UFC 286 MMA Betting Odds (3/18)
FTN's Andrew Valencia breaks down every fight on this weekend's UFC card from a betting perspective.
Mar 17, 2023, 8:17 AM EDT
Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman meet again this weekend at UFC 286 in hopes of settling their rivalry once and for all. The first time they met in 2015, both fighters were relatively new, with Usman making his way into the UFC through the Ultimate Fighter show and Leon through regional promotions. Edwards performed well but was defeated by a unanimous decision after not having an answer for Usman's wrestling. After that matchup, Edwards went on a nine-fight win streak, which ultimately led to the pair's second matchup at UFC 278, this time for the belt. Before Usman lost to Edwards, he had never been taken down in a fight and was undefeated in the UFC, and now he’s back.
In the co-main event, “the Highlight,” Justin Gaethje, toes the line against another dangerous and highly touted striker Rafael Fiziev. This matchup may very well steal the show considering the style each fighter brings to the cage, and with nine performance bonuses in his first seven fights, I'm sure Gaethje is excited to put on a show with a willing dance partner.
There are 15 fights on this card, and I have picked out my favorite and produced a best bet for each. All odds are per BetMGM.
Edwards vs. Usman Odds
Leon Edwards +200; Kamaru Usman -250
The first time Edwards met Usman was the last time he lost a fight in the UFC back in 2015. The first time Usman was taken down in his UFC career was also the first time he lost, at the hands of Edwards last year. It’s easy to say that Edwards got lucky, and he was beaten down for 24 of the 25 minutes in the fight. But if you look closer, there are a couple of factors that indicate to me why this third matchup will be the best fight of the trilogy. In their first fight matchup in 2015, Edwards fought with an air of confidence and fend off some of the takedowns coming his way. Not only that, but he was also able to strike more, and in their second matchup, he didn’t seem to have the energy or confidence after Round 1. In Round 1 of their fight last year, Edwards was able to take Usman down and threaten a submission from the back. Usman was visibly surprised at how easily Edwards could take him down. Yet, if you look back at their first matchup, Edwards was able to get under hooks and control Usman until he eventually faded near the end from the pressure.
In the second matchup, I believe Edwards hit a wall after the first round, also known as an adrenaline dump. Once Usman got one takedown in the second round, paired with the lack of energy, the doubt began to creep in. From that point on, Edwards had moments but seemed to be thinking instead of flowing and, in between rounds, looked dejected. The head kick heard around the world, in my opinion, will make a difference in this fight. Usman has never been stopped, never been taken down, and never had lost in the UFC before Edwards, and going into a rematch where he “should” win the pressure I hope he can handle. Edwards may be the hometown fighter in this matchup, but the pressure is on the former champion who is “supposed” to win this weekend, similarly to the last fight. Edwards knows he can win now, can wrestle with Edwards, or at the very least, make it competitive. This will be the best Edwards in the trilogy because when you fight with confidence, then you can fight in the flow and be offensive and less in his head, like in their last match-up. Edwards will have his fans behind him and nothing to lose because he has been to the mountaintop. This fight will be one to remember, and from a betting perspective, I’m going to side with the hometown underdog who I believe has the tools and confidence to beat the former champion and keep the belt in London.
Bet: Leon Edwards ML +200/Edwards vs. Usman Fight Goes The Distance -185
Fiziev vs. Gaethje Odds
Rafael Fiziev -230; Justin Gaethje +185
Most fights aren’t considered the battle of the year contenders until after it’s happened. Yet this co-main event between Fiziev and Gaethje may very well be the fight of the night and the year by night's end Saturday. Gaethje has recorded nine fight night bonuses in his first seven UFC fights. When you sign the contract to fight Gaethje, you are doing so knowing that you are about to get into the fight of your life. Everyone who has fought him has left a bit of themselves inside that ring, and I don’t expect it to be any different Saturday when he faces the lighting fast and dangerous “Atman” Fiziev.
