Weight class: middleweight
"Powerbar" is an apt nickname for Barriault, as the Canadian fighter thrives in ugly wars that allow him to grind his opponent down. The trouble lies in his resume, as all three of his UFC victories have come against explosive fighters who can barely stand (let alone fight) if they are unable to finish their opponents quickly. Dalcha Lungiambula, Jordan Wright, and Abu Azaitar were tailor-made matchups for Barraiult, but what happens when he encounters someone who is able to stick around for three hard rounds?
We're about to find out, as Marquez comes into this bout having gone into the second round in each of his fights prior to his KO loss to Gregory Rodrigues in June. While he doesn't have a takedown in the UFC, "The Cuban Missle Crisis" loves to work his submission grappling, as evidenced by his uncanny 3.0 sub attempts per 15 minutes of Octagon time. The opportunistic nature of these chokes (three in his four wins with the company) could be bad news for Barriault, who will likely look to force clinches with Marquez. We've seen the 32-year-old wrap the neck and finish in situations where his opponent was looking for a rest, and Barriault often looks to push through with what seems to be pure determination.
Either man is powerful enough to score a knockout here, but attempting to make opponents tap out is an integral part of Marquez's offense, and Anthony Hernandez was able to push the pace on Barriault until he gave up his neck. While Hernandez has much more of a wrestling-based attack, I believe there will be plenty of opportunities for Julian late in the fight while both men are at less than 100 percent.
UFC 285 BET: Julian Marquez wins via submission (+400)
Weight class: bantamweight
Garbrandt still being listed as a favorite in 2023 tells me that bettors and linemakers alike remember fond days of a young "No Love" dismantling Dominick Cruz to capture the bantamweight title. Perhaps it goes a bit deeper, as Garbrandt is still fast and powerful enough to knock out anyone in the division. As someone who has lost four of his last five fights by knockout, however, what I see when I look at Cody these days is opportunity.
It's not just my lack of faith in Garbrandt. Jones' two knockout wins in the Octagon (one of which was overturned due to a positive marijuana test) only look better with time. This is especially true in the case of Mario Bautista, who is 5-1 in his last six fights, having finished his last two opponents by submission. Jones is a defensively sound counter striker who will fire back in combination, and we have seen Garbrandt increasingly get frustrated and open himself up to damage as he continues on his downward trend.
This may be a fght where not much happens for long stretches, as I expect Garbrandt to begin the bout cautiously, but as he struggles to find his range and begins to get tagged on the way back, I think we will see the Cody who swings from his hips and leaves his head wide open. Jones may be riding his own three-fight losing streak, but I believe he is durable enough to withstand a few flurries to find the kill shot.
UFC 285 BET: Trevin Jones wins via KO/TKO or disqualification (+320)
Weight class: heavyweight
When all is said and done, Jones may be viewed as the greatest MMA fighter of all time. From his time spent bulldozing legends of the sport, to head-kicking Daniel Cormier and decisively ending one of the most heated rivalries we have ever seen, there isn't much "Bones" has left to prove when it comes to fighting. All of those accolades, however, can't change the fact that he hasn't stepped foot in the Octagon in over three years, and will need to be prepared to fight five rounds in his first excursion as a heavyweight.
It's not as though I expect him to lose his razor-sharp defensive skills or grappling ability, but there were rumblings as far back as his fight with Ovince Saint Preux that Jones simply may not be a great range kickboxer. This theory gained merit after Jones struggled with both Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes, losing the fight to "Marreta" on one scorecard. Enter Gane, an incredibly quick and agile kickboxer, who likes to manage distance and take his opponents apart. In many ways, this will be a classically binary fight, with Gane clearly in his element if this fight stays on the feet, while Jones will have a major advantage if the two hit the ground. We have seen fighters struggle to get takedowns when moving up in weight before, however, and it's not as though Jones was a technician with his wrestling at light heavyweight, notching just a 44 percent career accuracy rate.
The more I think about this bout, the more it seems to me like Gane's fight to lose. Not only will Jones have his work cut out for him on the feet, but he will likely need to carry his new frame for 25 minutes, which seems much easier said than done. For all the potential issues I see here, Jones is still very difficult to hit cleanly, so I will bet that Gane gets comfortably ahead on points before the competitors hear the final bell.
UFC 285 BEST BET: Ciryl Gane Wins via decision/technical decision (+425)
Weight class: middleweight
We've had our fun with the underdogs, now let's see if we can make one of the biggest favorites in UFC history a bit more bettor friendly. It's hard to start an MMA career any better than Nickal has, as the former NCAA Division 1 National Champion has notched two submissions on the Contender Series to go along with a knockout on the regional scene. It may be tough to get behind a debutante with this much hype, but Nickal's athleticism and tricky submission grappling complement his takedown game perfectly. He also draws an exploitable opponent in the person of Jamie Pickett.
Pickett can wrestle a bit, but likes to play a slow counter game on the feet, and sports a takedown accuracy rate of just 30 percent. This likely means that Nickal will control where this fight takes place as "Nightwolf" moves along the fence line looking for the perfect counter shot. Three tap outs among his eight losses don't do much to inspire confidence in Pickett, whose best chance seems to be landing one big shot that can change the course of the fight.
Those looking for an opportunity to fade this potential superstar would be wise to wait for an opponent with a bit more to offer. I expect Nickal to get this fight to the floor early and often before moving on to greener pastures.
UFC 285 BEST BET: Bo Nickal wins via submission (-150)
UFC 285 Best Bets
Here is a recap of my best UFC picks for this weekend's UFC 285 card:
Julian Marquez wins via submission (+400)
Trevin Jones wins via KO/TKO or disqualification (+320)
Ciryl Gane wins via decision/technical decision (+425)
Bo Nickal wins via submission (-150)