Five Questions Ahead of Star-Studded UFC 245 and its Three Title Fights

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The focus of the fight world returns to Las Vegas this Saturday for UFC 245, as Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington headline a star-studded card featuring Max Holloway, Amanda Nunes, José Aldo and Urijah Faber.

The main card is the centerpiece but, with Matt Brown and Jessica Eye on the prelims, this entire card is filled with title fights and legends and it has the potential to be fantastic.

Covington is going to present a significant challenge to welterweight champ Usman, while Holloway looks to create further separation in the featherweight division with another successful title defense. And Nunes, the UFC’s best fighter right now, will put her bantamweight championship on the line while seeking to maul another opponent. Plus, Aldo and Faber are back, though both are headed in entirely opposite directions.

Here are the top five questions entering UFC 245:

Can Kamaru Usman withstand Colby Covington’s pressure?

Kamaru Usman is set to defend his UFC welterweight championship against former interim champ Colby Covington. Although the fight is unlikely to be the most exciting bout on the card, it will certainly make up for it in passion.

This is an interesting matchup pitting two very elite wrestlers against one another in the cage. That will likely make for a boring fight, and my gut tells me we are going to see a decision here. Covington (12-1) brings more pressure, which gives him the slight edge, and Usman (15-1) is in trouble if he is backed up against the cage or forced into a precarious position on the mat. Covington is simply too elite of a fighter to make a mistake against, so Usman will need to be close to perfect to keep his 14-win streak alive.

This fight will likely be decided by how Usman positions himself in the scrambles and whether he can take Covington down. Usman’s response to Covington’s pressure will also be a determining factor in the fight. There is no doubt that Usman is also an elite wrestler, but it remains to be seen if he can out-wrestle someone on Covington’s level. If he does, it would be a feel-good moment for Division II wrestlers, as Usman is a product of DII program University of Nebraska at Kearney, while Covington finished his collegiate career at DI program Oregon State University.

Will Covington leave his neck hanging out if things aren’t working? Is there a way for Kamaru to get a finish? Will all the focus on Covington’s Trump-loving character overshadow the fight?

Promos and red MAGA hats aside, this fight should go Covington’s way, though it will not be easy to put away the champ.

If the main event is not the most exciting match-up on the card at 245, then which fight is set to steal the show?

By the end of the night, the title of most exciting fight should belong to Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski.

Holloway (21-4) is just so brilliant in the cage, and Volkanovski (20-1) has proven he is the real deal. This fight should be nothing short of a barnburner.

I don’t see Holloway losing this fight, but I also did not see him losing to Dustin Poirier this past April. Volkanovski is a hard-working fighter and he is going to leave no stone unturned on his quest to leave Vegas with the UFC featherweight championship.

For all of Volkanovski’s strengths, there is a reason that he is the challenger and Holloway is the champ. Holloway is undisputed in his skillset, though this is the toughest fight in his own division. I see the fight ending in a Holloway knockout, in either the late second round or early part of the third. Holloway knows his range, and he knows his gas tank incredibly well.

Looking back at Holloway’s two TKO wins over José Aldo in 2017, he was masterful at taking some of Aldo’s offense, and then responded by pushing Aldo up against the cage. By then, it was easy to recognize that Aldo was losing all of his energy, and the same thing happened in Holloway’s win over Brian Ortega last December. He delivers a volume that most fighters cannot keep up with; when you start getting that damage on top of trying to figure out the puzzle to get yourself out of harm’s way, you run out of energy—so the key for Holloway is to work that pressure and maintain that increased volume.

Pound for pound, is there a more skilled fighter in the world than Amanda Nunes?

In a word, no. Pound for pound, male or female, Amanda Nunes is the top fighter in the world right now. Her dominance, power, and size advantage are all reasons for her to retain the UFC bantamweight championship. Nunes is the total package and she is in the conversation for the greatest of all-time.

Nunes’ opponent, Germaine de Randamie (9-3), should not be the opponent in this fight. A challenger that is a tougher fight for Nunes (18-4) right now is Ketlen Vieira (10-0), who is fighting this Saturday on the prelims against Irene Aldana. Vieira needs a few more marquee wins before she gets placed in a fight with Nunes.

Although de Randamie is a world-class fighter and a nasty striker, Nunes is operating on an entirely different level. The big problem here for Germaine is, if she moves in closer to throw at Nunes, can she handle what Nunes throws back? I cannot see any outcome but Nunes retaining her title.

Is José Aldo finished?

José Aldo is a legend in MMA, but we can all come to terms with the fact that his best days are behind him. I would even take it a step further and say we haven’t seen the same Aldo since his 13-second loss to Conor McGregor three years ago. So how will he fare at a new weight against bantamweight Marlon Moraes?

Aldo (28-5) is taking on one of the toughest fights in the entire division in Moraes (22-6-1). I’m expecting Moraes to go into this fight and finish Aldo. If that happens, then Aldo should seriously consider not taking any fights in 2020 and beyond. Although he signed a new UFC deal, it doesn’t mean he should take them if he loses this fight.

If Aldo loses on Saturday, the time will have arrived to decide whether he should end his pro fighting career.

What is going to be the upset of the night?

Spoiler alert: Urijah Faber is going to defeat Petr Yan. Outside of the title fights, I am most excited about this one.

Yan (13-1) is an absolute force in the cage and the UFC is ready to push him to the moon, so putting him against Urijah Faber—one of the all-time greats and a reason people watch lighter-weight fighters fight—is a perfect opportunity to start his ascent to the top of the bantamweight division.

Next to Frankie Edgar, Faber is one of the most durable fighters we have ever witnessed in the Octagon. So there is no easy route for Yan to finish Faber (35-10). I firmly believe that Faber is going to come in with a throwback performance and get his hand raised, which will lead to Faber making another run at the belt.

Faber is one of the greatest to ever do it, and though he has lost some close fights, he has never been in a position where he has been outclassed or outperformed like we have seen with Aldo.

A hole was exposed in Yan’s game during his win against Jin Soo Son in September 2018. I became an instant Soo Son fan from the way he attacked Yan, and Faber is likely to follow a similar game plan. My call is Faber by decision.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.