LiamPicksFights' MMA Article: UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards 2

UFC 278: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards II

Kamaru Usman has established himself as one of the most dominant champions in modern mixed martial arts. Leon Edwards has been denied his opportunity to compete for a world title by circumstances beyond his control: a pandemic, fight cancellations, and restrictions on international travel. Now Salt Lake City will play host to a consequential welterweight title fight with pound for pound implications.

Victor Altamirano vs. Daniel da Silva

Fight Odds: -170 Altamirano vs. +140 da Silva
Weight Class: 125lb. (Flyweight)

Victor Altamirano narrowly won his bout on Dana White Contender Series over the talented Carlos Candelario via a contentious split decision before dropping a unanimous decision to Carlos Hernandez in his UFC debut. What we have learned about Victor is he is a bit hittable, willing to duck into the clinch to interrupt rhythm, and he can fight for a competitive fifteen minutes even if at times he seems formless. Da Silva on the other hand has never seen the scorecards; not in his first two UFC losses, and not in any of his regional fights. Silva appears to have a suspect gas tank and his durability is not exceptional for the division, but he also appears to be the more dangerous fighter in the early portion of the fight. With the elevation in Utah being higher than average, I have to favor the fighter with superior cardio in Victor Altamirano, but his susceptibility to being taken down and the submission losses on his record give me enough pause to pass on the bout or target unders or the fight not to go the distance given da Silva’s lack of extended minutes in a fourteen fight professional sample size.

Prediction: Victor Altamirano defeats Daniel da Silva via TKO3

Aoriqileng vs. Jay Perrin

Fight Odds: -140 Aoriqileng vs. +120 Perrin
Weight Class: 135lb. (Bantamweight)

Jay Perrin is another fighter seeking his first UFC win, and he has been given the difficult task of besting Aoriqileng. Aoriqileng dropped two high-paced decisions at flyweight against up-and-coming contenders before changing to the bantamweight division. In his debut at the weight class, he absolutely battered Cameron Else to a first-round stoppage, getting him back on track in the organization and giving him some much-needed momentum. Perrin will look to pressure forward, blitz in with combinations, and level change for TDs. If the fight is on the feet, the power and volume of Aoriqileng may overwhelm Perrin, but if he can keep the fight in the grappling realm, he may be one step ahead of Aoriqileng positionally.

Prediction: Aoriqileng defeats Jay Perrin via SDEC

Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo

Fight Odds: -495 Albazi vs. +370 Figueiredo
Weight Class: 125lb. (Flyweight)

Amir Albazi is a talented up-and-coming fighter who has been sidelined for nearly eighteen months since outpointing Zhlagas Zhumagulov last January. In his UFC debut, he submitted a common opponent of FIgueiredo’s in Malcolm Gordon in the first round. Figueiredo on the other hand was defeated by Malcolm Gordon via unanimous decision before rebounding with his second UFC win via unanimous decision. Figueiredo defeated the aforementioned Daniel da Silva in his last fight via first-round kneebar. Figueiredo is a big underdog in this fight because his cardio is questionable and he normally relies on big moments to win his fights, causing him to struggle against moderate competition in the UFC.

Prediction: Amir Albazi defeats Francisco Figueiredo via UDEC

AJ Fletcher vs. Ange Loosa

Fight Odds: -155 Fletcher vs. +130 Loosa
Weight Class: 170lb. (Welterweight)

Both these fighters dropped their most recent UFC bout via UDEC, so they will be looking to rebound in this high-profile opportunity. Fletcher burst onto the UFC’s radar with a massive jump knee knockout on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series. He tried to show off his grappling against Matthew Semelsberger but ended up gassing himself out and getting outwrestled down the stretch. Ange Loosa struggles to dominate fights at times, but he is a steady fighter who keeps a moderately high pace and is willing to compete for positions for the entire fifteen minutes. If Loosa is able to test the cardio of his opponent at altitude, he may become the first man to finish AJ Fletcher in mixed martial arts. However, it is more likely that he will grit his way to a decision if he is able to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Ange Loosa defeats AJ Fletcher via TKO3/DEC

Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldana

Fight Odds: -355 Woodson vs. +275 Saldana
Weight Class: 145lb. (Featherweight)

