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The Human Algorithm Grant Emrick Previews UFC 286

UFC 286: Edwards vs. Usman 3

March 18, 2023

Emrick’s 2023 UFC Fighter Pick Record (65-31-2)

Main Events (3-5)

Lock of the Week (6-2)

Dawg of the Week (2-6)

Lifetime Fighter Pick Record (363-193-5)

Early Prelim Predictions:

WFLY: Juliana Miller (4-1) vs. Veronica Hardy (6-4-1)

  • Pick: Juliana Miller 

LW: Jai Herbert (12-4) vs. Ludovit Klein (19-4)

  • Pick: Ludovit Klein

WFLY: Joanne Wood (15-8) vs. Luana Carolina (8-3)

  • Pick: Joanne Wood

FLY: Jake Hadley (9-1) vs. Malcolm Gordon (14-6)

  • Pick: Jake Hadley

MW: Christian Leroy Duncan (7-0) vs. Dusko Todorovic (12-3)

  • Pick: Christian Leroy Duncan

FW: Lerone Murphy (11-0-1) vs. Gabriel Santos (10-0)

  • Pick: Lerone Murphy

Prelim Predictions:

FLY: Muhammad Mokaev (9-0, 1 NC) vs. Jafel Filho (14-2)

  • Pick: Muhammad Mokaev

LW: Sam Patterson (10-1-1) vs. Yanal Ashmoz (6-0)

  • Pick: Sam Patterson

LW: Chris Duncan (9-1) vs. Omar Morales (11-3)

  • Pick: Chris Duncan

FW: Jack Shore (16-1) vs. Makwan Amirkhani (17-8)

  • Pick: Jack Shore

Main Card Predictions:

MW: Marvin Vettori (18-6-1) vs. Roman Dolidze (12-1)

  • Pick: Marvin Vettori (-280)
  • Quick Reasoning:  I continue to doubt Dolidze, as I’ve picked against him in his past three fights. And, against Marvin Vettori, this trend will continue. A head made of steel, great wrestling, and decent hands is what gives me faith in Marvin. Dolidze struggled a majority of the fight until finding a submission position and KO out of nowhere against Jack Hermansson, so I don’t think he’ll fare too well against a much better wrestler/grappler in Vettori. Other than Vettori being the higher volume striker, absorbing more strikes per minute, and landing takedowns consistently against the elite of the MW division, the two are fairly even. I’ll go with the unbeatable chin and takedown nuisance of Vettori to halt the meteoric rise of Dolidze here. Can Marvin be the official elite gatekeeper for the middleweights? I think yes. Vettori via decision is the pick. 

WFLY: Jennifer Maia (20-9-1) vs. Casey O’Neill (9-0)

  • Pick: Casey O’Neill (-175) *Lock of the Week*
  • Quick Reasoning: I love this matchup for O’Neill. Maia has a negative striking differential and O’Neill is landing over 8.5 strikes per minute. Not only would the volume advantage go to the O’Neill side, but Casey is also much better on the ground by landing over 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. O’Neill also boasts more efficiency in landing and defending takedowns, as well as striking accuracy (57% vs. 37%) than Maia. I like the youth of nine years on O’Neill’s side, plus the layoff and recovery post-injury for O’Neill should set her up well for this matchup. Maia is well-tested against those such as Chookagian, Fiorot, and Shevchenko, so she may be able to adjust well to the style of O’Neill over the course of the fight. While it’s a little early to compare O’Neill to the elite of the division, she has many of the tools to place her there and defeat Maia on the feet or ground come Saturday. Maia has gone to a decision in all ten of her UFC fights so far, so I’ll be taking O’Neill via decision. 

WW: Gunnar Nelson (18-5-1) vs. Bryan Barberena (18-9)

  • Pick: Gunnar Nelson (-370)
  • Quick Reasoning: Long story, short: If it’s on the feet, Nelson will get pieced up. If it goes to the ground, Barberena will either be submitted or drained by Nelson. Barberena is a wild striker who knows nothing but violence in his fights, but his ground game is his clear kryptonite. The kryptonite for Nelson is his negative striking differential, being outlander nearly 2:1 on the feet. Even though the odds strongly favor Nelson, which can be due to RDA’s beating of Barberena in December, I’m not confident in this pick at all. Barberena is so tough, but I think Nelson is just a little more technical and can take advantage of those wild bursts by him and counter with takedowns. I’m leaning Nelson via decision or submission, but Barberena shouldn’t be counted out until the fight is over. 

LW: Justin Gaethje (23-4) vs. Rafael Fiziev (12-1)

  • Pick: Rafael Fiziev (-230)
  • Quick Reasoning: I see Fiziev as the Adesanya of LW with better takedown and grappling abilities. The kickboxing background and crisp striking, despite having a negative differential due to his Fight of the Night bout with Bobby Green, is why I’m going with Fiziev. Not only does Fiziev have a negative differential, Gaethje does as well with 7.85 strikes absorbed per minute. With the amount of damage Gaethje has taken in his UFC tenure, such as 174 strikes from Poirier, 155 from Alvarez, 136 in a beatdown of Ferguson, and 103 in a Fight of the Year with Chandler, I’m a little skeptical of how much he can handle on the feet with Fiziev. After seeing Charles Oliveira outstrike Gaethje and drop him early on in the fight, I’m starting to question how much longer his chin can hold up against the top of the division. With Fiziev having a couple more options to win – barring Gaethje using his wrestling background – and the more technical striking than the American, I’m going with Fiziev in a back-and-forth split-decision or third round KO. 

WW: Leon Edwards (20-3, 1 NC) vs. Kamaru Usman (20-2)

  • Pick: Leon Edwards (+210) *Dawg of the Week*
  • Quick Reasoning: Former champions are 3-11 in immediate rematches following their title loss in UFC history. I didn’t think Edwards had a chance against Usman, and part of me still does not believe he does. But a lot of the things I was worried about with Usman in his last fight came to fruition. He fell in love with his hands a little too much towards the end of the fight and his chin has worn down as Usman has continued to enter brawls against his opponents. The division is starting to catch up to Usman at the same time he may be starting to slightly decline from his prime. Don’t get me wrong, Usman dominated most of the fight against Edwards and was en route to a clear 49-46 finish at the worst. However, I believe the elevation of Salt Lake City played a role in Edwards’ cardio decline. Now, Edwards has historical records on his side, the home nation in his corner, and a newfound motivation as champion at a lower altitude. If a wild Usman comes out, then I think Edwards will be able to counter and land the more significant strikes. But, if Usman comes out with the bread and butter of non-stop wrestling, then this might be a deflating victory that rewrites history for the WW division. I love siding with history and have some faith in Edwards to find a way to defeat Usman once again Saturday night in London. 

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