MMA Event Breakdown - UFC 286: Edwards vs. Usman 3

UFC 286: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman

The octagon is touching down in the O2 Arena in London, England once again, this time bringing a welterweight title clash and a hometown champion to the rowdy audience sure to be assembled for the occasion. Leon Edwards shocked the world by dethroning Kamaru Usman last year, and now he has the opportunity to secure his place in history by defending his title on home soil against a dominant former champion from which he wrested the belt. With fifteen fights to break down, we have no time to delay! Let’s get into the action beginning at flyweight with a ladies offering.

Veronica Hardy (Macedo) vs. Julianna Miller

Fight Odds: +350 Hardy vs. -450 Miller
Weight Class: 125lb. (Women’s Flyweight)

Julianna Miller is a fresh fighter coming off of her Ultimate Fighter win with an insatiable hunger and limited professional experience. In order to give her something of a soft landing within the organization, they gave her the returning Veronica Hardy (formerly Macedo),a 1-4 UFC fighter who has been absent for multiple years of competition. I expect that Miller will take over as the fight goes on, utilizing her high paced style and poise as an active competitor to navigate her first UFC bout against a potentially overmatched opponent.

The only danger I see for Miller here is that her aggressive style could lead her into an armbar, the only known win condition for Hardy inside the UFC. I think Miller is smart enough to stay safe, stay patient, and grind the win if necessary.

Prediction: Julianna Miller defeats Veronica Hardy via SUB3 (RNC)

Jai Herbert vs. Ludovit Klein

Fight Odds: Herbert +165 vs. Klein -200
Weight Class: 155lb. (Lightweight)

Jai Herbert and Ludovit Klein have seen their fair share of explosive finishes for and against. Both fighters have a kill or be killed style which has lead them to this early prelim clash. Herbert has been the more polished product of the two, as he was leading the dance with Francisco Trinaldo and even Ilia Topuria prior to being flatlined. Klein dropped two of his first three UFC appearances in the featherweight division, so he decided to try his hand at lightweight where he has secured two meaningful victories over Mason Jones & Devonte Smith.

Klein is seeking his third straight UFC win, but this is far and away the biggest lightweight he has fought, so he will need to be mindful of his distance and his head positioning or he can find himself finished by the lanky Englishman.

Prediction: Jai Herbert defeats Ludovit Klein via SUB2

Joanne Wood vs. Luana Carolina

Fight Odds: -180 Wood vs. +150 Carolina
Weight Class: 125lb. (Women’s Flyweight)

File this under fights I don’t have a strong opinion about. Joanne Wood has done very little that was redemptive over her last few fights, but she has been losing to talented peers and stalwarts of the division like Alexa Grasso (newly crowned champion), Talia Santos, Lauren Murphy, and Jennifer Maia. Luana Carolina is a Contender Series product with serviceable striking bolstered by a long frame for the division. She is unremarkable standing and on the ground, but she has respectable distance striking metrics for the division.

I think the long legs of Carolina will be easy targets for Joanne Wood, and her edge in volume coupled with Carolina’s unwillingness to pursue takedowns could be a recipe for a win for the Scottish fighter if she can stay focused for the full fifteen minutes.

Prediction: Joanne Wood defeats Luana Carolina via DEC

Jake Hadley vs. Malcolm Gordon

Fight Odds: -400 Hadley vs. +300 Gordon
Weight Class: 125lb. (Flyweight)

Jake Hadley and Malcolm Gordon are both confident in their ability to mix it up at grappling ranges. Gordon was able to tie up Mokaev in the early going and push him more than most folks expected in his last UFC outing. Hadley bounced back from a tough UFC debut against Allan Nascimento and took out Carlos Candelario in the second round of his most recent bout. Hadley is a younger fighter, he is from the local market, and he has the durability and the grappling skill to make this a tough night at the office for Gordon.

I think eventually Hadley will be able to establish control or catch Gordon on the feet and put him away in the final two frames.

