Here are our expert UFC 280 picks and predictions for an early fight card on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN News and continuing on PPV on ESPN+.
My return to MMA betting content is a happy one. Unfortunately, no video component or guest for such a huge fight card due to a very busy football season.
We’re going to attack this card with a new strategy. You will see two bets on the main and co-main events on opposite sides. Sometimes, I relate MMA betting to the straddle strategy when trading options, with calls and puts all at the same time, just to lock in levels of profit.
I believe that most of the possible outcomes are covered in each fight with these bets, with a minimum 17.8% return on investment if that is accurate on those two fights. Let’s cash some tickets and enjoy.
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UFC 280 predictions
Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev
This is the most anticipated fight I can remember as a UFC fan. Oliveira has been on an unfathomable 11-fight win-streak, and all but one of those wins are by finish. He matches up with the mostly dominant Islam Makhachev, protege of former lightweight GOAT, Khabib Nurmagomedov. We could go on for hours about these two fighters’ history and the incredible obstacles that they have overcome.
But technically speaking, this is a match made in heaven. Oliveira is the best submission grappler we have seen in MMA since BJ Penn, and he may even be better. Makhachev is an incredible wrestler who can positionally dominate his opponent at any given time. I am leery of Makhachev getting caught in a front headlock from Oliviera when he shoots for a takedown. This will likely be threatened at least once or twice. If it does not finish Makhachev, I am expecting an extremely cautious, position-oriented approach that leaves him out of danger.
On the feet, it will be a close battle, but Oliveira’s power and unpredictability give him the edge. If there is a knockout here, expect it to come from “Do Bronx.”
Betting-wise, look for Oliveira to win this fight by finish at +200, or Makhachev to win by decision +425 (BetMGM). The betting strategy that you see below bakes in the cost of losing the other bet if one were to hit. Essentially, as long as Oliviera does not win a decision and Makhachev doesn’t finish Oliviera, we win.
The pick(s): (1u to win 1.5u) Oliveira wins by finish (+200, DK) | (.5u to win 1.2u) Makhachev wins by decision +425 (BetRivers Sportsbook)
Aljamain Sterling (-165) vs. T.J. Dillashaw (+140)
For the bantamweight title, Aljamain Sterling battles former champion T.J. Dillashaw. Sterling gets made fun of for winning the first fight against Petr Yan by disqualification after losing every moment of that fight until the final one. But the second time out, Sterling frustrated Yan and implemented his game plan very well, en route to a five-round decision win.
We haven’t seen much of Dillashaw, as he barely beat Cory Sandhagen two summers ago. He blew out his knee in that fight, which is a part of the reason for his absence.
Sterling is the better grappler, but we should expect Dillashaw to be the better striker. At his best, he dominates by managing angles and staying completely away from danger. The danger, however, is going to come when Dillashaw is faced with grappling scenarios.
His takedown defense has always been elite, but Sterling is actually a submission-first grappler, choosing to threaten a submission in order to get his opponent to the ground.
Everyone and their mother is taking Dillashaw in this fight as an underdog, and perhaps I’ll be the one content creator that isn’t. But there is sharp money being tracked on Sterling, and I think that is wise. Dillashaw nearly lost against Sandhagen last time out.
A potential issue was that Dillashaw used his grappling to rest when he needed it against Sandhagen. He should not be doing that in this fight, and if he does, it could be a fight-ending error.
Sterling to win by submission is +500 (FanDuel). Any grappling exchanges initiated by Dillashaw are a mistake, and Sterling could insta-tap him with a leg attack.
Lastly, a bet on Dillashaw by decision is probably the best way to bet on him this weekend at +300. Similar to the main event, I feel like most possibilities are covered in this fight with two outcomes. These are razor-thin flights and ones to bet cautiously.
The pick: (.5u to win 2u) Sterling wins by submission +500 (FanDuel) | (.5u to win 1u) Dillashaw by decision +300 (BetMGM)
Sean O’Malley (+225) vs. Petr Yan (-286)
A very interesting bantamweight bout as the Sugar Show, Sean O’Malley, goes on the road to Abu Dhabi for a bout with Petr Yan.
Yan can probably coast to victory here on leg locks or takedowns, but before O’Malley injured his leg, he was about to knock out now-title contender Marlon “Chito” Vera. Yan is the smaller opponent, so O’Malley will be able to hit him at range.
Shockingly, I’ll bet the value side. Yan is an excellent fighter and is far more well-rounded, but O’Malley is way bigger and might have the best power in the division. This is only a bet on PointsBet, to win in under 2.5 rounds at +600. This line is insane and should be +350-+400 range at most.
The Pick: O’Malley wins in under 2.5 rounds +600 (PointsBet)
UFC 280 best bets and longshot props
- O’Malley wins in under 2.5 rounds +600 (PointsBet)
- Sean Brady wins by submission +750 (FanDuel)
- Mateusz Gamrot ML -188 (Bet365)
- Caio Borralho by submisson +425 (BetRivers)