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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 279 in Las Vegas! We have a fun 13-fight slate on DraftKings and it’s headlined by Khamzat Chimaev versus Nate Diaz. 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.

Darian Weeks vs Yohan Lainesse
Weeks, -125; Lainesse, -105

Darian Weeks is coming off a decision loss to Ian Garry at UFC 273. He is a 5-2 prospect but has yet to win in the UFC. He is not a fighter that I rate super highly, but he is not a pushover either. He can push a hard pace for 15 minutes and mix in some takedowns as well. He is a high-volume boxer and does have some power in his punches.

His opponent, Yohan Lainesse is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Gabriel Green in his UFC debut in April. Lainesse is a very powerful striker with six of his eight wins coming by knockout. He dropped Green and nearly finished him in that fight before gassing out and losing. That is the concern with him as he is very explosive with his strikes and wrestling and he could fade if he is pushed to the later rounds.

There is definitely a path for Weeks to take over late as he will have a cardio advantage if he survives the early rounds. However, I still rate Lainesse’s power and wrestling to be better as he still has gas in the tank, and he will be working with a four-inch reach advantage as well which makes me favor him slightly in this matchup. Lainesse by decision is the official pick.

Melissa Martinez vs Elise Reed
Martinez, -165; Reed, +140

Melissa Martinez is making her UFC debut this weekend. She is a 7-0 undefeated prospect with five wins coming by knockout. She is the former Combate Americas Strawweight champion and a former gold medalist in kickboxing. She is a high-volume striker that will throw a ton of flashy kicks and it makes it difficult for her opponents to close distance on her. Her biggest weakness is her defensive grappler as it is very clear that she has not spent much time in that area. However, she is coming off nearly a three-year layoff, so it is possible we see some improvements on the mat.

Her opponent, Elise Reed is coming off a third-round TKO loss to Sam Hughes in May. She is 1-2 in the UFC and lost by TKO in both of those fights. Reed is primarily a kickboxer as well and she struggles to defend takedowns at just 50% although that likely will not be an issue in this matchup. I expect this to be a kickboxing match for 15 minutes and I favor the Martinez side to be landing more volume and having the advantage with the kicking range. Martinez by decision is the official pick but I do not have interest in either side on DraftKings.

Heili Alateng vs Chad Anheliger
Alateng, -170; Anheliger, +145

Heili Alateng is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Kevin Croom in April. He is low volume on the feet, but he packs some big power for this division and three of his last five wins have come by knockout. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns as he averages 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes and should be able to go to the wrestling against weaker opponents.

His opponent, Chad Anheliger is coming off a third-round finish over Jesse Strader in his UFC debut in February. Anheliger has never been a prospect that I rate highly as I bet against him on Dana White’s Contender Series last season, and he won a split decision to earn the contract. He is a tough fighter and is going to fight for your money but historically is not a great minute winner. He gets backed up frequently and struggles to defend takedowns. He does have some tricky submission attempts off his back, but he was taken down five times in that Contenders fight and four times in his UFC debut.

I expect the striking to be competitive, but Alateng has the power upside and should be landing the bigger shots on the feet. He should also be able to land multiple takedowns as well which has me favoring him in this matchup. Alateng by decision is the official pick.

Norma Dumont vs Danyelle Wolf
Dumont, -410; Wolf, +330

Norma Dumont is coming off a split-decision loss to Macy Chiasson in May at UFC 274. She is a low volume striker but does carry some power for this division. She has also mixed in some grappling at times but only averages around one takedown per 15 minutes. She holds a brown belt in BJJ but has just two of her seven wins coming by submission and is not a very aggressive grappler.

Her opponent, Danyelle Wolf is making her UFC debut in this fight. She has just one professional fight and that came on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020. She won a decision but was not very convincing as she did not land much volume and was outstruck on the feet. She comes from a high-level boxing background as she is a former three-time boxing national champion. She is also a former grappling champion as well but does not have much in the wrestling department and doesn’t blend her skills well at nearly 39 years old.