Prediction: Jake Hadley defeats Malcolm Gordon via KO2

Christian Leroy Duncan vs. Dusko Todorovic

Fight Odds: -215 Duncan vs. +175 Todorovic
Weight Class: 185lb. (Middleweight)

Christian Leroy Duncan is one of two Duncan’s making their UFC debut on this card, but they can be told apart by the nifty middle name (Leroy) and the Cage Warriors Championship distinction. Dusko Todorovic is a mess on the feet, leaving his chin up high in the air, retreating on straight lines, pulling back too far out of his stance, and reacting poorly when struck. Duncan will have a big advantage for as long as this fight stays standing, but Todorovic should be the more experienced and savvy operator on the mat.

Todorvic has fundamental flaws with his game, so despite being a UFC debutant, I have to favor Duncan to eventually test the chin.

Prediction: Christian Leroy Duncan defeats Dusko Todorovic via KO1/2

Lerone Murphy vs. Gabriel Santos

Fight Odds: -180 Murphy vs. +140 Santos
Weight Class: 145lb. (Featherweight)

Lerone Murphy has had a start-stop run in the UFC, but the talent is undeniable having rattled off three consecutive victories over UFC level opposition since arriving in late 2019. This will be Murphy’s fifth UFC appearance, and his first time squaring off against a debutant. Murphy’s tapology is a litany of pull outs and cancellations ranging from Coronavirus to visa issues. Santos, despite being a UFC debutant, has been the much more active party, competing for and winning the LFA Championship (scheduled 5×5 min rounds) in January. Murphy last competed in January of 2021, and he started extremely slow against Makwan Amirkhani before brutally finishing him with a knee strike. Murphy’s willingness to start slow and build his way into a fight already cost him a draw with Zubaira Tukhogov in his UFC debut, and I think Santos will have enough pace, poise, and tenacity to spring the narrow upset in his UFC debut.

The only thing I don’t like about Santos is at times he is too content to work off his back for SUBs, so he will need to be intentional about keeping this fight upright or staying on top if he wants to win.

Prediction: Gabriel Santos defeats Lerone Murphy via SDEC

Muhammad Mokaev vs. Jafel Filho

Fight Odds: -800 Mokaev vs. +550 Filho
Weight Class: 125lb. (Flyweight)

Muhammad Mokaev is a fast rising prospect in the flyweight division as indicated by his betting line, but his opponent Jafel Filho is no one to sneeze at. Filho secured an impressive third round submission over the highly touted Roybert Echeverria on Contender Series to earn his UFC contract. Mokaev looked dominant in a decision rout of Charles Johnson and a mugging club and sub over Cody Durden, but he looked much more human in his last fight, securing a third round submission of his own over black belt Malcolm Gordon. If Mokaev is simply a superior wrestler and grappler, this matchup with Filho will be a non-entity.

If however, Filho can offer enough resistance to force Mokaev into some striking exchanges, we could learn more about the talented prospect. I fear that the pace and fundamental wrestling approach of Mokaev will be enough to neutralize Filho in static cage positions until he is able to drag him down for the submission finish. Let’s see if either man has another third round submission to pull out!

Prediction: Muhammad Mokaev defeats Jafel Filho via SUB3/DEC

Sam Patterson vs. Yanal Ashmoz

Fight Odds: -275 Patterson vs. +225 Ashmoz
Weight Class: 155lb. (Lightweight)

Sam Patterson and Yanal Ashmoz are both making their UFC debut in this spot, with Patterson taking the traditional route through the Contender Series and Ashmoz getting the call after a PFL Challenger Series event. Both men prefer to hunt for the finish on the floor, with Patterson hunting crafty front head lock submissions and Ashmoz trying to take the back, snatch a neck, or apply ground and pound pressure from the top position. Patterson is the much longer, taller fighter in this matchup, so he would be wise to use his distance tools and keep his chin well tucked.

Ashmoz doesn’t appear to have crazy power on the feet, but he snaps off kicks at strange times and from strange positions (i.e. jumping in the air). Barring any unforeseen volatility, I think the length, the preparedness, and the opportunistic finishing threat from Patterson will be enough to get the debut win.

