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UFC 286 predictions

Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman are about to settle one of the more fascinating trilogies in combat sports. When Edwards and Usman clash in Saturday’s UFC 286 main event, it will have been over seven years since their first fight, a rarely mentioned unanimous decision win for Usman that marked the beginning of his UFC

UFC 286 predictions

Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman are about to settle one of many extra fascinating trilogies in fight sports activities.

When Edwards and Usman conflict in Saturday’s UFC 286 major occasion, it should have been over seven years since their first struggle, a not often talked about unanimous resolution win for Usman that marked the start of his UFC profession in earnest. It should solely have been seven months since Edwards ended Usman’s unbelievable welterweight title reign with a fifth-round head kick that not a soul might have seen coming.

It took 9 wins for Edwards to make his case for a second struggle with Usman, a stretch of success that was dwarfed by Usman’s championship run that established him as, at worst, the second-best welterweight in UFC historical past. Edwards’ upset despatched Usman tumbling down the MMA Fighting Pound-for-Pound chart, however will that win solely be remembered as a blip in Usman’s story if “The Nigerian Nightmare” bounces again and wins the sequence? Is Edwards poised to usher within the subsequent period of the adorned welterweight division or will it return to establishment?

The co-main occasion has its justifiable share of questions as nicely, however crucial one is “my goodness how freaking unbelievable is that this matchup?” That’s proper, Rafael Fiziev is getting his shot at a prime 5 opponent and it’s arguably essentially the most enjoyable doable choice: The inimitable Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje has twice challenged for the undisputed UFC light-weight title and held on to a prime spot within the rankings seemingly eternally, so that is Fiziev’s likelihood to actually shake up the division. All he has to do is win a putting battle with one of many scariest punchers to ever step into the octagon.

In different major card motion, Gunnar Nelson takes on Bryan Barberena in a battle of welterweight veterans, one-time flyweight title challenger appears to be like to defend her rating in opposition to the returning Casey O’Neill, and Marvin Vettori places his inhuman sturdiness up in opposition to the scorching Roman Dolidze.

What: UFC 286

The place: The O2 in London

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When: Saturday, March 18. The cardboard begins with a six-fight early prelims portion on ESPN+ at 1 p.m. ET, with persevering with protection of the four-fight prelim card on ESPNews and ESPN+ starting at 3 p.m. ET. The five-fight major card begins at 5 p.m. ET and is on the market solely on ESPN+ pay-per-view.

(Numbers in parentheses point out standing in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings)

Leon Edwards (1) vs. Kamaru Usman (2)

All of us noticed the identical factor at UFC 278.

Leon Edwards shocked Kamaru Usman with a takedown within the first spherical. Usman recovered and was in championship type for the following three rounds, racking up 10-9s throughout the board on the scorecards. He was on his method to a call win and a sixth consecutive profitable title protection till Edwards kicked him exhausting within the head. These are the information.

Objectively talking, now we have a variety of proof that Usman is a greater fighter than Edwards. Subjectively talking, the Edwards vibes are by means of the roof and that’s why I’m selecting to view the second struggle as a altering of the guard. That’s proper, I’ve received Edwards taking this one.

Usman has had nice success coming ahead and placing strain on Edwards, one thing he’s performed in a number of of his standout performances. I purchase into the narrative that Edwards didn’t alter nicely to the altitude of their first struggle, which passed off in Salt Lake Metropolis, and that the house cooking in London will present a big enhance to his efficiency. It’s the little issues that may make all of the distinction in an elite matchup like this.

Edwards’ takedown protection may even must be on level, which isn’t that a lot of a priority giving the strides that Edwards has made along with his wrestling since he first fought Usman in 2015. I’ll be shocked if Usman manages to floor Edwards for 25 minutes.

The most important X issue must be Edwards’ confidence. Not simply the boldness that comes with being a superb fighter — that absolutely was by no means unsure — however the confidence in figuring out that if he lets his palms (and toes) go, he can harm Usman. That miraculous knockout needed to have modified Edwards’ thoughts set utterly and erased any doubt that he needs to be the aggressor on this third struggle.

Edwards gained’t be content material to let the motion come to him, he’ll assault with drive, work his method to a call victory, and silence any doubts as to who’s the most effective welterweight on the planet at present.

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Choose: Edwards

Justin Gaethje (5) vs. Rafael Fiziev (6)

One thing has received to offer with Justin Gaethje ultimately. Is Rafael Fiziev the person to make “The Spotlight” look human? He has the instruments for it.

