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The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s streak of stacked post-quarantine pay-per-view events stops at one, but UFC 250 this Saturday in Las Vegas still offers some interesting stuff. While the Amanda Nunes-Felicia Spencer main event looks like a blowout on paper, it has some intriguing angles upon a deeper dive. However, the most compelling piece of the lineup involves moving day in the 135-pound weight class, with five ranked bantamweights and the division’s top prospect—Sean O’Malley—in action. While this is no UFC 249, everything seems fun from top to bottom.
Now to the UFC 250 “Nunes vs. Spencer” preview:
Women’s Featherweight ChampionshipAmanda Nunes (19-4) vs. Felicia Spencer (8-1)
ODDS: Nunes (-610), Spencer (+455)
When UFC 200 ended with Nunes standing tall as the promotion’s new bantamweight champion, it felt like an appropriately strange capper to an appropriately strange night. Given the huge success that was UFC 100, UFC 200 was hyped as the promotion's biggest card yet, so it was odd to have Nunes—nowhere near being considered a star, and if anything, an interloper on big-money fights involving Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm—as the one closing the show when the UFC charged into its next 100 numbered events. While a lot of that card wound up being instantly ephemeral, Nunes’ reign is one of the few things that has actually lasted. She has spent the ensuing four years establishing herself as arguably the greatest female fighter of all-time. There have been some flat performances sprinkled in, but “The Lioness” has shined when the lights have been the brightest. Neither Tate nor Holm made it to the second round against Nunes, and the two other titans of the sport, Rousey and Cristiane Justino, failed to last a minute each. At this point, there is no obvious challenge left for Nunes, but she will still find a way to make some history with this fight. Nunes won the UFC’s featherweight strap with her win over Justino, and one of the benefits of dominating two thin divisions is that she can defend both belts without gumming up the works in either weight class. For the first time, one of the UFC’s two-division champion will actually defend the second title, as Nunes returns to 145 pounds to take on Spencer.
The women’s featherweight division in the UFC does not really exist—the number of full-time 145ers falls somewhere in the low single digits and does not even include the champion—but Spencer is a worthy opponent and has definitely proven herself as the best of the rest. The Florida-based Canadian quickly ascended to the top of the Invicta Fighting Championships featherweight division on the back of her determined clinch and wrestling game. After earning the Invicta title, she was quickly on her way to the UFC, where she tapped Megan Anderson in her promotional debut. Of course, that only set up Spencer for a one-sided encounter with Justino, but at least that fight was a moral victory for the “Feenom,” who survived significant abuse and made it into an ugly affair. After a quick victory over Zarah Fairn dos Santos moved her back into the win column, Spencer was once again the clear No. 1 contender for Nunes whenever she chose to defend her featherweight crown. Can Spencer can shock the world?
Spencer has obviously shown some improvement to what was once a truly awful striking game, and her grappling remains dangerous. However, Nunes is such a tier above anyone Spencer has beaten that it is difficult not to favor the champ. Spencer’s fight against “Cyborg” does offer some promise, however. In that outing, Spencer at least showed that she could survive substantial damage, and if she does so here, it cracks open the door to a chance at victory. Nunes’ biggest flaw rising up the ranks was her suspect cardio, and while she has mitigated that issue as she has become more efficient, she can still slow down if pressed into the later rounds; and while Spencer completely stalled out in the clinch against Justino, Nunes is not nearly as strong of a clinch fighter, so the challenger may eventually manage to take over in that aspect of the fight. If Spencer follows her usual tack of constantly pressing the clinch, there is a theoretical path to a win if she wears out Nunes, eventually takes over and possibly even finishes the fight with some ground-and-pound. The issue? During every moment that does not take place in the clinch, Spencer figures to take a great deal of punishment, and while Nunes may start to slow down as she punches herself out, that process figures to take at least as much out of the challenger. This is a much more interesting matchup in practice than it appears to be on paper, but Nunes via first-round knockout is the pick.
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