The UFC 296 main card features fights between Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington, Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval, Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Stephen Thompson, Tony Ferguson vs. Paddy Pimblett, and Josh Emmett vs. Bryce Mitchell. Read on for best bets for each of these fights along with relevant UFC 296 odds and UFC 296 predictions.
UFC 296 Predictions & Best Bets
The red-hot Leon Edwards puts his welterweight title on the line against the always loud Colby Covington in a feud that features plenty of bad blood. Before that mega showdown, the co-main event features a highly anticipated rematch between the exciting Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval for the flyweight title. Sprinkle in some exciting bouts leading up to the dual title fights and UFC 296 has all the makings to be an instant classic.
Leon Edwards Vs. Colby Covington Prediction
The MMA world was stunned to learn that Colby Covington was going to be Leon Edwards next opponent for the welterweight title, especially since Covington has not had a single fight in the calendar year. More head scratching yet, Covington is 2-2 in his last four fights with his two losses coming to then champ Kamaru Usman who Leon Edwards defeated twice.
While Covington may be undeserving for the opportunity, he certainly will bring eyes after a heated presser that resulted in Edwards throwing a bottle at him for his disgusting comments. While the presser certainly grabbed everyone’s attention, Covington will have to worry about more than just the bottle as he comes into this fight severely outclassed by Edwards striking.
Edwards hasn’t just been great; he’s been dominant as he has rattled off 11 wins in a row with one no contest squeezed in between. Better yet, he has shown serious improvements with each fight, turning into a well-rounded fighter instead of just an elite kickboxer. Especially with his grappling defense, an area of the fight that may create a massive swing towards Edwards favor should he stuff Covington and avoid laying on his back for a prolonged period of time.
That is vital towards Leon’s success, keeping the fight on their feet in order for him to continue to blitz the regressing Covington with a blend of kick boxing that will have him reeling. Especially early on, using the damage to slow down Covington in order to avoid a late clock draining take down. Money agrees with Edwards chances of winning as well, pouring in on his moneyline all week long.
Pick: Leon Edwards moneyline
Alexandre Pantoja Vs. Brandon Royval Prediction
After submitting Royval in the first round in their initial contest, the highly anticipated rematch between Pantoja and Royval takes place as UFC 296’s co-main event. Oddsmakers lean towards Pantoja’s favor to win once again as he was set as a sizable favorite with money flooding in on him as well.
Now that the moneyline has gone too far for my liking, his winning method props take center stage as he has all the tools to pull off the win. Even as the older fighter, Pantoja looks as fresh as ever and has a knack of setting the pace at a high tempo to his liking and at the discomfort of his opponents.
That pace plays right into Pantoja’s hands as he is the better striker with a tendency to blitz opponents from the opening bell. He nearly lands one full strike more than Royval at 4.41 Significant Strikes per Minute, as well as landing at a far higher accurate rate at 48% as opposed to Royval’s 38%.
Better yet for Pantoja, his onslaught of strikes continues on the ground as well. The bodes well for our inside the distance prop, avoiding a clock draining grapple fest and instead continuing to deal damage. He’s also already submitted Royval before, opening the door for that finish as well.
Pick: Alexandre Pantoja to win inside the distance
Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Stephen Thompson Prediction
You only need to use one word when describing Shavkat Rakhmonov and that word is “finisher”. He comes into this fight with a flawless record, sitting at 17-0 with all 17 wins coming via finish. He has eight finishes by KO/TKO and another nine via submission.
The issue is that oddsmakers have this as Rakhmonov’s fight to lose by setting him as a -670 favorite. That is far too high in a heavy variance sport, especially against Thompson who is a dangerous striker in his own right. To cut through the juice, Rakhmonov’s inside the distance prop immediately sticks out as he is the far better well-rounded fighter.
Shavkat mirrors Thompson’s striking metrics, edging him out with 4.45 Significant Strikers per Minute to Stephon’s 4.20. He also takes on slightly less damage, absorbing only 2.61 Significant Strikes per Minutes to Thompson’s 3.04. The edge comes from his grappling ability, being more than capable of taking it down to the mat and submitting Thompson in a flash. With a win, expect Rakhmonov to be next in line for the welterweight belt.
Pick: Shavkat Rakhmonov to win inside the distance
Tony Ferguson Vs. Paddy Pimblett Prediction
In a card jam packed with exciting fights on paper, a regressing Tony Ferguson and an up-and-coming Paddy Pimblett may steal the show in what should be a banger of a fight. Even in a six-fight losing streak, Tony Ferguson continues to push the pace and shows no fear with his exchanges and brutal striking ability.
Paddy Pimblett started his career with the same intense mindset, using his power to push the pace and scrap in exchanges. He has since developed into a more well-rounded fighter, adding some grappling to his skill set to go along with his submission abilities. That bodes well for this bet should the fight hit the mat with both being able to continue the onslaught in their own unique ways.
Pimblett may have skated past the judges with a questionable decisive victory in his last contest, but this one should stop inside the distance as both of these fighters go at it from the opening bell. Pimblett is more than capable of exchanging blows while also taking Ferguson to the ground, potentially giving Tony a third straight submission loss in a row.
Pick: Fight to not go the distance
Josh Emmett vs. Bryce Mitchell
With Ian Garry backing out of his fight on short notice due to a medical issue, Josh Emmett vs. Bryce Mitchell moved up to the main card. That was not the only alteration leading up to fight day as Josh Emmett’s original opponent Giga Chikadze backed out last week as well. Bryce Mitchell then decided to accept this fight on short notice, coming in as a sizable favorite.
Even on short notice, Mitchell has noticeable advantages against an aging Josh Emmett that makes it worth a wager. Emmett is slowing down, yet still has an iron chin and a willingness to exchange blows. With Mitchell being the superior grappler, he should be able to take Emmett down with little resistance. That gives Mitchell control time, as well as playing towards the judges favor for scoring.
Pick: Bryce Mitchell by decision