A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 260 on Saturday at the Apex in Las Vegas, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Stipe Miocic (20-3) vs. Francis Ngannou (15-3)
Class: For Miocic’s heavyweight title
Line: Ngannou -125
Storyline: It would be easy to write off Ngannou’s reflections on getting mauled in the first fight as excuses, but his reasoning makes a great deal of sense. It was a huge step up in competition and Ngannou was still early in his development. He was also a bit nomadic in his training and has since established himself with trainer Eric Nicksick and the team at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. He should be far more prepared for the moment this time. His confidence has to be soaring on the heels of four straight knockouts in a total of 2:42. None of that means he has an easy path to a world title. Miocic has just about every UFC record in terms of longevity as a heavyweight champion and can break the record for total wins in UFC heavyweight title fights with a win in the rematch. He is a smooth boxer with plenty of power, but relied on his clinch work and wrestling in the first meeting. He will look to replicate that game plan here and should have a good chance as long as he can avoid an early onslaught. The longer the fight goes, the more it should favor the champion.
Hill’s pick: Ngannou by second-round knockout
Fang’s pick: Ngannou by second-round knockout
Tyron Woodley (19-6-1) vs. Vicente Luque (19-7-1)
Line: Luque -250
Storyline: Woodley, the former welterweight champion, has lost three straight fights. Even though all three defeats have been against the top three fighters in the division, his reputation has taken a hit. He still has plenty of power in his hands and is difficult to take down, but he’s not using his offensive wrestling much and opponents have capitalized on his tendency to fight with his back on the cage too often. This is a fascinating stylistic matchup for him. Luque’s most glaring fault is that he leaves himself open for too many punches. He’s been decent at absorbing them, but Woodley’s power doesn’t seem to have diminished much, so it could still be a problem. That and his desperation for a win alone could be enough to warrant a bet on the underdog. But Luque should have a good scouting report. Two of Woodley’s three losses during this slide have been against fighters from Luque’s gym.
Hill’s pick: Luque by decision
Fang’s pick: Woodley by first-round knockout
Sean O’Malley (12-1) vs. Thomas Almeida (22-4)
Line: O’Malley -320
Storyline: Don’t ask O’Malley about that “one” in the loss column. He doesn’t accept that it ever happened. O’Malley suffered a loss in his last fight to Marlon Vera after a leg kick caused an injury. The flashy kickboxer with a dynamic personality who rose to fame after Snoop Dogg repeatedly screamed his name during a “Contender Series” broadcast says it was a fluke as Vera’s toe caught a nerve. Regardless, expect Almeida to test O’Malley with leg kicks early and often to see just how vulnerable he still may be to the attack. O’Malley has plenty of substance to go along with the over-the-top style that had him on the verge of superstardom before the loss. He has an ability to deliver spectacular highlights and has the chance to do so against the offensive-minded Almeida, a fighter who has been in a bit of a funk. This is just too high a price to pay on him to find out.
Hill’s pick: O’Malley by decision
Fang’s pick: O’Malley by second-round knockout
Gillian Robertson (9-5) vs. Miranda Maverick (10-2)
Line: Maverick -165
Storyline: This is a huge opportunity for both women. The bout got bumped up to the pay-per-view portion of the card after several fights fell apart due to COVID protocols. Maverick was a big favorite in her UFC debut in October against Liana Jojua and lived up to the hype with a dominant win that was stopped by the ringside physician after one round. She will face a tougher test in Robertson, a solid wrestler with the ability to control opponents from top position and find submissions. Robertson had to pull out of this scheduled bout in February due to non-COVID illness, but is healthy now.
Hill’s pick: Maverick by decision
Fang’s pick: Robertson by second-round submission
Jamie Mullarkey (12-4) vs. Khama Worthy (16-7)
Line: Worthy -125
Storyline: Mullarkey has a background as a big striker, yet he has impressed with his wrestling ability early in his UFC run. Worthy has toned down his aggression a bit and become a more patient counter-striker. That should help him to not get his weight too far in front of him where he’d be more susceptible to takedowns. Worthy just had a seven-fight winning streak snapped with a knockout loss in September, but the competition during much of that run was suspect. Mullarkey has yet to win in two UFC appearances. He has a very good chin, however, and should be able to take a couple shots to get inside and get the fight to the mat where he may find his first victory.
Hill’s pick: Mullarkey by decision
Fang’s pick: Worthy by third-round knockout
Adam Hill Las Vegas Review-Journal