We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 278 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 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 $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.

Victor Altamirano vs Daniel Lacerda
Altamirano, -195; Lacerda, +165

Victor Altamirano is coming off a split-decision loss in his UFC debut in February against Carlos Hernandez. He previously fought on last season’s Dana White Contender Series last August and won a decision over Carlos Candelario. He is a high-volume striker that will push a fast pace and will throw leg kicks in bunches. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns although his control is not great and he will give up position hunting submission attempts.

His opponent, Daniel Lacerda is coming off a first-round submission loss to Francisco Figueiredo April. He has now been finished in both of his UFC fights which is not a great start if he wants to stick around long. He is a finisher by nature with all 11 wins coming inside the distance and he has only fought out of the first round twice across his 14 professional fights. He is the definition of a kill or be killed style fighter and I expect this fight to be much of the same.

I expect this fight to be a banger from the moment it starts with both guys generally looking to start quickly. Lacerda has some flashy techniques that he will likely try for along with his kicks as well but Altamirano is historically durable and will have a massive cardio edge as the fight goes on. Lacerda is early finish or bust and I find it hard to see him get an early finish here. Altamirano by submission in round two is the official pick.

Aori Qileng vs Jay Perrin
Qileng, -165; Perrin, +140

Aori Qileng is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Cameron Else in April. That was his first victory in the UFC after losing two straight decisions. He is big for the division and has power in his hands early in the fight with seven knockouts to his credit. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns as he averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes although he is not great at defending takedowns. However, his cardio is a real issue, and he is extremely hittable on the feet as he does not move his head off the center line.

His opponent, Jay Perrin is coming off a decision loss to Mario Bautista in his UFC debut in February. He gave a decent account of himself considering the debut along with the difficult opponent. He is more of a grappler and will look to land takedowns as he landed two against Bautista and four in his fight on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2019. I expect him to be the better grappler in this fight and he seems to be very durable as well.

Aori Qileng is going to look to pressure forward and put a pace on Perrin, but Perrin should be able to land some big shots of his own and earn the respect of Qileng. Additionally, Perrin should be able to land takedowns and even threaten with his submission grappling once the fight hits the mat. Qileng has a tendency to give up his back at times and I expect Perrin to beat him to the positions and eventually find the neck. Perrin by submission is the official pick.

Amir Albazi vs Francisco Figueiredo
Albazi, -410; Figueiredo, +330

Amir Albazi is coming off a sizable layoff as we last saw him fight back in January of last year at UFC 257 with a win over Zhalgas Zhumagulov. He is a 14-1 prospect and 2-0 in the UFC and up to this point has shown a well-rounded skillset. His striking is solid with fast hands and sharp defense. But his ground game is what has impressed me in the UFC so far with multiple takedowns and excellent scrambling. He also has eight of his 14 wins coming by submission.

His opponent, Francisco Figueiredo is coming off a first-round submission victory over Daniel Lacerda. Unlike Albazi, Figueiredo has not impressed me whatsoever as he is low volume on the feet and has a clear cardio issue as well. His best asset has been his ability to land takedowns as he averages just under three takedowns per 15 minutes. But I doubt the takedowns will come as easily against Albazi who should be the stronger fighter and the better scrambler as well.

This is a big price tag to pay but I favor Albazi significantly over 15 minutes and do not think Figueiredo poses much of a finishing threat despite his last submission win. Albazi by submission is the official pick.

AJ Fletcher vs Ange Loosa
Fletcher, -150; Loosa, +130

Pour one out for our big plus money AJ Fletcher bets in his UFC debut against Matthew Semelsberger in March. Fletcher looked great in round one and dominated Semelsberger on the mat. However, Fletcher pushes a high pace and typically finishes early so it was no surprise to see him gas out later in the fight. It basically came down to round three and Semelsberger just had a little more juice left. In terms of the is matchup, I would expect Fletcher to have a grappling advantage again and he is very explosive on the feet and has knockout upside while the fight plays out at range.

His opponent, Ange Loosa also fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last season but lost a decision against Jack Della Maddalena. Loosa then made his UFC debut on short notice to face Mounir Lazzez who basically picked him apart for 15 minutes. Loosa is a regular training partner of Gilbert Burns and is a well-rounded fighter that will be competitive wherever the fight goes. His biggest issues are that he is too hittable on the feet and eventually someone is going to make him pay. He was wobbled in the Maddalena fight and stung a couple times by Lazzez as well but has never been knocked out in his career. His cardio is also not great as he historically slows as the fight gets into the third round so I am not sure that will be an advantage for him even against Fletcher who has a similar issue.

This is an interesting matchup as Loosa will have a seven-inch reach advantage on the feet and it will be up to Fletcher to close distance and land something heavy or go to his grappling. I expect him to look to wrestle but Loosa has good takedown defense, so it is possible that Fletcher gasses himself out trying to wrestle unsuccessfully. The problem is that I am not sure Loosa has the explosiveness to make him pay on the feet. Fletcher is also going to have a clear power advantage in round one and if he connects with something heavy then he can hurt Loosa. Fletcher by knockout is the official pick but I feel better about targeting a prop or an under in this fight rather than backing him on the moneyline. Fletcher has more upside for DraftKings as well, so he is my preferred play.

