Our MMA expert previews and shares betting tips for UFC 290 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The event is headlined by two title fights, with the featherweight and flyweight belts on the line.
Alexander Volkanovski vs Yair Rodríguez
Alexander Volkanowski returns to the scene of his UFC 276 victory over Max Holloway this weekend – defending his featherweight belt at the T-mobile arena, Nevada.
The featherweight champion arrives on the back of a closely fought match-up against feared lightweight champ, Islam Makhachev. The Australian’s stock has only increased since pushing Makhachev all the way at UFC 284, losing by a unanimous decision in close fashion (48-47, 48-47, 49-46).
Now returning to featherweight, Volkanowski is out to remind everyone he’s still the greatest featherweight on the planet, and arguably the best P4P (pound-for-pound) UFC fighter. Interim champion Yair Rodriguez stands in his way, after deservingly earning his title shot through a string of impressive performances.
The unpredictable Mexican claimed the featherweight interim title at UFC 284, on Volkanowski’s undercard. Rodriguez clinched the interim belt in clinical fashion, submitting Josh Emmett by triangle choke after a flurry of heavy elbows in the second round.
Although Rodriguez has a few defeats to his name, the Mexican is no walkover and certainly has as much chance as others that Volkanowski has faced at 145 (featherweight). Both of Rodriguez’s defeats have come to future hall of famers, Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar. The defeat to Holloway in 2021 was an evenly matched contest, losing by a narrow unanimous decision scored 48-47 on two of the judges’ scorecards.
Now 30 years of age, many believe this version of Rodriguez is the best we have seen, showing a more mature approach to his fights without totally eliminating his aggressive unpredictability. This is no doubt the Mexican’s biggest fight to date, with an opportunity to claim the featherweight throne Volkanovski has reigned for years.
This will be Volkanowski’s fifth title defence at featherweight, showing exactly how dominant he has been over the past 5-6 years. It looks likely that he’ll take a rematch to lightweight champion Makhachev since the first fight was so close, providing he gets past Rodriguez this weekend.
With 22 wins on the run prior to the Makhachev fight, four title defences and wins over the likes of Aldo, the Korean Zombie, Max Holloway (3 wins), Chad Mendes and Brian Ortega, Volkanwski is rightfully ranked as one of the best featherweight of all time. Aldo remains the number one featherweight of all time according to many, but Volkanowski defeated the ‘King of Rio’ in 2019. If he continues to dominate and climbs to Aldo’s record seven consecutive title defences, there may be no disputing Volkanwski at the top of the rankings.
Brandon Moreno vs Alexandre Pantoja
The co-main event features another title fight on the card, between two old rivals vying for the flyweight belt. Both fighters arrive at UFC 290 following impressive wins, with Moreno defeating Figueiredo and Pantoja submitting Alex Perez in round one at UFC 277.
Interestingly, the challenger Pantoja has beaten the flyweight champ twice in the past. Their last matchup was in 2018, when the Brazilian Pantoja cruised to a dominant unanimous decision. Prior to this, they faced each other before turning professional at the Ultimate Fighter in 2016. The challenger came out on top again, submitting the current flyweight champion in round two.
Although, times change and athletes develop and it looks as if Moreno is at the very peak of his athletic prime. Even though it’s the challenger that already has two wins over Moreno, most experts are still confident the champion retains the belt, explaining how Moreno has developed over the past five years and now poses a completely different threat.
Now 29 years of age, Moreno has developed into the number one flyweight in the world. But, will Pantoja prove to be Morenos’ kryptonite? How much has Moreno improved in the last five years to finally gain victory over Pantoja? It makes for an exciting match-up, and in my eyes the best fight on the card that should be creating more hype. Moreno remains the favourite for this title bout, available at the current odds of 1.478. The challenger, Alexandre Pantoja is available at 2.770 to cause the upset and clinch the title.
Robert Whittaker vs Dricus Du Plessis
Former UFC middleweight champion Whittaker meets high-flying South African Du Plessis at UFC 290. Whittaker had his second shot at Adesanya last year but ultimately fell short again, this time in a closely fought contest going the distance. Still ranked number 2, there could be a trilogy down the line if Whittaker continues to notch up wins against other title contenders.
Speaking of potential contenders, former KSW champion Du Plessis has notched up five wins since signing with the UFC in 2020. Whittaker is his toughest yet to date though. No one has defeated Whittaker at middleweight outside of Adesanya, but a win against the number 2 middleweight here would put him next in line for a shot at the middleweight champ, Israel Adesanya.
Du Plessis has some impressive UFC victories on his record already, defeating Darren Till by submission being at the top of the list. Whittaker has also faced and defeated Till, but by a close decision. You could draw comparisons and use it to make a case for Du Plessis in this matchup, but styles make fights and every matchup is different. Darren Till looked to pose much more of a threat when he faced Whittaker at UFC 174, and did himself no discredit in defeat. The fight was fought over three intense rounds, with Whittaker just coming out on top. Till was then defeated by Derek Brunson, before facing Du Plessis six months ago at UFC 2022. He didn’t look like he posed the same threat here, looking cagey and sluggish throughout – so making comparisons between how they both dealt with Till is probably a waste of time.
Du Plessis obviously possesses a lot of power. Whittaker has shown he can absorb punches very well but will have to maintain focus to avoid any kind of upset here. He often ends up in wars which could spell trouble against Whittaker here, who has a very sharp and accurate striking game with very good counterpunching. I expect Whittaker to be too sharp here and slowly wear Du Plessis down. The last time Whittaker won by KO or submission was 2017 though, so he’s long overdue. Du Plessis is available at odds of 4.100 to continue the winning streak and earn a shot at the title, with Whittaker at current odds of 1.250.
Jailin Turner vs Dan Hooker
UFC veteran Dan Hooker faces off with Jailin Turner in this lightweight contest. It looks set to be an exciting match-up with both fighters adopting a very aggressive style of fighting. Both men possess a lot of power, especially Turner. Both men are used to being the larger fighter, especially Turner at 6’2, but here they will face the task of facing someone with similar size and reach. Turner will still have the greater reach, but it’ll be closer than he’s used to against his recent opponents.
Jailin Turner’s five-fight win streak came to an end at UFC 285, losing to Mateusz Gamrot by decision. It was the first time he’d come up against a top 10 opponent (Gamrot currently 8th). He fell just short, but definitely showed he’s more than capable of mixing it with this level of fighter. A win against a recognised, highly respected fighter in Dan Hooker could propel Turner to earn another shot against one of the top 10.
Dan Hooker has seen it all in the UFC, and never shirked a challenge. He’s faced plenty of the big names at lightweight, including Poirier, Makhachev and Michael Chandler. Now 33 years old, it’s been a tough few years for the New Zealander. Since 2020, Hooker has only managed to win three of his seven fights in the UFC, and showing signs of slowing down. There’s no shame in Hooker’s defeats though, all against formidable opponents. A win here, against a man in his prime who’s eyeing up top 10 fighters, will prove Hooker isn’t done just yet.
The experience and reputation lies with Hooker, who’s also higher in the rankings at 11, but it’s Turner who goes into the fight as solid favourite at 1.331. The younger, fresher fighter has a tough test though. Although Hooker’s recent losses have eliminated him as an immediate title contender, his losses have come against the best in the division, and is out to prove a point. The timing may just be perfect for Turner, though, and I expect the younger fighter to come out on top here.
**Odds are subject to change. Odds accurate as of 12:00 UTC Friday 7th July**
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