UFC 286 Predictions, Best Bets, Odds: Rafael Fiziev, Gunnar Nelson Among Top Picks to Consider

On Saturday night, Kamaru Usman looks set to become UFC welterweight champion once again when he clashes with Leon Edwards in the main event of UFC 286. Edwards scored a literal last-minute knockout of Usman during their encounter at UFC 278 last August to win the welterweight title in the process.

Usman has been an overwhelming favorite in just about all of his UFC matches. The Nigerian was about -360 in the second meeting with Edwards last August, which proved to be of great value to the underdog. Now Usman enters the trilogy at around -240 to bounce back and regain his 170lb crown. A bet on Edwards returns a value of +200 if you think the hometown hero can repeat this feat.

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The undercard will be filled with some fun fights that can produce fireworks. Look no further than the co-main event when “The Highlight” Justin Gaethje returns. The perennial lightweight contender is back and he looks set to turn down the next up and coming contender in the division in the form of Rafael Fiziev. And Submission specialist Gunnar Nelson is back in action as he takes on brutal brute Bryan Barberena. And the main card kicks off with a key middleweight bout as former title challenger Marvin Vettori takes on up-and-coming contender Roman Dolidze.

As always, we’re looking ahead to the event to determine our picks for the best bets for each fight on the main pay-per-view map. The strong start to 2023 continued at UFC 285 with our picks at 4-1, improving our overall record to 11-4 over the UFC’s first three pay-per-view events.

Let’s take a look at our picks for the best bets on the UFC 286 main card with odds from Caesars Sportsbook.

Marvin Vettori vs Roman Dolidze

Marvin Vettori via decision (-125)

This fight feels better as an add-on to a parlay with Vettori -280 than a standalone fight, but that’s not what we’re doing here. Vettori is good at an abrasive, patient approach to fighting. Dolidze has enjoyed great success as a professional, with only one loss in his career. But according to UFC Stats, Dolidze only has a takedown defense of just 33%, which puts him in a very bad place against someone like Vettori, who will try to smother, take the fight to the ground and smother even more. In a three-round fight, that’s a solid recipe for a Vettori decision win.

Jennifer Maia to Casey O’Neill

Less than 2.5 laps (+240)

Only women’s strawweight has a lower number of finish points than women’s flyweight, and Maia has seen nine of her 10 UFC fights go to the scorecards. Those two things line up for a fight where logic would indicate the fight to go the distance. There are just a few nagging factors to this fight that make the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčtaking a shot at a +240 line for less than 2.5 rounds an attractive long shot for the night. Coming off a serious knee injury, O’Neill faces someone with a solid punch who can target that previously injured joint with leg kicks. O’Neill likes to pick up the pace, which will open up enough exchanges on the feet and enough chances for both women to find success in ground scrambles for a finish to materialize. Also, for as many Maia fights as have come to a decision, O’Neill has five wins in nine career fights. This is the rare fight where I’d argue for a move that goes against what the numbers suggest for the big reward potential.

Gunnar Nelson v Bryan Barberena

Gunnar Nelson via submission (+105)

Nelson is a beast on the ground, with 12 submissions in 18 career wins. He also possesses solid karate and can execute his attacks a bit faster than Barberena, who is more of a wide open fighter looking to foul the fight. Unfortunately for Barberena, if he tries to charge forward, he will quickly be knocked down by Nelson, who is a much better grappler and is able to exploit Barberena’s somewhat shaky wrestling. Once the fight hits the ground, it’s only a matter of time before Nelson locks something in and ends the fight. Barberena also steps in at short notice, adding to his list of potential problems in this fight.

Justin Gaethje vs Rafael Fiziev

Rafael Fiziev via KO, TKO or disqualification (+125)

This is one of those fights where nostalgia can tickle the back of your brain and make you think strongly about Gaethje’s +190 money line or even Gaethje by knockout at +330. Ignore that feeling. Fiziev does two things that give him a strong lead here. He is able to handle pressure and land accurate counters in the storm, and he works very well on the body. Fiziev’s style is built to punish fighters like Gaethje, who want to force give-and-take exchanges in hopes of landing first and hardest. Fiziev’s counters will hurt Gaethje and the body work will break him. Roll with the favorite to take him home with a knockout.

Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman

Fight to go the distance: No (+130)

Both men will be out to prove a point in this trilogy fight and both have the power to end the fight. Yes, they fought to a decision in the first meeting and fought into the literal last minute of the rematch before Edwards landed the fight-ending head kick, but that one kick changed everything. Both men fully know that Edwards has the power to end the fight now and Usman needs to understand that it was the wrong approach to safely play out the last phase of the fight. There is also the question of whether that knockout had any long-term consequences for Usman. He wouldn’t be the first great fighter whose career quickly went south after a ruthless knockout defeat. With so many questions and so much pressure, it feels like Saturday night is ending with a hiatus.

Who will win Edwards vs. Usman at UFC 286? And how exactly does each battle end? Visit SportsLine now for detailed information on every fight at UFC 286, all from the MMA expert who made over $6,200 in 2022, and find out.

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