UFC prefers to have the main events of their high-tier cards with a championship belt attached. You see that nearly every time there’s a pay-per-view. But, sometimes, they make exceptions. Sometimes due to the main event being scrapped last minute, and other times due to large star power. This was seem in November, with Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz fighting in Madison Square Garden for an imaginary belt, “The Baddest M*****F*****” belt. Masvidal’s explosive mainstream rise in 2019 allowed him to pair himself with Diaz, and draw a fair amount of viewers.
This exception will be made yet again this weekend, with arguably the biggest UFC star in the last decade, Conor McGregor, making his octagon return against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. The fight is easily the lowest-caliber one McGrgeor has seen in a long time, although a good test for a star who has lost more than he has won in recent years.
With those losses lies a question of when the diamond that is McGregor will lose his value. Can McGregor afford to lose again, better-yet to a fighter who is a gatekeeper to the division? Well, to answer that question would be getting ahead of ourselves, because it’s not a relevant question unless he actually loses. And that will be found out this weekend in the main event of UFC 246.
As it is a pay-per-view event, the card features many recognizable names to UFC fans throughout. Live this Saturday from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, let’s preview this weekend’s UFC 246 card.
Bout 1: Sabina Mazo (7-1) vs. JJ Aldrich (8-3) (Flyweight)
The evening will begin at 6:30PM EST with three fights on the UFC Fight Pass early prelims. The first of the trio is between flyweights Sabina Mazo and JJ Aldrich. Two fights into her UFC career, Mazo has a 1-1 record, recently winning over Shana Dobson via decision. Aldrich has much more experience in the big leagues, with a 4-2 record since joining the UFC in 2016.
Bout 2: Ode Osbourne (8-2) vs. Brian Kelleher (19-10) (Bantamweight)
Dana White’s Contender Series winner Ode Osbourne will see his UFC debut in a fight against Brian Kelleher, who will try to break his two-fight losing streak. Osbourne finished Armando Villarreal with an armbar within a round on the Contender Series to earn his contract. Kelleher last lost to Montel Jackson in late 2018. He was absent throughout 2019, as a scheduled fight in May against Mitch Gagnon was cancelled due to an injury.
Bout 3: Aleksa Camur (5-0) vs. Justin Ledet (9-2) (Light Heavyweight)
The fight following Osbourne versus Kelleher is one that feels like the exact same scenario. Aleksa Camur, who got a UFC contract through the Contender Series will face Justin Ledet, who is on a two-fight losing streak. Camur has won all five of his pro fights via strikes, being undefeated as a pro and amateur. Ledet’s last fight saw him fall victim to the unpredictable striking of Johnny Walker, back in February.
Bout 4: Nasrat Haqparast (11-2) vs. Drew Dober (21-9) (Lightweight)
At 8PM EST, the preliminary card will switch to ESPN (TSN 3 in Canada) for four more bouts. The first of the group is a lightweight bout between Nasrat Haqparast and Drew Dober. After a road bump UFC debut against Marcin Held, Haqparast has won three in a row, most recently over Joaquim Silva. Dober has much more experience in the UFC, fighting for the promotion since 2013. His most recent win saw him stop Polo Reyes in just over a minute.
Bout 5: Tim Elliott (15-9-1) vs. Askar Askarov (10-0-1) (Flyweight)
In September, Askar Askarov made his UFC debut, wagering his undefeated record. And while he remained undefeated, he did not see the satisfaction of a win, going to a draw against Brandon Moreno. This time around he will face Tim Elliott, who has a 2-3 record in the UFC, recently losing to Deiveson Figueiredo. In a thin division like the flyweight one, a win could bring either fighter into higher relevance.
Bout 6: Andre Fili (20-6) vs. Sodiq Yusuff (10-1) (Featherweight)
Since winning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, Sodiq Yusuff has been flawless in the UFC at 3-0. Now, he will see the biggest challenge of his career so far, facing Andre Fili. The now-UFC veteran has a 7-5 record within the promotion.
Bout 7: Maycee Barber (8-0) vs. Roxanne Modafferi (23-16) (Flyweight)
Still undefeated three fights into her UFC career, Maycee Barber could easily be the top flyweight prospect. However, her next matchup should be a good text, as she will face Roxanne Modafferi. “The Happy Warrior” has been fighting since 2003, with a current 2-3 record in the UFC. There’s no doubt that Modafferi’s advantage in this matchup is experience. However, experience means nothing until it’s used in competition. Many have written off Modafferi, with Vegas odds having her as a heavy underdog.
Bout 8: Anthony Pettis (22-9) vs. Diego Ferreira (16-2) (Lightweight)
Kicking off the pay-per-view portion of the card at 10PM EST will be Anthony Pettis and Diego Ferreira. Brazil’s Ferreira has been on fire lately, on a five-fight winning streak. Pettis is coming off a loss, going to decision against Nate Diaz. In the fight before that, Pettis became the first fighter to knock out Stephen Thompson, landing a superman punch in the first round.
Claudia Gadelha versus Alexa Grasso was meant to also be on the main card, but was cancelled due to the fighters not being within a three pounds of eachother. Grasso couldn’t make the 116-pound strawweight limit, coming in at 121 pounds.
Bout 10: Alexey Oleinik (57-13-1) vs. Maurice Greene (8-3) (Heavyweight)
With a 3-1 record so far in the UFC, Maurice Greene could be described as a prospect for the heavyweight division. However, similar to the Barber/Modafferi matchup earlier in the card, he will face the extremely experienced Alexey Oleinik in his next fight. Oleinik has been finished in his last two fights, those being losses to Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris. After a three-fight winning streak, Greene saw his first UFC setback in October when he lost to Sergey Pavlovich.
Bout 11: Holly Holm (12-5) vs. Raquel Pennington (10-7) (Bantamweight)
The co-main event of the evening will see Holly Holm and Raquel Pennington compete. The fight is Holm’s return after losing to Amanda Nunes in July, failing to take the UFC Bantamweight Championship. Pennington got a split decision in the same month over Irene Aldana, snapping her losing streak. Like most of this card, this fight hasn’t gotten much attention in the media. That could be because there’s no real angle or explicit implications for whoever wins this.
Bout 12: Conor McGregor (21-4) vs. Donald Cerrone (36-13) (Welterweight)
Finally, the main event will be between “The Notorious” Conor McGregor and “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone. Like mentioned before, this fight is one for McGregor that skill-wise is the lowest quality opponent he’s gotten in a while. However, it’s not sure where his skill lies too, so this bout could be a good litmus test for him.
McGregor’s last fight was a failed attempt to win the UFC Lightweight Championship in October of 2018, tapping out to a rear naked choke in the fourth round. His last mixed-martial-arts fight before then was in fall of 2016, winning over Eddie Alvarez. Since his last fight, McGregor has found himself entrenched in controversy outside of the octagon. In August, McGregor plead guilty to assault, following an incident where he punched a man in a Dublin bar. He was given a 1,000 euro fine for the incident.
Also during the layoff, the New York Times reported that two investigations for sexual assault were launched on McGregor. When the allegations were brought up at a press conference on Wednesday, the crowd and panelists reacted negatively.
Cerrone has fought five times since McGregor last fought. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak, dropping to Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. Before then however, Cerrone won three in a row, notably going five rounds with Al Iaquinta.
The fight is held at welterweight, which is uncommon for McGregor. Cerrone has fought in welterweight before, but not in recent bouts.
Following UFC 246, the next UFC event will be on January 25th, in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, going head-to-head with Bellator’s show in California. The next pay-per-view event by the UFC is on February 8th, with Jon Jones attempting to defend his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship against Dominic Reyes.