For the final UFC card of August and before they ship the show off to Paris, UFC 278 will travel to Utah. Kamaru Usman aims to add to his hall of fame legacy with a second win over Leon Edwards in the main event. Another future hall-of-famer, José Aldo, also aims to add to his legacy, trying to grab another title shot with a win over Merab Dvalishvili. We’ll also see some other big UFC names return, including Paulo Costa, Alexandr Romanov, Marcin Tybura and Luke Rockhold, who’s returning after a 3 year layoff.
There’s also a VERY exciting flyweight matchup in the prelims between Amir Albazi and Francisco Figueiredo. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds.
Main Card (7:00 PM PST)
Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker
Pedro: -770 Hunsucker: +500
Over 1.5: +240 Under 1.5: -334
A finish seems inevitable in this matchup between a couple of heavy hitters. Pedro came into the UFC with a record of only 4-0. Since then, he’s had a fairly even record of 4-3, getting finished by St. Preux and ‘Shogun’ Rua, but knocking out Paul Craig and Ike Villanueva.
Hunsucker has yet to find success in the UFC, losing his DWCS appearance and getting knocked out in less than 2 minutes against both Tuivasa and Justin Tafa.
The biggest factor in this matchup is that Hunsucker is coming down from fighting at heavyweight. Hunsucker’s problem is that he rushes in with his hands down and gets destroyed by power punchers. He can do some decent damage when he rushes in like that, but Pedro showed to be VERY defensive and patient in his last bout. It will be a much closer fight than people expect, but Pedro should be able to use his technical skills to grab a finish, especially with his kicks, or win in a decision.
Pedro by Finish
Marcin Tybura vs. Alexandr Romanov
Tybura: +280 Romanov: -385
Over 1.5: -209 Under 1.5: +157
In this matchup, we’ll be treated to even BIGGER guys, as two ranked heavyweights square off. Tybura is ranked 11th thanks to his 5-fight win-streak over Spivak, Grishin, Rothwell, Hardy and Harris. However, lost his last one to the legendary Volkov.
Romanov has yet to taste defeat in the cage with a record of 16-0, with 5 wins in the UFC. Unlike most heavyweights, he fights with a HEAVY grappling style, giving him 3 submission wins and a ground and pound TKO in the Octagon.
This matchup is by far the toughest that Romanov has been given. That being said, he still looks like the more dangerous, well-rounded fighter. He doesn’t have the best striking, but his wrestling is on a different level than most heavyweights. It sounds crazy, but he’s suplexed people over 250 pounds, even throwing a 265 pound Vanderaa around the canvas. Tybura tends to weigh around 245, so it seems likely that he’ll throw Tybura around until he ends up on top and lands his signature ‘King Kong’ ground and pound. T
his isn’t to say Tybura has no chance, but he doesn’t have the most power and Romanov was hit CLEAN by Vanderaa and he didn’t even react. That tells me that there’s nothing Tybura can do that will phase Romanov. His only chance is to survive until round 3 and grab a miracle finish or somehow edge a decision.
Romanov by Finish
José Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili
Aldo: +112 Dvalishvili: -137
Over 2.5: -244 Under 2.5: +183
In a matchup that could determine the next title contender, the legendary, future hall-of-famer, José Aldo will take on the rising prospect Merab Dvalishvili. Aldo is one of the greatest featherweights of all time, but has since moved down to bantamweight where he has continued his dominance. Since losing the title shot against Petr Yan in 2020, he’s won 3 in a row with decision wins over ‘Chito’ Vera, Munhoz and Font.
Trying to shut down Aldo’s final run at the title, Merab comes in on a 7 fight UFC win-streak with wins over Cody Stamann, John Dodson and a recent knockout of Marlon Moraes.
