UFC 286 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Best Bets for Edwards vs. Usman, Gaethje vs. Fiziev, Vettori vs. Dolidze, More (Saturday, March 18)

UFC 286 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Best Bets for Edwards vs. Usman, Gaethje vs. Fiziev, Vettori vs. Dolidze, More (Saturday, March 18) article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC lightweight Rafael Fiziev of Kyrgyzstan

Check out our UFC 286 best bets ahead of Saturday's pay-per-view event, which kicks off early at a special time of 12:30 p.m. ET (9:30 a.m. PT).

The UFC heads overseas to The 02 Arena in London. Following prelims on ESPN+ (12:30 p.m. ET) and ESPNews/ESPN+ (3 p.m. ET), the five-fight main card kicks off at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+ pay-per-view.

In the main event, welterweight champion Leon Edwards (20-3) meets Kamaru Usman (20-2) in a rubber match. And in the UFC 286 co-main event, Justin Gaethje (23-4) takes on fellow lightweight contender Rafael Fiziev (12-1).

So where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew has pinpointed four fights and picks on Saturday’s stacked card that present betting value.

You can find their analysis and picks on those matches plus Sean Zerillo's projections below using odds from BetMGM.

Moneyline Projections

Prop Projections

Tony Sartori: Jai Herbert vs. Ludovit Klein

Contributor at The Action Network

Fighter walkouts: Approx. 12:55 p.m. ET

On the UFC 286 preliminary card, we have a lightweight bout between Jai Herbert and Ludovit Klein. A southpaw, Klein is an incredibly sharp striker who boasts 56% striking accuracy.

Not only is he accurate, but he throws in bunches; Klein has landed 3.51 significant strikes per minute since joining the UFC. Although he possesses a five-inch reach and six-inch height disadvantage over Herbert, we are going to back Klein to knock him out.

Boasting legit power in both his punches and kicks, Klein saw his UFC journey kick off with a knockout win over Shane Young via a nasty head-kick/uppercut combo in the first round. He's nicknamed "Mr. Highlight" for a reason, and eight of Klein's 19 professional victories have come via knockout, the majority of which are due to his kickboxing.

We know that Herbert is going to want to stand and bang in this fight, considering the reach advantage and the fact that he has not even attempted a takedown in any of his five UFC fights. Over that stretch, he is 2-3 with two knockout losses.

In fact, three of Herbert's four professional losses came via knockout. Herbert possessed a massive height and reach advantage against both Ilia Topuria and Francisco Trinaldo, but he still got knocked out by both of them.

I expect Klein to also stay on the feet in this fight, especially considering that he throws more than Herbert, is more accurate with those strikes, and boasts a higher striking defense percentage. If Klein can get the kickboxing working early and often, it should be a short night once again for the struggling Herbert.

The Pick: Ludovit Klein via KO, TKO or DQ (+175 at Betway)

Billy Ward: Marvin Vettori vs. Roman Dolidze

Staff Writer at The Action Network

Fighter walkouts: Approx. 4:55 p.m. ET

UFC 286 features a few matchups between former title contenders and rising stars of the division. Rafael Fiziev vs. Justin Gaethje, Jennifer Maia vs. Casey O’Neill, and – Roman Dolidze vs. Marvin Vettori.

In the first two matchups, the up-and-coming fighter is a solid favorite. O’Neill is -175 or so, and Fiziev is in the -240 range. However, Dolidze is a sizable underdog with +230 odds on DraftKings.

Part of the difference is that Dolidze – unlike the other fighters mentioned – is the older fighter in his bout against Vettori. Still, he has fewer “MMA miles” on his body, having roughly half the number of pro fights that Vettori has.

More importantly, Dolidze is an extremely difficult stylistic matchup for the Italian. Vettori is primarily a striker, but he doesn’t have big power. He has just one knockdown in his 13-fight UFC career. Dolidze, on the other hand, packs a major punch. His knockdown rate is about three times the UFC average, and he’s knocked out his opponent in seven of his 12 wins.

