The first pay-per-view event in the UFC Apex goes down on June 6, headlined by Amanda Nunes’ first defense of her featherweight title. She has a tough and skilled challenger in Felicia Spencer, who is looking at a UFC gold after just three bouts in the Octagon.
Elsewhere, critical matchups in the bantamweight division’s big picture take place from top to bottom, where a pair of mainstays scrap to regain relevance while streaking contenders battle for a win that could manifest into a title shot in the near future. UFC 250 is a card that is deep with intriguing matchups that hold weight in their respective divisions’ title pictures, so let’s take a look at how the numbers frame a few standout bouts.
(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of June 3, 2020, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Amanda Nunes vs Felicia Spencer
Key Stats: 77.3% takedown defense (2nd all-time among WBW), +1.93 striking differential (1st all-time among WBW), 49.7% significant strike accuracy (4th all-time among WBW)
What It Means: What makes Amanda Nunes great is her ability to dictate and dominate in whichever facet she chooses to do battle. Her fast, powerful hands often overwhelm her opponent while her grappling is such that she can either keep the fight upright, or, as in her last bout with Germaine de Randamie, she can take her opponent down and rain down strikes.
Key Stats: 4.54 significant strikes landed per minute, 55% significant strike accuracy, 1.36 takedowns per 15 minutes
What It Means: Felicia Spencer is as tough a grinder as they come, but she also has good striking technique stemming from her Taekwondo background. She is a true featherweight, and her two UFC wins started with Spencer utilizing superior wrestling en route to a pair of finishes.
What to Look for in the Fight: Amanda Nunes can usually force the fight to go where she wants it, but Spencer showed in her fight against Cris Cyborg she is more than able to take heavy shots and still come forward. In terms of grappling, Spencer is the true featherweight and might have the physical advantage, so whether that prompts Nunes to stand and strike or use her jiu-jitsu is something to watch.
Other Fights to Watch (Aljamain Sterling vs Cory Sandhagen, Ian Heinisch vs Gerald Meerschaert)
Key Stats: +2.84 striking differential (1st all-time among BW), 4.86 strikes landed per minute (8th), 65.7% significant strike defense (6th)
What It Means: Long and rangy, Aljamain Sterling is as quick as they come in the bantamweight division, and his range management allows him to stick and move. In addition to being hard to hit, Sterling’s wrestling background also keeps opponents at bay in fear of a takedown attempt, further increasing his distance and speed advantages.
Key Stats: 7.14 significant strikes per minute, 48% significant strike accuracy, 4.16 strikes absorbed per minute
What It Means: Cory Sandhagen loves to stay in his opponent’s face – often with his hands down - and swarm his opponents with strikes or a relentless submission game. While it means his opponent is more apt to open up with their own strikes, Sandhagen’s output can usually melt his opponent’s as the fight wears into the later rounds.
What to Look For in the Fight: A fun aspect of this bout is these two are similarly tall and long, so it’ll be a rare matchup in which both are fighting against someone who can match them in terms of physique. Sandhagen is fluid in how he applies pressure, but Sterling has shown, especially in his recent fights that he can easily frustrate opponents with his speed and evasiveness. Both fighters are also apt to switch stances frequently, so the chess match and adjustments made throughout the bout is something to watch as well.
Key Stats: 62% takedown defense, 50% significant strike accuracy, 3.38 significant strikes landed per minute
What It Means: In his four UFC bouts, Ian Heinisch has come across his fair share of wrestling- or grappling-based opponents, and he’s had mixed results in negating their attack. He is strong with decent wrestling, and he showed in his bout against Antonio Carlos Junior that he has the goods to shuck guys off and then land heavy shots with an array of strikes.
Key Stats: 1.69 submissions per 15 minutes (2nd), 43.8% takedown accuracy (5th), 5 submission wins (tied 1st all-time among MW)
What It Means: Gerald Meerschaert doesn’t hide his favored game plan. He wants to take you down and submit you. His standup has improved, though, and his bout against Deron Winn showed that if he tags his opponent, he’ll use the window to find a submission. He picks his spots to shoot well, and it allows him to keep opponents guessing.
What to Look for in the Fight: Somehow, Ian Heinisch continues to find himself across from guys who’d prefer to fight on the mat. Whether he has improved that area of his game will determine how this bout goes, but as Meerschaert has shown, he doesn’t grapple just to grapple. He’ll fish for submissions often, and if his striking can at least stand up to Heinisch’s, he’ll find a window open to get another tap out.
*Does not have enough UFC appearances in their division to qualify in the Record Book