UFC Saudi Arabia predictions & odds

Here's who we think should come out on top at UFC Saudi Arabia, the UFC's first trip to the country.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC makes its official debut in Saudi Arabia with an action-packed fight card taking place at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The entire event is stacked with a great mix of division veterans, rising contenders, and fighters on the precipice of title contention.

The main event was originally booked to include the undefeated Khamzat Chimaev who would be taking on No. 3 ranked middleweight Robert Whittaker but due to a Chimaev illness, Ikram Aliskerov will now be challenging the former middleweight champion. Though expectations for a Whittaker vs. Chimaev main event were sky-high, the new main event is arguably just as intriguing.

Whittaker has fought almost everyone in the middleweight division during his time at the top of the rankings and is now looking to put together potentially one more run at middleweight gold. Standing across from him will be Aliskerov, who at the moment is largely unknown, but with another impressive performance in the main event, could easily become the next star at 185 pounds.

Let's take a look at our predictions for every fight at UFC Saudi Arabia.

Xiao Long (-122) vs. Chang Ho Lee (-104)

Both Long and Lee enter UFC Saudi Arabia with no official experience under the UFC banner and will be making their promotional debuts. Long is 26-7 professionally and is a winner of 17 of his last 18 fights with his lone loss during the stretch a decision loss on Dana White's Contender Series in 2021. Lee is far less experienced but is an impressive 9-1 with just one decision loss to his record. Lee has three consecutive knockout victories and seemingly has greater finishing ability as Long's last win by knockout or submission was in 2021.

Prediction: Lee by decision

Magomed Gadzhiyasulov (-400) vs. Brendson Ribeiro (+285)

Gadzhiyasulov enters his contest against Ribeiro as a sizeable favourite and for good reason. He has yet to lose a fight in his professional career at 8-0 and is making his UFC debut after his impressive appearance on Dana White's Contender Series in 2023. Ribeiro is 15-6 and should be a tough first test for Gadzhiyasulov in the UFC but he will ultimately be unsuccessful at UFC Saudi Arabia.

Prediction: Gadzhiyasulov by decision

Kyung Ho Kang (+114) vs. Muin Gafurov (-146)

Gafurov is looking for his first win under the UFC banner as he enters his fight with Kang a career 18-6 professionally but 0-2 inside the UFC. Kang is also the much more experienced fighter in the UFC with 13 career fights under the world MMA leader and a respectable 8-4 record with one no contest inside the promotion.

Gafurov is 17-1 in fights decided inside the distance while Kang is similarly impressive with a 14-3 career record in fights ending in a knockout, submission, or disqualification. Though both fighters seemingly cannot find success on the judges' scorecards on a regular basis, it appears unlikely that either fighter will be stopped in under 15 minutes, and ultimately the more experienced fighter will prevail.

Prediction: Kang by decision

Rinat Fakhretdinov (-340) vs. Nicolas Dalby (+250)

In a fight that could be a sleeper pick for Fight of the Night, Fakhretdinov and Dalby are competing for what could be a spot in the next official UFC rankings update. Fakhredinov is on a 21 fight unbeaten streak with his only career loss being in 2013 in a two round decision defeat. Dalby is similarly impressive with 23-4-1 record (with two no contests) and is looking to build upon his four fight winning streak. Though Dalby has a solid grappling foundation, Fakhretdinov may be one of the very best in the division and if Dalby is unable to utilize his strong striking early, his win streak will come to an end.

Prediction: Fakhretdinov by submission in round three

Nasrat Haqparast (-250) vs. Jared Gordon (+190)

Gordon is maybe most known for his controversial decision loss to Paddy Pimblett in December 2022, but his track record has much more depth than this one loss. He has also shared the Octagon with names like Charles Oliveira, Grant Dawson, and Bobby Green, and while unsuccessful against some of these top contenders, Gordon has proven to be a tough matchup for anyone in the division. Haqparast has had a number of impressive knockout victories but similarly has fallen short against the best fighters 155 pounds has to offer.

Prediction: Gordon by decision

Shara Magomedov (-245) vs. Joilton Lutterbach (+186)

The much anticipated UFC debut from Magomedov at UFC 294 showed flashes of star potential for the middleweight contender but also some possible weaknesses in his game. Though he was able to land over 200 total strikes in three round decision victory, he was subject to four takedowns including nearly seven minutes of control time for his opponent, Bruno Silva. Lutterbach has almost 50 career fights, has a balanced MMA game, and should be another tough test for Magomedov, but not enough to derail his continued momentum.

