Written by Jack Zampillo (@Jack_Zampillo15) — June 3rd, 2020
The fight capital of the world is back to business on Saturday night as Las Vegas is set to host its first pay-per-view event dating back to February. Hosted at the UFC’s Apex Headquarters, this criminally underrated card has the potential to be fireworks, headlined by one of the greatest mixed martial artists the sport has ever seen. Women’s Bantamweight and Featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, looks to become only the third fighter in UFC history to defend different belts in multiple divisions. Standing across from Nunes will be a woman who is no stranger to the big one. Canada’s own Felicia Spencer has her eyes set on the prize and is looking to shock the world by becoming the first person to dethrone the Queen. Can Nunes continue her demolition of every woman that stands in front of her? Or will the underdog prevail and shock the world?
Meanwhile, stakes are high at 135 pounds as two of the most exciting men in the bantamweight division are set to square off for #1 contendership. Making his first walk in nearly a year, Aljamain Sterling comes in with a chip on his shoulder looking to prove why he still IS a threat to the throne. His opponent? The supremely underrated, highly dangerous Cory Sandhagen. With Henry Cejudo’s shocking retirement shaking things up at 135 pounds, the time has never been better for top contenders to put their names on the map. Will “Aljo” put the division on notice, or will Sandhagen prove the narrative surrounding him is correct? Let’s dive in.
Amanda Nunes © vs. Felicia Spencer
The GOAT is back. Amanda Nunes, who has remarkably transcended women’s mixed martial arts, earned the title “greatest of all time” through hard work and her ability to compete at the highest of level every time she steps inside the octagon. Fighting out of Brazil, the American Top Team product boasts a professional record of 19–4 with 13 wins by (T)KO and 3 by submission. Moving up weight classes for the first time since 2018, Nunes has the opportunity to cement her legacy by becoming the first Women’s UFC fighter to successfully hold and defend belts simultaneously at two different weight classes.
“The Lioness” has been the pinnacle of women’s mixed martial arts for years now. With wins over the likes of Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey, and Valentina Shevchenko 2x, Nunes has solidified herself as one of the biggest names in the sport. What is it that makes her so damn good?
Adaptability. One of the most important skills a fighter can perfect is the ability to alter their game plan based on their opponent. Amanda Nunes, no matter what it takes, finds a way to win. Don’t understand what I mean? Let’s look back at her last contest: Germaine de Randamie at UFC 245. Germaine is an outstanding kickboxer, and it was apparent early on that de Randamie was quicker in the pocket and was getting the better of the striking exchanges. Instead of taking the bait and falling into the trap of “who can hit harder?”, Nunes exploited her opponent’s weakness by taking her down and beating her up over the course of 25 minutes. That’s smart fighting. The way that Nunes is able to adapt while sustaining her composure and energy is what makes taking the belt off of her such a tedious task. Will we hear Bruce Buffer’s infamous “AND STILL” come June 6th?
When Felicia Spencer and Megan Anderson were scheduled to fight on the same card, both women knew what was at stake: Whoever turned in the better performance was next for Amanda Nunes. With both Spencer and Anderson earning first-round finishes within an hour of each other, the decision came down to the fact that Spencer submitted Anderson in the first round of their fight the year prior. Needless to say, Felicia Spencer answered the call.
Fighting out of Jungle MMA, the 29 year old Canadian holds an 8–1 record with 2 wins by (T)KO and 4 via submission. Spencer has found herself in the “right-place-right-time” position, and has the opportunity of a lifetime awaiting her. A win over Amanda Nunes would put Felicia Spencer at the top of the totem pole. However, Spencer has only fought professionally 9 times. Is it possible to match the GOAT’s skills with that little experience?
I have a lot of respect for Felicia Spencer. Going to war with Cris Cyborg for 15 minutes is something many people shy away from. I learned two things from that fight: Felicia Spencer is not afraid of a brawl, and she has a damn good chin on her. These two attributes bode very well against someone like the current champion. Spencer’s versatility may present stylistic problems for Nunes. She is built very strong for the division, and will put herself in the fire no matter where this fight is taken.
Betting against Amanda Nunes is something I will never do. One of the greatest athletes to ever step foot in the octagon, she is a force in all aspects of the game. Nunes has power that is second to none, which she combines with suffocating pressure and an indomitable will to win. While Felicia Spencer is a gamer with no quit, Nunes will be too much for the youthful challenger. Quick hands, her ability to control the pace of a fight, and the way she mixes in kicks both to the leg and head will overwhelm Spencer and have her moving backwards against her will. The GOAT will reign supreme once again. Amanda Nunes by KO.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen
With Henry Cejudo surprisingly packing things up and moving on, the reshaping of 135’s landscape starts on June 6th. Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen, which is presumed to be for #1 contender, has fight of the year potential. With Sterling hungry to get back to relevancy and Sandhagen ready to show why he’s ranked in the top-5, both men are coming in with chips on their shoulders. When two men with something to prove are locked in a cage together, you can bet on it being something special.
Sterling holds a record of 18–3 with 7 submission victories to his name. Ever since he returned to training from an injured hand, he has been adamant about his status as the true number 1 contender, and rightfully so. Ever since being knocked out by Marlon Moraes in 2017, Sterling has fought with a vengeance. He has rattled off 4 consecutive wins, and is surging into the prime of his career.
The “Funk Master,” trained by Matt Serra and Ray Longo, is surrounded by two of the greatest minds in the sport, along with a team around him that has consistently improved his game. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the best version of Aljamain Sterling we have ever seen at UFC 250. He has vastly improved since falling victim to Moraes, and possesses the versatility needed to compete at the top of the bantamweight division. Could “Aljo” make a statement here and find himself in a title fight sooner rather than later?
Looking to stake his claim for a shot at the belt, the overlooked Cory Sandhagen comes in having won 7 in a row with no signs of slowing down. Fighting out of Elevation Fight team, the lengthy striker holds a record of 12–1 with 4 wins by (T)KO and 3 via submission. Since fighting through late adversity and beating Raphael Assuncao, experts have talked about Sandhagen being the dark horse of the division. I happen to agree.
Not only does Sandhagen possess superb striking skills, but his physical attributes are unique for the weight class. Standing at 5’11” with a 70” reach, he will step into almost every 135-pound bout with both the height and reach advantage. You may say, “skill is what matters.” But guys, these physical attributes mean something. With Sandhagen’s length, he is able to determine the range at which he and his opponent fight at. If Sandhagen controls the distance while staying defensively sound, he’s a tough fight for anyone at bantamweight.
This is one of those fights where you really just can’t pick a winner. Both athletes present so many different problems to the other’s style that it almost becomes a battle of wills. Aljamain Sterling has the wrestling and grappling advantage. However, Sandhagen has the length to counter when Sterling shoots for a takedown. Cory Sandhagen has the striking advantage, but if he gets caught overextending while throwing kicks or long combinations, he’ll find his ass on the mat. There are many factors to consider when picking a winner, but I have a certain feeling.
I’m going with the underdog. Cory Sandhagen, using his size and underrated takedown defense, will get the job done on Saturday night. I expect him to come out composed, but with an edge as well. While I am a fan of Sterling, Sandhagen is a problem. He’ll attack Sterling from a lot of different angles with his awkwardness, and I don’t see Sterling being able to counter adequately. Cory Sandhagen by decision.
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