Welcome back to another UFC card breakdown. If you’re new to Happy Hour Sports or our UFC content, welcome! I’m Rick (@RickHHSports) and I am joined by Andy (@AndyHHSports) as we break down each and every fight on the UFC card each Saturday (PPV and ESPN+). With years of experience following MMA and the UFC, combined with dedication to watch tape and cover newer fighters in the commercial MMA space, we collectively have a wealth of knowledge and experience that we’re looking to bring to you all in the form of well-informed, winning wagers. Below is our latest iteration covering UFC 286. I hope you enjoy the analysis, and feel free to ping either of us with questions or thoughts on our Twitter’s above, or any of Happy Hour’s social media profiles below. Enjoy!
Veronica Hardy (+400) vs Juliana Miller (-525)
UFC newcomer Juliana Miller makes her highly anticipated debut after finishing Brogan Walker on The Ultimate Fighter’s Season Finale. Dominating in that performance, she now gets her cupcake opponent in Veronia Hardy who is 1-4 in the UFC. Hardy hasn’t fought in nearly three years and though she came in with a lot of hype this is likely her last fight in the UFC if she loses.
Hardy will want to try and keep this fight at range with her Karate background, utilizing her length and avoiding clinch situations at all costs. Though she came in with a grappling background, Hardy has struggled mightily with it in the UFC and that’s Miller’s bread and butter. Miller’s striking is still improving (earned her first KO last fight) but her grappling is dominant and as soon as she clinches she’s not letting go. Most likely, we’ll see Miller able to close the distance, get a body lock and take you down. I’ll expect that to happen here and I’ll take Miller to wear her out through 3 rounds.
Rick’s Pick: Miller by Decision +190 (1u)
Jai Herbert (+140) vs L’udovit Klein (-170)
Jai Herbert’s career has been massively disappointing by his and the public’s standards so far. At 2-3 in the UFC with wins over Khama Worthy and Kyle Nelson, it’s the losses against the tier of opponents people expected him to compete against that are concerning. All of his losses are by finish and they’re to Francisco Trinaldo, Renato Moicano, and Ilia Topuria. Now, those are all good fighters you can’t be ashamed to lose to, but it shows he’s not quite on that tier the UFC was hoping or thinking he’d be.
Now he gets the toughest out in his tenure in L’udovit Klein. A fighter’s fighter, Klein will push you into deep waters by never taking his foot off the gas. His cardio, ability to blend his grappling and striking, and his striking from odd angles are the reasons I have him in this fight. He’s won 3 short-notice fights in the UFC and has an entire camp now to prepare for Herbert whose striking defense has been poor in the UFC. Dropping his hands far too often, Herbert will get clipped by Klein’s overhand right to the ear and get wobbled. I like Klein to take care of Herbert early, but if he doesn’t he’ll only get better as it goes.
Rick’s Pick: Klein ITD +110 (1u) & Klein/Usman MLP +115 (1u)
Joanne Wood (-175) vs Luana Carolina (+145)
Joanne Wood faces off with Luana “Dread” Carolina in a UFC women’s flyweight bout on Saturday. The two fighters are in different stages of their career as Wood is coming off of three straight losses at the age of 37, while Carolina is still figuring things out in the UFC following some interesting results since 2018. Wood’s losses should not be frowned upon entirely though, as all three fighters went on to fight the champ Valentina Shevchenko immediately after which speaks to what a Wood victory means on one’s resume.
This fight is extremely tricky for me, as I think Carolina can stand with Wood and trade strikes on the feet. However, if Wood gets Carolina down to the ground she could find some opportunity there. There is normally a clear cut way I see many of these bouts going, but I would rather sit this one out than predict where two completely different paths are crossing here.
Andy’s Pick: No Play
Jake Hadley (-400) vs Malcom Gordon (+310)
It is always important to have fighters from the country you are fighting in on the card, but when you can have a guy from the same city as the Champion headlining the card, it is an added bonus. Former Cage Warriors flyweight champion and Jake “White Kong” Hadley will be fighting out of Birmingham, England and takes on Malcolm Gordon in a matchup at 125 pounds in the prelims this Saturday. Gordon has just begun his tenure in the UFC after earning his spot via the Contender Series in 2021, and snagged a loss and a win last year in the promotion. Gordon on the other hand has been in the UFC a bit longer, with a record of 2-3 since 2020.
