Here are my UFC picks for this weekend’s event, headlined by Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer in Las Vegas. With the smaller octagon in play, I expect there to be plenty of carnage at UFC 250.
Herbert Burns vs. Evan Dunham
After an incredible performance by Gilbert Burns last Saturday, Herbert will look to emulate his brother and emerge victorious in the Apex facility.
The younger Burns is a decorated NoGi tournament grappler and relies on his ground game in MMA. His offensive wrestling isn’t the best, but he often finds success by pulling guard or capitalizing when his opponents shoot on him.
In a 2018 fight in Kazakhstan, he was fortunate that Aibek Nurseit decided to take him down, because Burns was clearly losing the striking exchanges before securing the submission victory in round two.
The Brazilian has a functional kickboxing game, although he’s nowhere near as refined as his brother. His boxing defense does not look good and that could be a problem against a crafty southpaw veteran like Evan Dunham.
Coming out of retirement at 38-years-of-age, you’ve got to question Dunham’s motivation at this point. He doesn’t have anything to prove, I just hope he’s fighting for the love of martial arts rather than for a paycheck.
Dunham has his own gym in Las Vegas, so it’s not like he’s been away from the sport completely.
While Dunham lost his last two fights, both were tricky southpaw versus southpaw match-ups where he got blasted with precise liver shots. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s weak to the body.
Burns likes to spam body kicks with his rear leg, but they won’t be to the liver because of the opposing stances of both fighters.
While Dunham is at a reach disadvantage, I don’t see anything to prevent him from entering boxing range.
He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but the Las Vegas native throws clean combinations and some of his punches come at weird angles. I can see this causing major issues for Burns, who is still a developing striker.
Dunham is also a good wrestler and jiu-jitsu black belt. If he wants to keep the fight on the feet I believe he can, but he could also take Burns down and grind on him.
Burns is skilled at fighting off his back, but catching Dunham in a triangle or armbar seems unlikely.
I feel like the value is with Evan Dunham at +200, even though the layoff is a big concern.
Alonzo Menifield vs. Devin Clark
A scary knockout artist with great takedown defense, Alonzo Menifield looks to have a bright future in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Training at Fortis MMA, I expect him to improve from fight to fight.
While he’s finished everyone that he’s faced, his level of competition hasn’t been good. With no disrespect intended, Vinicius Moreira and Paul Craig are lower tier light heavyweights.
In his longest fight, Menifield went 38 seconds into the second round. As a fast twitch athlete, I wonder how his cardio will hold up if he’s dragged into deep waters?
Devin Clark will be the best wrestler Menifield has faced and his first real test.
Training at Jackson’s MMA, Clark has the ability to grind opponents out and make fights ugly. While he’s a bit stiff on the feet and primarily attacks with single shots, “Brown Bear” is good at throwing strikes to disguise his takedown entries.
While I think Menifield will be fine at defending takedowns in open space, it will be interesting to see what happens if Clark can push him up against the face and wear on him.
If Menifield can shuck off takedown attempts and turn this into a kickboxing match, he should be able to find the shaky chin of Clark and put his lights out.
I favor Alonzo Menifield outright, but there is no way I would bet him at -225.
Jussier Formiga vs. Alex Perez
A judo and jiu-jitsu black belt, Jussier Formiga is widely regarded as one of the best grapplers in the UFC’s lighter weight classes.
The Brazilian is excellent in transitions and is a legendary back taker. If he’s able to lock in the body triangle on any opponent, the round is likely a wrap.
Formiga didn’t look great in his last two fights, although he faced high level opponents. That said, we could be looking at a declining fighter at 35-years-of-age.
While his boxing is solid and he throws some sneaky spinning back fists, his output is low and he lacks power. Getting the fight to the floor will be imperative against Team Oyama’s Alex Perez.
A decorated high school wrestler, Perez is tremendously well-rounded.
He likes to pressure on the feet and throw fast combinations to the head and body. He’s quite hittable, although that probably isn’t a big deal in this match-up.
Perez has good offensive wrestling and is savvy from top position, although we don’t have full insights into his defensive grappling. He showcased a fast sprawl against Eric Shelton, but it’s unclear how competent he is at fighting off his back.
