Updated: Oct 20
UFC 280 is finally here! The best card of 2022 in my opinion is has finally come to our living rooms - albeit in the morning - but I'm here for it. We're blessed with a prelim card that could be a main card on any fight night, and a main card that is just littered with quality. I'm stoked to get into it and depending on when you're reading this, my podcast may be out breaking these down in even more detail. Be sure to follow me on twitter @RickHHSports so that you don't miss it. With that said, I'm looking to secure my 4th straight positive card and continue raking in money on the UFC. Let's get rolling!
Karol Rosa (-300) vs Lina Länsberg (+235)
Our first fight at a ripe 10:00 AM EST contains the 2nd largest age gap on the card, 13 years. Lina Lansberg is now 40 years old and faces the up-and-coming Karol Rosa, who is desperate to right the ship after a disappointing loss to Sara McMann in her last outing. Age isn't the only thing that seperates these women, their striking and paths to victory are clear as well.
Beginning with Lansberg, she likes to live in the clinch in her fights. There's a reason her nickname is "Elbow Queen" and it's not because she throws jabs at range. She began her career fighting in Muay Thai competitions where she fought both Shevchenko sisters before entering the UFC. She's excellent when she gets to the clinch and threatens takedowns to keep opponents honest, but largely is looking to keep opponents against the cage to land knees and elbows. At range she's serviceable, but not great. Lansberg typically doesn't stay there long before pressuring opponents and forcing the fight into her world.
To Rosa, she was on a tidy 4-fight win streak to begin her UFC career before facing former Olympic wrestler Sara McMann in her last contest, being controlled on the mat for over 10 of the 15 minutes in the fight. Her takedown defense had been a question mark coming into the UFC, but in her first 4 fights she was able to stuff them well. Where she's at her best is on the feet at range. She's an 8-limb striker (hands, elbows, knees, and feet) that mixes it up decently well and throws with power. However, she doesn't disguise her striking well and her shots are a bit slow, though her power tends to make up for it.
If Rosa can thwart any takedown attempts from Lansberg in the clinch and not live on the cage wall she should see a clear path to victory. Her camp surely will have been working on that over the past 7 months, so we should see an improved Rosa. At 40-years-old, Lansberg hasn't fallen off a cliff yet but this isn't a fight she'll get her hand raised in. Give me Rosa.
Pick: Rosa by Decision -132 (1u)
Muhammad Mokaev (-1000) vs Malcolm Gordon (+600)
I'd argue the odds should be higher in this fight. Muhammad Mokaev enters the octagon with an undefeated 7-0 record, 2 of which coming in the UFC. Malcom Gordon may be 14-5 but is just 2-2 in the UFC, with his most recent victory coming by way of injury. In Gordon's debut he was taken down by Amir Albazi just 2 minutes in and was out-grappled from position to position until Albazi sinched in a triangle choke. Spoiler: it won't take Mokaev 2 minutes to get Gordon to the ground. He's a relentless wrestler and submission threat - if you need proof watch his fight against Charles Johnson. Johnson did a good job defending, but Mokaev had control of that fight from the beginning to the end, putting pressure on Johnson and threatening for the entirity of the fight.
Mokaev will take Gordon down within the first minute of the fight, and we likely won't see a second round. This should be a simple, straight forward victory for Mokaev and he shouldn't have to face Gordon's solid kickboxing game outside of the beginning of each round.
Pick: u1.5 -105 (1u)
AJ Dobson (+180) vs Armen Petrosyan (-235)
Muhammed Mokaev might end his fight early through wrestling and work on the ground, but this fight is destined to be the exact opposite. Both AJ Dobson and Armen Petrosyan are phenomenal strikers that will surely showcase that ability on the feet for all 3 rounds. Petrosyan has subpar takedown defense and though AJ Dobson could exploit that, he's most comfortable on the feet so I'm willing to bet it'll largely take place there.
