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 and after starting with the early prelims, we move on to the rest of the prelims of the card.
Zubaira Tukhugov (20-5-1) vs Lucas Almeida (14-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs) A sneaky contender for exciting fight of the night here. Tukhugov is 2-1 in his last three, earning a KO win over Kevin Aguilar back in February 2020 before a split decision loss to Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 253. He bounced back with a decision win over Ricardo Ramos at UFC 267 in his last bout. Almeida on the other hand is also 2-1 in his last three, losing on the Contender Series before returning to the regional scene and submitting Italo Trindadfe at Jungle Fight 103, before winning his UFC debut by KO’ing Mike Trizano in the third round last time out. Tukhugov is a well-rounded fighter, with crisp counter-striking and razor sharp takedown abilities too. Almeida is a powerhouse who has finished all of his career wins, but he tends to be open for wars and leaves himself open to getting hit flush. Almeida has a real chance of outlasting Tukhugov after an initial early blitz and then taking over the fight with his power striking, but that blitz is really hard to overcome. Tukhugov has the ability to push the pace early and mix his takedowns in to open up his striking, but Almeida is a very durable fighter. It’s likely to be a really wild ride while it lasts, but I think Almeida could use his extra power to land clean and get the finish as Tukhugov starts to tire in the second half of the fight.
PICK – Lucas Almeida via Knockout, Round 2
Volkan Oezdemir (18-6) vs Nikita Krylov (28-9) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A big scrap between two light heavyweight fighters up next, with a very real possibility of someone going to sleep. Oezdemir snapped a two fight losing streak after being knocked out by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 and dropping a decision to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 267, when he claimed a decision over the tricky Paul Craig at UFC London in July. Krylov also dropped a decision to Ankalaev at UFC Vegas 20, and was submitted by Craig via triangle choke at UFC London in March, then bounced back at UFC London in July with a first-round KO over Alexander Gustafsson.
Oezdemir is a power puncher with great durability, but his overall game is lacking and he’s starting to get on in his career after an initially promising start saw him get to a title shot with Daniel Cormier. Krylov is incredibly well-rounded with 15 submission wins and some dynamite in his hands too, but he hasn’t really found a way to mix it all together and can often get caught.
Krylov will look to start fast and hard, knowing that Oezdemir can be caught and dropped. But if he goes too hard, Oezdemir is more than capable of putting his lights out too. Both guys will go for the kill, feeling they’re the better and powerful guy, but it’s hard to see Krylov not landing flush first and with his ability to get takedowns and submissions too, I back him to claim the finish with a choke after he drops him.
PICK – Nikita Krylov via Submission, Round 1
Makhmud Muradov (25-7) vs Caio Borralho (12-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Banger at middleweight up next. Muradov saw a 14 fight win streak, including a KO over Andrew Sanchez at UFC 257, snapped when Gerald Meerschaert tapped him out in August last year. Borralho on the other hand has claimed 11 wins in a row including previously mentioned decision wins over Omargadzhiev and Petrosyan in the UFC.
Muradov is a volume heavy striker with fantastic footwork and movement, while his power is not something to be overlooked with 17 wins by knockout in his career. His takedown defence is shoddy at best though, with Borralho a wizard on the ground who has great clinch work and solid combinations in close. Unless Muradov has improved his ability to get people off him when backing him towards the cage from his last bout, then he’s in trouble here.
Borralho is by far a better takedown artist than Meerschaert and he possesses far more of a threat on the feet too. As the fight goes on Borralho should be able to overwhelm him and once he gets it to the ground it’s a question of whether he goes for a choke or just pounds him out until the referee steps in.
PICK – Caio Borralho via Knockout, Round 3
Belal Muhammad (21-3) vs Sean Brady (15-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fight that could easily main event a fight night card any other week is the featured prelim of this one, such is the strength of the card. Muhammad has won seven of his last eight, defeating all of Lyman Good (UFC Vegas 3), Dhiego Lima (UFC 258), Demian Maia (UFC 263), Stephen Thompson and Vicente Luque by decision. The win streak was interrupted by a no-contest against Leon Edwards due to an accidental eye poke in round 2 (UFC Vegas 21). Brady is undefeated and 5-0 in the UFC, with a submission win over Christian Aguilera, submission over Jake Matthews (UFC 259) and Michael Chiesa most recently.
Muhammad is a good kickboxer, but his game has really excelled in recent years when he started wrestling more and using his top control to nullify opponents completely. He also has some of the best cardio in the division. Brady is a well-renowned grappler himself with excellent wrestling and submission skills, but his cardio has failed him later on in fights in the past against lesser opposition. This is a really tough fight to call.
I do feel as though Muhammad is being overlooked though. Brady is excellent but Muhammad has fought better guys and this is the biggest stage Brady has ever been on. Muhammad is also the more experienced fighter and is slightly bigger physically too. It should be a great slog, but I expect Muhammad to be able to mix things together that little bit more to get the judges to go in his favour and earn him a title eliminator in his next fight.
PICK – Belal Muhammad via Decision