Fiziev fights out of Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand and has been with the UFC since 2019. He is a dynamic striker with an arsenal of strikes mixed in with a 95% takedown defense that makes him hard to beat. The only person with a better takedown defense is the former champ and title challenger Saturday, Usman, who boasts a 97% takedown defense. Many believe Gaethje will wrestle, and he may very well mix in some takedowns and feints that lead to overhand rights, but to me, once the blood gets flowing, that’s when he will begin to throw heat and get himself into trouble. Gaethje averages 7.46 significant strikes landed per minute, but his real strength is in the ability to also absorb just as many strikes and continue to move forward. Gaethje can wrestle, but his best path to victory will be in his leg kicks, which have ended fights in the past and can be used to limit Fiziev’s movement, and in the ability to create brawls in hopes of landing cleanly on Fiziev and knocking him out. Fiziev, to me, is superior anywhere this fight goes, and the fact that this fight is only three rounds and not five also works in favor of Fiziev, who would otherwise start to gas in the later rounds of a five-round fight as he did against Dos Anjos. Fiziev averages nearly 12 minutes of fight time, 4.81 significant strikes landed per minute, and attempts 0.36 takedowns per 15 minutes. To prove a point, I think that during this fight, Fiziev may clinch up with Gaethje and take him down to prove that he can also wrestle with the former division one athlete. Gaethje may have wrestled but averages zero takedowns per 15 minutes paired with a 75% takedown defense that in a chaotic fight may not help. Justin is a master of chaos and surely will be in the hall of fame someday, but this fight and this matchup are the changing of the guard, and maybe it’s not his last fight, but it’s undoubtedly the fight that takes him off the path to another title shot.
Bet: Rafael Fiziev by KO/TKO or submission +115/Rafael Fiziev in Round 3 or decision +145
Nelson vs. Barbarena Odds
Gunnar Nelson -360; Bryan Barbarena +270
The clash between “Gunni” Nelson and “Bam Bam” Barbarena is another exciting matchup on the main card. These two are not well known by the casual MMA fan, but they always look for a finish to keep the fight away from the judges. Barbarena brings a high-paced, high-intensity style to the cage, averaging nearly eight significant strikes landed per minute. The problem with Barbarena, for me, is that while he does have a high out, he also absorbs the same number of strikes coming his way. Nelson has an unusual style of striking with his hands at his sides in a wide karate stance. His primary weapon when standing is a straight right hand that packs power similar to the straight left hand of Conor McGregor. He used his right hand to counter and looked to finish his opponents whenever he connected with it. If he doesn’t have success while standing, then he will level change and take the fight to the canvas where he feels at home. Gunnar’s style and willingness to hunt for finishes have led to him being knocked out in the past, and in this fight, if he’s not careful, he can find himself in the same situation. Barbarena may not be great anywhere, but where he is commendable is his ability to grind and fight back into fights. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Bryan as a live dog, but this time, I believe he’s met an opponent capable of dominating him on the ground and staying out of trouble when they stand. Give me Gunnar Nelson here to win in a parlay at -400 odds and for him to win by ko/Tko or sub at -125 straight up. I don’t think this fight gets to the judges.
Bet: Gunnar Nelson by KO/TKO or sub -125/Nelson ML -400 (parlay piece)
Vetorri vs. Dolidze Odds
Martin Vetorri -265; Roman Dolidze +210
Kicking off the main card is an exciting middleweight clash between Dolidze and “The Italian Dream” Vetorri. This fight can headline any card in any country, and having it kick off the main card will ensure that fans in attendance will be in tune from the start of the main card. This bout is a classic striker vs. grappler matchup, with Vetorri filling the striker role. Dolidze can also strike, but the ADCC Jiujitsu Champ would instead grapple and turn this fight into a grind. Dolidze is currently 4-1 in his last five, with three finishes, one decision win and one loss by decision. Dolidze averages nine minutes of fight time, 2.62 significant strikes landed per minute, and attempts 2.12 takedowns per 15 minutes. His style of fighting may not be one that you write home about, but it indeed gets the job done when he needs a win. Dolidze hasn’t been in the UFC long, and this matchup against Vettori will be his biggest test to date. Vettori is a veteran in the UFC and has already fought at the top of the division and has come up short thus far. Still, the Italian Dream has only been improving, and in his last fight, he was up against former champion Robert Whittaker. Vetorri did not look dominant in that fight and lost unanimously, but the experience and confidence gained will pay dividends as his career continues. Vetorri has already fought the best the division offers, has been in the ufc since 2016 and is only 29 years old. He’s in his prime and, with this win, will spark another run for the title. Vetorri averages 4.24 significant strikes landed per minute, attempts 1.89 takedowns per 15 minutes and has a 75% takedown defense compared to 33% from Dolidze. Dolidze can grapple and surely stall and hold opponents down as he did to staropoli, but in this matchup, I think he’s going up against the better martial artist. This fight may very well go the distance but look out for Vettori to be extra violent this weekend, as I expect him to make a statement and get back into the win column emphatically.
