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UFC 245 viewers guide: Tripleheader of title fights packs night with gold

ESPN.com Illustration

The UFC's 2019 pay-per-view schedule ends with a bang on Saturday, as UFC 245 features three championship fights -- only the fifth time in the promotion's history that that's happened.

One title bout centers around a personal rivalry. Another is built around a female GOAT. And the third features a dominant champion looking to defend his belt against a guy who hasn't lost since 2013.

Saturday's event takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view, which fans can purchase here. The prelims begin on ESPN2 at 8 p.m., with the early prelims on ESPN+ at 6:15.

Here's everything you need to know. (And we mean everything.)

Welterweight championship:
Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Colby Covington

Colby Covington is so divisive, there's actually debate over how divisive he is. Covington decided to go heel in 2017 and has never looked back. How has it worked for him? Some say it's clearly garnered Covington (15-1) attention that he never would have gotten otherwise. Others say that for as far as Covington has shown he's willing to go, the payoff has not been worth it.

Regardless of which side is correct, it's clear that Covington's antics have led to this big moment: a UFC title shot against Kamaru Usman (15-1). But to get there, Covington also had to perform in the cage. The reality is, his brand of trash talk is effective only if he wins. If he ends up giving the people he's alienated what they want -- a loss -- he's likely to lose some of his appeal. If Covington is successful in getting a belt around his waist, though, expect the trash talk to reach a whole new level (if that's even possible).

By the numbers

10: Consecutive UFC welterweight victories by Usman, the second-longest streak in division history behind the 12 in a row won by longtime champ Georges St-Pierre.

515: Significant strikes thrown by Covington in his August win over Robbie Lawler, a UFC record. He landed 179 of them, the most in welterweight history.

2.6: Strikes landed by Usman for every one absorbed, the best differential in UFC welterweight history. He connects with 54.1% of his significant strikes, the third-best accuracy among 170-pounders.

58: Takedowns by Covington, the third-most in UFC welterweight history. Usman has 42, which puts him sixth.

0: Takedowns surrendered by Usman among the 17 tried against him in his 10 UFC fights.

Source: ESPN Stats & Information

A look back

Five vs. five

Kamaru Usman's most recent results
Win: Tyron Woodley (UD, March 2, 2019)
Win: Rafael Dos Anjos (UD, Nov. 30, 2018)
Win: Demian Maia (UD, May 19, 2018)
Win: Emil Meek (UD, Jan. 14, 2018)
Win: Sergio Moraes (KO1, Sept. 16, 2017)

Colby Covington's most recent results
Win: Robbie Lawler (UD, Aug. 3, 2019)
Win: Rafael Dos Anjos (UD, June 9, 2018)
Win: Demian Maia (UD, Oct. 28, 2017)
Win: Dong Hyun Kim (UD, June 17, 2017)
Win: Bryan Barberena (UD, Dec. 17, 2016

Dom & Gil's film study

Gilbert Melendez breaks down Usman's pressure game:

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1:20

Gilbert: Usman needs to apply pressure immediately

Gilbert Melendez breaks down what Kamaru Usman needs to do to get the win vs. Colby Covington. Order UFC 245 here on ESPN https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.

Dominick Cruz on Covington's work against the cage:

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Cruz: Covington likes to work against the cage

Dominick Cruz explains how Colby Covington dominates opponents against the cage. Order UFC 245 here on ESPN https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.

Okamoto's prediction

Almost every expert I've talked to about this fight says it comes down to pace. Covington's pace is his best weapon, especially against an opponent like Usman, who has a style similar to his. This is a tough matchup for the challenger, and conventional wisdom says to go with Usman. But I'm going to step out on a limb and make a pick based on the challenger's pace. Covington via decision.

Men's featherweight championship:
Max Holloway (c) vs. Alexander Volkanovski

Max Holloway was one win away from flirting with superstar status in 2019. Had he defeated Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight championship in April, he would have set up a champion vs. champion date with Khabib Nurmagomedov in the fall. That fight would have been massive for Holloway's career, but Poirier had other plans.

The thing is, Holloway's loss to Poirier didn't necessarily place him on a different path. His goal is still to be the greatest of all time, and to have a chance at that, he will have to move up in weight and win a second championship. So, the path is the same -- it's just longer now. Holloway (21-4) needs to maintain his spot atop the 145-pound throne before eventually taking another crack at 155-pound glory.

Alexander Volkanovski (20-1) represents a real threat to Holloway's legacy, even if he doesn't carry the same name recognition as the other title challengers Holloway has faced. Right now, this is the fight of Volkanovski's life. And he represents a potential exit on Holloway's path, one the champ can't afford to take.

By the numbers

1,937: Significant strikes landed by Holloway, the most in UFC history. He connects with 6.61 per minute, the second-most in men's featherweight history (behind Shane Burgos' 7.09). Volkanovski is right behind in third place, at 6.37. There's going to be a lot of leather flying in both directions.

3.62: Strikes landed by Volkanovski for every one absorbed, the best differential in men's featherweight history and third-best overall in the UFC.

