The UFC is kicking off the month of March with the first of its two Pay-Per-View cards in UFC 285, set to go down over the next month. The premier MMA organization is bringing a fourteen-bout fight card to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday.
In the main event, the former longtime Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones finally steps up to Heavyweight after over two years away from competition. Looking to stop the incoming GOAT contender is Ciryl Gane, a technical kickboxer who formerly held interim gold. In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko looks to add another title defense to her historic reign over the Flyweight division at the expense of Alexa Grasso, riding a four-fight win streak. The card also features many hot prospects, from ranked contenders like Shavkat Rakhmonov and Dricus du Plessis to emerging talents Bo Nickal and Ian Machado Garry.
Jon Jones (26-1) vs. Ciryl Gane (11-1) (HW)
At long last, Jon Jones is making his move up to Heavyweight. He has just about the best stylistic matchup he could ask for at the weight class, facing a high-accolade kickboxer without much regard for long grappling exchanges, especially wrestling. There are about as many intangibles as there can be for Jon Jones in this fight, with unknowns about his time off, (relatively) recent struggles against non-elite competition, and move up in weight class. On the feet, I expect a tactical chessmatch, as both fighters prefer to work from range and pick their opponents apart. While this could certainly go the other way if Gane’s takedown defense holds up, I expect Jones to repeatedly ground this bout amid tense striking exchanges for a late finish on the ground.
My Pick: Jon Jones via Submission
Valentina Shevchenko (23-3) vs. Alexa Grasso (15-3) (FLW)
Valentina Schevchenko has thoroughly dominated since dropping down to Flyweight, dealing with the closest threat her title reign has faced in her last outing to Taila Santos. She is looking to reassert her dominance at the top of the Flyweight throne here against Alexa Grasso, who has scored four straight victories since stepping up to 125 pounds. Grasso has some of the most technical boxing in any UFC division, men’s or women’s, and will look to make this a back-and-forth affair on the feet. However, Shevchenko’s superior size and grappling advantages should look to carry her to her eighth ruby.
My Pick: Valentina Shevchenko via Decision
Geoff Neal (15-4) vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov (16-0) (WW)
This is the bout I am most excited for on this entire stacked card and I expect this or Gamrot/Turner to receive Fight of the Night (FOTN) honors. Shavkat Rakhmonov has been one of my favorite prospects in the UFC since his signing, and I am fortunate to have made a pretty penny on his ITD tickets over the past few fights. He is facing the toughest test in his career thus far, both in terms of level of opposition as well as the stylistic matchup at play. Neal has superbly technical kickboxing skills along with ironclad takedown defense, meaning Shavkat will have to walk through fire if he wants to bring this to the mat. I expect Shavkat to finish this fight on the mat, though I would be surprised to see a quick demolition in this one, as Neal is about is defensively sound and packs enough power to keep Shavkat from getting comfortable on the feet, at the very least.
My Pick: Shavkat Rakhmonov via Submission
Mateusz Gamrot (21-2) vs. Jalin Turner (13-5) (LW)
My Pick: Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Jamie Pickett (13-8) vs. Bo Nickal (3-0) (MW)
My Pick: Bo Nickal via Submission
Cody Garbrandt (12-5) vs. Trevin Jones (13-9) (BW)
Geez, this is a tough fight to pick, yet an absolute banger adorning the top of the prelim card. Cody Garbrandt has been on a 1-5 skid since capturing the Bantamweight title in a career highlight over Dominick Cruz. While Cody still certainly has his boxing skill and eye-catching speed, his durability and willingness to brawl have failed him in recent outings. In this bout, Garbrandt looks to hold all the technical advantages, holding superior striking technique, the aforementioned speed advantage, as well as having the edge in wrestling, a rare occasion in Garbrandt fights. This fight essentially comes down to whether Cody can stay out of harm’s way and the massive firepower coming back at him from “5 Star”. I may look like an idiot come Saturday, but I like Garbrandt to utilize his boxing combos and wrestling to earn a one-sided decision, (though a hedge on Jones is not a bad plan, betting-wise).
My Pick: Cody Garbrandt via Decision
Derek Brunson (23-8) vs. Dricus du Plessis (18-2) (MW)
This was a tough fight for me to watch tape on. I have a soft spot in my heart for Derek Brunson, as he headlined the first UFC card I was at live, and hails from my home state. However, the UFC isn’t cutting him any breaks here, once again matched up with a hot prospect. Du Plessis is a certifiable madman in the Octagon, charging forward with a brawling style and the power to put you out with one clean shot, along with ten submission victories and a judo background. Brunson’s path to victory is to ground Du Plessis early and often, putting in work his oppressive top game. It’s not unthinkable, as the recently released Darren Till was able to take down Du Plessis in his last bout. However, I expect Du Plessis to deny the early takedowns before cracking Brunson’s chin around the midway point, though I will undoubtedly be rooting for the opposite.
My Pick: Dricus du Plessis via Knockout
Viviane Araujo (11-4) vs. Amanda Ribas (10-3) (FLW)
My Pick: Viviane Araujo via Decision
Julian Marquez (9-3) vs. Marc-Andre Barriault (14-6) (MW)
My Pick: Marc-Andre Barriault via Knockout
Ian Machado Garry (10-0) vs. Kenan Song (19-6) (WW)
My Pick: Ian Machado Garry via Knockout
Mana Martinez (10-3) vs. Cameron Saimann (7-0) (BW)
My Pick: Cameron Saimann via Decision
Jessica Penne (14-6) vs. Tabatha Ricci (7-1) (SW)
My Pick: Tabatha Ricci via Decision
Farid Basharat (9-0) vs. Da’Mon Blackshear (12-4-1) (BW)
My Pick: Farid Basharat via Decision
Loik Radzhabov (16-4-1) vs. Esteban Ribovics (11-0) (LW)
Note: Even if you think Radzhabov gets the nod, the -300 bettings odds are a joke on two debutants, especially against a wildman like Ribovics.
My Pick: Loik Radzhabov via Decision
The card goes live at 5:30 PM EST with the main card on PPV at 10 PM!
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