The worldwide leader in MMA makes their return to PPV tonight as UFC 252 takes place from The Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. In an effort to book major events through the end of the year, Dana White and WME have lined the calendar with high profile, money-making fights. With the culmination of the greatest trilogy in MMA history set to kick off the final stretch of 2020, the UFC remains the base for the sporting world outside of any…bubble.
Jim “A-10” Miller (32-14) vs. Vinc “From Hell” Pichel (12-2)
Felice “Lil Bulldog” Herrig (14-8) vs. Virna “Carcara” Jandiroba (15-1)
Chris Daukaus (8-3) vs. Parker Porter (10-5)
UFC 252 Main Card:
John “The Magician” Dodson (22-11) vs. Merab “The Machine” Dvalishvili (11-4)
The Main Card for UFC 252 will kick off with two bantamweights looking to break back into being a contender at 135 LBS. TUF 14 winner John Dodson makes his debut in the pandemic era of the UFC as he meets Merab Dvalishvili. Not being that active over the last two years, Dodson faces a tall task in a man who could be undefeated in the UFC. “The Machine” had some bad luck before his current four-fight win streak. Losing by split decision to Frankie Saenz and losing by TKO after the final bell to Ricky Simons as Dvalishvili won on the scorecards has put a chip on the Georgian’s shoulder. Dodson, who was behind on the scorecards against Nathaniel Wood before securing a last-second KO, has to come out quickly if he does not want to fall behind again.
While “The Magician” has faced some of the best in the world, he never gets over the hump unless he delivers with his quick right hand. Rugged decision losses to the likes of current Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan and elite contender Marlon Moraes has put Dodson at a crossroads. Having one of the most balanced styles in the division, it is disappointing to see Dodson take a step back every time he makes a promising stride in the right direction. A win over Dvalishvili could place Dodson back among the contenders in the minefield that is the bantamweight division.
In what is one of the more interesting stylistic matchups on the card, fans will get to see what Dvalishvili gets out of Dodson early on. With Dvalishvili having some of the best takedown offense in the division, Dodson’s solid takedown defense will decide how this fight will go. While Dodson is the better boxer, Dvalishvili is ferocious enough to keep the speedy veteran close to the cage. The adjustments made in round one will decide if Dodson can land consistently, or if Dvalishvili keeps him in spurts as he takes another decision away from the former TUF Champion.
Dvalishvili def. Dodson via Unanimous Decision
Herbert “The Blaze” Burns (11-2) vs. Daniel “The Pit” Pineda (26-13)
Undefeated in the UFC, Herbert Burns has laid a path for himself in the featherweight division. Wanting to gain a number next to his name, “The Blaze” will need to get past the experienced Daniel Pineda. While having a lot of wins under his belt, Pineda’s body of work leaves room to be skeptical. With his most recent win streak coming against fighters with losing records or little experience, it’s tough to give him the edge in this one. With that being said, Pineda has been a part of some memorable wars and suffered close losses to notable names.
This fight would be perfect for a slot at the Pan-American Championships. With 8 of Burns’ 11 victories coming by first or second-round submission, the approach of grappling Pineda with 18 submission wins of his own is intriguing. There is a reason Pineda is called “The Pit”. With Burns having the intangibles to “Blaze” through Pineda’s guard, and the control to avoid any attacks Pineda attempts from his back, he has the pivotal advantage to put him over the top.
Having a tougher slate of opponents over the last few years, Burns is prepared to overcome Pineda in what is sure to be a jiujitsu chest match. At this point in his career, Burns is not the guy someone would want to invite to the ground. Roles are swapped as the quick starter figures the grinder out late in the fight.
Burns def. Pineda via Submission (3rd Round)
Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos (21-7) vs. Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik (10-1)
265 LB Limit
The “Don’t Blink” moment of the night will be brought to you by the legendary Junior Dos Santos and the dangerous Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Both men suffered knocked out losses in their last fight, which sets the scene for a contest in the heavyweight division to be over fast or to highly disappoint. With neither competitor ever accused of being gunshy, the former is more formidable.
With landing bombs being the strategy for two guys who can knock out anybody, it is tough to say whose chin will go first. As “Cigano” has aged, his reaction time and ability to take a shot has declined. On the other hand, “Bigi Boy” was blasted to Mars by Francis Ngannou just three months ago. So it will come down to who can to can be more patient with their strikes while being able to counter when the other over commits.
