We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 56 in Las Vegas. We have a fun 13-fight slate on DraftKings and a few fights that could end up being some fan favorite bangers. It also helps that on DraftKings we have another $100,000 to first place in the main contest.

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.

Erin Blanchfield vs JJ Aldrich
Blanchfield, -550; Aldrich, +400

Erin Blanchfield is coming off a dominant performance at UFC 269 in December with a win over Miranda Maverick. She landed multiple takedowns and controlled Maverick for the majority of 15 minutes on the mat. She has landed 10 takedowns across her two UFC fights and comes from a high level grappling background with a black belt in BJJ.

Her opponent, JJ Aldrich is coming off a decision victory over Gillian Robertson in March. She is currently on a three-fight win streak with similar style matchups throughout. Aldrich is a solid fighter with good boxing technique and no glaring weaknesses. However, she is going to be at a clear athleticism and skill discrepancy when it comes to the wrestling and grappling in this matchup.

I expect Blanchfield to rinse and repeat takedowns in this fight. Aldrich is solid enough to keep the fight standing against grapplers with poor wrestling, but Blanchfield is going to overpower her and drag this to the ground whenever she wants to. The better discussion is whether Blanchfield submits her or not. Blanchfield by decision is the official pick and she is one of the best spend up options on DraftKings this week.

Rinat Fakhretdinov vs Andreas Michailidis
Fakhretdinov, -280; Michailidis, +220

Rinat Fakhretdinov is making his UFC debut in this one. He is an 18-1 prospect with his only loss coming in 2013. He is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Eric Spicely last January and is currently on a 17-fight win streak with the majority of his wins coming inside the first two rounds. He fights out of Russia and has the typical grappling chops to win at the UFC level, but his striking is solid as well as he mixes in leg kicks and power shots before mixing in the takedowns.

His opponent, Andreas Michailidis is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Alex Pereira in November at UFC 268. He was fighting a solid game plan and landed two takedowns in the first round against Pereira before getting decimated with a knee. Michailidis is going to struggle here as I expect Fakhretdinov to be able to have success striking and closing the distance to get this fight to the mat.

Michailidis durability is also a major concern at this point as he has been knocked out in all five of his career losses. Fakhretdinov should be able to get this fight to where he wants it and get Michailidis out of there before the final bell. Fakhretdinov by knockout is the official pick and he is another solid spend on DraftKings.

Jeff Molina vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Molina, -190; Zhumagulov, +160

Jeff Molina is coming off a second round TKO victory over Daniel Da Silva his last time out in October. After starting his professional career 1-2 he is now on a nine-fight win streak. He trains out of Glory MMA with head coach, James Krause and has a well-rounded skill set but primarily relies on his boxing to get the job done.

His opponent, Zhalgas Zhumagulov is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Manel Kape in December. After coming to the UFC with a decent amount of hype behind him, he is just 1-3 inside the octagon with his lone victory coming against Jerome Rivera. He doesn’t throw a ton of volume on the feet and basically just has a powerful overhand right that he will look for repeatedly. He does come from a grappling base but only averages 1.25 takedowns per 15 minutes.

The game plan of Zhumagulov likely decides this fight as if he comes in here looking to wrestle then he should be able to land multiple takedowns and control Molina on the mat. If he thinks he’s a striker like he has at times in the past, then he is likely to get out volumed on the outside by Molina who will also have a clear cardio advantage as well. I’m still considering whether to bet Zhumagulov or not, but I’ll certainly take some chances with him on DraftKings with a clear path to victory that involves multiple takedowns. Zhumagulov by decision is the official pick.

Tony Gravely vs Johnny Munoz Jr.
Gravely, -150; Munoz, +130

Tony Gravely is coming off a decision victory over Saimon Oliveira in January. He comes from a collegiate wrestling background and averages just under seven takedowns per 15 minutes. He is a solid boxer as well and will likely be the better striker in this matchup. However, his cardio and durability are always concerns as he tends to gas out towards the final round and constantly leaves his neck out there to be submitted.

