UFC 285’s biggest story is of course, the return of the man who many consider to be the GOAT of MMA: Jon ‘Bones’ Jones. He’ll be facing the number one heavyweight contender, Ciryl Gane, for the vacant heavyweight championship.

The rest of card is filled with one of the most densely skilled and entertaining lineups in recent memory. For example, Valentina Shevchenko’s latest title defence will take place in the co-main along with Alexa Grasso.

Also on the main card is a very intriguing, top 10 lightweight bout between Mateusz Gamrot and Jalin Turner. But, the real fun comes in the appearances of some of the best rising prospects in the UFC. The biggest of which are Shavkat Rakhmonov, Bo Nickal and Dricus Du Plessis, who are all ready to make huge statements this weekend. If that wasn’t enough, young standouts Farid Basharat, Cameron Saaiman and Ian Garry will fight in the prelims along with former champ, Cody Garbrandt. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds, the official betting sponsor of the Area 51 Sports Network.

Main Card (7:00 PM PST)

Jamie Pickett vs. Bo Nickal

BET99 Odds

Pickett:  +850    Nickal:  -1700

Over 1.5:  +220    Under 1.5:  -300

Kicking off one of the best-looking main cards of the past few years is the UFC debut of one of the most promising prospects of the last decade: Bo Nickal. There’s absolutely no shred of a doubt what’s happening here. Nickal is one of the most decorated wrestlers in history and the UFC is feeding him Pickett for his debut. A Nickal finish is as much of a lock as I’ve ever seen; this will not be close.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Nickal by Finish

Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jalin Turner

BET99 Odds

Gamrot:  -220    Turner:  +175

Over 2.5:  +120    Under 2.5:  -150

In a card full of incredible matchups, this is one of the most intriguing. Since joining the UFC, Gamrot has proven why he was one of KSW’s greatest champions. He lost a close one against top contender Dariush in his last fight, but before that he solidified his top 10 spot with an incredible, highly-skilled win over another top contender, Arman Tsarukyan. As for Turner, he wasn’t always a top prospect, but he’s turned into an absolute terror with 5 straight finishes leading into this matchup, including Mullarkey and Brad Riddell.

With the monstrous size of Turner, he could get a finish at any moment. That being said, Gamrot is so skilled, intelligent and technically sound that he’ll hold an advantage in most matchups. Turner will probably land some heavy shots on the feet, but Gamrot is a relentless grappler and an expert at getting takedowns. I predict he’ll either overwhelm Turner for 3 rounds with his grappling or he’ll get a VERY impressive submission win.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Gamrot by Finish

Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov

BET99 Odds

Neal:  +375    Rakhmonov:  -550

Over 1.5:  -155    Under 1.5:  +120

Similar to the likes of Bo Nickal, Chimaev and Jailton Almeida, Rakhmonov has been looking unbeatable at 16-0 with a finish in all of those wins. This includes a sensational win over Neil Magny in his last fight. Geoff Neal should be his toughest matchup to date, but, if you look at his record, Neal already has a loss to Magny just 2 years ago. He’s improved drastically since then, grabbing an impressive finish over Vicente Luque. Sadly for him, those improvements are not going to be enough to take Shavkat’s undefeated record. Another highlight reel finish for Shavkat is imminent.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Rakhmonov by Finish

Co-Main Event (Flyweight Title Bout)

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso

BET99 Odds

Shevchenko:  -750    Grasso:  +500

Over 4.5:  +120  Under 4.5:  -155

Shevchenko may have had a bit of a stumble with her last matchup against Santos, barely scraping by with a controversial decision over the larger grappler, but Grasso is not that kind of fighter. Grasso is a striker and, although she’s very much improved her grappling, she’s simply not well-rounded enough to beat Valentina. A convincing decision win for Valentina seems like the most likely outcome. That being said, Grasso was touched up on the feet by Araujo in their 5 round fight in October. With that in mind, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Shevchenko come in and prove her dominance with a finish.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Shevchenko by Finish

Main Event (Heavyweight Title Bout)

Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane

BET99 Odds

Jones:  -172    Gane:  +140

Over 4.5:  -158    Under 4.5:  +122

There’s absolutely no way to know how this matchup is going to go; the only thing that everyone knows for sure… you don’t want to miss it! Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, the man who’s widely considered the GOAT of MMA, is back and facing the young phenom, the future of heavyweight division: Ciryl Gane.