Aldo may be nearing the end of his career, but he’s baffled the MMA community (and his opponents) with his endurance in the sport. Without a doubt, this will be one of the best fights of the night and will likely reach a decision. If it were 5 rounds, I’d be a little more worried about Aldo, but in a 3-rounder, he should edge ahead in a decision. Merab was shredded by the leg kicks of Moraes and was dropped by him multiple times.
Considering Aldo is one of the most relentless, difficult strikers to deal with, especially with his leg kicks, he should be able to beat Merab on the feet. Merab will try to use his wrestling, but if Also uses his sensational takedown defence, he should shut down his wrestling and win on the cards.
Aldo by Decision
Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold
Costa: -385 Rockhold: +280
Over 1.5: -121 Under 1.5: -107
Interestingly, this is a matchup where I don’t think a lot of people saw either one of these guys coming back to middleweight. Costa, now famous for his weight-cutting shenanigans against Vettori in his last bout, will try and finish Rockhold who hasn’t fought since 2019. Both men have lost their last two fights, but there’s a CLEAR difference in competition.
Costa lost to the champ, Adesanya, and one of the most dangerous men in the division, Vettori, while Rockhold was knocked out by both Romero and Blachowicz.
This matchup seems like a perfect recipe to give Costa a HUGE KO win. Rockhold is 37, hasn’t fought since 2019 AND has been knocked out in 3 of his last 4 fights. Costa is quick, MASSIVE and has ridiculous power and striking skills. Costa handled Vettori’s wrestling well. Considering Rockhold has nowhere NEAR the wrestling skills of Vettori anymore, Costa will shut that down. Not only that, he’ll almost surely grab a massive knockout and probably end the UFC career of Rockhold.
Costa by Finish
Main Event (Welterweight Title Fight)
Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards
Usman: -385 Edwards: +280
Over 4.5: -164 Under 4.5: +125
I agree with most of the MMA community in that this will likely be one of Usman’s toughest tests. Usman has yet to taste defeat in the UFC, going undefeated in 14 fights since his TUF season 21 victory. In that time he’s already beaten Edwards once, but has also beaten top contenders like Covington and Masvidal multiple times.
Since that loss to Usman, Edwards has gone undefeated with 9 wins (and a No Contest) including Nate Diaz, RDA, ‘Cowboy’ and Luque.
Just like the first time these two fought, the only way for Edwards to win is with his striking. Sadly for him, Usman has now developed his striking to the point where he knocked out two VERY dangerous contenders in a row: Gilbert Burns and Masvidal. The two most likely scenarios, in my mind would be Usman using his grappling and crisp strikes to control Edwards and shut down his offence for a decision. Otherwise, Usman may be able to hit Edwards with a bomb and knock him out cold.
It may sound crazy to some, but Edwards was basically finished by Diaz in the 5th round of his last fight. Plus, once again, Usman knocked out Masvidal and Burns, plus he dropped Colby multiple times. A finish is certainly plausible.
Usman by Finish
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 3:00 PM PST)
Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo
Albazi: -455 Figueiredo: +350
Over 2.5: -148 Under 2.5: +114
After a couple of fight cancellations for Albazi, he will finally return to defend his spot in the top 15 against a dangerous rising contender in Figueiredo. He may only have two fights in the UFC, but Albazi earned his spot in the top 15 with a DOMINANT submission finish over Malcolm Gordon and a convincing decision win over Zhumagulov.
Figueiredo was slow to start his UFC journey with a decision win over Rivera and a decision loss to Malcolm Gordon, but he turned it around last time out with a stunning 1st Round submission over Daniel da Silva back in April.
Figueiredo is talented, but Albazi has clear top 10, possibly top 5, potential. Look no further than their encounters with Malcolm Gordon. Albazi absolutely dismantled Gordon on the feet AND on the ground. Meanwhile, Figueiredo had issues with him on the feet, but did fairly well on the ground. If Figueiredo can keep his cardio going, he’ll probably lose a pretty dominant decision. More likely though, given his known cardio issues, Albazi will push him HARD and Albazi will grab another impressive finish.