Gordon showed spectacular flashes against Muhammad Mokaev in his last time out, and it looked like he had the rear naked choke locked in. Instead, Mokaev beats him by armbar in the third, and he now has to take on another prospect with a lot of hype behind him in Hadley. I am not saying that Gordon for sure could do it again against Hadley, but I do think Malcolm is a great test for the prospect despite what the odds say.
These two fighters should be able to stand up and strike at similar levels, and if that doesn’t work for Gordon, he will shoot for takedowns where Hadley may hold a slight advantage. The advantages that Hadley holds are not as big as you would want from an over -300 favorite, and for me that is enough to think Malcolm has a chance here. I’ll take the Canadian and the more seasoned fighter against the English prospect, as despite Hadley’s championships in other promotions, he does have a bit of a fluffed record that I am not super confident in.
Andy’s Pick: Gordon +310 (.5u)
Christian Leroy Duncan (-230) vs Dusko Todorovic (+180)
Dusko Todorovic’s career can be summed up in one word: chaos. He came into the UFC after knocking out virtually everyone in the first round in 2018, including Michel Pereira. His UFC tenure has been a mixed bag going 3-3 with 2 losses coming by first round stoppage and every win coming by a ground and pound knockout. 3-3 might not look like the best record, but his losses are extremely respectable: Punahele Soriano, Gregory Rodrigues, and Chidi Njokuani.
Now he’ll face UFC newcomer and English countryman Christian Duncan as he comes over from his dominating tenure over at Cage Warriors. He’s a striker much like Todorovic, but boy is he entertaining. He has a knockout by flying knee, spinning elbow, and spinning back kick, and given Dusko’s propensity to stay in the pocket for too long, he could get hit clean with one and go out.
When Dusko is on the front foot he does well. He’s able to push opponents back along the cage and does well to land in combination there as well as threaten his wrestling. His issues come in that he’ll stay within striking range along that fence for too long and be hit clean often, and if he’s not able to back up his opponents it creates problems. Both of these guys create violence and with Dusko’s defense and durability being a question throughout his career I’ll take this fight to not pass the midway point.
Pick: u1.5 rounds -110 (1u)
Lerone Murphy (-175) vs Gabriel Santos (+145)
Someone is losing their zero in the loss column as Lerone Murphy (11-0-1) takes on Gabriel Santos (10-0) in Murphy’s long-awaited return to the octagon. Now 3-0-1 in the UFC with some wins that have aged fantastically in Ricardo Ramos and Makwan Amirkhani, Murphy will look to remind his native people just how good he can be in the featherweight decision.
Injuries and general inactivity have plagued Murphy, but his talent is undeniable and hence the hype around his return to the octagon. With 7 knockouts and 4 decision wins to his name, the Manchester product offers one of the more crisp and powerful boxing combinations in the sport. He’ll meet a similarly deadly foe in Santos whose last two wins came by head kick and liver kick. While you might presume he’s a kickboxer, it’s the tight boxing combinations of Santos and frequent stance switches that derail opponents.
Taking this fight on short notice against a man as talented as Lerone Murphy is a tall task, but Gabriel Santos’ cardio has improved over time and I trust his legs to be there for him here. With a more diverse skill set than Murphy I expect him to find a home for a sneaky high kick by hiding it with a jab. Give me Santos by finish.
Rick’s Pick: Santos ITD +255 (1u)
Muhammad Mokaev (-850) vs Jafel Filho (+550)
In the biggest difference of odds on the card, we have 22 year old phenom Muhammad Mokaev taking on Dana White Contender Series alum Jafel Filho. Filho is an interesting prospect coming out of Brazil, with a lot to offer the UFC, but this is nowhere near the matchup you want for your first UFC fight. Muhammad Mokaev has lived up to the hype so far, and the young man continues to talk about how badly he wants to break Jon Jones record for the youngest champion ever in the UFC.