If we look at Jones’ recent performances, although he extended his record-breaking win-streak, he hasn’t looked all that sensational. Of course, when you’re dealing with someone like Jones, it doesn’t always come down to skill, it comes down to their mindset going into the fight. He’s openly stated for years now that the light heavyweight division has simply left him unmotivated. He was barely training, not taking his fights seriously and still winning. That complicates a decision like this. As for Gane, his only loss is to Francis N’Gannou in a razor-thin decision a little over a year ago. What should be noted is that he lost due to his grappling.

Jones clearly won’t come out like he did 10 years ago, but his skills and experience are undeniable, really making this matchup a toss-up. We also have no idea how Jones is going to look at heavyweight against someone just as big and difficult to hit as him. I’ve flopped back and forth on this and ultimately sided with the GOAT, Jon Jones. With their styles, a decision seems most likely, lending Jones an edge thanks to his wide range of skills, especially his grappling. In fact, with the success that N’Gannou had on the ground, I wouldn’t even be completely shocked if Jones grabs a submission here. Fair warning though to the bettors, anything can happen here. We could even see Gane use his size and speed to grab a finish himself.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Jones by Decision

BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 3:00 PM PST)

Derek Brunson vs. Dricus Du Plessis

BET99 Odds

Brunson:  +185    Du Plessis:  -234

Over 1.5:  -163    Under 1.5:  +128

Brunson was on his way to the title last year, riding a 5-fight win-streak, then fell to the powerhouse Jared Cannonier who grabbed the title shot instead. Now he finds himself fighting another man hungry for a title: Dricus Du Plessis. I hate to say this about a guy like Brunson, but this seems like one of those matchups where the torch is passed to the new, young contender. Brunson is now 39 and Cannonier exposed some fairly significant weaknesses in their last bout. DDP is 10 years younger, undefeated in the UFC and just dominated Darren Till in every area of MMA with a finish. There will be a new title contender after this fight and his name is Dricus Du Plessis.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Du Plessis by Finish

Cody Garbrandt vs. Trevin Jones

BET99 Odds

Garbrandt:  -175    Jones:  +142

Over 1.5:  -134    Under 1.5:  +105

It’s no secret that Garbrandt has met some roadblocks recently. He went from being 11-0 and a UFC champion, all the way to being 12-5 ahead of this matchup. What the UFC has done with this matchup is give him one final chance to grab a win. Jones is in a similar position with 3 straight losses, but to slightly lesser opponents. I’m not saying this is going to be a cake walk for Garbrandt, but this is certainly his most winnable fight of the past few years.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Garbrandt by Decision

BLÜ’s Best Bets

Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC 285. 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 Ciryl Gane at +140

As I mentioned above, this is a complete toss-up and I’ve been back and forth on my pick. Given that fact alone, why not take the better odds with Gane? He’s also very clearly the more known quantity given he’s been fighting consistently and he’s been in the heavyweight division his whole career.

The Underdog Jalin Turner at +175

I’ve also mentioned above that Gamrot would seem to be the better pick in this matchup. That being said, Turner was the one who had the fight already booked; Gamrot was only added a few weeks ago. That, combined with Turner’s HUGE frame for this division, could lead to an upset. There’s no shame in taking the extra risk at +175.

The Underdog Viviane Araujo at +100

What Ribas did against Chookagian was impressive, but Araujo is a much more difficult style of matchup. Also, Araujo just came off of fighting Grasso, the woman fighting for the belt in the co-main event. In that fight she had some decent moments and it was close on the cards. I found her loss to Grasso slightly more impressive than Ribas’ loss given the styles of these two fighters. Of course, just like always, when the matchups are this close, statistically speaking you’d want to take the underdog either way.

Parlay Opportunities

The Short Run

Garry + Nickal + Rakhmonov + Shevchenko

The Long Run

Basharat + Ricci + Garry + Nickal + Rakhmonov + Shevchenko