*This was originally posted on December 9, 2021
For the final PPV of the year, we’ve got a HUGE card with massive, entertaining fights all over the card. Of course, the final two fights are for the belts with Oliveira defending the lightweight title against Poirier and the GWOAT Amanda Nunes defending one of her titles against Pena. Opening up the main card is the always-entertaining ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley making his return against Paiva. After that you’ve got the veteran Cody Garbrandt making the switch to the flyweight division against the top contender Kai Kara-France. The action doesn’t start there though, you don’t wanna miss those prelims! We’re seeing the return of Cruz, a BIG heavyweight matchup between Sakai and Tuivasa and an exciting featherweight brawl between Emmett and Dan Ige. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and features BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds.
Main Card (7:00 PM PST)
Sean O’Malley vs. Raulian Paiva
O’Malley: -325 Paiva: +250
Over 2.5: -105 Under 2.5: -125
The main card opens up with the HIGHLY anticipated return of ‘the Suga Sho’ Sean O’Malley who’s facing Raulian Paiva. Both of these guys are on the edge of the rankings, but if you’ve been watching Suga at all, you’ll know that he can quite easily compete with any ranked contender. O’Malley has an almost flawless record of 14-1, but if you ask him he’s “mentally undefeated”. What he means by that is that his one ‘loss’ to Chito Vera happened after a freak accident where Suga actually took a weird step and destroyed his own ankle. Other than that he’s been absolutely dominant with 2 first round finishes, a third round finish against Almeida that should have been a first rounder (but he showboated and the ref didn’t stop the fight) and a record-breaking dominant beatdown over Moutinho. As for Paiva, he’s had a decent record lately with 3 wins in a row over Kyler Phillips, Zhumagulov and Mark de la Rosa, but had two losses in a row to open up his UFC career to Bontorin and Kai Kara-France. It should also be noted that, as always, O’Malley brings a slight reach advantage into this fight due to his unusual height for the division.
I’m sure everyone will already know my pick here, but when someone is so clearly skilled, it’s an easy pick to make. Suga even admitted that he’s picking easy fights because he can make more money this way. Until he’s fighting a ranked contender, every bettor should be including O’Malley as the anchor of their parlay every single time. A final tidbit to keep in mind, Paiva usually fights flyweights; being that O’Malley is a long and powerful bantamweights, this seems like another slam-dunk KO for Suga.
O’Malley by Finish
Kai Kara-France vs. Cody Garbrandt
Kara-France: +116 Garbrandt: -145
Over 2.5: +105 Under 2.5: -137
Here we’ve got another exciting bout that could have been the main event of its own fight night. On one side you’ve got Kai Kara-France who’s currently ranked 6th in the flyweight division. On the other side you’ve got a UFC legend in Cody Garbrandt who’s currently sitting in 7th in the bantamweight division. It took Kai a while to get to the UFC, but since getting here he’s only lost 2 of his 7 fights to Royval and the current champ, Moreno. Garbrandt, of course, is the much more experienced fighter in the UFC being that he was the Bantamweight Champion before Dillashaw beat him twice. Since then he’s had a rough record with losses to Rob Font and Pedro Munhoz but had a highlight reel win over Assuncao.
If we’re going based on recent success, Kara-France is the clear choice, but there are a lot of factors that make this matchup more interesting. Of particular interest is the fact that Garbrandt competes in bantamweight but has moved down to flyweight. This could mean extra power which would swing the odds into his favour… but it may also mean that the heavier weight cut could weaken Cody’s cardio. This is a real coin toss, but I’m going to side with Garbrandt on this one because I think he’ll be bringing a bit of extra power. Also, I believe the talent at bantamweight is so stacked right now that Garbrandt should have a much easier time competing in this division.
Garbrandt by Decision
Geoff Neal vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
Neal: +108 Ponzinibbio: -132
Over 1.5: -167 Under 1.5: +130
We’ve got another razor-thin matchup here before we start the title fights. As it stands, we’ve got Neal in 12th and Ponzinibbio in 14th in the division. Neal has struggled lately with 2 losses to Magny and ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. As for Santiago, he only has 1 loss since 2015 and that was to Li earlier this year. Outside their record, they’re similar in age and reach but Neal comes out slightly ahead there.
