Our UFC 286 preview analyzes all of the fights on the main card. We also provide our prediction on each fights’ outcome. Let’s get started.
UFC 286 Preview | Marvin Vettori vs. Roman Dolidze
Former middleweight title challenger Marvin Vettori comes in as a -280 favorite against the rising contender Roman Dolidze. Vettori has won three of his past five fights and Dolidze has won four fights in a row, with three of Dolidze’s last four wins coming by KO/TKO. On the feet, this matchup is interesting since Vettori is a southpaw and Dolidze is an orthodox fighter.
Dolidze also has seven stoppage wins compared to two stoppage wins for Vettori. However, Vettori has almost twice as much UFC experience as Dolidze, with 13 UFC fights in comparison to seven UFC fights for Dolidze. Both fighters are skilled wrestlers and Vettori has nine submission wins in his career.
The momentum favors Dolidze quite a bit, though, since he is coming off three consecutive stoppage wins. Vettori, meanwhile, is coming off a decision loss against Robert Whittaker. This promises to be a competitive fight and Vettori is notoriously difficult to finish. Still, we give Dolidze a slight edge in this matchup.
Prediction: Dolidze By Decision
UFC 286 Preview | Jennifer Maia vs. Casey O’Neill
In the women’s flyweight division, Jennifer Maia returns from an extended absence to face Casey O’Neill. O’Neill has a five-inch reach advantage and should use it in the striking exchanges against Maia. O’Neill also lands more significant strikes per minute and has a much higher significant strike accuracy rate compared to Maia.
In short, a striking battle seems to favor O’Neill significantly. Casey O’Neill also completes 2.59 takedowns per fight on average while Maia completes less than one takedown per fight on average. O’Neill’s takedown accuracy rate of 44% is much higher than Maia’s takedown accuracy rate of 30%.
O’Neill is also in her prime at 25 years old while Maia is 34 years old. Given all these factors, O’Neill is an understandable favorite at -175 in this fight. We give O’Neill the edge in this fight, especially if it remains on the feet.
Prediction: O’Neill by KO/TKO
Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena
Gunner Nelson takes on Bryan Barberena in an exciting fight in the welterweight division. Nelson is 2-3 in his last five fights and Barberena is 3-2 in his last five fights. However, two of Nelson’s recent losses came against current welterweight champion Leon Edwards and top welterweight contender Gilbert Burns.
This is a classic striker vs. grappler matchup, with Nelson holding the grappling edge and Barberena holding the striking edge. Nelson has 12 submission wins, so he uses his grappling to try to find a finish more often than not. Nelson is a switch-stance striker, though, so that could pose some challenges for Barberena. That is likely one reason why Nelson is a -370 favorite in this contest.
Barberena will have to adapt to that style and keep the fight standing. Nelson’s takedown accuracy rate of 69% demonstrates the difficulty of doing that, though. Nelson gets the edge due to his superior grappling and his switch-stance striking which could frustrate Barberena on the feet.
Prediction: Nelson by Submission
UFC 286 Preview | Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev
Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev is a highly anticipated co-main event matchup in the lightweight division and an easy favorite to win Fight of the Night. Fiziev has won five straight fights and Gaethje is 3-2 in his last five fights. Gaethje is an orthodox fighter while Fiziev is a switch-stance fighter.
Gaethje is a powerful and extremely durable striker with underrated defensive wresting skills. He also has vicious leg kicks which can significantly slow down his opponents. On the other hand, Fiziev is a technical Muay Thai fighter with many weapons in his arsenal. If the fight is a technical striking affair, it favors Rafael Fiziev.
Gaethje has far more UFC experience than Rafael Fiziev, but much of that has been in Fight of the Night wars where he took a lot of damage. Additionally, Fiziev has finished three of his last five UFC opponents and this probably factors into him being a -230 favorite in this fight. Fiziev gets the edge due to his ability to absorb less damage and superior technical striking.
Prediction: Fiziev by Decision
Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 3
The main event sees former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman face off against current welterweight champion Leon Edwards once more. Usman is the -240 favorite in this fight despite being the challenger. This third fight comes following Edwards’ stunning fifth-round KO of Usman in their second meeting. Importantly, this third fight takes place in Edwards’ home country of England.
In terms of striking, Edwards is quick, accurate, and reads his opponents’ movement patterns well. Usman has the edge in knockout power with his hands and has faced powerful strikers like Gilbert Burns in the past. However, Edwards has utilized his striking as his main weapon for many years and will go into this third fight knowing he can finish Usman.
Usman is the superior grappler by far. Edwards did take down Usman in the first round of their second fight, but Usman repeatedly took down Edwards in rounds two, three, and four of that fight. Leon Edwards will have to fight at range and present as few takedown opportunities to Usman as possible in order to retain his title.
This is a difficult fight to predict. However, despite being the older fighter and being finished in the second fight, we give the edge to Kamaru Usman. Usman was winning the second fight before being finished and has clear advantages in terms of championship experience and grappling.
Prediction: Usman by Decision
UFC 286 Best Bet
Rafael Fiziev to win (-230 on Everygame). Fiziev is an extremely difficult stylistic matchup for Justin Gaethje, especially given the amount of damage Gaethje has taken in recent fights. As such, betting on Fiziev to win makes sense and he might even be able to get a late finish against Gaethje.