I’m inclined to believe Perez will be able to defend Formiga’s body lock and trip takedowns. In order to get the fight to the mat, Formiga may need to shoot reactive takedowns and catch Perez off guard.
I’m siding with Alex Perez in this one, I think he can keep the fight upright and box his way to victory.
Maki Pitolo vs. Charles Byrd
Hawaii’s Maki Piloto likes to come forward and let rip with combinations in the pocket. He actually finished his Contender Series opponent with punches to the body at close range, which is something you don’t often see.
While his hand speed and power are great assets early in the fight, he definitely loses some pop in his shots the longer the fight goes on – as we saw in his miserable UFC debut against Callan Potter.
Pitolo fought unintelligently and engaged Potter (a judo black belt) in the clinch, which resulted in him getting out-hustled and controlled on the mat. He did not look good off his back in round three.
Stylistically, I think the Hawaiian has a tough match-up against Charles Byrd.
A well-rounded mixed martial artist, Byrd is competent wherever the fight takes place. He’s a solid striker with nasty elbows in the clinch, but his wrestling and top game are his best attributes.
On the mat, he blends his ground strikes with his grappling well. When facing a hard puncher like Pitolo, expect him to come out and look for takedowns immediately – as he did against John Phillips.
While both men are former welterweights, Byrd seems to have the more appropriate frame for the middleweight division. With a size and wrestling advantage, I think Byrd can make a fool of Pitolo on the ground – he just needs to avoid getting walloped while closing the distance.
Maki Pitolo has a realistic chance at scoring a knockout, but I think Charles Byrd has the overwhelming stylistic advantages.
Brian Kelleher vs. Cody Stamann
Coming fresh off a knockout victory over Hunter Azure a few weeks ago, Brian Kelleher makes a quick turnaround to fight at UFC 250. Kelleher was out-struck in the first round against Azure, but rallied in the second and stopped the fight with a crushing left hook.
He should still be in shape and won’t have to cut too much weight to make the featherweight limit.
Kelleher likes to apply pressure and unload with combinations in the pocket. His hands are his primary weapons, although he has good low kicks and front kicks too.
Kelleher’s best asset is his pace. He can fight at a high tempo for three rounds and will drown you if you can’t keep up with him – just watch his fight versus Renan Barao.
This could be beneficial against Cody Stamann, who tends to fight more methodically.
A former Golden Gloves champion, Stamann has sharp boxing and a great counter left hook. He’s good at sliding just out of the way of incoming punches and is defensively responsible.
When it comes to wrestling, Stamann should have a clear advantage. However, Kelleher has a lethal guillotine which could discourage Stamann from shooting his favored double leg.
While I’m confident Stamann can score takedowns, he doesn’t have the best top control. Given that Stamann is a jiu-jitsu blue belt and Kelleher is a brown belt, I’m intrigued to see how the grappling transitions unfold.
Cody Stamann deserves to be the favorite, but I suspect this fight will be closer than the odds indicate.
Ian Heinisch vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Did Ian Heinisch develop his fighting style on Rikers Island? He may not be the most refined martial artist, but he’s a relentless savage.
Heinisch comes forward tenaciously and throws with bad intentions. His outside low kick is his best weapon, although this won’t be available against a southpaw opponent.
I definitely give Heinisch the advantage in terms of speed, wrestling and athletic ability.
From a technical perspective, Gerald Meerschaert is the more skilled striker – even though he’s slower and less powerful.
A long-term pupil of Duke Roufus, I think “GM3” can have success with straight lefts and left body kicks against Heinisch. These were some of the shots that Derek Brunson (also a southpaw) defeated Heinisch with.
In terms of grappling transitions, this fight is going to be a mess. Heinisch will be the one landing takedowns, but Meerschaert is often able to sweep opponents from bottom position.
Meerschaert is the more dangerous submission threat and I could see him securing back mount during a crazy scramble or even catching Heinisch in a guillotine.
In a fight that’s likely to be sloppy and chaotic, I like Gerald Meerschaert’s chances.
Chase Hooper vs. Alex Caceres
The UFC must see marketing potential in Chase Hooper, because he has extreme limitations in his skill set, yet continues to get matched up in winnable fights.
