UFC 280 predictions — Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev Fight card, odds, prelims, preview, expert picks

The time for talking is over. The Octagon door is ready to be closed with some of the best fighters on the planet ready to battle it out at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night. 

It doesn’t get much bigger than the vacant lightweight title bout anchoring the event when Charles Oliveira takes on Islam Makhachev. Oliveira previously held the title before missing weight in his last bout against Justin Gaethje. He went on to defeat Gaethje by first-round submission, continuing an insane run of victories for the Brazilian as he looks to etch his name in the history books. 

Makhachev, meanwhile, has steamrolled all of the foes placed against him. The Russian native has won 10 in a row since his lone pro defeat in 2015 with his last four coming by stoppage. 

Elsewhere on the card, bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling looks to continue his incredible run when he takes on former champ TJ Dillashaw in the co-main event. Sterling secured a split decision win over Petr Yan earlier this year to silence the critics of his winning the title from Yan by disqualification in their first meeting. Dillashaw is back after a year away because of injury and also not too far away from a two-year drug suspension that cost him the title.

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With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.

UFC 280 fight card, odds

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Islam Makhachev -190 vs. Charles Oliveira +160, vacant lightweight title
  • Aljamain Sterling (c) -175 vs. TJ Dillashaw +150, bantamweight title
  • Petr Yan -270 vs. Sean O’Malley +220, bantamweights
  • Matuesz Gamrot -190 vs. Beneil Dariush +160, lightweights
  • Manon Fiorot -210 vs. Katlyn Chookagian +175, women’s flyweights
  • Sean Brady -140 vs. Belal Muhammad +120, welterweights
  • Caio Borralho -200 vs. Makhmud Muradov +170, middleweights
  • Nikita Krylov -170 vs. Volkan Oezdemir +145, light heavyweights
  • Abubakar Nurmagomedov -165 vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev +140, welterweights
  • Armen Petrosyan -220 vs. A.J. Dobson +180, middleweights
  • Muhammad Mokaev -1000 vs. Malcolm Gordon +650, flyweights
  • Karol Rosa -300 vs. Lina Lansberg +240, women’s bantamweights

With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).

UFC 280 picks, predictions

Oliveira vs. Makhachev Makhachev Oliveira Oliveira Oliveira Oliveira
Sterling vs. Dillashaw Dillashaw Sterling Sterling Sterling Dillashaw
Yan vs. O’Malley O’Malley Yan Yan Yan Yan
Dariush vs. Gamrot Gamrot Dariush Gamrot Gamrot Gamrot
Chookagian vs. Fiorot Chookagian Fiorot Chookagian Chookagian Fiorot
Records to date (2022) 26-22 26-22 26-22 25-23 31-17

Oliveira vs. Makhachev

Campbell: The scariest part of Oliveira’s recent run of dramatic finishes might be what no one talks about: the fact that he welcomes so much danger to create the kind of chaos that melts his opponents. From a contrast in styles standpoint, Makhachev is the worst type of opponent for him. The protege of Khabib Nurmagomedov excels at making you fight his game and won’t be so easy to bait into a brawl like Oliveira did against the likes of Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje. It’s not a question of if Makhachev will take Oliveira down but, instead, how many minutes each round he will control from top position and whether Oliveira, the most prolific finisher in UFC history, can establish enough submission threat to dissuade him. Oliveira captalizes upon his opponent’s mistakes, often in the midst of chaos. The problem is that Makhachev almost never makes any and is as difficult as any in the UFC at steering off of his Plan A attack.

Brookhouse: Until further notice, I simply can’t pick against Oliveira. He has started to put everything together in very special ways during a historic run. Makhachev is going to have to close distance and avoid significant danger from Oliveira’s strikes. On the ground Makhachev might be able to maul the Brazilian, but he has to be careful for every second to not get caught in a submission. Oliveira might just be too complete of a fighter for Makhachev, who is great at what he does but not nearly as well-rounded.

Mahjouri: Saturday’s main event is a coin toss, the perfect pairing of stakes and intrigue. Oliveira has repeatedly proven that avoiding the ground game will only delay the inevitable. Oliveira will eventually knock you down or take you down and finish the fight. Perhaps Makhachev presents the answer in the form of a strategic takedown game and stifling top control. There is just something about Oliveira’s striking improvements and record-setting submission game that makes me side with him, especially considering the leap in competition for Makhachev. I’ve been guilty of picking against Oliveira multiple times. I think I’ll rock with “Do Bronx” this time.