On paper, this is a tight matchup, but just based on his record, Santiago edges ahead for me. He’s only got 1 loss since 2015 and he’s surely the more experienced fighter. Since it’s close I would predict a decision, but either man is capable of a KO here.
Ponzinibbio by Decision
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena
Nunes: -1000 Pena: +600
Over 1.5: -140 Under 1.5: +110
The first title fight of the night features the GWOAT, Amanda Nunes, and the 3rd ranked contender, Julianna Pena. What can we say about Nunes? She’s the current double-champ, she hasn’t lost since 2014; it just seems inevitable that she’s going to win whatever fight she walks into. Pena comes in with 2 losses in her last 4, but to be fair, one of those was to Valentina. The other loss was to de Randemie last year.
The question isn’t IF Nunes will win… but HOW she will win. She’s had more decision wins recently, but that was to a featherweight, Spencer, and de Randamie who’s notoriously tough. Because Nunes seems to be hungrier than ever and really wants to prove her dominance, I think she’ll be getting a finish this time. Plus, it should be noted that both of Pena’s losses that were mentioned earlier were by submission finishes and Nunes is an expert on the ground.
Nunes by Finish
Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier
Oliveira: +128 Poirier: -158
Over 1.5: -189 Under 1.5: +145
Finally, we’ve got the hotly anticipated lightweight title fight between the champ, Oliveira, and the number 1 contender, Dustin Poirier. Because of all the hype, many are favouring Poirier; I don’t have to mention it, anyone with an internet connection knows he beat McGregor twice in a row. That’s obviously impressive; so was his win over Hooker. Before that, he lost the title to Khabib. As for Oliveira, he’s always been one of the most underrated fighters on the roster, even now with the belt and a 9 fight win streak. that includes Chandler and Ferguson in his last two fights.
This one, yet again, is a toss-up. Poirier has all the hype and he likely has an edge on the feet. That being said, don’t forget that Oliveira beat Chandler by TKO, a feat that even Gaethje couldn’t do last month. But we all know the real advantage lies in Oliveira’s ground game where he’s got the UFC record locked up with 14 submission wins. Both fighters have a great chance of winning; I’m going with the current champ, the underrated, well-rounded powerhouse, Charles Oliveira.
Oliveira by Decision
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 3:30 PM PST)
Randy Costa vs. Tony Kelley
Costa: -180 Kelley: +145
Over 1.5: -134 Under 1.5: +105
Although most casual MMA fans won’t know either of these men, true fans know that this is set up to be quite the brawl. Costa is a finisher with all of his 6 wins being won by 1st round KO. He may have lost his last bout, but that was to the rising star Adrian Yanez. Meanwhile, Kelley has only fought twice in the UFC, 7 years older and has a slightly shorter reach. He’s 1-1 so far with a win over AlQaisi and loss to Kai Kamaka III who was recently let go from the UFC.
Everything points towards a huge win for Randy Costa; he’s younger, more experienced and has a longer reach, not to mention all of his wins are by 1st round KO. Though it should be noted, Kelley has never been finished. I think Costa will be the first to finish him, but I’d have to believe that Kelley will last through the 1st round.
Costa by Finish
Augusto Sakai vs. Tai Tuivasa
Sakai: -110 Tuivasa: -112
Over 1.5: -155 Under 1.5: +120
This matchup is one of the most exciting ones of the entire night! You’ve got two closely matched heavyweights who love to throw hands. As it stands, Sakai is currently ranked 11th while Tuivasa isn’t quite ranked yet but he’s on the very edge of those rankings. Sakai has lost his last two bouts to top contenders Rozenstruik and Overeem but before that he hadn’t lost in the UFC. As for Tuivasa, he’s been kind of a streaky fighter. He won his first 3 in the UFC, then he lost 3 to some top contenders, now he’s back with 3 first round KOs in a row over Struve, Hunsucker and Hardy.
While Sakai has lost his last two, let’s not forget those were against 2 top tier heavyweights. Outside of their record, there’s not a whole lot separating these two; Tuivasa is slightly younger and Sakai has a slightly longer reach. The one difference that stands out is that Tuivasa regularly comes in almost 10 pounds over the weight of Sakai which may give him an edge in power. Although this would slow down other heavyweights, Tuivasa is one of the quicker heavyweights on the roster. With these small physical edges and his momentum right now, I’m giving the edge to Tuivasa. Of course, considering the fact that they’re heavyweights and these two men love to throw bombs, I’m expecting a KO.