Mokaev did get caught in interesting situations in the Gordon fight that made him look like it is possible to beat him if the timing is perfect, but it does not change the fact that on every facet Mokaev is better than Filho. The ruthless takedowns, impeccable cardio, and crafty submission attempts on the mat put Mokaev at a big advantage here, as he outweighs Filho’s strengths and the odds make it clear. Filho spent some time up at bantamweight after becoming a flyweight champion in the popular Brazilian promotion Shooto, but even after doing DWCS at 125 pounds you can tell it takes a toll on the 5’7” 29 year old to get to his desired weight. Filho has great takedowns, jiujitsu, and grappling, but it is not up to the insane standards of Mokaev.
With Mokaev’s fight against Charles Johnson ending in a decision, and his fight against Malcolm Gordon almost ending that way as well, it is hard to figure out if Mokaev will snag the finish against the prospect that is 7 years older than him. I think that Filho will want to be aggressive upon his debut, as it is such a big stage against one of the biggest prospects in the promotion while also fighting in London. For that reason paired with his skillset not being as strong as Mokaev’s I like Muhammad to win by submission, and if you want to hedge, take a look at his odds to win by unanimous decision as well.
Andy’s Pick: Mokaev by Submission EVEN (1 Unit)
Sam Patterson (-275) vs Yanal Ashmoz (+215)
Sam Patterson and Yanal Ashmoz each make their UFC debut after impressive performances in their respective promotions. Both fighters are incredibly entertaining to watch with high-level knockout power, which is the main reason why Dana White decided to throw this late in the prelims despite no UFC experience.
Ashmoz comes over from the PFL, but has been jumping around between smaller promotions for a long time. He only has 6 professional fights to date, and only 3 since 2017. He’s been very inactive and when he does fight he’s struggled. He knocked out Armando Gjetja in the third round, but was losing the fight leading up to the knockout. The same thing happened with Ryan Rizco, who chain-wrestled him for the first two rounds. On the feet, Ashmoz isn’t very technical but he throws every bit of power into his shots and has the staying power to last through 15 minutes. His takedown defense isn’t great nor is his defense, but if he lands he shuts your lights out.
For Sam Patterson, it’s a much more technical, exhausting approach where he’s continually on the front foot and using his extremely long range for the division to accentuate that advantage. He’ll have a 9-inch reach advantage in this fight and will use it consistently through his stiff jabs that set up overhand hooks. With 5 submission wins on his record he can wrestle, and he might utilize it just to switch things up on Ashmoz, but I fully expect him to knock Ashmoz out in London. Give me Patterson.
Rick’s Pick: Patterson ITD -120 (1u)
Chris Duncan (-115) vs Omar Morales (-105)
Scotland’s Chris Duncan comes into the UFC red hot off of his Dana White Contender Series victory last year. He fights Omar “Venezuelan Fighter” Morales, who has the most straight forward nickname since “The Pleasure Man” last week. Both fighters used to fight for Bellator, and now they face off in the UFC at 155 pounds.
Duncan went through hell and back to get into the UFC after a wild Contender Series victory. I am buying the hype here on the American Top Team product in Duncan, as he can offensively wrestle and threatens with knockout power, with seven of his nine wins coming by KO. Duncan will put the pressure on Morales, which Omar has struggled with throughout his career, and his overaggressive nature could hurt him in another fight but not against Morales.
I believe this is the fight that puts Duncan on the right track to begin his UFC career, and gives Omar his fourth loss in his last five and gets him out of the promotion. Any time that Morales has gone up against someone that is worth a damn in his career he has fallen short, and his wins don’t really impress me for someone who is 37 years old. Give me Duncan here in a fight with very close odds but one clear winner in my opinion.
Andy’s Pick: Duncan -115 (1 Unit)
Jack Shore (-525) vs Makwan Amirkhani (+365)
Shore has more holes in his game than the shiny Cage Warriors prospect appeared to show initially, and thanks to Ricky Simon, it is now clear what they are. I believe that Shore has begun to build on those gaps and if he can survive the power shots from Makwan in the first round, he should easily be able to navigate rounds 2 and 3 if it makes it that far due to Amirkhani’s gas tank.