His opponent, Johnny Munoz Jr. is coming off a second-round submission victory over Jamey Simmons last August. Munoz is high level grappler and holds a black belt in BJJ and seven of his 11 career victories have come by submission. He is low volume on the feet and does have some decent kicks, but he is clearly trying to get the fight to the ground where he can control his opponents and threaten with submissions.

I expect Gravely to be winning the striking exchanges, but this fight is going to hit the mat without a doubt. So, the question becomes if Gravely can stay safe and avoid getting submitted. I am not fully confident that he will be able to do that but outside of getting caught he wins this fight clearly. Gravely by decision is the official pick but I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings as the winner should score well on DraftKings.

Benoit Saint-Denis vs Niklas Stolze
Saint Denis, -165; Stolze, +145

Benoit Saint-Denis is coming off an absolute beatdown in his UFC debut at UFC 267 last October. He lost a unanimous decision that should have been stopped multiple times before the final bell. I’m not just saying that either, the referee who was working that fight was removed from the rest of the card and has not been the referee for any UFC bout since then. So yes, I am still salty about not cashing my under 2.5 rounds bet that night.

Anyway, Saint-Denis is historically a front running grappler with seven of his eight wins coming by submission. The loss against Dos Santos was the first time he has been to decision. He will need to get his grappling going early against Niklas Stolze in this one.

Stolze is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Jared Gooden last July. I do not rate Stolze very highly. He is not a terrible fighter by any means but relatively low volume and does not do anything above average. His takedown defense is sure to be tested in this one and he was taken down four times in his UFC debut by Ramazan Emeev. I do not have a strong read on this fight, but I am expecting Saint-Denis to land multiple takedowns and I doubt Stolze has the pace or volume to make him gas out either. Saint-Denis by decision is the official pick.

Ode Osbourne vs Zarukh Adashev
Osbourne, -170; Adashev, +150

Ode Osbourne got back in the win column as he notched a decision victory over CJ Vergara at UFC 268 in November. Prior to that fight, his previous eight bouts had ended inside the first round so it was nice to see him work for 15 minutes for a change. He is a powerful striker with flashy knockout power and an opportunistic grappler as well with four submissions on his record.

His opponent, Zarukh Adashev is a one-dimensional kickboxer with just a 4-3 professional record. As bad as that sounds, Adashev is not a terrible fighter, and he will be competitive in the striking department despite giving up eight inches of reach in this matchup. My issue with Adashev is the volume is not great and I have some concerns about his defensive grappling as well although I don’t know if Osbourne can expose them.

Osbourne does tend to slow as the fight goes on and Adashev came on strongly against Ryan Benoit in the final round in his last fight. If Osbourne cannot finish him early, then things could get dicey down the stretch, but I still expect him to get his hand raised either way. Osbourne by knockout is the official pick.

Damon Jackson vs Daniel Argueta
Jackson, -475; Argueta, +350

Damon Jackson earned a second-round stoppage with a submission victory over Kamuela Kirk his last time out in March. He is 3-1 under the UFC banner with his only loss coming against stud prospect, Ilia Topuria. Jackson is primarily a grappler as his striking is not great but it is serviceable enough to close distance where he can work to get his opponents to the mat. He averages just over 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and 15 of his 20 career wins have come by submission.

His opponent, Daniel Argueta is stepping up on short notice to make his UFC debut in this fight. You may recognize Argueta as he was one of the contestants on the past season of The Ultimate Fighter where he lost an exhibition fight to Ricky Turcios. He has put on a three-fight win streak since that exhibition loss and sits at 8-0 as a professional. Similar to Jackson, his striking is not great although he does have some power. He is a wrestler and could even have success in taking Jackson down and getting into favorable positions. But I’m not sure he can stay there in terms of his control grappling or if he can avoid being submitted.

