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UFC 285 Staff Preview And Predictions

UFC 285
Jon Jones is the ultimate X-factor in Saturday night’s fight with Ciryl Gane at UFC 285. (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

UFC 285 Staff Preview And Predictions

For a long time, I never thought I would get to type out the following sentence. It’s Jon Jones fight week. UFC 285 plays host to the return of Jones, and his debut at Heavyweight, something three years in the making. This card will also see the UFC Women’s Flyweight title on the line as Valentina Shevchenko defends her title against Alexa Grasso. Kicking off the main card is the pay-per-view debut of arguably the biggest prospect in MMA right now: Bo Nickal. This card is guaranteed fireworks from top to bottom, so let’s get into Vendetta’s staff predictions for UFC 285! This week, I will be joined by James Herrick.

James’ Record: 18-9-2

Garrett’s Record: 17-10-2

Bo Nickal vs. Jamie Pickett (Middleweight)

James: It is hard to find a fighter with more hype entering their UFC debut than Bo Nickal. That is what happens when a three-time NCAA National Champion wrestler makes the transition to MMA. As unlikely as it seems, Jamie Pickett is attempting to spoil that debut.

I can’t imagine this coming as any surprise, but I do not think Pickett has much of a chance here. You could make the argument that Pickett is one of the worst middleweights on the UFC roster. That doesn’t give me any confidence that he can beat Nickal. I think Nickal’s wrestling will be too much for Pickett to handle. Once this gets to the ground, Nickal has very underrated submission skills which will help him finish this fight. I will take Nickal by first-round submission.

Garrett: All the credit in the world to Jamie Pickett for taking this fight. I hope Dana White is giving him a BAG for being the unfortunate soul who has to fight Bo Nickal in his pay-per-view debut. I don’t think this fight goes longer than 90 seconds, to be honest. Nickal will shoot early, and with his NCAA wrestling pedigree, that shouldn’t be an issue. The submission comes soon after. Give me Nickal via first-round submission.

No. 7 Mateusz Gamrot vs. No. 10 Jalin Turner (Lightweight)

James: This bout between Mateusz Gamrot and Jalin Turner is one of the best fights on UFC 285. If you forced me to pick, this would probably be my prediction for the fight of the night. More importantly, this fight will have massive implications. Gamrot is looking to get back in the win column after a close decision loss to Beneil Dariush while Turner is aiming to continue his climb up the ranks. For either fighter, a win could open the door to a fight against the division’s elite.

This fight is incredibly interesting. Gamrot is one of the best wrestlers in the lightweight division and he has elite cardio that allows him to push the pace with his wrestling. He holds his own on the feet too as he has solid boxing combinations and can mix in kicks well. Meanwhile, Turner is one of the most lethal and unique fighters on the UFC roster. First off, he is a 6’ 3” lightweight. That in itself is crazy. To pair with his size, Turner has fight-ending power and crafty submissions on the ground. In a close fight, I will side with the fight-ending power of Turner. I will take Turner by second-round knockout.

Garrett: I have no idea what to make of this fight if I am being transparent. Normally when I make my picks I like to be sure-minded, but in this case, I just am not sure I could go either way. Mateusz Gamrot has elite-level wrestling, which always bodes well in any fight. But Jalin Turner is a freak. He has a huge frame for 155lbs and his reach should make a huge difference. I normally lean toward wrestling, but how can you bet against a dude the size of Turner? So much conflict. I’ll take Turner, as he is the rising prospect in the division.

No. 7 Geoff Neal vs. No. 9 Shavkat Rakhmonov (Welterweight)

James: One of the top prospects in the UFC, Shavkat Rakhmonov, is taking a massive setup in competition at UFC 285 as he takes on Geoff Neal. With both fighters in the midst of impressive UFC runs, they are each on the verge of getting massive fights at welterweight. Needless to say, the stakes are high in this one.

Rakhmonov is one of the best prospects in the UFC for a reason. Over 16 fights he has eight career knockouts and eight career submissions. It doesn’t get more balanced than that. On the feet, Rakhmonov gets it done with excellent long-ranged striking. This typically comes in the form of a strong jab and nice kicks. Meanwhile, he has strong clinch takedowns and great submission skills. Neal will provide him a challenge at UFC 285 though. Neal is a great boxer with strong takedown defense and he has really good cardio. Those traits make him a tough fighter to beat. In this fight, the key for Neal will be to get inside and exchange boxing combinations with Rakhmonov. However, despite Neal’s solid takedown defense, I think that will allow Rakhmonov to land takedowns.

For what it’s worth, I think Neal will land some good shots and make it closer than the betting lines would suggest, but I can not pick him to win this fight. Ultimately, I think Rakhomonov will pull ahead on the scorecards with jabs and takedowns. I will take Rakhmonov by decision.

Garrett: UFC 285 is prospect central, as another one of the biggest prospects in the sport in Shavkat Rakhmonov looks to defeat the very game veteran Geoff Neal. Neal is no easy out. He possesses very solid boxing and has shown in the past to have good cardio. His takedown defense will be put to the test in this fight, and while it is very solid, I don’t think it will be good enough to defend the takedowns from Rakhmonov. If Neal can keep the fight standing, he has a good shot at stealing some points. But wrestling normally prevails (ignore my previous prediction). I will take Rakhmonov via decision.

