UFC 282: Blachowicz vs. Ankalaev is drawing closer, and MMA News is here to continue getting you prepared for the event with our expert staff predictions!
A new light heavyweight champion will be crowned when former champion Jan Blachowicz takes on Magomed Ankalaev for the vacant strap. And in the co-main event, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett will take on veteran competitor Jared Gordon.
Also on tap is a pivotal featherweight bout between Bryce Mitchell vs. Ilia Topuria as well as the return of Darren Till as he faces Dricus du Plessis, plus a catchweight bout between Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Alex Morono.
UFC 282 takes place Saturday, December 10, 2022, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card will be available on pay-per-view beginning at 10:00 PM ET. The preliminary card starts at 8:00 PM ET, with the early prelims beginning at 6:00 PM.
Staff Predictions For UFC 282: Blachowicz vs. Ankalaev
Main Card– Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Jan Blachowicz vs. Magomed Ankalaev
Co-Main Event– Lightweight Bout: Paddy Pimblett vs. Jared Gordon
Catchweight Bout: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Alex Morono
Middleweight Bout: Darren Till vs. Dricus du Plessis
Featherweight Bout: Bryce Mitchell vs. Ilia Topuria
MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 282 updates. Harvey Leonard, Andrew Starc, and Drew Beaupré, have provided their picks for you below.
Ilia Topuria vs. Bryce Mitchell
Harvey Leonard: If UFC 282 is a “weak” pay-per-view, that’s certainly not because of the main card opener, which features two undefeated featherweights who could both challenge for the title down the line. But who’ll move closer to the gold on Saturday? It’s close, but I think the Georgian might maintain his 0.
I backed Barboza to blemish Mitchell’s record, but the threat of takedowns proved massively detrimental to his striking efforts, with the Brazilian even failing to capitalize on the few moments his shots had Mitchell backing up. For Topuria, his submission game and chokes should provide him with more confidence heading into any level changes, and if he can land the sort of body shots Barboza was able to, I expect him to go for the kill with more urgency.
The question here is whether Mitchell can force Topuria to fatigue with his chain wrestling against the cage. Whilst that is a real possibility, I edge towards the 25-year-old ending proceedings before that happens. (Prediction: Ilia Topuria)
Andrew Starc: Bryce Mitchell remains unbeaten in his 15-fight career, having catapulted into the featherweight top-ten following his win over Edson Barboza in March. The Ultimate Fighter alum brings some of the division’s best grappling to the table, with nine of his career wins coming by submission.
Ilia Topuria is also unbeaten in 12 career fights and has knocked out his last three opponents, most recently Jai Herbert in March. His ground game is also a threat, with seven of his wins coming by submission. The 25-year-old, however, has achieved his UFC wins against lesser caliber opposition than Mitchell, and I think “Thug Nasty’s” experience will get him the win here. (Prediction: Bryce Mitchell)
Drew Beaupré: Will all due respect to the main event, this is arguably the most interesting fight on the entire card. In some ways, this almost feels like an unnecessary risk for the #9-ranked Mitchell to take on the #14-ranked Topuria, but it’s a testament to the mentality of “Thug Nasty” that he wants to stay active and is willing to fight a lower ranked fighter with a ton of hype.
It’s not often you see pair of undefeated fighters get matched up in one of the UFC’s deepest divisions, and this bout is fantastic way to kick off the UFC 282 main card. I’ll lean with Topuria, if only because he’s shown off more power than Mitchell on the feet and will likely be able to stifle most of the takedown attempts that come his way. (Prediction: Ilia Topuria)
Consensus: 2-1 Topuria
Darren Till vs. Dricus du Plessis
Harvey Leonard: I’ve always enjoyed watching Dricus du Plessis, and I’ve been happy to see his early success in the UFC. But while I think he has a lot to give at the top of the division, I edge towards him falling short for now at UFC 282.
I actually think the planned Gastelum matchup favored the South African a lot more. In “The Gorilla,” du Plessis faces a skilled and technical striker on the feet, who may well be able to counter his wild approach. While I think the Brit may need to figure out the puzzle that is du Plessis’ unorthodox style in the early goings, once that happens, I expect him to avoid the brawl “Stillknocks” will look to incite with a controlled display.
Till was open about the anxiety he felt prior to his middleweight debut, and given his form and lengthy layoff, it’s likely that he’s feeling the same nerves ahead of UFC 282. While that may play to the advantage of du Plessis on paper, Till pushed through it at MSG, and I back him to do the same in Vegas. (Prediction: Darren Till)
Andrew Starc: Having now lost four of his last five, it seems Darrent Till has never been the same since his loss to Tyron Woodley for the welterweight strap back in 2018. Injury has no doubt played a part, but it seems the fearless mentality that saw him gain a title shot so early is a thing of the past.