This is low level WMMA so you can never trust a massive favorite and this fight should play out closer than the odds suggest. However, I still see Dumont’s experience paying off and she should be able to get her hand raised. Dumont by decision is the official pick but there are much better fights to target on DraftKings.

Jake Collier vs Chris Barnett
Collier, -410; Barnett, +330

Jake Collier is coming off a split-decision loss to Andrei Arlovski in April. At this point, we know what to expect from Collier as he is a high-volume striker for the Heavyweight division. He puts a pace on his opponents and many in the Heavyweight division cannot match his cardio and volume. He rarely looks to grapple but should be the better submission grappler in this matchup if the fight were to hit the mat at any point.

His opponent, Chris Barnett is coming off a decision loss to Martin Buday in April. He is a powerful striker with 17 of his 22 victories coming by knockout. However, I still do not think he belongs in the UFC as he does not have good cardio at all and seems lost in the grappling realm as well. It is clear that if the early knockout does not materialize then he does not have many other ideas.

I expect Collier to put a pace on Barnett and he is durable enough to survive a power kick from Barnett which is about all he has to worry about. Collier by TKO is the official pick.

Jamie Pickett vs Denis Tiuliulin
Pickett, -125; Tiuliulin, +105

Jamie Pickett is coming off a first-round submission loss to Kyle Daukaus in February. That loss snapped a two-fight win streak for him and he will look to get back in the win column on Saturday night. Pickett is a low volume striker but does carry some power as eight of his 13 wins have come by knockout. He will go to his wrestling against opponents that have poor grappling mechanics as he averages 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. But it is also clear that his ceiling is relatively low in the UFC and the grappling path will not be there against competent fighters in the division.

His opponent, Denis Tiuliulin is coming off a second-round submission loss in his UFC debut against Aliaskhab Khizriev in March. Tiuliulin is a one-dimensional power puncher with eight of his nine wins coming by knockout. He clearly has power in his hands and will go for the kill shot early in fights as seven of those knockouts came inside round one. However, his defensive grappling still needs work as he has been submitted in three of his six professional losses.

On the feet, this fight basically comes down to whether or not Tiuliulin can close the distance and land his power shots against Pickett. Pickett is the longer fighter with a three-inch reach advantage and will likely be spamming kicks from the outside. Pickett could also go to his wrestling in this matchup and land a few takedowns, but he will need to stay safe during the big flurries by Tiuliulin. Pickett by decision is the official pick but this is a fight where I will likely have more exposure to Tiuliulin on DraftKings for the first-round knockout upside.

Jailton Almeida vs Anton Turkalj
Almeida, -675; Turkalj, +500

Jailton Almeida is fresh off a first-round submission victory over Parker Porter in May. He previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last season and beat a respectable opponent to earn a contract. Since then, he has two UFC victories and both coming inside the first round with his fight against Porter being up a weight class. He is currently on an 11-fight win streak with nine first-round finishes in that span. He is a physical freak and is very strong in the grappling exchanges and holds a black belt in BJJ.

His opponent, Anton Turkalj just fought on Dana White’s Contender Series this season and earned a contract at the end of July. He showcased his wrestling in that fight and landed 11 takedowns, but his opponent offered little resistance which will not be the case here. Turkalj fought a low level of competition on the regional scene but showed finishing ability himself with seven wins coming inside the distance. But outside of a big power shot landing clean, I do not see a path to victory for him in this fight.

On the feet, both men have power, but Almeida carries more and he is so physically strong in the clinch and up against the cage. Turkalj will not be able to rely on his wrestling as it will be Almeida with a grappling advantage when the fight hits the mat. Turkalj is also very sloppy defensively in the striking and Almeida is likely to hurt him on the feet as well. Almeida by TKO is the official pick, and he is the strongest play on DraftKings this week.

