UFC 292 – Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley – Main Card Betting Predictions

I feel lukewarm about this card. There are some interesting fights, but I don’t think there is a huge amount of value on the betting lines.

Nevertheless, here are my main card MMA predictions.

Chris Weidman vs. Brad Tavares

For a moment in time, Chris Weidman was the greatest middleweight on the planet. Unfortunately, he has been on a downward trajectory since he threw that ill-fated wheel kick against Luke Rockhold in 2015 and is now one of the most shot fighters on the roster.

At his best, Weidman kept opponents guessing by blending his boxing and his wrestling. I just don’t think he has the speed or athleticism to utilize his tools anymore.

Weidman leaned on his grappling to take out Omari Akhmedov in 2020, but he was getting pieced up on the feet and it’s the only time I can remember the Dagestani looking like a crisp boxer!

Approaching forty and coming off a horrific leg break, it’s difficult to envision Weidman rolling back the years and looking reminiscent of his prime version.

That said, this is a winnable fight for him.

Brad Tavares has superb takedown defense and should win the aggregate of exchanges on the feet, but the Hawaiian has minimal power and a questionable chin.

Tavares should be able to sprawl, jab and leg kick his way to a decision victory or late stoppage – but I can’t put any faith in him after seeing his performances against Dricus Du Plessis and Bruno Silva.

Brad Tavares is the pick, but this is a fight I want nothing to do with.

Pedro Munhoz vs. Marlon Vera

After running hot for the last few years, Marlon Vera came crashing back to Earth after getting comprehensively outclassed by Cory Sandhagen in his last outing.

The Ecuadorian is notoriously bad at winning minutes, but has swung rounds in his favor by landing big shots at opportune times. You can only do that for so long before you reach a ceiling!

“Chito” is an intimidating striker when he takes the front foot, but his kicks and knees are more dangerous than his hands. His boxing defense is problematic and he relies on his chin more than he should.

Vera’s stance is ideal for digging teep kicks into the midsection, but it’s not so good for defending takedowns. He will attack with elbows off his back and threaten with submissions to force scrambles, but he can be controlled when facing a competent grappler – which Pedro Munhoz is.

Interestingly, Munhoz has shown improvements in the later stages of his career. He is often regarded as a plodding pocket boxer with a lethal calf kick and guillotine, but his footwork and fight IQ looked better in his last two fights.

He moved swiftly in and out of distance landing kicks against Sean O’Malley and got the better of Chris Gutierrez on the feet while also mixing in some grappling. If he stays light on his feet, picks his shots well and utilizes his ground game – I think he can pose problems for Vera.

I think Pedro Munhoz is being disrespected and I’m considering a bet at +170.

Neil Magny vs. Ian Garry

Neil Magny has big balls for taking this fight, because it’s a horrible stylistic matchup – particularly on short notice.

A gatekeeper at welterweight, Magny has relied on a good clinch game and high work rate to out-hustle opponents over the years – but he never developed into a technical striker and his last performance suggests he may be on the downswing of his career.

I just can’t see what he will do to pose a threat to one of the best prospects in the division.

Ian Garry manages distance well and is the superior kickboxer by a wide margin. He is also faster, more athletic and doesn’t have a glaring grappling deficiency for Magny to capitalize on.

There is no such thing as a lock in MMA, but I’d be shocked if Garry lost this weekend.

I like Ian Garry to win inside the distance at -135.

Weili Zhang vs. Amanda Lemos

When this fight was first announced, I was pretty sure I’d be taking a shot on Amanda Lemos at big underdog odds – but I’m less enthusiastic after watching the footage.

Lemos is a skilled boxer/counter-puncher with some nasty low kicks – but she struggles in high-paced fights, can be taken down and is the lesser athlete in this encounter.

I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of her knocking Weili Zhang out (particularly since Zhang baits you into hitting her so she can return back harder), but I think it needs to happen in the first couple of rounds.

Zhang has the superior gas tank, more weapons on the feet and a rapidly evolving grappling game. Since training at Bangtao MMA, we’ve seen her hit numerous takedowns and she relentlessly pursued the submission against Carla Esparza before securing it in round two.

So long as she remains composed, limits countering opportunities and leans on her ground game, I believe this is Zhang’s fight to lose.

I wouldn’t bet Weili Zhang straight at -350, but her submission line is enticing at +425.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley

This is a rough fight for Sean O’Malley.

“Sugar” is one of the most sophisticated out-fighters in the division. I love his creative striking and ability to program opponents in order to set up his power shots – but I don’t think he can stop the takedown and is thoroughly outclassed on the mat.

Aljamain Sterling’s striking is awkward and janky, but it’s good enough to set up his takedown entries. “Funkmaster” chains excellently off the single leg and is lightning fast at transitioning to the body triangle.

Unless he walks face-first into one of O’Malley’s traps or blows his gas tank by fighting at an unsustainable pace, this is Sterling’s fight to lose.

I have some concerns however.

Sterling has a huge cut to bantamweight and said he will be moving up to featherweight after this fight.

If he shows up in a depleted state after a massive cut and his gas tank is affected, this could even up the playing field – but I’d still need a better price than +200 in order to take a shot on the underdog.

Aljamain Sterling to win inside the distance is the line that stands out to me at +110.