Tuivasa by Finish
Pedro Munhoz vs. Dominick Cruz
Munhoz: -123 Cruz: +100
Over 2.5: -250 Under 2.5: +185
Any time you see a legend like Cruz coming back into the Octagon, you’ve gotta watch the fight! Just like the heavyweights before them, this could go either way; Munhoz is ranked 8th while Cruz is ranked 10th. Munhoz is fresh off a loss to Aldo a few months ago. Before that he had a win over Jimmie Rivera and two losses to Edgar and Sterling. In terms of experience, Cruz has the obvious edge with fights all the way back in the WEC days almost 15 years ago now. He had a layoff from 2017-2019, but came back in 2020 to fight Triple C, Henry Cejudo. After that he got a win against the up-and-coming contender Casey Kenney.
It’s tough to pick a winner here because Munhoz has fought such tough opponents lately and Cruz is only two fights back after a long layoff. I will say, I don’t see either of these men getting a finish because they both tend to end up in decisions. After some thought, I’m siding with the veteran, Dominick Cruz because of his well-known non-stop, awkward movement and his experience. It can also be noted that they are similar in age and Cruz has a slight reach advantage.
Cruz by Decision
Josh Emmett vs. Dan Ige
Emmett: -163 Ige: +133
Over 2.5: -200 Under 2.5: +154
In the featured prelim of this incredible card, you’ve got two electric featherweight contenders squaring off. They’re close in the rankings with Emmett in 7th and Ige in 9th. This is another one that could go either way but will certainly be a very entertaining matchup. Emmett has won his last 3 over Burgos, Bektic and Johnson. On the other side, Ige has been way more active recently with 7 fights in that same 3 year period. Two of his last three have been decision losses to ‘the Korean Zombie’ and Calvin Kattar, but before that he won 6 fights in a row including Barboza and Bektic.
The safer bet here seems to Emmett, but Ige really has a lot going for him. Zombie and Kattar are two of the top tier featherweights and he brought them to a decision, plus he beat Barboza. Ige is also 6 years younger. For some reason, maybe it’s those slight edges in age and activity, I think Ige is going to pull ahead here and win a tight decision. The one thing I’m sure of here is that this is one that every MMA fan should be watching.
Ige by Decision
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC 269. These are odds that favour the bettor. Although some of them may conflict with my picks, they offer a fair reward for a slight bit of risk.
The Underdog Darrick Minner at +166
Hall didn’t look good his last time out at all; he’s the kind of fighter, kind of like Ben Askren, that can only really succeed on the ground. Topuria figured that out in the last fight and Hall paid the price. Minner can use that information to dominate Hall.
The Underdog Dan Ige at +133
Ige has been far more active recently and he’s been fighting the stronger competition. He’s got that classic Hawaiian toughness where he doesn’t get finished; this helped him win that decision over Barboza. Bettors seem to be looking at Emmett’s last victory and the fact that Ige has lost a couple fights, but they need to realise that Ige lost to two of the top contenders in the division and Emmett doesn’t have that experience.
Nunes vs. Pena Over 1.5 at -140
Oliveira vs. Poirier Over 1.5 at -189
These are BOTH 5 round championship fights. While Nunes is dominant, it’s more than likely the case that Pena can last over one and a half rounds. This is especially true for Oliveira and Poirier; both of these guys are extremely tough, I just can’t see either one of them being finished that early. I’d still take the over for those two if it changed to 2.5 rounds.
The Underdog Charles Oliveira at +128
The odds on this one seem to reflect hype; Poirier has a lot more hype because of McGregor. That’s not to say Poirier doesn’t deserve some hype, but we can’t forget that Charles TKO’d Chandler and also has the most submissions in UFC history. Finally, he’s also the champ; he’s got the belt right now and you can’t overlook what that means.
The Short Run
Perez + O’Malley + Nunes
The Long Run
Costa + Perez + Maverick + Silva + O’Malley + Nunes