We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 277 in Las Vegas! We have a fun 13-fight slate on DraftKings along with two-title fights in what should be a great card. It also helps that on DraftKings we have another $200,000 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.

Orion Cosce vs Mike Mathetha
Cosce, -175; Mathetha, +150

Orion Cosce is coming off a second-round knockout loss in UFC debut against Phil Rowe in July of last year. Cosce previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020 and was 7-0 coming into that Rowe fight with all seven wins coming inside the distance. Despite the impressive finishing rate, he needs to improve in multiple areas if he wants to stick around in the UFC. He comes from a wrestling background and that is clearly his best skillset but his striking needs work. He fights with his hands down and eats way too many clean shots while his striking offense is basically just looping powerful overhands.

His opponent, Mike Mathetha (also known as Blood Diamond), is coming off a first-round submission loss to Jeremiah Wells in his UFC debut in February. He comes from a kickboxing background but has just four professional MMA fights and the tape on him leaves more to be desired. His striking is awkward, and he leaves himself open to counters by overextending on a lot of his punches. His defensive grappling is a clear leak in his game that will be exposed once again by any competent grappler.

I expect Mathetha to have the striking advantage while the fight plays out on the feet. But Cosce is likely not to stay at range long as I expect him to close distance and grind Mathetha against the fence while looking to peel him to the ground. Cosce’s wrestling should be the difference in this fight, but you cannot trust him at this price tag. Both fighters have glaring holes and cardio concerns, so I am expecting this to get sloppy. But overall, I side with the wrestler that should be able to get the fight where he needs it. Cosce by TKO is the official pick.

Ihor Potieria vs Nicolae Negumereanu
Potieria, -130; Negumereanu, +110

Ihor Potieria is coming off a first-round finish on Dana White’s Contender Series last season. He is a 19-2 prospect with 15 wins coming inside the distance. Despite the impressive finishing record, only four of those wins came against guys that had a winning record, including the Contender Series fight. He is a southpaw striker with real power that will throw in bunches. He has nine knockout victories and clearly does his best work in space.

His opponent, Nicolae Negumereanu is coming off a split-decision victory over Kennedy Nzechukwu his last time out in March at UFC 272 and is currently on a three-fight win streak. You could argue that he lost that fight against Nzechukwu and it has been thin margins in both of his decision victories in the UFC. He comes from a Romanian wrestling background but has rarely shown the ability to consistently land takedowns at the UFC level. His output is good as he is constantly working whether he is pumping out his jab or clinching and holding his opponents against the fence. But his striking defense is a major problem as he gets hit clean way too much and that will bite him eventually.

I expect Potieria to have the striking advantage along with the speed and power as well. Negumereanu will have to implement his usual grind style but also land takedowns and make Poteiria carry his weight to gas him out. Both guys have cardio concerns, but I keep going back to the speed and power advantage that Potieria should have on the feet and I favor him to get the job done. Potieria by knockout is the official pick.

Joselyne Edwards vs Ji Yeon Kim
Edwards, -135; Kim, +115

Joselyne Edwards is coming off a decision victory over Ramona Pascual in June. That win snapped a two-fight losing streak for her and she will look to keep that momentum going as she squares off against Ji Yeon Kim. Edwards is a one-dimensional kickboxer that will throw in volume and can keep a good pace if you let her keep the fight standing. Her biggest issue is that she only defends takedowns at 63% and can be controlled on the mat.

Kim is coming off a decision loss to Priscila Cachoeira in February. She is currently on a three-fight losing streak but has faced much stiffer competition than Edwards. Kim will also throw in volume and is not interesting in grappling, so I expect this fight to play out on the feet. I would favor Kim to have the much better jab and punches while Edwards is going to have the better kicks at range.

This is going to be a competitive striking match where both fighters land in volume and neither look to grapple so we are relying on judges’ scorecards to get this one right. I slightly lean Kim in what should be a decent buy low spot for her, but I do not think either fighter has much of a ceiling for DraftKings unless they throw 300 strikes each. Kim by split-decision is the official pick.

