The Trilogy Ends Here. That is the tagline for UFC 252 at the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas. The third and final fight in the Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier saga will be the rubber match between the two. Cormier won the first fight to be a dual championship. Miocic won the second fight to get his title back.
Barring something unforeseen, the third fight will be the last one in the illustrious career of Daniel Cormier. He’ll either go out a heavyweight champion or simply of a champion of the sport.
That isn’t the only fight on the UFC 252 card, but it is certainly the most anticipated fight on the card. There have been a lot of changes to the card and the undercard isn’t exactly what you would hope to see with a main event of this magnitude, but COVID-19 has thrown everything for a loop this year. Why would this event be any different?
We’ll take our odds from BetOnline Sportsbook for the card and pay a little extra attention to the main card matchups.
The UFC debut of Kai Kamaka III will start us off at 145 pounds. He’ll go up against another debutant in Tony Kelley, who only has one MMA fight under his belt since the middle of 2016. He lost that title fight to Kevin Aguilar, who is now a regular fixture in UFC. This was a late addition to the card, so odds were not listed at time of writing.
The matchup between Chris Daukaus and Parker Porter has been moved to the Early Prelims. Daukaus is also making his UFC debut after starting 8-3 in a few other promotions, including CFFC and CES. This is also the UFC debut for Porter, whose last three fights have been in CES. He is 10-5 in his career. Porter is a small -114 favorite with a total of 1.5 with -115 on both sides. For a heavyweight fight with two guys looking to make a statement, strikes should fly early. Even not knowing much about the two fighters, the under is probably a good idea in a matchup like this.
Decision machine Ashley Yoder starts off the regular Prelims card against Livinha Souza. Souza is a -161 favorite with, as you would expect, a total heavily juiced on over 2.5. Every one of Yoder’s six UFC fights has gone the full 15. She is 2-4 in those fights. She’s shown some chin, but hasn’t shown much power at all. Two of Souza’s three UFC scraps have gone the distance, but she did open with an impressive submission win. The 29-year-old is looking to bounce back from just her second career loss at the hands of Brianna Van Buren. She should do so.
We have yet another UFC newcomer in the featherweight fight between Danny Chavez and TJ Brown. This will be the second UFC fight for Brown, a Dana White Contender Series find. He lost to Jordan Griffin back in February when he tapped out for the third time in his career. Chavez brings a 10-3 record to UFC and three straight first-round knockout wins. That recent run hasn’t been enough to make him the favorite. He’s +133 to Brown’s -153 price. Brown is a veteran of 21 fights, but he’s also spent most of his time on lesser circuits and has lost most of his fights against better opponents. This looks like a good spot to take an underdog shot, as Chavez seems to have found something new that works for him.
We go right back to the women’s division, this time the strawweight for Felice Herrig and Virna Jandiroba. These are a couple of names much more familiar to fight fans. Herrig is +275 and Jandiroba is a massive -325 favorite. The total is again juiced heavily to the over. This is only the third UFC fight for Jandiroba, who lost her debut to Carla Esparza. It was the first loss of her career. She rebounded with a submission win over Mallory Martin. Herrig is a step up, but she’s lost two fights in a row and doesn’t have enough striking power to knock out or really even hurt Jandiroba. This is also Herrig’s first fight since October 6, 2018. Jandiroba will win here.
Jim Miller is another very familiar name. The veteran of 46 professional MMA fights is a slight underdog against Vinc Pichel in the lightweight division. Miller bounced back nicely from his loss to Scott Holtzman with a very impressive win over Roosevelt Roberts. As such, he’s back less than two months later. The ground game for Miller has been excellent throughout his career and this will be a different kind of test for Pichel. Pichel has eight knockouts, but zero submission wins. He tapped out two fights ago against Grigor Gillespie and then didn’t fight again for over a year. He’s on another 13.5-month layoff here, while Miller has stayed sharp. Miller is the preferred look here at -101.
John Dodson (+195) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (-230); Total: 2.5 (-300/240)
John Dodson was in some rare air with his last fight. Dodson scored his first knockout win in nearly four years when he KO’d Nathaniel Wood. It stopped Dodson’s two-fight losing streak and was a much needed performance after losing four of the previous six. Dodson returned to bantamweight after his second title loss to Demetrious Johnson in 2015 and has fought some of the better guys in the division.
Dodson was blooded in that win over Wood. Dodson was losing on the cards. He needed that type of result. Here he draws Merab Dvalishvili, who has four straight unanimous decision wins after getting knocked out by Ricky Simon on April 21, 2018. This will be Dvalishvili’s third fight of 2020. Dodson ended a 357-day layoff with that win over Wood. This line should probably be higher, if we’re being honest. Dodson was en route to his third straight loss before the KO.
Pick: Merab Dvalishvili
Daniel Pineda (+230) vs. Herbert Burns (-270); Total: 1.5 (105/-135)
Daniel Pineda has waited a long time to get back in the UFC Octagon. He last fought at UFC 171 against Robert Whiteford. That was it. He was released from his contract and found a home in LFC for a while before moving to Bellator. Along the way, he didn’t really face anybody of great consequence. Now he’s back to fight Herbert Burns, the younger brother of Gilbert Burns.
