UFC 286 is this Saturday, so it’s time for our official Overtime Heroics-UFC 286 Staff Picks. Our writers and editors have all picked their winners for the main card, and it’s round four of our yearlong competition to see who comes out on top!
UFC 286 Main Card
- Middleweight Bout: #4 Marvin Vettori (18-6-1) vs. #9 Roman Dolidze (12-1)
- Women’s Flyweight Bout: #8 Jennifer Maia (20-9-1) vs. #12 Casey O’Neill (9-0)
- Welterweight Bout: Gunnar Nelson (18-5-1) vs. Bryan Barberena (18-9)
- Lightweight Bout: #3 Justin Gaethje (23-4) vs. #6 Rafael Fiziev (12-1)
- Welterweight Title Bout: (C) Leon Edwards (20-3-1) vs. #1 Kamaru Usman (20-2)
UFC 286 is scheduled for March 18th, 2023 at the O2 Arena in London, United Kingdom.
UFC 286 Co-Main Event: Gaethje vs. Fiziev
Tom Kowalsky: “We have seen Gaethje ignore any stylistic advantage he has had in grappling before, and I wouldn’t venture to say he has one here. His strength has been his power and his chin. His power hasn’t came through for him lately, and his chin has been showing signs of deterioration. After the wars and the years, we may have seen the best Justin Gaethje already. Fiziev has crazy-man energy, a great chin, ability to put people away late in a fight, and very good cardio. His ability to check leg kicks surely will do him justice here, and I think we see Gaethje get finished for the first time.” Fiziev via. KO/TKO Round 3
Justin Gibbons: “To me, it is hard to pick against a man that is blessed to have grenades for hands. I love the heart and grit that Justin Gaethje possesses; even on the brink of defeat, he can change the fight with a perfectly timed bomb. If Justin Gaethje can keep composed and pick his shots, he could pick away at Rafael Fiziev and get a finish. Both men have a “kill or be killed” mentality and we could witness a potential fight of the year.” Gaethje via. KO/TKO Round 2
Cooper Burke: “Justin Gaethje ran into studs at the top of the lightweight division in Khabib Nurmagomedov, Michael Chandler, and Charles Oliveira, and looks to get back on the horse after his most recent loss. While Fiziev is no slouch, he has yet to reach that elite level that the other three are, and Gaethje’s growth should be immense from the last fight. Fiziev is much like Gaethje in that they are very aggressive, but as Gaethje has aged, he has also learned. Smooth striking and head movement is the key for this one, as Gaethje has to flow with what Fiziev gives him and explode at the right moment. Pushing the pace may get him in trouble, and so a back-foot shot would make the world explode. Then again, Gaethje has never sat back and waited, and we will likely see a firecracker of a fight.” Gaethje via. Decision
Austin Marr: “It hurts my heart to do this but I have to go with Fiziev, he’s just the smarter/more tactical fighter, with age and less wear and tear on his side. Gaethje has been through the fire, his recent opponents are at the top of the division but he’s gone 1-2 in his last three fights. I don’t know if Fiziev is at the level of Oliveira or the rest of the top five at lightweight but this is the beauty of UFC matchmaking, we find out Saturday night. Just seeing Fiziev dismantle Dos Anjos in his last outing and after losing the fourth round, Fiziev finished RDA in the fifth round which is no small feat. If this was a five-rounder (honestly a crime that it’s not) and Gaethje actually could utilize his wrestling, I’d probably lean toward Gaethje. I’m not confident in my pick but I am confident this will be a banger.” Fiziev via. Decision
UFC 286 Main Event: Edwards vs. Usman
Tom Kowalsky: “I think the time off for surgery will hurt Usman’s prep, I mean he had a cast on like three months ago. Add in the fact that he has to travel across the states and the pond, is aging and Edwards will have more confidence and not get gassed out by the altitude, there’s a lot on the Leon side of things. Plus, we simply have no idea how Usman’s chin will hold up after being cracked.” Edwards via. Decision
Justin Gibbons: “I went back and forth on this pick as I respect both men for what they have done in their careers. My main event pick is going to be Kamaru Usman. I looked at who I’ve been more loyal to pick in the past, and I have picked Usman more times to win than I have Edwards. I hope we see a Usman that will push the pace as he did against Tyron Woodley, as he needs to take that London crowd out of the fight and not let Leon get anything going.” Usman via. Decision
Cooper Burke: “Both of these men are peaking in their careers, and it appears to have come at the right time. The third fight in this trilogy is one of Rocky-esque proportions, and while there is no MMA movie as legendary as the Stallone classic, this fight should prove to fill the void. Whilst Usman had been dominant in his welterweight title run that ended abruptly, he still has to put on his A-game to regain the title. Expect to see a Usman who relies on heavy wrestling and pushing the pace, making the Octagon his. I don’t think there will be a decimation a la Gilbert Burns, but look for Usman to go back to his dominant roots. A home crowd and a game plan for Edwards should provide the edge. He knows what caught Usman last time, and he should be able to counter his smothering wrestling with competent grappling. I think Edwards might be able to eke this one out, but it will be very close. Look for countershots to change the game in this fight.” Edwards via. Decision
Austin Marr: “Let’s break this down simply, out of eight rounds that they’ve competed against each other, who’s been more successful? Usman has won unanimously five rounds compared to Edwards’ two, not only that but Usman was 56 seconds away from winning not only the fifth round of their last fight but the fight itself before the kick that shocked the world landed. I’m taking the better overall fighter, I don’t care about the elevation argument in favor of Edwards, Usman trains at elevation, and having no elevation handicap like their last fight in Utah assists both fighters this time around which makes it null and void in my eyes. This is make or break for Usman (35 going on 36 in May) to recapture the gold and continue his reign, with his age and recent surgeries, it’s now or never and I think there’s a strong argument to be made that Usman is the most motivated, disciplined and confident fighter on the UFC roster, my only drawback on picking Usman is how well does Usman’s chin holdup after taking such a devastating KO just seven months ago. I look for Usman to take a more tactical and wrestle-heavy approach and not hunt a finish putting himself in harm’s way like the last time out.” Usman via. Decision
UFC 286 Staff Picks
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