Armen Petrosyan is 1-1 so far in the UFC, beating Gregory Rodrigues by split decision before losing handedly to Ciao Borralho after being taken down early and often, giving up the back and losing rounds easily. He struggles in the clinch and while he was able to survive on the ground parrying submission attempts, he still looks like a fish out of water there. Where he's great and where the fight should last is on the feet. He's an adept striker with snappy leg kicks and great hooks. AJ Dobson will likely be on the front foot in this fight, so his counter hooks while moving back could be open to land early and often.
Petrosyan may be 1-1 in the UFC, but Dobson is winless at 0-1. He lost his debut to Jacob Malkoun who just beat Nick Maximov handedly as an underdog in our biggest play of last week's card. While Dobson won the first round by stuffing a number of takedowns and damaging Malkoun on the feet often, he couldn't stop the takedowns and grappling of Malkoun in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Much like Petrosyan, he has a long frame and throws a great 1-2. I like how he's able to mix in calf and body kicks to his combinations and well as slick elbows. You'll notice he's consistently moving his hands throughout the fight so that opponents don't know when, or where, he's throwing from.
This fight should be a striker's paradise, I would be shocked to see Dobson go for takedowns unless their corner thinks they have that large of an advantage. I think this will be and stay on the feet and I'll go with the more well-rounded fighter to get it done on Saturday morning. His odds are going down with every day, so I'd jump in early.
Pick: Dobson +180 (1.25u)
Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (+148) vs Abubakar Nurmagomedov (-190)
Two Russians face off in Abu Dhabi in the middle of the prelim card, and we should have an intriguing stylistic matchup. Both Omargadzhiev (13-1) and Nurmagomedov (16-3-1) boast great wrestling and top control, but weirdly enough neither have shown it in their UFC careers. Omargadzhiev was dominated by Ciao Borralho in the grappling department as Borralho rode him for 2 rounds making the third a formality. Nurmagomedov showed off improved striking in his outing against Jared Gooden en route to a dominating decision victory.
Neither of these fighter's striking abilities are great, but Nurmagomedov has shown improvements and has fantastic defense on the feet. He throws a jab fairly well and can land hooks. I haven't seen enough from Omargadzhiev's striking to give me confidence, and I expect their wrestling to cancel out. I'm not confident in either fighter to get it done, and I would lean to the fight going the distance but that's juiced to -170. Unless Omargadzhiev gets up towards a +170 underdog or Nurmagomedov comes down to a -160, I wouldn't touch this fight.
Pick: Pass for now
Yamato Nishikawa (+400) vs Magomed Mustafaev (-575)
Fight canceled 10/18 due to a contractual issue on Nishikawa's side.
This card might well be known as the Dagestani card with the amount of Russian fighters from the area, but Madomed Mustafaev isn’t like a Khabib Nurmagomdeov style Dagestani fighter. He doesn’t get it done with the wrestling and pressure, he does with his striking. What is concerning about Mustafaev is that he’s only fought professionally twice over the past six years. In that same span, Nishikawa has fought 30 times.
Nishikawa is only 19 years old, and yes, everything adds up correctly. He started fighting professionally at the age of 13. With 18 of his 21 fights coming by finish, he’ll look to continue his glowing form from the Japanese circuits he performed in. He’s fought in multiple divisions and has 6 draws on his record due to a competition that has 2 5-minute rounds that end in draws if there isn’t a finish.
Between Nishikawa’s background and Mustafaev’s lack of competition, this fight is already odd. Add in that Magomed Mustafaev knocked out Rafael Fiziev by spinning back kick knockout in St. Petersburg, Russia. In his 14 wins, Mustafaev has yet to have a win go to the cards. Notching 10 knockouts and 4 submissions, he should dominate this fight from beginning to end as Nishikawa is out of his depth. Given the odds, you can’t take him straight up, but what I will do is take the fight to end in the first 7:30 and parlay Mustafaev.
