LAS VEGAS — The UFC's final pay-per-view of the year is filled with fascinating matches. One of those getting overlooked in the discussion is the featherweight bout between Bryce "Thug Nasty" Mitchell and Ilia Topuria that will open the main card for UFC 282 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
Both are elite finishers, and in 27 combined fights, they have 20 finishes. Mitchell is 15-0 with nine of his wins coming by submission, though only one of his six UFC wins was by submission. That, though, was a memorable one, a victory via twister over Matt Sayles in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7, 2019.
Topuria is 12-0 with 11 finishes, including three wins by KO in his four UFC bouts. Topuria is a slight favorite at BetMGM, coming in at -140 with Mitchell at +115 on the buyback.
Topuria's hands could be the deciding factor in this. Mitchell is incredible on the ground, but Topuria's base is grappling, even though he's getting acclaim now as a striker. Topuria expects it to be a stand-up match when all is said and done.
"He's not going to be able to take me down and I'm going to strike with him because I'm way better than him in the striking," Topuria said. "I'm going to put his lights out on Saturday."
I'll lay the -140 and bet on Topuria to win. I'll also roll the dice and play Topuria by KO at +275, even though my original thought on this fight is that it would go the distance. But the element of being able to determine where the fight goes is big for Topuria and should increase the odds he runs his KO streak to four fights.
Ankalaev likely to become champion
Jan Blachowicz is a former light heavyweight champion who is vastly underrated and vastly improved. But he'll meet Magomed Ankalaev in the main event Saturday, and that's trouble. Ankalaev is a quickly rising star and seems poised to take his place among the elite in the sport.
He's good in all areas, has a great fight IQ and can fight at a high pace for a long time.
Blachowicz's right hand, known affectionately as "Polish Power," is a dangerous weapon, but Ankalaev has excellent striking defense. He is fourth among active light heavyweights in significant striking defense, at 60.4 percent. He's second in strikes absorbed per minute among active 205-pounders, at 2.14.
Ankalaev is a -300 favorite, with Blachowicz now up to +240.
I will play Ankalaev to win at -300. I'll also bet the fight does not go the distance, laying -200. And I'll lay two units on the fighting ending via KO at -150.
Other plays for UFC 282
I'll lay the -190 and bet Dricus du Plessis to win over Darren Till, who is +155. Du Plessis is on his way to being a star in the division. I'll also bet the fight does go the distance, and be happy it's at +140.
I'll lay -120 and bet Jairzinho Roznestruik to win by KO over Chris Daukaus. I'll take +450 and bet Rozenstruik to win in Round 2.
I'll take the plus money at +175 and choose Billy Quarantillo to win by decision over Alexander Hernandez.