UFC 269 is now one sleep away, and to get you more hype for the event than you already are, we’ve got some staff predictions ready to serve up for ya!
Perhaps the most stacked card of the year from top to bottom will close out the 2021 PPV docket. UFC 269 will be available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view, with the main card beginning at 10:00 PM ET, the ESPN2 preliminary card kicking off at 8:00 PM, and the early preliminary card starting at 6:15 PM.
The main event will see Charles Oliveira defend his lightweight championship for the first time when he takes on fellow UFC veteran Dustin Poirier. The co-main event will feature the consensus greatest women’s mixed martial artist of all time, Amanda Nunes, taking on the fearless Julianna Peña for the women’s bantamweight championship.
Also on the main card, top-15 welterweights Geoff Neal and Santiago Ponzinibbio will go at it, and we’ll also see former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt make his flyweight debut against Kai Kara-France. And kicking off the pay-per-view will be “The Suga Show” when “Sugar” Sean O’Malley faces Raulian Paiva.
UFC 269 Staff Predictions
MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 269 updates. Staff members Clyde Aidoo, Andrew Ravens, Harvey Leonard, and Ed Carbajal have provided predictions for the main card. Here is the full main card lineup for tomorrow night:
Raulian Paiva vs. Sean O’MalleySean O’Malley, Raulian Paiva
Clyde Aidoo: Raulian Paiva is not a “can” by any means. He is on a three-fight winning streak, including a win over another strong prospect in Kyler Phillips. And overall, he is 3-2 in the UFC.
However, even though he isn’t a “can,” he is a great stylistic matchup for O’Malley because he has proven to be very hittable with suspect defense. With O’Malley’s three-inch reach advantage and cleaner boxing skills, this may come down to if Paiva is able to come back like he did against Phillips or if O’Malley will be able to punch ad nauseam as he did against Kris Moutinho. I’m banking on the latter. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)
Andrew Ravens: Sean is back on track after some setbacks, but now, his next challenge will be a tough one in Paiva, who is riding a three-fight winning streak. Sean has faced and mostly defeated better competition than Paiva, which gives him an edge. I’ll take Sean getting a third-round TKO win. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)
Harvey Leonard: I see this fight playing out relatively similar to O’Malley’s victory over Moutinho earlier this year, albeit with a better defense on the end of his punches. With his usual high volume, I’d expect “Sugar” to have his way with the Brazilian and use his reach advantage to full effect. While I don’t think it’s as set of a deal as many, and Paiva boasts the counter-striking and jiu-jitsu skills to cause an issue, I believe an upset is unlikely. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)
Ed Carbajal: This should be an interesting fight. O’Malley’s grappling is underrated because he usually wins by knockout, but we have seen him wear down when fights go long, especially in his last bout against a short-notice Kris Moutinho. Most of Paiva’s wins come by decision, so unless O’Malley’s fame is distracting him from imposing his ectomorph reach on his opponents, it’s hard to pick against him here. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)
Consensus: 4-0 O’Malley
Kai Kara-France vs. Cody GarbrandtKai Kara-France, Cody Garbrandt
Clyde Aidoo: No one really knows what to expect from Garbrandt at flyweight. Will he revert back to a brawl-heavy approach in an attempt to bully smaller opponents? That may actually be the smart move because Kara-France is one of if not the most technical striker in the division, so making the fight dirty could be the right path for Garbrandt. Because it’ll be difficult for Garbrandt to outpoint France, and France hasn’t been knocked out since 2012.
