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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 273 in Jacksonville, Florida. This is perhaps the best fight card of the year with two title fights on the line along with a full 13-fight card. Not to mention, we get to watch Khamzat Chimaev fight Gilbert Burns as well.

As always, I give my analysis and DraftKings strategy based on how I see each fight matchup playing out. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter  with any questions that you have leading up until fight night Saturday.

Piera Rodriguez vs Kay Hansen
Rodriguez, -120; Hansen, +100

Piera Rodriguez is coming off a victory on Dana White’s Contender Series last October. She defeated Valesca Machado in what was only her second career decision victory. She is an undefeated prospect making her UFC debut at 7-0 with five of her wins coming by knockout. She has clear power in her hands and is a patient striker mostly looking to punish her opponents with powerful counter shots. She trains out of Blackhouse MMA with fighters like Mackenzie Dern, Tabatha Ricci and Vanessa Demopoulos and will mix in the takedowns as well. Her opponent, Kay Hansen is coming off a decision loss to Jasmine Jasudavicius in January at UFC 270. She is currently on a two-fight losing streak after winning her UFC debut in 2020. Hansen is not a prospect that I have much confidence in. She has some solid grappling, but her wrestling is not very good as she averages under two takedowns per 15 minutes despite her willingness to try to get the fight to the mat. She will need to land takedowns in this matchup as Rodriguez will have a clear striking and power advantage on the feet. However, Rodriguez should have a physicality advantage and I even think she may be able to land takedowns against Hansen in this matchup. I expect this fight to be fought at a slow pace with neither fighter being overly aggressive, but it is Rodriguez that will be landing the bigger shots and dominating the clinch exchanges with her dirty boxing. Rodriguez by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings this week.

Julio Arce vs Daniel Santos
Arce, -190; Santos, +160

Julio Arce is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Song Yadong in November. Arce is a technical kickboxer training at Tiger Schulmann and will be facing a UFC debutant in Daniel Santos. Arce will have a clear striking advantage and has fought the much tougher level of competition. Santos is a flashy striker with four of his eight career wins coming by knockout. He is coming off nearly a two-and-a-half-year layoff and making his UFC debut which seems to be too much to soon for him. He has a few finishes with spinning back kicks and elbows but overall, there is not much substance to his game. Arce is the better striker and more well-rounded fighter who could mix in takedowns if he needed to. Arce by decision is the official pick.

Anthony Hernandez vs Josh Fremd
Hernandez, -190; Fremd, +160

Anthony Hernandez is coming off a big upset victory over Rodolfo Vieira back at UFC 258 when he submitted the world class grappler in the second round. “Fluffy” Hernandez is 8-1 with six of his eight victories coming by submission. He has some power in his hands, but his striking defense leaves more to be desired. It is clear that he does his best work on the mat and will be aggressive in getting it there as he averages just under four takedowns per 15 minutes. His opponent, Josh Fremd is making his UFC debut on short notice after having just fought in February. He is a 9-2 prospect with seven of his victories coming inside the distance. He is similar to Hernandez in that he is willing to slug it out on the feet but disregards his defense entirely. Fremd’s durability is more of a concern to me than Hernandez as well as he was knocked out in the first round by Gregory Rodrigues and rocked multiple times throughout his regional career. I expect the striking to be competitive with both guys having moments, but I trust the boxing of Hernandez and his durability as well. He will likely mix in the takedowns where he should have a clear grappling edge and I expect him to find a finish on the mat. Hernandez by submission is the official pick.

Aleksei Oleinik vs Jared Vanderaa
Oleinik, -110; Vanderaa, -110

Aleksei Oleinik was originally scheduled to fight Ilir Latifi but Latifi pulled out of the fight for a second time in the last two weeks. Oleinik is currently on a three-fight losing streak and turns 45 years old in just two months so there are certainly some concerns with backing him in this matchup. However, he should have a clear submission grappling edge over Jared Vanderaa and that is his obvious path to victory in this fight. Vanderaa is coming off a split decision loss against Andrei Arlovski in February. Vanderaa has never been someone that I rate highly as his best asset is his toughness and being able to outlast his opponents if they gas out. However, if Oleinik is able to get in top position early in this fight, then I think Vanderaa is in some serious trouble. Vanderaa will need to avoid the grappling exchanges and take over late as Oleinik tends to gas outside of the first round. Oleinik by first-round submission is the official pick and I prefer his upside on DraftKings despite the clear risk with backing the 44-year-old.

