Justin Gaethje will have a home-turf advantage Saturday when he takes on Charles Oliveira in the main event of UFC 274 in Phoenix. Their fight anchors the pay-per-view main UFC 274 fight card (10 p.m. ET) from the Footprint Center, and in a late twist, Oliveira missed weight on Friday, meaning he will be stripped of his lightweight title belt. Gaethje grew up a couple of hours away in Safford, Ariz., where he was a high school wrestling star before accepting a scholarship to Northern Colorado. The top-ranked lightweight already was one of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster, and now he’ll have a massive edge in crowd support as he looks to claim the belt with a win. If Oliveira wins, he’ll be considered the top challenger for the vacant title.
Oliveira is listed as the -140 favorite (risk $140 to win $100) in the latest Oliveira vs. Gaethje odds from Caesars Sportsbook, with Gaethje listed at +120. The UFC 274 odds from Caesars also list Rose Namajunas at -200 as she defends the women’s strawweight title against second-ranked challenger Carla Esparza (+175) in the co-main event. Before locking in any UFC 274 picks, make sure you check out the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Andrew Gombas.
Gombas is a former NCAA wrestler who taps into his experience on the mat to dissect the X’s and O’s of MMA matchups in a manner that sets him apart from other MMA analysts. He started the MMA handicapping service MMA Knockout Bets in 2018 and has shown a profit every year since.
With more than 1,400 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 6 percent return on investment for his followers. Over the past two years, his followers have netted a profit of more than $10,000.
In January, Gombas kicked off the 2022 UFC season in memorable fashion by telling SportsLine members to back Calvin Kattar (+200) against Giga Chikadze (-240) in a battle of ranked featherweight contenders in the main event. Kattar dominated to win a unanimous decision and give his followers an easy winner. Anyone who has followed Gombas already has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC 274 in sight, Gombas has studied the card from every angle and released his top MMA picks. You can only see Gombas’ UFC 274 picks at SportsLine.
UFC 274: Oliveira vs. Gaethje preview
The main event certainly lost some luster after Oliveira missed weight by half a pound on Friday, but it will still showcase what is arguably the most talent-rich division in the promotion, and the combatants feature contrasting fighting styles along with different dispositions outside of the cage.
Oliveira (32-8-1) has made a well-documented transformation from borderline journeyman to world champion in the past five years. A loss at UFC 218 in December 2017 to Paul Felder was his third in the past four and he was building a reputation as a fighter who lacked durability and resilience.
But the 32-year-old Brazilian has since gone on a tear that has seen him finish nine opponents while winning 10 straight. The lone non-stoppage in that span was a lopsided decision against Tony Ferguson in December 2020.
He’ll now take on one of the UFC’s most violent finishers in Gaethje (23-3), whose preferred MMA strategy is having both he and his opponent trade flat-footed haymakers until one of them loses consciousness.
He gets his way most of the time, which is why the former World Series of Fighting champion is on the short list of the UFC’s most popular fighters. The 33-year-old Arizona native secured his second title shot with a decision victory over former Bellator champion Michael Chandler at UFC 268 in November. The wild three-round brawl earned Fight of the Year accolades from numerous MMA outlets. You can only see who to back at UFC 274 at SportsLine.
UFC 274 predictions
We’ll share one of Gombas’ UFC 274 predictions here: He is backing Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (-180) to get his hand raised against Joe Lauzon (+160) in a matchup of veteran lightweights to kick off the main card. Both fighters are considered legends of MMA who have more than 25 years of combined UFC experience between them.
The talented but erratic Cerrone (36-16-2) has never fought for a UFC belt, though he reached the top-five rankings on a couple occasions. The 39-year-old New Mexico native, who is one of the most popular fighters in the promotion’s history, has gone winless in six straight bouts. His last victory came in a dominant five-round main event against Al Iaquinta in May 2019 that he won by unanimous decision.
Lauzon (28-15), 37, made his debut with the promotion at UFC 63 in September 2006 with a first-round stoppage of Jens Pulver. The Massachusetts native hasn’t fought since October 2019 because he chose to avoid the logistical difficulties of fighting during the pandemic. But his last performance ended in a first-round stoppage of prospect Jonathan Pearce, who has since won three straight.
“I trust Cerrone’s cardio much more. He has been way more active than Lauzon. I expect him to win this fight if he can avoid getting clipped early,” Gombas told SportsLine.
How to make UFC 274 picks
Gombas also has strong picks for Oliveira vs. Gaethje and other fights on the UFC 274 card. He’s also backing a fighter who “will get takedowns early and often” on the way to a dominant victory. Those expert UFC 274 picks are only available at SportsLine.
Who wins Oliveira vs. Gaethje? And what other picks do you need to see? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC 274, all from the insider who’s up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out.
UFC 274 fight card, odds (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Charles Oliveira (-140) vs. Justin Gaethje (+120)
Rose Namajunas (-200) vs. Carla Esparza (+175)
Michael Chandler (-410) vs. Tony Ferguson (+320)
Ovince Saint Preux (-230) vs. Mauricio Rua (+190)
Donald Cerrone (-175) vs. Joe Lauzon (+150)
Khaos Williams (-120) vs. Randy Brown (+100)
Norma Dumont (-220) vs. Macy Chiasson (+180)
Blagoy Ivanov (-150) vs. Marcos Rogerio De Lima (+125)
Brandon Royval (-260) vs. Matt Schnell (+210)
Francisco Trinaldo (-110) vs. Danny Roberts (-110)
Tracy Cortez (-175) vs. Melissa Gatto (+150)
Kleidison Rodrigues (-300) vs. CJ Vergara (+240)
Loopy Godinez (-170) vs. Ariane Carnelossi (+145)
Journey Newson (-160) vs. Fernie Garcia (+135)
Andre Fiahlo (-360) vs. Cameron Vancamp (+280)