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UFC 245 Picks

MMA Fight: UFC 245
Key Matches: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington and Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski
When: Saturday, December 14, 2019
Time: 10PM EST
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: PPV

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Kamaru Usman, (-185), 15-1 (6 KOs, 1 Submission) vs. Colby Covington, (+150), 15-1 (2 KOs, 5 Submissions)

Kamaru Usman defends his UFC Welterweight Championship against Colby Covington in the UFC 245 main event. It's really a tremendous matchup where picking a winner isn't easy. There's a lot of bad blood, with the vitriolic Covington always creating rancor before his fights and Usman rising to the occasion. Both are on long win-streaks with Usman having won every fight since his second pro fight, while Covington has won 7 straight. In his last bout, Usman won the title with a dominant decision win over Tyron Woodley. Injuries have kept him out until now and he faces a challenger who beat Robbie Lawler in his last fight. These are the two best guys in the division.

There are similarities between the two, namely in how they rely on wrestling to get to the winner's circle. I think Usman is the stronger guy and hits heavier. Usman likes to utilize the ground-and-pound, whereas Covington is more adept at exchanging on his feet. Covington also uses the element of pace to great effect in his fights. He switches it up, but the pace is unrelenting. In short windows, it might not seem all that impressive, but opponents soon find themselves drowning under the heat of his pace.

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Once they get things to the ground, Covington works more on keeping the hold and putting his opponents on the defense, whereas Usman tries to do damage with free limbs in more semi-control positions. Usman's damage is done on the ground. Some could say that means that Usman has more control on the ground, as he does more damage and has more control there. And that could give Usman the edge.

Just because Usman exercises greater control on the ground, however, does not mean he will win necessarily. It's more of a preference for Covington than a reflection of how advanced they are as MMA practitioners. Covington isn't doing this by accident and getting less involved on the ground lets him do other things, like get back on his feet and impose his pace. Still, at the end of the day, if you want to consider these guys somewhat equal that's not an altogether faulty summary.

In a fight like that, an even-ish fight between two guys who stop less than half of their opponents, one should brace for a full 25-minute battle. It could come to will, desire, and cardio. I think we know better what we have with Usman. I think Covington's improvement over his last small handful of fights has been a bit understated. I see this as a toss-up fight. If forced to say who has the slight edge, I might be inclined to say Usman, but to the tune of -185? I think the value lies with Covington. I'm going with the dog.

Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm betting on Colby Covington at +150 betting odds.

Max Holloway, (-170), 21-4 (10 KOs, 2 Submissions) vs. Alexander Volkanovski, (+140), 20-1 (11 KOs, 3 Submissions)

UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway defends his title against top challenger Alexander Volkanovski on the main card of UFC 245. Holloway returned to featherweight in his last fight after an unsuccessful lightweight title attempt, and beat Frankie Edgar by decision to win his fifth title fight at 145 pounds. He is still the top dog in this weight class. But in Volkanovski, he has a tough up-and-coming contender who might show Holloway some things he hasn't seen in his title reign.

I don't hold the loss to Poirier against Max too much, as he had to leave his weight class to find a challenge. He came up short and now he's back squarely in his wheelhouse. And it is in fact hard to show Holloway something he hasn't seen in the octagon before. Though he will be just 28 by fight-night, he has taken on the best strikers, grapplers, and fighters in the world. Volkanovski, the fresher face, but still three years older than Holloway at 31, brings some things to the table. Namely, that would be physical strength. And in that area, it's hard to think of a 145-pounder who represents the physical package Volkanovski brings to the table.

A much bigger man in the past, Volkanovski has managed to pare his frame down to 145 pounds, though his sheer physicality suggests a far bigger man. He still has that 200-pound man strength, but in a featherweight frame. Sure, Volkanovski also has a lot of skills, durability, desire, and great ability to scramble. We've seen Holloway thrive before in those situations against skilled fighters, but have we seen him prevail against this level of strength before? Against heavily-credentialed 145-pounders like Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes, Volkanovski's sheer strength was something those guys couldn't deal with.

That is odd to see at this level. Usually guys at the same weight at this high a level, there might be negligible strength advantages. For a fighter like Volkanovski to have such a pronounced edge in this area gives him a big leg-up. It's not often you can say a fighter's best asset is his strength, as it is almost always a more-specific skill. Volkanovski has those skills, but just fortified by this over-abundance of physical strength that makes him a notch above. I've been wrong betting against Holloway before and I don't want to lose a bunch of money picking against him when it makes sense, but I somehow overlooked how great and resourceful Max is. I just see Volkanovski as the next wave and at an underdog price, I think it's the right move in this spot.

Loot's Prediction to Win the Fight: I'm betting on Alexander Volkanovski at +140 betting odds. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting UFC 245 at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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