UFC 302 expert picks and predictions: Odds and best bets for complete card of Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier

New Jersey will host a UFC PPV event for the first time in a year when UFC 302 heads to the Prudential Center on June 1. Islam Makhachev defends the UFC lightweight title against Dustin Poirier. 

Makhachev is a multi-time Combat Sambo gold medalist trained by former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Russian is 14-1 in the UFC and is on a thirteen-fight win streak. He has defended the title twice since winning it in 2022, beating former UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

Poirier joined the UFC in 2011 and is 22-7 with one no-contest in the octagon. The former interim UFC lightweight champion is 2-2 in his last four contests. “The Diamond” last fought in March, knocking out rising contender Benoit Saint-Denis in a fight where he was the massive underdog.

The co-main event will see former UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland face former contender Paulo Costa. It will be a rare five-round non-title co-main event. 

WATCH: UFC 302: Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier, exclusively on ESPN+

The event also features fan-favorite Kevin Holland, locals Randy Brown and Mickey Gall, and a top contender in Jailton Almeida. 

Here are SN’s official picks for every fight on the card, along with full betting odds for UFC 302, courtesy of Bet MGM.

UFC 302 expert picks and full card predictions

Islam Makhachev (c) vs. Dustin Poirier for the UFC lightweight title

Per Bet MGM, Islam Makhachev is the -600 favorite, while Dustin Poirier is the +425 underdog. 

Poirier has been with the UFC since 2010 and has become one of its top stars. He lands 5.45 significant strikes per minute and has a strike accuracy mark of 51%. He does absorb 4.36 significant strikes but gives back what he receives. 

Makhachev lands 2.45 significant strikes per minute but has the highest significant strike accuracy mark in division history (61.3%). He averages 3.17 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, landing eleven in his last six fights. The Russian can throw around or suffocate you into submission. 

The fight has a few notes that make this unique. Poirier is 0-2 in lightweight title fights and has attempted to win contests via the guillotine. Makhachev is getting trained for this fight by Khabib Nurmagomedov, who beat Poirier in 2019. It is his first defense against a legitimate lightweight. There are reports that Makhachev has a staff infection, which could affect his performance. 

The Sporting News believes the third time will be the charm for Poirier, who has teased retirement following the fight. He may not get the guillotine choke win he covets, but holding gold will be enough. 

Sporting News prediction: Poirier via TKO (round four)

Sean Strickland vs. Paulo Costa; Middleweights

Per Bet MGM, Sean Strickland is the -250 favorite, while Paulo Costa is the +200 underdog. 

Costa has an edge in significant strikes landed per minute (6.20 compared to 5.91), while Strickland has a better strike defense mark (62% compared to 47%). The former absorbs significant damage (6.38), while Strickland landed triple-digit significant strikes in four of his last five fights. 

When he is on, like beating Israel Adesanya in an upset for UFC gold, the controversial Strickland is a force. Costa has shown signs of brilliance, like beating Luke Rockhold in a weird slugfest. He has also shown signs of being lackadaisical, providing nothing of value against Adesanya. 

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The fight should go the distance as long as Strickland uses his defense to frustrate Costa. If Costa can get it close, he could land hard strikes. But Strickland is more more of a reliable force.

Sporting News prediction: Strickland via unanimous decision

Kevin Holland vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk; Middleweights

Per Bet MGM, Kevin Holland is the -300 favorite, while Michal Oleksiejczuk is the +240 underdog. 

Oleksiejczuk lands 5.06 significant strikes per minute and averages 0.75 takedowns landed per 15 minutes. Holland lands 4.24 significant strikes and averages 0.85 takedowns landed. The latter is active, fighting some of the best in the division. “Trailblazer” can also be frustrating to watch, with a few mental errors getting in his way. 

Holland will give a seven-inch reach advantage in the fight. However, it will still be a tough one to measure. Oleksiejczuk hasn’t had that “wow” win, while Holland has lost against some of the top fighters in the division. That can turn into a positive given Holland’s standing in the company, but can that last given his recent track record? The Sporting News will ride with Holland this time out, predicting he will return to form. 

Sporting News prediction: Holland via TKO (round three)

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Alex Morono vs. Niko Price; Welterweights

Per Bet MGM, Alex Morono is the -250 favorite, while Niko Price is the +200 underdog. 

Price lands 5.46 significant strikes per minute, while Morono lands 4.87. The former does absorb more shots (5.60 compared to 4.16) but can fire back when needed. Price landed 110 significant strikes against Phil Rowe but lost and got knocked out by Robbie Lawler in less than a minute. 

Price beat Morono in 2017, with the win eventually overturned after he tested positive for marijuana. Since then, Price has gone 6-7 with one no-contest (another failed test), and Morono has gone 11-6. Morono appears the more acceptable and consistent pick in this rematch.

Sporting News prediction: Morono via unanimous decision

Randy Brown vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos; Welterweights

Per Bet MGM, Randy Brown is the -185 favorite, while Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is the +150 underdog.

Brown is 12-5 in the UFC and has seven wins via knockout and five via submission. He lands 4.37 significant strikes per minute and averages 0.78 takedowns landed per 15 minutes. dos Santos is 10-3-1 in the octagon and hasn’t lost a contest since 2020. “Capoeira” lands 4.52 significant strikes per minute and averages 0.43 takedowns landed per 15 minutes.  

dos Santos will have a disadvantage in reach by five inches. Brown also has the hometown edge, being a New York/New Jersey native. Both absorb the same significant strikes (3.33), making this a unique fight. The Sporting News will go with Brown, though it could be close. 