Miranda Maverick vs Shanna Young
Maverick, -520; Young, +410

Miranda Maverick is coming off a dominant performance with a second-round submission win over Sabina Mazo in March. It was a good rebound win for her after hitting a two-fight losing streak with the controversial loss to Maycee Barber and getting outgrappled by the exciting prospect, Erin Blanchfield. This should be another favorable matchup for her against Shanna Young as Maverick is better in all areas of mixed martial arts. Maverick is not going to push a high pace, but she is very sound defensively and should have the striking advantage with her Muay Thai background. But clearly her biggest advantage is on the mat as she averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a brown belt in BJJ.

Shanna Young is coming off a big upset victory over Gina Mazany with a second-round finish back in April. That was her first UFC victory and likely saved her job thanks to Mazany death gassing after winning the first round. I have never been impressed with Young as she is simply not a good round winner and rarely has finishing upside. She has also been through multiple serious injuries and has been finished twice in her career and one of those was by former UFC fighter, Sarah Alpar. Her striking is awkward, and she is liable to get one of her kicks caught and spend a lot of this fight on her back. Maverick should be able to dominate the grappling and possibly find a finish on the mat as well. Maverick by submission is the official pick.

Sean Woodson vs Luis Saldana
Woodson, -320; Saldana, +265

Sean Woodson is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Collin Anglin last November. He is a 9-1 prospect with his only professional loss coming to Julian Erosa. He is a high-volume striker with sharp boxing and will push a high striking pace that is difficult for his opponents to match. The way to beat him is to take him down and force him to grapple as that is clearly his biggest weakness. While the fight plays out on the feet, he is going to pick you apart with his lengthy jab and fast counters.

His opponent, Luis Saldana is coming off a decision win over Bruno Souza in March. Saldana is a rangy kickboxer that wants to keep the fight on the feet for the most part despite landing two takedowns in his last fight. He will throw a variety of kicks and spinning attacks, but I do not see him having much success in the striking against Woodson. Lastly, he has a serious gas tank issue and has faded in all of his fights which is a big red flag considering his opponent.

I expect Saldana to be competitive in the striking early on in round one but over time I expect Woodson to clearly take over. Woodson will have a five-inch reach advantage and uses his length well with his boxing skills. He will also have a clear cardio edge as he can keep a high pace for 15 minutes and face little risk against guys that will not try to make him grapple. I could see him pouring it on late and getting a finish as Saldana fades. Woodson by knockout is the official pick.

Lucie Pudilova vs Wu Yanan
Pudilova, -130; Yanan, +110

Lucie Pudilova was released by the UFC back in 2020 after a 2-5 stint with the promotion. Since then, she has gone 5-1 on the regional scene and will not get another chance in the octagon. There is not much to get excited about with Pudilova as she is primarily a striker that will throw in volume but is also very hittable on the feet. She does not defend takedowns well and has been outgrappled throughout her last UFC tenure.

Her opponent, Wu Yanan is coming off a decision loss to Mayra Bueno Silva in April. She is currently on a three-fight losing streak and just 1-4 in her five UFC bouts. Yanan is similar to Pudilova in that she is primarily a striker but is not going to blow you away with her striking and typically is getting out landed on the feet. She rarely looks to grapple but I would think she is more likely to land a takedown than Pudilova.

I expect this to be a competitive kickboxing match for the most part with neither fighter convincingly winning rounds. This fight screams pass since we are likely betting on how the judges score rounds which is rarely a good bet, and this fight does not have much upside on DraftKings. I do think the over 2.5 rounds or fight goes to decision is a strong parlay piece this week. Yanan by split-decision is the official pick.

Jared Gordon vs Leo Santos
Gordon, -285; Santos, +240

Jared Gordon is coming off a third-round submission loss to Grant Dawson in April. That loss snapped a three-fight win streak for him. Gordon is a well-rounded fighter that likes to put a pace on his opponents as he is a high-volume striker and will mix in the wrestling as well as he averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a brown belt in BJJ. His biggest issue has always been his durability as he has been knocked out in four of his five professional losses.

His opponent, Leo Santos is coming off a second-round submission loss to Clay Guida in December. He is now 42 years old and on a two-fight losing streak which does not inspire much confidence. He has always been a dangerous grappler with nine submission victories, and he holds a black belt in BJJ. But his wrestling has never been great, and I am not convinced that he will be able to take Gordon down here. He does swing with power though and if either guy is going to win by knockout, then I think it will be Santos.

The durability is always a concern with Gordon, but he will have the better gas tank and should be able to take over as the fight goes on. His ground game is strong enough to stay safe when the fight hits the mat as well. Gordon by decision is the official pick.

Tyson Pedro vs Harry Hunsucker
Pedro, -740; Hunsucker, +540

Tyson Pedro returned to the octagon after a long layoff to knock out Ike Villanueva in April. He is now looking to get right back in there and make up for lost time in what should be a favorable matchup for him against Harry Hunsucker. Despite the knockout in his last fight, Pedro is more of a grappling threat and five of his eight wins have come by submission. He is a good submission grappler but not always looking to land takedowns which is concerning.