13: Consecutive victories at featherweight by Holloway, tied for the longest win streak within a single division in UFC history. The others with 13 are all legends: light heavyweight Jon Jones, middleweight Anderson Silva and men's flyweight Demetrious Johnson.

71.5: Reach of the 5-foot-6 Volkanovski, in inches, compared to the taller Holloway's 69 inches. Despite being 5-11, Max has had the reach advantage in only one of his past 11 fights.

4:07: Octagon time for Holloway, in hours and minutes, the second-most ever for a featherweight, behind only the 4:09:04 of Darren Elkins.

Source: ESPN Stats & Information

A look back

Five vs. five

Max Holloway's most recent results
Win: Frankie Edgar (UD, July 27, 2019)
Loss: Dustin Poirier (UD, April 13, 2019)
Win: Brian Ortega (TKO4, Dec. 8, 2018)
Win: Jose Aldo (TKO3, Dec. 2, 2017)
Win: Jose Aldo (TKO3, June 3, 2017)

Alexander Volkanovski's most recent results
Win: Jose Aldo (UD, May 11, 2019)
Win: Chad Mendes (TKO2, Dec. 29, 2018)
Win: Darren Elkins (UD, July 14, 2018)
Win: Jeremy Kennedy (TKO2, Feb. 11, 2018)
Win: Shane Young (UD, Nov. 19, 2017)

Dom & Gil's film study

Dominick Cruz on Holloway avoiding pressure:

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Cruz: Holloway will look to keep Volkanovski on the outside

Dominick Cruz displays how Max Holloway keeps opponents on the outside to avoid pressure. Order UFC 245 here on ESPN https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.

Gilbert Melendez on Volkanovski's footwork:

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Melendez breaks down Volkanovski's footwork

Gilbert Melendez shows how Alex Volkanovski was effective vs. Jose Aldo and will look to do the same vs. Max Holloway. Order UFC 245 here on ESPN: https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.

Okamoto's prediction

Holloway's ability to not only keep a fight standing, but keep it standing at the range he wants, makes it tough to pick against him. Volkanovski has been nothing short of perfect in the UFC, but he's going against a potential all-time great here. Holloway via decision.

Women's bantamweight championship:
Amanda Nunes (c) vs. Germaine de Randamie

If you made a list of every big fight Amanda Nunes needed to win in order to cement her legacy as the greatest of all time, it would look a lot like, well, her current resume.

Ronda Rousey, Cris "Cyborg" Justino, Valentina Shevchenko, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate. They're all on there. Nunes (18-4) could retire tomorrow, and it would be very hard for any female fighter to ever eclipse that list. Heck, Germaine de Randamie is already on there. Nunes finished her in the first round in 2013.

The storyline behind any Nunes fight at this point is the same: Will she extend her greatness? And the storyline for de Randamie (9-3) is equally as compelling, if not more so. De Randamie is a former UFC champion, but it doesn't feel like it. She won the inaugural 145-pound title but gave it up without an attempted defense because she refused to face Justino. And her popularity cratered as a result of that decision.

At 35, de Randamie might get only this one shot at rewriting her legacy, particularly as it pertains to UFC championships. What's the best way to move past her sour experience as the 145-pound champion? By taking out the greatest of all time.

By the numbers

1,252: Bantamweight title reign of Nunes, in days (as of fight night), making her the longest-reigning current UFC champion. Her nine-fight winning streak is the longest by a female fighter in UFC history and fourth-longest active streak among men and women.

0: Takedowns by de Randamie in her seven UFC fights. She has attempted only one. The last takedown she surrendered? It was six fights ago, in 2013... against Nunes.

11: UFC victories for Nunes, tying her with Jessica Andrade for the most for a female fighter. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the only other woman to hit double digits, with 10 wins.

16: Seconds it took de Randamie to win her most recent fight, a one-punch TKO of Aspen Ladd in July. It tied Ronda Rousey's 2014 win over Alexis Davis as fastest KOs in UFC women's bantamweight history.

23-1: Advantage in strikes for Nunes in her first fight with de Randamie, a 2013 bout that ended in a Nunes TKO at 3:56 of Round 1.

Source: ESPN Stats & Information

A look back

Five vs. five

Amanda Nunes's most recent results
Win: Holly Holm (TKO1, July 6, 2019)
Win: Cris Cyborg (KO1, Dec. 29, 2018)
Win: Raquel Pennington (TKO5, May 12, 2018)
Win: Valentina Shevchenko (SD, Sept. 9, 2017)
Win: Ronda Rousey (TKO1, Dec. 30, 2016)

Germaine de Randamie's most recent results
Win: Aspen Ladd (TKO1, July 13, 2019)
Win: Raquel Pennington (UD, Nov. 10, 2018)
Win: Holly Holm (UD, Feb. 11, 2017)
Win: Anna Elmose (TKO1, May 8, 2016)
Win: Larissa Pacheco (TKO2, March 14, 2015)

Dom & Gil's film study

Dominick Cruz and Gilbert Melendez break down the rematch:

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Nunes vs. de Randamie breakdown

Dominick Cruz and Gilbert Melendez break down the rematch between Amanda Nunes and Germaine de Randamie. Order UFC 245 here on ESPN https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.

