UFC 286 Main Card Predictions

UFC 286 Main Card Predictions: Edwards vs Usman 3

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A card filled from top-to-tail with talent awaits our UFC 286 Main Card Predictions. If you can tear yourself away from the long-running comedy show that is Dana White’s Power Slap failure, the UFC brass has put together intriguing match-ups across almost every division. Least of all – an immediate rematch (and trilogy) between Welterweight champion Leon Edwards and Hall of Famer Kamaru Usman.

Edwards Usman 3 has dominated UFC 286 headlines. Was Edwards’ final-round head kick a stroke of luck or will the Brummy stamp his mark as the 170lb champ? Whatever the answer, it is worth paying attention to a supreme stand-up buffet between Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev in the co-main event. Early UFC 286 Predictions? A high likelihood of leg kicks.

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Where is the UFC 286 Main Card taking place?

The UFC 286 Main Card takes place at The 02 Arena in London, United Kingdom, on March 18, 2023.

What time does the UFC 286 Main Card start?

The UFC 286 Main Card is scheduled to start at 4PM US ET and 9PM GMT in the UK.

Where can I watch the UFC 286 Main Card?

For UFC 286 Main Card streams, use ESPN+ in the US and BT Sport in the UK. You are advised to use official streams for UFC 286 and avoid buffstreams, crackstreams or Reddit streams.

UFC 286 Predictions: Main Event

Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman

Look at me now! Pound-for-pound. Headshot. DEAD!” – Leon Edwards. Whether you are a fan of Edwards’ conservative style or not, Rocky cemented himself in UFC folklore with his theatrics on the mic after an all-time-great comeback knockout. A lot has been invested in the change in sea level ahead of the Main Event in London, but most fans can point to Edwards’ career tendency to drop off in the later rounds. I mean, for Christ’s sake, the clip of Nate Diaz buzzing Edwards in the fifth round makes up around 50% of #UFCTwitter.

Edwards’ underrated wrestling paid immediate dividends in the first round against Usman. A similar shock factor is unlikely to surprise the former champ, but it is a skill set that left Usman uncomfortable on the feet – in a manner that Covington, Burns and Masvidal were unable to produce. The Birmingham man was unable to settle into a rhythm last time out. A similar focus to Usman’s body will create a similar drain on the ageing 35-year-old.

Lights-out knockouts have a funny habit of transforming fighters. Kamaru Usman enjoyed an extended run as Welterweight champion on the back of his adaptability. It’s impossible to guess the Nigerian’s headspace but it would be foolish to immediately write off such a dominant champion. After all, Usman landed almost three times as many strikes as Edwards over the course of their second fight. An early takedown would silence a vocal partisan crowd and inject some realism back into a fairly one-sided match-up.

Edwards vs Usman Prediction: Usman Decision

UFC 286 Predictions: Co-Main Event

Justin Gaethje vs Rafael Fiziev

The allure of Justin Gaethje’s magnetising brawling style has lost some of its shine of late. The 34-year-old has looked less confident in eating punishment and as such, has seen his style unravel. It is easy to point to his late resurgence in the Michael Chandler barn burner. The American’s chin looked shot last time out, however, under Charles Oliveira’s heavy-duty firepower. Unfortunate news for Gaethje’s attritional warfare in the pocket, an approach so reliant upon stellar durability.

Rafael Fiziev’s fifth-round knockout over Rafael dos Anjos raised as many questions as it did answer. The Kyrgyzstani confirmed he could carry his freak athletic prowess deep into a fight and find the killswitch. Fiziev also managed to keep himself standing against RDA’s relentless takedown threat. Worryingly though, the rare times that Fiziev hit the mat, the 30-year-old looked weak against the weathered veteran. Gaethje has never shown any desire to pursue a grappling-first gameplan, however. The Highlight’s leg kicks could frustrate Fiziev but it’s more likely that the Krygzistani’s speed makes the difference.

Gaethje vs Fiziev Prediction: Fiziev TKO Round 1

UFC 286 Predictions: Main Card

Gunnar Nelson vs Bryan Barberena

Pulling the ‘ol retirement switcheroo once again, Gunner Nelson returns to the octagon to face Bryan Barberena. The Icelandic native dispatched Takashi Sato almost a year ago to the date. Gunni’s awkward karate stance was punished by Gilbert Burns and Leon Edwards in 2019, but his submission threat can never be written off. 

Barberena’s three-fight streak over weathered foes crumbled under a second-round submission by RDA in December. Bam Bam is sticking to his high-volume pressure game, but he tends to walk onto takedowns. RDA, Matt Brown and Darian Weeks were all able to land 4+ takedowns against Barberena. Nelson’s wrestling has traditionally struggled but this feels like a favourable match-up.

Nelson vs Barberena Prediction: Nelson Decision

Jennifer Maia vs Casey O’Neill

Jennifer Maia extended a five-fight decision streak with a comfortable, bruising victory over Maryna Moroz. The Brazilian remains a durable, front-foot pressure merchant but does it really matter in this barren division?

Hot-shot prospect, Casey O’Neill, would suggest so. The youthful Australian spent all of 2021 carving through the bottom of the Flyweight barrel. O’Neill barely squeaked out a split decision over veteran Roxanne Modafferi but was able to land almost double the significant strikes. The sooner the 25-year-old realises landing to the body is free real estate at 125lbs, the better her chances of challenging for Grasso’s title.

Maia vs O’Neill Prediction: O’Neill Decision

Marvin Vettori vs Roman Dolidze

For all the meme’ing of the big Italian meatball, Marvin Vettori is not afraid to fight the best. Roman Dolidze marks a notable step-down in competition compared to Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa. Whittaker’s fluid, reactive combinations exposed Vettori’s robotic striking defence but it remains functional at the Middleweight level. Although Marv’s takedowns have dropped off of late, it was only a couple of years ago that he had Adesanya pinned to the mat for almost seven minutes.

Roman Dolidze is no stranger to operating off his back, however. The marriage-breaking Georgian embarrassed Kyle Daukaus, Phil Hawes and Jack Hermansson as one of 2022’s surprise packages. More confident use of his athletic gifts has seen the XL Middleweight bully opponents on the feet and mat. Dolidze’s offensive grappling will hit a wall against the mentally unbreakable Italian, but it should prove a captivating all-round contest with the latter’s conditioning playing a part late.

Vettori vs Dolidze Prediction: Vettori Decision

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