UFC 286 Picks and Betting Advice
The UFC is back in London for the first time in 2023, and we are treated to the third fight in one of the best trilogies in the organization’s history, as Leon Edwards looks to defend his welterweight crown for the first time against the man he stole it from, Kamaru Usman.
Every single fight in this one is set to bring fireworks, and to help with your UFC betting, here are our picks.
Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman
The third bout between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman is here, and we head into this fight with one victory each and the welterweight title back on the line.
If you've paid any attention to the buildup surrounding this fight, you’ll know how the stunning scenes in Salt Lake City unfolded last August. Usman was winning three of the four rounds and 58 seconds away from securing the victory in the fifth until Edwards landed one of the cleanest and most famous head kicks in MMA history.
The analysis for this one is going to be similar to the first. However, Usman will try to wrestle Edwards even more this time, knowing that the champion’s ferocious striking can land at any moment.
Another notable factor in the second fight was how Usman could withstand the altitude in Utah much better than Edwards, as the latter seemingly began to gas out by round three.
It’s doubtful we will see Usman land that many clean strikes and head for a knockout. We expect a wrestling-heavy game from the former champion, and given his unrivaled work ethic, he has probably been drilling in the perfect game plan ever since that loss seven months ago.
Edwards cannot afford to get caught up in a grappling exchange with Usman, and even though the Brit has a superior jiu-jitsu game, Usman’s cardiovascular endurance never took a hit in the high altitude of Utah, so he’s probably going to be able to step it up another gear in London.
Truthfully, we think the only way Edwards wins is if he gets another knockout, and we think it could be another night where Usman wrestles his opponent into exhaustion and wins on points.
PICK: Kamaru Usman by points is +115 with FanDuel.
Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev
A muay thai specialist meets one of lightweight’s greatest-ever power strikers, as Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev look to put themselves right into title contention.
This fight could easily headline a card, and it is no doubt going to be a contender for Fight of the Night. Both men are known for their stunning knockout power and striking abilities, but while Gaethje may have more natural power, Fiziev is about as good as it gets in terms of technique.
In reality, however, Gaethje's four defeats have only been to the greats of MMA, such as Dustin Poirier, Eddie Alvarez, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira, and every time he has faced less credible opponents, he has won quite comfortably.
Fiziev has gone on to put on a clinic in his past six fights since losing on his UFC debut to Magomed Mustafaev. He has won Performance of the Night in three of those and Fight of the Night in two others, and remains arguably the best striker at lightweight right now.
We give the edge to Fiziev in this one, simply because of his phenomenal muay thai background. However, we're playing it safe and picking the fight not to go the distance because it looks like being one of those fights where whoever lands the first big blow could win.
PICK: Fight to not go the distance is -215 with FanDuel.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena
If there is a fight card going down in London, Gunnar Nelson will be there.
It's set to be his fifth time fighting in London out of his 14 bouts with the UFC, and he has lost once. Ironically, that loss came against the current welterweight king and the man whom this fight card was built around, Leon Edwards.
His last fight was a year to the day on Saturday in London, as he defeated Takashi Sato with a wrestling clinic over three rounds. This was, however, his first fight in almost three years, meaning Nelson has technically only won two fights in the past five years after losses to Edwards and Burns.
Nelson was scheduled to face Daniel Rodriguez at UFC 286, but his undisclosed withdrawal brought on Bryan Barberena, who lost to Rafael dos Anjos via submission back in December. The American now sits on nine losses and 18 wins and his short notice for this fight no doubt hands such an energetic fighter like Nelson the advantage.
PICK: Gunnar Nelson to win by submission is +100 with DraftKings.
Jennifer Maia vs. Casey O'Neill
The unbeaten Casey O'Neill looks to get the biggest win of her career this weekend when she meets with Jennifer Maia.
In 20 of Maia's MMA wins, 11 have been via decision, as seven of her nine losses also came in this manner. At the same time, O'Neill has won four of her nine fights on the judges' scorecards, too, and in reality, the only way we see this fight not going the distance is if O’Neill can get her fourth knockout in her 10th professional MMA fight.
With a black belt in jiu-jitsu, however, there is a chance Maia locks in a submission, but in truth, O'Neill is bigger, stronger and too good on the feet to be wrapped into a grappling exchange. The Australian is also a brown belt in jiu-jitsu herself.
PICK: Casey O'Neill to win on points is +120 with DraftKings.
Roman Dolidze vs. Marvin Vettori
In a fight that could easily contend for Fight of the Night, two middleweight contenders will meet in the octagon to kick off UFC 286.
What makes this fight so intriguing is the ferocious nature of both fighters. Marvin Vettori - although not a prominent knockout artist - is always involved in chaotic battles. Roman Dolidze, on the other hand, has racked up one of the most impressive highlight reels on the roster and a 12-1 record in MMA.
Vettori has had a bit of a reality check in recent years. He lost every round to Israel Adesanya in June, 2021, edged past Paulo Costa in a war three months later before barely winning a second against Robert Whittaker.
Trevin Giles is the only man to beat Dolidze in MMA so far, and he has since gone on to beat Laureano Staropoli, Kyle Daukaus, Phil Hawes and Jack Hermansson and establish himself as one of the best fighters at middleweight with three Performance of the Night awards in a row.
It’s a tough one to call, but we certainly can’t see it going to the judges’ scorecards.
PICK: Marvin Vettori and Roman Dolidze to not go the distance is -168 with FanDuel.
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