The UFC returns to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for UFC 282 as they will crown a brand new undisputed light heavyweight champion when Jan Blachowicz takes on Magomed Ankalaev in the main event.
Originally a three-round co-main, former champion Jiri Prochazka was forced to withdraw from his rematch with Glover Teixeira and vacate his title after suffering a shoulder injury in training, which saw this fight bumped up to a title fight.
We’ll also see the UK’s own compete as Paddy Pimblett and Darren Till compete on the main card, while there is some deep prelim fights on the card too.
Last time out at UFC Orlando we had a shocking night, going 5/14 with just one perfect pick to move to 789/1227 (64.3%) with 325 perfect picks (41.19%). 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 here.
Chris Curtis (29-9) vs Joaquin Buckley (15-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A super fun fight in the middleweight division between two guys with real knockout power and a fan friendly style. Curtis saw his eight-fight win streak snapped in a relatively boring fight against Jack Hermansson at UFC London last time out. Buckley was on a three-fight win streak ahead of his last fight against Nassourdine Imavov, but lost a decision at UFC Paris.
Curtis’ nickname is Action Man and it suits his fight style. He likes to walk forward and use his excellent boxing skills to land strikes inside a close distance, while also using good wrestling to keep fights standing. Buckley is a powerhouse who has got great cardio, and explosive power that makes him capable of putting anyone’s lights out if necessary.
These two fighters are really well matched up. Curtis will likely go to the body more and use a variety of attacks, but Buckley is the man with more power and the more eye-catching moments without a doubt. Both should be able to hold up for the full 15 minutes, so I do expect it to go the distance. With that said, Buckley is the more active guy and I think he’ll edge it on the cards.
PICK – Joaquin Buckley via Decision
Edmen Shahbazyan (11-3) vs Dalcha Lungiambula (11-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
More middleweight action up next. Shahbazyan was the next big thing before he ran into Derek Brunson to suffer his first professional loss (UFC Vegas 5), and has since lost two more against Hermansson and Imavov (UFC 268) to make it three in a row. Lungiambula has lost four of his last five, including his last three in a row too, dropping a decision to Marc-Andre Barriault, getting submitted by Cody Brundage and knocked out by Punahele Soriano most recently.
Shahbazyan is a world-class kickboxer with great movement, excellent footwork and solid power, but his chin has absolutely been tested recently and his takedown defence is a massive glaring hole in his game. Lungiambula is a decent wrestler with great power striking, but some weird techniques that leave him open to counter striking from his opponent.
There are still plenty of tools and lots of time in the favour of Shahbazyan and this is the perfect fight for him to get back on track. He’s excellent on the feet and will have a big edge there, and while Lungiambula could take him down his top game isn’t the best and “Golden Boy” should feel as though he can get back up. Shahbazyan could put on a striking clinic, and I think a big head kick lands in the first half of the fight for a win.
PICK – Edmen Shahbazyan via Knockout, Round 1
Raul Rosas Jr (6-0) vs Jay Perrin (10-6) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The youngest fighter on the UFC roster makes his debut in this one. Rosas Jr earned a contract on the Contender Series as a 17-year-old back in September to move to 6-0, while Perrin has lost his last two against Mario Bautista and most recently Aoriqileng (UFC 278).
Rosas Jr is a spectacular grappler with som excellent wrestling and really good top control, able to pass guard and transition to new positions quickly and accurately to go with his ground and pound skills. Perrin is a well-rounded fighter with good boxing and power, plus a solid bit of wrestling in his back pocket to go with it. He’s also far more experienced than Rosas, which could have a huge say.
With that said though, Rosas looked at home on the Contender Series and had some serious skills. If he can stay composed, he has the size and length to cause problems. Perrin will surely look to overwhelm him early on, but Rosas looks special and I think this is the beginning of his journey.
PICK – Raul Rosas Jr via Submission, Round 3
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-4) vs Chris Daukaus (12-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Ranked heavyweights go at it in the featured prelim bout of this card. Rozenstruik has lost his last two in a row, dropping a decision against Curtis Blaydes at UFC 266 before getting knocked out by Alexander Volkov most recently back in June. Daukaus on the other hand saw his great start to the company shattered by the first of Derrick Lewis at UFC Vegas 45, before Curtis Blaydes KO’d him in March too.
Rozenstruik is a power puncher, straight like that, but he has also got good kicks and a decent kickboxing game too. Daukaus is a jiu-jitsu wizard on the mat, but he’s also got good boxing and terrific hand speed for a man of his size. It’s quite clear how this fight plays out in my mind. Daukaus will hang around on the outside looking to pop his jab and use combinations, then quickly close the distance to look to use his big advantage on the ground.
“Bigi Boy” is going to have to find a way to avoid that, and his best bet for that is to walk forward and set the pace of the fight. He has the type of power that ends the fight in an instant, just ask Alistair Overeem, but he was getting handily beaten in that fight. Daukaus is capable of putting together a performance like Volkov did last time out and just using sheer volume to overwhelm him before getting a finish on the mat.
PICK – Chris Daukaus via Submission, Round 2