(c) Valentina Shevchenko vs. No. 6 Alexa Grasso (UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship)

James: In the UFC 285 co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko will look to defend her women’s flyweight belt for the eighth time. Her opponent, Alexa Grasso, will look to take the belt from the champ and become the third Mexican-born UFC fighter to touch UFC gold this year. The storyline in this bout focuses on whether Shevchenko’s close fight against Taila Santos was a sign of regression or if she just wasn’t at her best. Either way, Shevchenko will need to be on point if she wants to get past Grasso.

In my opinion, I think it is only a matter of time before Shevchenko is dethroned. I just do not think Grasso is the fighter to get the job done. Shevchenko is an excellent striker. This is led by her outstanding kicks and quick hands. On the ground, she is good enough to out-grapple strikers, but she can struggle against physical fighters with elite grappling, hence why Santos found success. Grasso does not fit that description. Yes, Grasso has tremendous boxing, but Shevchenko is elite at staying on the outside and blasting her opponent with kicks. I do not think Grasso will be able to get inside enough to land her hands. Plus, Grasso is not a great grappler. She isn’t bad, but she is not on the level of Shevchenko.

In short, I think Grasso is an easy stylistic matchup for Shevchenko. I will take Shevchenko by fourth-round knockout.

Garrett: The UFC 285 co-main event is where my boldest prediction shines. I have major concerns about current champion Valentina Shevchenko. A champion of her caliber has to fall at some point, and she almost did during her June fight against Talia Santos. I lean on the boxing of Grasso here. The best always get caught. Julianna Pena was landing on Amanda Nunes, leading to a massive takedown and submission win. The GOAT of Women’s MMA. The mighty have to fall at some point. Rose Namajunas caught Joanna Jedrzejczyk and finished her in their first fight. Why not Alexa Grasso? Give me Grasso via second-round TKO.

Jon Jones vs. No. 1 Ciryl Gane (Vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship)

James: After three long years, Jon Jones is finally making his UFC heavyweight debut as he takes on Ciryl Gane at UFC 285. This is a special fight. Jones is one of the best fighters in the history of the sport. If Jones can add a heavyweight championship to his resume, it is hard to say he is not the GOAT. Meanwhile, Gane is one of the most talented heavyweights of this generation making Jones’ heavyweight litmus test even more intriguing.

Before I get into my prediction, I have to acknowledge Jones’ weight gain and time off. To be honest, I have no idea how these factors could affect Jones. In theory, he could be less sharp, less flexible, slower, and he could have worse cardio. With that being said, it may not affect Jones at all. Since either outcome is possible, I am not going to factor them into my prediction.

I could talk all day about the X’s and O’s of this fight. In striking, both fighters have very unique skill sets. Jones is interesting in the fact that he is a terrific striker, but he doesn’t have great hands. Instead, Jones has some of the best kicks, knees, and elbows in the history of the sport. On the flip side, Gane has terrific movement and speed for the heavyweight division. Offensively, Gane can mix kicks to all three levels, has solid straight strikes, and will mix in strikes from the clinch.

Now, the grappling is interesting in this fight. Historically, Jones has terrific wrestling. Although, Jones struggled to land takedowns in his most recent fights. That may not matter though because Gane was not able to defend takedowns against Francis Ngannou. However, the difference in this fight is that Jones has elite ground-and-pound. From the top position, Jones lands brutal elbows and wears on fighters.

As far as my prediction goes, I think Jones will utilize oblique kicks, and calf kicks to eliminate Gane’s quick movement. From there, he can begin to pick Gane apart as he becomes and sitting target. At the same time, despite the aforementioned wrestling regression, I expect Jones to come out with his wrestling at an elite level. This will only make the skill gap in this fight more pronounced. As the fight goes on, I expect Jones to pull further and further ahead before eventually finishing the fight. I will take Jones by fourth-round submission.

Garrett: Love him or hate him, it’s hard not to argue that Jon Jones has the biggest drawing power of anyone in the UFC right now. He has been gone since February of 2020 while he made the bulk up to Heavyweight. To be honest, there was a long period of time when I was convinced we would never see Jon Jones fight again.

I want to address something before I dive into the UFC 285 main event. Jon Jones, for this writer’s money, has struggled in his last few fights down at 205. Had Thiago Santos not blown out his knee early, he was going to beat Jones. It showed. Dominick Reyes (ignoring how he looks now) pushed Jones very far, with some on Verdict giving him the win. Then going further back than those two fights, he should have lost his title due to an illegal knee to the downed Anthony Smith. But Smith is ever a gamer and continued the fight, refusing to win the title that way. But he was clearly not the same after that. Something to mull over.

Now, for the task at hand.

The game plan for this fight for Jones should be simple: relentless takedowns. Jones has fantastic wrestling, whereas Gane does not have any ability to stuff a takedown. He was taken down by Francis Ngannou for goodness sake. Gane moves around quite a bit so it might be difficult to shoot for a single/double, so Jones would be wise to look for the clinch and push him against the cage. I think Jones will use this added weight to his advantage wearing down Gane over time, eventually landing the TKO win over a gassed Gane. I’ll bet on the fifth round.

One last thought: Would a win lead to Jones being the GOAT?

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