Monday, May 23, 2022

UFC 272: Covington vs. Masvidal Staff Predictions

UFC 272 is now only one day away, and to help get you even more fired up for the grudge match of the century and all the other fight-night festivities, we’ve got some staff picks for you!

UFC 272 will be available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view on Saturday, March 5, 2022. The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET, and the ESPN preliminary card kicks off at 8:00 PM. The early preliminary card starts at 6:00 PM.

The main event will feature the heavily anticipated grudge match between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. In the co-main event, we have a short-notice five-rounder between former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and Renato Moicano in a 160 lbs. catchweight bout.

Also on the main card, we have UFC veteran Edson Barboza going up against rising contender Bryce Mitchell. Kevin “Big Mouth” Holland will also make his return to the welterweight division against veteran Alex Oliveira. And kicking off the main card will be Sergey Spivak against Greg Hardy.

UFC 272 Staff Predictions

MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 272 updates. I, Harvey Leonard, and Ed Carbajal have provided our picks for you.

Here is the full main card for UFC 272:

Welterweight Bout: Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal

Catchweight Bout: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Renato Moicano

Featherweight Bout: Edson Barboza vs. Bryce Mitchell

Welterweight Bout: Kevin Holland vs. Alex Oliveira

Heavyweight Bout: Sergey Spivak vs. Greg Hardy

Sergey Spivak vs. Greg Hardy
Serghei Spivac, Greg Hardy

Clyde Aidoo: Greg Hardy is 7-4 while Spivak is 13-3. This means not only does Spivak have more experience, but he also has a higher winning percentage. That fact is especially relevant when you consider that Hardy has lost to each of his toughest matchups, including every time he’s gone against someone who has been ranked.

This is a fight where I’m leaning more on data than any X’s and O’s and going with the more proven Spivak over Hardy, who has lost two straight by TKO. Meanwhile, Spivak has won three of his last four. The more I think about it, this is very curious matchmaking and a pretty tall task for the last fight on Hardy’s contract. (Prediction: Sergey Spivak)

Harvey Leonard: A strange main card opener to say the least. Given that we haven’t seen Spivak display one-punch KO power and that Hardy’s deficiencies on the ground are well-known, this one really could be as simple as one takedown being the deciding factor. Hardy will have opportunities to land the finishing blow he needs in the first round. But I think it’s more likely Spivak imposes his wrestling game in the second and either stops a fatigued Hardy on the ground or uses his grappling to secure a decision. (Prediction: Sergey Spivak)

Ed Carbajal: Hardy’s name seems to land him on the main card often, but that usually means he’s facing someone that has the same knockout power he does. Both men are coming off of losses, and Hardy’s last two are by T/KO. Spivak is as well-rounded as they come in this weight class and is the former World Warriors Fighting Championship heavyweight champ, so I think Spivak sends Hardy back to the prelims here. (Prediction: Sergey Spivak)

Consensus: 3-0 Spivak

Kevin Holland vs. Alex Oliveira

Kevin Holland Alex Oliveira
Kevin Holland and Alex Oliveira

Clyde Aidoo: Alex Oliveira is probably going to at least sample Holland’s takedown defense and put his jiu-jitsu skills to use, as it’s well known that Holland’s biggest bugaboo during his last two losses was due to wrestling deficiencies. Oliveira may be a proficient grappler, but I don’t think his wrestling skills will be the difference-maker in this bout, though, especially with Holland’s increased focus in this department. I’m expecting Holland to get the better on the feet with his funky striking and maybe even if the fight does hit the mat, Holland proved against Jacare Souza that he can not only survive but get the kill from any position. (Prediction: Kevin Holland)

Harvey Leonard: Given Holland’s two defeats in 2021, it’s expected Oliveira will employ a grappling-heavy approach. “Cowboy” is certainly well-rounded enough to cause the welterweight newcomer problems. But with a significant height advantage and the smaller stature of Oliveira compared to his recent opponents, Holland will have a much better chance at keeping the fight on the feet and utilizing his reach advantage. While Oliveira has the submission threat to secure a stoppage, I back “Big Mouth” to find his voice again, barring any weight-cut issues. (Prediction: Kevin Holland)

Ed Carbajal: Holland needs a win here to break the luck he’s been having in the cage; two losses and a no-contest aren’t necessarily great for his career. Oliveira is also in need of a win having lost his last three as well. Someone is going to break their streak, and it could be a coin-toss, but Holland isn’t easy to put away, so I’m leaning towards him. (Prediction: Kevin Holland)

Consensus: 3-0 Holland

Bryce Mitchell vs. Edson Barboza

Bryce Mitchell Edson Barboza
Bryce Mitchell, Edson Barboza

Clyde Aidoo: This is a tough one because Edson Barboza was once known as having tremendous takedown defense, but his brutal, wrestling-based beatdowns at the hands of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee raised some questions. However, Khabib and Lee are both tremendous wrestlers on another level than Mitchell, even though Mitchell is an elite submission grappler.

If the fight hits the mat, I think Mitchell has a better chance of getting the submission than Barboza does of getting back up. However, can Mitchell get the veteran down? I’m going to bank on Barboza’s takedown defense holding up against a non-Khabib/Lee opponent in which case Mitchell would be in for either a very long night, or a very sudden blackout. (Prediction: Edson Barboza)

Harvey Leonard: While this will represent Mitchell’s toughest test to date, it will also signify Barboza’s first fight against a high-level grappler in a while. The Brazilian did defeat Makwan Amirkhani, but it’s perhaps a slight red flag that the Finland native was able to drag him down. Nevertheless, Barboza boasts a 78% takedown defense, and Mitchell hasn’t had to impose his largely one-dimensional game against an opponent anywhere near the quality of Barboza to date.

