UFC 285 Picks: Jon Jones fights Ciryl Gane for heavyweight belt, Shevchenko defends flyweight title vs Grasso
In what’s arguably the best event of the year, Jon Jones makes his long-awaited return to the octagon after a two-year layoff at T-Mobile Arena in front of a sold-out crowd this Saturday, Mar. 4.
This card is stacked from top to bottom, including two title fights - men's and women's - and multiple bouts between ranked and top ten fighters.
Continue reading for picks and a preview of one of the most anticipated UFC events in history. So far, my picks are 16-5-2.
UFC 285 Main Card
Heavyweight: Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane
Flyweight: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso
Welterweight: Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
Lightweight: Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jalin Turner
Middleweight: Bo Nickal vs. Jamie Pickett
UFC 285 Prelims
Bantamweight: Cody Garbrandt vs. Trevin Jones
Middleweight: Derek Brunson vs. Dricus Du Plessis
Flyweight: Viviane Araújo vs. Amanda Ribas
Middleweight: Julian Marquez vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
UFC 285 Early Prelims
Welterweight: Ian Machado Garry vs. Song Kenan
Bantamweight: Mana Martinez vs. Cameron Saaiman
Strawweight: Jessica Penne vs. Tabatha Ricci
Bantamweight: Da’Mon Blackshear vs. Farid Basharat
Lightweight: Kamuela Kirk vs. Esteban Ribovics
Jon Jones (26-1) vs. Ciryl Gane (11-1)
Jon Jones is stepping back into the cage, moving up to heavyweight for the first time in his illustrious career, fighting Ciryl Gane for the vacant title. Jones’ resumé is solidified: he’s never lost a fight – the only loss on his record is a disqualification in which Jones was dominating – he was the youngest champion in UFC history at age 23 and he has the most title defenses in history with 13. The only question mark is what Jones will look like with all that added muscle mass.
Gane is no joke, though.
Gane, a Frenchman, recently defended his home turf in France in September against brawler Tai Tuivasa, delivering vicious body kicks and a very technical striking game. Gane has won eight of his first nine UFC matchups, but there have been signs of doubt. In Gane’s only loss in his career, he was outwrestled by former champion Francis Ngannou, getting taken down four times, and in his last fight against Tuivasa was knocked down for the first time in the UFC.
The time off for Jones is certainly a factor in this fight, but he’s still just 35 years of age and capable of anything once the horn sounds.
My pick: Jon Jones
Valentina Shevchenko (23-3) vs. Alexa Grasso (15-3)
After her most recent win over Taila Santos in June, Valentina Shevchenko officially joined the top five list of UFC champions with the most title defenses. Shevchenko has defended her belt seven times, beginning her reign in the women’s flyweight division after defeating future UFC Hall of Famer Joanna Jedrzejczyk in December 2018. She is the best fighter the division has ever seen and will be a tough test for challenger Alexa Grasso. If Schevchenko ends up defending her belt for the eighth consecutive time, we might’ve caught a glimpse at her next opponent two weeks ago in the main event: 23-year-old phenom from New Jersey, Erin Blanchfield.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves; Grasso still stands in Shevchenko's way. Grasso is on a four-fight win streak since making her flyweight debut in 2020, most recently battering Viviane Araujo with 153 significant strikes. With that said, it’s going to take a lot to defeat Schevchenko. Per DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook of the UFC, Shevchenko is the second-heaviest favorite on the card at -610.
My pick: Valentina Shevchenko
Geoff Neal (15-4) vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov (16-0)
The middle of the main card features top ten welterweights Geoff Neal and Shavkat Rakhmonov, each looking to make a push toward the top of the division.
Not many men in the welterweight division want to fight Rakhmonov, so props to Neal for taking this fight in what’s sure to be a barnburner. Rakhmonov, an undefeated and highly touted contender, has won all 16 of his professional fights, including all four UFC appearances by stoppage. He’s yet to see a third round in the UFC.
This will be Neal’s tenth appearance for the company, compiling a 7-2 record in the UFC before this fight. Neal is riding a two-fight win streak after dropping his last two and is coming off a huge third-round knockout on Vicente Luque.
Neal and Rakhmonov are both fabulous strikers and should put on a show for the fans.
My pick: Shavkat Rakhmonov
Mateusz Gamrot (21-2) vs. Jalin Turner (13-5)
Fighting on short notice, Mateusz Gamrot is looking to get back in the win column against Jalin Turner.
Originally scheduled to fight Dan Hooker, who had to withdraw due to a broken hand, Turner is coming into this fight in the best form of his life. He's has won his last five fights in the UFC after dropping two of his first three. On his current win streak, Turner has stopped all his opponents in the octagon without entering a third round.
Gamrot had his four-fight win streak halted his last time out against Beneil Dariush in October, missing his chance of entering the top five. But, a win against Turner would put Gamrot back on track in pursuit of lightweight gold. Gamrot wants to take his opponents down, totaling 14 takedowns in his last three fights, but was outstruck in all three.
If this fight stays on the feet, it’s anybody’s to win.
My pick: Mateusz Gamrot
Bo Nickal (3-0) vs. Jamie Pickett (13-8)
On the latest season of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), former standout Penn State wrestler Bo Nickal made his second professional mixed martial arts performance against Zachary Borrego. Immediately, Nickal took the fight to the ground submitting his opponent in just over a minute.
Hesitant to give Nickal a contract because of his limited appearances, Dana White gave Nickal another fight seven weeks later, where he submitted his opponent even faster in under a minute. With that performance, Nickal was awarded a UFC contract and would appear on the cover of UFC 4.
Nickal’s opponent, Jamie Pickett, is a former DWCS alum, appearing three times in separate seasons before being given a chance in the UFC. Since entering the UFC, Pickett is 2-4, carrying a two-fight losing streak. This will be the toughest test of Pickett's career; he is the largest underdog of the event at +850.
My pick: Bo Nickal
You can watch the early prelims on UFC Fight Pass (6 PM EST), the prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ (8 PM EST), and can order the main card on ESPN+ (10 PM EST).