Monday, October 3, 2022

UFC 278 Predictions: Expert Picks By The MMA News Staff

Note: Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov has now been moved to the preliminary card, with Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova taking its place on the main card.

UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards is set to be delivered to MMA fans this Saturday, and what better way to get ready for all the action than reading our staff predictions?!

In the main event, Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards will compete for the second time in their careers. The first time out, Usman was able to defeat Edwards via unanimous decision. Since then, neither man has tasted defeat. Who did our staff predict will have that streak broken with a loss this Saturday night?

You can relive the experience from their first fight right here to help you study up before making your own prediction for Saturday’s main event.

In the co-main event, Luke Rockhold returns after a three-year absence when he takes on Paulo “Borrachinha” Costa. Both men have been vocal about their confidence, but only one will receive the proper validation by night’s end.

Also taking place on the UFC 278 lineup is the legendary José Aldo taking on rising bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili. The winner of that contest could find themselves anywhere from 0-1 fights away from a title shot.

The UFC 278 takes place this Saturday, August 20, 2022. The main card will be available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view and begins at 10:00 PM ET. The ABC/ESPN preliminary card kicks off at 8:00 PM. The early ESPN+ preliminary card starts at 6:00 PM. The event will take place from the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Staff Predictions for UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards 2

MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 278 updates. Harvey Leonard, Andrew Starc, Drew Beaupré, and first-timer Jamie Harkin have provided their picks for you below.

Here is the full main card for UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards 2

Main Event: UFC Welterweight Championship Bout: Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Leon Edwards

Co-Main Event: Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold

José Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili

Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova (moved to main card after initial publication)

Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov (moved to prelims after initial publication)

Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker

Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker

Harry Hunsucker Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC; Tyson Pedro Photo via MMA Fighting

Harvey Leonard: This one should be quite an obvious pick. While his initial potential was dampened by a serious knee injury, Pedro showed that he used his layoff wisely when he blitzed Villanueva in his return fight. Hunsucker, meanwhile, is 0-2 in the UFC and only 7-5 as a professional. It’s hard to imagine him finding form with this drop to light heavyweight.

With his speed advantage, as well as his technical advantage in every realm, I expect Pedro to open the card with a dominant performance. The fact Hunsucker was finished by a kick through his guard against Justin Tafa also isn’t a good sign for his hopes of withstanding Pedro’s shots. (Prediction: Tyson Pedro)

Andrew Starc: After over three years away from the Octagon, Tyson Pedro returned to action with a first-round knockout of Ike Villaneuva in April. That win saw him stem a stretch of poor form that included three losses in four fights, including to the likes of Ovince Saint Preux and Maurício Rua.

Harry Hunsucker, meanwhile, has lost three in his last four, having most recently suffered back-to-back first-round knockouts to Tai Tuivasa and Justin Tafa. I think Pedro’s time away from the Octagon has served him well and that he’ll get another knockout here. (Prediction: Tyson Pedro)

Drew Beaupré: Pedro picked up his first win after a losing streak and lengthy layoff when he beat Ike Villanueva, which was apparently convincing enough for the UFC to start promoting the Australian again. Hunsucker is 0-2 in the UFC (0-3 if you count his Contender Series appearance) and has been finished in the first round of each of those fights.

The 33-year-old will be dropping down to light heavyweight for this bout, but I don’t expect that to change his fortunes all that much. It’s no accident that the UFC is choosing to open the PPV with this bout; if Pedro wins, expect the promotion to start pushing him as contender in the light heavyweight division. (Prediction: Tyson Pedro)

Jamie Harkin: This one is interesting because Hunsucker is moving down in weight after getting flatlined by two massive Aussie fighters and right back into the frying pan against a slightly less massive Aussie. Pedro has only lost to Ilir Latrifi, OSP, and Shogun Rua, while Hunsucker lost his Contender Series bout against Jared Vanderaa, and his two UFC fights to date against Tuivasa, Tafa, but also has an early career loss over Don’Tale Mayes.