I think Kara-France is going to be tough enough to get to the scorecards here, and in a close fight where one fighter is technically superior, I’m going to lean in that direction. I think Kara-France will be a watered-down version of Rob Font here against “No Love.” (Prediction: Kai Kara-France)
Andrew Ravens: Garbrandt finds himself in a really interesting spot, especially after the UFC just cut ties with Kevin Lee, who had also been struggling over his last few fights. Kai is someone that Garbrandt should beat, but if Cody doesn’t show up in the right mindset, he could lose and then the possibilities are wide open. Garbrandt takes a calculated approach and gets it done in 15 minutes. (Prediction: Cody Garbrandt)
Harvey Leonard: This should be an entertaining standup battle. While I can picture a Munhoz-esque brawl in the pocket resulting in Kara-France finishing Garbrandt, I don’t think there’s a good enough chance of that happening to go against the former champion. This should be a tough flyweight debut, but one in which “No Love” has the skill and power edge to get the job done and advance towards the title. (Prediction: Cody Garbrandt)
Ed Carbajal: Someone is getting knocked out in this fight. Who that will be? Well, we’ll have to tune in, but looking at recent losses and losses via knockout, Garbrandt seems the most vulnerable. Since both men like to pick up wins by knockout, they could forego that and test their grappling skills against one another, but bonuses don’t usually go to decisive grapplers. (Prediction: Kai Kara-France)
Consensus: 2-2 Pick ’em
Geoff Neal vs. Santiago PonzinibbioGeoff Neal, Santiago Ponzinibbio (Image Credits: Chris Unger/Alexandre Schneider/Zuffa LLC)
Clyde Aidoo: This may be the closest fight on the main card, if not the entire event, which is saying a lot given how stacked the lineup is. I think this bout is going to come down to which individual is more likely to make a fight-ending mistake. I think that would be Ponzinibbio. Meanwhile, Neal is slicker on the feet and also tougher to put away.
I don’t see Ponzinibbio prioritizing footwork and elusiveness, which is why one big opening could be costly. I see Neal taking advantage of that or maybe just winning the fight with the heavier firepower and ability to withstand more punishment. (Prediction: Geoff Neal)
Andrew Ravens: These two enter this fight in different positions, as Neal has lost his last two fights while Ponzinibbio had a bump in the road with a loss only to rebound with a decision win. Both are really talented, but with Neal being desperate, I think he pulls out all of the stops to get his hand raised once again and stop the losing streak from continuing with a decision win. (Prediction: Geoff Neal)
Harvey Leonard: This should be yet another intriguing contest on the feet and one that is very tough to call. Despite losing two on the bounce, Neal fell to high-ranked opponents and should be a lot more competitive this weekend. But Ponzinibbio was an elite contender before his layoff, and I’ve not seen anything to suggest that’s changed since he returned. Any fighter can get caught like he did against Jingliang, and to bounce back with a victory over the previously unbeaten Baeza in a FOTY contender was mightily impressive. I expect the Argentine to narrowly outpoint Neal. (Prediction: Santiago Ponzinibbio)
Ed Carbajal: Neal is coming off of two losses and if the news of his November legal troubles is an indicator of his focus, fans will know for sure when he faces Ponzinibbio. Ponzinibbio coming off of a win likely wants to keep that going and will look to test Neal’s resolve. It will boil down to who wants it more. I’m leaning Ponzinibbio here. (Prediction: Santiago Ponzinibbio)
Consensus: 2-2 Pick ’em
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna PeñaAmanda Nunes, Julianna Pena
Clyde Aidoo: Julianna Peña is being criminally underlooked in this fight, and it doesn’t make any sense. On paper, Amanda Nunes has been unstoppable ever since winning the bantamweight title at UFC 200 five years ago. Meanwhile, Peña is only 2-2 in her last four fights.