Prediction: Sam Patterson defeats Yanal Ashmoz via SUB1/2

Chris Duncan vs. Omar Morales

Fight Odds: -110 Duncan vs. -110 Morales
Weight Class: 155lb. (Lightweight)

Chris Duncan narrowly cheated unconsciousness on the Contender Series when Charlie Campbell was blasting him with clean shots to the chin. He managed to survive and return fire with a blow that put Campbell to sleep. Duncan is a wild instinctual brawler, which was put on display in his first DWCS appearance against Viacheslav Borschev who viciously finished him with a left hook in the second round of a fight where Duncan was getting bombed on throughout.

Omar Morales is far from a prize at 37 years of age and coming off two straight losses inside the distance. That being said, he is generally a composed striker with fast punching combinations, serviceable kicks, and functional power. If Duncan rushes in aggressively once again, he could absolutely get chinned. However, to Duncan’s credit, we know that he is tough as an old leather boot, and he has been training with a solid team at American Top Team to improve his skills, so I’m excited to see what he brings to the table in this well matched UFC debut.

Prediction: Omar Morales defeats Chris Duncan via KO1

Jack Shore vs. Makwan Amirkhani

Fight Odds: -500 Shore vs. +350 Amirkhani
Weight Class: 135lb. (Bantamweight)

Jack Shore was bounced from the ranks of the unbeaten in his last UFC outing against the heavy handed, slick wrestle-grappler that is Ricky Simon. Amirkhani has struggled roundly in the UFC. After he began his career with a rapid KO, people were high on Amirkhani and his potential future within the organization. What has become increasingly clear ever since is that Amirkhani lacks the cardiovascular foundation to fight hard for the full fifteen minutes. Shore is not a prolific finisher per se, but he does have fantastic cardio relative to Amirkhani, so he will become live to finish this fight if he can extend it.

Amirkhani does everything with too much energy commitment, meaning that he can lock in an instant submission and look like a million bucks, or he can spend himself trying to do so and end up looking foolish and exhausted. I expect Shore will show composure when under duress in this fight and eventually surprise Amirkhani with pace and his own set of grappling skills.

Prediction: Jack Shore defeats Makwan Amirkhani via SUB2

Marvin Vettori vs. Roman Dolidze

Fight Odds: -275 Vettori vs. +220 Dolidze
Weight Class: 185lb. (Middleweight)

Roman Dolidze has burst onto the scene in the middleweight division by providing harrowing highlights of brutal face breaking knockouts (Daukaus), limb compromising submission holds (Hawes), and destructive ground and pound assaults (Jack Hermansson). He has been given a much more difficult assignment this weekend, as he is tasked with defeating the “Italian Dream” Marvin Vettori. Vettori is a durable, highly experienced former title challenger who has crafted a solid all around game capable of winning minutes or keeping it close against many great fighters.

The problem I have with Vettori is that I haven’t seen a tremendous amount of development from him fight over fight. Vettori has always had poor finishing abilities and poor finishing instincts. Dolidze is nearly the inverse of Vettori. Dolidze has solid finishing instincts and he constantly looks for ways to close the show, but he often fights without great consideration for who is winning the round. I think Dolidze may struggle to put away a durable Vettori, but I think he can compete in terms of position and make this an interesting fight.

Prediction: Roman Dolidze defeats Marvin Vettori via SDEC

Jennifer Maia vs. Casey O’Neill

Fight Odds: +150 Maia vs. -175 O’Neill
Weight Class: 125lb. (Women’s Flyweight)

This is arguably the toughest fight on the card for me to call, and the betting odds reflect that no fighter should be massively favored in this spot. For O’Neill, this fight represents an opportunity to announce herrself as a contender. Maia is a former title challenger and a staple of the UFC women’s flyweight division, so earning that win could be huge for O’Neill, who is only twenty-five years old and in the midst of her physical and professional development. O’Neill is not as clean with her mechanics in the boxing or the grappling, but her tenacity, pace, aggression, and cardio have carried her through the moments of adversity she has faced so far in the octagon.

Despite being clearly her toughest test to date, I think that Casey O’Neill has a much higher ceiling than Maia because she is younger, more violent, and she creates dynamic finishing sequences. Maia has had 10 outings in the UFC, but she has only secured one victory via finish. O’Neill has tallied three times that number of finishes in half the fights, and I think she may score another.