I don’t mind Argueta as a prospect and this line is blowing out a bit, but this is too much too soon for him against a skilled veteran who is the better submission grappler in Jackson. Jackson by submission is the official pick but I will take some shots on Argueta too as he should be one of the lowest owned fighters on the slate.

Joe Solecki vs Alex Da Silva
Solecki, -170; Da Silva, +150

Joe Solecki is coming off a split-decision loss to Jared Gordon last October which snapped a six-fight win streak for him. He had a lot of success landing takedowns and winning the grappling exchanges early but as the fight went on it was clearly favoring Gordon as he was able to stuff the majority of Solecki’s takedowns attempts and clearly win the striking as well. However, people forget Gordon is a highly skilled grappler and I do not believe that Alex Da Silva is on that same level.

Da Silva is coming off a loss to Brad Riddell and credit to him, he made it a competitive fight when most people were not expecting him to do so. But I mention it time and time again, I do not want to overrate fighters who outperform in a loss. Da Silva has some okay wrestling and should be the better striker in this matchup. But Solecki is levels better in terms of the grappling and I do expect this fight to hit the mat repeatedly.

The last element is that Da Silva last fought in September of 2020 so there is room for improvement which adds some variance to this fight. But judging by what we have seen, I think Solecki controls the grappling and finds a submission as well. Solecki by submission is the official pick and this is a solid fight to target on DraftKings.

Felice Herrig vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Herrig, -115; Kowalkiewicz, -105

These two ladies fought back in 2018 which resulted in a split-decision victory for Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Since then, Felice Herrig lost her next two fights and has had multiple knee surgeries as well. She is now coming off a two-year layoff and will look to squash the three fight-losing streak in this rematch.

Herrig is a former kickboxing world champion and should have the power advantage in this matchup. But the obvious red flags are there, and she really struggled in the clinch against Kowalkiewicz the first time around and I expect this to be much of the same. She is likely going to be able to control Kowalkiewicz at times in the clinch, but she will be eating nonstop knees and elbows.

It is not all roses on the Kowalkiewicz side either, as she is currently on a five-fight losing streak and coming off a first-round submission loss to Jessica Penne last August. Neither of these fighters can sniff the top five rankings like they used to but Kowalkiewicz has at least fought the much better level of competition and held her own at times. This should be another competitive fight, but I think there are more concerns on the Herrig side, so I am willing to back the slight underdog in Kowalkiewicz. Kowalkiewicz by decision is the official pick but neither fighter has much upside on DraftKings.

Alonzo Menifield vs Askar Mozharov
Menifield, -160; Mozharov, +140

Alonzo Menifield will look to get back in the win column coming off a decision loss to William Knight in December. Menifield is a frustrating prospect because you almost want to believe that he will improve from fight to fight but we rarely see it. He is built like an absolute unit and has the obvious knockout power with eight of his 11 wins coming by knockout. But his fight IQ and gas tank issues make him tough to trust if you do not think he can get the early knockout.

His opponent, Askar Mozharov is making his UFC debut and is coming off a year and a half layoff. Speaking of knockout power, this guy brings that to the table as well. Of his 21 career victories, 13 have come by knockout and all of them came inside the first round. However, most of these knockout victories came against subpar talent on the regional scene and I have major concerns about his all-around game and ability to compete at the UFC level outside of first-round knockouts.

There is some obvious volatility with two big power punchers that are going to come in here and duke it out, but this would be a big stunt for Menifield to lose. Outside of Mozharov catching him early with a big hook shot or highlight head kick, Menifield gets the job done here. Menifield by knockout is the official pick but I will have some exposure to both sides as I am expecting the winner to win by early knockout, so this is a great fight to be overweight on DraftKings.

Karine Silva vs Poliana Botelho
Silva, -115; Botelho, -105

Karine Silva is making her UFC debut fresh off a second-round submission finish on Dana White’s Contender Series last October. She is a 14-4 prospect with all 14 of her professional wins coming inside the distance. In fact, she has only been to the third round twice in her career and lost both of those. She has some real power in her hands and some nasty front kicks that she will look for as well but overall, very low volume and relies on finding that finish.