Decision: Magomedov by decision

Johnny Walker (-113) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (-113)

The main card features a fight between two of the top-10 light heavyweight's in the world with No. 7 Walker taking on No. 9 ranked Oezdemir. Walker enters the contest with a notable height and reach advantage and must use these attributes to stay away from the power of Oezdemir who earned the nickname "No Time" due to his knockout ability.

Though Oezdemir hasn't recorded a KO/TKO victory since 2019, he has remained competitive in the light heavyweight division. However, in some of his previous losses, he has struggled with taller strikers with reach advantages. Walker has grown as a fighter since his high flying earlier form and become much more well balanced with less risk taking. However, he is still one of the premier knockout artists at 205 pounds and will prove it again at UFC Saudi Arabia.

Prediction: Walker by KO/TKO in round two

Kelvin Gastelum (-250) vs. Daniel Rodriguez (+190)

In Gastelum's return to welterweight, he was defeated by Sean Brady via third round submission. In that fight, Brady had over nine minutes of control time and really didn't give Gastelum any chance to use his strong stand-up game. Luckily for Gastelum, his opponent Rodriguez will almost certainly want to engage in a mostly stand-up fight that has potential to be the best pure entertainment fight on the main card.

Rodriguez enters the fight with a noteworthy advantage in both height and reach and will need to use his jab and kicks to keep Gastelum at range. However, as Gastelum has been the shorter opponent for much of his career, he understands how to close the distance and land devastating punches better than many fighters on the roster. Gastelum has also shared the Octagon with several hall of fame fighters, headlined numerous events, and has some of the best durability in the sport. Although he is yet to have a true breakout win against one of the elite in the welterweight or middleweight divisions, he has complied an admirable track record and will once again use his toughness to put together another gritty victory.

Prediction: Gastelum by decision

Sergei Pavlovich (-245) vs. Alexander Volkov (+186)

Pavlovich is coming off only his second career defeat to Tom Aspinall at UFC 295 in a fight where he competed for the Interim UFC heavyweight championship. Before that, he was on a six fight first round knockout streak with victories over several other top contenders. Volkov is one of the most experienced fighters at heavyweight and while he is now 35 years old, he has put together three consecutive wins for the first time in several years.

Volkov could truly be entering a late prime as his recent performances against Tai Tuivasa, Alexander Romanov, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik may suggest, but his opponent at UFC Saudi Arabia may simply have too much power for anyone on the UFC roster to handle. If Pavolvich lands clean, it's more than likely that the fight is over and while Volkov has only been knocked out twice in his career, Pavlovich may be the most devastating knockout artist he will have ever faced. What else is interesting about this matchup is the significant reach advantage for the shorter fighter. Pavlovich is listed at 6'3" with an 84" reach while Volkov at 6'7" is listed to have only an 80" reach. Look for this to play a role in the outcome of the co-main event.

Prediction: Pavlovich by KO/TKO in round one

Robert Whittaker (-146) vs. Ikram Aliskerov (+114)

Taking a fight on short notice is something that not many fighters are overly comfortable with, and for good reason. Taking a matchup with only weeks and sometimes days to prepare can be a risky decision for the future of any fighters' career. However, sometimes the risk is outweighed by the potential reward, and in this case, Whittaker or Aliskerov could be next in line for a middleweight title shot with a victory in the main event.

Aliskerov was originally scheduled to be featured on UFC Vegas 93 a week prior to UFC Saudi Arabia but was given an opportunity he simply could not pass up. For some unfamilliar with Aliskerov, he is 15-1 professionally, with three consecutive first round victories, and his only career loss was to Khamzat Chimaev in 2019 before either fighter had made their UFC debut yet. He also has an extensive and impressive background in combat sambo with a seemingly endless number of accolades and awards.

For Whittaker, the switch from Chimaev to Aliskerov is not a complete stylistic changeup as he should still be prepared for a strong mix of everything. Fight fans are very familiar with the elite well-balanced skillset of Whittaker but one reason for potential concern may be his declining durability. Against Dricus Du Plessis, Whittaker was knocked out for just the second time at middleweight. Additionally, in his most recent fight against Paulo Costa, although he eventually won by decision, he was seconds away from potentially being finished for the second consecutive contest before he was saved by the bell.

However, Whittaker will show once again at UFC Saudi Arabia why he is one of the greatest middleweight's of all-time and remind everyone that the road to the 185 pound championship goes through him.

Prediction: Whittaker by decision

All odds are according to FanDuel. Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.