The night is headlined by title fights in two of the most dense divisions in the UFC. The main event will be the hotly anticipated matchup between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev for the lightweight belt. Before that, T.J. Dillashaw will try and reclaim his bantamweight throne from Aljamain Sterling.
That’s not the only HUGE fight at 135; right before that we’ll be treated to one of the most unexpected, electric, matchups of the year between Petr Yan and ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley.
That’s not even close to the entire field of incredible athletes we’ll see for UFC 280. Throughout the rest of the card we’ll see top 15 contenders like Beneil Dariush, Mateusz Gamrot, Belal Muhammad, Sean Brady, Katlyn Chookagian, Manon Fiorot, Volkan Oezdemir and Nikita Krylov. Still not enough talent? Incredible UFC rookies Muhammad Mokaev and Caio Borralho will try and keep their momentum going. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds.
Main Card (11:00 AM PST)
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Manon Fiorot
Chookagian: +175 Fiorot: -217
Over 2.5: -350 Under 2.5: +250
Chookagian has been near the top of the division her entire UFC career, losing only to the best. Her last two losses came to Andrade and Shevchenko who are two of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. She’s defended her spot near the top with 4 wins in a row leading up to this weekend. These wins came over top contenders Calvillo, Araujo, Maia and Ribas.
Fiorot hasn’t yet tasted defeat in the UFC, running through everyone. She opened with a couple of finishes, then followed it up with wins over Mayra Bueno Silva and Jennifer Maia.
Both of these women deserve to be in the top 5, but this matchup is likely to produce a future title challenger or a future matchup for last week’s winner, Alexa Grasso. It’s a tight matchup, but the size and striking skills of Fiorot loom large. Fiorot should be able to use those slight advantages to get ahead on the cards and win a tight decision. It should be noted that Chookagian was controlled in her last fight, BARELY beating Ribas who fights down a division. Meanwhile, Fiorot is one of the bigger flyweights, likely more comfortable at bantamweight.
Fiorot by Decision
Beneil Dariush vs. Mateusz Gamrot
Dariush: +157 Gamrot: -200
Over 2.5: -186 Under 2.5: +142
This matchup is interesting because it involves two of the most underrated… almost disrespected, fighters in any division. Dariush gets almost no respect from the casual MMA fan, but is on a 7-fight winstreak including contenders like Thiago Moisés, Drew Dober and, most recently, Tony Ferguson.
Gamrot hasn’t been around the UFC as long, but has a record of 21-1 with his only loss coming in a split decision to Kutateladze in his UFC debut. Most recently he scraped out a VERY impressive, close win over one of the most terrifying young prospects in the division: Arman Tsarukyan.
Maybe I’m STILL not giving Dariush the respect he deserves, but Gamrot should be able to dominate this fight. He’s a constant danger everywhere, but is especially dangerous with his grappling. Dariush is also well-rounded, but he doesn’t have the same intensity, power and finishing ability. I expect a beautiful, technical finish from Gamrot.
Gamrot by Finish
Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley
Yan: -286 O’Malley: +225
Over 2.5: -200 Under 2.5: +150
Most people are just assuming that Yan is going to out-class the “Suga Show” O’Malley, but I’m still on the fence. Yan has the CLEAR edge in experience and classic boxing. Outside of his two “losses” to Sterling for the belt, Yan is 16-1, beating the likes of Urijah Faber, José Aldo and Cory Sandhagen. O’Malley hasn’t been tested on that level yet, but has been finishing almost everyone that’s put in front of him.
The safer bet would 100% be Yan by decision. That being said, Yan likes to start slow and uses his boxing to pick people apart. The problem with that is O’Malley’s movement, kicks and reach that will be used to keep Yan back. Plus, with one-punch power, O’Malley only needs to land one crisp combo to change the fight. To make this even tougher, O’Malley fights almost exactly the same as Cory Sandhagen, who was actually picking Yan apart for the first part of their fight. If Yan fights like that, “Suga” could steal the win… but I have to go with the smarter, safer bet of Yan by decision.
Yan by Decision
Co-Main Event (Bantamweight Title Fight)
Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw
Sterling: -175 Dillashaw: +142
Over 4.5: -213 Under 4.5: +162
With this being the most deep division in the UFC, it’s no surprise that this could go either way and will surely be one of the most entertaining fights of the night. We just mentioned Sterling’s “wins” over Yan in his last two fights. In their first meeting, Yan held the belt and dominated the fight… until he landed a BLATANT illegal knee that saw Aljo take the win and the belt. Their second meeting, Yan held the interim belt while Aljo was coming off an injury, still holding the belt he won off Yan. He then BARELY edged ahead in a split decision, defending his belt for the first time.
Dillashaw, of course, has also had his share of belt drama, getting stripped of his title due to a ban from performance enhancing drugs. In his first fight back he fought top contender Cory Sandhagen and grabbed a… slightly controversial split decision. Like many people, I didn’t think T.J. won the decision; I thought Sandhagen had done more than enough with all his damage.