Her opponent, Poliana Botelho is coming off a split-decision loss to Luana Carolina her last time out in May. She is currently on a two-fight losing streak, but this is a very winnable matchup for her. Botelho has always been very solid in the first round, but her cardio has been her biggest weakness to date.

Fortunately for her, she is facing someone with similar cardio issues and likely will not push a pace on her either. I expect Botelho to be the better minute winner in this matchup and has faced clearly the better level of competition as well. It seems to be a buy low spot due to recent performance along with the hype of a Contender Series finish by a fighter who is not all that talented in Silva. Botelho by knockout is the official pick and this could be a sneaky good fight to target on DraftKings.

Michael Trizano vs Lucas Almeida
Trizano, -225; Almeida, +185

Michael Trizano is coming off a decision loss to Hakeem Dawodu in February. He was a step behind in the striking department and lost a convincing 30-27 in what was a strong performance by Dawodu. He comes from a striking background and while he is technical on the feet, he is too patient at times and only averages around 3.5 significant strikes per minute.

His opponent, Lucas Almeida is coming off a first-round submission win on the regional scene and is making his UFC debut in this one. He formerly fought on Dana White’s Contender Series this past season when he dropped a decision to Daniel Zellhuber in what was his first career loss. I have some interest in Almeida in this matchup as a sizable underdog.

 He is likely outskilled but much more willing to be active than Trizano. He is powerful in the clinch and a capable grappler as well. It’s clearly the toughest level of competition that he has faced but I believe he can make this fight closer than the odds suggest. For that reason, I’ll likely have more shares of him than Trizano on DraftKings as Trizano does not have much of a ceiling in a victory anyway.

Movsar Evloev vs Dan Ige
Evloev, -400; Ige, +300

Movsar Evloev is coming off an impressive performance over Hakeem Dawodu last June. He landed nine takedowns in that fight and looked dominant for the majority of the fight. He is an undefeated prospect at 15-0 with a well-rounded skillset and can fight a hard 15 minutes if needed.

His opponent, Dan Ige is coming off a decision loss to Josh Emmett and has now last three of his last four fights. Ige is a good boxer and solid wrestler. That skillset along with his heart have taken him a long way in this division but he is not an elite fighter in my opinion. He can be competitive in the striking against Evloev but he struggles to defend takedowns at just 55% and that should be the difference here.

I expect Evloev to land multiple takedowns in this fight and Ige should be able to work back to his feet a few times before being returned to the mat which should rack up points for Evloev. This is a tough test for Evloev but one that he likely passes considering the gap in wrestling here. Evloev by decision is the official pick.

Alexander Volkov vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Volkov, -155; Rozenstruik, +135

Everybody’s favorite – a Heavyweight main event. Alexander Volkov is fresh off a first-round submission loss to Tom Aspinall in a main event in March. Volkov is still one of the most skilled Heavyweights in the division. However, it does appear that he is past his prime and he has shown multiple times now that he struggles against elite athletes. But he should be the more active fighter in this matchup and can fight behind his jab and try not to get knocked out.

Easier said than done though as Jairzinho Rozenstruik has some serious knockout power. He is a technical kickboxer with powerful counter shots and 11 of his 12 career wins have come by knockout. The main issue with Rozenstruik is his low output as he is typically losing minutes if he is not getting the knockout. He should be able to land some counter shots and low kicks against Volkov, but he will need to knock him out to win this fight.

Overall, I expect this to be a competitive fight for as long as it last. Volkov should be landing the more volume and having success with his jab while Rozenstruik is having success with calf kicks while trying to time the big powerful counter. Rozenstruik by knockout is the official pick but this fight has a wide range of outcomes in terms of DraftKings scoring. It is not a must play by any means, but I will have some exposure to both sides along with some lineups fading the main event.