UFC 286 – Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman – Main Card Betting Predictions

Check out my MMA picks for the main card of UFC 286, headlined by Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman in London, England.

Marvin Vettori vs. Roman Dolidze

Roman Dolidze is on a nice winning streak, but I haven’t been impressed with his overall skill set. The Georgian is blessed with concussive power and has dangerous leg locks, but he has not been a good minute winner inside the octagon.

Dolidze is awkward on his feet. He likes to control distance, step back and then counter opponents with huge power strikes.

His gas tank is sketchy and he doesn’t possess the wrestling to compliment his ground game. His willingness to fight from bottom position is also going to cost him as he faces more proficient grapplers.

Marvin Vettori has been in the contender picture at middleweight for years now. He may not have what it takes to topple the elites of the division, but he has looked impressive against everyone else.

The Italian takes the front foot, throwing punches in bunches and grinding opponents against the fence. He has sharp hands, a beautiful pull counter and will mix in takedowns when required.

I expect him to get in Dolidze’s face and weaponize his cardio advantage. Vettori has a granite chin, which should be useful in case he runs into an errant haymaker.

I also feel that Vettori should be fine on the mat so long as he’s in top position – although I said the same thing about Jack Hermansson and that backfired spectacularly!

There is always the potential for something crazy to happen, but this looks like a great fight for Marvin Vettori on paper.

Jennifer Maia vs. Casey O’Neil

I’m not super high on Casey O’Neil as a prospect, but her tenacious grappling approach is well-suited to women’s MMA – where athletes don’t have the punching power to deter forward momentum.

O’Neil’s offensive striking is serviceable and she puts out good volume, but she is ludicrously hittable and had a life-and-death war with an aging grappler in Roxanne Modaferri.

Of course, we haven’t seen her for a year and it’s likely she has improved – but I’m not expecting her to morph into a kickboxing virtuoso during the layoff.

Her wrestling is still a work in progress, but she gets opponents to the floor with persistent attempts and is a beast from top position.

Jennifer Maia has a polar opposite style. She moves laterally with lots of head movement and throws tight, compact punches.

The Brazilian is one of the better counter-punchers in the flyweight division and she should find abundant opportunities to land flush on O’Neil.

Maia is strong in the clinch, quick to dig underhooks and has a sturdy frame for defending takedowns. She isn’t the best off her back, but will look for submissions to try and scramble to her feet.

I think there is value on Jennifer Maia around +150, I can see this going either way.

Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena

Bryan Barberena has looked worse for wear in recent years. He’s taken an insane amount of punishment during his career and also suffered a near-fatal incident during training.

A pure brawler, Barberena will happily take a shot to give one back – which isn’t a good recipe for longevity. He is entertaining to watch, and I like how he walks opponents down and attacks with all eight limbs.

The biggest problem for “Bam Bam” is his defensive grappling, which will probably be the story of the fight.

After conceding a takedown to Rafael Dos Anjos, we saw him give up his back and get choked out while trying to climb to his feet – and I could see the same thing happen against a fantastic back taker in Gunnar Nelson.

I just wonder where Nelson is at mentally?

The Icelander barely fights and looked thoroughly underwhelming in his decision victory over Takashi Sato. He should really blast through a guy like Barberena – but the fight could get interesting if he’s not at his best.

Gunnar Nelson should be able to set up entries for his takedowns and dominate on the mat, but there is no way I’d consider betting him at -350.

Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev

Stylistically, I think this is a good fight for Rafael Fiziev.

Justin Gaethje has huge power and is one of the most entertaining fighters on the roster, but there is nothing particularly nuanced about his striking.

He looks to counter in the pocket and has devastating low kicks, but leaves himself open defensively and brings nothing to the table that Fiziev hasn’t seen before.

Gaethje always has a puncher’s chance he could potentially turn up the pressure in the second half of the fight, but I think he will get picked apart by the faster, slicker technician.

Fiziev has good defense against kicks, rips the body effectively and has the infinitely superior shot selection.

We saw Fiziev thoroughly dismantle Brad Riddell (who shares some similarities with Gaethje) and I don’t see him losing unless he randomly gets caught with a hammer.

Fiziev is one of my favorite fighters to watch and I can’t wait for him to get a title shot.

The bookmakers have this priced accurately with Rafael Fiziev at -230.

Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards

I was fortunate to cash on Leon Edwards in the second fight, but I won’t pretend that it was a good bet. “Rocky” was on his way to losing on the scorecards before landing a miracle head kick to detach Kamaru Usman from his consciousness.

Edwards was unable to hold his ground throughout his contest and was consistently backed up against the fence, which is the worst possible place to be against a tenacious cage-wrestler like Usman.

At first glance, you’d think Usman would be an easy bet here – but there are new variables at play.

Firstly, the fight is no longer at altitude and will now be in Edwards’ backyard. This should allow Edwards to work at a higher rate and it will also create a hostile environment for his adversary.

We’ve seen crowds influence judging decisions and there is only one fighter who will be getting big reactions on Saturday night.

Furthermore, Usman is now 35-years-of-age and returning quickly after a destructive knockout loss. There are rumors that he’s been fighting for years with damaged knees and he could be on the tail end of his career.

Edwards seems extremely confident and appears to be in the shape of his life.

There are plenty of intangibles that favor Edwards, even if the footage doesn’t support the same narrative.

I have to pick Kamaru Usman to win, but I’m not playing him at -250 under these circumstances.