Michael Morales vs Adam Fugitt
Morales, -660; Fugitt, +490

Michael Morales is coming off an impressive UFC debut with a first-round knockout victory over Trevin Giles in January. He is a dynamic striker with fast hands and knockout power with 10 of his 13 wins coming by knockout. His defensive grappling is still a bit untested, but he does have the ability to land takedowns if he needs to as well.

His opponent, Adam Fugitt is coming off a first-round knockout win over Solomon Renfro in LFA in February. He is making his UFC debut on short notice and is a big underdog in this spot. He comes from a Muay Thai striking background and will look to use his length and throw kicks from the outside. But he also has a bit of a wrestling background and holds a brown belt in BJJ.

I expect Fugitt to be the more aggressive fighter and bring the fight to Morales. Morales will likely have the athleticism advantage and have openings to counter Fugitt when he throws some of his kicks. Overall, I expect Fugitt to be much more competitive than the betting odds indicate as he is a well-rounded fighter that you should not be overlooking. For that reason, I plan to be overweight to him on DraftKings, but the most likely outcome is that Morales finds the chin and knocks him out. Morales by knockout is the official pick but I will have more exposure to Fugitt this weekend.

Drakkar Klose vs Rafa Garcia
Klose, -225; Garcia, +190

Drakkar Klose is coming off a second-round knockout victory over Brandon Jenkins in April. He dominated that fight from pilar to post and it was one of his most impressive showings in the UFC.

It was good to see Klose rebound off the Dariush loss along with the awkward neck injury from the Jeremy Stephens face off. Klose is a well-rounded fighter that will never fight for the belt but remains a solid test for anyone trying to climb the ranks in the Lightweight division. He keeps a solid pace with good boxing and will mix in a couple takedowns as well.

His opponent, Rafa Garcia is coming off a second-round submission victory over Jesse Ronson in April and is currently on a two-fight win streak. This is a big step up for him though in terms of competition level and I doubt he will be able to out wrestle Klose in the clinch exchanges. On the feet, Garcia is much more hittable, and Klose does have power enough to make him pay.

I expect this to be a high-paced fight where both fighters have brief moments of success. But ultimately, I have to side with Klose as I feel he will be having the bigger moments in the striking and will have the overall strength advantage to win the grappling positions and control Garcia along the fence. Klose by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target this week on DraftKings.

Don’Tale Mayes vs Hamdy Abdelwahab
Mayes, -180; Abdelwahab, +155

Don’Tale Mayes is coming off a third-round TKO over Josh Parisian in December. He is currently on a two-fight win streak after dropping his first two UFC fights against Ciryl Gane and Rodrigo Nascimento. Mayes is a powerful striker with five of his nine wins coming by knockout. He has recently been showing off his ground game as he landed six takedowns in his recent fight against Parisian and seems to be improving from just a one-dimensional power puncher.

His opponent, Hamdy Abdelwahab is coming off a first-round knockout win in June. He is just a 5-0 prospect and very inexperienced in MMA. He comes from a high-level wrestling background as he formerly wrestled on the Egyptian Olympic team. He has shown the ability to land takedowns in MMA but his level of competition has been extremely low. Despite the solid wrestling ability, this guy seems like a major fraud. His striking is just wild power shots with no concept of defense and a good striker will make him pay.

I expect Mayes to have a clear striking advantage with his kicking attack and straight punches down the middle. Abdelwahab will need to close distance and implement his wrestling as we have seen Mayes controlled on the mat before. However, I expect Abdelwahab to struggle with the size of Mayes who will be much bigger and hold an eight-inch reach advantage. He might be able to land a takedown or two, but it is only a matter of time before Mayes finds the chin and puts him out. Mayes by knockout is the official pick.

Drew Dober vs Rafael Alves
Dober, -200; Alves, +170

Drew Dober is fresh off the win over Terrance McKinney in what was an electric fight to say the least. Dober had to deal with a ton of early adversity but started to take over after McKinney emptied the tank. Dober is a powerful striker with clear knockout power as his last four victories have all come by knockout. His biggest issue is his defensive grappling as he has been submitted in four of his professional losses. Lastly, his durability is now a concern for me as it seems like it could be starting to go a bit.

