UFC returns to ESPN+ pay-per-view on Saturday at an unconventional time, so set your phones for 2 p.m. Eastern Time for UFC 280 from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Settle in for a look at the odds and a preview of the big fights.
The main event is for the vacant lightweight championship with Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev, and the co-main event is bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw. Elsewhere in the bantamweight division, up-and-comer Sean O’Malley faces veteran Petr Yan.
Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev Odds
Charles Oliveira (33-8-0, 1 NC) is on an 11-fight win streak and is looking to reclaim the UFC lightweight championship but is the betting underdog against Islam Makhachev (22-1-0), who is on a 10-fight win streak of his own.
Here are the odds for the fight, courtesy of BetMGM.
Oliveira has finished top contenders Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje in his last three fights, but he was stripped of the title prior to the Gaethje fight in May because he missed weight. Interestingly, even though Oliveira finished all three of those opponents, he was in fairly deep trouble early in all three fights before rebounding.
Will the same fate await Makhachev? The disciple of Khabib Murmagomedov is disciplined and looks for his opportunity, so don’t look for him to fall into a trap set by Oliveira. Even though Oliveira is the better striker of the two, both excel when the fight is on the ground.
Both men are 5’10”, but Oliveira has the reach advantage, 74 in. to 70.5. Oliveira is the more veteran fighter and is two years older (33 to 31). His run of recent opponents is also stronger than Makhachev’s.
If you like Oliveira to win, it won’t cost you much more to bet on him to win via submission. Oddsmakers show that Oliveira regaining the belt via decision is the most unlikely method. Expect Makhachev to be patient, but the huge step-up in competition has him ripe for an upset here.
Prediction: Charles Oliveira, via submission
Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw Odds
Bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling takes on T.J. Dillashaw, the two-time former champion in the co-main event on Saturday.
Here are the odds for this championship fight, again courtesy of BetMGM.
Dillashaw (18-4-0), who was the bantamweight champion when he lost a flyweight bout to Peter Cejudo in under a minute in January 2019, was stripped of the title two months later after testing positive for a banned substance prior to that fight.
After a two-year suspension, Dillashaw returned to the Octagon in July 2021, defeated Cory Sandhagen by split decision in a five-round fight. He hasn’t fought in the 15 months since after dealing with various injuries.
Sterling (21-3) last lost nearly five years ago and has rolled off seven-straight wins since a KO loss to Marlon Moraes in December 2017. After beating Petr Yan by disqualification to win the bantamweight title when Yan landed an illegal knee, the two rematched in April. In that fight, Sterling won via split decision to retain the gold.
Sterling has a four-inch reach advantage and is three years younger than the 36-year-old Dillashaw. Sterling’s loss to Moraes was the only time he’s been finished. Dillashaw has been knocked out twice, but Sterling hasn’t landed a KO win in over eight years. We like this one going the distance and for the champ to retain. However, there is value in taking both fighters via the judges’ decision.
Prediction: Aljamain Sterling, via decision