Hakeem Dawodu vs Julian Erosa
Dawodu, -210; Erosa, +180

Hakeem Dawodu is coming off a very impressive decision victory over Michael Trizano in February. His speed and striking skills were on full display, and he was one step ahead of Trizano for the entirety of the fight. We know what to expect from Dawodu as he fights a similar gameplan in all his fights. He is a high-volume striker and primarily just looking to box but he has very fast hands and good footwork. The way to beat him is to take this guy down which is not extremely difficult as he defends at just 65% in the UFC.

His opponent, Julian Erosa is coming off a split-decision win over Steven Peterson in February. Erosa is a fun fighter that is always going to bring it but his durability remains a concern. Of his four UFC losses, three have come by knockout and he has been knocked out five times total over the course of his career. Despite the durability concerns, Erosa is a tough opponent for most because he brings a high pace on the feet and can mix in the grappling as well as he averages over 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes.

While the fight plays out on the feet, I expect Dawodu to have the advantage using his technical boxing and footwork to get the better of Erosa. But Erosa does have some knockout power if he can connect clean and I expect him to look to grapple if he gets clipped in the striking. The official pick is Dawodu by decision, but I am treating Erosa as a live underdog in this fight and he will be an underdog target for me on DraftKings.

Ion Cutelaba vs Johnny Walker
Cutelaba, -200; Walker, +170

Ion Cutelaba is coming off a first-round submission loss to Ryan Spann in May. I expected Cutelaba to walk through Spann in that fight, so it was a bit surprising to watch it play out. In any event, Cutelaba is a very explosive fighter with clear knockout power as 12 of his 16 career wins have come by knockout with the majority being inside the first round. He also comes from a high-level combat sambo background and has some solid wrestling to fall back on if needed as he averages 4.75 takedowns per 15 minutes.

His opponent Johnny Walker is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Jamahal Hill in February. After starting his UFC career with three straight first-round knockout victories, Walker has now won just one of his last five fights. He is very long for the division and will have a seven-inch reach advantage over Cutelaba. He is also very explosive as well with spinning back hands and flying knees that he will look for. However, one thing is clear to me and is that Walker simply does not have the durability to go to war as he has been knocked out four times in his career, some of which being brutal knockouts.

On the feet, both guys are capable of landing a big power shot, so I am not ignoring the knockout upside for Walker. But Cutelaba can take this guy down at will as he defends at just 62% in the UFC and Cutelaba’s pace should wear on him as well. Cutelaba by knockout is the official pick but I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings as this is a great fight to target.

Irene Aldana vs Macy Chiasson
Aldana, -170; Chiasson, +145

Irene Aldana is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Yana Kunitskaya in July of last year at UFC 264. She is primarily a boxer and will throw in high volume as she averages over 5.5 significant strikes per minute. That alone goes along way in WMMA as it is tough for some opponents to match that pace over 15 minutes. However, she has been exposed at times with her defensive grappling. In particular, the Holly Holm fight where she was held against the cage for extended periods and taken down five times in that fight.

Her opponent, Macy Chiasson is coming off a split-decision victory over Norma Dumont in May at UFC 274. Chiasson is massive for the division and will have a clear size advantage in this matchup. She is not a very exciting fighter, but she does have some powerful striking and some good control grappling against the fence and on the mat. She averages just under two takedowns per 15 minutes, and I would expect that to be the game plan against the one-dimensional striker in Aldana.

On the feet, I expect Aldana to have a clear speed and volume advantage. But Chiasson is powerful if she can close the distance and get off in those phone booth exchanges. Additionally, Chiasson is strong enough to implement a similar gameplan that Holm did and hold Aldana against the cage and grind on her. Aldana is the better striker no doubt but the path to victory is there for Chiasson if she gets her grappling going and I am treating her a solid underdog target this week. Chiasson by decision is the official pick.

Daniel Rodriguez vs Jingliang Li
Rodriguez, -150; Li, +130

Daniel Rodriguez is coming off a decision victory over Kevin Lee last August. Lee took him down three times in that fight but struggled to hold him down and simply could not keep up in the striking department. Rodriguez is a high-volume boxer with eight of his 16 wins coming by knockout. He is pretty one-dimensional as he averages less than one takedown per 15 minutes but does have some decent chokes in his arsenal as well.

