UFC 282 – Magomed Ankalaev vs. Jan Blachowicz – Main Card Betting Predictions

UFC 282 looks like an entertaining card, although I dislike it for betting. Nevertheless, here are my main card MMA picks.

Ilia Topuria vs. Bryce Mitchell

One of the best things about MMA is that the prospects actually fight one another. Whoever emerges victorious will cement himself as a contender in the stacked featherweight division.

When Bryce Mitchell first entered the UFC, his game was an incoherent mess. However, he rounded out his skills and adopted a much more linear approach to fighting.

Like a psychotic inbred, Mitchell is absolutely dogged in getting the fight to the floor and will apply heavy pressure from top position. He improved his wrestling by cross training at a local Division 1 school and has well-timed entries into his takedowns.

Mitchell has a decent left hand and can get his offense going on the feet against opponents who are terrified of the level change, but he should avoid striking with Ilia Topuria at all costs.

Topuria is a savage in the pocket, ripping huge shots to the body and head. He’s not the most defensively sound striker, but is unlikely to be punished for that weakness here.

The big question is whether Topuria is able to stuff takedowns, get up from bottom position and potentially land takedowns of his own? Based on the footage, I don’t have a clear answer.

Topuria has excellent Greco-Roman wrestling from the clinch and has shown good positional awareness on the mat, but we haven’t seen him fight a relentless wrestler like Mitchell before.

Good offensive grappling usually goes hand in hand with good defensive grappling, but I’m making some assumptions here.

I also wonder if Mitchell can tire Topuria out in the later rounds?

We know Mitchell can fight hard for fifteen minutes, but we saw Topuria tire against Yousseff Zalal in his UFC debut (albeit he was on short notice there).

Topuria’s style is extremely explosive, so it wouldn’t shock me if he slows down in a gruelling fight.

That said, if Topuria can keep the fight standing – I think he has a great chance of punching Mitchell’s cranium into the front row.

I’ll pick Ilia Topuria to win, and there might be a bit of value at -135.

Darren Till vs. Dricus Du Plessis

Dricus Du Plessis is a big, powerful middleweight who has taken the division by storm.

There were sketchy moments in all of his UFC fights, but he successfully prevailed over Markus Perez, Trevin Giles and Brad Tavares.

He’s a dangerous striker with some wrestling in his back pocket, but I’m not overawed by his skill set.

He throws a lot of wild, chaotic techniques on the feet and packs a serious punch. If you get caught cleanly, it’s going to hurt.

However, I think he’s vulnerable to body kicks and counters. I know it was a long time ago, but Roberto Soldic dominated him from the southpaw stance in their 2018 rematch.

Darren Till has a high striking IQ. I think he can pick his shots and put on a similar performance this weekend.

However, the narratives surrounding Till scare me. I’m told that he is in the shape of his life and went hell for leather in his training camp in Thailand – but he looked fat in the videos released on social media.

He was recently arrested for driving drunk in Sweden and took his previous fight against Derek Brunson with an injured ACL – where he performed badly.

That said, Till is a much better defensive wrestler than he showed against Brunson and has all the skills to win this weekend.

I have some concerns, but I have to pick Darren Till as the +150 underdog.

Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Alex Morono

Taking this fight on short notice, Alex Morono has made noticeable improvements to his boxing in recent years.

He used to throw insane wide punches, but has sharpened up his technique while training at Fortis MMA. He has a stiff jab, clean left hook and can counter effectively.

He’ll never be a contender at welterweight, but will sit comfortably in the middle of the pack and give most opponents a run for their money.

Like Morono, Santiago Ponzinibbio likes to work with his hands. “The Argentine Dagger” builds his offense around his jab and has destructive low kicks too.

I certainly believe he can find success by attacking Morono’s lead leg.

Interestingly, Morono lacks takedown defense – yet fighters often wait until the end of rounds or until they’re down on the cards before they start wrestling him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ponzinibbio switches things up and shoots takedowns here – as he did against Mike Perry.

The bookmakers have Santiago Ponzinibbio lined at -186, and that feels accurate to me.

Paddy Pimblett vs. Jared Gordon

Paddy Pimblett can talk, but can he fight?

The brash Liverpudlian is a fantastic back taker who has racked up countless rear-naked choke finishes throughout his career, but the rest of his skill set is unremarkable.

He has a dynamic kicking game on the feet, but leaves his chin sky high. He throws a nice check hook and uppercut, but has a tendency to load up on his punches and swing wildly.

I don’t get the impression he’s a great MMA wrestler either, although he has some effective judo throws from the clinch.

We’ve seen Pimblett run through lower level competition on the British regional circuit, but he faltered against Soren Bak and Nad Narimani.

Despite the nickname “Flash”, Jared Gordon’s style is distinctly unflashy. The American likes to edge his way into range, throw boxing combinations, press opponents against the cage and control them from top position.

Gordon has come unstuck against elite lightweights, but will generally put on a good performance against anyone else.

We saw Gordon give up his back against Grant Dawson (who is an infinitely better grappler than Pimblett), and that is the biggest risk in this fight.

However, if he can avoid getting finished early, I believe his chances of winning increase exponentially.

Pimblett always comes out hot, but his style is not energy efficient and we’ve seen him slow down when fights get prolonged.

I think there is value on Jared Gordon at +220, but I’ll personally be looking to live bet this fight.

Magomed Ankalaev vs. Jan Blachowicz

I thought Magomed Ankalaev would be a title contender when he first entered the UFC, so I’m unsurprised we’re finally here.

The Dagestani is skilled in every facet of MMA and has no major weaknesses.

Ankalaev can fight in both stances, although prefers to stand southpaw against orthodox opponents. He has fast counters off the back foot, a crushing left hand and can mix in wrestling whenever he chooses.

He was more dangerous with ground and pound earlier in his career, but is content to ride out rounds in top position now that he’s facing elite competition.

On the feet, I think this will be a highly competitive fight.

Jan Blachowicz is getting a bit long in the tooth, but he’s a high level striker with good timing, counters and concussive power. The Pole has excellent defense against kicks and does a good job of mixing up his offense to the head, body and legs of opponents.

He has no issues fighting a southpaw and has a disgusting left hook, which could find a home in this fight (Ankalaev’s lead hand drops).

If you told me the fight would take place solely on the feet, I’d have no problem taking a gamble on Blachowicz at +250.

I’m not sure that it will.

Despite having good initial takedown defense, Blachowicz is like a turtle off his back and one takedown for Ankalaev is likely a round in the bank.

I’m picking Magomed Ankalaev to win, but I don’t think there is any value at -275.