It’s almost certainly going to be a LHW slugfest, and I pick the Aussie ten out of ten times in those. Pedro in R2 by TKO. (Prediction: Tyson Pedro)

Consensus: 4-0 Pedro

Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov (Moved To Preliminary Card)

Marcin Tybura, Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports, Alexander Romanov, Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Harvey Leonard: While Romanov has torn though most opposition, the one man he faced who looked to turn the tables on his grappling efforts was Espino, and the Moldovan was unable to secure his powerful takedowns and faded late. Against a contender with the high-level experience of Tybura, who is the more polished of the two on the feet, I expect Romanov will struggle to secure a quick finish.

It’ll come down to whether “King Kong” can force top position and hold Tybura down. If he does, ground-and-pound will be an option, but the Pole has never been submitted and boasts a BJJ black belt. If Tybura can defend Romanov’s level changes and scramble if forced down, avoid clinching, and take the fight beyond the opening round, he may have the edge. (Prediction: Marcin Tybura)

Andrew Starc: A few years ago, Marcin Tybura looked to be on his way out of the UFC after suffering four defeats in five fights. That low point preceded a five-fight win streak where the Pole earned TKO victories over Greg Hardy and Walt Harris. That streak came to an end in October last year, when Tybura was outpointed by Alexander Volkov.

Alexander Romanov is unbeaten in 16 fights, including five in the UFC, having earned an impressive first-round submission of Chase Sherman in his most recent bout in April. I think Romanov will be tested by Tybura but will get the win here. (Prediction: Alexander Romanov)

Drew Beaupré: This matchup initially looked intriguing stylistically, until I realized that there’s a serious possibility the grappling skills of these heavyweights just cancel each other out. “Tybur” is the best fighter that Romanov has faced so far and will be a good test to see if the Moldovan is able to land his takedowns on a competent grappler.

There’s a small chance that if Romanov can’t take Tybura down this fight turns into an extremely ugly and slow-paced striking affair, but I think “King Kong” will come out looking for a matchup in the UFC’s heavyweight Top 10. (Prediction: Alexander Romanov)

Jamie Harkin: Another interesting fight because Tybura has proven to be capable of going the distance against elite fighters, but of his six UFC losses, three are by decision against several legends of the division. Romanov on the other hand has only seen the third round twice, and never the distance.

Tybura tends to get clipped early and drop a few rounds but has a hell of a chin, with his three TKO losses coming against some of the heaviest hitters in the division. However, Romanov has won three of five UFC bouts by submission and has shown good variety with his subs. Romanov in R2 via club and sub. (Prediction: Alexander Romanov)

Consensus: 3-1 Romanov

José Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili

Jose Aldo Merab Dvalishvili
Jose Aldo, Merab Dvalishvili

Harvey Leonard: Whilst I’d love nothing more than to see the fairytale late surge of Aldo continue to a title shot, I think it may come to an end at UFC 278. Although “Junior” boasts a 90% takedown defense, Dvalishvili is relentless with them, and he won’t slow.

The Brazilian may resist for the opening round, but as Dvalishvili lives up to his “Machine” moniker by utilizing his cardio and conditioning to push a pace Aldo won’t be comfortable with, the takedowns will likely come. From there, the path to victory opens for the Georgian. (Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili)

Andrew Starc:  José Aldo looks to be making a promising tilt at the title, and now 35, this could be his last. He’s won his last three since losing to Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight belt in 2020, defeating Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz and Rob Font.

Merab Dvalishvili, meanwhile, is on a seven-fight win streak, having most recently earned a TKO victory over Marlon Moraes. That was, however, Moraes’ third defeat in a row, and Dvalishili has yet to defeat anyone of note. But I still think he has what it takes to get a decision win against Aldo. (Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili)

Drew Beaupré: UFC 278’s main event may be a high-level rematch for a UFC title, but this bantamweight bout is arguably the most interesting fight on the card. Former champion José Aldo has managed to continually defy Father Time since his 2020 loss to Petr Yan, while Dvalishvili has won seven-straight fights after starting his UFC career off with a pair of losses.

