We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 61 in Las Vegas! We have a fun 13-fight slate on DraftKings which is always nice after a week off to reset. 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.

Randy Costa vs Guido Cannetti
Costa, -280; Cannetti, +235

Randy Costa is coming off a second-round TKO loss at UFC 269 last December. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and was stopped in the second round in both of those fights. Historically speaking, he is a round one or bust style of fighter as all six of his career wins have come inside the first round. All three times he fought into the second round; he was finished. But he is going to be very dangerous in that first round and so you can never rule him out.

His opponent, Guido Cannetti is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Kris Moutinho in March. That win snapped a three-fight losing streak for him and he will look to keep the momentum going this weekend. Cannetti is primarily a kickboxer with powerful leg kicks and is explosive early in fights. However, at nearly 43 years old, his best days our behind him including his durability.

I expect these two to go to war right from the start in this fight. Costa is the more powerful striker and has better durability and I expect him to get the finish in round one. Costa by knockout is the official pick and this is a great fight to target on DraftKings.

Julija Stoliarenko vs Chelsea Chandler
Stoliarenko, -115; Chandler, -105

Julija Stoliarenko is coming off a first-round submission victory over Jessica-Rose Clark in June. That was her first win inside the UFC and snapped a three-fight losing streak for her. She is historically an arm-bar or bust style of fighter as she has nine wins by arm-bar submission and all of them have come inside round one. She is a slick grappler and will always be live if she can force a grappling exchange. But she is very hittable on the feet and her striking leaves more to be desired.

Her opponent, Chelsea Chandler is making her UFC debut. She is a 4-1 prospect that previously fought over in Invicta. She is primarily a striker and fights out of the southpaw stance. She is very big for the division and likes to clinch up and hold her opponents against the cage before unleashing some powerful combinations. However, outside of her brute strength and powerful striking, there is not much to be concerned about as her grappling still needs work.

I expect Chandler to have a striking advantage as Stoliarenko is very hittable on the feet and Chandler does carry some power. But if Stoliarenko goes to her takedowns or even pulls guard then she may be able to find an opportunity to threaten with submission attempts. This is a low level WMMA fight which always carries some level of variance, but I lean with Stoliarenko for the grappling upside. Both fighters should be low owned on DraftKings which makes me have some interest in both sides if playing multiple lineups. Stoliarenko by submission is the official pick.

Maxim Grishin vs Philipe Lins
Grishin, -175; Lins, +150

Maxim Grishin is coming off a decision win over William Knight at UFC 271 in February. I have never been very impressed with Grishin since coming over to the UFC from PFL. He is a technical striker but does not put enough volume out there and never proactively grapples so it is tough for me to back him as a favorite in most matchups.

His opponent, Philipe Lins is coming off a decision victory over Marcin Prachnio in April. Lins is the former Heavyweight champion in PFL and has also not looked as good under the UFC banner. It was encouraging to see him implement the wrestling as he landed four takedowns in his last fight. He holds a black belt in BJJ and should have a grappling advantage if he goes to the wrestling in this fight. However, on the feet, he lacks the power that Grishin has along with the technique as well.

This is an easy stay away fight for me from a betting perspective but in terms of DraftKings, I have more interest in Lins as the underdog and the wrestling upside. Grishim by decision is the official pick.

Krzysztof Jotko vs Brendan Allen
Jotko, -120; Allen, +100

Krzysztof Jotko is coming off a decision victory over Gerald Meerschaert in April. Jotko is another one of those fighters that simply does not put enough volume out there to ever feel comfortable backing at a favorite price tag. He makes fights much closer than they need to be which is why we have seen him be involved in so many split-decisions over the course of his career. He is a low volume striker that does not deal well with being pressured. He has a decent ground game but does not go to it enough as he averages just over one takedown per 15 minutes.

His opponent, Brendan Allen is coming off a decision victory over Jacob Malkoun in June. Allen may not be as technical as Jotko or even as skilled, but he is likely a better round winner and has more finishing ability as well. Allen is going to be the much busier striker on the feet, and I would expect him to eat some punches but land more volume and put Jotko on the back foot. Additionally, Allen is the more dangerous submission grappler if the fight goes to the ground, but I doubt he has much success there.

This should be a competitive fight and it is priced appropriately but I side with the underdog who is going to be much more active and have more potential to finish as well. Allen by split-decision is the official pick but I do not see either guy hitting a ceiling performance for DraftKings.

Joaquim Silva vs Jesse Ronson
Silva, -145; Ronson, +125

Joaquim Silva is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Ricky Glenn in June. That was after an extended layoff after the knockout loss to Nasrat Haqparast in 2019. Silva is a powerful striker and dangerous early in the fight with six of his 11 wins coming by knockout. The main concern with him is his durability as he has been knocked out in back-to-back fights and his cardio has never been great either.