While the edge on the ground lies with “Thug Nasty,” the advantage on the feet is even more overwhelming on the other side. We’ve also seen Barboza’s ability to stop a level change in its tracks, as Beneil Dariush learned first-hand. If Barboza can utilize his classic kicks, keep Mitchell at a distance, and defend against the early takedown attempts, I think this step up in competition will prove too much for the 27-year-old. (Prediction: Edson Barboza)

Ed Carbajal: Justin Gaethje has gone on record to say Barboza was a fighter he tried to emulate and was nervous to fight when they eventually fought. That’s saying a lot here and while Mitchell might be the more popular fighter for UFC fans, Barboza’s experience and skill might be ahead of Mitchell’s. I’m going with Barboza in this one. (Prediction: Edson Barboza)

Consensus: Barboza 3-0

Renato Moicano vs. Rafael dos Anjos

Moicano dos Anjos March

Clyde Aidoo: This fight is probably a bit more competitive than some may think. With dos Anjos being a former champion who is still competing at a very high level and with a bit more meat on his résumé, Moicano might not be the sexy pick here, especially seeing as how he’s taking this fight on short notice. But like dos Anjos, Moicano has only lost to the best of the best. And at lightweight, Moicano has been very impressive, with a 3-1 record, all finishes, and his only loss coming to the lethal Rafael Fiziev.

I’m going to give the edge to dos Anjos because odds are he is more prepared for a five-round fight and has more experience under the bright lights in big-fight situations. (Prediction: Rafael dos Anjos)

Harvey Leonard: It’s always difficult to back someone entering a fight on four days’ notice, especially against an opponent with the experience and quality of RDA. Nevertheless, Moicano is a high-level BJJ black belt and displayed his well-rounded game against Hernandez at UFC 271.While RDA is no Hernandez, I fancy Moicano to make the most of this opportunity. He could also prove harder to prepare for than the initial Fiziev clash.

While the path to beating an elite striker like “Ataman” is clear, the route to victory against Moicano is harder to see, especially for a fighter who isn’t known for finding KOs, which appears to be Moicano’s major weakness. While five rounds on short notice is a concern, I back the younger Brazilian. (Prediction: Renato Moicano)

Ed Carbajal: This newly booked fight is a little different to call. Usually, a short-notice booking favors the prepared fighter, which is dos Anjos in this scenario. However, Moicano was not just sitting around. He just fought at UFC 271 where he won via second-round submission. Still, rushing into a fight after finishing one might mean he is still wearing some of the last camp into this short notice booking, so I think it’s still safe to go with dos Anjos here. (Predictions: Rafael dos Anjos)

Consensus: 2-1 dos Anjos

Jorge Masvidal vs. Colby Covington

Jorge Masvidal Colby Covington
Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington

Clyde Aidoo: I think Colby Covington beats any welterweight alive not named Kamaru Usman or (maybe) Khamzat Chimaev, so my confidence in Covington isn’t a slight on Masvidal but just a high valuation on Covington’s skill set. Masvidal is always live for the KO, but it’s going to take more than a “kneer’s chance” for me to pick against Covington here.

I don’t think any of the emotional build-up will play a role in the fight. Firstly, even Masvidal himself said he won’t approach the fight any differently. And even if he did, that would be more likely to have a negative effect than a positive one, as fighting with emotion is never advised.

If Masvidal doesn’t get this done within two rounds, his chances will fade drastically. Since Covington has only been TKO’d once (where he immediately returned to his feet) and because he is such an elite fighter with very high fight IQ, I think he avoids the KO, which means he drags the fight out. And that is when he will have a very noticeable advantage over his former teammate and bestie. (Prediction: Colby Covington)

Harvey Leonard: As has been pointed out during fight week, this is a striker vs. grappler contest with some added dynamics. Masvidal is the better striker, but Covington has shown he’s no slouch on the feet. Covington is the much better wrestler, but Masvidal has an impressive ability to return to his feet.

“Gamebred” is a fighter who can make things happen, as we saw against Askren. While a finishing blow can’t be ruled out, you’d expect that to be Masvidal’s path to victory. Against an imposing wrestler who has a proven chin, an Askren or Till-esque finish is perhaps unrealistic. With that in mind, the logical pick is Covington across five rounds, providing he sticks to his game plan. (Prediction: Colby Covington)

Ed Carbajal: This match has shadows of UFC 270’s main event where former training partners are facing each other after they parted ways from the gym they once were both members. MMA math does not work like real math, but both men have faced the mighty champion Kamaru Usman and lost. If that’s an indicator of how they’ll do against each other, Covington is the one to pick since he has fared better against the champion. (Prediction: Colby Covington)

Prediction: 3-0 Covington

That’ll do it for our UFC 272 staff picks! What do you think? Do your picks look similar? Let us know in the comments section! Also, you can check out the UFC 272 undercard below.

UFC 272 Preliminary Card (ESPN, ESPN+, 8:00 PM ET

Jamie Mullarkey vs. Jalin Turner

Yan Xiaonan vs. Marina Rodriguez

Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu

Mariya Agapova vs. Maryna Moroz

Early Preliminary Card (ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass, 4:00 PM ET)

Brian Kelleher vs. Umar Nurmagomedov

Tim Elliott vs. Tagir Ulanbekov

Erick Gonzalez vs. Devonte Smith

Dustin Jacoby vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk

Be sure to keep it right here on tomorrow for all the results, highlights, and updates on UFC 272!

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