UFC 250 goes down this weekend and although it is headlined by a women’s featherweight bout, the men’s bantamweight division will be highly showcased. With four bantamweight bouts set to take place on the card, we take a look at each of them in turn, make a prediction and outline the impact of each fight.
Cody Stamann vs. Brian Kelleher
The first bantamweight bout set to take place at UFC 250 is between Cody Stamann and Brian Kelleher. #12 Stamann is 11-1-1 in his last 13 bouts and has only been defeated twice in his professional career. With a UFC record of 4-1-1, Stamann is certainly one to watch out for at 135lbs. Most recently he worked his way to a draw with upcoming prospect, Song Yadong. He holds wins over Tom Duquensoy, Bryan Caraway and Alejandro Perez.
His opponent on the night will be Brian Kelleher, who fought only two weeks ago. On this occasion, he picked up a devastating knockout victory at featherweight. With a journeyman’s record of 21-10, Kelleher has put it together in his last two fights and will be hoping with a win over Stamann, he will be propelled into the mix at 135lbs. With two wins already in 2020, Kelleher certainly holds the momentum coming into this one.
Stamann likely takes this one by unanimous decision. He has too much of a well-rounded game to be troubled by Kelleher. Although Kelleher isn’t ranked, Stamann will cement his position in the division at UFC 250.
Eddie Wineland vs. Sean O’Malley
Arguably the most intriguing bantamweight bout at UFC 250 sees veteran, Eddie Wineland take on up and comer Sean O’Malley. Wineland holds a professional record of 24-13-1 and has faced the best the division has to offer. The former WEC champion has been a professional since 2003 (when his opponent was just nine years old). His most recent bout saw him TKO Grigory Popov at UFC 238. Although he has been fairly inactive in recent years, Wineland holds a vast experience advantage over O’Malley which could pay dividends in this bout.
O’Malley has the potential to be one of the UFC’s biggest stars. Whatever ‘it’ is, he has it. A captivating personality, exciting style and skills to back it up, O’Malley is on the charge through the bantamweight division. He seemingly hasn’t struggled in any bout in his UFC career so far. Most recently he put in his best performance, dispatching Jose Quinonez in a little over two minutes. Taking into account that he had been inactive for two years prior to this, that’s certainly impressive.
Wineland seems to be set up for O’Malley to have another name on his record. The power will likely be too much for Wineland, who has been knocked out three times previously in his career. With another statement win here, O’Malley should have a number next to his name on Monday.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen
This should be for the belt, there is no question about it. Although there is a worthy contender in Petr Yan, these two also deserve a shot. Following a loss to Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling has been on a tear. Winning four straight, including victories over top contenders Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz, Sterling has bounced back from his loss incredibly. With heavy, slick hands, a strong ground game under Matt Serra and an endless gas tank, Sterling is a problem for anyone at 135lbs.
Cory Sandhagen is certainly the boogeyman at bantamweight. With five wins in his first five UFC fights, including three finishes, Sandhagen certainly has the skills to be a top contender. With arguably some of the best boxing in the division, as well as submission skills, Sandhagen’s rise has been something to behold. In just shy of two years, he’s knocked off two top contenders in John Lineker as well as Raphael Assuncao.
How will this fight go? Well, it is certainly a close fight. William Hill has Sterling at a -125 favourite. Sandhagen is the tallest opponent that Sterling will have faced in the UFC and could use this length to pick Sterling off. Sterling’s first two losses were via split decision and he will certainly not be looking to be on the end of a close fight again. The winner of this one deserves a shot at the title (if not deserving of the title itself).
Cody Garbrandt vs. Raphael Assuncao
The co-main for UFC 250 will see Cody Garbrandt take on Raphael Assuncao in a bout which certainly is set to entertain. Coming off three consecutive knockout losses, it looks as if it could be last chance saloon for the former champion, Garbrandt. Since his dominant win over Dominick Cruz in 2016, he hasn’t gotten his hand raised. The problem seems to be is that he lacks an appropriate IQ to compete at the highest level. He gets into firefights and gets caught…and this has happened three times in a row. His rise to the bantamweight title was like no other, knocking out the majority of his opponents on the way. Now working with coach Mark Henry, Garbrandt will be looking to snap his three fight skid.
It certainly won’t be easy, however, as he comes up against top contender Raphael Assuncao. The 16 year MMA veteran holds a record of 27-7 and is never far away from a title opportunity. Ranked #5 at 135lbs, Assuncao has dropped his last two. These did come at the hands of Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen, however. With wins over TJ Dillashaw, Moraes and Sterling, when Assuncao puts it together, he could beat anyone on his day. With just four wins by knockout, however, he could be the perfect opponent for Garbrandt to face in his current situation.
Despite seemingly entertaining on paper, this one could be a boring three-round decision for Garbrandt. With the smaller cage being used at the UFC Apex, Assuncao will find it harder to stay away from the superior power of ‘No Love’. Hopefully, Mark Henry has instilled some wisdom into the American and he doesn’t just stand and trade, although if he did it could make for a more entertaining fight.
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