His opponent, Jesse Ronson is coming off a second-round submission loss to Rafa Garcia in April. Ronson is not someone that I rate very highly at all. He has some explosive power and is a finisher by nature with 17 of his 21 victories coming inside the distance. However, he is nearly 37 years old and his durability and round winning ability are both concerns to me.

I do not trust either of these fighters remotely, but I side with the younger fighter who has more power in Silva. Silva by knockout is the official pick but this fight has a wide range of outcomes, and I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings with a moderate lean to Silva.

Tabatha Ricci vs Jessica Penne
Ricci, -210; Penne, +180

Baby shark season returns! Tabatha Ricci is coming off a decision victory over Polyana Viana in May. She is currently on a two-fight win streak and has relied on her takedowns and grappling in both fights. She is small for the division and does not have great striking, but she makes up for it with solid takedowns and good control in dominant positions. She will likely be in trouble against good strikers that are able to keep the fight standing but fortunately for her, Jessica Penne does not present those problems.

Penne is coming off a decision loss to Emily Ducote in July. At nearly 40 years old, she just does not present much of a threat at this stage in her career. She is more of a grappler but does not have good wrestling and only averages 1.39 takedowns per 15 minutes. She also defends at just 40% in the UFC and I expect Ricci to land multiple takedowns in this spot. It is possible that Penne can earn some top time herself with the potential to sweep or reverse the smaller fighter in Ricci. However, Ricci should bank control time and may even be landing more volume on the feet if she can close distance like I expect. Ricci by decision is the official pick.

Ilir Latifi vs Aleksei Oleinik
Latifi, -175; Oleinik, +150

Ilir Latifi is coming off a sizable layoff as we last saw him win a split-decision over Tanner Boser in June of last year. The heavyweight version of Latifi is very low output and is basically just looking to stall you against the cage and peel you to the ground and grind out top position. He is not much a finishing threat on the mat but does still carry some power on the feet when he decides to let his hands go.

His opponent, Aleksei Oleinik is coming off a first-round submission victory over Jared Vanderaa in April. Oleinik is 45 years old and moves like a man with 76 career fights. He has virtually no explosiveness left and his takedown attempts are poor at best. However, as he showed in his last fight, if you go to the ground with him then he is always live to find a submission.

That is my concern with Latifi is that he will invite the grappling exchanges which is dangerous against Oleinik. He is also going to be the much smaller fighter giving up seven inches of reach as well. I consider Oleinik a live underdog for DraftKings, but I have no interest in betting this fight and I do expect Latifi to spend more time in dominant position and have more knockout upside on the feet. Latifi by decision is the official pick but this is an easy pass for me.

Mike Davis vs Viacheslav Borshchev
Davis, -175; Borshchev, +150

Mike Davis returns to the octagon after a 20-month layoff as he last won a decision over Mason Jones in January of last year. Davis is a powerful striker with seven of his nine wins coming by knockout. But he has also shown a well-rounded skillset and has landed multiple takedowns in his last two fights. The weight cut is always an issue for him, and he does seem to slow in the final round but typically after putting a ton of volume out there, so it isn’t a glaring issue by any stretch.

His opponent, Viacheslav Borshchev is coming off a decision loss to Marc Diakiese in March. He took this fight on just a few weeks’ notice to replace Uros Medic who pulled out of the matchup. Borshchev is a technical kickboxer with a high-level striking background. He is an excellent counter striker and five of his six wins have come by knockout. But his biggest weakness is his inability to defend takedowns as he defends at just 37% in the UFC and was taken down 11 times in his last fight.

I expect both fighters to have some success on the feet early but once Borshchev starts flowing then I expect Davis to mix in the takedowns. Davis by decision is the official pick and he is a solid target on DraftKings.

John Castaneda vs Daniel Santos
Castaneda, -190; Santos, +160

John Castaneda is coming off a third-round submission victory over Miles Johns in February. He is currently on a two-fight win streak with both fights ending inside the distance. Castaneda has a well-rounded skillset, but he is not great in any area. He has some powerful kicks but struggles when he is the one being pressured. He also has a brown belt in BJJ but rarely looks to land takedowns. He is the prototypical fighter that you like to back as an underdog like his last fight but seeing him as a sizable favorite is worrisome.

His opponent, Daniel Santos is coming off a decision loss to Julio Arce in his UFC debut in April. He is an explosive striker with four of his eight wins coming by knockout. He has a variety of tools on the feet and will throw some spinning attacks along with constant forward pressure and volume. He struggled against Arce who was able to make him miss on many of his strikes, and I doubt Castaneda has the footwork or counterstriking to deal with Santos’s pressure as well as Arce did.

