Robbie Lawler (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Toe-to-Toe: UFC on ESPN 5 Preview and Predictions

Fans of the UFC who live on the East Coast of the United States can rejoice, for the latest installment of UFC on ESPN will not be a fight card that requires them to stay awake until 1:30 a.m.

The card, the fifth edition of UFC on ESPN, takes place on Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and kicks off at noon ET. This means East Coast fans will have to make sure they wake up on time, instead of wonder how late they will have to stay up. While this event was probably best to have been combined with last weekend’s top-heavy UFC 240 pay-per-view, the main event of Saturday’s card will at least go a long way toward determining the next title contender in the UFC welterweight division.

Robbie Lawler seeks redemption after his controversial loss to Ben Askren earlier this year. The former champion faces former UFC interim titleholder Colby Covington, who steps into the Octagon for the first time since winning the belt last year and then being stripped after he elected to have surgery instead of facing Tyron Woodley, another former champion, in a unification bout. If Covington wants to finally receive a title shot that is probably still technically owed, then a win over Lawler would all but assure him an opportunity.


The co-headliner evokes a bit of nostalgia for UFC fans, as longtime fan-favorites Clay Guida and Jim Miller square off. Neither fighter is close to title contention in a still-crowded UFC lightweight division, but both Guida and Miller fight an entertaining style which will surely resonate with old-school and current UFC fans alike.

The preliminary card begins at noon ET on ESPN+, followed by the main card on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Chris Huntemann and Matt Petela are here to get you ready for all of the action in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.

Is Robbie Lawler, who takes on Colby Covington in the evening’s main event, capable of breaking his trend of recent losses on Saturday night?

Petela: Absolutely. Lawler’s two most recent losses actually provide a great deal of confidence in picking him to beat Covington.

Before the controversial ending that was yet another example of the steep decline of referee Herb Dean’s ability to perform his job competently, Lawler nearly had Askren out cold after defending a takedown. He slammed Askren to the mat and then rained down hellacious blows that somehow didn’t end the fight. It didn’t seem like the 37-year-old Lawler, who has more miles on his odometer than a 1998 Honda Accord, showed signs that his best days are behind him.

Rafael dos Anjos brutalized the lead leg of Lawler in their 2017 contest, and that seemed to immobilize Lawler and make him more susceptible to a late takedown attempt from the Brazilian. Those leg kicks were thunderous, but I remember screaming at my television that “Ruthless” was hampered by his left leg — the back leg — and not the one bearing the brunt of the kicks. In between rounds, he could be seen talking to coach Henri Hooft, and it seems as if he was telling Hooft that he re-injured his left knee, likely a training camp injury that was a concern heading into the fight. Lawler’s ability to withstand the leg kicks of dos Anjos while bracing himself on a compromised back leg speaks volumes to the toughness and durability that has been a trademark throughout Lawler’s career.

No fighter goes into a fight completely healthy, but let’s assume Lawler enters the Octagon in Newark without any serious physical injuries. If this is the case, then Covington won’t be able to follow the blueprint laid out by RDA as a path to victory. Covington also won’t have much success implementing his wrestling-heavy style on a Lawler with two healthy wheels. Covington may be able to secure a takedown or two, but keeping Lawler on his back is no picnic. Meanwhile, the striking advantage should lie firmly with Lawler.

This fight ends with a late TKO victory that snaps Lawler’s skid and marks the beginning of his run to once again becoming UFC welterweight champion before he eventually hangs up his gloves.

Huntemann: You can certainly argue that Lawler’s fight against Askren should not have been called when it was, as it is debatable whether or not Lawler had tapped or passed out. Lawler’s only recent losses were to Askren, dos Anjos and Tyron Woodley — all former champions. So any reports of Lawler being on the downswing of his career might be slightly exaggerated.

I like Lawler to win this fight. We all know that Covington’s bread and butter is his wrestling, and he will not want to stand and trade with someone like Lawler. The fact that Covington hasn’t fought in over a year while still promoting his Donald Trump-ripoff gimmick is noteworthy, too. It’s a lot to ask to come back from a year-plus hiatus and immediately face someone the caliber of Lawler.

Lawler will push the pace, hammer Covington with strikes, and either finish him or score a resounding decision victory that firmly puts him back in the title hunt.

It’s 2019, and the UFC has booked lightweights Jim Miller and Clay Guida as a co-headliner. Does this fight still hold any relevance?

Huntemann: If this card is magically transported back to the year 2010, then, sure, relevance abounds for this fight. Sadly, we are still stuck in the year 2019 and all the drudgery that comes with it.

The fact Guida and Miller, who were last relevant contenders when the UFC still called Spike TV home, are fighting in the co-main event pretty much confirms that this is another watered-down UFC offering. To reiterate something from the intro, this card should have been merged with the UFC 240 offering. However, Guida and Miller are popular with fans and generally fight exciting fights. The UFC can’t be faulted for throwing the “Just Bleed” contingent of the UFC fanbase a bone every once in awhile.

