UFC 286 Preview: Edwards vs Usman 3

Kamaru Usman will look to regain his Welterweight title for Leon Edwards in the UFC 286 Main Event. Photo Credit: BloodyElbow.com.UFC.com

The UFC is back with a massive PPV event this weekend from London, England. At UFC 286 Leon Edwards (20-3) will make the first defense of his welterweight championship against familiar foe Kamaru Usman (20-2). Edwards took the belt from Usman in August of last year with a thunderous head kick knockout in the fifth round. Edwards was far behind on the judges’ scorecards entering the final round and pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in UFC history. In the Co-Main Event dangerous striker, Rafael Fiziev (12-1) faces former Interim Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje (23-4). Fiziev is one of the best kickboxers on the UFC roster, having recently knocked out former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and contender Brad Riddell. Gaethje is a fan favorite who always brings the action, winning fight of the year with Michael Chandler in 2021.

Also, on the PPV’s main card Marvin Vettori (18-6) and Roman Dolidze (12-1) will compete in a highly anticipated matchup of ranked Middleweights.

(C) Leon Edwards (20-3) vs Kamaru Usman (20-2)

The Main event of UFC 286 will feature a Welterweight Championship rematch between current titleholder Leon Edwards and former pound-for-pound number one Kamaru Usman. This will be the third meeting between the two with Usman winning a split decision in 2015 but losing dramatically last August. Edwards is a talented British kickboxer on a ten-fight win streak, holding impressive victories over Nate Diaz, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and Rafael Dos Anjos. Usman is a Division Two Nation Champion wrestler who had never lost in the UFC before his second fight with Edwards.

At UFC 278 Edwards landed a head kick that changed the course of MMA history. Many praised Usman as “The Greatest Welterweight Ever” heading into that fight. Usman was only one defense away from tying Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses, however, Edwards spoiled the party knocking Usman out cold. Currently, Usman is a slight betting favorite at (-240) online sportsbooks. This is very surprising, as Edwards finished Usman in dominant fashion less than seven months ago. Oddsmakers must think that Usman will implement a more wrestling-heavy approach this time around. Both fighters are world-class mixed martial artists with this being one of the most competitive rivalries in UFC history.


This is extremely hard to predict but I do see Edwards as a live underdog in this contest. Edwards will be fighting in his native country and should come in with confidence knowing he can finish his opponent. Usman is as tough as they come and will be extremely hard to knock out for a second time, so this fight may go the distance. Edwards has very good takedown defense at 68% and is probably planning for Usman to utilize his wrestling more in this fight.

Edwards should hold an advantage on the feet where he will look to pick Usman apart at distance. Usman is now 35 years old and will have to overcome mental hurdles to earn his belt back against the last man to defeat him. With this being said Usman does have the skill set to win by decision as well. Usman could come in highly motivated, looking to take Edwards down in every round. UFC 286 will have an early start time with the main card kicking off at 4 p.m. CST.

#3 Justin Gaethje (23-4) vs #6 Rafael Fiziev (12-1)

This ranked Lightweight contest between Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev is destined to be fireworks. As soon as Dana White announced this matchup hardcore MMA fans had their calendars marked. These are two explosive finishers who never take a step backward. Gaethje has 19 knockouts on his professional record while also earning 10 UFC performance of the night bonuses. Fiziev is a wild man from Kazakhstan, whose kamikaze-like kickboxing style strikes fear in the 155-pound division. Fiziev will put his body on the line to land fight-changing strikes of his own. His combination of defensive head movement and creative striking make Fiziev a viable contender in the Lightweight title picture. In his short time with the promotion, Fiziev has knocked out former champion Rafael Dos Anjos and Brad Riddell. Fiziev will enter this matchup as a (-230) favorite at online sportsbooks.

Gaethje was a Divison 1 All-American wrestler in college but rarely uses his credentialed grappling in the octagon. This is a massive reason that he enters this weekend as a betting underdog. If Gaethje decides to exchange in a kickboxing competition with Fiziev it will be a terrible decision. As one of the most experienced fighters in the division, Gaethje has been in many wars with the likes of Dustin Poirier, Tony Fergeson, Michael Johnson, and Eddie Alvarez. It will be interesting to see if Gaethje has been in one too many battles or if his experience will help him turn back the rising contender. Fiziev is a massive betting favorite for someone who has never faced a top-five opponent.

#4 Marvin Vettori (18-6) vs #9 Roman Dolidze (12-1)

Top ten Middleweights collide on the UFC 286 main card as Marvin Vettori takes on Roman Dolidze. Vettori is a very well-rounded martial artist who is competent in both striking and grappling. In the last seven years, Vettori has only lost to champions Isreal Adesanya and Robert Whittaker in the UFC. Dolidze is a Georgian powerhouse who knocked out contenders Phil Hawes, Kyle Daukas, and Jack Hermanson in his last three fights. Dolidze is a relative newcomer but has quickly worked his way up the division rankings.

Vettori should have a speed advantage in the striking and needs to stay at range on the feet. Dolidze is a physical force who possesses incredible knockout power. Dolidze is very heavy-handed but is not the fastest or most technical striker. Vettori’s game plan may be to use effective jabs and leg kicks at distance to keep Dolidze away from him. On the ground, Dolidze is a skilled grappler who can finish fights with submissions or ground and pound. Vettori has faced a higher level of competition in his career, but Dolidze might be the real deal at 185 pounds.

UFC 286 Prelims:

The UFC 286 prelims have many interesting stylistic matchups. Jiu-Jitsu ace Gunner Nelson (18-5) faces Midwest brawler Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena (18-9) in a matchup of welterweight contenders. Nelson is 2-2 in his last four fights but is an accomplished grappler if the fight hits the ground. Barberena recently defeated former Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler by TKO. Barberena got into a war with Lawler taking damaging shots to land his own, eventually outlasting the future Hall of Famer and beating him at his own game. The question in this matchup is whether Barberena can stop the takedown attempts on Nelson and force him to strike.

Also on the UFC 286 prelims, rising prospect Jack Shore (16-1) takes on UFC veteran Makwan Amirkhani (17-8). Shore suffered the first defeat of his career to ranked Bantamweight Ricky Simon in his last fight and will be looking to rebound with a win. Amirkhani is (1-4) in his last five fights and his best days may be behind him. Amirkhani at one time was a creative and dangerous striker who also had impressive Jiu-Jitsu. It will be compelling to see if Amirkhani can turn back the clock for this contest.

UFC 286 will have an early start time with the prelims beginning at 12 p.m. CST and the main card kicking off at 4 p.m. CST.

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