I expect this fight to be competitive on the feet with Santos moving forward and throwing more volume. Castaneda should have an advantage on the mat although I do not trust him to come in with a wrestle heavy game plan because he never has. Santos by decision is the official pick and he is a live underdog on DraftKings this week.

Sodiq Yusuff vs Don Shainis
Yusuff, -900; Shainis, +625

Sodiq Yusuff is coming off a decision victory over Alex Caceres in March. He is a powerful striker with six of his 12 wins coming by knockout. He has very fast hands and will throw in volume. But he has also shown off a well-rounded skillset as he is a capable grappler on the mat despite rarely looking to grapple. He is the biggest favorite on the card, and it should come as no surprise considering the matchup.

His opponent, Don Shainis is making his UFC debut this weekend. He is a 12-3 prospect with eight wins coming by knockout. He carries some power in his hands and has some heavy leg kicks as well. He has also looked to wrestle multiple times across the regional scene, but his level of competition was extremely low. I do not think he has anything for Yusuff in this fight as Yusuff is better wherever the fight goes and likely hurts Shainis early in the fight. Yusuff by knockout is the official pick.

Raoni Barcelos vs Trevin Jones
Barcelos, -225; Jones, +190

Raoni Barcelos is coming off a decision loss to Victor Henry in January and he is currently on a two-fight losing streak. Barcelos was a highly touted prospect years ago but it is clear that his best days are behind him at this stage in his career. He remains a solid test for up and comers, but his last two fights have been concerning to me. He is still a high-volume striker with sharp boxing and a solid ground game as well when he goes to it. His round winning ability and cardio have dropped off in the last few years which is worth noting.

His opponent, Trevin Jones is coming off a decision loss to Javid Basharat who has looked great so far in the UFC, so I do not want to knock him too much for that. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and will look to get back in the win column as a sizable underdog this weekend. Jones is a powerful striker but does not put a ton of volume out there and holds a black belt in BJJ but rarely looks for takedowns which makes his round winning ability limited.

I consider Jones to be finish reliant in most matchups and it’s possible he can find a finish if Barcelos is as dusted as he looked in previous fights. But it’s not something I would be willing to bet on as I think the most likely outcome is Barcelos cruises to a decision victory. Barcelos by decision is the official pick but I will likely have more Jones on DraftKings considering their prices.

Randy Brown vs Francisco Trinaldo
Brown, -320; Trinaldo, +265

Randy Brown is coming off a split-decision victory over Khaos Williams in May at UFC 274. He is currently on a three-fight win streak and comes in as the second biggest favorite of this weekend’s fight card. Brown is a technical striker with good range management and is very long for the division as well. He will have a seven-inch reach advantage in this fight and even though his ground game is not bad, I would expect him to want to keep this fight on the feet where he should have the striking advantage.

His opponent, Francisco Trinaldo is coming off a decision victory over Danny Roberts in May. At 44 years old, the ageless wonder just keeps on rolling. Trinaldo is low volume on the feet, but he does have some power and he has historically been very good at limiting the damage and volume of his opponents. He will also look to mix in the takedowns if he needs to and averages right around one takedown per 15 minutes with a strong control game on the mat.

I expect Brown to be landing more volume on the feet and he should be able to keep the fight standing as well. His durability is a bit shaky, but I doubt Trinaldo has the power and volume to get him out of there on the feet. Trinaldo will likely make this more competitive than expected but I would be surprised if he was able to do enough to get his hand raised. Brown by decision is the official pick but I have little interest on DraftKings because of his price.

Mackenzie Dern vs Yan Xiaonan
Dern, -225; Xiaonan, +190

Mackenzie Dern is coming off a split-decision win over Tecia Torres at UFC 273 in April. It is no secret that Dern remains one of the most dangerous grapplers in the UFC. She is a high level blackbelt and world class submission grappler with seven of her 12 career wins coming by submission. Her striking is still a work in progress and her wrestling has never been good which continues to be the biggest knock on her. When her opponents are able to defend the takedowns and guard pulls and keep the fight striking then they can take advantage of her weaknesses.

Her opponent, Yan Xiaonan is coming off a split-decision loss to Marina Rodriguez in March and is currently on a two-fight losing streak. Xiaonan is a high-volume striker that will land in volume and look to keep the fight standing at all costs. One of her biggeset issues though is her inability to defend takedowns as she defends at just 65% and has been exposed on the mat multiple times in her career. That is a glaring issue in this matchup as we know Dern is going to try to force grappling exchanges however possible.

Whether it comes by a takedown or guard pull, I do expect Dern to get this fight in her world on the mat at some point and likely early in this fight. She should have a massive advantage on the mat, and I expect her to threaten with submission attempts before eventually finding one. Dern by submission is the official pick and this is a solid target on DraftKings but will likely be overowned by the field which means I will look to be underweight to both sides.