Albazi by Finish
Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldaña
Woodson: -350 Saldaña: +275
Over 2.5: -157 Under 2.5: +120
There’s no implication in the rankings here, but this matchup should produce some fun action. Using his extremely awkward length, Woodson has been a real problem for the featherweight division, going 3-1 so far in the UFC, even beating Terrance McKinney on the Contender Series.
Saldaña has had an almost identical UFC experience with a record of 2-1 and a Contender Series win.
It’s a tight matchup and they both have a chance, but the biggest factor is clearly going to be Woodson’s absurd 79 inch reach and comically long legs. He’s a tad slow, but he uses his length perfectly to keep people back and land from a distance. This is what Saldaña does too at times, but he’s going to have to pressure forward if he wants to get a win. He may even try to grapple, but Woodson is so tall and long that it becomes almost impossible to take him down at times. I don’t think either guy is getting a finish, but that length should give Woodson a hard-fought, close decision win.
Woodson by Decision
Jared Gordon vs. Leonardo Santos
Gordon: -286 Santos: +225
Over 2.5: -145 Under 2.5: +112
Interestingly, these two guys have (almost) the same record, both sitting at 18-5, with a draw thrown in for Santos. Since joining the UFC in 2017, Gordon has gone 6-4, mostly grabbing decision wins over relatively unknown fighters. All four of his losses came from finishes to more recognizable names like Diego Ferreira, Charles Oliveira and Grant Dawson in his last bout.
Santos has been plagued by injuries since around 2015, only fighting 5 times since then. That being said, he hadn’t lost in the UFC from 2013 all the way up until 2021. Unfortunately, he lost twice last year, BUT it should be said that he could have easily won both of those. If you missed his last bout, it was one of the WILDEST comebacks in UFC history from Clay Guida. Santos DESTROYED Guida in the few minutes of the fight, hitting him with DOZENS of unanswered shots to the point where the commentators were questioning why the ref hadn’t called the fight.
Using all of his energy slamming his fists into Guida, he started to get tired and was eventually submitted. Before that, he had fought Dawson and was actually beating him for the majority of the fight… but was finished with ONE second left on the clock at 4:59 of Round 3.
The oddsmakers and the MMA community seem to discount Santos because he’s 42 and has lost two in a row, but look at what Santos did to both Guida and Dawson. Any other ref would’ve stopped the fight, giving Santos a 1st Round win over Clay Guida. That’s already insanely impressive if you know Guida, but he also could have won a decision against Dawson if the ref would’ve let the fight go another SINGLE second. Meanwhile, Gordon was dominated by Dawson.
This is looking like a tight decision that could go either way, but I’m going with Santos who’s been performing at a much higher level than Gordon.
Santos by Decision
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC 278. 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.
Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo: Under 2.5 at +114
Albazi is one of the most dangerous guys in the division. The only reason he isn’t in the top 10 is because he hasn’t been able to fight recently. He’s relentless and extremely skilled; if you combine that with Francisco’s dwindling cardio and his lesser striking skills, Albazi should be able to grab a finish before the end of the 2nd Round.
The Underdog: Wu Yanan at +100
If you watch the tape, this betting line seems bizarre. They’re a similar size, but Pudilova is slow and just really hasn’t shown much skill. She was cut from the UFC, won a few fights and has now been brought back. Wu is MUCH faster and aggressive, very tough and fairly skilled in her striking. This should be a pretty dominant win for Wu.
The Underdog :Leonardo Santos at +225
Even based on the simple fact that Santos did MUCH better against Dawson than Gordon did, that’s enough to risk some money on this underdog. He almost finished Guida in his last fight, was beating Grant Dawson in the fight before that and hadn’t lost in the UFC outside those two. Santos may be old, but he’s looking like the better fighter in this matchup.
The Short Run
Albazi + Costa + Usman
The Long Run
Albazi + Maverick + Romanov + Costa + Usman