Vinc Pichel vs Mark Madsen
Pichel, -135; Madsen, +115

Vinc Pichel is coming off a decision victory over Austin Hubbard last August. Pichel is currently on a three-fight win streak and continues to prove he still has some gas left in the tank as he approaches 40 years old later this year. Pichel is a well-rounded gritty veteran that is just solid wherever the fight goes. He has technical boxing skills but really shines when he is mixing in the wrestling as well as he averages over three takedowns per 15 minutes. My biggest issue with Pichel in this matchup is his takedown defense. He defends at just 25% and has been taken down two or more times in each of his last four fights. That is going to be a big issue for him in this matchup against the Olympian, Mark Madsen. Madsen is coming off a split-decision victory over Clay Guida last August. Madsen’s striking looked improved, but it was odd to me that he did not try to wrestle more against Guida and he nearly paid the price on the judges’ scorecards. I expect him to wrestle in this matchup and the takedowns should be there if he wants them. The question then becomes can he control Pichel on the mat and that is where I do not feel as confident. Pichel has a solid getup game and although I expect Madsen to land multiple takedowns, I think Pichel is working back to his feet quickly most of the time. I also favor Pichel in the striking department which has me slightly favoring him in this matchup. That being said, I prefer Madsen on DraftKings for the multiple takedown upside but I will have some exposure to both sides. Pichel by decision is the official pick.

Mike Malott vs Mickey Gall
Malott, -200; Gall, +170

Mike Malott is coming off an exciting first-round submission victory on Dana White’s Contender Series in October. He is a 7-1 prospect with all seven of his wins coming inside the first round. He is one of the coaches at Team Alpha Male and holds a black belt in BJJ. He is relatively unproven considering all but two of his fights have ended inside the first two minutes. His opponent, Mickey Gall is coming off a decision loss to Alex Morono in December. Gall has historically been an early submission or bust fighter which makes him to difficult to trust in most matchups, especially in this one against Malott. I am expecting a high variance grappling heavy fight which could get sloppy on both sides. Gall’s cardio is not great while Malott’s is entirely untested. I expect Malott to be the more dangerous fighter on the feet and on the ground early in the fight, so I lean with him in this matchup but not confidently. Mallott by knockout is the official pick but I will have some exposure to both sides on DraftKings.

Raquel Pennington vs Aspen Ladd
Pennington, -190; Ladd, +160

Raquel Pennington is coming off a second-round submission victory over Macy Chiasson in December. She is currently on a three-fight win streak since dropping a decision to Holly Holm back in 2020. Pennington is one of those fighters that will never hold the belt but is always a tough test for up-and-coming prospects looking to crack into the top 10. Her opponent, Aspen Ladd is coming off a main event decision loss to Norma Dumont in October in a fight where literally nothing happened. She landed just 33 strikes across five full rounds which makes it tough to be confident backing her against Pennington. I want to believe that Ladd is the same fighter was in her first couple fights in the UFC but the tough weight cuts and the lack of activity of late are both concerns. I still favor her on DraftKings though as she clearly has more upside relative to her price. Overall, I am not expecting either fighter to score well but I will have some shares of Ladd and hope she comes through as an underdog. Ladd by decision is the official pick.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs Marcin Tybura
Rozenstruik, -150; Tybura, +130

Jairzinho Rozenstruik is coming off a decision loss to Curtis Blaydes last September at UFC 266. It is funny how the narrative on Rozenstruik has changed since his first few fights in the UFC considering his only three career losses are to the best three fighters in the Heavyweight division. Rozenstruik contains some serious knockout ability and is one of the most technical kickboxers in the division. His takedown defense is likely to be tested against Marcin Tybura in this matchup. Tybura is coming off a decision loss to Alexander Volkov in October. This fight is pretty easy to break down as with many of Tybura’s fights. If he is able to land takedowns and use his grappling advantage, then he is going to wear on people and likely find a finish on the mat. However, Tybura struggles with powerful strikers and has been knocked out four times in his career along with a few other close calls as well. Rozenstruik is not overly aggressive with his striking as he is very patient and willing to wait for the big counter shot. I expect this fight to start slow with Rozenstruik waiting for Tybura to enter his range but once he does I think he lands something big enough to hurt him and get him out of there. Rozenstruik by knockout is the official pick.

Ian Garry vs Darian Weeks
Garry, -365; Weeks, +280

Ian Garry is coming off a huge knockout victory over Jordan Williams in his UFC debut in November at UFC 268. He is an undefeated prospect with a 8-0 record and five wins coming by knockout. He is tall and rangy for the division and has decent footwork and power. My biggest issue with Garry is that he fights with his hands down especially when backing out of range. This is something that I always note from certain fighters as it is a recipe for getting knocked out if you are not quick enough. He ate a ton of clean shots in his debut, and I expect that to be a theme of his moving forward although I am not convinced that Darian Weeks has the power to make him pay in this matchup. Weeks is coming off a decision loss to Bryan Barberena in his UFC debut in December which was his first career loss. Weeks is nothing special but he does have a solid wrestling base and his output is good, but I do not see him winning many UFC fights outside of the lowest level guys. I doubt Weeks will be able to have as much wrestling success as he did against Barberena as Garry has strong hips and long legs and will likely be one step ahead in the footwork department. Lastly, I want to fade Garry with someone that I know can make him pay for his sloppy defense with a powerful counter shot and I doubt Weeks is that guy. I will be looking to fade Garry big time but hope he wins this fight, and we get a better spot next time. Garry by decision is the official pick but I expect this to be a major sweat for as big of a favorite he is if this hits the scorecards. I will likely be overweight to the field on Weeks and consider him a live underdog even though he is not very good.

