UFC 280 comes at you from Abu Dhabi on October 22. But don’t you dare put any money on the jam-packed card until you read our UFC 280 betting advice. We’re offering three picks on the top fights right here if you stick around!
Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev Pick
What an absolute matchup in this one to crown the next lightweight champion of the world (the belt is currently vacant). In one corner, you have Oliveira — one of the best to ever do it in this division. On the opposite end is Makhachev, a pupil of Khabib Nurmagomedov, another lightweight all-timer in his own right. Top-used UFC betting sites are almost split on who wins between Oliveira and Makhachev, as you can see in the odds below:
This matchup is as even as it comes. Both fighters are in the upper echelon and both prefer to fight on the ground. Oliveira is the UFC’s best-ever submission specialist with 16 wins coming by tap-out. Makhachev, though, is perhaps the closest thing we’ve seen to Khabib when it comes to wrestling. Both these characteristics have led to double-digit win streaks for the two fighters. Makhachev is at 10 straight wins, while Oliveira is up to 11.
Honestly, we’re slightly surprised that Makhachev is the betting favorite. That’s not to discredit the Dagestan-bred fighter. Not at all, but his resume lacks the punch of Oliveira. The Brazilian has taken out the class’ top fighters one-by-one — Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, and Michael Chandler. Makhachev, despite his No. 2 ranking inside the division, hasn’t faced competition nearly as dangerous.
One more thing: Oliveira’s success against the aforementioned lightweights was as much to do with his striking as his ground game. He ate massive punches from all three and dished them right back. Just how much Oliveira has improved his striking ability is a surprise to most. Makhachev is a non-threat when standing up too, therefore, Oliviera could win this fight without having to outgrapple the Russian.
You can probably guess where our money is going and that’s on Oliviera. We just can’t look past Makhachev’s suspect resume. He’s never faced an opponent even near the caliber of Oliviera and until he does so, we’re betting on the proven commodity. A win from Oliviera here and there’s an argument to be made he’s the best-ever at lightweight — even more so than Makhachev’s mentor, Makhachev. Generally speaking, it’s not smart to bet against all-time greatness and that’s what Oliviera is.
Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw Pick
Another title fight, another super close betting line. The reigning bantamweight title-holder, Sterling, is favored to win in the semi-main event but not by much. Take a gander at these UFC odds:
Oddsmakers aren’t taking Dillashaw lightly because he’s a two-time bantamweight champion — and only one of those reigns ended in a loss (to Dominick Cruz in 2016). The other was a forced title strip for failing UFC’s drug policy. That led to a two-year ban and UFC 280 marks Dillashaw’s second fight since then. In his first, he picked up a split decision win versus Cory Sandhagen.
Dillashaw is already on record saying Sterling isn’t “dangerous” which is not a wrong assessment. The champion prefers not to engage in “war” in the octagon. Instead, he relies on his technical skill and athleticism to outpoint opponents — as he did against Petr Yan last time out in a back-and-forth affair. We think that's a winning strategy for Sterling here. Our prediction is the reigning champion successfully defends the title in a decision win.
Sean O’Malley vs. Petr Yan Pick
Here’s another bantamweight matchup featuring a tried-and-true fighter (Yan) vs. an up-and-comer (O’Malley). Unlike the two previous bouts, oddsmakers have set lopsided lines in this one, clearly favoring the former divisor champion, Yan:
Suga O’Malley — with his dyed hair and charismatic personality — seemed to be slow-cooked for mainstream success. He beat up on lesser competition but now jumps right up to the No. 2 ranked fighter. Whether that’s due to O’Malley’s wishes or Dana White's match booking, this is too big of a step-up. Simply put, Yan is going to maul him in the octagon.
The only real advantage O’Malley has over Yan is power. That does mean something, especially in a three-round fight. Still, we’re taking Yan to win convincingly. O’Malley lacks the experience or fight IQ to topple a former champion like Yan.
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