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UFC 296 main card preview & betting picks – December 16, 2023

UFC 296: Edwards vs Covington

Main Card Preview & Fight Details

When Saturday, December 16 – main card from 7pm PST
Where T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, United States
Watch Live ESPN+ PPV (US), BT Sport (UK), Main Event (AU)

The main card for UFC 296 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is among the most compelling lineups assembled in 2023. Undefeated Kazakh phenom Shavkat Rakhmonov will clash with karate master Stephen Thompson, while legendary veteran Tony Ferguson has been paired with the much-hyped Paddy Pimblett. Read on to see our UFC 296 main card preview and top betting picks.


Leon Edwards v Colby Covington

Leon Edwards

vs

Colby Covington

-172.41 at Bovada UFC betting odds +140 at Bovada
21-3-0 MMA record 17-3-0
32 Age 35
6’0″ Height 5’11”
170lbs Weight 170lbs
74″ Reach 72″
UK Nationality USA

Can the divisive but talented Colby Covington snatch the welterweight title from Leon Edwards? See our UFC 296 main event betting preview here.


Alexandre Pantoja v Brandon Royval

Alexandre Pantoja

vs

Brandon Royval

-192.31 at Bovada UFC betting odds +155 at Bovada
26-5-0 MMA record 15-6-0
33 Age 31
5’5″ Height 5’9″
125lbs Weight 126lbs
67″ Reach 68″
Brazil Nationality USA

Does Brandon Royval have what it takes to turn the tables on Alexandre Pantoja in this intriguing flyweight rematch? See our Pantoja vs Royval betting preview here.


Shavkat Rakhmonov v Stephen Thompson

Shavkat Rakhmonov

vs

Stephen Thompson

-192.31 at Bovada UFC betting odds +155 at Bovada
17-0-0 MMA record 17-6-1
29 Age 40
6’1″ Height 6’0″
171lbs Weight 170.5lbs
77″ Reach 75″
Uzbekistan Nationality USA

Shavkat Rakhmonov (17-0-0) has remarkably never faced a judging panel. He boasts eight knockout victories and nine via submission for a flawless record. The 29-year-old appears huge for the 170-pound division and will enjoy a height and reach advantage here. Rakhmonov did wear some shots in his most recent appearance against Geoff Neal before prevailing with seconds left on the clock, and he will need to present a tighter defensive strategy against a much more accomplished striker.

Stephen Thompson (17-6-1) returned to his flashy best against Kevin Holland in December 2022 after a pair of points losses. The 40-year-old is among the best karate athletes to compete in MMA but can appear vulnerable when taken to the mat. If Thompson can keep this bout upright and lure Rakhmonov into a standup duel, he is likely to emerge as the upset victor. The danger is that the Kazakh forces Thompson to wrestle and then dominates on the ground.

Stephen Thompson to win

+475
@
Bovada

Tony Ferguson v Paddy Pimblett

Tony Ferguson

vs

Paddy Pimblett

-192.31 at Bovada UFC betting odds +155 at Bovada
26-9-0 MMA record 20-3-0
39 Age 28
5’11” Height 5’10”
155lbs Weight 156lbs
76.5″ Reach 73″
USA Nationality UK

Tony Ferguson (26-9-0) has lost his last six fights and is unlikely to grace another big UFC event if he is defeated again. The 39-year-old built a 12-fight win streak between 2013 and 2019 and will be hoping to wind back the clock and give his supporters one more vintage performance before retirement beckons. Ferguson has adopted a range of unorthodox training methods leading up to this bout as he hunts for an appropriate exit.

Paddy Pimblett (20-3-0) lost some of his sheen in a mediocre performance against Jared Gordon in December 2022. The Brit is a social media star and had been touted as the next big thing, but a scrappy and controversial decision win brought him back to earth. If the 28-year-old is half as good as his hype suggests, he should be able to account for a faded Ferguson in this bizarre matchup.

Paddy Pimblett by submission

+200
@
Bovada

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