In the final PPV of 2022, the UFC returns to Vegas for UFC 282.
Sadly, we’re not going to see the Light Heavyweight title we were originally promised with Jiri and Glover 2. Instead, we’ve got Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev competing for that, now vacant, title. What’s being called ‘the People’s Main Event’, is the co-main event with Paddy ‘the Baddy’ Pimblett and Jared Gordon. We’ve also got a couple of incredible ranked matchups this weekend with Darren Till making his highly anticipated return against Dricus Du Plessis. There’s also Bryce Mitchell and Ilia Topuria fighting to keep their undefeated records intact as well as their spot in the top 15. Since we’re in Vegas, we’ve also got a few VERY interesting UFC debuts of DWCS veterans with 21-year old Cameron Saaiman from South Africa, Vinicius Salvador, Erik Silva and
most notably, 18-year old Raul Rosas Jr.. 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)
Bryce Mitchell vs. Ilia Topuria
Mitchell: +122 Topuria: -150
Over 2.5: -145 Under 2.5: +112
It’s not very often we see two undefeated fighters square off at this high level of MMA. Mitchell has been quickly climbing the featherweight ranks, dominating everyone that’s in front of him. Earlier this year, that was the UFC legend Edson Barboza. Topuria hasn’t just stuck to featherweight, thanks to his HUGE size, he was able to grab his last win at lightweight against Jai Herbert.
This is as pure of a striker/grappler matchup as you’ll ever see. As usual, all you really have to figure out is if the grappler will be able to consistently take down the striker. In this case, I have to believe that yes, Mitchell will be able to. Barboza is well-known for his crisp, clean striking and the fact that he’s difficult to take down. What happened in the matchup? Mitchell controlled him on the ground for almost the entire fight. I have to believe that the exact same thing will happen here.
Mitchell by Decision
Darren Till vs. Dricus Du Plessis
Till: +150 Du Plessis: -184
Over 2.5: +128 Under 2.5: -163
This matchup is one of the toughest to call, mainly because we have no idea how Till is going to perform. He’s still ranked and widely considered a top middleweight, but somewhat like McGregor, he’s 1-4 in his last 5 and those fights date back to 2018. It should also be said that that win was a split decision. Of course, also like McGregor all of those fights were against top contenders like Woodley, Masvidal, Whittaker and Brunson. Meanwhile, Du Plessis is largely untested with a 3-0 record in the UFC, none over anyone as skilled and experienced as Till.
I’ve gone back and forth on this one, but I’ve settled on the experience of Till. Being so large, Du Plessis struggles with cardio, to the point where Tavares could have easily come back against him in his last fight. Given Till’s striking skills, I’d be surprised if he made a mistake and got knocked out. That only leaves a KO for Till or a decision. In a decision, which seems like the most likely outcome, Till seems like the clear choice given his elite, top-ranked experience.
Till by Decision
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Alex Morono
Ponzinibbio: -189 Morono: +150
Over 2.5: -172 Under 2.5: +133
This one’s another tough matchup to call. In this case, it’s because both men are VERY evenly matched and very similar in style. Not only that, they also both tend to have very close fights. Ponzinibbio has fought three strikers in a row: Pereira, Neal and Baeza. He beat Baeza, but lost both the others in tight, split decisions. Morono has now won 4 in a row, but to less impressive fighters.
Being that Morono is such an intellectual fighter, he’s got a very good chance in this matchup. That being said, Ponzinibbio dragged both Michel Pereira and Geoff Neal to a split decision. Personally, I’d say both of those men would run circles around Morono. So by comparison, I’d have to imagine Ponzinibbio can edge ahead in the decision.
Ponzinibbio by Decision
Paddy Pimblett vs. Jared Gordon
Pimblett: -260 Gordon: +210
Over 2.5: +120 Under 2.5: -150
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, at some point, the UFC will give Paddy a matchup that he can’t win. However, we’re still not there yet; they’re still giving him matchups that he should be able to win and get a finish. In his last 3 fights, Gordon won a split over Solecki, was submitted by Grant Dawson and beat a Leonardo Santos that, in all honesty, was well past his prime and simply didn’t perform.
I’m not saying that Paddy is going to sweep Gordon under the rug in the 1st Round, but it would be shocking to see Pimblett somehow lose this. Grant Dawson is also good on the ground and he grabbed a 3rd Round finish over Gordon. Given Paddy’s style, it seems more than likely he’ll be able to do the same thing a bit earlier.
Pimblett by Finish
Main Event (Light Heavyweight Title Bout)
Jan Błachowicz vs. Magomed Ankalaev
Błachowicz: +233 Ankalaev: -300
Over 3.5: -113 Under 3.5: -113
The consensus already seems to be that Ankalaev is essentially being gifted the title. It’s hard to argue against that statement. Ankalaev has already faced strikers like Błachowicz and he’s beaten them every single time. On the other side, Błachowicz was absolutely manhandled by the grappling of Glover and was losing to Rakić before an unfortunate, freak injury ended the fight, giving him the win.
