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UFC 280 Co-Main Event Breakdown: Sterling vs Dillashaw

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Although Halloween might still be another two weeks away, MMA fans don’t need to wait around for October 31 to get their Halloween treat. This Saturday, the sport’s top promotion, the UFC, will make another return trip to Abu Dhabi for UFC 280 and two title fights to close the show, beginning with the UFC 280 co-main event. The other co-main event will be Charles Oliveira vs Islam Makhachev.

When to Watch UFC 280

Due to the time difference between Abu Dhabi and the United States, fans need not worry about staying up half the night to watch the fights this week. Undercard action will begin Saturday at 10 am ET/ 7 pm PT on ESPNEWS and UFC Fight Pass. Main card action will follow at 2 pm ET/ 11 am PT over ESPN+ pay-per-view (preorder today.)

UFC 280 Marks Third Straight October PPV in Abu Dhabi

This is the third consecutive year that the UFC has held a pay-per-view event in Abu Dhabi. In 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion ended its second residency at the Flash Forum on Fight Island with UFC 254, a card now famous for the announcement that then-current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would retire from the sport after defeating Justin Gaethje to defend the title.

Last year, UFC 267 was held, this time with a crowd of just over 10,000 spectators in tow, at the Etihad Arena. This event, whose main card was shown without an extra fee to United States viewers, was marred by controversy when one official was fired from his job after he failed to stop a fight during that night’s prelims.

Now, the UFC returns to Abu Dhabi for another October pay-per-view, again at the Etihad Arena, but this time with two championships at stake.

Bantamweight Gold On the Line Saturday in UFC 280 Co-Main Event

Your championship doubleheader kicks off on Saturday with the battle for the UFC Bantamweight Championship. Incumbent titleholder Aljamain Sterling (21-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC), a veteran of Cage Fury, defends his strap against No. 1 contender TJ Dillashaw (17-4 MMA, 13-4 UFC). This fight is a rebooking of a postponed fight from Sept. 10 and will be a maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round.

https://twitter.com/ufc/status/1581740322677104640

UFC 280 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison and Odds

Heading into Saturday night’s UFC 280 co-main event, champion Aljamain Sterling stands as the taller contestant at 5-foot-7, compared to the 5-foot-6 frame of challenger TJ Dillashaw. The champ also owns a four-inch reach advantage (71 inches to 67 inches) and a half-inch leg reach advantage (39 inches even to 38 1/2 inches) over the challenger going into this fight.

The oddsmakers have Aljamain Sterling as a -170 favorite to retain his belt on Saturday night, with TJ Dillashaw installed as a +145 underdog to become the new champion after this weekend.

Champion Aljamain Sterling Looks to Ride Momentum of Seven-Fight Winning Streak

Aljamain Sterling comes into the UFC 280 co-main event having gone 5-0 in his last five UFC appearances as part of an ongoing seven-fight winning streak. Last time out, he became the undisputed champion by scoring a split decision on April 9 against Petr Yan (16-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in the co-main event of UFC 273. Yan is booked to fight Sean O’Malley on Saturday night.

After the fight, Sterling was interviewed by Joe Rogan.

“Oh, my God. Jacksonville!”, Sterling began, trying to drown out a booing crowd. “I know I came in here very highly-doubted. People wrote me off after my last performance, but I told you guys, that was a big hiccup. I had a tough (expletive bleeped) opponent in Petr Yan. He’s dangerous. He brings it every single time, and then he brought out the best in me. He beat the (expletive bleeped) out of me in that fourth and fifth round, but this is what the fight game’s all about.”

Sterling won the fight cleanly the last time out, this after refusing to accept the championship after his win by disqualification against Petr Yan in March of 2021. Can he defend the championship cleanly on Saturday? Tune in and find out.

TJ Dillashaw Ready to Reclaim Bantamweight Championship

In the other corner, TJ Dillashaw has posted a 4-1 record in his last five MMA fights. Most recently, he defeated Cory Sandhagen (15-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) in July of 2021 during UFC Vegas 32 at the UFC Apex. That fight served as pyrrhic victory for Dillashaw, who had just returned from a two-year ban from competition due to a failed drug test before his flyweight championship fight against the now-retired Henry Cejudo.

Afterwards, it had been revealed that he’d sustained a knee injury, sidelining him for a year-plus after surgery. Saturday’s UFC 280 co-main event marks the first time that Dillashaw has appeared in the famed UFC Octagon since that injury.

One of Dillashaw’s goals is to reclaim the UFC Bantamweight Championship. Can he get the belt back on Saturday?

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Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC 280 co-main event looks to be a toss-up. Both of these men are former collegiate wrestlers, but a slight edge can be given to TJ Dillashaw, a black belt in Bang Muay-Thai and purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Aljamain Sterling’s black belt in BJJ.

Thus, it stands to reason that we could be treated to a ground war on Saturday night.

Watch For Sterling’s Submissions

Throughout his MMA career, Aljamain Sterling has been known to score the win by submission, as was the case in 2015 when he defeated Johnny Eduardo at UFC Fight Night Las Vegas. Although the fight was slated to be a three-round affair, Sterling needed less than half of that time to end the contest.

During the second round of the fight, Sterling, who attempted to advance on a guillotine choke submission before the clock ran out at the end of round one, began by feinting some spinning kicks before landing a few leg kicks.

Eduardo was largely unable to counterstrike against Sterling that night, save for a few low kicks midway through the second round. With just under two minutes to go, Sterling shot for a single-leg takedown with ease, almost immediately taking back mount and landing elbows to soften Eduardo up.

Sterling later applied the needed torque to lock in a rear-naked choke and submit Eduardo inside the round’s final minute. If Aljamain Sterling can take TJ Dillashaw down even once, it could be the opening he needs to score the submission.

TJ Dillashaw Can Punch His Way to a Win

In the other corner, expect TJ Dillashaw to try and land punches en route to a victory on Saturday, as he did against Cody Garbrandt during UFC 227 in 2018, During the first round of a scheduled five, Garbrandt scored with a leg kick before Dillashaw returned fire with a spinning kick of his own.

Dillashaw stalked Garbrandt before both men wobbled one another on an exchange of punches, and although Garbrandt’s attack that night was predicated on the kicking game, Dillashaw was able to effectively counterstrike, landing a right-handed punch to send him down.

From there, Garbrandt was able to hold onto Dillashaw’s hands while the latter landed hammerfists on the ground. A barrage of right-handed punches from Dillashaw followed, peppered with a knee strike to stun Garbrandt even further, with the fight being called off after Dillashaw landed punches to Garbrandt against the cage fence.

Look for TJ Dillashaw to try and land punches against Sterling if he finds himself in trouble. If he can counterpunch and take Sterling’s ground game out of the equation, he’ll be in decent shape to win on Saturday.

Final Thoughts

Although the main event on Saturday looks entertaining, the UFC 280 co-main event seems as though it’ll be a satisfying opening act to the championship doubleheader. Don’t miss this one.

Prediction: Aljamain Sterling by Unanimous Decision.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.