As the line would suggest, this is Burns’s fight to lose. The 32-year-old is 11-2 in his MMA career and 2-0 since joining the UFC after a cameo appearance on the Dana White Contender Series. All three of Burns’s recent wins have come via first-round stoppage, hence the low total for this fight. Burns hasn’t beaten nobodies. Nate Landwehr was a title holder with multiple defenses in M-1. Evan Dunham is clearly on the wrong side of his career, but he’s a UFC veteran. Burns appears to be the real deal in the division and he’s going to get this win.
Pick: Herbert Burns
Junior Dos Santos (+109) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (-129); Total: 1.5 (-115/-115)
What we lack for the majority of the card, we more than make up for the last three fights. Junior dos Santos is probably on the backside of his career. He’s lost his last two times out to Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes and was knocked out early in each fight. That being said, Ngannou’s career losses are Stipe Miocic, Derrick Lewis, and a loss by decision in his second career fight against Zoumana Cisse. Blaydes has lost twice. Both times to Francis Ngannou.
This is a big fight for dos Santos. A win here puts him back in the discussion for some better opportunities down the line. A loss and the questions will get a little louder and a little more poignant.
This is also a big fight for Rozenstruik. He lost to Francis Ngannou in just 20 seconds last time out. It was his first time really getting challenged by a fighter as strong and athletic as he is. It didn’t go well. Now Rozenstruik takes on a guy that may have lost a step, but also has immense amounts of fight IQ. Rozenstruik was taken deep into the fifth round by Alistair Overeem, which is a bit of a red flag going into this one, as dos Santos is just as savvy, but even more dangerous.
Dos Santos is much more advanced in the ground and pound, if he can get the fight to the canvas. This will be a great fight and may end up a lesson in technical skill for the young Rozenstruik.
Pick: Junior Dos Santos
Marlon Vera (+237) vs. Sean O’Malley (-277); Total: 2.5 (-155/125)
Sean O’Malley has had two fights in 2020. They’ve lasted a total of 3:56. He spent two years away from MMA after beating Andre Soukhamthath at UFC 222 because of positive drug tests for ostarine. He was supposed to fight Marlon Vera at UFC 239 on July 6, 2019. He will fight against him now and do so as a big favorite.
That may not have been the case just over a year ago. O’Malley was obviously a prospect with a ceiling when he improved to 10-0, but his very impressive recent efforts have given him a different kind of status.
Vera comes in off of a long layoff loss to Song Yadong. It ended a five-fight winning streak for the 27-year-old. This will be one of his strongest tests to date, but Vera is being treated like a second-class fighter here. He’s never lost via stoppage. He’s got more experience at this level. He’s a solid fighter and competitor that had five straight stoppage wins before what was mostly an even fight against Yadong, despite the unanimous decision label.
O’Malley will likely win here and he probably should. He’s got star power, swagger, and the UFC wants him to win this fight, so he gets what should be a favorable matchup. However, the value side here is Vera. There is no value in tearing up a losing ticket, unfortunately, but this line is probably higher than it should be based on where the two fighters are in their careers.
Pick: Marlon Vera
Stipe Miocic (-102) vs. Daniel Cormier (-118); Total: 2.5 (-160/130)
Stipe Miocic won the rematch. He comes into this one as the champion. He didn’t look much like a champion through the first two rounds. The first fight was over almost too early for Miocic to get a blueprint on Cormier. The knockout win for DC came in the first round and was definitely a stunner. The second fight was more of a war. A back-and-forth battle in which Miocic probably needed to do what he did to win.
Cormier was ahead on the cards in the second fight, but Miocic was able to make some excellent mid-fight adjustments. He stopped falling for Cormier’s hand-grabbing and head decoys. He started attacking the body of the then 40-year-old. It gave him the opening he needed to get in there and get the win.
Miocic took that first fight on 6.5 months notice after a grueling fight with Francis Ngannou. It was 13 months later that he took the second fight. The two now fight nearly a year from the first one. Miocic took some big shots early in the fight, but showcased a chin that Cormier didn’t see in the first matchup. It seemed to fluster and tire out Cormier that he couldn’t knock out Miocic.
What happens here in the last fight of Cormier’s career? His gameplan was sound, but he didn’t make the right adjustments during the fight. Miocic has to make adjustments, too. He can’t take as many early shots. He can’t fall for Cormier’s smokescreens. Cormier looked like the smarter, more aware fighter in the second matchup. Miocic was fortunate to make his adjustments in time to win.
Cormier is the rightful favorite here. He can let it all hang out because this is it. He’s done after this. Miocic is going to have to use his length effectively. Cormier is a strong heavyweight, but Miocic has the size advantage. He didn’t use that well in the first fight or the first half of the second fight. He’ll have to do a better job of that here.
This will be a technical fight. Both guys throw big shots, but the over juice is right. They’ve got two matchups now to draw experience from. Cormier may not go all-in for the knockout. He may not tire himself out early. I think it’s the right plan for Cormier.
As a Clevelander, I’m rooting hard for Miocic and hope he wins, but Cormier is my pick for the rubber match.
Pick: Daniel Cormier