Sterling vs. Dillashaw

Campbell: As long as his body holds up at 36 following yet another one-year layoff and major knee surgery, Dillashaw has the dynamic skills, well-rounded game and temperament to be a major problem for Sterling. He also has more ways to potentially win, meaning Sterling’s chances somewhat depend upon him executing his gameplan effectively and maintaining control. The problem is that Dillashaw is rarely dominated in wrestling the way former champion Petr Yan was in his rematch loss to Sterling. Dillashaw has the motor to go late and the grit to fight through anything in order to get there, similar to how he scratched and clawed through four rounds on one leg last time against Cory Sandhagen. If Dillashaw can turn this into more of a kickboxing match, he just might have the edge against the often criminally underrated defending champion. While we can’t ignore Dillashaw’s shady past in terms of drug testing, we must equally admit that age, injury and layoffs have not done much to downgrade his elite standing. The very best of Dillashaw remains as difficult to beat as anyone in this historically deep division.

Brookhouse: When he is on his game, Sterling is a very effective fighter who can change a fight on a single mistake from his opponent. Were Dillashaw more active, I may lean toward him and his combination of boxing and counter-wrestling. Instead, Dillashaw has one fight since January 2019, a split decision win over Cory Sandhagen in a fight where it seemed Sandhagen deserved the nod. A Dillashaw win isn’t out of the question by any stretch, but Sterling may simply be able to outwork a rusty fighter in a very close bout.

Mahjouri: Sterling and Dillashaw both have awkward footwork and plenty of wrestling experience in their back pockets. Sterling’s win over Yan was narrow, but it showed growth in the aftermath of the fight he appeared to be losing 11 months prior before a disqualification earned him the title. Dillashaw is certainly no slouch, but I have doubts about how far he can take this comeback having only fought once in the last 33 months. A split-decision win over Sandhagen was a great first step, but Sandhagen remains a rung below championship level. Expect Sterling and Dillashaw to play for points before Sterling eventually gets the takedown and takes over.

Yan vs. O’Malley

Campbell: Is Yan a better overall fighter with a much more respected resume versus elite competition? There’s no question about it. But rarely has MMA seen a fighter as dynamic and confident come up the ranks like O’Malley. The truth is we just don’t know how good O’Malley really is or whether he actually does have the type of intangibles needed to put his injury TKO loss to Marlon Vera behind him. But given O’Malley’s huge upside commercially and the time already missed for suspensions and slow matchmaking, it’s time to find out right now. O’Malley already knows a victory would allow him to leapfrog the field at 135 pounds and secure the next shot at the title. Even if he’s not better than Yan and even if he never fully lives up to the enormous hype which has followed him, that doesn’t mean O’Malley doesn’t still win. He’s long, explosive and creative. And provided he can hurt Yan enough early to try and activate the former champion’s desperate want to avoid a three-fight losing skid, O’Malley just might be able to line him up with the type of explosion which could end the fight. “Suga” certainly has the type of red-hot momentum, even with his inconclusive result against Pedro Munhoz, to exclaim that it’s certainly possible.

Mahjouri: This is a steep, steep step-up in competition for O’Malley. Yan is a measured and slow starter, but he should be conscious to pick things up after the first round. O’Malley is a sniper on the feet but the direction of his fight with Pedro Munhoz, prior to the unfortunate no-contest, did not suggest to me that he is ready for a world title shot. Yan has the patience to avoid recklessness and the power to make O’Malley wither. A slow start is likely, but I expect Yan will take over in the second round and get O’Malley out of there before 15 minutes are up.

Brookhouse: O’Malley can get the win if he brings his aggression to the Octagon. That said, the tougher the opponent, the more hesitant O’Malley has been in the Octagon. He looked positively frozen by the threat of Pedro Munhoz in his last outing and Munhoz wasn’t doing much in that fight. Look for Yan to work over O’Malley’s legs at range and just put out enough output that freezes O’Malley and leads to a clear decision.

Who wins Oliveira vs. Makhachev? And how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 280, all from the incomparable expert who’s up more than $13,000 on MMA in the past three-plus years, and find out. 

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