UFC 285 takes place on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada and we’ve got our UFC predictions for all the fights below.
UFC 285: Jones vs. Gane Main Card
Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane
Three years after he first teased a move to heavyweight, Jones is finally returning to challenge for vacant title against Gane, whose only loss in 11 pro-fights so far came via unanimous decision against former champ Francis Ngannou.
This is as intriguing a match-up as Jones could have in his new weight class as Gane is not your typical heavyweight and is genuinely talented. For one thing, despite being a naturally big man who tips the scales at close to 250lbs, he is still fast, agile and athletic for his size.
He is very mobile, covers ground fast, is well condition and stands out in the division for being both technical and cerebral in the way he utilizes his crisp, methodical muay thai ability, while showing very good distance management too.
It all makes for an interesting challenge for Jones, as traditionally it’s he who enjoys a size advantage and is known for his high-level striking, command of range and high fight IQ.
At 205lbs the 6ft 4” Jones enjoyed an unusually lengthy 84.5″ reach and that had has been a key component in his striking success over the years, but in addition to being an inch taller than him, Gane is only giving up 3.5″ in reach.
Also, after finally seeing photos of Jones during fight week it’s clear that he doesn’t carry his new heavyweight frame (reportedly around 245-250lbs) as comfortably as Gane despite having three years to adapt to it, looking thicker than expected around the midsection, while still being relatively light on leg mass. Whether his weight will affect his cardio remains to be seen, but I’d certainly expect to see Gane testing how he’ll take his thudding kicks to the lead leg.
Despite all that, Jones is a great for a reason and he’ll certainly be the more versatile and creative striker of the two here and he makes very good use of his arsenal of punches, kicks and elbows targeted at all levels, with his technique and variety making up for not being the heaviest hitter. It is worth noting however that in his later fights at 205lbs he did seem less inspired than before and was becoming more predictable with his offense.
There’s more strings to Jones bow than just striking though. When he first started turning heads in the UFC, Jones was impressing with his wrestling too, and while he’s largely drifted away from the big takedowns over the years, even an Olympic calibre wrestler like Daniel Cormier found him difficult to deal with in areas he normally excels at.
And that’s a big problem for Gane as while he was credited with having some nice offensive wrestling of his own during his road to title contention, Ngannou exposed serious weaknesses in his takedown defense and defensive wrestling in their title fight, despite having never really shown any aptitude on the mat before.
No doubt Gane will have spent a lot of time working on that since, but even so it’s a huge ask to suddenly be able to shut down the wrestling of someone on Jones level. Perhaps the best he can hope for if the fight goes that route is to at least make him work for it in the hopes that the ring-rusty, heavyweight version of Jones, will start to tire him out, offering a better chance to make something happen in the later rounds.
In the end though I am siding with Jones here thanks to that big wrestling advantage, but I do have concerns. Jones looked less than impressive in his last few Octagon appearances and taking such a long time out afterwards, then returning at 35-years-old with a slightly suspect looking new heavyweight frame against such a tough opponent is troubling. I think the pressure on his shoulders might add motivation to play it safe here though by utilizing clinch work and takedowns when possible to neutralize Gane’s striking threat and wear him down on top, then go for a fourth round submission finish.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso
Shevchenko remains the dominant force at flyweight with seven successful title defenses to her name, although she was surprisingly given her toughest test last time out against Taila Santos, only winning by split decision. Meanwhile, Grasso has discovered her best form in the UFC to date since moving up to flyweight in 2020, winning four fights in a row.
On paper this looks like a tough fight for Grasso, but that’s not to say she’s not a good fighter. She is particularly good with her assured boxing ability, making up for her lack of stopping power with fast hands and footwork, clinical delivery and good cardio. She’s also worked to improve upon her ground game, but she’s often not been the physically bigger or stronger fighter even at strawweight.
That could be a serious thorn in her flesh here as Shevchenko will have a very notable size and strength advantage. The champion is of course also very well-rounded and on the feet she is a patient, methodical striker who will offer a more versatile approach than Grasso by utilizing both solid kicks and punches, while showing good command of range and effective counter-striking ability.
Meanwhile, Shevchenko also has solid takedowns and wrestling, while she poses a submission threat too. So there’s no real area of the fight that Grasso can pursue to gain an advantage here, with her best bet being to use her speed and movement on the feet to try to outstrike Shevchenko and win on points.
I don’t see that paying off for her though as Shevchenko will be effective and more impactful with her own striking and will be able to get takedowns along the way if required on her way to a comfortable decision win.
Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
Neal has risen to No.7 in the welterweight rankings after a convincing KO victory over Vicente Luque last time out, while rakhmonov holds a perfect 16-0 record, including finishing all four of his UFC fights to date inside the distance.
In fact, the 28-year-old Rakhmonov has finished all 16 of his pro-fights, split evenly between 8 via strikes and 8 via submission. That speaks to just how well-rounded he is wherever the action goes. On the feet he’s not the busiest striker and can be a bit hesitant at times, but when he engages he is dynamic with good power and timing and is as solid defensively as he is offensively.
Meanwhile, he’s also a solid wrestler and excellent grappler who can transition well on the mat and be dangerous with both submissions and ground-and-pound.
The 32-year-old Neal’s ‘Handz Of Steel’ nickname gives a good clue as to the kind of power he possesses with his heavy-handed boxing ability. He’s more aggressive and active on the feet than Rakhmonov, but has less to offer on the mat, though his takedown defense is strong.
Neal also has more experience with fights going the distance over three and even five rounds (although both his UFC losses to date came on the scorecards), whereas Rakhmonov has never gone beyond the second round in his career.
Neal’s power can be a game-changer at a moment’s notice, but I think Rakhmonov’s impressive all-round skills and superiority on the mat will pave the way for a second round submission win here.
Jalin Turner vs. Mateusz Gamrot
Two fighters who have been making their impression felt in the lightweight ranks here, with the 10th ranked Turner riding a five-fight winning streak, while Gamrot comes into the fight on just a couple of week’s notice after his own four-fight unbeaten stretch came to an end last time out with a decision loss to Beneil Dariush.
Very tall for the division, Turner will have a major 5″ height 7″ reach advantage over Gamrot here. He’s a high-volume striker with good punching power on the outside and solid kicks too. Turner has finished all 13 of his career wins inside the distance and while he’s primarily known for putting foe’s away via strikes, he’s actually been showing off his submission ability in recent UFC fights, accounting for three of the five wins during his current winning run.
Meanwhile, Gamrot is a well-rounded fighter who smoothly mixes his striking and ground game. He’ll look to be competitive on the feet, but is always seeking out opportunities to work for takedowns and tends to have good success with that thanks to his tireless work ethic and ability, as well as also having good takedown defense too when required.
Taking advantage of his wrestling and grappling advantage will be key for Gamrot here, and he’ll have to be careful as he closes the distance to initiate takedowns against those dangerous long range strikes from Turner, but he’s a hardy fighter who has never been finished, so I’ll take him to successfully implement a ground-based gameplan and grind out a win on the scorecards.
Bo Nickal vs. Jamie Pickett
Out of all the fighters to have come through the Contender Series, Nickal may well be the one with the most hype, despite only being 3-0 in his MMA career so far. He’ll have a chance to show what he can do in his promotional debut on Saturday night against Pickett, who is 2-4 in his UFC run and is coming off back-to-back defeats.
There’s good reason for the excitement levels surrounding the 27-year-old Nikal fighting in the UFC as he comes from a decorated amateur wrestling background, having been both an NCAA D1 wrestling champion and Big Ten Conference champion on three occasions.
It’s still early days in his subsequent MMA career, but the signs have been very promising indeed as he’s so far secured a KO victory and two submission stoppages in a combined time of less than 3 minutes, and he appears very confident and self-assured in his own ability inside the Octagon.
Of course at this early stage in his career Nickal’s all-round MMA game is bound to have some holes in it and the 34-year-old Pickett will certainly be looking to keep this one standing and test the new recruit’s work-in-progress striking ability, since that’s his own strong suit. Pickett will have an inch in height and 4″ in reach over Nickal and he has good power in his strikes and will attempt to use that to keep the wrestler at bay and land a blow that paves the way to a big upset victory.
Pickett has been stopped by both strikes and submission in his last two fights though, and that’s not the first time in either regard over the course of his career. As such this feels very much like a tailor-made fight for Nickal to use his dominant wrestling to bring Pickett to the canvas early and expose his relatively weak ground game, setting up an opportunity for a finish by either ground-and-pound or perhaps more likely by submission.
UFC 285: Jones vs. Gane Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
Derek Brunson vs. Dricus Du Plessis
Viviane Araujo vs. Amanda Ribas
Julian Marquez vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
Jessica Penne vs. Tabatha Ricci
Cameron Saaiman vs Leomana Martinez
Ian Garry vs. Kenan Song
Da’mon Blackshear vs. Farid Basharat
Cody Garbrandt vs. Trevin Jones