Sean Woodson is a long-range striker with a massive frame for the division. Saldana is used to being a fairly big featherweight in his own right, but he will be dwarfed by the 74” height (3” taller than Saldana) and 79” reach (6” longer than Saldana) of Woodson. Woodson is a crafty boxer who plays behind feints and hand traps; he is difficult to plant to the floor, but his grappling and wrestling are the most suspect and exploitable areas of his game. In the striking department, Woodson will be looking to box most often while Saldana will lead with his kicks and mix in hands only when he finds himself in the pocket or in range to exchange. Woodson is a bit more open defensively in those ranges than at long distance. Still, I expect Woodson’s shot selection, superior cardio, and anthropomorphic advantages will be enough to carry him to victory.

Prediction: Sean Woodson defeats Luis Saldana via TKO2

Jared Gordon vs. Leo Santos

Fight Odds: -280 Gordon vs. +225 Santos
Weight Class: 155lb. (Lightweight)

Jared Gordon is a very tough fighter, but it is not often you will see him in the -2xx range in a fist fight. This is because Jared Gordon has somewhat questionable durability with five losses, all of which have occurred inside the distance. That being said, his opponent Leo Santos is 42 years old and large for the lightweight division, so he has extremely limited cardio at this point in his career. In his last fight he landed a salvo of unanswered strikes and when the referee failed to stop the contest, he had limited energy to even cover up and protect himself. The safest way to bet this fight may be the fight not to go the distance, as Gordon has a relentless pace and solid cardio and Leo Santos has an extremely dangerous style early in fights when he is fresh.

Prediction: Jared Gordon defeats Leo Santos via SUB2

Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov

Fight Odds: +285 Tybura vs. -375 Romanov
Weight Class: 125lb. (Women’s Flyweight)

Marcin Tybura is a credible, long-standing heavyweight in the UFC rankings. Alexander Romanov is an emerging prospect with Moldovan wrestling credentials, plenty of confidence, and clear athleticism. Romanov has largely defeated a bum squad of low-level UFC heavyweights to this point, so there remain open questions about how his skills and cardiovascular endurance will hold up in the top 15 of the division. As he slims down and develops his skills at Tiger Muay Thai, he seems poised for future success. However, Tybura is a finished product and a big step up for the young man in Romanov. While I favor him to win based on the stylistic dynamic, I think Tybura represents a live underdog this weekend.

Prediction: Marcion Tybura defeats Alexander Romanov via TKO3

Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker

Fight Odds: -800 Pedro vs. +530 Hunsucker
Weight Class: 205lb. (Light Heavyweight)

ANALYSIS

Prediction: Sergey Spivak defeats Augusto Sakai via UDEC

Lucie Pudilova vs. Wu Yanan

Fight Odds: -120 Pudilova vs. +100 Yanan
Weight Class: 135lb. (Women’s Bantamweight)

This is one of the lowest level fights on the card and I am truly surprised to see it get featured billing on a UFC pay-per-view main card. The bottom line is that this matchup stinks. It features a UFC washout in Lucy Pudilova who is seeking redemption for her earlier career failings against the struggling Wu Yanan, loser of four of her last five fights. It would be hard to imagine the UFC keeping the loser of this fight on the roster given their combined UFC record of 3-9 across a 12 fight sample size. On the feet I favor Pudilova ever so slightly as the more voluminous striker with slightly more natural power. Picking this fight is a crap shoot, but seems destined to go longer with Yanan pursuing crappy takedowns and Pudilova looking to stick punches in her face from pocket boxing range. No betting interest whatsoever.

Prediction: Lucie Pudilova defeats Wu Yanan via SDEC

Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili

Fight Odds: +120 Aldo vs. -145 Merab
Weight Class: 135lb. Bantamweight

Jose Aldo is one of the greatest fighters of his generation, and certainly a more proven and bankable commodity than “the Machine” Merab Dvalishvili. However, timing is everything in the sport of mixed martials arts, and this matchup reminds us of that fact. There is no coach or educated observer that would tell you skill for skill Merab Dvalishvili is better than Jose Aldo. That being said, Merab will be just over four years younger, and he has not been through half the wars and hard-fought title fights that Aldo has. Dvalishvili is durable, he has heart in spades, and he has recently started to develop into a quality, multifunctional pressure fighter. Dvalishvili is okay at wrestling, okay at striking, and okay at grappling, but he is elite for this division at pushing a hellacious pace that many opponents past and future will struggle to maintain. As Aldo has gotten older, his counter boxing still looks crisp, his body looks on point, but his ability to take damage has decreased and I struggle to see him keeping pace with Merab the later this fight goes.

Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili defeats Jose Aldo via TKO3/DEC

Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold

Fight Odds: -365 Costa vs. +280 Rockhold
Weight Class: 185lb. Middleweight

Luke Rockhold was one of my favorite fighters as he ascended up the ranks at middleweight. His personality has always been a bit grating and off putting, but there is no denying that at his best Rockhold was one of the ten best middleweights in UFC history. Rockhold defeated the likes of Chris Weidman, Michael Bisping, David Branch, Lyoto Machida, Tim Kennedy, and Jacare Souza in his storied career. What has changed over time for Luke is that his ability to take a punch, to see a punch coming, and to read and react to strikes has gotten noticeably slower in some of his recent fights. Costa on the other hand proved in his last fight that despite the shenanigans before the fight, when the caged door closes, he is a focused and determined competitor. Costa went tooth and nail with Vettori and was able to eat massive counter shots at points in that fight. If Rockhold is wise, he will try to clinch as early as possible or force Costa into an extended kicking battle at range. Middle distance with Costa will be the danger zone for Luke; either way, I think it leads to a violent resolution of conflict in the co main event. It is hard to fade the youth and durability of Costa, so I won’t do so. Rockhold is a world class operator on the ground, so his upside in this matchup is predicated on finding one or more successful takedowns.

Prediction: Paulo Costa defeats Luke Rockhold by KO1

Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards

Fight Odds: -350 Usman vs. +275 Edwards
Weight Class: 170lb. (Welterweight)

Kamaru Usman has been a dominant champion in the welterweight division, securing stoppage wins over Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns, and Jorge Masvidal in three of his five most recent bouts. Leon Edwards was Kamaru’s first UFC win after his stint on the Ultimate Fighter, but with nearly seven years separating the two contests, it is fair to assume this will make for a much different fight. Primarily this is because Leon Edwards is the younger fighter, so he is theoretically closer to his prime, and he is the fighter who has improved more elements of his game more significantly since the first fight. Usman is a capable striker because he has fairly good shot selection, real power, and a willingness to throw and return fire in the pocket. However, he has relied on his durability historically as a panacea for his problems in the defensive phases of striking. I think Leon Edwards will have multiple opportunities to land cleanly on Kamaru with elbows on the clinch break, high kicks at distance, stomps to the knee, outside low kicks to the calf, and counter 1-2’s at boxing range. All told, I expect that Leon can use his physical attributes, depth of skill, and his first-hand knowledge of Kamaru to develop a winning game plan and a path for finishing the fight. Usman is extremely talented, so it will be no easy task for Leon, but Kamaru is juggling a Hollywood career with trying to maintain his second career in combat sports (lifelong wrestler). In addition to potential distractions that Usman has been dealing with in the lead up to this fight, he has dealt with serious injuries to his knees and his hand. I believe the patience of Leon Edwards to wait for his title shot will prove to be a virtue, as I expect him to dethrone Kamaru Usman in a barn burner of a fight by leveraging his educated counter offense to hurt the champion and finish.

Prediction: Leon Edwards defeats Kamaru Usman via TKO2

UFC 278: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards II

Kamaru Usman has established himself as one of the most dominant champions in modern mixed martial arts. Leon Edwards has been denied his opportunity to compete for a world title by circumstances beyond his control: a pandemic, fight cancellations, and restrictions on international travel. Now Salt Lake City will play host to a consequential welterweight title fight with pound for pound implications.

Victor Altamirano vs. Daniel da Silva

Fight Odds: -170 Altamirano vs. +140 da Silva
Weight Class: 125lb. (Flyweight)

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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. His raw predictions on UFC fights this year have been correct 60.2% of the time (183-121). 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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