Wednesday, December 7, 2022

UFC 280 Predictions: Expert Picks By MMA News Staff

UFC 280: Oliveira vs. Makhachev is now days away, and MMA News is here to continue getting you prepared with our expert staff predictions!

The main event will feature a bout that some are calling the best matchup the UFC could put together at this moment in time when Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira looks to regain his status as the official lightweight champion by defeating the odds-on favorite, Islam Makhachev. Both fighters are on enormous winning streaks, but someone’s streak will come to an end as the other combatant is adorned with UFC gold.

The co-main event will boast another world title match when Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling defends the bantamweight championship against two-time champ T.J. Dillashaw, who will look to complete his redemption arc by reclaiming gold after serving a two-year USADA suspension, something his opponent has not allowed the world to forget about.

And in another highly anticipated feature bout, #1-ranked bantamweight Petr Yan will face surging prospect “Suga” Sean O’Malley in what has been said to be a title-eliminator bout. Also on the main card will be top-10 lightweights Beneil Dariush and Mateusz Gamrot going at it in a pivotal bout as well as top-10 women’s flyweights Katlyn Chookagian (#1) facing Manon Fiorot (#6).

UFC 280 takes place this Saturday, October 22, 2022. The main card will be available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view and begins at the early start time of 2 PM ET. The preliminary card kicks off at 11:00 AM and will air on ESPNEWS and ESPN+. The event will take place from the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. 

Staff Predictions For UFC 280: Oliveira vs. Makhachev

UFC 280 Main Card (2:00 PM ET, PPV)

UFC Lightweight Championship Bout: Charles Oliveira (#1) vs. Islam Makhachev (#4)

UFC Bantamweight Championship Bout: Aljamain Sterling (c) vs. T.J. Dillashaw (#2)

Bantamweight: Petr Yan (#1) vs. Sean O’Malley (#12)

Lightweight: Beneil Dariush (#6) vs. Mateusz Gamrot (#9)

Women’s Flyweight: Katlyn Chookagian (#1) vs. Manon Fiorot (#7)

MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 280 updates. Harvey Leonard, Andrew Starc, Drew Beaupré, and Jamie Harkin have provided their picks for you below.

Katlyn Chookagian vs. Manon Fiorot

Harvey Leonard: The entire UFC 280 main card features incredibly competitive matchups that look set to offer tight affairs, and the opener is no different. Chookagian and Fiorot both enjoy kickboxing fights at distance. With that in mind, they’ll be getting it in Abu Dhabi.

Given their similar skill sets, as well neither woman boasting explosive knockout power, I expect this to be technical and entertaining striking battle that will go the distance. With not much to separate them on paper, I back the Frenchwoman’s speed, agility, and power edge to put her ahead on the scorecards. (Prediction: Manon Fiorot)

Andrew Starc: No.1 ranked women’s flyweight Katlyn Chookagian has worked her way back into title contention since losing to Jessica Andrade via TKO almost two years ago. She’s 4-0 since then, having racked up wins against Cynthia Calvillo, Viviane Araujo, Jennifer Maia and Amanda Ribas.

But Chookagian will be facing a surging Fiorot who’s undefeated in nine fights, with six finishes to her name. She has just one loss on her record, and I don’t think this will be her second. (Prediction: Manon Fiorot)

Drew Beaupré: After Alexa Grasso picked up her fourth-straight win last weekend, it’s up to Chookagian or Fiorot to make a convincing case for a flyweight title shot in the opening bout of UFC 280. We’ve already seen Chookagian get stopped by Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 247, but the 33-year-old has worked back into contention with four wins over some of the division’s top ranked fighters.

Fiorot is 4-0 since debuting in the UFC, but aside from Jennifer Maia “The Beast” has yet to face many of the top flyweights and will be matched up with the division’s #1-ranked contender here. Fiorot does throw a lot of strikes and should have a bit of a power advantage over Chookagian, so I’ll go with the 32-year-old to win what should largely be a standup battle and throw her name into the flyweight title picture. (Prediction: Manon Fiorot)

Jamie Harkin: Grizzled vet vs fresh meat. Chookagian typically wins a decision or gets finished. Fiorot has a 50% finish rate in the UFC, and closer to 80% outside of it. Along with a solid amateur career, Fiorot has been thirsty for an opportunity to prove herself, and she gets it with this stylistic match-up.

