UFC 280, Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira preview: Free picks, prop bets, guide for main card

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Charles Oliveira reacts after defeating Dustin Poirier by submission in a lightweight mixed martial arts title bout at UFC 269, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)

UFC 280 will commence Saturday at 2 p.m. ET from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on pay-per-view. The main event features one of the most anticipated mixed martial arts bouts of the year in a clash for the vacant lightweight title between former champion Charles Oliveira and surging contender Islam Makhachev, the prodigious pupil of MMA legend Khabib Nurmagomedov. This is the first fight in UFC history that features two competitors on 10+ win streaks.

Here are the betting breakdowns for each main card matchup, with betting numbers courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook:

Manon Fiorot vs. Katlyn Chookagian

Caesars odds: Fiorot (-210); Chookagian (+175)

Katlyn Chookagian has consistently been one of the best performers in the UFC women’s flyweight division, although all of her 11 wins in the promotion have come by decision. She owns nearly four times as much UFC experience as her opponent, Manon Fiorot, though the latter has not lost in any event since her MMA debut in 2018.

Fiorot will have an easier time dictating where the fight takes place, but Chookagian has consistently demonstrated an ability to throw measured combinations against smaller fighters with more limited exposure to professional MMA. Chookagian owns a two-inch height and three-inch reach advantage over Fiorot, helping make her an underdog worthy of consideration ahead of the main card opener.

PICK & PROP: Chookagian to Win (+175), Chookagian by Decision (+240)

Mateusz Gamrot vs. Beneil Dariush

Caesars odds: Gamrot (-190); Dariush (+160)

Beneil Dariush enters this scrap as somewhat of a wildcard. He has not fought in almost a year and a half due to a leg injury, though does own a seven-fight winning streak. Meanwhile, Mateusz Gamrot comes into Saturday with four consecutive victories, and his only loss in 22 MMA events came in his UFC debut by way of a split decision.

Dariush is going to have an advantage in striking exchanges, but his resistance to damage remains somewhat questionable given he has been finished four times in his career — thrice by knockout. Two of those losses came from fighters averaging more than three takedowns per 15 minutes over their UFC tenure, while Gamrot averages nearly five. Even with Dariush’s strong takedown defense, there are too many other factors out of his favor to pick him with confidence against the momentum Gamrot carries into Abu Dhabi.

PICK & PROP: Gamrot to Win (-190), Gamrot to Win by KO/TKO/DQ (+420)

Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley

Caesars odds: Yan (-270); O’Malley (+220)

Sean “The Sugar Show” O’Malley is arguably the most popular rising fighter in the UFC, and Petr Yan figures as easily the most difficult opponent he has faced in his MMA career thus far. Yan’s last fight in April saw him lose a bantamweight title via close split decision, while O’Malley recently competed in July but saw his bout end in a no-contest after an inadvertent eye poke rendered his opponent unable to continue.

Yan has demonstrated a level of dominance against far better competition than what O’Malley has faced to this point. Moreover, Yan has done so through a much more sophisticated blend of martial arts than O’Malley’s reliance on distance management and overwhelming volume of standing strikes.

Yan possesses the boxing acumen, high guard, wrestling ability and skill in top control to mitigate O’Malley’s strengths and put him in unfamiliar positions. The Russian has also never been finished, and while he will likely concede the first round as he analyzes O’Malley’s gameplan, look for Yan to adjust toward dominating the final 10 minutes.

PICK & PROP: Yan to Win (-270), Yan by Decision (-105)

Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw

Caesars odds: Sterling (-175); Dillashaw (+150)

Former two-time titleholder T.J. Dillashaw has not fought since July of last year after winning a split decision over Cory Sandhagen that many would contest he lost. However, Dillashaw emerged victorious after entering with nearly twice the layoff he now has ahead of his title bout with current champion Aljamain Sterling. While Dillashaw’s current absence has been related to a knee injury, he previously missed two years due to suspension from the USADA for performance-enhancing drug usage.

The key in this matchup will be whether it stays standing or hits the mat. Sterling will need to take this fight to the floor if he wants to retain his belt, but he successfully did so last time out against an opponent with even more elite takedown defense than that of Dillashaw. As such, backing the fresher success of the current champion inspires more confidence than relying on the experience of a recently absent historical cheater.

PICK & PROP: Sterling to Win (-175), Sterling by Decision (+125)

Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira

Caesars odds: Makhachev (-190); Oliveira (+160)

UFC 280’s headliner profiles as arguably the most significant fight of 2022. Charles Oliveira won and defended the lightweight title last year before controversially losing the belt at weigh-ins for UFC 274. Despite ultimately winning his 11th fight in a row at that event, the championship currently remains up for grabs due to Oliveira’s half-pound weight miss. This prompted the UFC to pair Oliveira with Islam Makhachev — one of the promotion’s most dominant competitors in recent years — for the vacated title.

These fighters both possess tremendous all-around MMA skillsets founded in differing styles of ground game that have inspired consistent terror across the peers of their sport. Makhachev has used overwhelming strength and smothering wrestling to wear out opponents into several finishes. Meanwhile, Oliveira boasts five more wins via submission than anyone else in UFC history behind his world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The deciding factor figures to be the high-level experience between the two fighters. Oliveira owns three more wins by finish than any other UFC athlete ever across 30 appearances in the promotion, and in his last three fights defeated three of the other top-five ranked lightweights inside 12 minutes. Conversely, Makhachev has yet to defeat any ranked UFC opponents since joining the roster in 2015, and his two most recent wins since October of 2021 came against foes stepping in as short-notice replacements.

PICK & PROP: Oliveira to Win (+160), Oliveira by KO/TKO/DQ (+525)

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