Don’t get me wrong, Hooper has an excellent ground game, but pure jiu-jitsu fighters typically reach their ceilings sooner rather than later at the UFC level.
He still has plenty of room to grow at 20-years-of-age, but he lacks physicality and athleticism. His striking is also disastrous (particularly defensively).
Hooper lacks offensive wrestling, which means he’s forced to get the fight to the mat without the assistance of conventional takedowns. We may see him pull guard, attempt a back take from a standing position or just hope his opponent is foolish enough to engage him when he tries to tie up (this was the case in his last contest).
He’s been matched up against Alex Caceres for obvious reasons. Caceres has numerous submission losses on his record and has struggled to defend takedowns throughout his career.
That said, Caceres is the better striker by a gigantic margin and unlike Hooper’s last opponent, won’t voluntarily tie up with him. We saw Caceres use lateral movement and shuck off takedown attempts from Steven Peterson in his last fight, and that might be enough to get him the win here.
At range, Caceres should light Hooper up and I see the straight left landing all night.
Interestingly, both men are southpaws and this could be a factor in whether the fight goes to the mat or not.
In the past, we’ve seen Caceres concede takedowns from having kicks caught – specifically left kicks to the body of orthodox opponents. This weapon won’t be there against another southpaw, which might force Caceres to rely on his boxing.
I have to side with Alex Caceres, even though one small mistake could cost him the fight.
Eddie Wineland vs. Sean O’Malley
A grizzled veteran at 35-years-of-age, Eddie Wineland is someone I’ve always enjoyed watching over the years. I also cashed a nice ticket betting him in his last fight against Grigory Popov.
Fighting with a peculiar upright stance, Wineland has great footwork, upper body movement, slips and counters. He throws kicks and knees from time to time, but his hands are his primary weapons.
I feel that he’s going to have a difficult time closing the distance on Sean O’Malley, who the UFC are desperately trying to build up as a star.
O’Malley is developing into an excellent out-fighter. He controls distance brilliantly and will chip away at opponents from the outside with long straight punches and a diverse array of kicks.
Standing 5’11 with a 72-inch reach, O’Malley’s lanky frame is highly unusual for the bantamweight division.
I’m sure Wineland will try his best to work his way into boxing range, but I see him getting picked apart by the taller opponent.
That said, Wineland will benefit from the smaller octagon used in the Apex facility and we’ve seen O’Malley’s cardio look questionable in the past.
I think Sean O’Malley will cruise to victory, but the price reflects this.
Rocco Martin vs. Neil Magny
Since moving up to the welterweight division, Rocco Martin has looked like a new man.
There is nothing flamboyant about Martin’s striking style, but he’s fundamentally solid. He throws a clean 1-2, has a deadly calf kick and catches opponents with precise counters.
A jiu-jitsu black belt, Martin is crafty with his chokes and will threaten the kimura in order to scramble back to his feet if he’s on bottom position. While his defensive wrestling is not flawless, the submission threat makes opponents hesitant to shoot on him.
In order to overcome a significant deficit in reach, Martin has to chop down the lead leg of Neil Magny and compromise his movement. This was a big factor in the game plan of Magny’s former opponent, Santiago Ponzinibbio, who trains at American Top Team with Martin.
Like most people, I thought Magny was going to get whooped by Li Jingliang in his last fight, but that wasn’t the case.
Magny controlled the distance brilliantly – he picked Jingliang apart from the outside and out-hustled him in the clinch. He gave the Chinese fighter limited opportunities to mount offensive in boxing range, and he could employ a similar strategy against Martin.
I think Magny is the superior wrestler and positional grappler. If he sets out to wrestle and control Martin on the mat, this could be a feasible path to victory for him.
I’m siding with Neil Magny because he has more ways to win, but I don’t think there is any value on his -150 moneyline.
Cory Sandhagen vs. Aljamain Sterling
Standing 5’11 with a 71-inch reach, Cory Sandhagen is a gigantic bantamweight who has looked thoroughly impressive in his UFC tenure. Sandhagen trains at Elevation Fight Team and will likely be contending for the title in the near future.