Bet: Martin Vettori by points -135/Martin Vettori in Round 3 or decision -165
Shore vs. Amirkhani Odds
Jack Shore -550; Makwan Amirkhani +380
Another potential fight of the night comes in the form of Amirkhani vs. Shore. Shore made his UFC debut in 2019 and has since continued to impress and win against some of the division's best, like Timur Valiev. Shores' toughest test and first loss came in his last performance against Ricky Simon, who dominated from the sound of the bell until he found a finish by submission in the second round. Outside of that fight, Shore has been perfect and has shown a well-rounded skill set prepared to fight wherever the contest goes. Amirkhani has been an exciting fighter since joining the UFC in 2015. The problem with his performances is that they aren’t consistent enough, and it has led to a 7-6 record thus far in the UFC, with most of his losses coming by finish. Amirkhani is an excellent grappler capable of finishing anyone on the ground. Yet his gas tank or mentality seems to waiver after the first rounds, leading to losses like his against Jonathan Pearce and Lerone Murphy. In both of those bouts, Makwan looked good early until he was eventually finished in the second round of both bouts. Makwan was once a threat in this division and had potential at a title run, but at 34, his durability is a liability, and in this matchup, it’s his biggest flaw. Shore will start slow but eventually find a finish after Amirkhani blows his gas tank in the first round.
Bet: Shore by KO/TKO or sub -140/Shore in Round 3 or decision +125
Duncan vs. Morales Odds
Chris Duncan -115; Omar Morales -105
Another debutant makes his way to the octagon this weekend when Duncan toes the line against “the Venezuelan Fighter” Morales. Duncan made an empathic debut on the Contender Series when he found a first-round finish after nearly being finished himself. Duncan showed that he has power in his hands, can grapple but most importantly, has a chin made of granite and the will to walk through the fire. Duncan is the type of fighter that fights for your dollar, and against the chinny Morales, I expect him to do well in front of his hometown crowd. Morales is athletic, has power in his hands, and can also find finishes by submission. His biggest issue is his durability and his ability to take strikes. In all of the fights I watched this weekend, Morales looks excellent and capable of winning until he gets caught clean and wobbled. After that initial shot, morales usually isn’t the same and ends up finished. This fight is a coin flip according to the books, but in my opinion, Duncan's durability and wrestling make the most significant difference in this fight and will be the reason he wins.
Bet: Chris Duncan ML -115
Mokaev vs. Filho Odds
Muhammad Mokaev -850; Jafel Filho +525
Mokaev continues his journey to the top when he welcomes UFC newcomer Filho. Mokaev came into the ufc last year and has since finished two out of three fights by submission. “The Punisher” is another dominant wrestler out of Dagestan but represents the United Kingdom. He made a name for himself after an extensive amateur career where he recorded a 23-0 record before turning pro. Filho made his debut on the Contender Series, and after finding a finish in the third round by knockout, he is set to make his debut this weekend. With wins by both knockout and submission, Filho can pressure Mokaev and threaten to derail the hype train he’s currently on but to do that; he will have to stay within himself and not leave any space for Mokaev to capitalize. Mokaev may be new in the ufc, but he is wise beyond his years, and at 22 years old, he has a long career ahead of him. He perhaps could’ve waited for his shoulder to heal fully but like with most fighters never goes into fights fully healed. I expect this to be no different and for Mokaev to methodically apply pressure and find a finish late in the contest.
Bet: Mokaev vs. Filho over 1.5 rounds -150/Mokaev by submission or KO/TKO -155
Hadley vs. Gordon Odds
Jake Hadley -400; Malcom Gordon +305
Hadley and Gordon face off in the prelims this weekend. Hadley is 4-1 in his last five fights, with finishes in three out of the five. Hadley is well-rounded and has finished by knockout, but with 56% of his wins by submission, you can assume his game plan involves getting the fight to the canvas. Hadley made his debut on the contender series in 2021 and since then has gone 1-1 in the UFC. This matchup against Gordon is good for Hadley and will be another tough test in his young UFC career. Gordon made his debut in 2020 and has been fighting top talents like Albazi, Sumudaerji and Mokaev, and is currently 2-3 in the UFC. Against Mokaev, he showed the ability to defend submissions and take the back of the young phenom. Gordon is capable of winning in the UFC, but he seems to lack focus in fights, and paired with a questionable chin and explosive fight style; if he doesn’t find a finish first, I can see him getting finished late as he tires and his technique fades. Mokaev is coming into this fight after nursing a recent shoulder injury that initially seemed to have taken him out of the fight. But with an opportunity to fight in London in front of hometown fans, I'm sure he will put the injury in the rearview and worry about it afterward. Mokaev is an excellent grappler, and like he’s done in previous fights, I expect him to dominate Gordon and work his way to a finish late or unanimous decision win.
Bet: Hadley vs. Gordon over 1.5 rounds -150/Jake Hadley ML -400 (parlay Piece)