Mackenzie Dern vs Tecia Torres
Dern, -115; Torres, -105

Mackenzie Dern is coming off a main event decision loss to Marina Rodriguez in October. That loss snapped a four-fight win streak for her and she will look to get back in the win column against Tecia Torres. As with most Dern fights, she will need to get the fight to the mat where she could implement her world-class grappling. Torres has never been submitted in her career, but Dern is capable of submitting anyone in the UFC if she can get them on the mat in her world. Torres has been on a three-fight win streak, but it has mostly come against lower-level fighters and her lack of takedown defense is likely to bite her in this matchup. She will have a striking advantage, but Dern’s takedowns have got a little better since she started in the UFC and Torres only defends at 58% so I am expecting Dern to land a takedown or two in this spot. Dern by submission is the official pick and I think she is capable of winning a decision as well. She is my preferred side on DraftKings as she has much more upside in the mid-range.

Khamzat Chimaev vs Gilbert Burns
Chimaev, -525; Burns, +385

Khamzat Chimaev is perhaps the most exciting prospect in all of MMA right now. He has looked flawless through his four UFC fights and is sporting a perfect 10-0 professional record with all of his wins coming inside the first two rounds. His smothering grappling style is difficult for any opponent to deal with, but he also has some power in his hands to go along with it. This is clearly his toughest test to date in Gilbert Burns who is coming off a decision victory over Stephen Thompson at UFC 264 last year. Burns has won seven of his last eight fights with his only loss coming against Welterweight king, Kamaru Usman during that span. I see this playing out similarly to the Usman fight in that Burns will likely need to hurt Chimaev early on the feet. He is explosive enough to do that but I still see that as an unlikely outcome considering Chimaev has shown no signs of durability or cardio issues whatsoever. I expect Chimaev to get this fight to the mat early and often. Burns is a good grappler but not when he is being smothered which is what I am expecting here. Usman was able to neutralize him on the mat and especially after Burns started to get tired. It’s possible the first round is sweaty if Chimaev does not finish him right away but outside of that I favor Chimaev to dominate in the later rounds if it even gets there. Chimaev by knockout is the official pick and he is one of the strongest plays on DraftKings this week.

Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling
Yan, -490; Sterling, +360

Yan is coming off an impressive masterclass victory over Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267 at Fight Island in October. He has won eight of his nine UFC fights with his only “loss” coming via disqualification the first time he fought Aljamain Sterling in March of last year. Although he was credited with a “loss,” we all know he was winning that fight pretty clearly. I personally thought that was the best that he had looked in the UFC and then he topped that performance against Sandhagen his last time out. He is very well-rounded, and it is tough to identify any real weakness in his game. His opponent, Aljamain Sterling has not fought since the first time he fought Yan last year and was dealing with an injury for a few months. He has always been known as a good wrestler and a dangerous submission grappler as he holds a black belt in BJJ and eight of his 19 wins have come by submission. However, he has improved his striking to the point where now he is a legitimate problem for most people in the Bantamweight division. He is very long and good at maintaining distance which allows him to use his length offensively but also limits damage coming back at him because he is typically out of his opponent’s range. I thought he looked good in the first round against Yan but clearly did not manage his gas tank well as he was spamming everything and the kitchen sink which was clearly not a sustainable pace. Yan did a great job of preventing the takedowns, so the grappling of Sterling is mostly a non-factor in the rematch. I do think Sterling could make this fight more competitive than many people are expecting but he will need to hurt the legs of Yan early and often and manage his cardio much better than the first time around. I will have some exposure to him on DraftKings, but the most likely outcome is that Yan takes over in the middle and late rounds similar to the first time they fought and could even knock Sterling out again (legally this time). Yan by decision is the official pick.

Alexander Volkanovski vs Chan Sung Jung
Volkanovski, -720; Jung, +500

Alexander Volkanovski is coming off a title defense against Brian Ortega in September at UFC 266. That was an impressive beat down and likely should have been stopped sooner as Volkanovski landed a career-high 214 significant strikes. He is a high-volume striker that is going to mix in the leg kicks and can go to the takedowns as well if he needs to. His output and pace is very difficult to match along with his diverse striking approach. His opponent, Chan Sung Jung is coming off a decision victory over Dan Ige last June. He is a powerful striker with three of his last four wins coming by first-round knockout. However, there is almost no chance he can win a decision here as Volkanovski’s output just makes it so unlikely for him to be losing the majority of minutes especially in the championship rounds. I think Jung will need to hurt Volkanovski and knock him out to win this fight which is certainly possible but likely needs be early in this fight. Volkanovski has shown good durability throughout his UFC career but he has been knocked out before prior to the UFC and has been seemingly wobbled a couple times during his run so I do not think he is indestructible. But overall, he is one of the highest floor and ceiling combination plays on DraftKings and wins this fight at a very high clip. Volkanovski by decision is the official pick.