Chookgagian has been in there with some absolute killers, but I think all those wars take their toll, especially with over 3hr:30 total cage time inside the UFC. Fiorot might have that in her entire career. (Prediction: Manon Fiorot)

Consensus: 4-0 Fiorot

Beneil Dariush vs. Mateusz Gamrot

Beneil Dariush, Mateusz Gamrot
© Paul Miller-USA TODAY Sports and Zuffa LLC

Harvey Leonard: Both men will be competitive wherever the fight goes. Ultimately, I’m looking at how Ferreira was able to perform against Gamrot. Despite not being the most technical striker, the Brazilian found a home for his shots and made things even at points on the ground with some back-and-forth scrambles.

It’s perhaps too plain a way to look at things, but if Ferreira can be competitive in all realms, why can’t Dariush do that and more? The Pole has often struggled to maintain control of his opponents, so I can see Dariush faring well even if he is taken down. There should also be openings on the feet for him to land his power shots, and maybe utilize his strong body kicks, which Tsarukyan did to great affect against Gamrot in June. (Prediction: Beneil Dariush)

Andrew Starc: Beneil Dariush has been out of action since May last year, when he defeated Tony Ferguson via unanimous decision. That was the 33-year-old’s seventh consecutive victory—a run that included wins over the likes of Carlos Diego Ferreira, Drakkar Klose and Drew Dober.

Undefeated in four fights, Mateusz Gamrot impressively defeated rising talent Arman Tsarukyan in a highly technical bout in June. The former KSW lightweight champ is now on a four-fight win streak, and he’s only been beaten once in his career. As promising a prospect as Gamrot seems, I’ve got Dariush taking this one. (Prediction: Beneil Dariush)

Drew Beaupré: Both of these fighters could reasonably serve as a replacement for the card’s lightweight title fight if Alexander Volkanovski wasn’t already waiting in the wings. Dariush is on the best run of his UFC career with an incredible seven-fight win streak, while Gamrot rebounded from a loss in his UFC debut to put together four-straight wins of his own.

“Gamer” is always on the hunt for takedowns in his fights, which could end up being dangerous against a grappler of Dariush’s caliber and also means the standup portions of this bout could be the deciding factor. I’ll take Dariush to extend his lengthy winning streak and quite likely punch his ticket for a lightweight title shot, even if there’s a large chance he has to wait in line behind Volkanovski. (Prediction: Beneil Dariush)

Jamie Harkin: Gamrot had an impressive career before he entered the UFC. After an extremely controversial split decision in his debut against an absolute killer in Guram Kutateladze, he has not lost since, even if his win over Arman Tsarukyan was controversial.

However, we saw how much Gamrot has improved his grappling in that fight, which is what makes me confident in picking him against Beneil. Oh, and he went seven minutes against Garry Tonon at ADCC 2019, and Beneil couldn’t even finish the ghost of Tony Ferguson. I simply do not see a path to victory for Beneil in this bout. (Prediction: Mateusz Gamrot)

Consensus: 3-1 Dariush

Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley

Sean O Malley Petr Yan

Harvey Leonard: It’s difficult to see this not going in Yan’s favor, not just because of his talent and experience against elite-level competition, but because we saw how he effectively deals with lengthy and rangy fighters last October against Cory Sandhagen.

The three-round duration does make things interesting. I can easily picture O’Malley jabbing and kicking his way to a 10-9 opening round while the Russian gages distances. But when Yan decides to put the pressure on, I expect him to emerge better from most exchanges. “Sugar” does have great footwork and movement, but if an elite striker walks him down like newcomer Moutinho did at points, that will only take him so far. (Prediction: Petr Yan)

Andrew Starc: Petr Yan looked out of his depth in his last fight, offering no answers to Aljamain Sterling’s grappling. But he won’t have that problem against O’Malley, who’ll be facing his first big test at bantamweight.

While O’Malley has earned five finishes in as many wins, I think that’s largely a reflection of the caliber of fighter he’s faced. As impressive as his striking seems, I don’t think he’s on the same level as Yan. I think the Russian will get a TKO finish here. (Prediction: Petr Yan)

Drew Beaupré: It’s been said online basically since the moment the bout was announced, but this matchup really does feel like the UFC are throwing O’Malley into the deep end of the pool to find out if he can swim. Petr Yan is the former bantamweight champion and currently the #1 contender, whereas O’Malley holds no victories over the division’s Top 15 fighters despite being ranked at #11 himself.

“Sugar” has had plenty of strange happenings in his UFC career already, and maybe that will finally translate to something positive for him against Yan. Barring that, I expect Yan to batter the 27-year-old before demanding another chance to regain the bantamweight title. O’Malley will enter the fight with a considerable height and reach advantage, but even those won’t be enough for him to out strike “No Mercy.” (Prediction: Petr Yan)

Jamie Harkin: Yan hasn’t been scheduled for a three-round fight since his title eliminator against Urijah Faber, which lasted 43 seconds. The last time he went the distance was against Jimmy Rivera, who has since been relegated to BKFC. Yan’s striking is, in many ways, the complete opposite of O’Malley’s. He wants to pressure you against the fence, beat you bloody, and throw a shin to your chin as you try weave out of it.

However, Sean is almost purpose-built to counter-strike Yan. His length, his unorthodox style, and his typically faster starting pace all lend themselves to this. Add in that this is only three rounds, and Sean couldn’t have a better opportunity to prove the Sugar Sean Athletic Commission correct and overturn his L to Chito. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)

Consensus: 3-1 Yan

Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw

tj dillashaw, aljamain sterling
Zuffa LLC

Harvey Leonard: While Sterling proved many wrong against Yan, I don’t think Dillashaw is a favorable matchup for him. Pressure has appeared to be one of Sterling’s enemies, and forward aggression is something Dillashaw will bring. While he was able to circle away from the cage against Yan, Dillashaw will switch stance to cut him off.

On the feet, Dillashaw has a clear edge and it’s probably fair to say that Sterling offers little threat there. While he was able to keep Yan down to negate that, I think he’ll struggle to successfully change levels on the back foot against a grappler as strong and experienced as Dillashaw. I can see the challenger outworking Sterling across five rounds, but I also think he can replicate some of the past success he’s had with head kicks and knees when Sterling changes levels, as we also saw when the champ was stopped by Moraes. (Prediction: TJ Dillashaw)

Andrew Starc: Perhaps no fighter ever received so much hate and was the subject of so much doubt as Aljamain Sterling prior to facing Petr Yan in their rematch. And despite all that, he still managed to dominate the Russian with a grappling showcase.

While T.J. Dillashaw will likely have the edge in striking, I think he may be destined for the same fate as Yan. I think Sterling’s grappling will be the difference here. (Prediction: Aljamain Sterling)  

Drew Beaupré: Given how stacked the bantamweight division is and with Sterling finally having moved on (for now) from his rivalry with Petr Yan, it was a bit of a surprise to see this matchup come together. Dillashaw’s credentials as a two-time champion obviously speak for themselves, but a two-year-layoff for his USADA violation and a split decision win over Cory Sandhagen certainly raise questions about how much time the 36-year-old has left at the top.

Despite earning his own split decision nod in a rematch with Yan thanks to his grappling control, it still seems like a lot of people aren’t taking “Funk Master” seriously as champion. There will continue to be doubters of his title reign due to the question marks around Dillashaw, but I’ll pick Sterling to beat out the former champion for his second title defense. (Prediction: Aljamain Sterling)

Jamie Harkin: Similarly to how O’Malley’s striking is built to beat Yan’s, Dillashaw’s wrestling is built to counter Aljamain’s. He’s got that absurd D1 counter wrestling, and heavy, heavy hands.

