After months of agonizing anticipation and the usual trash talk, Fight Island is finally ready to accommodate some of the UFC’s fiercest contenders. Scheduled to take place in Abu Dhabi on October 22, this fight card has a solid lineup that is not leaving fans too much to complain about.
UFC 280 is headlined by a vacant lightweight title bout between former champion Charles Oliveira and hot-streak contender Islam Makhachev. This already promises to be a fight to remember, but the main card will also see the bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling, defend his title against former titleholder TJ Dillashaw. You will recall that Sterling’s last match was against Petr Yan, where he secured a victory over the Russian via the judges’ scorecards.
Having lost his title to Sterling at UFC 259, Yan will have a few things to prove as he goes against Sean O’Malley. O’Malley is one of the UFC’s exciting prospects for a reason, however, and he wouldn’t be a walkover.
The main card is not the only thing to be excited about. The undercard looks absolutely nothing like a snooze fest as it features interesting matchups, including a fight between welterweight contenders Belal Muhammad and Sean Brady.
Clearly, there’s a lot of UFC news to look forward to. Whether the braggadocious claims made in the weeks leading up to the fight will turn out to be sage prophecies or empty smack talk remains to be seen. As we all know, the cage can be unpredictable. But that wouldn’t stop the predictions from coming in.
Pooling together all the key analyses, comments, and questions, here’s a complete breakdown of the major fights at UFC 280:
Who holds the cards between Oliveira and Makhachev?
A matchup between Makhachev and Oliveira is by all accounts, tantalizing. Olivera is on an 11-match winning streak, and the last 10 of those wins were confirmed before the clock ran out. Makhachev on his part boasts a tenacious 22-1 record and has won his last 10 fights. His trainer and close friend, the legendary Khabib Nurmagemodov has confidently claimed that his protege will “roll over” his opponent.
Makhachev, a world combat sambo champion, has a grappling style that not many in the UFC can match. Not to mention that he’s taught by arguably the best grappler in the history of the sport. Looking at his ferocious ability on the mat and the fact that he just seems so promising, it’s easy to be tempted to favor him against Oliveira. Oliveria, on the other hand, is perhaps the most fearsome grappler in the division. He has the most submission wins in UFC history for a reason, and is usually expected to win in a grappling showdown.
What makes the former UFC lightweight champion even more deadly is how he has improved his all-around game. Far more than just a grappler these days, he throws a mean punch and has been displaying some dangerous Muay Thai strikes that fans haven’t failed to notice. According to MMA Insider, Marc Raimondi, Oliveira might have a better chance of winning this bout if he spends more time off the ground.
Cruz said, “I think that Oliveira has the best chance to finish the fight, so in the first three rounds I think he can finish it. But if it goes the distance, I think Makhachev wins it because he has the best chance of winning a decision.”
There’s no telling what might happen if the two fighters decide to play the battle out on the ground. While both are closely matched for grappling, Oliveira seems to have a superior striking arsenal. Whether he’ll use this to his advantage remains to be seen. One thing that’s certain is that this has every potential of being a fight to remember.
It won’t be an easy title defense for Sterling
Aljamain Sterling fought his way to the bantamweight championship title mostly by frustrating his opponents with takedowns and tapping them. With 3 losses in a total of 24 MMA fights, he faces a formidable contender in T.J Dillashaw. Dillashaw, who has lost 4 fights in his entire MMA career, is a great striker who also knows how to wrestle quite well.
Former fighter and expert commentator, Paul Felder, doesn’t expect the two men to try to win this one on the ground.
“I don’t see either guy dominating the wrestling exchanges… I think Aljamain might be able to get the back and maybe get a submission, but I think it’s gonna be tough, and I think that he’s gonna really have to work on being able to win the boxing and kickboxing exchanges in that one,” Felder told ESPN.
That might be a tough ask against a fighter that strikes as well as Dillashaw, but Sterling has shown that he can be unpredictable at times. The possibility of a new bantamweight king emerging from Fight Island hovers in the air, and it’s up to the current champion to shoulder the pressure and prove he’s truly worthy of the title.
O’Malley’s title hopes, Sean Brady’s unbeaten run
Sean O’Malley would be facing a different level of competition in former champion, Petr Yan, whose record is 16 fights and 3 losses. Should he manage to win the fight, he would greatly boost his chances of a title challenge.
O’Malley, who has a 15-1 record, has dangerously accurate striking and could be a threat to any opponent. The problem is, Yan has a lot more than just punches and kicks in his game. He’s one of the division’s more well-rounded fighters. Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker thinks there’s not much to split the two fighters.
Sharing his views in a video posted by James Lynch, he said ” He’s (Petr Yan) got a great fight IQ… Yeah, honestly, I’m on the fence with this fight… I don’t think either one of them has a significant advantage over the other.”
Sean Brady is coming off a decision win against Michael Chiesa at UFC 198. With a record of 15 wins, he’s never lost a UFC fight in his career. You might think the odds are slightly tipped in his favor against Belal Muhammad, but he’s going up against one of the welterweight division’s best utility fighters.
Muhammad is a very well-rounded fighter, with some fair grappling and striking in his repertoire. In comparison, Brady is a formidable striker and wrestler with considerable stamina. Were it to come down to a war of attrition, you would expect him to hold his own against Muhammad, who has secured 16 of his 21 victories via unanimous decision.
There’s a lot to anticipate from UFC 280, and with so many evenly-matched fighters, one might expect long, drawn-out fights. But as Kamaru Usman’s shocking loss at UFC 278 has proven, this sport can be full of surprises.