UFC 282 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Magomed Ankalaev
With Jiri Prochazka out of the main event and vacating the light-heavyweight title due to a shoulder injury, the originally scheduled co-main event between Blachowicz and Ankalaev now takes the headline spot as they contend for the vacant belt.
For Blachowicz it’s a chance to reclaim the title he lost to Glover Teixeira last year as he approaches his 40th birthday, and he’s coming off a TKO victory against Aleksander Rakic. Meanwhile, Ankalaev is almost a decade younger and has more than earned the right to fight for the belt after picking up nine wins in a row.
This looks like it could have the makings of a closely contested battle on the feet, though not necessarily filled with fireworks as both men are fairly patient, measured strikers. Blachowicz is selective with his shots, working behind an effective jab and he has good power in his hands, while he also has solid body and leg kicks and is mindful of his defense.
It’s a similar story with Ankalaev, who operates very well on the outside, though he will have a 3″ disadvantage in reach here. Nonetheless, he’s measured and calculating with his output and pace, piecing together good punches and kicks from range, while also being solid on the counter and now taking much damage in return.
Where Ankalaev may have a more distinct advantage though is with his wrestling ability as he’s the more accomplished of the two in that regard, but while Blachowicz can be held down at times he does have respectable takedown defense and also can be a threat from submissions at times.
I’ll take the younger man to win here, with his assured striking from range and wrestling advantage being enough to help him eek out a close decision victory and claim the 205lb crown.
Pick: Magomed Ankalaev wins by decision.
Paddy Pimblett vs. Jared Gordon
Pimblett is becoming the biggest star out of the UK in years and after the collapse of the original main event he’s now taking his three-fight winning streak into a co-main event spot against Jared Gordon, who has won four of his last five fights in the UFC.
The 27-year-old Pimblett’s start in the UFC has certainly reaped impressive rewards with a TKO victory and two submission finishes to his name, scooping up three ‘Performance Of The Night’ bonuses too. However, along with the excitement there’s also been significant moments of concern as his striking defense has proven to be a major weak point and as such he’s been rocked a couple of times, while his tendency to balloon up in weight to over 200lbs inbetween camps has also led to question marks about how high his ceiling in the UFC will prove to be.
Pimblett’s grappling is certainly a strong point though, being very dangerous with his crafty scrambling and instinctive knack for finding submission finishes. Defensive issues aside, he also has some pop in his punches on the feet and will happily trade blows, enjoying a 5″ reach advantage here.
In the 34-year-old Gordon he’s fighting a well conditioned and fairly well-rounded fighter, but it’s not yet a significant step up in competition for Pimblett as though his recent record has generally been good, Gordon was submitted earlier this year and troublingly was also KO’d twice and TKO’d once back in 2018-2019.
While this isn’t an easy fight for Pimblett, as long as he doesn’t take it lightly I think it’s quite a favorable one for him as Gordon doesn’t hit particularly hard and so he should be able to do fine there, though his best chance of a finish will be to get the fight to the mat and I think that will lead him to a submission finish in the second round.
Pick: Paddy Pimblett wins by submission in Rd2.
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Alex Morono
Ponzinibbio was originally supposed to fight Robbie Lawler, but when he withdrew at the start of fight week it was Morono who stepped in on short notice with four wins in a row to his name.
The fight will be contested at 180lbs, which suggests Morono wasn’t fully in welterweight fight shape, so his cardio could be tested in what’s likely to be a fast-paced striking battle here.
Morono’s recent winning run is good and did start with a TKO win over an admittedly well past his best Donald Cerrone, but though Ponzinibbio is coming of two split-decision losses he’s consistently been fighting a higher level of opposition during his time in the UFC.
Still, Morono is a rugged and durable fighter whose high output and aggression have proven challenging to deal with, while though he doesn’t particularly use it much he is a BJJ black belt too.
Ponzinibbio is the slicker, more technical striker though and I think he’ll be able to make effective use of strikes from distance and can match his opponent’s early output, and with the benefit of having had a full camp he’s the one that’s more likely to be able to maintain that for the full 15 minutes to win by decision.
Pick: Santiago Ponzinibbio wins by decision.
Darren Till vs. Dricus Du Plessis
It’s not been a good few years for Till since failing in his 170lb title bid back in 2018, having lost four of his last five fights, and now after over a year out he goes up against the in-form du Plessis, who has a trio of wins in the UFC so far, including two by knockout.
Given how confident Till was early in his UFC career he really seems to have lost his way now and as well as physically having struggled with injuries, he’s also struggled with his mental demons too, as this year he admitted to battling with depression, while he was also penalized in Sweden for drink-driving just a few months ago and recently declared that he doesn’t want to do five-round fights any more.
When he’s on form Till is a talented striker who throws clean punches and kicks with real authority. However, he lacks the swagger of his earlier years at welterweight and seems more wary at middleweight, while not offering up a whole lot in the way of volume.
As for the 28-year-old du Plessis, he’s a man that’s high on confidence right now and is an all-action striker who will push a fast pace with his high-volume striking, while wielding proven KO power. In his 19-fight career du Plessis has only gone to the scorecards once, in his last UFC fight, and earlier in his career he also had a considerable number of wins via submission.
There’s always a chance that Till catches an overly-aggressive du Plessis on the feet, but it’s hard to have any confidence in the UK star at this stage when he seems both physically and mentally jaded, and I see him struggling to deal with the South African’s intensity and fast pace, leading to a TKO stoppage by the second round.
Pick: Driscus du Plessis wins by TKO in Rd2.
Bryce Mitchell vs. Ilia Topuria
Two undefeated featherweight fighters on show in the main card opener, with Mitchell’s six UFC wins taking his record to a flawless 15-0, while Topuria is 12-0 overall after three of his four UFC wins so far ended by KO.
Both men are very skilled in their own right. In the 28-year-old Mitchell’s case it’s his relentless wrestling and grappling that’s been the key to his success, and though he’s not been finding submissions as often as he did on the regional circuit so far, he did secure a rare twister finish in one of his earliest UFC fights.
Mitchell has also shown improvement in his striking ability too and even managed to knock down Edson Barboza last time out, which is no easy task, and that means he won’t be afraid to stand and strike with Topuria here.
That being said, he’ll have to proceed with caution as the 25-year-old Topuria has particularly deadly finishing power in his hands by featherweight standards and is generally a talented boxer who picks his shows well. It’s also worth noting that while his KO finishes have been getting the most attention, earlier in his career he was also finishing fights via submission and has only ever been to the judges scorecards once in his career to date.
This really is a great fight and with it being such a close on to call it’ll be fascinating to see who emerges with their unbeaten record intact. I’m hesitant to pick against Topuria as he seems so dangerous, but in the end I’ll take Mitchell as I think he can get the better of the grappling exchanges and combining that with his pace and pressure on the feet will help him to a narrow decision win.
Pick: Bryce Mitchell wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Jay Perrin
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Chris Daukaus
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Dalcha Lungiambula
Billy Quarantillo vs. Alexander Hernandez
Chris Curtis vs. Joaquin Buckley
T.J. Brown vs. Erik Silva
Vinicius Salvador vs. Daniel Da Silva