UFC 302 predictions, best bets, odds: Dustin Poirier and Sean Strickland among top picks to consider this weekend

UFC 302 is fast approaching and with it, another card full of intriguing fights. No fight is as interesting on paper as the main event, where Dustin Poirier finally looks to win a world championship when he takes on lightweight king Islam Makhachev. Saturday in Newark, New Jersey.

Poirier’s storied career has seen him become one of the most successful and popular fighters on the UFC roster, although he twice came up short in world title fights, losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira.

Makhachev, a disciple of Nurmagomedov, looks to continue his impressive reign while building on a pound-for-pound legacy. The Dagestan, Russia native has reeled off 13 straight wins since a stunning knockout loss to Adriano Martins in 2015. He has already beaten some of the biggest names in the sport, like Alexander Volkanovski (twice), Charles Oliveira and Arman Tsarukyan. Adding Poirier to this list could make this already impressive resume even stronger.

Poirier, meanwhile, is fighting for the belt after a second-round knockout over Benoit Saint Denis at UFC 299. Poirier (30-8, 1 NC) is finally looking to become champion after falling short against mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov and coach of Makhachev, in 2019 and Oliveira in 2021. “The Diamond” already has a Hall of Fame-worthy resume, but he still lacks the crowning glory of undisputed gold.

After going 4-1 with our best bets for UFC 301, we are 12-13 on the year. It’s not a winning record, but we’re back on track to get out of the red, hopefully starting with UFC 302.

Randy Brown vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos

Randy Brown via decision (+150)

There are a lot of things to consider in this fight. Zaleski has the better power and a solid low kick game to go along with a willingness to throw in and just try to make things happen. That said, Brown is younger at 33 to Zaleski’s 37, faster and with a five-inch reach advantage. It’s in Brown’s best interest to try to use his reach and speed to stay away from wild exchanges that could get him in trouble. If he sticks to the game plan against a durable opponent, a decision victory seems like the most likely outcome.

Niko Price vs. Alex Morono

Fighting to go the distance: No (-190)

While this is a rematch, there probably isn’t much point in looking back at the first fight for indicators of how this go-around is going. Price won that first fight by knockout only to have it canceled due to a positive drug test for marijuana (the first of two times that would happen to Price). Price is 5-7 after a 10-0 start to his career while Morono has found much more success, going 11-6 since Price’s first fight. Price has the power to stop the fight, but he’s also just as susceptible to being stopped, with five knockout losses in his most recent 10 fights. Morono isn’t the best finisher but the stars seem to have aligned for a fight that doesn’t reach the final scorecards.

Kevin Holland vs. Michał Oleksiejczuk

Fight to spend more than 1.5 rounds (-150)

The best advice on this fight might be to stay away completely, but when pushed to select a game, I like the line over 1.5 rounds. Oleksiejczuk has good knockout power and Holland is a good finisher too, but styles make fights and all those other clichés. This fight will likely come down to the feet and Holland is crafty and willing to use his natural advantages in height and reach. Netherlands’ reach is 81 inches to Oleksiejczuk’s 74. If an ending occurs, it will likely come in the back half of the fight, once the fighters understand their approach and make mid-fight adjustments.

Sean Strickland vs. Paulo Costa

Sean Strickland’s Money Line (-250)

The line is a little wider than ideal but the fight is what it is. Costa is still a wild card, but he’s also inconsistent, with Strickland’s consistency being one of his best assets of late. Strickland’s boxing style is difficult for opponents to understand and Costa isn’t much of a cerebral fighter. Rather than trying to determine whether Costa will go the distance or be stopped along the way, we advise you to simply put your money into the better and more reliable of the two fighters. Costa is probably picked apart while having a few moments of success, but Strickland’s durability should allow him to survive those moments and return to his boxing connection and make it difficult for Costa to find consistent success.

Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier

Dustin Poirier Money Line (+425)

There’s one element in Poirier’s selection that gets to the heart, but it’s also that +425 seems too big to pass on. This represents an implied probability of Poirier winning at 19%. Makhachev is an excellent fighter and deserves recognition for his dominant run and Poirier has stumbled many times during his own legendary career. But Poirier is also a different type of challenge than a small, rising (and once short-term) featherweight like Alexander Volkanovski or even Charles Oliveira.

Makhachev could crack Poirier on the feet or return to the successful approach of a takedown in an arm-triangle choke while dominating the fight. But I expect Poirier to bring everything he has to try to find small openings to do meaningful things and put his own pressure on Makhachev. Right away, I’d pick Makhachev, but with the odds as wide as they are, I think the value is in Poirier.

Who wins UFC 302: Makhachev vs. Poirier, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed UFC 302 picks, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $1,500 on his UFC main card picks, and find out.