The Georgian has been a takedown machine, but Aldo has arguably the best takedown defense in the history of the sport. It’s possible that Dvalishvili’s relentless attempts will prove too much for the Brazilian, but I’ll take Aldo to stay on his feet and comfortably win the striking battle. (Prediction: José Aldo)

Jamie Harkin: Surely a #1 contender fight, this will be fireworks. The biggest question in this for me is whether Aldo still has the ability to continually deny Dvalishvili’s takedowns. If he can, he certainly has the ability to finish Dvalishvili on the feet. We saw against Marlon Moraes that Dvalishvili can get clipped early.

All that said, two of three of Aldo’s last wins have all been against fighters who seem to be sliding, with Chito Vera being the exception. There are only so many miles on the clock, and Aldo’s time has to come sooner or later, and Dvalishvili’s pressure might put him over the edge. Dvalishvili by Decision (Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili)

Consensus: 3-1 Dvalishvili

Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold

Luke Rockhold, Paulo Costa
Luke Rockhold, Paulo Costa © Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports and MMA Junkie

Harvey Leonard: It’s hard to see this one going any way other than another KO setback for Rockhold. The former champion hasn’t won a fight in five years and hasn’t appeared since a brutal loss to Blachowicz. To come back after a layoff that followed three KO losses in four outings against arguably the most powerful striker at middleweight seems like a task that will prove to be too tough.

Of course, Rockhold has the wrestling ability to make it tricky, but Costa didn’t struggle to defend Romero’s takedown attempts, even if they weren’t that persistent. Given that his weight issues drew most of the attention last time out, it’s easy to forget the performance “Borrachinha” put in. If he lands the shots he did against Vettori on Saturday, there’s likely to be a sleeping Californian in Utah. That’s without even mentioning Bisping’s recent insight scoop. If Rockhold’s coach is commenting on somewhat of an inadequate prep, that’s never a good sign. (Prediction: Paulo Costa)

Andrew Starc: Both fighters will be looking to avoid losing three in a row by getting the win here. Luke Rockhold in particular really needs a change in fortune. The 37-year-old was spectacularly knocked out by Jan Blachowicz during his ill-fated light heavyweight debut over three years ago. Prior to that, he suffered the same fate against Yoel Romero.

Paulo Costa will be attempting to resurrect his once promising career after being dismantled by Israel Adesanya in 2020 and suffering a decision loss to Marvin Vettori in October last year. Given Costa’s KO power, I think Rockhold might suffer a similar fate to his most recent outings. (Prediction: Paulo Costa)

Drew Beaupré: Matchup-wise I have no problem with this fight, but it does seem like an odd move to put it in the co-main over Aldo vs. Dvalishvili. After a move to light heavyweight that saw him get brutally knocked out twice and then take 3 years away from the cage, Rockhold will now return to the division where he briefly held the UFC title.

It’s a bit of a surprise to see Costa back at middleweight after the drama around his fight with Marvin Vettori, but the Brazilian is also looking to avoid a three-fight losing skid. I think there’d be a legitimate chance that prime Rockhold could take Costa down and control him on the ground, but at this point, I can’t trust his chin against someone who throws as hard as “The Eraser”. (Prediction: Paulo Costa)

Jamie Harkin: Costa seems far healthier and motivated for this fight than he did last year against Vettori. Looks to be healthy, able to make weight, and in phenomenal shape. On the other hand, so too does Rockhold, but Costa has six years of youth on his side against the 37-year-old Rockhold and far fewer miles on his chin.

Costa also has a differentiator in his right leg, as Rockhold tends to leave his body open to protect his head. However, Costa throws his right body and high kicks with next to no tells, and his leg kicks will simply chop Rockhold’s heavy lead leg down. Costa by headkick KO in R2. (Prediction: Paulo Costa)

Consensus: 4-0 Costa

Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards

Leon Edwards & Kamaru Usman
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Harvey Leonard: Many are leaning into the ‘striker vs. grappler’ narrative in this one, but Usman’s striking has come so far that his standup is becoming his go-to. With that, it’s hard to imagine him resorting to the kind of grappling game he employed in 2015, especially when that wasn’t comfortable early on as Edwards’ footwork and head position allowed him to circle away from the cage and defend takedowns. That’s also not to mention the vicious elbows Edwards has since developed in the clinch, which was on display versus “RDA” and Nelson.