Fiziev is an professional and controlling vary, an necessary talent to have when Gaethje is bearing down on you with these ham-hock fists of his. We all know Gaethje can get hit too and although he’s able to competent protection, it’s his granite chin and iron will which have carried him by means of a few of MMA’s most memorable brawls. He can’t be beat blow-for-blow and Fiziev correctly gained’t attempt to do this.

The place Fiziev will run into bother is when Gaethje begins mixing up his physique work and leg kicks. I’ve issues about Fiziev’s protection too, so if it comes right down to who’s going to interrupt first, I can see Gaethje chopping him down by means of the primary half of the struggle earlier than pouring on the strain in Spherical 3.

Then the enjoyable actually begins. With Gaethje cooking, Fiziev might be examined like he by no means has earlier than and I anticipate him to reply in type, catching Gaethje with a counter after which touchdown the form of spectacular strike that solely he can to ship Gaethje to a surprising knockout loss.

Choose: Fiziev

Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena

There are paths to victory right here for Bryan Barberena, however none of them are notably convincing.

Barberena is as robust as they arrive and his punching energy isn’t any joke. Nonetheless, he’s by no means been recognized to be a one-shot finisher and that’s a difficulty when coping with Nelson, an evasive striker who not often wades carelessly into hazard. He’ll frustrate Barberena into making the primary transfer.

As enjoyable as it’s to see Barberena simply begin throwing palms, it’s unlikely he’ll discover a lot success in opposition to Nelson, who will sort out him to the mat as quickly as doable. Barberena’s takedown protection is poor and his submission protection will solely final for as long as Nelson wears him down.

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Nelson by submission is the plain choose right here and I’m going with Nelson discovering the end in Spherical 2.

Choose: Nelson

Jennifer Maia (11) vs. Casey O’Neill (13)

Stress, strain, strain.

Stress on Jennifer Maia to show that she’s nonetheless a prime 10 flyweight. The 13-year veteran has struggled in opposition to the most effective of the most effective at 125 kilos if she’s to maintain a quantity subsequent to her identify she’s going to must fend off one of many division’s hungriest challengers.

Stress on Casey O’Neill to indicate that she’s the chief of the following technology of flyweight challengers, not Erin Blanchfield or Manon Fiorot. MMA Fighting’s 2021 Rookie of the Year has been out of motion since February of final 12 months as she recovered from a torn ACL and there’s no assure that the 25-year-old will instantly return to type when she makes her return Saturday.

Stress is the secret for O’Neill to win right here and proceed her climb to the highest. O’Neill prides herself on her relentless tempo and if she brings that to the cage tonight, it will likely be greater than Maia can deal with. Maia might use her grappling to gradual this one down and drive O’Neill to indicate that she will adapt whereas coming off of an damage, however O’Neill has an athleticism edge that can bail her out of any bother on the mat.

I’m totally assured that O’Neill takes a call in her hardest check so far.

Choose: O’Neill

Marvin Vettori (5) vs. Roman Dolidze (14)

Roman Dolidze has been on a heck of a run with 4 straight wins and three straight finishes. There’s one large downside although: I’m undecided Marvin Vettori can be completed.

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“The Italian Dream” could be the UFC’s main zombie for the time being (apologies to Chan Sung Jung) as he’s proven that he can eat pictures from the most effective middleweights on the planet and carry on coming ahead. That’s not the most effective method for successful fights, however it implies that Vettori isn’t out of it so long as there’s time on the clock.

In Dolidze’s favor is the truth that Vettori isn’t precisely a ending machine himself, with only a pair of submission victories to his identify since making his UFC debut in 2016. If Dolidze doesn’t rating one thing spectacular, this may very well be a traditional grind-it-out win for Vettori.

I picked in opposition to Dolidze all through all of 2022 and he shut me and plenty of others up large time, coming by means of as an underdog in all three of his fights final 12 months. He’ll have to do this once more if he hopes to begin 2023 by saying himself as a prime 10 contender.

Vettori is simply too robust for Dolidze to place away, so I’ve to go along with Vettori on factors. However don’t be shocked if Dolidze proves me incorrect once more.

Choose: Vettori


Jack Shore def. Makwan Amirkhani

Chris Duncan def. Omar Morales

Sam Patterson def. Yanal Ashmoz

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Muhammad Mokaev (12) def. Jafel Filho

Lerone Murphy def. Gabriel Santos

Christian Leroy Duncan def. Dusko Todorovic

Jake Hadley def. Malcolm Gordon

Joanne Wood def. Luana Carolina

Jai Herbert def. Ludovit Klein

Juliana Miller def. Veronica Hardy

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