Oh boy! UFC 280 is one of the most highly anticipated events of 2022, and the excitement continues to build with Charles Oliveira predicting a first-round KO of his opponent Islam Makhachev in Saturday’s main event. Aljo Sterling looks to defend his title in the co-main event against No. 2 ranked bantamweight contender TJ Dillashaw, competing in his first fight since 2021. And of course, we can’t talk about Aljo Sterling without Petr Yan, who faces fan favorite Sean O’Malley in a matchup that should lead to a title shot against the winner of the aforementioned Sterling vs. Dillashaw.
Reminder: UFC 280 is an international event. This slate locks at 10:00 a.m. ET. Don’t forget to set your lineups before the 10:00 a.m. ET lock!
Muhammad Mokaev ($9,600) vs. Malcolm Gordon ($6,600)
The undefeated Muhammad Mokaev is this slate’s most expensive player and highest betting favorite. He enters this matchup with Gordon as one of the flyweight division’s fastest-rising stars, demonstrating aggressive takedowns and elite wrestling in his first two UFC fights. While most of his wins have been by decision, Mokaev possesses the skills to finish any match by KO/TKO or by submission.
Enter Malcolm Gordon, an MMA professional since 2012, currently 2-2 in his UFC career. After a rough start of 0-2, Gordon’s own aggressiveness has led him to back-to-back victories, most notably earning a decision win against the brother of division champion Deiveson Figueiredo. Averaging two takedowns per 15 minutes, Gordon relies on his takedowns and wrestling to posture up and deliver strikes, which may not be a viable strategy against the younger technician in Mokaev.
The hype train on Mokaev here is too strong to ignore. Despite being the more experienced fighter, Gordon has never shown Mokaev’s fluidity, technique, and dominance, all of which have made him a heavy favorite in this matchup. Muhammad has two paths to victory here, and both are favorable in DFS cash games and tournaments. Mokaev may just earn a first-round finish despite a -115 line on over 1.5 rounds on DraftKings Sportsbook. If Gordon is able to survive and force a decision, I expect Mokaev to earn several takedowns and rack up ground control time. No matter how he wins, Mokaev projects as one of the best plays on this slate.
Petr Yan ($9,300) vs Sean O’Malley ($6,900)
Former bantamweight champion Petr Yan may be the most poised and durable fighter on the UFC roster. As a 16-3 UFC veteran, it’s worth noting two of his three losses have been by split decision, while the other was the infamous illegal knee DQ in 2021 which gave Aljo Sterling the belt. Earning half of his wins by finish, Yan dominates opponents by applying offensive pressure with powerful striking and durability.
Sean O’Malley is one of the UFC’s more popular fighters, and the most successful Twitch streamer on the roster. Earning an impressive 73% of his wins by KO/TKO, he profiles as a very interesting matchup for Yan, who has never been KO’ed in his professional career. As an incredibly popular underdog with significant advantages in height and reach, O’Malley will likely be heavily owned on this slate, which could leave less ownership for the -265 favorite, Petr Yan.
In cash games, feel free to play Sean O’Malley. He’ll draw higher ownership than a typical +225 underdog should. Rostering him in cash should allow you to eat some ownership while creating some savings that will give you access to some higher-priced options. If his creative striking gets him an unlikely KO against Yan, he’ll be a must-own, optimal play in DFS. In tournaments, we’re playing Yan. He’ll be one of the lower owned studs on the slate, and I predict him to rack up plenty of significant strikes on his way to a decision win in this fight.
Katlyn Chookagian ($7,300) vs. Manon Fiorot ($8,900)
Established veteran and No. 1 women’s flyweight contender Katlyn Chookagian enters this matchup with rising star Manon Fiorot as a +170 underdog. After a KO defeat at the hands of champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 247, she has worked her way back to the top of the contender list, winning five of her last six by decision.
On the other side of this matchup, DJ Khaled would be very impressed by Manon “All I do is Win” Fiorot. 4-0 since entering the UFC, she’s earned two knockouts along with two grueling decision wins, showcasing dominant cage control, striking, and an aptitude for KOs rarely seen in the women’s flyweight division.
Despite an impressive string of wins, I hesitate to back Katlyn in this matchup. Historically, her losses have come to heavy strikers, most recently Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade.
There’s also a significant reason to be cautious in this matchup. Fiorot is coming off a knee injury that postponed this fight, originally scheduled for the Paris Fight Night in September. Chookagian could be a sneaky play if Manon is not fully recovered from that injury, but I believe she’s good to go in this one. Despite this fight being -300 to go the distance, there’s a real chance that Fiorot puts enough pressure on Chookagian to earn a finish in this fight. I’m taking “The Beast” to win this one, and would recommend her as a tournament play this weekend.
Charles Oliveira ($7,800) vs. Islam Makhachev ($8,400)
Despite winning his last eleven fights, Charles Oliveira is not the lightweight champion. At UFC 274 in April 2022, for the first time in UFC history, a title holder vacated their belt because Oliveira failed to meet the weight requirement during weigh-ins. However, Charles continued his run of dominance in the division by submitting Justin Gaethje, earning this title fight against rising star Islam Makhachev at UFC 280.
Makhachev has been arguably the most dominant wrestler in the UFC since the retirement of his teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov. During his own double digit win streak, Islam has finished six of his last ten wins by KO or submission, and is the only true obstacle standing between Charles and his belt. This fight is a total toss up, and should come in at high ownership on both sides given that it is our main event.
I don’t foresee a major edge for either competitor on the ground, but there are two striking stats that make me believe Charles Oliveira will earn his belt back. The first is Charles’ own striking. At 3.53 strikes landed per minute, Charles hits more frequently than Islam, who lands 2.27 strikes per minute. The second stat is Islam’s strikes absorbed per minute. He averages fewer than 1 strike landed against him, and successfully defends strikes at a whopping 68% rate. These are incredibly impressive figures, but I believe they are a result of Islam’s fight quality and wrestling style rather than his own defensive skill. Charles is the most complete fighter Islam will face, and if this one stays off mat, he should out strike Makhachev and potentially cash in on his promise of a first-round KO.
All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests. The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups.