UFC 272 predictions


No title fights? No problem.

In a perfect world this Saturday, Alexander Volkanovski would be dancing with Max Holloway for the third time. Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling will finally get the opportunity to show who the true bantamweight champion is after their bizarre first bout. However, a Holloway injury led to Volkanovski instead fighting “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC 273 and Sterling and Yan were also instead scheduled for that same event.

So we’re left with a quaint little blood feud between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal as the UFC 272 headliner and you know what? That’s pretty good!

Covington — the No. 2 welterweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — might never be an A-tier draw, but he and Masvidal (No. 11) are now part of a rare non-championship pay-per-view main event, a rarity in the modern UFC for anyone not named Conor McGregor. Based on how heavily the PPV has been promoted (especially compared to UFC 270 and UFC 271), it’s safe to say that officials have a lot of faith in this grudge match to sell a card on its own.

This is not just talk. It’s a battle between the man that would be undisputed champion without Kamaru Uman and the cult favourite who rose to stardom once thought impossible. Both sides have a lot at stake. Usman may lose his spot as champion, and Covington could be left without a contract. The build has been ugly, and the fight should be too, but in the best possible way.

In other main card action, former UFC champion Rafael dos Anjos takes on short-notice replacement Renato Moicano in a 160-pound catchweight bout, veteran Edson Barboza fights undefeated featherweight Bryce Mitchell, Kevin Holland drops down to 170 pounds to face Alex Oliveira, and Sergey Spivak meets Greg Hardy at heavyweight.

What: UFC 272

Where: T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas

When: Saturday, March 5. The four-fight early prelims begin on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the four-fight prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET. The five-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET and is available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view.

(Numbers in parentheses indicate standing in MMA Fighting Global Rankings)

Colby Covington (2) vs. Jorge Masvidal (11)

I am going to go out on a limb and pick Jorge Masvidal. But not the way most people think.

According to fans making their picks on Tapology, this is pretty clear-cut depending on who you’re picking: If Colby Covington, decision; if Masvidal, knockout. Simple enough, right?

But I believe people underestimate Masvidal’s ability to strike and defend. My opinion is that “Gamebred”, at this stage in his career, is able to fight up to his opponents. His first fight with Kamaru Usman was an uninspired, short-notice dud, but he fared better in the second outing before getting clobbered. He has the standup offense and takedown defense to get the better of Covington and the fact that they used to train together is greatly to his benefit.

It is a difficult task to prepare for

Covington. He is relentless for 25 minutes, both in his ability to push the pace and to absorb damage without slowing down. Masvidal has sparred in the past with him. Even if he only saw 80 or 90 percent of Covington when they scrapped at American Top Team, that’s a lot of data to work with and just as importantly, he won’t be intimidated in the slightest as Covington bears down on him. Now actually dealing with that pressure in real time is another story altogether, but Masvidal thrives under pressure.

Tell me that conventional wisdom has Covington winning on the scorecards and I’ll remind you that the Covington-Masvidal story has been anything but conventional. We’re in for more surprises before this rivalry is over.

Masvidal through decision.

Pick: Masvidal

Rafael dos Anjos (8) vs. Renato Moicano

What a smart move by Renato Moicano to take this fight. He’s shown on more than one occasion that he is a top 10 talent at both 145 and 155 pounds, he just hasn’t scored that signature win he needs to actually claim a high ranking. The gifted Brazilian has only lost to the best of the best, so Rafael dos Anjos represents another chance for him to get that signature win. This is a low-risk, high-reward game.

RDA is a well-rounded fighter in MMA. If we are talking about big games experience, then few people have more than him. Here’s a sampling of the names he’s fought since 2014:

  • Khabib Nurmagomedov
  • Kamaru Usman
  • Tony Ferguson
  • Colby Covington
  • Eddie Alvarez
  • Robbie Lawler
  • Anthony Pettis
  • Benson Henderson
  • Leon Edwards
  • Nate Diaz
  • Michael Chiesa
  • Paul Felder
  • Neil Magny

And that list leaves out several quality opponents. Anjos can boast of a more robust schedule than anyone else.

He’s not someone you want to fight at short notice. His consistency is remarkable, so he’s unlikely to have an off-night. And as talented as Moicano may be, dos Anjos is just as skilled as him. This is a 5-rounder, so I prefer the dos Anjos with more experience to win the game.

Pick: Dos Anjos

Edson Barboza (13) vs. Bryce Mitchell

Did someone say something about picking the more experienced Brazilian fighter to win it?

I am going to Edson Barboza here. Bryce Mitchell has a bright future ahead of him, but he’s coming off of a long layoff and a slow start against Barboza could cost him dearly. If Barboza chips away early, especially with leg and body kicks, it’s going to hinder Mitchell’s aggression. I need to see more development in Mitchell’s striking before I can predict that he survives Barboza has to offer.

Obviously, it’s possible to beat Barboza with a wrestling-heavy attack. It’s been done. But Barboza is harder to take down at 145 and I don’t put Mitchell in that A-plus grappler class yet.

I want Mitchell to improve his game before I choose him to take out Barboza. Mitchell won’t be able to keep up with this one and he will eventually run out of options.

Pick: Barboza

Kevin Holland (13 MW) vs. Alex Oliveira

Alright, alright, I’ll break the trend here and go against a Brazilian veteran.

Much of what I wrote in the previous two selections applies to Alex Oliveira, so he is certainly a stiff test for Kevin Holland’s first UFC fight at 170 pounds. Holland must avoid him as he is a fighter who enjoys brawling and is a great fight finisher. Holland will be smiling and talking a lot of s*** regardless how the fight goes, but he can dominate this fight with some discipline.

Holland has a reach advantage over a lot of welterweights and his size will also give him the advantage on the ground, which is where he should take this fight. As bad as his wrestling defense has been in the past, he’s a good offensive grappler and he can make Oliveira miserable on the ground. Holland needs to use his reach and timing his moves to plant Oliveira onto the ground.

The question that I have is whether Holland will finish by submission or knockout. He appears to be able to open Oliveira’s defences using ground-and-pound in order for him to establish a fight-ending choke.

Pick: Holland

Sergey Spivak vs. Greg Hardy

Simply put, Greg Hardy doesn’t have the best record so we hope that this will be his last appearance on a main event (or in MMA).

The former NFL star has all the tools necessary to fight at heavyweight. However, he is still rusty from his early start and lacks any real knockout power. If we’re being fair, Sergey Spivak isn’t the speediest target and quick Hardy KO win is definitely in the realm of possibility.

But Spivak should stick to his grappling and get Hardy down as soon as he can. Once that happens, it’s a wrap for Hardy. Spivak will help Hardy get to the mat. There is only so much that you can learn in a few years. Add in the fact that Hardy has a tendency to quit when the going gets tough and you can see why I favor Spivak to finish.

Spivak by ground-and-pound TKO.

Pick: Spivak


Jalin Turner def. Jamie Mullarkey

Marina Rodriguez def. Yan Xiaonan

Nicolae Negumereanu def. Kennedy Nzechukwu

Maryna Moroz def. Mariya Agapova

Umar Nurmagomedov def. Brian Kelleher

Tim Elliott def. Tagir Ulanbekov

Ludovit Klein def. Devonte Smith

Dustin Jacoby Def. Michal Oleksiejczuk