His opponent, Li Jingliang is coming off an impressive TKO victory over Muslim Salikhov in July. Jingliang is an exciting fighter with 14 of his 19 wins coming inside the distance. He has power in the striking and holds a black belt in BJJ. He is very well-rounded but the biggest issue for him has always been his takedown defense. He has just a 60% takedown defense and it is very clear when he does not have a grappling advantage over his opponent.

I expect the striking to be competitive while the fight plays out on the feet. However, the volume of Rodriguez could be an issue for Li and Rodriguez will be working with a three-inch reach advantage as well. I do not expect either fighter to aggressively look to grapple but I do think Rodriguez would also be the more likely of the two to land takedowns. For those reasons, I side with him in this matchup but he is going to be mega popular on DraftKings at his price. He is a very good play but just be aware of the high ownership and feel free to target Jingliang Li in lineups without Rodriguez as a high leverage play in the main GPP this week. Rodriguez by decision is the official pick.

Tony Ferguson vs Nate Diaz
Ferguson, -125; Diaz, -105

Tony Ferguson makes his return to the octagon this weekend and is currently on a four-fight losing streak. His most recent loss came against Michael Chandler who knocked him out in the second round. After being known as one of the top fighters in the division for years, Ferguson has now been knocked out in two of his last four fights and completely rag dolled and out grappled in the other two bouts. His best days are clearly behind him although he is still going to come at you with everything he has in the striking department.

His opponent, Nate Diaz is coming off a decision loss to Leon Edwards last June at UFC 263. Diaz is a showman and a legend of the fight game, but his round winning ability is mostly gone at 37 years old. He will always have his slick boxing and strong jiu jitsu to fall back on but his round winning ability is limited in most matchups. Fortunately for him, he is facing a watered down version of Ferguson which makes this matchup very intriguing.

This is a fight that comes down to who has more left at this point in their career. As crazy as it sounds, I actually think Ferguson is more willing to fight for your money at this stage especially considering Diaz wanting out of the UFC at this point. I would also expect Ferguson to have a slight volume advantage and the ability to mix in a takedown or two as Diaz only defends under 50% in the UFC. This should be competitive though and both guys are great plays on DraftKings considering their price and stacking this fight is likely optimal. Ferguson by decision is the official pick but I will have heavy exposure to both sides on DraftKings.

Khamzat Chimaev vs Kevin Holland
Chimaev, -560; Diaz, +430

Khamzat Chimaev is coming off a decision victory over Gilbert Burns in April at UFC 273. That was the first time he had fought the full 15 minutes, so it was good to see his cardio tested in that area. It was perhaps the first time Chimaev did not look completely bullet proof as Burns was able to land some big shots in the striking exchanges. However, he is still one of the best fighters in this division and his grappling is next level. I expect him to land multiple takedowns in this matchup.

Holland is coming off a second-round submission victory over Tim Means in June and is currently on a two-fight win streak. Holland is an exciting striker with a nice combination of quickness and power as 13 of his 23 career wins have come by knockout. He also holds a black belt in BJJ although we have seen him out grappled multiple times and his takedown defense remains a glaring weakness in his game which is key in this matchup.

These guys originally had different opponents and it is likely that Holland was not preparing to defend multiple takedowns from a high level grappler. We have seen him taken down 11 times by Marvin Vettori and six times by Derek Brunson in five round fights. I am not fully convinced that Chimaev has the cardio to do that for five rounds so things could get dicey for him down the stretch if the fight gets extended. But I just keep going back to how likely it is for Holland to spend a ton of time on his back in this fight along with Chimaev’s finishing ability on the mat. This is a much tougher fight for Chimaev than Diaz but he should still be able to steamroll Holland on the ground. Chimaev by submission is the official pick and he is the strongest play on DraftKings this week.