UFC 280: Oliveira vs Makhachev – Early prelims predictions

The UFC returns with arguably the most stacked card of the year at UFC 280 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

The lightweight title will be on the line in the main event as Charles Oliveira puts his 11-fight win streak on the line against the man on a ten-fight win streak, Islam Makhachev.

In the co-main event we’ll see the bantamweight title on the line when Aljamain Sterling defends for the second time, taking on former two-time champion TJ Dillashaw in a five-round bout.

We’ll also see Petr Yan take on Sean O’Malley, Beneil Dariush fight Mateusz Gamrot, Belal Muhammad scrap with Sean Brady and many, many more top bouts.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 62 we went 8/11 with three perfect picks to move to 741/1154 (64.56%) with 313 perfect picks (42.01%). You can see our full pick history here.

We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.


Karol Rosa (15-4) vs Lina Lansberg (10-6) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A women’s bantamweight scrap between two ranked girls opens the card in Abu Dhabi. Rosa saw a six-fight win streak snapped last time out when she was beaten by Sara McMann back in March, while Lansberg has lost her last two to McMann and then Pannie Kianzad most recently back in April.

Rosa is a volume heavy striker, who uses her length and expert kickboxing abilities to outstrike her opponents while her takedown defence is more than decent. She’ll need it when she takes on Lansberg, who is a wrestle-heavy fighter with limited skills on the feet and not the greatest cardio in the world.

Lansberg will know that outwrestling Rosa is her best route to victory, but she’s nowhere near as good at wrestling as McMann was last time out and with little way of slowing the fight down she’s in trouble here. Rosa has the cardio and volume on the feet to land plenty over 15 minutes and so long as she avoids being held down on the mat for long periods of time, she should earn a pretty convincing decision win.
PICK – Karol Rosa via Decision

Muhammad Mokaev (8-0) vs Malcolm Gordon (14-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A very exciting flyweight bout up next between one of Britain’s hottest prospects in the flyweight division and the veteran Gordon. Mokaev is 8-0 professionally, dominating his opponents in his first two UFC bouts to submit Cody Durden in 58 seconds before a big decision win over Charles Johnson at UFC London. Gordon has also won his last two in the UFC, earning a decision over Francisco Figueiredo in July 2021 before Denys Bondar was forced to verbally submit last time out due to an arm injury.

Mokaev is a decent striker on the feet, but it’s his wrestling and ground game where he really excels and he’ll look to do that once again here. Gordon on the other hand has got some really powerful hands, but he’s also a slick grappler on the mat too as his six submission wins show. Mokaev will no doubt look to take this to the mat, and will have to watch for quick transitions or any loose limbs being taken.

But despite an 8-0 professional record, Mokaev has an extensive unbeaten amateur record too so is far more experienced than he seems. He will be focused on controlling from top position with his wrestling and staying safe, but will be keen for a finish after what was an underwhelming win last time out. Expect him to start fast and go for the finish before settling for a dominant decision win.
PICK – Muhammad Mokaev via Decision



Armen Petrosyan (7-2) vs AJ Dobson (6-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

Middleweight fighters step up next as two prospects go toe-to-toe. Petrosyan was on a three-fight win streak before clashing with Caio Borralho back in July and being pipped on the scorecards, while Dobson lost his UFC debut to Jacob Malkoun back at UFC 271 in his last outing.

“Superman” is a striker by nature, with a heavy kicking attack and good pressure which has helped him earn six knockouts from his seven career dates to date. Dobson on the other hand is a powerhouse with great striking and a good wrestling pedigree too, with five of his six wins coming via stoppage. Both guys are early on in their careers, but the level of progression from both has been interesting.

Dobson’s improvement from the Contender Series to his debut was huge, despite the result, and he has the skillset to cause Petrosyan a lot of problems. His pressure and size should see him able to back Petrosyan against the cage, where he can mix in his striking and wrestling well to earn a hard-fought decision win.
PICK – AJ Dobson via Decision

Abubakar Nurmagomedov (16-3-1) vs Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (13-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A welterweight clash between two Russian studs up next. Nurmagomedov has gone 1-1-1 in his last three, losing his UFC debut in 2019 by submission to David Zawada before returning in March 2021 to earn a unanimous decision win over Jared Gooden. Omargadzhiev on the other hand was unbeaten heading into his UFC debut back in April, before dropping a technical decision to Caio Borralho.

Nurmagomedov is a really well-rounded fighter, but his surname tells you where he excels most – wrestling. He also has some really sharp counter-striking on the feet making him a nightmare for fighters looking to take the fight to him, but his cardio has let him down in the past. Omargadzhiev is moving down in weight from last time, which should help considering he struggled physically last time out. But he has a problem with his output and Nurmagomedov is likely to punish him because of it.

I expect that Khabib’s cousin will use his jabs and counters to land damage, and mix in his excellent wrestling skills to put a hurting on Omargadzhiev and claim a big win.
PICK – Abubakar Nurmagomedov via Decision

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