However, what the paper doesn’t tell you is that styles make fights. Peña is arguably the best wrestler in the division; has never been dropped, broken, or dominated; and most importantly, she gets better as fights progress while Nunes has struggled later in fights in the past. Nunes may very well be the most dangerous first-round fighter in the UFC, but if Peña can weather the storm, which I believe she can, then I see her pulling a Cat Zingano and getting the better of Nunes on the mat. (Prediction: Julianna Peña)
Andrew Ravens: Another title defense for Nunes, and it comes against yet another worthy challenger. Peña is one of the best in the division but doesn’t have a real chance against the champion. Nunes is on a different level from anyone else, and while Peña could shock the world on Saturday night, I, like the rest of the people interested in this fight, don’t see it happening. So I have Nunes going the distance to get the decision win. (Prediction: Amanda Nunes)
Harvey Leonard: While Nunes is still dominating and defending her titles, there’s no logic or sound reasoning to a prediction against her, especially when it’s in favor of a contender who’s 2-2 in her last four outings and who’d likely not have the opportunity had she not brought some trash talk to the table. Is Peña more capable of an upset than Spencer and Anderson were? Perhaps. Is she massively better to the point where can spring an upset? Almost certainly not. (Prediction: Amanda Nunes)
Ed Carbajal: It’s hard to pick against Nunes, who has been so dominant at this point in her career. Still, Peña seems hungry enough to give Nunes a challenge. Details of Nunes positive COVID test from the original booking begs the question of how sick was she? And was it bad enough to affect her preparation? Chances are, she’s probably fine and ready to defend at UFC 269. (Prediction: Amanda Nunes)
Consensus: 3-1 Nunes
Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin PoirierDustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira
Clyde Aidoo: Whenever you’re dealing with a submission ace like Charles Oliveira, there is never any real comfort level to pick against him, especially as his striking continues to catch up to his grappling skills year by year, fight by fight.
Nevertheless, I think Poirier has just a little bit more tools in the toolbox and that, more importantly, his fight IQ has fully caught up to his physical gifts to create a more consistent, cage-aware Poirier. No longer the overzealous fighter he was in his past, I think the combination of fight IQ and true grit will truly see Poirier get paid in full to close out UFC’s 2021 PPV year. (Prediction: Dustin Poirier)
Andrew Ravens: Poirier is one of the best fighters in the division, but I think part of the reason that he is being so hyped up and even has the oddsmakers backing him is due to him beating the biggest star in MMA, Conor McGregor, in back-to-back fights. McGregor isn’t the best fighter in the division, so that needs to be factored in.
Whatever Oliveira has done to change his style and go on such an impressive winning streak is what people should focus on. I have Oliveira getting it done by decision to retain. (Prediction: Charles Oliveira)
Harvey Leonard: I firmly believe Oliveira is being massively and unfairly underrated heading into this fight. However, I still believe he may struggle to keep hold of his title this weekend. While ‘Do Bronx’ showed the grit and toughness that many doubted he had to come back against Chandler, I’m not sure a finisher like Poirier will give him the chance to do so.
I find it difficult to believe “The Diamond,” with his pressure and volume, won’t find a way to hurt the champion at some point. When that happens, I think he’ll get the job done. (Prediction: Dustin Poirier)
Ed Carbajal: Both fighters are in their relative prime and both are riding win streaks against some pretty well-established fighters. Still, this might be a battle that is decided by durability. Poirier may hold more losses than Oliviera, but his are not as finish-heavy as Olivera’s are. By that, I mean Oliveira has been finished more than Poirier. Four of his eight losses came by way of knockout, something Poirier is good at. (Prediction: Dustin Poirier)
Consensus: 3-1 Poirier
That’ll do it for our UFC 269 staff picks! What do you think? Do your picks look similar? Let us know in the comments section! Also, you can check out the UFC 269 undercard below.
UFC 269 Preliminary Card (ESPN+ & ESPN2, 8:00 PM ET)Josh Emmett vs. Dan IgeDominick Cruz vs. Pedro Munhoz Augusto Takai vs. Tai TuivasaJordan Wright vs. Bruno Silva
UFC 269 Early Preliminary Card (ESPN+ & ESPN2, 6:15 PM ET)Andre Muniz vs. Eryk Anders Miranda Maverick vs. Erin Blanchfield Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell Ryan Hall vs. Darrick MinnerGillian Robertson vs. Priscila Cachoeira (Women’s Flyweight)Randy Costa vs. Tony Kelley (Bantamweight)
Be sure to keep it right here on MMANews.com tomorrow for all the results, highlights, and updates on UFC 269!