More importantly, Dolidze is a world-class grappler. He’s competed in the ADCC and dominated Jack Hermansson (himself a high-level grappler) on the mat. Vettori has solid wrestling and may look for a takedown here, but he’ll be no match for Dolidze on the canvas.

While Vettori has lost to only former champions in the last few years, Dolidze looks to be surging toward title contention. He has the grappling and stoppage upside whereas Vettori needs to outpoint him for a full 15 minutes to secure the win. I’d take Dolidze down to +200.

The Pick: Roman Dolidze (+230 at DraftKings)

Sean Zerillo: Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev

Senior Writer at The Action Network

Fighter walkouts: Approx. 6:25 p.m. ET

Typically as contenders make their way toward title contention and look to move up the rankings in the UFC, they receive progressively more difficult matchups. And I believe that I picked against Rafael Fiziev in each of his past five fights, where he faced and ultimately passed a variety of tests – against strong grapplers, wrestlers, and highly technical strikers who have tried (and failed) to take down Fiziev or outpace him on the feet.

Justin Gaethje is the first true brawler whom Fiziev has faced in MMA – and in my opinion, it's potentially Fiziev's easiest matchup since 2019. It's weird to think about it that way, with Gaethje winning an interim title and fighting for the undisputed belt twice in his past four bouts.

Still, Fiziev has the skill set and weapons to completely dismantle Gaethje in the striking. He is the younger, faster, more technical and far more diverse striker. Fiziev should rip Gaethje with kicks at all three levels, and look to avoid the pocket, where Gaethje will look to crash in and land hooks.

In particular, Fiziev may exploit Gaethje with body kicks. Fighters who have relentlessly attacked Gaethje to the body (Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, Eddie Alvarez) have been able to knock him down with strikes. And after a number of high-damage wars in recent years, including his 2021 Fight of the Year with Michael Chandler, Gaethje's chin may be starting to crack too.

I projected Fiziev's moneyline around -280, and I would bet him straight up to -250 or use him in a parlay a bit closer to my price target.

However, I would prefer to bet Fiziev in the prop market, either by KO/TKO (projected +109, listed +150 at DraftKings) or inside the distance (projected -106, listed +140 at DraftKings).

The price difference is negligible. However, Fiziev does have a rear-naked choke on his record, and Gaethje's submission defense is subpar, so you can't rule out a club and sub.

The Pick: Rafael Fiziev wins by Knockout, Submission or DQ (+140 at DraftKings)

Dann Stupp: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman

Senior Editor at The Action Network

Fighter walkouts: Approx. 6:55 p.m. ET

As much as the MMA fan in me hates this pick, the MMA bettor in me is predicting that UFC 286's main event goes the distance.

Welterweight champion Leon Edwards rematches Kamaru Usman in the five-round rubber match, and underdog Edwards will need to pull off another upset to make his first successful title defense.

The first fight (three rounds) in 2015 went the distance, and their second meeting back in August would've hit the scorecards if Edwards hadn't hit that miracle come-from-behind head-kick KO in the final minute of the five-round fight.

I have no reason to think the third fight will play out substantially differently than the first two – aside from the fact that Usman may be a bit more cautious and alert if he's up on the scorecards late in the fight.

So, for me, I'm betting that this fight goes the distance. It's the prudent play – even if it's a bit boring.

But in all honesty, I was also tempted to take Usman's moneyline as my best bet of the night. Playing it straight up (-245) wouldn't exactly result in a windfall if he wins, but considering I'd make him a -400 favorite (80% implied win probability), there's plenty to like with that play. (And, in fact, you could grab a same-game parlay at DraftKings with Usman's moneyline and over 3.5 rounds to get to -135 parlay odds. I love that play too.)

But if you're a little more bullish on Edwards than I am, I still like betting that this fight goes the distance. It covers you for a Usman decision or an Edwards decision – and you don't even need to worry about the judges getting the call wrong once it's all over.

DraftKings has an over-under of 4.5 rounds with the over at -185, and that would provide some insurance from any late-fight stoppages. But I'm heading to FanDuel, where you can get very nice odds of -146 that this fight goes the distance.

Rooting for a decision? It ain't sexy, but I think it gets the job done.

Pick: Edwards-Usman goes the distance (-146)

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