In an interesting twist, there will be not one, but two mainline UFC events this month with UFC 286 slated to kick off “Across the Pond” on March 18th. The second big UFC event of the month features Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman in a trilogy fight for the company’s welterweight championship. In their last go-around, Edwards stunned the fighting world with a devastating knockout kick of the champion Usman in the waning moments of the fight. In the penultimate matchup of the evening, two spectacular fighters from the lightweight division are set to lock horns with Justin Gaethje set to do battle against Rafael Fiziev. The former is the former interim UFC Lightweight Champion and is aiming for a return to the divisional throne which should be an interesting matchup on your UFC 286 betting card.
For this article, SBS will be going over what to look for from each of these fighters along with more thoughts and information about UFC 286 betting.
|UFC 286 Main Event Bouts||The Pick|
|Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman||Usman||-235||-235||-235|
|Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev||Fiziev||-220||-220||-220|
Fighter Spotlight: Leon Edwards
Recognized as a top-five fighter in the UFC men’s pound-for-pound rankings, Edwards is the current UFC Welterweight champion. In his last bout against Usman in August of last year, the 31-year-old was able to stun the imposing champion with a crushing head kick in the final minute of round five in their championship match. While Edwards had trailed the majority of the fight on the judge’s scorecards, he still was able to score an amazing upset thanks to his guile and competitive spirit. With a 20-3 record (including one loss by disqualification) along with one no-contest decision, the English fighter is one of the most consistent athletes in the sport. Moreover, since losing to Usman in December 2015, he has not dropped a fight since then.
Fighter Spotlight: Kamaru Usman
One of the most devastating fighters in the sport, Usman had compiled an almost near-perfect record prior to his fight against Edwards at 20-1. With his lone loss coming near the start of his career, the champion controlled the majority of their title bout at UFC 278 and looked like he would almost certainly retain his title. Then, the unexpected happened and Edwards delivered the devastating headshot that stunned the MMA world. While he did lose his championship belt back in Salt Lake City, Usman is one of the UFC’s top five fighters on a pound-for-pound basis. Recognized as the 2021 Fighter of the Year by multiple outlets, this should be an excellent comeback fight in London.
Prediction: While this battle will go down on Edwards’ home turf of England, this will be Usman’s night as the former champion will regain his title at the O2.
Fighter Spotlight: Justin Gaethje
A former NCAA Division I All-American out of Northern Colorado University, Gaethje is the former interim UFC Lightweight Champion. With a total record of 23-4, the 34-year-old has had a terrific career at the lightweight level with multiple Performance of the Night/Fight of the Night honors to his credit. While he is coming off a submission loss to Charles Oliveira at UFC 274, he is still recognized as a top-three fighter in his division. Moreover, he is only one year removed from his Fight of the Year victory over Michael Chandler at UFC 268.
Fighter Spotlight: Rafael Fiziev
The No. 6 ranked fighter in the UFC lightweight rankings, the 30-year-old Fiziev was recognized by Combat Press as the 2021 Breakout Fighter of the Year. With a total record of 12-1, including his current six-fight winning streak, Fiziev is one of the rising stars in the division. What has been even more impressive during his latest streak is that the last five of his fights have all received accolades.
Prediction: A close matchup between two strong stars, Fiziev has the slight edge and should triumph over Gaethje.
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