His opponent Rafael Alves is coming off an impressive first-round submission victory over Marc Diakiese in November. He is an explosive athlete and a finisher by nature with 15 of his 20 career wins coming inside the distance. He has a powerful kicking game and some tight chokes in his arsenal that Dober will need to be aware of in this fight. Alves is similar to the McKinney matchup as he is dangerous and explosive but tends to fade as the fight goes on. It is not to the extent of McKinney, but he is most dangerous in round one.

I expect Dober to be the better boxer in this matchup and have success on the feet. However, Alves has the power to put him out if he connects clean and can also threaten with his submission grappling if he forces a takedown or jumps guillotine. The official pick is Dober by knockout, but I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings as this is a great fight to target.

Matthew Semelsberger vs Alex Morono
Semelsberger, -155; Morono, +135

Matthew Semelsberger is coming off a decision victory over my guy, AJ Fletcher in March. The fight was very competitive, and it basically came down to Semelsberger having the edge in the cardio department. He is a well-rounded prospect with a wrestling background and some decent power in his hands with six of his 10 wins coming by knockout. However, good grapplers will expose him on the mat and good strikers will piece him up on the feet.

His opponent, Alex Morono is coming off a decision victory over Mickey Gall in December. He is currently on a three-fight win streak since dropping a decision to Anthony Pettis in 2020. Morono is another well-rounded fighter that will throw in volume and push a pace on the feet. He holds a black belt in BJJ but rarely looks to grapple unless he is the one being taken down. His durability is a concern as he has been knocked out twice inside the first round.

Despite the concern on the Morono side, I do feel there is value on the underdog in this matchup. Morono is much more experienced especially considering the level of competition. Additionally, he should be able to land more volume on the feet and if Semelsberger takes him down then he should be the better grappler on the mat. Morono by decision is the official pick.

Magomed Ankalaev vs Anthony Smith
Ankalaev, -490; Smith, +390

Magomed Ankalaev is coming off a main event decision victory over Thiago Santos in March. He is currently on an eight-fight win streak with the only loss in his career coming against Paul Craig back in 2018. Many people have him pegged as the future champion in this division and it is hard to argue with considering his skillset. He is a technical kickboxer with knockout power but also has the solid wrestling to fall back on despite not being aggressive with it at times.

His opponent, Anthony Smith is coming off a first-round submission victory over Ryan Spann last September. Lionheart is currently on a three-fight win streak with three straight first-round finishes. Smith clearly has finishing ability so you can never completely rule him out. But he defends takedowns at under 50% and that should be a clear path to victory for Ankalaev. Even if Ankalaev chooses to strike for the majority, he is much sharper defensively and should get the better of the striking exchanges as well. Ankalaev by decision is the official pick but there are better fighters to target in the expensive price range on DraftKings this week.

Alexandre Pantoja vs Alex Perez
Pantoja, -180; Perez, +155

Alexandre Pantoja is fresh off a second-round submission victory over Brandon Royval last August. He is currently on a two-fight win streak and is looking to make a push to challenge for the belt in the Flyweight division. Pantoja has been a staple of this division for years now and his skillset is very solid wherever the fight goes. He will throw in volume on the feet and does have some pop in his punches too. But it is his grappling that I feel is when he is at his best as displayed in his last fight against Royval. He is an experienced BJJ black belt and if you stay on the ground with him long enough then he will find your back and snatch up your neck.

His opponent, Alex Perez is coming off a lengthy layoff due to multiple cancellations, so we have not seen him in the octagon since November of 2020. That being said, Perez firmly belongs in the top 10 of this division and probably even the top five. He comes from a collegiate wrestling background and averages over 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. His striking is decent enough as he has some good calf kicks but leaves himself open to being countered. His biggest issue though is his fight IQ as he has repeatedly left his neck out there when looking for takedowns. He has been submitted four times in his career and three of which were by guillotine choke, including his last fight against Deiveson Figueiredo.