Petela: This fight has disaster written all over it. The only imaginable reason it has such a high-profile placement on an ESPN card is because Miller was born and raised in New Jersey. The Garden State has not been kind to its native son recently, though. He has a record of 2-4, with one no-contest, at home while fighting in the UFC. He hasn’t won a fight in Jersey since 2011, and he was on the wrong end of a perfectly timed knee to the chin from Dan Hooker the last time he entered the Octagon without having to cross state lines from his home and training camp.

Neither Miller nor Guida have ever been accused of being boring fighters, so this one should be exciting. However, keeping with recent history, I expect Miller to drop another contest at home and leave fans wondering if it’s time for him to retire. This will suck all the energy out of the building right before the main event.

Hannah Goldy, Miranda Granger and Cole Williams — do we need to know these names?

Petela: I don’t like the fight between Goldy and Granger, at least not right now. These are two of the top prospects at strawweight, and it would be much better to see them debut in the UFC against different opponents.

Goldy is 5-0 as a professional and most recently won an impressive unanimous decision over Kali Robbins on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. She also has a unanimous nod over UFC fighter Gillian Robertson, who just collected a TKO victory over the dangerous Sarah Frota at UFC 240. Meanwhile, Granger has been fighting as a professional for just under two years. She has already amassed a 6-0 record and won the Cage Fury Fighting Championship strawweight title in her last bout. Both of these fighters are women to keep a close eye on, regardless of the outcome of this contest.

Williams isn’t a guy who will stick around the UFC for long. He has an impressive record of 11-1, but it took him 11 years to put together those 12 fights. He’s a good regional level talent, but he hasn’t even fought in the top regional shows. The most impressive thing on his resume might be that he fought in the same promotion where Tony Ferguson competed in just prior to “El Cucuy” entering The Ultimate Fighter house.

Huntemann: Since my colleague decided to go into detail about Goldy and Williams, let’s focus on the potential of Granger. All six of her pro wins and all but one of her five amateur wins have ended in a stoppage. Since the UFC women’s flyweight division is still pretty shallow, another early finish for Granger could set her on a shorter-than-usual path to an eventual title fight.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Huntemann: The middleweight bout between Gerald Meerschaert and Trevin Giles.

Meerschaert has lost three of his last five bouts, albeit to some pretty tough competition. Giles is coming off his first professional loss in 12 bouts. It would be a tremendous boon for Giles to add someone with Meerschaert’s experience to his list of wins.

Petela: Antonina Shevchenko and Lucie Pudilová.

The older Shevchenko sister is coming off her first professional MMA loss, a split decision to Roxanne Modafferi in Russia. Pudilová is trying to bounce back from a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Liz Carmouche in the UFC’s maiden voyage to the Czech Republic. Not only will it be intriguing to see how the women rebound from their setbacks, but both ladies can be expected to get a big pop from the crowd in Newark, which is home to a high concentration of people with Eastern European heritage.

Pair this card with…

Petela: Champagne and Maker’s Mark, though I don’t recommend combining them. If the main event goes as I expect, UFC fans will be temporarily spared from having to put up with Colby Covington’s schtick. That is more than deserving of a champagne toast. If, however, Covington wins, then he will be even more insufferable. Maker’s Mark will be the best way to drown out the nonsense to follow from the self-appointed captain of American Top Team.

Huntemann: Since this is the highly irregular UFC card that starts at the stroke of noon on a Saturday, what the hell. Enjoy some brunch, complete with a Bloody Mary, while you take in the fights. I’m sure most of the Combat Press readers will need a Bloody Mary regardless, being the shameless heathens that they are.

Fight Picks

Fight Petela’s Pick Huntemann’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET)
WW: Colby Covington vs. Robbie Lawler Lawler Lawler
LW: Clay Guida vs. Jim Miller Guida Miller
LW: Joaquim Silva vs. Nasrat Haqparast Silva Silva
MW: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Trevin Giles Meerschaert Meerschaert
LW: Scott Holtzman vs. Dong Hyun Ma Holtzman Holtzman
LHW: Darko Stošić vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu Stosic Nzechukwu
Preliminary Card (ESPN, 12 p.m. ET)
WW: Mickey Gall vs. Salim Touahri Gall Touahri
Women’s FlyW: Antonina Shevchenko vs. Lucie Pudilová Shevchenko Pudilova
FlyW: Matt Schnell vs. Jordan Espinosa Espinosa Schnell
Women’s FlyW: Mara Romero Borella vs. Lauren Murphy Romero Borella Murphy
WW: Claudio Silva vs. Cole Williams Silva Silva
Women’s FlyW: Hannah Goldy vs. Miranda Granger Goldy Granger