Pick u1.5 Even (1u) & Mustafaev by KO -136 (1u)
Zubaira Tukhugov (-163) vs Lucas Almeida (+133)
Lucas Almeida lost his undefeated record in his Dana White Contender Series fight, but Dana liked him so much he told him to get one win on the regional scene and he’d secure a spot in the UFC. Almeida proceeded to choke his opponent out two minutes into that regional fight, then knock out Michael Trizano in the third round of his UFC debut. To reward him for his success, the UFC has gifted him the Russian Zubaira Tukhogov.
Tukhugov is now 5-2-1 in the UFC, but has just fought twice over the past two years. He’s close to Khabib Nurmagomedov and trains with Petr Yan, two people I’d want to be around if I were in the fight game. He doesn’t (and will never) have the wrestling game of Khabib but it is still very high level. If he wants to take opponents down, he typically does and given Almeida’s poor takedown defense it’s likely he’ll go there. On the feet Tukhugov is an elite counter-striker. I’m talking about one of the best I’ve seen. He utilizes head movement very well and has solid cardio to move for all 15 minutes. He has a stiff left jab he throws often to compliment his counter hook. The only knock I’d give him is that often you’re only seeing 1 or 2 shots at a time, nothing in long, extended combinations.
To Almeida, he’s 14-1 and every single one of those victories have come by finish. He’s a wild striker that loves to push the pace on opponents and has flashy, solid kicks to add variety. Aside from Trizano, he hasn’t fought anyone too high level, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the wrestling and counter striking of Tukhugov. I think Almeida’s game will play right into the Russian’s hands and we’ll see the hype train fully dismantled by the end of this one. Take Tukhugov and pay the juice.
Pick: Tukhugov -163 (1u)
Volkan Oezdemir (+143) vs Nikita Krylov (-173)
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Two absolute bangers to watch square off on the bottom half of a pay-per-view card, something I didn’t expect to say in 2022. Though their combined record is 46-15, in the UFC they’re just 15-12. Both Oezdemir and Krylov fight in entertaining ways, but as we know entertainment doesn't always equal success. Sometimes the best way to victory is the path of least resistance. Neither of these guys like to take said path.
Starting with Volkan Oezdemir, he’s fought only the upper echelon of the division since he joined. In his 4th fight he lost to Daniel Cormier. After having some fights with Shogun Rua canceled, he lost back to back fights to Anthony Smith and Dominick Reyes before beating Ilir Latifi and Aleksandr Rakic to get back on track. Since then he’s lost handedly to Jiri Prochazka and Magomed Ankalaev before beating Paul Craig with ease in his last fight. I know I just threw a lot of names at you, and in case you aren’t aware of a number of them - they’re all top tier fighters except Ilir Latifi.
Oezdemir is a pure striker with power behind his fists. It’s how he got his name coming up and it’s still his best route to success. Multiple finishes in the first 30 seconds illuminates that, but he’s shown he has the cardio and ability to go late into fights. What’s impressed me lately though is his takedown defense and how improved it is. If he can keep this fight standing against Krylov he should win easily. While Krylov knocked out Alexander Gustafsson out in his last fight, Gustafsson’s chin and will to fight have both been lacking, so we saw that coming.
Give me the Oezdemir to keep this fight standing and potentially knock out The Miner.
Pick: Oezdemir +143 (1u)
Makhmud Muradov (+155) vs Caio Borralho (-194)
I feel like at this point in the card I’ve already covered Borralho given both of his UFC wins are both on this card, but I finally get the time to properly give him his flowers. Before deep diving his career and style though I’ll introduce the Uzbekistan native Makhmud Muradov. He’s gigantic and a great boxer, but was upset as a -1000 favorite by Gerald Meerschaert, something that seems to happen all too often to prospects. Can he build back up the hype train Saturday?