Amirkhani does not have the cardio to go all three rounds, but does have flash and power that gets the people going. However, what’s the point when you are going to gas out against the young 28 year old? This is the perfect bounce back spot for Jack Shore, and “Mr. Finland” has really lost his shine, losing 5 of his last 7.
I like the boxing for Shore despite standing up too straight in his last loss which left him open, and I think he can threaten Makwan with takedowns even though Amirkhani is a submission threat. I believe that it will take two rounds for Shore to really start to pile it on, and love the value for him to win in Round 3 or by decision as 6 of Shore’s last 7 wins came in that fashion. Give me the Welshman to bounceback here against Makwan Amirkhani, who has one of the more interesting Tapology pictures you will see.
Andy’s Pick: Jack Shore to win in Round 3 or by Decision +125 (1 Unit)
Marvin Vettori (-285) vs Roman Dolidze (+230)
Roman Dolidze makes his gigantic step up in competition to face “The Italian Dream” Marvin Vettori in a fight that might bring the winner a title shot if it’s impressive enough. Dolidze is off the back of one of the most impressive knockout victories in recent memory. While it’s officially labeled a knockout by punches from back control, it was the calf slicer that Dolidze locked in to roll Jack Hermansson over and pound on him, and was ended because he simply couldn’t defend himself no matter how hard he tried. Excruciating from Dolidze and that’s a theme in his career. His last 3 UFC fights have all ended via knockout and he’ll look to make a statement against Vettori here as well.
Marvin might have lost his last go with Robert Whittaker soundly, but the wrestling heavy veteran is a problem for anyone in the UFC because of his exhausting style and not just his improved boxing but his ability to mix the two together seamlessly. Vettori entered the UFC as much more of a pure wrestler with little striking to set it up, but now he not only has capable and seasoned boxing, but he weaponizes it to open up his wrestling brilliantly, and if you stuff some he’ll be able to damage you back.
That’s been the case for most everyone except Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker, but among other qualities that those two have that Dolidze doesn’t is cardio. Vettori will push the pace on Vettori until he exhausts him and likely wins via decision, but I could see a third round finish by Vettori as well via submission. I’ll take a chance on it here with a hail mary and see if we can hit.
Rick’s Pick: Vettori in R3 or Decision -165 (1u), Vettori in R3 by Submission +2200 (.25u)
Jennifer Maia (+145) vs Casey O’Neill (-175)
Jennifer Maia holds the boxing advantage over O’Neill here with volume striking and combos that show her veteran expertise. However, I believe that O’Neill’s wrestling edge will be no match for Maia. Jennifer’s takedown defense will be taken advantage of by the younger fighter, and despite coming off of an ACL tear, O’Neill should be fully recovered and have had plenty of time to gameplan and prepare for the veteran Maia.
Casey O’Neill’s camp at Xtreme Couture also holds plenty of fighters who are known for their striking. I believe practicing with some of the best strikers in the UFC will sharpen your skills over time, and we have continued to see the 9-0 fighter improve fight after fight. I don’t believe “King” Casey has the power to knockout the 34-year old Maia, and I don’t see Casey submitting the Brazilian either. Give me the 25 year old Scottish prospect to win by decision in a fight where we will see her jiu jitsu and improvements on the feet shine for 15 minutes.
Andy’s Pick: O’Neill by decision +120 (.75u)
Gunnar Nelson (-380) vs Bryan Barberena (+280)
Bryan Barberena steps in on short notice for Daniel Rodrigues to take on the long-time UFC veteran – but still a youthful 34 years old – Gunnar Nelson. Nelson has been around in the UFC since 2012 going 9-5 during that stretch. Known for his Karate and Jiu-Jitsu specializations, he’ll face a very different opponent across from him in “Bam Bam”. I’ll let you guess what Barberena’s style is.
Barberena may only by 9-7 in the UFC, but he’s logged five fight of the nights in that span due to his aggressiveness and activity in his boxing. His wrestling defense can be questionable at times, but he’s largely beat everyone he’s supposed to and lost to the others. With losses to Vicente Luque, Leon Edwards, and Colby Covington, he faced the upper echelon of the division and Gunnar Nelson will be no different.
