February 4, 2023
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UFC 278 predictions — Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 2: Fight card, odds, prelims, expert picks

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The welterweight championship is on the line in Salt Lake City on Saturday night when Kamaru Usman puts the belt at stake against Leon Edwards in the main event of UFC 278. Usman already holds one win over Edwards, taking a decision victory in December 2015. 

The Brit has ripped off nine straight wins since despite multiple layoffs because of the pandemic and injuries. He held out for his opportunity and was finally rewarded after beating Nate Diaz in 2021. Usman, meanwhile, has continued to be perfect since the first meeting as he enters on a massive 19-fight win streak. He’s beat the best of the best at 170 pounds, including a few twice.

Elsewhere on the card, middleweights in need of a big win square off when former champion Luke Rockhold takes on former title challenger Paulo Costa. Rockhold will step into the ring for the first time since 2019 and in search of his first win since 2017. Rockhold is just 1-4 since winning the middleweight strap in 2016. Costa, meanwhile, has lost two straight since beginning his career undefeated. A loss to Israel Adesanya for the 185-pound title was followed by a decision loss to Marvin Vettori at light heavyweight when he was told to stop trying to cut weight upon arrival in Las Vegas.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of UFC 278 below.

And another fun matchup in the bantamweight division is on deck when former featherweight king Jose Aldo returns to welcome fast rising contender Merab Dvalishvili. Aldo has bounced back from a rough start in the 135-pound division, where very few thought he could ever make weight. Aldo lost his first two appearances at bantamweight, including an opportunity for the vacant crown against Petr Yan, but the “King of Rio” has ripped off three straight wins over rising contenders and could be also to another golden opportunity. Dvalishvili, meanwhile, continues his machine-like ways with seven straight wins dating back to 2018.

The card also features some rising prospects looking to make a name for themselves. Light heavyweight Tyson Pedro is looking to continue his winning ways when he meets Henry Hunsucker to open the PPV. Pedro returned from a four-year layoff in April to score a TKO over Ike Villanueva. Plus, undefeated heavyweight Alexander Romanov is set to take on veteran Marcin Tybura on the prelims. Romanov is 16-0 with 15 stoppages so far in his career, nine of which have come by submission. Also, Sean Woodson is back in a featherweight contest against Luis Saldana. 

With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.

UFC 278 fight card, odds

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Kamaru Usman (c) -360 vs. Leon Edwards +280, welterweight championship
  • Paulo Costa -400 vs. Luke Rockhold +310, middleweights
  • Merab Dvalishvili -140 vs. Jose Aldo +120, bantamweights
  • Lucie Pudilova -120 vs. Wu Yanan +100, women’s bantamweights
  • Tyson Pedro -800 vs. Harry Hunsucker +550, light heavyweights
  • Alexander Romanov -380 vs. Marcin Tybura +300, heavyweights
  • Jared Gordon -270 vs. Leonardo Santos +220, lightweights
  • Sean Woodson -340 vs. Luis Saldana +270, featherweights
  • A.J. Fletcher -160 vs. Ange Loosa +135, welterweights
  • Amir Albazi -500 vs. Francisco Figueiredo +380, flyweights
  • Aori Qileng -140 vs. Jay Perrin +120, bantamweights
  • Victor Altamirano -175 vs. Daniel Da Silva +150, flyweights

With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).

UFC 278 picks, predictions

Usman (c) vs. Edwards Usman Usman Usman Usman Usman
Costa vs. Rockhold Costa Costa Costa Costa Costa
Aldo vs. Dvalishvili Dvalishvili Aldo Dvalishvili Dvalishvili Aldo
Pudilova vs. Wanan Wanan Pudilova Wanan Wanan Wanan
Pedro vs. Hunsucker Pedro Pedro Pedro Pedro Pedro
Records to date (2022) 19-19 22-16 20-18 21-17 27-11

Usman vs. Edwards

Wise: For some reason, this fight feels very academic. Everything that Edwards does well, Usman just does better. They have both carried very similar gameplans throughout their journeys — both relied on a grappling-heavy attack to stifle opponents from ever firing off heavy shots before adding more striking elements to their games. But Usman’s evolution and work with Trevor Wittman has brought an added element that creates more issues for Edwards on the feet. If Usman is able to punish Edwards with his jab early and make him think about punches coming in, Usman will be able to dominate this fight into a grapple fest before the final horn sounds. 

Costa vs. Rockhold

Mahjouri: Simply put, Rockhold has been gone too long to comfortably side with him. His long-range kicks, stifling top control and submission game are a winning combination. His inability to secure takedowns reliably and defensive shortcomings in tight are his most glaring weaknesses. Rockhold appears committed to tying up those loose ends, but Costa is the wrong guy to test pilot against. He is a powerful striker who can go for three or five rounds. Losses to Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori took the steam off Costa, but he is capable of knocking out anyone. Expect him to find the same fight-ending openings that plagued Rockhold in fights against Jan Blachowicz, Yoel Romero and Michael Bisping.

Brookhouse: Until the moment I sat down to write this blurb, I had Rockhold as my pick here. There’s something I can’t put my finger on with the fight that makes me feel the former champ may be able to spring a surprise. But Rockhold’s inactivity, age, chin and the nearly five years since he has won a fight just won’t let me pull the trigger. Costa has his flaws, but he hits hard and isn’t likely to fade in the kind of fight Rockhold is going to bring. Costa is the smart pick here and I have to go against my gut and make it based on Rockhold’s flaws and inactivity.

Aldo vs. Dvalishvili

Brookhouse: Dvalishvili is certainly a strong fighter and a top player in the bantamweight division. Aldo, however, has all the tools it takes to pull off the mild upset here. Aldo is still great at countering wrestlers and he consistently utilizes the most creative and flowing combinations on the feet. It’s going to be hard for Dvalishvili to impose his game as Aldo is firing off strikes that are flowing from information gathered and set-ups he has put in place from the opening moments of the fight. This is going to be a tough fight for both men but Aldo should be able to put in the work.

Mahjouri: Dvalishvili has one setting and it is go, go, go. He is a relentless wrestler who averages an absurd 7.30 takedowns per 15-minutes and ranks ninth all-time for takedowns. Aldo has shut down 90% of takedown attempts in 27 UFC/WEC fights. Dvalishvili was badly hurt in a fight against the heavy-hitting Marlon Moraes, but persevered and overcame his opponent. Aldo will be a tricky puzzle to solve and has the experience to outthink most. My gut says that Aldo’s takedown defense percentage will drop a few points as Dvalishvili nabs a few en route to a decision win.

Who wins UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards 2? And which fighter is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC 278, all from the insider who’s up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out.

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