Okamoto's prediction

I believe this fight is way closer than most people think. Of course, Nunes could knock de Randamie out inside the first round. We know that, beyond any shadow of a doubt, because she's already done it! At the same time, de Randamie, who was 46-0 as a professional kickboxer, has reason to be comfortable on the feet with Nunes (which is something most challengers can't say), and her takedown defense has improved greatly since their first meeting. There is a big part of me that wants to jump on an upset here, but I can't quite do it. Nunes via TKO, second round.


The UFC's previous triple-title-headers

UFC 245 will be the fifth event in the promotion's 26-year history to be headlined by three championship fights. Here is how the previous four went down. (Note: (c) refers to reigning champion.)

UFC 33

When: Sept. 28, 2001

Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas

Title fights:

Notable: Menne became the UFC's inaugural 185-pound champion. Ortiz originally was scheduled to defend against Vitor Belfort, but Belfort was injured in training. Despite the three title fights and the presence of future champions Chuck Liddell and Matt Serra, this event repeatedly has been called the worst in UFC history by company president Dana White.

UFC 205

When: Nov. 12, 2016

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

Title fights:

Notable: McGregor's victory was historic, as it made him the first fighter to be champion in two UFC weight classes simultaneously. (He already held the featherweight belt.)

UFC 214

When: July 29, 2017

Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, California

Title fights:

Notable: Jones knocked out Cormier in the third round with a head kick and follow-up punches, but the California State Athletic Commission overturned the result after Jones failed a drug test.

UFC 217

When: Nov. 4, 2017

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

Title fights:

Notable: GSP, the former welterweight champion, returned from four years out of the Octagon to become the fourth fighter to win a belt in a second weight class. He did so on a night when all three champs lost.


What else to look for ... beyond the three title bouts

The rest of the UFC 245 card:

PPV (via ESPN+), 10 p.m. ET
Marlon Moraes vs. Jose Aldo | Men's bantamweight
Petr Yan vs. Urijah Faber | Men's bantamweight
ESPN2, 8 p.m.
Geoff Neal vs. Mike Perry | Welterweight
Ketlen Vieira vs. Irene Aldana | Women's bantamweight
Ian Heinisch vs. Omari Akhmedov | Middleweight
Matt Brown vs. Ben Saunders | Welterweight
ESPN+, 6:15 p.m.
Chase Hooper vs. Daniel Teymur | Men's featherweight
Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France | Men's flyweight
Jessica Eye vs. Viviane Araujo | Women's flyweight
Punahele Soriano vs. Oskar Piechota | Middleweight

Can a smaller Jose Aldo come up big?

Jose Aldo, who reigned as men's featherweight champion of the UFC/WEC for six years and at one point went 18 straight fights without a loss, is making his bantamweight debut against Marlon Moraes.

At age 35, Aldo (28-5) is attempting to rejuvenate a career in which he has lost three of his past five. That he is doing it at 135 pounds is interesting, because while he never missed the featherweight limit, some of his weigh-ins seemed touch and go.

Moraes (22-6-1), 31, has scored 16 of his wins by stoppage. He was last seen losing a fight with Henry Cejudo for the vacant title in June.

"The California Kid" at age 40

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5:27

The story of 'The California Kid'

Brett Okamoto sits down with Urijah Faber to look back at his career and how, at age 40, Faber is coming out of retirement for one more push for UFC gold. Order UFC 245 here on ESPN https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.

Urijah Faber is a UFC Hall of Famer. He also is the biggest underdog on the card (as of Wednesday), at +350.

The 40-year-old Faber (35-10), who came out of retirement for a quick knockout of Ricky Simon in July, faces rising men's bantamweight contender Petr Yan (13-1), who is riding an eight-fight winning streak and is No. 6 in the ESPN divisional rankings.

Faber made his professional MMA debut in 2003, when Yan was 10.

Why is Faber still fighting? Read for yourself, in Urijah's own words.

Odds 'n' ends

  • Geoff Neal, who faces Mike Perry in the feature prelim, is looking to join champion Kamaru Usman as the only UFC welterweights to amass five wins without a loss.

  • Ketlen Vieira has won her past four, tying for the second-longest active win streak among female bantamweights. The only longer streak: Amanda Nunes' eight in a row.

  • Irene Aldana, who is Vieira's opponent, has the highest takedown defense percentage in women's bantamweight history, at 93.5%. She also has landed 641 significant strikes, the most of any woman at 135 pounds.

  • Matt Brown, fighting for the first time since 2017, is appearing in his 25th career UFC fight, all as a welterweight. Only Thiago Alves (26) has more fights at 170 pounds in the promotion's history. Brown, who faces Ben Saunders, has the most knockouts (10) and is tied for the most finishes (12) among UFC welterweights.

  • Chase Hooper (8-0-1), who fights Daniel Teymur at men's featherweight, is making his UFC debut as the youngest fighter on the card. He turned 20 years old in September.