It’s officially fight week for UFC 286, which takes place this Saturday at the O2 Arena in London, England. The event currently has 15 fights scheduled to take place with none being bigger than the main event featuring Leon Edwards as he tries to defend the UFC Welterweight title on his home soil against former champion Kamaru Usman.
The co-main event of the card features a matchup between highly-ranked lightweights Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev in what could end up being a Fight of the Year contender. Let’s take a quick dive into both of these fights, as well as some of the other most intriguing things of note about this card.
Three is a Party
This fight between Edwards and Usman will be the third time that they have stepped inside the octagon together, with the fighters splitting the first two meetings with one win each. Edwards shocked the MMA world last summer at UFC 279 when he landed a perfectly timed head kick on Kamaru Usman in the final minute to knock out the Nigerian Nightmare and claim the UFC Welterweight title.
Usman had largely dominated the fight (as he had the first meeting) and was up 3-1 on all three judges’ scorecards when Edwards landed one of the biggest knockouts of the year. Former UFC champions are 3-11 in immediate rematches after losing their titles, so Usman will find himself in a historically tough spot as he attempts to become the fourth fighter to accomplish the feat on Saturday.
Big Fights Galore
In the co-main event, the fight between Fiziev and Gaethje will be something of an unofficial title eliminator in the lightweight division. Fiziev has won six straight fights entering this one and although Gaethje lost two of his last three fights, both of those were championship fights. While the winner of Beneil Darriush and Charles Oliveira at UFC 288 will likely get the next shot at UFC Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, the winner of this weekend’s fight between Fiziev and Gaethje will likely find themselves on the precipice of a chance to receive the next title shot or at a minimum earn an official number one contender matchup later in the year once more of the division picture clears up a bit. Regardless of the outcome, this fight should be absolute fireworks between two fighters who love to stand and exchange on the feet.
The rest of the main card features some other interesting fights as well. Casey O’Neill will be returning from a year-long injury layoff when she faces Jennifer Maia in a matchup between two fighters in the UFC Women’s Flyweight rankings. O’Neill is 9-0 (4-0 in the UFC) and will be looking to leap into the top ten in the division if she can get past the long-time division mainstay this weekend. O’Neill won her first three fights in the UFC via stoppage and landed an incredible 229 strikes in fifteen minutes in her last fight against Roxanne Modaferri.
Another exciting matchup on the main card will feature a ranked middleweight matchup between Marvin Vettori and Roman Dolidze. Vettori will be looking to bounce back after dropping two of his past three fights and re-solidify his position in the top five of the division. Meanwhile, Dolidze has been on an absolute tear recently, winning four straight fights with the last three coming via bonus-earning stoppages. Vettori has never been finished in 25 professional fights, so if Dolidze manages to become the first fighter to stop him, he would find himself in a very nice spot in the division and likely within reach of a title shot with another win.
Prelims to Watch
There are two names that I would definitely recommend keeping an eye on during the prelims portion of the card as well: Jack Shore and Muhammad Mokaev. Shore is 16-1 with a 75% stoppage rate and will be fighting Makwan Amirkhani in the featured prelim of the card. He’s a very highly-touted young fighter who will be moving up to a new division at featherweight after suffering the first loss of his career in his last fight against Ricky Simon.
Despite that loss, Shore is still ranked #15 at bantamweight and will be facing an opponent who has lost five of his last seven fights. Meanwhile, Mokaev is a 9-0 flyweight phenom who is trying to work his way up the rankings after getting off to a 3-0 start with the promotion. At only 22 years old, Mokaev has a chance to potentially break Jon Jones’ record as the youngest champion in the promotion’s history (Jones accomplished the feat at the age of 23).
There are currently six fighters scheduled to make their UFC debuts on the card this weekend and only three fighters overall on this card will be representing the US in the octagon. With the event taking place in London, it’s not surprising that the UFC has loaded up this card with European and other international talents. Also as a result of the card’s location, the starting time for the event will be much earlier than usual in the US, with the early prelims starting at 1 pm ET and the main card beginning at 5 pm ET. Currently, Muhammad Mokaev is the biggest betting favorite of the card with a Moneyline around -800. Jack Shore and Julianna Miller are the next biggest favorites of the weekend with Moneylines both hovering in the -500 range.