Since making his UFC debut in 2020, Dricus du Plessis has one three times, including two by knockout. He left Brad Tavares’ face a bloody mess while earning a decision win in July, and I think du Plessis will continue his streak against Till, who hasn’t fought in over a year. (Prediction: Dricus du Plessis)
Drew Beaupré: Given that Till somehow always manages to remain in the MMA headlines, I completely forgot how inactive he’s been the last few years and that his only win since a failed bid for the welterweight title was his split decision against Kelvin Gastelum. Du Plessis has also only averaged one fight a year since joining the UFC in 2020, but “Stillknocks” has made the most of his time in the promotion with three victories.
This fight is well-matched considering where each fighter is at in their respective careers. Du Plessis could jump into the middleweight Top 10 with a win, but Till is getting a slight step back in competition after losing his last two fights against Derek Brunson and Robert Whittaker.
Du Plessis has largely relied on his striking so far in the UFC, but if the South African decides to utilize some of the grappling showcased in his pre-UFC career, he could become the latest fighter to bully Till on the mat. I have a feeling that “Stillknocks” will choose to stand and trade in this fight, and if it ends up playing out that way, I’ll take Till to snap his current two-fight skid. (Prediction: Darren Till)
Consensus: 2-1 Till
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Alex Morono
Harvey Leonard: This is a deserved opportunity for Morono against a recently ranked welterweight, but it’s a shame that it’ll be on short notice, because Ponzinibbio is likely not an easy man to prepare for in a week. In his last two outings, the Argentine has gone toe-to-toe with two top strikers in Geoff Neal and Michel Pereira, both of whom occupy spots in the top 15. At first view, I even thought that he did enough to beat the former.
Whilst Morono has a polished standup game, he’s not a consistent finisher, with only one of his previous six wins coming via knockout, and that was against a past-his-prime Donald Cerrone. With that in mind, can “The Great White” avoid the power of Ponzinibbio, who certainly is a finisher on the feet, and outpoint him for a decision? I can’t see it. (Prediction: Santiago Ponzinibbio)
Andrew Starc: After spending over two years overcoming an almost career-ending health scare, Santiago Ponzinibbio returned to the Octagon in 2021 and has since lost three of his four fights. His last two to Geoff Neal and Michel Pereira were, however, lost by the thinnest of margins, with both ending in a split decision.
Alex Morono is riding a four-fight win streak, albeit against lesser opposition than that faced by Ponzinibbio, having this year earned decision wins over Mickey Gall and Matthew Semeslberger. Given how good Ponzinbbio looked in his last fight, which many believed he won, I’m picking the Argentine in this one. (Prediction: Santiago Ponzinibbio)
Drew Beaupré: Ponzinibbio will certainly be disappointed at losing the chance to beat a big name in Robbie Lawler, but this late-replacement fight with Morono is probably a better matchup overall in terms of potential action for fans.
The big question mark obviously is what kind of shape Morono is in after accepting this fight on just a few days’ notice, but “The Great White” has plenty of momentum from his current four-fight win streak. Ponzinibbio is in a very different position after losing close split decisions his last two bouts, and the Argentinian needs to avoid dropping three in a row here.
I’m tempted to go with Morono considering how good he’s looked recently, but I’ll stick with Ponzinibbio to take advantage of having a full training camp and finally come out on the right side of the scorecards. (Prediction: Santiago Ponzinibbio)
Consensus: 3-0 Ponzinibbio
Paddy Pimblett vs. Jared Gordon
Harvey Leonard: It seems like many are branding this matchup as the real litmus test of Pimblett’s potential in the UFC and current level. While that may be the case, and Gordon is certainly a tricky customer, I expect “The Baddy” to have too much for the American.
“Flash” largely isn’t a finisher but is durable and can outlast opponents. With that, he’ll be looking to avoid Pimblett’s early attacks and any possible entanglements with the Brit’s submission game. And while he ultimately did tap, Gordon showed a relatively strong choke defense against Grant Dawson.
But be it through damage on the feet early, allowing for an easier path to victory in the second or third round, or an early burst being rewarded in full, Pimblett should have what it takes to make the most of an opening that will almost certainly arise at some point. (Prediction: Paddy Pimblett)
Andrew Starc: Paddy Pimblett has no doubt looked impressive by finishing all three of his UFC opponents thus far. His wins, however, haven’t come against the best of the division, and Jared Gordon certainly isn’t that either.