All the drama aside, this comes down to style and size. Aljo is freakishly massive for 135 pounds, while T.J. (with the help of drugs) made it down to 125 pounds to challenge for that belt. Aljo is also the most talented grappler/submission artist in the division. Using his size and grappling, Aljo should either dominate the decision or snag a submission win.
Sterling by Finish
Main Event (Lightweight Title Fight)
Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev
Oliveira: +150 Makhachev: -186
Over 2.5: +125 Under 2.5: -163
This is the matchup fans have wanted… needed to see for a while. Now on an 11-fight winstreak, Oliveira has turned his career around to the point where he may soon be considered the greatest lightweight of all time. He may not hold the belt for technical reasons (missing weight due to a faulty scale), but he’s proven he’s the best with 3 title fight finishes over Chandler, Poirier and Gaethje.
Islam has found himself in the opposite position with many fight fans questioning whether he’s done enough for a title shot. He’s 22-1 with 10 wins in a row, but his recent wins have been over currently unranked fighters Bobby Green, Dan Hooker and Thiago Moisés.
On paper, there really shouldn’t be much question: Oliveira should win easily. What makes this fight interesting, of course, is the clash of styles. Both men have been submitting people that aren’t known for their ground game. The difference is that Oliveira is also a VERY dangerous striker, grabbing multiple TKO wins, including the one that got him the belt over Michael Chandler. With the ground game possibly a stalemate, the differences comes on the feet. With Islam having minimal striking experience, I have to imagine that Oliveira has a good chance of grabbing a KO.
Oliveira by Finish
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 8:00 AM PST)
Muhammad Mokaev vs. Malcolm Gordon
Mokaev: -1300 Gordon: +700
Over 1.5: +100 Under 1.5: -129
Another week, another Canadian getting fed to a rising contender. Mokaev is still undefeated at 7-0, dominating both of his UFC opponents with his relentless grappling. Gordon opened his UFC journey the opposite way, dropping his first two bouts in the 1st Round. He then recovered with a couple of wins over Francisco Figueiredo and Denys Bondar. Gordon is a decent grappler, but Mokaev is similar to Albazi who submitted Gordon in the 1st Round of his debut. With Mokaev’s relentless pace and seemingly endless cardio, Gordon will likely get finished at some point, probably early.
Mokaev by Finish
Makhmud Muradov vs. Caio Borralho
Muradov: +171 Borralho: -217
Over 1.5: -217 Under 1.5: +166
With a UFC record of 3-1, Muradov will certainly be Borralho’s toughest fight to date. He opened with 3 wins, but was then submitted by Meerschaert in his last outing. Borralho, on the other hand, is still undefeated in the UFC (and 12-1 in his career), dominating both of his opponents with his grappling. Muradov is certainly a threat on the feet, but Borralho’s grappling has been unstoppable. Considering the fact that Muradov was submitted by Meerschaert, Caio should be able to do the same, grabbing another impressive win.
Borralho by Finish
Belal Muhammad vs. Sean Brady
Muhammad: +116 Brady: -143
Over 2.5: -286 Under 2.5: +210
Much like Dariush and Gamrot on the main card, these two are also wildly underestimated on a regular basis. Belal is on a 7-fight winstreak, recently capped off with wins over Demian Maia, ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Luque. Brady has also been running up the rankings, still undefeated at 15-0. He’s been active in grappling tournaments, but his most recent UFC wins were over Jake Matthews and Michael Chiesa.
With both men having a similar style, heavy with grappling, it will come down to size and striking ability. From what’s been shown in their recent fights, I’d have to side with Brady for both of those factors. Not only that, it’s usually a safer bet to side with the fighter who’s undefeated.
Brady by Decision
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC 280. 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.
Dariush vs. Gamrot Under 2.5 at +142
Dariush gets underestimated constantly, but, in this case, I think they may be giving his ground game too much credit. Gamrot is a guy that will never stop, always looking for a finish. With his advantage on the ground, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he grabbed the finish in Under 2.5.
The Underdog Sean O’Malley at +225
I understand that Yan has an edge on paper. That being said, Sandhagen, who’s very similar to ‘Suga’, hit Yan a LOT. Yan cannot let that happen this time. If Yan starts getting hit like he did in that fight, O’Malley has a decent chance of getting a knockout. I won’t be breaking the bank on this bet, but at +225, you’ve gotta put at least a little bit of action down.
The Underdog Charles Oliveira at +150
Based on what we’ve been seeing from BOTH of these men, it seems kind of absurd that Oliveira is an underdog in this fight. The fight always starts on the feet, where Charles has a CLEAR advantage. Even if Islam does manage to repeatedly take him down, will he be able to do enough damage to take enough rounds on the cards. With Oliveira’s much more well-rounded game and proven championship success, +150 is an absolute no-brainer.
The Short Run
Rosa + Borralho + Gamrot
The Long Run
Rosa + Borralho + Fiorot + Gamrot + Sterling