UFC 286 Predictions: Edwards vs Usman 3

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A card filled from top-to-tail with talent awaits our UFC 286 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.

The UFC 286 Prelims features a wealth of British talent that will be sure to light up a ravenous London crowd. Pintsized’s pick of the fights sees Jai Herbert’s kill-or-be-killed striking meet a head-kicking monster in L’udovit Klein. Keep an eye on Lerone Murphy as well – the Mancunian has consistently impressed against strong competition since he debuted in 2019.

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Where is UFC 286 taking place?

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

What time does UFC 286 start?

The UFC 286 Main Event is scheduled to start at 4PM US ET and 9PM GMT in the UK. Earlier, the UFC 286 Prelims are scheduled to start at 2PM US ET and 7PM GMT in the UK. Earliest, the UFC 286 Early Prelims are scheduled to start at 12AM US ET and 5PM GMT in the UK.

Where can I watch UFC 286?

For UFC 286 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

UFC 286 Predictions: Preliminary Card

Jack Shore vs Makwan Amirkhani

Huge fan of this match-up. The Welsh wizard looked set to climb the Bantamweight rankings without blemish until he hit a Ricky Simon-sized hurdle. Despite Simon’s transformation from gatekeeper to contender, the loss underlined many analysts’ concerns with Jack Shore’s athletic limitations. The 28-year-old is a technical mastermind on the mat but he lacked the grit or nuance to takedown a more physically fearsome opponent.

For all his viper-like submissions, Mr Finland is no such athletic beast. As Mike Grundy found out in front of his father, Amirkhani is still a mean first-round threat. Unfortunately for the Finn, he has spent much of the past few years trying to out-strike opponents and avoid his gifted submission arsenal. Shore, as a consummate game planner, should be wily enough to allow Amirkhani to self-implode.

Shore vs Amirkhani Prediction: Shore Submission Round 3

Chris Duncan vs Omar Morales

It took Chris Duncan two cracks on the DWCS but the Scot has finally earnt his UFC debut. The 29-year-old is a heavy-handed striker with a liberal attitude towards defence. Duncan’s game plan is often feint-pause-feint-pause-blind flurry. It’s then a coin flip as to whether he connects or eats a counter.

Meanwhile, Omar Morales has experienced an identity crisis since 2020. Three losses in his past five have seen the Venezuelan flip-flop between pure striking and pure grappling performances. The 37-year-old is fast running out of time to find a winning approach as he slides off an athletic cliff.

Duncan vs Morales Prediction: Duncan TKO Round 2

Sam Patterson vs Yanal Ashmoz

After plying his trades successfully in BRAVE CF, Sam Patterson earnt his UFC debut off an impressive second-round submission in the DWCS. The 26-year-old owns a massive 6’3″ frame for Lightweight and looks to impose it early. Frustratingly, Patterson is poor at cage cutting and finds his best work up close.

Israeli, Yanal Ashmoz, arrives from the PFL for his UFC debut. The 27-year-old dominated Dennis Hughes from the top in a one-sided beatdown. Patterson’s size will prevent a similar ground’n’pound spree but the wrestling threat remains.

Patterson vs Ashmoz Prediction: Patterson Decision

Muhammad Mokaev vs Jafel Filho

Muhammad Mokaev is just 22 years old. Wins over Cody Durden, Charles Johnson and Malcolm Gordon don’t scream star power, but Mokaev has not faced adversity in any of his UFC fights so far. The grappling phenomenon is being carefully managed as he progresses in an exciting Flyweight division.

Brazilian, Jafel Filho, enjoys his UFC debut following a TKO victory over the undefeated Roybert Echeverria on the DWCS. Filho throws with full-blooded intention yet often limits his volume to two-strike combinations. His telegraphed kickboxing will allow Mokaev to time takedowns, but the Brit may struggle with the physicality of such a large opponent.

Mokaev vs Filho Prediction: Mokaev Submission Round 2

Lerone Murphy vs Gabriel Santos

A string of personal and opponent injuries has seen Lerone Murphy’s UFC career splutter. The Mancunian has comfortably dispatched solid names in Makwan Amirkhani, Douglas Silva de Andrade and Ricardo Ramos. Murphy is entering his physical prime and his consistent, well-rounded skillset means he will cause any Featherweight issues.

Undefeated Brazilian, Gabriel Santos, enters the octagon after being crowned the LFA Featherweight Tournament champion just two months. The Southpaw striker is heavily reliant on his left-side head kick – a surprise considering how little he attempts to mask it. Santos’ tendency to shoot a single leg during lull periods is also a nasty habit that Murphy will viciously punish.

Murphy vs Santos Prediction: Murphy Decision

Christian Leroy Duncan vs Dusko Todorovic

Our second ‘Chris Duncan’ on the UFC 286 card! Cage Warriors Middleweight champion, Christian Leroy Duncan, earns his UFC debut after Jesse Taylor pulled out following a hit-and-run. The undefeated Brit stopped all but one of his opponents in CW – utilising an array of explosive jumping strikes and exceptional back control.

Serbian, Dusko Todorovic, was hyped as a steam-rolling machine. Unfortunately, the defensive lapses have seen Todorovic fall into a win-one-lose-one UFC career. The Serb is extremely hittable when attempting to close distance. A particular tendency to duck his head will allow Duncan’s knees and front kicks to threaten down the centre line.

Duncan vs Todorovic Prediction: Duncan TKO Round 1

Jake Hadley vs Malcolm Gordon

The former Cage Warriors Flyweight champ, Jake Hadley, finally proved his worth in the UFC with a dominant submission victory over Carlos Candelario. A functional striker, Hadley’s best work comes from the top and will be put to the test against Malcolm Gordon. The experienced American has desperately struggled with his chin in the UFC, but he is a technically sound grappler. A good litmus paper test.

Hadley vs Gordon Prediction: Hadley Decision

Joanne Wood vs Luana Carolina

Staring down a three-fight skid and fast approaching a decade of experience in MMA, Joanne Wood’s days at the top are numbered in the octagon. JoJo has provided fantastic nights with her entertaining Muay Thai base but her durability has looked ragged against prime contenders. Despite the extra red flag of the personal relationship x coaching change, opponent Luana Carolina is rather bobbins. The Brazilian is a physically mean beast but relies on rock-em-sock-em pocket boxing that resembles punching underwater.

Wood vs Carolina Prediction: Wood Decision

Jai Herbert vs L’udovit Klein

DISCLAIMER: I am an unabashed Black Country Banger fanboy. Jai Herbert has suffered egregious match-making throughout his UFC career. Even so, the sniping striker was close to stopping the fast-rising hype train of Ilia Topuria in March last year. A ‘tall-man defence’ of leaning back won’t cut it against L’udovit Klein’s lethal head kicking, however. Klein is riding a career-high after out-classing Mason Jones although it did require Mr Highlight to grind out a decision on the mats. Expecting a snoozer.

Herbert vs Klein Prediction: Klein Decision

Veronica Hardy vs Juliana Miller

You won’t catch much analysis on the UFC 286 Predictions for this regional-calibre fight. Veronica Hardy returns after three years out of the octagon – a surprise considering the Venezuelan won just once in her five UFC fights. Julianna Miller won TUF Season 30, had a winning fight within the last year and is the slicker BJJ artist.

Hardy vs Miller Prediction: Miller Submission Round 2

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