Will a stand-up affair suit Edwards? On paper, yes, but while Usman will be striking freely, “Rocky” will likely be thinking of the takedown threat and will be hesitant in his attacks as he keeps one eye on level changes, which will no doubt be feinted — and we saw what happened the last time Usman did exactly that against a striker.

Kamaru Usman Jorge Masvidal KO
Kamaru Usman Jorge Masvidal KO, Image Credit: Getty Images

For Edwards to have success, he must eliminate the nagging thought of level changes (easier said than done) and focus on his striking game. If Usman does turn to his wrestling, the Brit needs to trust his takedown defense to make the job tough, and if dragged down, look to throw up surprises with his underrated BJJ. But it will be an uphill battle. My British heart says Leon, but the smart pick is the champ. (Prediction: Kamaru Usman)

Andrew Starc: Kamaru Usman has rightly earned his status atop the UFC pound-for-pound list and looks to be getting better with each fight. A victory here will see Usman equal Anderson Silva’s record for the most consecutive UFC wins, and I just can’t see how Leon Edwards is going to pose any sort of challenge.

Edwards is unbeaten in 10 fights, with his last loss to Usman in 2015, but he hasn’t really achieved any big wins. In his last bout over a year ago against Nate Diaz, Edwards was almost put away in the final moments. I think Usman will get a TKO in this one. (Prediction: Kamaru Usman)

Drew Beaupré: There were moments where it seemed like it would never happen, but Edwards finally has his title shot and rematch with Usman. Both men have had plenty of success since their 2015 meeting, but of course Usman’s victory in that bout put him on track to capture the UFC’s welterweight title and defend it five times.

Edwards’ own win streak has been impressive, but it’s tough to ignore the fact that the bulk of that run was completed by July of 2019. I expect “Rocky” to give a good account of himself and challenge the champion, but Usman should defend his title for a sixth time in Salt Lake City. (Prediction: Kamaru Usman)

Jamie Harkin: It’s extremely difficult to cap a fight in favor of Kamaru Usman’s opponent, given how dominant he has been over the last few years. His evolution into an extremely well rounded mixed-martial artist has been a joy to watch. However, some of his striking against Covington in October last year lacked technicality or sharpness, which Leon Edwards can exploit.

Usman knows he can outwrestle Edwards, but he has been moving away from his wrestling as of late. However, keeping it as a “plan B” and constantly reminding Edwards about it will make him dangerous. He’s also shorter than Edwards, which as we’ve seen in Volkanovski vs Holloway and Jai Herbert vs Ilia Topuria can cause a lowered guard for visibility and invite an overhand.

Usman has been like a child with a new toy with his new love of striking, showing off his newfound jab against Gilbert Burns and his right cross against Masvidal. I’m looking forward to seeing what he wants to show off this weekend against Edwards. Usman by points/ TKO. (Prediction: Kamaru Usman)

Prediction: 4-0 Usman

That’ll do it for our UFC 278 staff picks! What do you think? Do your picks look similar? Let us know in the comments section! Also, you can check out the UFC 278 undercard below.

UFC 278 Preliminary Card (ABC/ESPN/ESPN+, 8:00 PM ET)

Leonardo Santos vs. Jared Gordon

Marcin Tybura vs. Alexandr Romanov

Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldaña

Miranda Maverick vs. Shanna Young

UFC 278 Early Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 6:00 PM ET)

A.J. Fletcher vs. Ange Loosa

Francisco Figueiredo vs. Amir Albazi

AoriQileng vs. Jay Perrin

Daniel Da Silva vs. Victor Altamirano

Be sure to keep it right here on MMANews.com Saturday for all the results, highlights, and updates on UFC 278!

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