The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 246 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday will kick off its 2020 campaign, as former two-division champion Conor McGregor returns to the cage for the first time in more than a year and does so in a showdown with Donald Cerrone in the UFC 246 main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Stakes are high on a number of fronts.
WHO HAS THE MOST TO GAIN?
Donald Cerrone: After 33 fights and nearly a decade under the UFC banner, the longtime fan favorite gets his shot at the money fight about which fans and analysts alike have been speculating for some time. At first glance, many viewed this bout as a tune-up for McGregor. Cerrone finds himself on a two-fight losing streak while drifting into the twilight of his career. However, closer inspection reveals a much more competitive matchup. Cerrone’s path to victory involves not shying away from his grappling skills and refusing to play into the Irishman’s strength on the feet. McGregor excels when he mesmerizes opponents with his in-and-out footwork and lightning-quick counter reactions. “Cowboy” needs to rely on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu game while also throwing kicks and knees in an attempt to interrupt McGregor’s timing.
Diego Ferreira: Since he made the move to Fortis MMA in Texas, Ferreira seems to have hit his stride in the UFC lightweight division; and after piecing together an impressive five-fight winning streak, he draws a high-profile opponent in former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting champion Anthony Pettis. The pairing has the potential to put the Brazilian on the map as a dark horse contender at 155 pounds. Ferreira has made significant improvements with his striking under the tutelage of Sayif Saud, but his grappling remains his primary strength. If he can keep Pettis glued to the mat, he can minimize the risk and improve his chances of securing a signature victory.
Maycee Barber: After bursting on the scene and landing a UFC contract with an impressive showing on Dana White’s Contender Series, Barber has done all she can to fulfill her desire of becoming the youngest champion in promotional history. She has rattled off three consecutive victories, all by technical knockout, ahead of her confrontation with women’s MMA pioneer Roxanne Modafferi. The career of “The Happy Warrior” dates back to 2003, and her extensive in-cage experience—along with her size and reach—figures to serve her well against a younger opponent. Barber would be wise to stick to what got her to the dance and look to turn up the aggression early, moving into range to connect with the powerful knees and elbows that have come to define her stay in the UFC. A decisive victory over Modafferi would further raise Barber’s profile and move the 21-year-old one step closer to a title fight at 125 pounds.
WHO HAS THE MOST TO LOSE?
Conor McGregor: Since losing to current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018, the former two-division titleholder has managed to keep his name in the news for everything but fighting. Can McGregor return to form after a considerable layoff? While he did not get the instant Nurmagomedov rematch for which he had hoped, the Irishman draws a fight that seems sure to please, as he takes on “Cowboy” Cerrone in the headliner. According to UFC President Dana White, a strong and successful showing from McGregor could result in his being named as the No. 1 contender for the lightweight championship. While he remains a transcendent figure and the sport’s biggest star, time will tell whether or not McGregor is back and better than ever.
Holly Holm: “The Preacher’s Daughter” has endured a precipitous fall from grace. Since her career-defining beatdown of Ronda Rousey in 2015, Holm has compiled a miserable 2-5 record inside the UFC. Even so, UFC matchmakers continue to put her in high-profile fights in an attempt to capitalize on the star power she still wields. However, Holm seems closer to having to fight to keep her job than she is to vying for another title anytime soon. Can a rematch with Raquel Pennington spark a return to glory for the Jackson-Wink MMA standout? Holm cannot get complacent, as she has repeatedly fallen into the trap of fighting off her back foot on her way to uneventful decision losses. The 38-year-old remains one of the sport’s most talented and accomplished strikers, so if she can tap into the aggression she showed against Rousey, she could treat the audience to a vintage performance that prompts a resurgence.
Sodiq Yusuff: The Dana White’s Contender Series graduate finds himself within reach of the Top 15 at 145 pounds, but Andre Fili—a crafty veteran who seems all-too-willing to play spoiler—stands in his way. Yusuff has recorded three straight wins since he joined the UFC roster a little more than a year ago, and he now has the featherweight division’s elite in his sights. The 26-year-old brings a surprising level of striking skill to the cage despite his lack of professional experience. Yusuff has proven to be extremely measured with his standup attack in the UFC, doing well to keep his head off the centerline while chopping away with deceptively powerful leg kicks that set up quick and efficient power punches. “Super Sodiq” ranks as one of the most promising prospects in the 145-pound weight class, but overcoming Fili in a dark horse for “Fight of the Night” will be no small feat.