Prediction: Casey O’Neill defeats Jennifer Maia via TKO2

Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena

Fight Odds: -400 Nelson vs. +300 Barberena
Weight Class: 170lb. (Welterweight)

Gunnar Nelson has been a bit inactive in recent years, but he remains a welcome attraction on any fight card. Nelson has a unique skill set for MMA, bringing long range kicks and powerful bludgeoning elbows to bear as part of a grapple-first ethos that has lead him to thirteen career submissions including seven at the UFC level. Bryan Barberena is a fun action fighter who has been fighting aging legends in recent bouts will now be at relative age parity with Nelson. Barberena is a pace fighter with good combination striking, strong desire to work back to his feet, and a fighter than will give everything he has for the full fifteen minutes.

The problem for Barberena in this fight may be his inability to lord a particular skill set over Nelson. Nelson won’t be able to match his volume, but he has a significant skill advantage on the ground and serviceable striking, vicious ground and pound, and more long range weapons like kicks. If this fight ends early, I expect an easy night at the office for Nelson, but the longer this fight drags on, the more live Barberena will become.

Prediction: Gunnar Nelson defeats Bryan Barberena via KO1

Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev

Fight Odds: +200 Gaethje vs. -235 Fiziev
Weight Class: 155lb. (Lightweight)

Rafael Fiziev is perhaps the nastiest sharp shooting striker in the lightweight division. Justin Gaethje is appropriately nick-named “The Highlight” but he will have to be very careful not to wind up on his opponent’s highlight reel after this bout. Gaethje has struggled recently in the UFC as he reached elite level opposition and has struggled to keep up. As Gaethje gets older, the names in the division get younger, and the lightweights appear primed for a reordering of the rankings. Names like Fiziev, Tsarukyan, Turner, and more have waited patiently and taken on difficult challenges to get an opportunity to stake their claim atop the division.

Gaethje has wrestling credentials that compliment his ability to do damage and his willingness to incur damage to win. That being said, his failure to use or refine his skills on the ground may have stunted his ability to age gracefully in this sport. I see the speed, dynamism, and relentless intensity of the Azerbaijani being too much for Gaethje to contend with.

Prediction: Rafael Fiziev defeats Justin Gaethje via KO2/3

Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman

Fight Odds: +205 Edwards vs. -245 Usman
Weight Class: 170lb. (Welterweight)

Leon Edwards will return home a champion to defend his title against the oncoming threat of former champion Kamaru Usman. Usman was unseated from his throne atop the welterweights by the high kick heard round the world, and he will have to walk through the same man who defeated him in order to get it back. Having already shared the octagon together twice, this third meeting represents the conclusion to a chapter in both of their careers. The previous bouts told us that while Usman is the better minute winning fighter of the two, it is Edwards who is more willing to take risk, live dangerously, and pursue the finish. In the last meeting between these two fighters, Edwards recorded the head kick knockout despite being outlanded overall and he attempted the only submission of the fight. I believe that the newfound confidence of the champion, his wisdom beyond his years, and his diverse array of skills standing and on the ground will be enough to put doubt in Usman’s mind and eventually force him to concede.

Prediction: Leon Edwards defeats Kamaru Usman via SUB3

Image Credit: Getty Images

UFC 286: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman

The octagon is touching down in the O2 Arena in London, England once again, this time bringing a welterweight title clash and a hometown champion to the rowdy audience sure to be assembled for the occasion. Leon Edwards shocked the world by dethroning Kamaru Usman last year, and now he has the opportunity to secure his place in history by defending his title on home soil against a dominant former champion from which he wrested the belt. With fifteen fights to break down, we have no time to delay! Let’s get into the action beginning at flyweight with a ladies offering.

Veronica Hardy (Macedo) vs. Julianna Miller

About the Author

  • Liam Heslin (LiamPicksFights)

  • Liam is a massive combat sports fan with over a decade of experience competing in wrestling and grappling martial arts. Each week, he produces original content about the world of mixed martial arts from a betting perspective alongside an ever-changing panel of guest handicappers. When he’s not handicapping fights or producing content, he’s training jiu-jitsu, coaching youth wrestling, or daydreaming about doing one of the former. Liam can be found on all major social media platforms @LiamPicksFights including Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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