He’ll have to beat one hell of a prospect in Caio Borralho. Borralho stands with a wide, karate stance and has low hands. He utilizes a great right lead hook and left straight to compliment solid kicks, but that’s not where he’s best. Borralho is a fantastic wrestler and has even better Jiu-Jitsu when the fight gets to the mat. He’s shown that in both fights so far. His ability to jump on the back and sinch in a tight body lock is very impressive, and from there he works feverishly for the finish. If this fight goes to the mat it’s either over or going to the bell where it is.
As I said, Muradov is a massive fighter for the division and has fantastic hooks. He throws in combination phenomenally with great leg kicks as well. I’m not sure how many kicks he’ll throw given the wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu of Borralho, but if he finishes combinations with them he should be fine. I’m concerned with his cardio as he tired massively after the first round against Gerald Meerschaert, and if that happens against Borralho he’ll find himself in the same situation. Give me Caio Borralho.
Pick: Fiorot & Borralho MLP +125 (1.5u)
Belal Muhammad (+120) vs Sean Brady (-145)
The Preliminary Main Event brings us an absolute banger between undefeated and 15-0 Sean Brady against the ever dangerous and improving Belal Muhammad. While this fight won’t be delightful for fans of bloody striking battles, this should be a phenomenal contest to see who will have the grappling success or if they’ll cancel each other out. The winner is likely one fight away from a shot at the championship belt, while the loser will stay in the rankings but have a clear setback to their end goal.
Sean Brady is now 5-0 in the UFC and is coming off of his most surprising and impressive victory of his career. Fighting Michael Chiesa who is one of the best wrestlers and grapplers in the division, he was able to secure takedowns whenever he needed them and backpack Chiesa for minutes on end when he did so. Now, his striking left a lot to be desired, as getting outstruck handedly by Chiesa on the feet is not a good look for anybody trying to make a championship run, but his wrestling has been so impressive it supersedes how poor his striking has been.
Matching up with Belal Muhammad will be an interesting test for Brady. He was able to take down Chiesa, but will he be able to do the same with Muhammad? Belal came into the UFC as one of the best wrestlers and still is. In the beginning of his career he used it to win rounds (16 of 21 wins have come by decision) but over the past few years he’s really developed his boxing. In his last three fights he’s beaten Damian Maia, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, and Vicente Luque and quite frankly dominated all of them. He stuffed 20 of 21 takedown attempts by Maia, ragdolled Wonderboy, and outboxed Vicente Luque to a clear decision victory. He’s always improving and looks better with each fight in the octagon.
Belal finds himself in an eerily similar spot, the underdog. In his 15 fights he’s been an underdog in 7 of them and of the 8 times he was a favorite, 3 were by slim margins. The books don’t favor Belal’s style for whatever reason, and this line reflects that. He opened as a +180 underdog and people bought in quick to that line. He’s now +120 and I still like the value there. He should have a distinct advantage when the fight is on the feet with great movement and a now versatile striking game with multiple punch combinations and a snapping southpaw body kick, but it’s his takedown defense and wrestling that should secure him this victory. I don’t see Brady being able to impose his will there, and if that’s the case Belal should win by decision accumulating damage on the feet.
Pick: Muhammad +120 (1.5u)
Katlyn Chookagian (+171) vs Manon Fiorot (-220)
Manon Fiorot is a personal favorite fighter of mine, so you might have to take this analysis with a grain of salt. She enters this fight 4-0 in the UFC coming off a dominant win over Jennifer Maia and with a win here should fight Valentina Shevchenko for the Flyweight belt. To do so, she’ll have to get through the forever challenger Katlyn Chookagian. Chookagian has never been able to break through and raise the belt herself, but she’s been a mainstay in the top 5 of the Flyweight division for a long time. Now 11-4 in the UFC, she’s boasting a tidy 4-fight win streak including a decision win over Maia in the process.
