The UFC is back on PPV for one final time this year from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, headlined by two title fights featuring Leon Edwards defending his Welterweight title against Colby Covington and Alexandre Pantoja rematching Brandon Royval for the Flyweight throne. I went over this entire card and gave my predictions and best bets, so let's get into it.
Odds provided by Stake.com accurate as of 12/11/2023 1:00 AM EST
This highly anticipated main event for the Welterweight title is expected to feature very competitive action. Leon Edwards defends his title here after an impressive set of victories over Kamaru Usman, where he showed off his defensive grappling and very clean, technical striking. Colby Covington is a cardio machine who attempts a lot of takedowns behind wild striking and has shown tremendous recoverability, although his inactivity is a concern.
I've got Covington here, as I think he will make this fight ugly and exhausting to keep Edwards from setting up big shots and tire him out for the later rounds.
Pick: Covington O/U: Over 4.5 -250
This is a rematch for the Flyweight belt several years after Pantoja won the first meeting. Alexandre Pantoja is the newly crowned champion of this division, and he has been dominant on his road to that belt with an aggressive grappling style mixed with heavy hands. Brandon Royval is an action fighter who brings a crazy pace every time he steps in the octagon, he has incredible skills on the ground, but in his constant efforts to force action, he can leave an opening to be hurt.
I like Pantoja to defend his title here as he has proven nearly impossible to finish, and Royval will leave openings to be finished over five rounds.
Pick: Pantoja O/U: Over 2.5 +117
It's a massive test for one of the most hyped contenders in the UFC at Welterweight. Shavkat Rakhmonov is everything you could want in a fighter, with incredible striking and grappling, which have both earned him many finishes during his perfect professional career, not to mention he proved he could go to war in his last fight where he finished Geoff Neal late in the final round of a grueling battle. Stephen Thompson is one of the most unique and talented strikers in UFC history with a tough-to-solve kickboxing style, although in recent years, he has been out-grappled to victory and been hurt in the striking, which is a concern given his age now being over forty, father time remains unbeaten.
Rakhmonov is my most confident pick on the card, as I see him having a massive grappling advantage here, which I expect him to use to finish this fight.
Pick: Rakhmonov O/U: Under 1.5 +137
Two Lightweights with large fanbases behind them face off in this fun matchup. Tony Ferguson looks to end his losing streak here, although things have not improved over the last several years, with his striking looking slow and the threat of his grappling seemingly gone, having been submitted twice in a row. Paddy Pimblett looks for a sort of redemption here after his last fight served as notice that he may not be ready to compete with the top of the division after Jared Gordon had seemingly done enough to beat him over three rounds; he has solid grappling and decent power in his striking although his defense remains a significant concern with his chin constantly being very high.
I'll pick Pimblett, but I have no interest in betting him at this price against anyone, even Ferguson in his current form.
Pick: Pimblett O/U: Over 1.5 -256
One of several unbeaten Welterweight prospects gets tested here against a dangerous finisher to start the main card. Vicente Luque looks to return to form after several disappointing performances following his four-fight finish streak in 2020/21. Ian Garry enters this one undefeated as a pro with an imposing striking offense that has earned him this step up in competition, although his defense remains a serious concern, with Kenan Song having hurt him badly.
Garry likely takes a decision here as he knows even with his recent struggles, he will have to play it safe against Luque, who has proven very tough to finish over his career.
Pick: Garry O/U: Over 1.5 -227
Short notice replacement saves a good fight here at Featherweight. Josh Emmett looks to get back into contention after tough losses to Ilia Topuria and Yair Rodriguez in his last two; he still has a powerful overhand right and is as tough as they come. Bryce Mitchell steps in here on short notice after his recent win over Dan Ige; he uses phenomenal wrestling and cardio to control opponents well.
I lean with Mitchell here as I see him using his wrestling to control most of this fight and maybe even find a submission.