However, listening to Ray Longo on the Anik and Florian podcast before Aljo vs Yan 2 and this week, it seems like Aljo has so much more to give, and finally being out of Yan’s shadow seems like it might be the key to freeing him. TJ also went life and death with Cory Sandhagen while Sterling ran through him, which doesn’t bode well for Dillashaw if you want to play MMA math. (Prediction: Aljamain Sterling)

Consensus: 3-1 Sterling

Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev

Charles Oliveira, Islam Makhachev
Image Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Harvey Leonard: I see this as one of the toughest to call this year. I think the key here is that Makhachev’s route to victory will likely be outworking the Brazilian across five rounds. “Do Bronx,” though, only needs one moment. And with the Russian’s almost solely wrestling-based offense, it’s hard not to see Oliveira manufacturing a position, or making the most of one.

We saw Moisés create an opening to take Makhachev’s back, and although the Dagestani comfortably reversed position then, Oliveira is less likely to let an opportunity like that slip. If Oliveira does fail to capitalize on a sub and wear himself out, as he did versus Felder, the pendulum swings to Makhachev. But my gut just about says the former champ does it again. (Prediction: Charles Oliveira)

Andrew Starc: Charles Oliviera looks to be getting better with each fight, having already dismantled most of the lightweight division’s best. But he hasn’t fought a high caliber wrestler in a while, and Islam Makachev is definitely that. 

Makahachev, like Oliveria, is on a massive win streak. And he’s made it look easy. But if there’s one criticism of the Russian, it’s that he’s yet to face an elite-level opponent. And will his wrestling be effective against a submission artist like Oliveria? I think it will be. I’ve got Islam getting the win here. (Prediction: Islam Makhachev)

Drew Beaupré: The way the fan bases of these two fighters have gone at each other online in the lead up to this bout means there’s going to be chaos regardless of who wins. The interest in Makhachev (as it was with Khabib) is that everyone knows what his game plan is, but no one has been able to do anything to stop it so far.

With that in mind and considering what we’ve seen from Oliveira during his championship run (including the fight with Justin Gaethje) it feels like “Do Bronx” is the more well-rounded fighter overall and will have a possible five rounds to look for openings to win. Even if Makhachev is able to continually take Oliveira down, there’s going to be too many chances presented for the Brazilian to clip him on the feet or snatch a submission. (Prediction: Charles Oliveira)

Jamie Harkin: I bet against Charles vs. Dustin. I bet against him vs. Gaethje. I will not make the same mistake. Charles has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is legit. I think he should be P4P #1, if not a very close #2. He has beaten the rest of the top five in his 18 months as champion, it took Khabib three years.

And of those three wins, he did it in a fraction of the time. Islam has one top 10 win against a short notice Dan Hooker. He had the opportunity to face RDA in February and ducked because Khabib and Ali Abdelaziz told him not to take the fight. If he wasn’t confident against a post prime RDA, how can he be confident against Charles? Charles by TKO in R2. (Prediction: Charles Oliveira)

Consensus: 3-1 Oliveira

That’ll do it for our UFC 280 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 280 undercard below. And be sure to stick with MMA News for all the coverage leading up to UFC 280 as well as Fight Night and post-fight coverage!

UFC 280 Preliminary Card (10:00 AM ET, ESPNEWS/ESPN+)

Welterweight: Belal Muhammad (#5) vs. Sean Brady (#8)
Middleweight: Makhmud Muradov vs. Caio Borralho
Light Heavyweight: Volkan Oezdemir (#8) vs. Nikita Krylov (#10)
Featherweight: Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lucas Almeida
Lightweight: Magomed Mustafaev vs. Yamato Nishikawa
Welterweight: Abubakar Nurmagomedov vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev
Middleweight: Armen Petrosyan vs. A.J. Dobson
Flyweight: Muhammad Mokaev vs. Malcolm Gordon
Women’s Bantamweight: Karol Rosa (#9) vs. Lina Länsberg (#12)