Breaking down Chookagian first, if you’ve watched any fights of hers you’ll have heard the noises she makes when striking. It’s similar to a tennis player’s groan as they hit the ball, but with every strike she throws - and given she throws with high output - there’s a lot. Where she’s made her name is in out-pointing opponents with a high volume boxing repertoire, and even though she isn’t very damaging those shots add up. She is an undervalued wrestler, and when she goes to it is typically effective. What has set her apart from the rest of the division though is that she finds a hole in her opponent and exploits it for the entirety of the fight. Her well-rounded game affords her that ability, and it’s typically the difference in her fights.
I’m not sure what hole she’ll find against Fiorot. Even though she’s a newcomer to the UFC, Fiorot has been in the striking game since the age of 7. She started off in karate, getting her black belt as she joined the French National Team. After her time there, she picked up kickboxing and Thai striking where she picked up national championships. She’s a 3-time national champion in K-1, and has now made the transition to MMA. She’s now earned her brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu, an area that was on full display against Jennifer Maia.
The hype behind Fiorot entering the UFC was massive, and she delivered quickly in her first two UFC fights. She finished Victoria Leonardo and Tabatha Ricci both in the second round before making light work of Mayra Bueno Silva. Her biggest step up was Jennifer Maia. A perennial contender was a big step up from Silva and given the grappling prowess of Maia, most figured Fiorot would struggle in that department. Not the case. Fiorot dominated on the feet but the surprise was Fiorot notching multiple different takedowns and leading the exchange there.
Whenever Fiorot has looked to pick up a new martial art, she has done so and exceeded expectations in doing so. With every fight she’s shown new wrinkles to her striking and grappling and her fight against Katlyn Chookagian will be another step in the right direction for her. This fight will likely go to decision given Chookagian’s ability to limit damage but not finish fighters, so expect Fiorot to take this fight on the judges cards.
Pick: Fiorot by Decision -115 (2u)
Beneil Dariush (+162) vs Mateusz Gamrot (-192)
Tool for tool, there is no better matchup on this card than Beneil Dariush vs Mateusz Gamrot. Both are ELITE wrestlers that typically control their opponents when and how they want to, and both have above average striking on the feet, albeit in slightly different ways. Now, that’s a very watered down version of these fighters and I’ll break it down further in a second, but this should be a phenomenal fight deserving of five rounds. Dariush is 15-4-1 in the UFC and currently on a 7 fight win streak, while Gamrot is 4-1, winning each of his last 4 fights en route to what should be a title eliminating fight here.
Beneil Dariush has been in the UFC for what has felt like a lifetime. He started combat sports in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, earning his black belt and winning multiple No Gi World Championships before joining the UFC. It was that and his wrestling that set him apart from competition and welcomed him into the UFC in 2014. His career has been long and somewhat up and down, but over the past few years he’s been exceptional. His striking continues to improve. He switches stance well, can throw the left and right straight fairly well and implements calf and body kicks at the end of combinations. But what I like most about Dariush is the pace he can put on opponents. He can endlessly move forward and take you down at will, and unlike other BJJ specialists he’s happy to sit in full guard and rain deadly ground and pound (see the Tony Ferguson fight). The issue is, his opponent is cut from a similar cloth.
Mateusz Gamrot came into the UFC as a 2-division champion with KSW and boasts some of the most impressive wrestling and scrambling you’ll see at this division. His arsenal of takedowns isn’t limited to double legs or trips (though he can use them and he mostly uses a high single-leg), he can do ankle picks, throws, and ride you until you make a mistake he capitalizes on. On the feet he’s decent - I’d say he was handedly outstruck by Armen Tsarukyan and has been dropped now multiple times in his short UFC career, but he does have a solid lead left jab and hook.
Most likely the grappling will be a wash. They’ll engage in it, but I think these two defensively are too elite on that front to allow domination in any area. On the feet Gamrot throws more volume but Dariush has the much more precise and damaging strikes. I had Gamrot losing his last fight against Armen Tsarukyan 48-47 - though I have no arguments that it was ruled a win as that fight was as close as they come - but I don’t think he’s able to squeak out a win here. Dariush continues to impress and despite his long time in the UFC they have about the same amount of wear and tear on their bodies - Dariush just against higher opposition.
