UFC 296 Predictions: Edwards to defend title

 | December 15 | 

4 mins read

Leon Edwards UFC

UFC 296 comes to us from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday, as MMA’s premiere promotion rounds out the year in style, with a packed card headlined by Britain’s Leon Edwards defending his welterweight title against Colby Covington. As always our UFC aficionado Chris Coates is back with his preview and betting predictions.  

UFC 296 Betting Tips

  • Leon Edwards via decision - 6/4
  • Paddy Pimblett via TKO/KO - 10/3
  • Shavkat Rakhmonov via submission - 11/8

That’s not the only belt on the line either, as the co-main sees Brandon Royval take on Alexandre Pantoja for his flyweight strap.

The build-up for this one has been dominated by the many trials and tribulations of Ireland’s Ian Garry, which makes it all the more frustrating that he’s been forced to pull out his fight with Vicente Luque, due to pneumonia just two days out from the event.

But make no mistake, this is still one hell of a card - one that also sees Scouser Paddy Pimblett return after a year out, as he takes on part of the MMA furniture in Tony Ferguson.

Add Shavkat Rakhmonov vs Stephen Thompson to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for an enthralling night of fights. Ok, let’s get into our picks…

Leon Edwards via decision - 6/4

Having not fought since March of 2022, where he got the win over rival and former teammate Jorge Masvidal, it’s hard to gauge what type of shape Colby Covington will be in come fight night, well-rested or rusty? Either way Covington’s biggest strength, his cardio, should still be on point.

His ability to weaponise pace and overwhelm his opponents has been the key facet of any success he’s had in his career. Kamaru Usman was able to match his tempo, however, which saw Covington lose both fights to the former champ.

This is where ‘MMA Math’ comes into play. If Usman could match him, but Leon Edwards could keep pace with Usman, surely that means Edwards should be fine against Covington, right?

It’s rarely that simple, but we do believe it’s an indicator that Edwards can go round-for-round with the challenger, with the caveat that he may have to spoil at times in order to conserve energy and possibly eke out a couple of rounds by a razor thin margin.

In such situations the reigning champ usually gets the nod on the scorecards thanks to the unwritten combat sport rule of ‘you have to beat the champion convincingly’.

Outside of the closer moments, we’re sure Edwards should be able to produce the more eye-widening, judge-impressing highlights in the exchanges, thanks to his crisp striking, especially his kicks.

We’re taking ‘Rocky’ to keep his belt.

Leon Edwars to win via decision 6-4

Paddy Pimblett via TKO/KO - 10/3

The always divisive Paddy Pimblett finds himself in somewhat of a no-win situation, as he takes on UFC legend Tony Ferguson.

If he suffers defeat to ‘El Cucuy’ - who has lost six on the spin and has looked worryingly vulnerable doing so - the memes will follow, there’s sure to be shouts of ‘UK hype job!’ and a general delight at his demise among much of the MMA community. If he wins…well, he was supposed to.

Paddy is looking to get back to activity after injury problems, which have seen him not fight in just over a year and this one should, and appears designed to, see him get back on track and make it seven wins on the bounce.

A decision victory is tempting, but with what we’ve seen from Ferguson in recent times, we have to go with Paddy to end it within the distance.

paddy pimblett to win via ko or tko 10-3

Shavkat Rakhmonov via submission - 11/8

Thanks to Ian Garry’s withdrawal, Shavkat Rakhmonov comes into this as the only undefeated fighter on the main card, as he takes on UFC veteran Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.

If you’ve been even a casual fan of MMA across the last decade, you’ll be well familiar with Thompson’s skillset and know he can’t be counted out.

But in Rakhmonov he faces a fighter on a meteoric rise in search of a title shot, so he’ll be playing the role of gatekeeper here.

The Kazakh has finished all 17 of his career opponents, including eight via KO. Despite that we think Wonderboy is sure to hold his own on the feet.

It’s on the ground where Shavkat has the differential having racked up nine submissions, three of which have come in the UFC.

We’re taking Rakhmonov to get the win and put himself in the title picture.

rakhmonov

You can find all our latest UFC Betting Tips on our Insights hub. 

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