The 34-year-old Gordon, who’s 7-4 in the UFC since making his debut in 2017, certainly has experience on his side. But similarly untested against top opposition, and fighting for the first time on a PPV main event against perhaps the UFC’s fastest rising star, can he avoid being swept up in the occasion? I think this will be another easy win for Pimblett. (Prediction: Paddy Pimblett)
Drew Beaupré: Everyone knows that a more meaningful bout is opening the UFC 282 main card but given Pimblett’s rise it’s hard to blame the UFC for putting him and Gordon in the co-main event when things had to be shaken up a bit.
In some ways, “The Baddy” and Du Plessis have had similar runs during their time in the UFC. It hasn’t always been the prettiest, but both men have done what was necessary to start their respective careers in the promotion off at 3-0. Gordon is more than capable of scoring an upset, but the UFC knew what they were doing by setting this fight up instead of giving Pimblett someone like Topuria.
“The Baddy” should continue his rise here and improve to 4-0 in the UFC, but given how stacked the lightweight division is I don’t expect his next matchup to be as forgiving as his run in the promotion has been so far. (Prediction: Paddy Pimblett)
Consensus: 3-0 Pimblett
Jan Blachowicz vs. Magomed Ankalaev
Harvey Leonard: Ankalaev is the kind of well-rounded fighter who looks capable of ruling over a division for a long time. While he’s been gifted an opportunity to reach the top sooner than expected, I think the Russian’s reign will get underway at UFC 282.
Like Ankalaev, the former champion is strong in all areas, but it seems like he’s a level below in most. With that, it’s hard to see where Blachowicz will excel in this fight. On the feet, Ankalaev is skilled, technical, and boasts superior footwork. Of course, the patented “Polish power” will be a threat, and we’ve not really seen Ankalaev’s chin tested. But while Blachowicz’s dangerous left hook may well do so, it would feel punty to back that to close the show against a man who’s never shown signs of being rocked on the feet.
And if what’s been said about Ankalaev’s often rarely used wrestling game is true, it’s hard to imagine Blachowicz faring better on the ground. (Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev)
Andrew Starc: By a twist of fate, Jan Blachowicz has been handed the chance to reclaim the light heavyweight title he lost so easily against Glover Teixeira in October last year. Since then, the 39-year-old has fought just once, earning a TKO against Aleksander Rakic in May after the Serb injured his knee mid-fight.
Magomed Anakalev’s heavy hands and formidable grappling have seen him go on a nine-fight win streak in the UFC. The 30-year-old was, however, firmly tested against Thiago Santos in March, before knocking out Anthony Smith in July. I think age and momentum is on Ankalaev’s side, and he’ll get the win here. (Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev).
Drew Beaupré: It was obviously disappointing for the main event to fall through and to see Jiří Procházka vacate his title, but at the very least, most fans assumed this bout would decide the next light heavyweight title challenger anyway. It doesn’t change the fact that Glover Teixeira ended up as the odd man out, but Błachowicz gets a chance to reclaim the title while Ankalaev has the opportunity to fulfill the expectations he’s had for the majority of his time in the UFC.
I think that Błachowicz does present some problems for Ankalaev and am particularly interested to see how things look during any potential grappling exchanges, but it’s hard to not side with the Russian considering the dominance he’s shown since dropping his UFC debut. (Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev)
Consensus: 3-0 Ankalaev
That’ll do it for our UFC 282 staff picks! What do you think? Do your picks look similar? Let us know in the comments section! Also, you can check out the UFC 282 undercard below. And be sure to stick with MMA News for all the coverage leading up to UFC 282 as well as Fight Night and post-fight coverage!
UFC 282 Preliminary Card
- Heavyweight Bout: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Chris Daukaus
- Bantamweight Bout: Raul Rosas Jr vs. Jay Perrin
- Middleweight Bout: Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Dalcha Lungiambula
- Middleweight Bout: Chris Curtis vs. Joaquin Buckley
UFC 282 Early Preliminary Card
- Featherweight Bout: Billy Quarantillo vs. Alexander Hernandez
- Featherweight Bout: TJ Brown vs. Erik Silva
- Flyweight Bout: Vinicius Salvador vs. Daniel Da Silva
- Bantamweight Bout: Cameron Saaiman vs. Steven Koslow
Be sure to keep it locked right here on MMANews.com all fight week and throughout the event!