Pick: Dariush +162 (1u)
Petr Yan (-275) vs Sean O’Malley (+215)
Sean O’Malley finally gets the test fans and analysts have been waiting for over the past few years. The hype behind O’Malley and his striking is still alive, but his biggest test so far in his career was Marlon “Chito” Vera, who he was knocked out by. Now, O’Malley was injured in that fight so that’s not entirely fair, but O’Malley hasn’t truly been tested at the highest level. Welcome Petr Yan. You may be down on him after two losses to Aljamain Sterling, but here’s why you shouldn’t be.
His losses to Aljamain Sterling were because Aljo is the single best wrestler and grappler in this division, by seemingly a wide margin. Throughout Yan’s career he’s boasted fantastic takedown defense aside from that fight, and even good offensive wrestling when he decides to use it. On the feet he is second to none. Defensively he keeps a high guard that absorbs contact well and moves his feet and head phenomenally to evade shots. His leg kicks could be a differentiator, and he does a great job of mixing them in with extended boxing combinations as well. Yan has dynamite in his hands and throws from all angles, using elbows and knees alike consistently.
O’Malley hasn’t had a full fight with anybody worth a damn, but we’ve seen his talents on full display in many fights. What everyone knows about O’Malley is that his ability on the feet is something to behold. In addition to being able to throw punches from seemingly impossible angles, they’re lightning quick so it’s hard to adjust to them. Further, he largely keeps the fight where he wants it because he's light on his feet and has solid defensive wrestling. What fans don’t know is that he has very good Jiu-Jitsu. He doesn’t use it often because of his elite striking, but if the fight gets to the mat he could be dangerous.
What I don’t like about O’Malley is the lack of competition, inability to defend leg kicks that have debilitated him in multiple fights, and poor wrestling. It wouldn’t surprise me if Yan takes him to the woodshed early and often, taking down O’Malley and unloading ground and pound. I mentioned how good O’Malley’s BJJ is, but Yan’s wrestling and grappling defense is fantastic. Add in that Yan will utilize kicks the entire fight and O’Malley will be in trouble.
Pick: Yan by Dec +100 (1u) & Yan/Rosa MLP -124 (1u)
Aljamain Sterling (-175) vs T.J. Dillashaw (+145)
It’s a disgrace that T.J. Dillashaw is back fighting for the title and every bit of me hopes that Aljamain Sterling puts him to sleep. If you’re unfamiliar with the UFC and are just learning about these fighters, T.J. Dillashaw is a cheater. He tested positive for banned substances and not the kind where you accidentally took a supplement and it showed up on a drug screening. No. He cheated, knew it, then cried and tried to blame the UFC for stripping him of his wins. He’s lost all credibility with fans, fighters, and myself. So while I’ll do my best to give an unbiased analysis here, know that I want Dillashaw to lose after 14:59 of pounding.
With that said T.J. Dillashaw is an unbelievable striker. Before being caught for cheating he was dominating the UFC with ungodly striking. He throws headkicks like they’re right jabs and can land them at any point in his combinations. He possesses knockout power in both hands as well and was knocking out people for fun. His only losses came to Henry Cejudo and a prime Dominick Cruz by split decision. In addition to his striking, Dillashaw boasts top tier wrestling and grappling. He’s not much of a submission threat but does a good job riding opponents to keep them down once he secures the takedowns.
What’s concerning for Dillashaw is that since coming back for his suspension he’s looked a lot slower. He’s now 36 and in his fight with Cory Sandhagen he had to rely on wrestling to win by split decision, a fight I thought he lost. He won’t be afforded that luxury against Sterling. If this fight goes to the mat, Sterling won’t let it get up and either the r