While Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone headline UFC 246, the card Jan. 18 features much more—from crossroad clashes to even-money battles that are sure to ring in 2020 with a thunderous bang. Holly Holm will try to resuscitate her career against Raquel Pennington, Aleksei Oleinik will look to turn away the challenge of Maurice Green, and more highlight this stacked card.
Holly Holm is in a 2-5 slump, where each fight is career threatening, and she is showing signs of a fighter too prideful to hang them up. Her punch resistance and movement isn’t what it used to be, but she is a narrow favorite over Raquel Pennington, because of Pennington’s lack of punching power and a relative gap in experience.
It isn’t hard to imagine Holm can get back on track against an opponent who can’t outstrike her or test her chin, but Pennington can take a good shot and keep coming, which can make things difficult for the aging Holm. Unless Holm can clip Pennington early, she’ll have to chase her opponent across the ring, as Pennington will aim to steal rounds with movement, activity, and groundwork.
Pennington knows a straight-up fight with Holm will result in a brutal knockout, but she isn’t going to let Holm get her feet set. Pennington will stay outside the range of Holm’s jab, with hopes of catching Holm with counters. Eventually Pennington is going to have to fight Holm off and take some shots, but her chin should hold up, just like it did against Amanda Nunez, a harder puncher.
This is a trap fight for Holm, and if she doesn’t end it early, she will spend the duration of the fight chasing Pennington down, while getting tagged along the way. Expect Pennington to outwork Holm, who will be unable to cut off the ring or land a critical blow, to win a narrow decision.
MMA free pick: Pennington
Greene’s lack of power means Olenik is almost certainly going to take the fight to him and test his mettle. The veteran has been in with better opponents and can still go, which will show when he outsmarts and overpowers Greene for a clear decision win.
MMA free pick: Oleinik
If Gadelha can’t impose herself on Grasso from the start, she will have to fight at Grasso’s pace to conserve her strength. While Grasso can steal this one by outworking Gadelha, Gadelha will land the better shots and control the action on her way to a dull decision win.
MMA free pick: Gadelha
While Pettis doesn’t lose back-to-back fights often, the beatings he has taken over the last few fights are not going to help him out against Ferreira. Ferreira should have no trouble taking the worn Pettis down to get a submission.