Pick: Mitchell O/U: Over 2.5 -169
Veteran Bantamweights look to establish their name in contention for the currently vacant title. Irene Aldana looks to bounce back from her loss to Amanda Nunes here; she is a very dangerous striker with power rarely seen in this division. Karol Rosa looks to break into the top of the division here; she is a solid striker with decent power, which she showed by dropping Norma Dumont.
I'm picking Aldana as she is the much more experienced of the two, and I feel she is a step above in the striking.
Pick: Aldana O/U: Over 2.5 -370
Clash of very experienced Bantamweight finishers here. Cody Garbrandt is a former champion looking to get on a winning streak; he is incredibly fast and powerful with an underrated wrestling game, although his durability and fight IQ have caused him issues in the past. Brian Kelleher has been a solid test for young fighters for some time with a decent all-round game; although he is not spectacular in any area, he has a good guillotine.
I love this spot for Garbrandt as I give him every advantage and expect him to dominate the much older and slower Kelleher.
Pick: Garbrandt O/U: Under 2.5 -112
Young Flyweights looking to move up in this deep division go head-to-head in this one. Casey O'Neill comes back here from her first career loss; she has excellent finishing ability, resulting in her finishing four of her five UFC wins. Ariane Lipski has gained momentum recently after a slow start to her UFC career, although she still has yet to prove herself against quality competition.
I've got O'Neill, as I give her the edge everywhere, mainly in the grappling department, where I see her dominating.
Pick: O'Neill O/U: Over 2.5 -270
Dangerous Middleweights square off against one another here. Alonzo Menifield is a strong puncher who has recently rounded out his game nicely and is coming off a very impressive pair of showings against Jimmy Crute. Dustin Jacoby is a high-volume kickboxer who has been remarkably consistent, with there being an argument for him having only lost one time in the UFC as the Khalil Rountree decision is highly disputed.
I lean with Menifield at this price as although Jacoby will have the volume edge, Menifield will have an advantage with his power, and he could mix in some wrestling as well, which is unlikely from Jacoby.
Pick: Menifield O/U: Over 1.5 -222
Flyweight grapplers face off in this one. Tagir Ulanbekov is a very tall and tricky grappler for the division with an excellent choke game, although he struggled with the pace that Tim Elliot forced him to fight at, which should be noted. Cody Durden is a good wrestler with a high pace who comes in on a four-fight win streak, with the last three being an underdog.
I like Durden as the underdog here; he is the higher-pace guy and can hold the top position enough to win a decision.
Pick: Durden O/U: Over 2.5 -250
Fireworks should be expected in this Featherweight banger. Andre Fili is a slick-moving boxer who has faced many of the division's best over his UFC career; he also has a decent ground game that could serve him well in this one. Lucas Almeida is a dangerous striker with knockout power that lasts throughout the fight, although he was dominated in the grappling department his last time out by Pat Sabatini.
This should be a good one, but I'll pick Fili as he has the ability to mix in the grappling here, which could be the difference in a close fight.
Pick: Fili O/U: Over 2.5 +118
Intriguing Heavyweight clash between fighters with very impressive records. Shamil Gaziev makes his UFC debut here with an undefeated record coming off a quick win on Dana White's Contender Series. Martin Buday has started his UFC career with four straight wins, although it's fair to say he has left some to be desired from his performances in each of those bouts, all against very low-level opposition.
If I had to bet on this fight, I would take Gaziev, as he has more finishing upside and overall potential, but I'll be keeping my money away from this matchup.
Pick: Gaziev O/U: Over 1.5 -204
Veteran Welterweights open the card in a fun matchup. Randy Brown is a very long fighter with a hands-down style; his range gives opponents issues, although he is hittable on the inside and doesn't respond well to big shots. Muslim Salikhov is a solid kickboxer with decent power, although he is getting older and doesn't throw much volume.
Brown is the rightful favorite here as he has every edge and should dominate this fight, although his past durability issues give me pause before betting on him.
Pick: Brown O/U: Over 1.5 -286
Colby Covington +125
Alexandre Pantoja -170
Cody Garbrandt -200
Casey O'Neill -163
Shavkat Rakhmonov + Cody Garbrandt -129