Rozenstruik would likely be undefeated if he had not come across the scariest man in the sport back in May. While JDS is determined to make another run to the top, there are a few younger competitors that will get in his way. Rozenstruik lands on the button first to get back in the win column.
Rozenstruik def. Dos Santos via KO (1st Round)
Sean “Sugar” O’Malley (12-0) vs. Marlon “Chito” Vera (15-6-1)
For the first time in a while, it seems that the UFC has taken their time to build a new potential superstar. The UFC has made the mistake of throwing their young prospects to the wolves too early. Seeing Sean O’Malley take the promotion by storm with an appropriate fight history is refreshing, so it makes the “Suga Show” and his bout with Marlon “Chito” Vera that much more exciting. With Vera being on a roll over the last two years, the time has come for O’Malley to test his abilities against what should be a ranked opponent.
Since making his debut on the Contender Series in 2017, O’Malley has boosted his stock every time he has made the walk. With three first-round KO’s on his UFC record, O’Malley is always on the docket for a highlight finish. Once again, “Sugar” has a considerable height and reach advantage. With someone like Vera, who has had a habit of getting hit at times, we could be seeing another fight where O’Malley keeps his distance and uses long-range striking to close the show.
Going into his last fight with Song Yadong, Vera was on a five-fight win streak developing his game by the round. Although there are people who think Vera won the bout against Yadong (Including O’Malley), there seemed to be a noticeable regression in his striking. If Vera approaches this fight with a similar style, he might not be at the office for very long. Being a young veteran of sorts, Vera could use his stance switching abilities to close the distance and make this harder for O’Malley.
As Vera looks to derail the increasing momentum of Dana’s new favorite toy, and O’Malley looking to shoot up the ranks, this has the potential to win Fight of the Night. Vera’s best chance is to get the fight to the ground. With the 25-year-old having average takedown defense, an interesting dynamic is created. The contest will not make it there, giving O’Malley the time to add to his kickboxing resume.
O’Malley def. Vera via KO (2nd Round)
Daniel “DC” Cormier (22-2, 1 NC) vs. Stipe Miocic (19-3) III
265 LB Limit
As Daniel Cormier steps into the octagon for the final time, he will have a chance to accomplish something no one else has. No man or woman has ever won a world championship in the last contest of their MMA career. (Please hold on GSP) In what will go down as one of the best careers in the history of the sport, Cormier will get his opportunity to ride off into the sunset as the Heavyweight Champion of the world. What stands in his way? Arguably the greatest heavyweight the UFC has ever seen.
It’s also the final chapter of their trilogy, just in case you haven’t heard.
While the world focuses on what Cormier is up to and what could result from a DC victory, Stipe Miocic prepares to defend the belt that he has made more prestigious than anyone else has. Placed in a unique situation, at 37-years-old, Miocic will need a win tonight to avoid eventually winning a belt that does not belong to the actual champion. With a Ngannou rematch waiting in the wings for the Croatian American, Miocic is ready for another crash course in the division with a second straight win over the former Olympian.
Both fighters come into tonight’s fight with one victory over the other, meaning that the comfortability level among both competitors is higher than normal. There have been adjustments made mid-round by each man in their respective wins. As DC capitalized on Miocic’s clinch vulnerabilities in the first fight, Miocic took DC’s liver to the woodshop in the rematch. With the cage being 25 feet across, one must think about Cormier’s desire to use his wrestling more often in the rubber match. Even with Miocic capable of holding his own on the ground, he will not be able to sustain that type of defense for 25 minutes. Regardless, DC has gone on record saying that he is looking for a fight, so it’s safe to say this fight won’t be boring.
Miocic proved to be a tough out last August, so DC will need to come with a smarter game plan this time around. If not, there is no reason to think Stipe won’t land the bigger shots late in the fight. After blowing his gas tank in the second fight, a healthier DC sticks to the plan and proves who the superior fighter is. As Stipe fails to move his head and feet, Cormier caps the trilogy off with an impressive W to close out his storied career. In doing so, he becomes the greatest heavyweight of all time.
Cormier def. Miocic via Unanimous Decision
***Dana walks into DC’s locker room with a peculiar duffle bag***