Hunsucker is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Justin Tafa in December. He is 0-2 in the UFC with two first-round knockout losses and that was after getting knocked out by Jared Vanderaa on Dana White’s Contender Series. He is simply not UFC level and all five of his professional losses have come by knockout. Despite the glaring red flags, this is a former heavyweight, and he is powerful in round one so I will not completely fade him on DraftKings. But this is an obvious set up fight for Pedro who should be able to find an early finish whether it comes by knockout or submission. Pedro by TKO is the official pick.

Alexander Romanov vs Marcin Tybura
Romanov, -350; Tybura, +290

Alexander Romanov made quick work of Chase Sherman back in April with a first-round submission victory. He is an undefeated prospect with a 16-0 professional record and five wins coming in the UFC. He comes from a former Sumo wrestling background and is clearly powerful especially if he gets on top of you. He averages just under 6.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and is a threat to finish immediately after getting you down. He will be looking to land some heavy ground and pound in between hunting some of his favorite submission attempts.

His opponent, Marcin Tybura is coming off a decision loss to Alexander Volkov at UFC 267 last October. That loss snapped a five-fight win streak for Tybura who will look to rebound by pulling off the big upset here against Romanov. Tybura typically relies on his ground game and averages over 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and it will be interesting if he is able to implement that gameplan against Romanov.

 I favor the durability of Romanov on the feet, but his cardio is concerning if the finish does not materialize. We also saw Juan Espino have success landing takedowns and controlling Romanov so the potential path to victory is there for Tybura. I still feel the most likely outcome is that we see Romanov get in dominant position early in this fight and have a good chance to find a finish against Tybura who has been knocked out four times in his career. Romanov by knockout is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings.

Merab Dvalishvili vs Jose Aldo
Dvalishvili, -130; Aldo, +110

Merab Dvalishvili had an absolute wild fight against Marlon Moraes at UFC 266 in September. He was hurt multiple times early in the fight but pushed through it somehow and completely took over before earning a second-round stoppage victory. Dvalishvili is an aggressive wrestler that averages 7.3 takedowns per 15 minutes and that is clearly the gameplan as his striking is not great. But it is his motor and nonstop pace that makes him such a difficult matchup for any opponent.

His opponent, Jose Aldo is coming off a five-round decision victory over Rob Font in December. Aldo is currently on a three-fight win streak since coming up short against Petr Yan at UFC 251. Despite his age, Aldo has shown he is still a real player in the fight game and one of the toughest matchups in the Bantamweight division. Statistically speaking, he is not going to blow you away, but he still has clear power and is great at finding a way to win rounds.

Aldo has historically shown great takedown defense at 90% throughout his UFC career. But I expect Dvalishvili to be able to land a few of them although I doubt, he is able to control Aldo much on the mat. In the striking, I expect Dvalishvili to be putting more volume out there and trying to put a pace on Aldo, but I favor the technicality and power of Aldo by a wide margin. Dvalishvili has shown multiple times that his durability is a concern and Aldo does have the power to make him pay. This is a great fight to target on DraftKings as I am expecting the winner to score well either way, but the pick is Aldo by knockout.

Paulo Costa vs Luke Rockhold
Costa, -345; Rockhold, +285

Paulo Costa is coming off a decision loss in the main event to Marvin Vettori last October. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and will look to get back in the win column in what should be a favorable matchup against Luke Rockhold. Costa is arguably one of the most powerful guys in the Middleweight division with 11 of his 13 career wins coming by knockout. He is going to have a massive power advantage in this matchup against a guy that historically cannot take a punch and is coming off a long layoff.

We last saw Rockhold all the way back at UFC 239 when he got knocked out by Jan Blachowicz. He is turning 38 years old later this year and has not fought in over three years so that adds a bit of variance to this matchup. He will likely have a grappling advantage over Costa if he can somehow get the fight to the mat, but I have some serious concerns. I feel it is inevitable that Costa tests the chin at some point early in this fight and I doubt it holds up. Costa by knockout is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings.

Kamaru Usman vs Leon Edwards
Usman, -380; Edwards, +310

Which brings us to our main event for the Welterweight title as we have Kamaru Usman looking to defend his belt against Leon Edwards. Usman is pound for pound one of the best fighters to ever step in the octagon and he continue to prove the doubters wrong each time out. He obviously will always have the wrestling skills to fall back on as he averages three takedowns per 15 minutes. But it has been the evolution of his striking skills over the past few years that have truly made him a champion.

His opponent, Leon Edwards is coming off a decision victory over Nate Diaz at UFC 263 in June of last year. He is currently on a nine-fight win streak not including the no contest against Belal Muhammad. Edwards is definitely one of the more skilled fighters in the division, but this is still a very difficult matchup for him. They last fought back in 2015 and that was prior to massive improvements in Usman’s striking and he was still able to largely dominate Edwards for 15 minutes.

As much as things have changed over the years, I think this matchup remains the same. Usman is simply the better fighter in nearly every area, and I have to favor him to get his hand raised once again. Usman by decision is the official pick and he is a great target on DraftKings this week.