all, who is the baddest man on the planet. UFC 252 is going to be a night to remember for fight fans everywhere.