I said last week that UFC 282 was the final card of 2022. ACTUALLY, UFC Vegas 66 is the last card of the year, so my mistake.
The night will close with two elite middleweight strikers Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland. Another striker’s delight will take place earlier in the main card between Drew Dober and Bobby Green. We’ll also be treated to the return of one the most elusive knockout artists in the flyweight division, Manel Kape. The rest of the card is bursting at the seams with elite grapplers like Arman Tsarukyan, Amir Albazi and Said Nurmagomedov. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds.
Main Card (4:00 PM PST)
Cody Brundage vs. Michał Oleksiejczuk
Brundage: +214 Oleksiejczuk: -275
Over 1.5: +105 Under 1.5: -134
Two evenly matched middleweights are set to open the main card of the final UFC card of the year. Currently having the best year of his career, Brundage has earned two 1st Round finishes so far in 2022. Oleksiejczuk opened this year with a loss to the ranked contender, Dustin Jacoby, but followed it up with an easy 1st Round finish over Sam Alvey.
This one really could head either way. Both men have done well against their lower-level opponents, but have struggled against their tougher opponents. They’re also almost exactly the same size and age. The only difference that I can see is their UFC history. Oleksiejczuk has fought slightly tougher opponents and his only UFC losses have been to ranked opponents. I have a feeling we’ll see a finish either way, so I’m going with Oleksiejczuk grabbing a finish.
Oleksiejczuk by Finish
Drew Dober vs. Bobby Green
Dober: -150 Green: +122
Over 2.5: -172 Under 2.5: +133
This matchup is shaping up to be the most exciting of the night. Dober has established himself as one of the most relentless, dangerous strikers in the division. After somehow coming back and winning one of the wildest fights of the year, Dober grabbed his 2nd TKO win over another tough fighter in Rafael Alves. Green opened the year like a madman, fighting twice in February. He won the first against Haqparast, but was then steamrolled by the new lightweight champ, Islam Makhachev.
Both of these men are WILD strikers who are almost impossible to knockout. That tends to mean we’ll see an exciting decision. Usually, this also means that the striker with the best grappling will win if there’s no KO. For me, that has to be Dober. He’s a well-rounded fighter with no quit and endless cardio. Green is going to put up a great fight, but Dober should win the decision.
Dober by Decision
Alex Caceres vs. Julian Erosa
Caceres: +142 Erosa: -175
Over 2.5: -148 Under 2.5: +114
With a 19-13 record, Caceres may look a little rough on paper, but he’s been making some big statements the last couple years. After winning 5 in a row, Caceres tasted his first defeat in years against Yusuff earlier this year. Erosa is still on a winning streak of his own, winning his last 3 including Charles Jourdain and Hakeem Dawodu.
This is another one that could go in either direction. That being said, on paper Erosa seems like the safer choice. He’s still on his winning streak and that includes a couple of solid contenders. He should be able to edge ahead in a decision.
Erosa by Decision
Amir Albazi vs. Alessandro Costa
Albazi: -434 Costa: +320
Over 2.5: +125 Under 2.5: -160
Honestly, I have no idea why this matchup has even been put together. Albazi is a REAL threat to the top 10, maybe even top 5 of the division. Meanwhile, this is Costa’s debut after barely winning a split decision on the Contender Series, then winning another fight outside of the UFC. With Albazi being one of the best submission artists in the division, I’d be surprised if he didn’t grab a finish over this rookie.
Albazi by Finish
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Damir Ismagulov
Tsarukyan: -200 Ismagulov: +160
Over 2.5: -267 Under 2.5: +200
With lightweight being such a stacked division, both of these men are coming off of some tough, tough matchups. Both of these men are insanely skilled and have a career trajectory that include a title shot, so either man could take the win. The only difference is that Tsarukyan has looked more impressive against tougher opponents. He lost his last fight to Gamrot, which is understandable given Gamrot’s skill. But if you watched it, the decision was quite the toss-up. Not only that, Gamrot stole it on the judges’ cards in the late rounds of a 5 round fight. With this fight being 3 rounds, Tsarukyan should be able to use his sensational, high-pace grappling and striking to win a hard-fought decision.
Tsarukyan by Decision
Jared Cannonier vs. Sean Strickland
Cannonier: -108 Strickland: -115
Over 4.5: -113 Under 4.5: -113
Two months after this fight was originally scheduled, these two strikers will finally square off. With both of these men being pure strikers, grappling won’t apply in this matchup. From there we need to figure out if one man will get a finish, or if they’re tough enough to reach a decision. Without a doubt, Cannonier has the edge in power, but that tends to come at the cost of cardio over 5 rounds. That being said, it just seems like Cannonier would win the decision AND be the most likely to grab a finish. Cannonier is simply smarter and more powerful. Given Strickland’s last outing against Pereira, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cannonier could eventually do the same thing and grab a finish within 5 rounds.
Cannonier by Finish
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 1:00 PM PST)
David Dvořák vs. Manel Kape
Dvořák: +200 Kape: -260
Over 2.5: -143 Under 2.5: +112
This one seems like a slight mismatch, but it’ll still provide us with another incredible flyweight barnburner. Dvořák’s record is impressive at 20-4, but he’s still fairly new to the UFC with a 3-1 record. He opened strong with 3 wins, then fell in his last one to top contender Matheus Nicolau. Kape also lost to Nicolau, but it was in a tight, split decision. His other UFC loss came to another top contender in Pantoja. Other than that he’s been grabbing KO after KO in his MMA career, including two 1st Rounders in his last two fights. Dvořák has a lot of potential, but Kape is a wrecking ball at 125 pounds. Kape should be able do the same thing here and grab another knockout.
Kape by Finish
Said Nurmagomedov vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov
Nurmagomedov: -109 Kakhramonov: -113
Over 2.5: -184 Under 2.5: +140
We’ve got a lot of elite strikers on this card, but in this one we’ve got two sensational grapplers. Normally, this would mean a stalemate on the ground, leading to a standup battle. That’s not the case here. As the name would suggest, Nurmagomedov is a Dagestani wrestler and will without a doubt, be aiming to overwhelm Kakhramonov with his wrestling. It’ll be a tough battle for Nurmagomedov early, but, much like his other countrymen, he’ll likely be able to use that wrestling pace over 3 rounds to edge the decision.
Nurmagomedov by Decision
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Vegas 66. 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.
Brundage vs. Oleksiejczuk Over 1.5 at +105
Both of these guys are more than capable of grabbing an early finish. That being said, they’re also pretty tough. At plus money, it’s well worth the risk to bet on the toughness of these two guys.
Said Nurmagomedov at -109
When it comes down to a grappling matchup, I have to go with the Dagestani every day of the week. Without a doubt, this is a tight matchup, but I’ll always give the benefit of the doubt to the Dagestani in this kind of matchup.
Jared Cannonier at -108
Given their recent records, this betting line isn’t all that surprising. What seems to be getting overlooked is the fact that Cannonier has only recently lost to Whittaker and Adesanya, while he’s been beating everyone else with ease. Strickland’s only recent loss was Pereira, but the rest of his recent fights have been against much weaker opponents. It should also be noted that Strickland was KOed almost immediately against Pereira while Cannonier has been losing in 5 rounds decision.
The Short Run
Kape + Matthews + Albazi
The Long Run
Morozov + Kape + Matthews + Dober + Albazi + Tsarukyan