UFC 282: Blachowicz vs. Ankalaev
December 10, 2022
Emrick’s UFC Fighter Pick Record (280-146-2)
Main Event Record (21-15)
Lock of the Week (9-2)
Dawg of the Week (9-10)
BW: Cameron Saaiman (6-0) vs. Steen Koslow (6-0)
- Pick: Cameron Saaiman
FW: TJ Brown (16-9) vs. Erik Silva (9-1)
- Pick: Erik Silva
FW: Billy Quarantillo (16-4) vs. Alexander Hernandez (13-5)
- Pick: Billy Quarantillo
MW: Chris Curtis (29-9) vs. Joaquin Buckley (15-5)
- Pick: Chris Curtis
MW: Edmen Shahbazyan (11-3) vs. Dalcha Lungiambula (11-5)
- Pick: Edmen Shahbazyan
HW: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-4) vs. Chris Daukaus (12-5)
- Pick: Jairzinho Rozenstruik
BW: Raul Rosas Jr. (6-0) vs. Jay Perrin (10-6)
- Pick: Raul Rosas Jr.
Main Card Predictions:
FW: Bryce Mitchell (15-1) vs. Ilia Topuria (12-0)
- Pick: Bryce Mitchell (+125) *DAWG OF THE WEEK*
- Quick Reasoning: I come to you as a man with plentiful film study and expertise of strength of record, quality of opponents, and overall performance in the octagon. It’s been a cold streak lately, but I am not afraid to make these picks and support it with unbiased facts that could hurt feelings. This is probably not the best fight to start my spiel, as we have a high-caliber FW contender matchup where someone’s UFC “0” has to go. I’m siding with the dawg in Mitchell here, not because of the underdog value, but due to his endless gas tank, underrated striking, and a constant grappling/submission threat that could keep Topuria on his heels for all 15 minutes. Topuria is very well-rounded too, but my big question mark is if he’ll be able to hang with Mitchell the longer this fight goes on (Topuria has been to the second round just three times in his career, and only seen the third round once). Topuria is more willing to put himself in dangerous situations, as his output and strikes absorbed occur at a greater rate than Mitchell. Bryce Mitchell has the second-fewest strikes absorbed per minute in FW history at 1.39, and that’s after fighting notable strikers Edson Barboza and Andre Fili. Topuria has the ability to finish this fight at any moment, but Mitchell comes in with good defensive gameplans and may have opportunities to counter Topuria’s frenzied attacks. If this was an ESG pick, I’d go with Topuria all day. But at plus odds, Mitchell’s defense and improved striking gives me slight confidence in this one.
MW: Darren Till (18-4-1) vs. Dricus Du Plessis (17-2)
- Pick: Dricus Du Plessis (-190)
- Quick Reasoning: I’m big on Dricus, especially against Till after the Englishman dropped 4 of his last 5 and hasn’t performed well against those with legitimate grappling abilities. Tavares exposed a couple deficiencies in Dricus’ work in his last bout after stopping all seven of his takedowns, but his power and high output style were too much for Tavares and other opponents of Du Plessis to handle. Till is officially sitting at a negative striking ratio – more strikes absorbed than landed per minute – which is my biggest red flag and usually an auto-fade indicator when fighting at ranked competition. Dricus has better metrics in all aspects except for striking defense rate (58% vs. 52%), so the only part that worries me is if Till cracks Dricus and puts him down. Till’s southpaw style isn’t anything new to Dricus, as Du Plessis went 1-1 against Roberto Soldic for the KSW belt in 2018. As long as Dricus doesn’t get caught in a low-IQ fight moment, it’s his fight to lose. However, I think the troubles continue for Till against a rising contender, leading to a finish within the first two rounds for Du Plessis.
CATCHW: Santiago Ponzinibbio (29-6) vs. Alex Morono (22-7)
- Pick: Santiago Ponzinibbio (-180)
- Quick Reasoning: My original lock of the week until Lawler withdrew from the matchup, Ponzinibbio isn’t someone to play with. Yes, he’s been dealt an odd hand in back-to-back split-decisions against Geoff Neal and Michel Pereira, but he belongs in the ranked conversation and has solid striking ability. I’ve really liked the run Morono’s been on lately, winning four straight since 2020. Both of these fighters have eerily similar metrics and go with a wild high-risk/high-reward striking output and absorption style, so it’s hard to really separate the two. In terms of strength of opposition and overall resume, I’d go with Ponzinibbio. I do think Morono is going to put up a much better fight than Lawler would have – as it was a mismatch from the start in the original booking – but I think the short-notice call could prove tricky to both fighters. I’ll go with Santiago here, but don’t be shocked if Morono keeps his streak going to five or if a split-decision comes knocking on the door for Ponzinibbio. Potential fight of the night in what should be a stand-up affair here.
LW: Paddy Pimblett (19-3) vs. Jared Gordon (19-5)
- Pick: Paddy Pimblett (-260) *LOCK OF THE WEEK*
- Quick Reasoning: It’s still not the time to fade Paddy. Gordon is pretty good – all UFC level fighters are, but the promotion isn’t ready for Paddy to lose yet, especially in a co-main/higher PPV slot. It’s just not even worth breaking this down until Pimblett sees greater competition that earns placement on the main card. Helwani might’ve 10-7’d him, but cash cow Paddy won’t be going home with an L Saturday night. Paddy by submission in the first two rounds.
LHW: Jan Blachowicz (29-9) vs. Magomed Ankalaev (18-1)
- Pick: Magomed Ankalaev (-340)
- Quick Reasoning: It’s that time of the week to fade my main event pick, marking six losses in a row for this slot in the card. Better put the mortgage, second mortgage, and your child’s college fund on Blachowicz because I’m picking Ankalaev to take the strap home with him. Outside of a last-second fluke loss to Paul Craig in which he was en route to winning, Ankalaev has been pretty flawless in his MMA career. Blachowicz has looked very good too, ranging from a title defense over Adesanya, a poorly-aged KO of Dominick Reyes, and a get-back win over an ACL-less Rakic. I think Ankalaev makes this 10 straight victories by way of efficiency. Magomed bests Jan in terms of total strikes landed/absorbed, takedown defense, and better efficiency percentages for overall striking. On paper, this should be Ankalaev, especially as this was the way the division has been trending the past year. But, as with any fight, who knows what can happen. Ankalaev is the more well-rounded fighter, won’t accept poor positions, and has a high fight IQ, which is why we have the pick for Ankalaev here. I’m thinking this enters the championship rounds, but I am not entirely convinced of this ending within the distance. If betting Ankalaev, take him and over 1.5/2.5 rounds for best value.