The UFC’s final pay-per-view card of 2019 just might be its deepest of the calendar year when a trio of title fights top the bill on Saturday at UFC 245 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
A deep, five-fight main card is anchored by a welterweight title main event between champion Kamaru Usman in his first defense against biter rival and former interim titleholder Colby Covington. From there, the circumstances and stories surrounding the featured bouts only get even more interesting.
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Let’s take a closer look at the biggest storylines entering this weekend.
1. Are we ready to live in a world in which ‘Chaos’ reigns? Facing the possibility of being cut by UFC three years ago due to a lack of marketability, Covington flipped the switch in dramatic fashion to become a calculatingly hated villain. From UFC brass to his own teammates at American Top Team, seemingly no one is immune to being trolled or attacked. On his road to becoming universally despised, Covington succeeded in bringing attention to himself through a crafted public persona that has no levels of shame. He also never stopped winning and now sits one victory away from unseating Usman and proving every single one of his doubters wrong. Should he get there, his crossover potential would be limitless as a singular brand. Hate him or love him, his plan to get noticed and save his job has painfully worked to perfection.
2. It’s hard to bet against Max Holloway at 145 pounds. Holloway is the greatest featherweight in UFC history and on the short list of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world today. His mission, however, is to one day retire as the greatest fighter to ever step foot in the Octagon. To have a shot at getting there, he’ll have to continue to take difficult tests like the one he’ll face in the co-main event against Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski. On paper, there’s more than a strong case to be made that this could go down as the toughest fight Holloway has accepted as a featherweight. Yet it’s the native of Hawaii’s unflappability amid personal chaos, health challenges and danger inside the cage that makes it hard to believe he will ever be forced to give up his title until one actually sees him do so with their own eyes. Since a loss to Conor McGregor in 2013 when Holloway was just a puppy, the 28-year-old warrior is 14-0 at 145 pounds with wins over everyone who has mattered. Given Volkanovski’s power and well-rounded game, there’s a good chance Holloway may slightly bend on Saturday, but don’t go broke on betting that he’ll break.
3. Overlooked Germaine de Randamie finally gets her opportunity to laugh last. The last few years have been anything but a memorable coming-out party for de Randamie, the Dutch police officer by day who somehow transitioned from inaugural UFC women’s featherweight champion to public pariah in a span of months. “The Iron Lady” was unceremoniously stripped of her title in 2017 when she refused to face Cris Justino due to concerns over whether “Cyborg” was clean. Back at her preferred weight of 135 pounds, GDR only continued to face negative press when she benefited from a quick stoppage against Aspen Ladd in a 16-second TKO win in July. Yet all de Randamie has done through her ups and downs is win and look good doing so entering Saturday’s rematch against two-division champion Amanda Nunes. De Randamie is a dominant 5-0 in the Octagon (including wins over Holly Holm and Raquel Pennington) since a 2013 TKO loss to Nunes during a still developmental period of each of their respective careers. Fighting just once per year over the last five, GDR has largely done things her own way and she’s more live of a dog given her size and technical striking ability than many experts are willing to realize. Nunes, the UFC’s first female two-division champion, has earned rightful praise as the greatest women’s fighter in history. Because of that, a win for de Randamie could cement herself as a legitimate female combat sports legend thanks to a decorated 46-0 kickboxing career.
4. Jose Aldo and his 135-pound gamble. Stuck at a crossroads in a division he helped launch thanks to two losses to current featherweight champion Max Holloway, the 33-year-old Aldo took his aspirations for a second title in as many divisions 10 pounds south. Whether or not Aldo can function at bantamweight despite training camp photos which have shown the Brazilian legend looking drawn remains to be seen. What Aldo won’t get is an easy pass to test himself at the new weight as he’s scheduled to face the highly dangerous Marlon Moraes, who lost a vacant title bout to Henry Cejudo in June. Although Aldo was never known as a large featherweight, he’s taking an incredible gamble at the tail end of his physical prime. The fact that TJ Dillashaw failed so miserably in attempting a similar feat against Cejudo at flyweight won’t go down as encouraging proof that Aldo will accomplish this task with any form of ease. Still, should his gamble pay off, a title shot may not be far off.
5. No guts, no glory for UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber. Three years removed from retirement, the 40-year-old Faber’s comeback story in 2019 has been a positive one thanks to a 46-second TKO of Ricky Simon in July. But it’s one thing to leverage one’s celebrity into coming back for a payday or two and entirely different what Faber has set out to accomplish. The former WEC champion has famously come up short in four different chances at UFC gold (interim or otherwise). His path toward a possible fifth chance must go through the very best this deep bantamweight division has to offer at the moment, which is why Faber agreed to face 26-year-old Russian wrecking ball Petr Yan. On paper, this has all the makings to be a rough night at the office for the “California Kid.” That’s part of the motivation as to why he’s daring enough to take it.