The odds are the way they are because of that Jiu-Jitsu Nelson continues to show and how dominant he was in his win over Takashi Sato after a three year absence. He was able to obliterate the young Japanese fighter over three rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory. One thing Nelson has always had issues with is when opponents get just inside of his kicking range. When you’re in the pocket his skillset is much worse, and that’s where Barberena excels.
He’s going to have to take one to give one, but Barberena has no problem doing that. Expect Barberena to put his foot on the gas, marching forward and cutting off the cage until he eliminates the space and goes wild. Nelson has been knocked out before, and if Barberena is going to win this one he’s probably going to knock him out too. I’ll take a shot on the underdog, with the understanding that it’s going to be his wrestling defense that will be the quality that wins him this fight.
Rick’s Pick: Barberena +280 (.5u) & Barberena by KO +550 (.25u)
Justin Gaethje (+190) vs Rafael Fiziev (-230)
Gaethje’s toughness, cardio, and power are the three biggest skills that he possesses. With 19 of his 23 victories in professional MMA coming by knockout, you know that you are going to get an insane fight every time you watch the man go. Hell, you don’t earn the nickname “The Highlight” for being boring.
The problem for Justin is the hand speed of Fiziev, as I think he can hit Gaethje quicker and utilize efficient combos. I would be floored if he ended up knocking out Justin, as we have seen Gaethje take some of the hardest of shots over the years. It’s unfortunate that Justin has moved away from his wrestling base, as I believe this would be Fiziev’s kryptonite and Gaethje could take a clear advantage here versus working his strikes on the feet against a quicker striker.
However, Justin’s kryptonite has also been on the ground, with his losses for the title against Khabib and Oliveira coming from being an absolute liability on the mat. Fiziev will not threaten Justin there, and although Fiziev will be hitting Justin quicker and keeping him guessing, I think that Gaethje will do much more damage. We also have seen Fiziev gas out in the third round before as he did in the Bobby Green fight, and although that was a year and a half ago, it was only two fights ago for Rafael.
I love both of these guys and they should continue to provide entertainment for the lightweight division for years to come. However, when the book gives you Gaethje as an underdog with his experience, his incredible camp with Trevor Wittman and Kamaru Usman, and you know it’s going to be a stand up fight, it’s hard not to snag the value. I’ll take Justin here as he looks to get back on track following his loss to Charles Oliveira almost a year ago, as I believe he picked this fight specifically for the hype and he believes he has an edge.
Andy’s Pick: Gaethje +190 (1u)
Leon Edwards (+195) vs Kamaru Usman (-240)
The arguable welterweight GOAT in Kamra Usman is desperate to win his title back and reclaim his spot among the UFC’s greatest. Unless you’re new to the UFC (in which case, welcome!) you know how the last fight ended up. Edwards had success early which made viewers concerned, but Usman dominated the next three rounds by continuing to wrestle Edwards to death. Edwards was destined to lose until he hid a left high kick that popped Usman right on the jaw, stiffening him up like a board on the ground.
Usman was a respectful loser and credited Edwards for the knockout. He also acknowledged that he was on his way to a 49-46 victory and his 16th UFC win, and that while the narrative around him might change due to his loss and him being 35 years old, I believe he’s more than motivated to reclaim his throne, defend it a few more times and resign from the UFC after he’s undoubtedly surpassed Georges St-Pierre.
As it goes for Edwards, it was noticeable that his takedown defense was the priority of his camp last time out as he largely did well against the cage defending the takedowns. The issue is that he was up against the cage for the majority of the fight taking a moderate amount of damage, enough to win rounds for Usman. He’s a kickboxer by trade, but Edwards’ Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling is not bad anymore. On the feet at range I expect him to be the quicker, more accurate fighter working his jabs again, with a higher pace than he fought with in his last go.
Edwards has a clear path to victory and it stems again from takedown defense and disengaging on the fence. He’ll need to make Usman pay for entries and dig underhooks to disengage, otherwise we’ll be in for a sleeper of a main event in London. The crowd is behind Leon, the nation is behind him, he’s the fairytale story everyone wants to see succeed, but he’ll fall short here as Usman dominates multiple rounds with extensive wrestling.