He has some of the most sophisticated striking in the division, with excellent footwork, stance switches, fakes and a diverse arsenal of offensive weapons. Dominick Cruz was a big inspiration to Sandhagen and you can see this in his style.
While kickboxing is his main strength, “The Sandman” is also a skilled grappler with good takedown defense and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Aljamain Sterling is one of the most improved fighters in the division. Formerly an athletic grappler with an awkward kicking game, he’s made gigantic improvements since getting knocked out by Marlon Moraes in 2017.
“Funk Master” was great at controlling distance against two compactly built bantamweights in Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz. By mixing up his offense and switching stances continuously, he was able to out-land both contenders.
Interestingly, Sterling has the same reach as Sandhagen, although he’s four inches shorter.
Watching Sandhagen’s fight versus John Lineker, I feel Sterling may have success attacking the body. It’s also possible Sterling could land takedowns, but I’m more inclined to believe this will be a striking affair.
I have absolutely no idea who wins this fight. Both men seem evenly matched and I don’t see any edge at pick ‘em odds.
Cody Garbrandt vs. Raphael Assuncao
After losing his last three fights by way of knockout, I’m glad Cody Garbrandt spent a year on the bench. Head trauma is no joke and it’s important he thinks about the longevity of his career at 28-years-of-age.
Despite the disappointing setbacks, Garbrandt is a fighter with lots of positive attributes. He’s a fast athlete with strong takedown defense and sharp boxing.
The problems for Garbrandt are his fight IQ, striking defense and durability. In both losses to TJ Dillashaw as well as the loss to Pedro Munhoz, he engaged in 50/50 pocket exchanges and got flattened.
This was a particularly dumb thing to do against Munhoz, who has one of the best chins in the division.
It’s worth noting that Garbrandt wasn’t getting rocked or wobbled by soft jabs. The shots that took him out were full force hooks to the chin and he was the one that decided to engage in those wild exchanges.
With the help of Mark Henry, it won’t take a lot of strategic adjustments to avoid these kinds of vulnerable positions.
Unlike Garbrandt, Raphael Assuncao is known for fighting intelligently and prioritizing defense. He doesn’t take many offensive gambles, but he also doesn’t get hit a lot.
At 37-years-of-age, Assuncao is a bit long in the tooth for a bantamweight and will be at a speed disadvantage. In order to win, the Brazilian will have to capitalize on defensive openings as well as attack with low kicks, which Garbrandt may be susceptible to.
Assuncao is a brilliant grappler, but that’s unlikely to be a factor against such a good defensive wrestler and scrambler.
Cody Garbrandt is a hard guy to trust, but I feel this is a stylistically favorable match-up for him if he can fight to his strengths.
Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer
At first glance, this women’s featherweight title bout looks like a mismatch. Amanda Nunes is not a perfect fighter, but she’s proficient in every area and packs serious knockout power.
With her well-rounded skill set, she’s been able to sprawl and brawl against grapplers like Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey as well as take down and dominate strikers like Germaine De Randamie.
If you have a glaring weakness, Nunes will exploit it.
While “The Lioness” is beatable on paper, it will take an excellent striker with good takedown defense or an excellent jiu-jitsu player with good offensive wrestling to do it. Looking at the female featherweights and bantamweights on the roster, Ketlen Vieira seems like the most promising contender – I just wish she didn’t get knocked out in her last contest!
Felicia Spencer has a slick ground game, but she’s completely out-matched on the feet. Despite possessing a black belt in Taekwondo, her striking is labored and lacks process.
To her credit, Spencer is tough as nails and deceptively strong. She was able to hold Cris Cyborg against the fence for extended periods, although her cage wrestling was largely ineffective.
Nunes is a bit of a front runner and doesn’t always manage her energy intelligently. I think the Brazilian can stuff takedowns when she’s fresh, but I wonder what will happen if this turns into a gruelling war of attrition with plenty of clinch fighting?
Nunes is an overwhelming favorite for a reason, but if Spencer weathers the early storm and eventually scores a takedown on a tired opponent, she might be able to end the fight.
I think Amanda Nunes is going to reclaim her title, but there is no way I recommend betting her at -550. At these odds, you should either take a stab on the underdog or just pass.
My Main Plays
Plays are available at MMA Oddsbreaker Premium.