Sporting News prediction: Brown via split decision 

Roman Kopylov vs. Cesar Almeida; Middleweights

Per Bet MGM, Cesar Almeida is the -125 favorite, while Roman Kopylov is the +105 underdog. 

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Almeida is a former kickboxing world champion, and The Dana White’s Contender Series alum has won four of his first five fights via knockout. He lands 4.50 significant strikes per minute. Kopylov lands 4.66 significant strikes per minute and has eleven wins via knockout.

While Almeida got taken down in previous UFC fights, his skills helped him survive and win. Expect a stand-and-bang-like fight against Kopylov, with the former coming out on top. The fight going the distance is unlikely. 

Sporting News prediction: Almeida via TKO (round two)

Jailton Almeida vs. Alexander Romanov; Heavyweights

Per Bet MGM, Jailton Almeida is the -300 favorite, while Alexander Romanov is the +240 underdog. 

Almeida was on a 15-fight win streak before losing against Curtis Blaydes in March despite landing nine takedowns (he only offered up one significant strike, though he lands 2.54 per minute). “Malhadinho” averages 6.88 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, landing 22 in five fights. Romanov is 6-2 in the octagon. He has nine wins via submission and lands twelve takedowns in five fights, averaging 4.32 per 15 minutes. 

Almeida is ranked seventh in the UFC’s heavyweight rankings, while Romanov is ranked 13th. The former needs to be more aggressive against Romanov in a fight we know will reach the floor. Likely learning from his mistakes in the Blaydes fight, Almeida can get the win in a clean performance. 

Sporting News prediction: Almeida via unanimous decision

Grant Dawson vs. Joe Solecki; Lightweights

Per Bet MGM, Grant Dawson is the -500 favorite, while Joe Solecki is the +360 underdog. 

Dawson didn’t land a significant strike against Bobby Green last time but still has an impressive mark of 2.97 landed per minute. He also averages 3.68 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, landing twelve during a three-fight win streak. Solecki lands 2.21 significant strikes per minute but has only landed three in two fights. He averages 2.64 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, landing eight in four fights. 

While Dawson lost against Green, that should not shut him out of this fight, especially when he’s a superior striker and grappler. If Solecki gets dropped first, expect Dawson to try and submit the former. The fight can also go the distance, with Dawson earning a wide win. 

Sporting News prediction: Dawson via unanimous decision

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Jake Matthews vs. Philip Rowe; Welterweights

Per Bet MGM, Jake Matthews is the -165 favorite, while Philip Rowe is the +135 underdog.

Rowe has an edge regarding significant strikes landed per minute (3.94 compared to 3.30 for Matthews). However, the man with the seven-inch reach advantage does absorb 4.32 shots per minute, while Matthews has absorbed 2.56.  Matthews hasn’t reached 30 yet, but the Aussie has competed in the octagon since 2014. 

On the floor, Matthews, taken down four times in three fights, could have a problem against Rowe, who landed four in five contests. Matthews’ run as of late has also not been that impressive compared to Rowe, his last win against Niko Price. While Rowe didn’t get past Neil Magny, perhaps that is a good test for this upcoming fight, where The Sporting News predicts an upset. 

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Sporting News prediction: Rowe via TKO (round three) 

Bassil Hafez vs. Mickey Gall; Welterweights

Per Bet MGM, Bassil Hafez is the -350 favorite, while Mickey Gall is the +260 underdog.

Hafez lost his UFC debut against Jack Della Maddalena, though he did land three takedowns and have over six minutes of control time. “The Habibi” is 2-2 in his last four fights and has four wins via submission. Gall, the New Jersey native known for beating WWE’s CM Punk, lands 2.94 significant strikes per minute and averages 1.21 takedowns landed per 15 minutes.  

It is Gall’s first fight since 2022. He brings plenty of promise but hasn’t delivered as of yet. That could change here. However, Hafez’s striking skills could be a factor, as well as his ground game. If Gall doesn’t come in strong, it could be a rough night for him. 

Sporting News prediction: Hafez via TKO (round two)  

Ailin Perez vs. Joselyne Edwards; Bantamweights

Per Bet MGM, Ailin Perez is the -185 favorite, while Joselyne Edwards is the +150 underdog. 

Perez lands 2.96 significant strikes per minute, doubling her output in her last two fights. “Fiona” also averages 4.89 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, landing ten against Ashlee Evans-Smith. Edwards lands 4.71 significant strikes per minute, landing triple-digit shots twice in 2022. “La Pantera” averages 1.00 takedowns landed, landing five in a loss against Nora Cornolle.

The fight already had bad blood, as Perez’s coach allegedly put  Edwards in a rear-naked choke following a brawl at the UFC Performance Institute. Will that play a factor? Edwards has a four-inch reach advantage. She also had a takedown defense mark of 64%, but will that be enough to stop Perez? There is potential for Edwards to return to her winning ways in a close contest. 

Sporting News prediction: Edwards via split decision

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Mitch Raposo vs. Andre Lima; Flyweights

Per Bet MGM, Andre Lima is the -250 favorite, while Mitch Raposo is the +200 underdog.

Lima is 2-0 in the octagon and 8-0 in his career with five wins via knockout. The former Dana White’s Contender Series standout lands 3.98 significant strikes per minute. Raposo has four wins via knockout and three via submission. He has won four straight since losing his UFC debut in 2021. 

Though Raposo has won three straight via knockout, Lima has proven he can last in the octagon, even with a small sample size. The fight could be a slugfest, with Lima coming out on top. The only worry would be if Raposo puts him to the ground, which may not be a factor. 

Sporting News perdition: Lima via TKO (round two)


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