UFC 286 is primed to keep the UFC train rolling with a second HUGE PPV this month.
We’re back in London for this one, ready to see who the true Welterweight champion really is: Leon Edwards or Kamaru Usman. Just before that, in the co-main event, we’re going to see one of the wildest brawls of the year: a matchup between Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev. Also on the main card is another exciting matchup, one between top middleweight contenders Marvin Vettori and Roman Dolidze. Top flyweight contenders Jennifer Maia and Casey O’Neill will also be trying to work their way up the ladder on the main card.
Since we’re back in London, we’ll also see some UK heavy hitters return including Jack Shore, Muhammad Mokaev, Lerone Murphy and Jake Hadley among many others. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also SIX fighters making their UFC debut, TUF champ Juliana Miller with her first true UFC fight and a matchup between UFC veterans Gunnar Nelson and Bryan Barberena. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds. Bet99 is the official betting sponsor of the Area 51 Sports Network.
Main Card (2:00 PM PST)
Marvin Vettori vs. Roman Dolidze
Vettori: -275 Dolidze: +214
Over 2.5: -209 Under 2.5: +160
The main card will kick off with a HUGE matchup at middleweight with the top 10 staple, Marvin Vettori. He is trying to halt the momentum of Roman Dolidze. I was the victim of Roman Dolidze all last year with him getting the upset victory in not just one… but THREE different fights. This time it’s different though!
With Hermansson, Hawes and Daukaus, he ended up catching them in positions that they shouldn’t be in and finished them. With Vettori, that’s simply not going to happen. He’s never been finished and his last 3 fights have been against Adesanya, Paulo Costa and Whittaker. If those men couldn’t finish him, neither can Dolidze. This will simply be a case, like against Paulo Costa where he’ll get hit with some heavy shots, but win a decision with his well-rounded skillset and unreal cardio.
Vettori by Decision
Jennifer Maia vs. Casey O’Neill
Maia: +140 O’Neill: -172
Over 2.5: -300 Under 2.5: +220
Maia has been fighting top contenders for years now; she’s essentially become a measuring stick for the potential of young and rising contenders. In the case of O’Neill, she’ll measure up well and will more than likely get a dominant win. Maia has gone 3-4 in her last 7, with those losses coming to Fiorot, Chookagian and Shevchenko, all of whom are elite strikers. With O’Neill being that same calibre of striker, she should also grab a dominant decision win.
O’Neill by Decision
Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena
Nelson: -375 Barberena: +280
Over 2.5: +114 Under 2.5: -145
Long-time UFC fans will be excited for this one. Both of these men have been around for the better part of a decade. Although they’re now in the same spot in their careers, looking for a final couple wins before retirement, one man seems to hold a distinct advantage. Barberena has been more active recently, but Nelson has been fighting the more elite fighters and is fresh off a win over Takashi Sato. Barberena has struggled with grapplers in the past, even as recent as his last fight where he was submitted by RDA.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Barberena can fend off a finish and make it all 3 rounds, but Nelson’s grappling should win this matchup. With RDA dominating Barberena last time, I’ll lean towards the finish.
Nelson by Finish
Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev
Gaethje: +183 Fiziev: -234
Over 1.5: -184 Under 1.5: +142
Ever since this matchup came on the radar, it’s been on my list for most anticipated matchups. This is going to be one of those striking wars that’s talked about all year. Gaethje is famous for being an explosive durable fighter. Unfortunately for him, he’s going against the most technically sound striker on the entire roster.
I’m almost certain that Fiziev’s striking skill and power will lead to a convincing win, but I’m not sure if he’ll grab the finish. With Gaethje being so durable, a decision seems like the most likely outcome. That being said, he always gets hit quite a bit and was rocked by both Ferguson, Chandler and Oliveira. With that in mind, I’m leaning towards a late finish for Fiziev.
Fiziev by Finish
Main Event (Welterweight Title Bout)
Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman
Edwards: +200 Usman: -250
Over 4.5: -193 Under 4.5: +150
Finally, the question from last summer will be answered: did Leon land a once-in-a-lifetime shot to steal the belt away from the true champ OR was he struggling with the altitude in Utah and didn’t look like himself? Based on what I saw, I truly believe that Leon was struggling with the altitude and that he’ll come out looking like a true champ this weekend. As for Usman, we have to remember that he suffered one of the most brutal knockouts of the year last year and it was around 6 months ago.
With all the circumstances, being on Leon’s turf with him holding the belt and the confidence that comes with it, plus possible lingering effects on Usman, I’m predicting a convincing win for Leon Edwards. A lot of people focus on Usman’s dominant rounds 2-4 of that fight. But what should be focused on is Leon’s dominant opening round where he controlled both the striking AND the grappling. After this weekend, I predict that the world will know how good Leon Edwards really is; I’m seeing another finish for Leon.
Edwards by Finish
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 10:30 AM PST)
Jack Shore vs. Makwan Amirkhani
Shore: -500 Amirkhani: +350
Over 1.5: -180 Under 1.5: +140
After getting killed by weight cuts at 135, Jack Shore is now moving up to featherweight. In his interviews recently it’s been pretty clear that he’s a lot healthier at this weight. He was already a pretty impressive prospect at 135, but up here at a more natural weight, he can make some real waves. Amirkhani always puts up a great fight, but this should be a coming-out party for Shore. Makwan has been finished a couple times recently and, as a fan of his, I’m sad to say that he’ll likely get finished here again.
Shore by Finish
Jake Hadley vs. Malcolm Gordon
Hadley: -400 Gordon: +300
Over 1.5: -143 Under 1.5: +112
Here we’ve your standard, tragic matchup for the Canadians. Jake Hadley is only 26 and finds himself at 9-1 with a dominant finish in his last fight. As for Gordon, he’s now 2-3 in the UFC and was finished in all of those losses. It pains me to say this, but it seems more than likely that my fellow Canadian, Malcolm Gordon, will likely get finished once again. He’s got the grappling to keep up with Hadley, but Jake’s striking is on another level.
Hadley by Finish
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC 286. 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.
Chris Duncan (vs. Omar Morales) at -110
Weirdly, there are TWO men named Chris Duncan on this card and they both have a great chance of winning. However, this Chris Duncan is the better looking betting line. Morales is very near the end of his career and he’s been finished in his last two fights. As for Duncan, he’s coming off one absolutely insane win on the Contender Series where he was dropped, then came back and slept his opponent within 2 minutes of the first round. Duncan has a lot of finishes and is much younger than Morales which makes the -110 line very interesting.
The Underdog Leon Edwards at +200
We all know the backstory now where Leon grabbed the belt in the final round after losing rounds 2-4 to Usman. While that’s a solid point and it’s the reason why this betting line is skewed, you have to consider all the other factors. Edwards is currently holding the belt, he’s on home turf in London and we have to remember that he dominated Usman in the 1st Round of the fight. On Usman’s side, he was just BRUTALLY knocked out and that tends to have at least some kind of effect. With all those factors, you’ve gotta jump on a +200 betting line.
Edwards vs. Usman Under 4.5 at +150
Not only do I think Edwards is going to win, I think there’s a pretty solid chance that he gets a finish again. 5 rounds is a long, long time, especially when you’re talking about a couple of powerhouses that just fought each other. There’s no feeling-out process when these matchups happen, so at +150, it’s definitely worth a shot.
The Short Run
Shore + O’Neill + Nelson
The Long Run
Hadley + Mokaev + Shore + Vettori + Fiziev