Not only is this a nightmare matchup for Jan, it’s also a last-minute matchup for both men. Jan hasn’t had anywhere near enough time to prepare for Ankalaev. Meanwhile, Ankalaev is facing the exact same kind of matchup he’s already had. I wouldn’t be shocked if Ankalaev grabbed a finish, but a decision, filled with Dagestani grappling, seems to be the most likely scenario.
Ankalaev by Decision
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 3:00 PM PST)
Cameron Saaiman vs. Steven Koslow
Saaiman: -375 Koslow: +280
Over 1.5: -119 Under 1.5: -109
Both of these men have the record you want to see when debuting in the UFC: 6-0 with mostly finishes. I was hesitant of Saaiman’s potential before his Contender Series appearance, but what he showed there was something special. He’s got the pace, pressure and cardio of a 21-year old, but fights like a much more experienced man. He used that to dominate his opponent and eventually grab 3rd Round KO. Koslow doesn’t have that DWCS appearance, so it’s a lot harder to judge his skill level.
What we CAN tell about Koslow is that he starts fast; all of his pro fights have been 1st Round submissions. To me, that not only says he’s going to have a problem against someone like Saaiman after the 1st Round, but it also says he might not be as good on the feet if he’s never grabbed a KO.
Based on that, Koslow will likely blitz in and either get knocked out by Saaiman right away, or he’s going to tire out and Saaiman will likely get a later finish. Either way, I’m sensing a finish for Saaiman. That style works well outside the UFC, but it takes a supremely special fighter to continue that here. There’s simply not enough information on Koslow to suggest that he’s at that level.
Saaiman by Finish
Jay Perrin vs. Raul Rosas Jr.
Perrin: +200 Rosas Jr.: -250
Over 2.5: -137 Under 2.5: +108
Similar to Saaiman, the UFC is very much behind this kid (Rosas Jr.)… and I do mean kid; he’s 18! Already, that tells you this is going to be a favourable matchup for Rosas Jr. He showed off some of the best grappling moves I’ve ever seen in his Contender Series fight. He didn’t get the finish, but his grappling was on a whole other level, controlling his opponent the entire fight. It should also be pointed out that his opponent was also a grappler and showed extreme skill as well.
Perrin may have lasted to a decision against against Mario Bautista, but upon rewatching that fight, he was taken down a few times by Bautista and was controlled. If you saw the jiu-jitsu skills that were on display in Raul’s Contender Series appearance, you’d know that you can’t let him take you down like that. Perrin may be able to hold on to the final bell, but with a ground game THAT complex and smooth, it seems like Rosas Jr. will be able to find a submission at some point.
Rosas Jr. by Finish
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Chris Daukaus
Rozenstruik: -175 Daukaus: +142
Over 1.5: +122 Under 1.5: -158
As always, you’ve gotta appreciate a matchup between two heavyweight knockout artists. We know there’s going to be a knockout, you just have to figure out who’s going to get it. In this case, the only choice seems to be Rozenstruik. I’ve said this before; Daukaus is simply too small to withstand the power of a true heavyweight KO artist like Rozenstruik. Daukaus has been knocked out by Lewis and Blaydes in his last two, this will likely be a third KO loss in a row. Also, I hate to point it out but his brother was just destroyed a week ago in his fight and I would imagine there’s some lingering feelings about that that could hurt his chances here.
Rozenstruik by Finish
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC 282. 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 Chris Curtis at +130
This betting line just doesn’t add up. Chris Curtis had won all 3 of his UFC bouts, finding himself in the top 15, then lost his last one in a bizarre decision against Hermansson who’s been ranked for years. On the other side, Buckley has been able to dispatch the more inexperienced fighters, but was dominated by Imavov in his last fight. Curtis may struggle a bit more against grapplers, but this is his ideal kind of a matchup. This is an absolute bargain at +130.
The Underdog Bryce Mitchell at +122
In this classic grappler vs. striker matchup, the grappler, Mitchell, seems to be the more reliable pick. Mitchell is fully entrenched in the top 15, smothering the legendary striker, Edson Barboza, in his last fight. Topuria is a powerful striker, but he’s also VERY big for 145 pounds. This means he’ll slow down quickly, especially in the grappling scenarios. This makes Mitchell the safer bet, very much worth it as an underdog.
The Underdog Darren Till at +150
This is another betting line that doesn’t seem to add up. Yes, Du Plessis has beaten all of his UFC opponents, but his only notable win was Brad Tavares. In that fight, he slowed down a LOT, giving Tavares plenty of opportunities to steal the fight away. With Till’s experience and his striking ability, he should be able to win a decision with ease. At +150, it’d be silly not to put a few dollars down.
The Short Run
Saaiman + Shahbazyan + Rosas Jr. + Pimblett
The Long Run
Saaiman + Salvador + Shahbazyan + Rosas Jr. + Pimblett + Ankalaev