I expect the striking to be competitive in this one, but it is the grappling of Pantoja that has me favoring him. Perez is solid everywhere, but Pantoja should have a durability edge along with fighting the better gameplan. I think Perez likely rolls around with Pantoja too much and gets caught. Pantoja by submission is the official pick but this is another good fight to target on DraftKings as it should be high paced, and we might see a finish.

Sergei Pavlovich vs Derrick Lewis
Pavlovich, -125; Lewis, +105

Sergei Pavlovich came off a lengthy absence before his last fight but showed he has not lost a step as he knocked out Shamil Abdurakhimov in the first round back in March. He is an exciting prospect for the Heavyweight division as he has shown real power in his hands with 12 of his 15 wins coming by knockout, the majority of which came inside the first round. His UFC debut against Alistair Overeem is his only professional loss.

His opponent, Derrick Lewis is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Tai Tuivasa in February at UFC 271. Lewis is a long-time veteran of the Heavyweight division with the most knockouts in UFC history. But outside of his one-punch power, there is not much substance to his game. He is very low output on the feet and won’t look to grapple either, so he basically has to land that big punch to beat you.

This is a high variance matchup as both of these guys have clear knockout power. But I have to side with the younger fighter in Pavlovich who should have a speed advantage along with the durability edge as well as Lewis has been knocked out six times in his career. Pavlovich by knockout is the official pick and he is a great target this week on DraftKings.

Brandon Moreno vs Kai Kara-France
Moreno, -210; France, +180

Brandon Moreno is coming off a title defense loss to Deiveson Figueiredo in the trilogy matchup back in January at UFC 270. Now, he will square off against Kai Kara-France for the interim Flyweight title. Moreno is a problem for anyone in this division as he is a great fighter and will be competitive in all areas of the fight. His boxing has improved greatly over the years, and he will mix in some powerful kicks on the feet as well. But it is his ground game that has always been his best weapon and that is clearly his best path to victory in this fight.

Kara-France is coming off an impressive decision victory over Askar Askarov in March which followed his back-to-back first-round knockout wins. He is a high-volume striker with a good jab and great footwork. He is very sound defensively and will not make many mistakes while the fight plays out on the feet. He is notably one of the hardest hitters in the division with 11 knockouts to his record. But his vulnerability is on the mat. He has good takedown defense but once you get him down, he can be controlled by good grapplers and when he works back to his feet then he is susceptible to giving up his back which is a problem against Moreno.

I expect the striking to be very competitive with both guys landing volume. Kara-France has relied on his power throughout his career, but I doubt he can sting Moreno enough to hurt him. At some point, I think Moreno gets this fight to the ground where he will have a clear advantage with his submission grappling. Kara-France is a scrapper and will not go away easily but Moreno is simply much better on the mat which should be the difference here. Moreno by submission is the official pick.

Amanda Nunes vs Julianna Pena
Nunes, -275; Pena, +230

These two fought last December when Julianna Pena shocked the world as a big underdog when she submitted the former champion, Amanda Nunes in the second round. Nunes looked strong early as usual, but the cardio did not hold up and once she started facing some adversity, she wanted to find a way out. That loss snapped a 12-fight win streak for Nunes including eight title defenses. She is still largely referred to as one of the greatest female fighters ever and it is hard to expect her to lose this matchup again.

Pena showed a lot of heart and toughness in that fight against Nunes last year. But she is clearly outmatched in terms of skillset as Nunes is a better striker with much more power and a better grappler as well. Nunes dominated her in the first round which was not even competitive. It was not until Nunes got tired and engaged in a bar fight style brawl with her where she was able to start landing and have success. That is her win condition again is that she will need to coax Nunes into engaging into a dirty fight because if Nunes fights smart then she likely cruises here.

I expect Nunes to come in with a better game plan and in better shape than last time. Her cardio is always a concern but that was clearly not her best showing and if she can fight a better game plan then she wins this fight every time. Nunes by knockout is the official pick.