The Octagon returns to the familiar shores of “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this Saturday (Oct. 22, 2022) for UFC 280, which sees Charles Oliveira face Islam Makhachev for the Lightweight title. Before that dynamite main event, Aljamain Sterling defends his Bantamweight title against former titlist T.J. Dillashaw and Sean O’Malley looks for the biggest win of his professional career against the ever-lethal Petr Yan.
UFC 280 features a hefty nine “Prelims” undercard bouts to get through beforehand, five of which we’ve broken down for you below. Shall we begin?
155 lbs.: Magomed Mustafaev vs. Yamato Nishikawa
About 2.5 years after suffering a submission loss to Kevin Lee, Magomed Mustafaev (14-4) announced his return with a vicious knockout of Rafael Fiziev. He then took on rising Kiwi, Brad Riddell, who took over down the stretch to claim a split decision win.
This marks his first fight in 32 months and just his third since 2016.
Yamato Nishikawa (21-3-6) — who debuted professionally at age 13 — enters the cage this Saturday in the midst of a 14-fight win streak. Much of his success came under the Shooto banner, where he claimed its Lightweight title in 2021.
He steps in for the injured Jamie Mullarkey on just under one month’s notice, having last fought on Sept. 19, 2022.
I really hope that Nishikawa has a long and prosperous UFC career. He’s pure entertainment in the cage, a violent and irrepressible young man with a truly admirable dedication to hurting people. He’s got a real shot at the upset, too, because Mustafaev faded badly against Riddell, and Nishikawa can rack up attrition at an alarming rate.
If it gets past the first round, it’s his fight to lose. That’s a massive “if,” though.
Mustafaev hits like a truck and Nishikawa’s striking defense is his biggest weakness. While Nishikawa does have some grappling chops in his back pocket, his willingness to trade makes him too vulnerable a target for even a rusty Mustafaev, who’ll level him within the first few minutes.
Prediction: Mustafaev via first round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Abubakar Nurmagomedov vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev
The Octagon debut of Abubakar Nurmagomedov (16-3-1) didn’t quite pan out for him, suffering a submission loss to heavy underdog David Zawada. He finally got into the UFC win column 16 months later by out-classing Jared Gooden at UFC 260.
Saturday’s bout ends a nearly 19-month layoff.
Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (13-1) earned his UFC contract with a vicious kneebar finish of Jansey Silva on Contender Series. This set up a UFC debut against Caio Borralho, which saw Omargadzhiev fall apart after suffering early damage and drop a technical decision.
His professional finishes are split 8/3 between knockouts and submissions.
There are valid reasons to believe that the Omargadzhiev who enters the cage this Saturday will be superior to and more successful than the one who faced Borralho. He seemed significantly out-muscled by the Brazilian, so the drop in weight should work out, and he has the edge in stopping power.
I just can’t get over the way he collapsed in that fight. After getting out-worked on the ground and hurt on the feet, his stand up devolved to the point where he took himself off his feet with haymakers. Between Nurmagomedov’s own wrestling prowess and the sharp counter-striking he showed against Gooden, he’s got the tools to recreate those efforts, and I don’t trust Omargadzhiev to respond properly this time. Nurmagomedov picks him off with jabs and counters, mixing in the occasional takedown to seal the deal on a comfortable decision win.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Armen Petrosyan vs. A.J. Dobson
Armen Petrosyan (7-2) followed his Contender Series knockout of Kaloyan Kolev with a narrow split decision over Gregory Rodrigues in his UFC debut. He faced another Contender Series veteran in his sophomore effort, a unanimous decision loss to Caio Borralho.
All but one of his pro wins have come by knockout.
A.J. Dobson (6-1) saved a Contender Series episode devoid of finishes by choking out Hashem Arkhagha. This set up a UFC debut against Jacob Malkoun, who utilized relentless wrestling to hand Dobson his first professional defeat.
He’ll enjoy a five-inch reach advantage despite being shorter by two inches.
Even though he couldn’t keep up with Malkoun’s exhausting takedown onslaught, Dobson’s improvement between his Contender Series bout and that UFC debut was eye-catching. If we see a similar level of advancement here, Petrosyan is in trouble. Dobson is at least sharp and physical enough to recreate the success Rodrigues had in forcing Petrosyan to the cage and landing combinations, and his wrestling pedigree suggests that he can neutralize Petrosyan on the ground the way Borralho did.
That’s all speculative, of course, but I liked what I saw of Dobson enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. In short, pressure and takedowns shut down Petrosyan’s kicking attack and earn Dobson his first UFC win.
Prediction: Dobson via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Muhammad Mokaev vs. Malcolm Gordon
Muhammad Mokaev (8-0) entered UFC with tons of hype behind him, which he lived up to by clubbing-and-subbing Cody Durden in 58 seconds. Though he failed to find the finish or generate much excitement in his second effort, he nonetheless walked away with a decision win over Charles Johnson.
He gives up an inch of reach to Malcolm “X.”
Malcom Gordon (14-5) — a former TKO champion — struggled his way to a winless (0-2) UFC start, both losses coming inside the distance. He’s since bounced back with a decision over Francisco Figueiredo and an arm-breaking submission of Denys Bondar.
The win over Bondar marked his sixth by tapout.
Outside of a freak one-hitter quitter, the only way Gordon wins this is by catching Mokaev in a submission either mid-transition or from his back. To his credit, he has plenty of experience doing so, from his pre-UFC finishes to that violent armbar against Bondar. Indeed, if Mokaev doesn’t mind his P’s and Q’s, Gordon has the skill and wherewithal to capitalize.
That said, Mokaev proved plenty willing to play the slow game against Johnson, and Gordon got overwhelmed on the mat by Amir Albazi a few fights back. Mokaev is seasoned enough to abuse his wrestling skills, avoid opportunistic submissions, and neutralize Gordon for a wide decision win.
Prediction: Mokaev via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Karol Rosa vs. Lina Lansberg
The high-volume striking attack of Karol Rosa (15-4) carried her to a perfect (4-0) UFC start, including a decision over Bethe Correia in “Pitbull’s” farewell fight. Then came Sara McMann, who out-wrestled the Brazilian to snap her six-fight win streak.
She stands two inches shorter than Lina Lansberg (10-6), but boasts a two-inch reach advantage
Now six years removed from her UFC debut against Cris Cyborg, Lansberg sits at 4-5 in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) organization. She enters the cage in the midst of a two-fight losing streak that’s seen her drop decisions to Sara McMann and Pannie Kianzad.
She’s knocked out four opponents as a professional.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot going Lansberg’s way in this match up. Not only is Rosa 13 years younger, she lands more than twice as many significant strikes per minute and has the technical kickboxing chops to keep up with her on the feet. Though Lansberg’s wrestling has bailed her out before, she’s nowhere near the level of Sara McMann, and Rosa’s shown off some takedown chops of her own.
Lansberg can’t keep up with Rosa’s pace and doesn’t have the means to slow things down, giving her vanishingly few ways to win this. In the end, Rosa handily out-works her to a clear decision.
Prediction: Rosa via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 280 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including what looks like an absolute slugfest between Zubaira Tukhugov and Lucas Almeida. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 280 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPNEWS/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard (also on ESPNEWS/ESPN+) at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 280: “Oliveira vs. Makhachev” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.