UFC 249: Ferguson vs Gaethje | Televised Prelims

UFC 249: Ferguson vs Gaethje | Televised Prelims
170lbs- Donald Cerrone vs Anthony Pettis

The headlining bout of the undercard features a pair of former WEC competitors squaring off for the second time in their careers. Former UFC and WEC Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (22-10-0) won the first fight, stopping Donald Cerrone (36-14-0 1NC) via first-round TKO.

The fight took place in 2013 and in the Lightweight division. This bout will be contested at Welterweight.

Cerrone enters the contest having lost a trio of bouts, all by TKO, and all against elite-level competition. This is the second 3-fight losing skids for “Cowboy” since 2017.

Pettis hasn’t fared much better of late, losing 3 of his last 4 contests and failing to string consecutive wins together since winning and defending the 155-pound strap in 2013/2014.

Where “Showtime” has struggled has been with his ability to endure gritty, demanding fights. Most of his defeats featured his opponents breaking him with a more brawling, less technical approach.

For Cerrone, he has had issues with getting off to slow starts. He admitted he was mentally unprepared for the McGregor fight and in a number of other high profile bouts he struggled early and was often finished.

The 3-fight losing streak and general letdown of Donald’s last performance should serve as motivators for Cerrone. Additionally, the circumstances of this bout could be less impactful on his “I know a guy” attitude than the more delicate Pettis. Pettis doesn’t have the best track record in decisions and this fight has 2 key scenarios suggesting it could go the distance; a rematch from a quick first encounter and the final fight of a prelim (you know the stats if you follow my bet packs). Look for Cerrone to simply do more during the exchanges, landing more impactful combos and outworking Pettis who tends to rely too much on flash over function- my prediction is Donald Cerrone to defeat Anthony Pettis by decision.

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265lbs- Aleksei Oleinik vs Fabricio Werdum

An alumni of Pride and Strikeforce and former UFC Heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum (23-8-1) returns after a prolonged absence that came as the result of a USADA suspension. The former champion has gone 9-3 over his second stint with the promotion, but he is coming off an upset knockout loss to Alexander Volkov.

Werdum’s base skill set is his elite level BJJ, but his rise to the title was the result of vastly improved Muay Thai striking and cardio.

Over 2-years removed from his last fight and at 42-years old, there are some concerns about Werdum’s current state. Additionally, he had requested a release from his contract which further adds concerns about his level of focus at this stage of his career.

Also 42-years old, the 72-fight veteran Aleksei Oleinik (58-13-1) appeared to be showing his age after back to back defeats, but rallied to submit Maurice Greene last January. While many fighters on this card are dealing with longer than normal layoffs between fights, the big Russia’s return to action is far more traditional.

With 46 of his 58 career wins coming by submission, Oleinik would love nothing more than to be the first and potentially only to submitted Werdum. The unorthodox submission skills of Oleinik has made him difficult to defend against once on the mat.

He owns multiple wins by scarf-hold headlock and Ezekiel choke.

Despite his reliance on submissions, he has some power in his hands. His above-average reach allows him to land some powerful strikes while he attempts to close the gap and grapple.

The majority of Oleinik’s wins have been the product of his foes’ inexperience on the mat- that won’t be the case with Werdum. Fabricio owns submission wins over some pretty talented grapplers and could actually be the greater submission threat here. At the least, their skills could balance each other out. If that is the case, Werdum has the edge in striking skill and cardio while Oleinik might get a very slight nod in power. Unless Werdum is severely impacted by the layoff or walks into a big shot, this is his fight to win- my prediction is Fabricio Werdum to defeat Aleksei Oleinik by TKO.

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115lbs- Carla Esparza vs Michelle Waterson

The inaugural UFC Strawweight champion, Carla Esparza (15-6-0) has gone through some ups and downs in the promotion but she is currently enjoying a 2-fight winning streak.

A wrestling reliant competitor, over her last 2 wins she has completed a combined 12 takedowns. Throughout her 6 UFC victories, she has completed 26 total takedowns. She is 5-1 when completing 4 or more takedowns and 1-3 when completing 2 or less.

“The Cookie Monster” is a capable striker, but as the numbers suggest- she needs to augment her vertical offense with top control time.

A former Invicta Atomweight Champion, Michelle Waterson (17-7-0) was unable to propel herself into a title fight with a wide decision loss to former Champion and recently failed title challenger Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It ended her best run in the UFC; a trio of wins including a decision over Esparza’s long-time friend Felice Herrig.

“The Karate Hottie” draws on a number of backgrounds; Karate, BJJ, and Judo skills are all evident in her style.

Look for Waterson to utilize a lot of front leg kicks while navigating the outer distances of her striking range. She will also close the gap to work from the clinch when needed.

The stats tell a pretty straight forward story regarding how this fight will be decided. Waterson will need to avoid the wrestling and provide enough offense to edge a decision. It won’t be easy. Waterson is undersized, a factor that Carla’s wrestling will capitalize on. Michelle doesn’t offer enough volume on the feet to counter the pressure and takedowns that Esparza will pile up. Carla will close the gap with regularity and secure enough top control to earn the nod- my prediction is Carla Esparza to defeat Michelle Waterson by decision.

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185lbs- Uriah Hall vs Ronaldo Souza

The opening fight of the televised prelims features one of the better UFC Middleweights to have never fought for the title as Ronaldo Souza (26-8-0 1NC) makes his return to the division. Jacare was unsuccessful in his Light Heavyweight main event, dropping a split decision to Jan Blachowicz.

At 40-years of age, Souza appears to be running out of time to contend and his recent performances may reinforce that fact. He has lost each of his last 3 fights to go the distance and was arguably behind against Chris Weidman before stopping him in the 3rd round.

The Brazilian is a feared BJJ practitioner, with respectable power in his hands. Unfortunately, the wear and tear of a long career could be taking a toll on Souza as he is far less consistent with his grappling attack and not as durable overall.

Potentially looking to capitalize on that trend, Uriah Hall (15-9-0) has made a habit out of rallying after slow starts. He most recently secured a come from behind split decision win over a fading Antonio Carlos Jr.

His 3 previous victories have all come via finish after he dropped the early portions of each fight.

“Prime Time” is a dynamic striker with fight finishing power and a variety of techniques. Unfortunately, his career has been plagued by his inability to pull the trigger in big fights and either getting outworked or finished.

If Souza can take Hall down early, he needs to make it count. Conversely, for every moment that Hall gets on the feet he needs to score. Uriah’s jab looked sensational against Carlos Junior and Jacare’s looping strikes will leave him open to Hall’s counters. The ACJ win will build Hall’s confidence which should help him if he is put in some tough spots on the floor. Uriah will be defensive early and take over the fight as his foe falters- my prediction is Uriah Hall to defeat Jacare Souza by TKO.

Scott Johnson

scott

Starting in 2010, Scott began posting UFC and NFL predictions videos on youtube under the name Kamikaze Overdrive MMA Predictions. Eventually, MMA became his main focus and as the channel's popularity grew Kamikaze Overdrive eventually expanded to include a website. Scott has worked for various MMA and Sports betting information sites and now posts UFC Predictions, Betting Breakdowns, and Content along with other sports-related betting information.

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