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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 65 in Las Vegas! We have a fun 12-fight slate on DraftKings which is not quite as big as we like but there are still some really fun fights to target. 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.

Natalia Silva vs Tereza Bleda
Silva, -165; Bleda, +140

Natalia Silva is coming off an impressive performance in her UFC debut as she won a decision victory over Jasmine Jasudavicius in June. She is an aggressive striker and will throw in volume. She has seven of her 13 career wins coming by submission and the majority of those are by armbar. However, she is likely in trouble if she winds up on bottom in this fight and she is very hittable in the striking exchanges as well.

Her opponent, Tereza Bleda is making her UFC debut coming off a win on Dana White’s Contender Series. Bleda is massive for the division and sports an undefeated record with four of her six career wins coming inside the distance. She turns 21 years old later this month and is likely still improving and is going to have a massive size advantage in this fight. Bleda has poor striking defense and does not put much volume out there on the feet but she has powerful takedowns and vicious ground and pound when she gets on top.

I favor the wrestling upside of Bleda in this fight and will look to be overweight to her than the field on DraftKings. Bleda by TKO is the official pick.

Brady Hiestand vs Fernie Garcia
Hiestand, -155; Garcia, +135

Brady Hiestand is coming off a split-decision loss to Ricky Turcios in August of last year for the Ultimate Fighter finale. Hiestand pushes an aggressive pace on the feet as he will throw in volume and mix in takedowns at a high rate as he landed six takedowns in his UFC debut. He has good enough cardio to keep it up for 15 minutes too. The concern with Hiestand is that he is extremely hittable on the feet and eats way too many punches to make you feel comfortable.

His opponent, Fernie Garcia is coming off a decision loss to Journey Newson in May. Garcia is primarily a boxer but does not put much volume out there and relies on his punching power. He also struggles to defend takedowns as he was taken down twice in his debut and multiple times on the regional scene as well. I have never been a big Garcia believer and that is not going to change against high volume wrestler like Hiestand. Hiestand by decision is the official pick and he is a solid target on DraftKings.

Maria Oliveira vs Vanessa Demopoulos
Oliveira, -115; Demopoulos, -105

Maria Oliveira is coming off a split-decision victory over Gloria De Paula in June. She is primarily a striker and seven of her 13 wins have come by knockout. She is going to have a clear size advantage as she is four inches taller and will hold a 10-inch reach advantage. I do not rate her skillset very highly, but she should have a clear striking advantage in this matchup.

Her opponent, Vanessa Demopoulos is coming off a split-decision victory over Jinh Yu Frey in June and is currently on a two-fight win streak. Demopoulos is primarily a grappler and four of her eight career wins have come by submission. She has all of the grappling upside in this fight but if she cannot get the fight to the ground then she is going to be at a clear disadvantage on the feet. She is very hittable and facing someone that will be much longer and powerful than her.

Both fighters have a legitimate path to victory but I do not trust Demopoulos wrestling ability to get the fight where she needs it. Oliveira could be in trouble if she gets taken down but outside of that she gets off on volume and gets her hand raised. Oliveira by decision is the official pick.

Ricky Turcios vs Kevin Natividad
Turcios, -155; Natividad, +135

Ricky Turcios is coming off a decision loss to Aiemann Zahabi in July. It was an uncharacteristic performance from Turcios who is typically a high-volume striker. He got clipped early in the fight so that likely had something to do with it. He’s not the most technical fighter by any stretch but he usually pushes a pace on the feet with nonstop kicks at range. My biggest issue is his willing to give up takedowns and play off his back along with poor fight IQ in general.

His opponent, Kevin Natividad is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Batgerel Danaa in April of last year so he’s had a year and a half to recover. His durability is a clear weakness as he has been knocked out three times in his career. But Turcios isn’t known for his one punch power and Natividad would have the wrestling upside as well. Not to mention a camp change that should benefit him and he carries much more power on the feet. I think the upside is on the underdog here. Natividad by knockout is the official pick.

Miles Johns vs Vince Morales
Johns, -165; Morales, +140

Miles Johns is coming off a third-round submission loss to John Castenada in February. Johns is a former Dana White’s Contender Series contract winner and 6 of his 12 wins have come inside the distance. He is primarily a boxer as he comes from a wrestling background but does not have the cardio to push a wrestling pace so has mostly abandoned that game plan. The cardio is his glaring weakness as he slows down and wilts in fights that he isn’t controlling.

His opponent, Vince Morales is coming off a decision loss to Jonathan Martinez in May. Morales is a one-dimensional boxer that has always struggled to defend takedowns as he has just a 43% takedown defense in the UFC. He is also susceptible to leg kicks as well and just never someone that is going to blow you away on the scorecards.

Johns is historically not someone to trust but he would be a complete fool not to use his biggest advantage which is the wrestling. But he is also taking the fight on short notice and even on a full camp he cannot push a hard wrestling pace which has me concerned. Morales by decision is the official pick.

Maryna Moroz vs Jennifer Maia
Moroz, -190; Maia, +160

Maryna Moroz is coming off a dominant victory over Mariya Agapova in March at UFC 272. She is currently on a three-fight win streak and solid wherever the fight goes. She will mix in the takedowns against fighters she has a grappling advantage over, but she can also be taken down herself as she defends at under 50% in the UFC.

Her opponent, Jennifer Maia is coming off a decision loss to Manon Fiorot in March. She has just one victory over her last four bouts, but she has been facing stiff competition in this division. Maia is typically getting outlanded in striking exchanges as she doesn’t put enough volume out there. Additionally, she averages .33 takedowns per 15 minutes and I do not see that as being much of a path for her in this fight.

This fight should be somewhat competitive as I would be surprised to see any blowout type of rounds. However, Moroz is the more skilled minute winner and I trust her to be more active as well. Moroz by decision is the official pick but there are clearly better fights to target this week.

Charles Johnson vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Johnson, -160; Zhumagulov, +140

We didn’t get to see much from Charles Johnson in his UFC debut against Muhammad Mokaev in July. He lost a decision in which he only landed 12 significant strikes the entire 15 minutes as he spent most of the time defending takedowns and working back to his feet. I am optimistic that we get to see much more out of him in this matchup as he was a very well-rounded fighter on the regional scene and in LFA.

His opponent, Zhalgas Zhumagulov is coming off a split-decision “loss” to Jeff Molina.

Yes, I’m still salty.

Zhumagulov has been in some very close fights throughout his UFC tenure, and he’s ended up on the wrong side of a decision a few times. Part of that is because of his inability to put a clear stamp on rounds. He averages nearly 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes but a lot of it is just smothering against the fence and not holding position very long so it’s not being scored well. On the feet, he does carry some power but it’s basically just a big overhand right that he throws on repeat. Lastly, he has been knocked out before and stung multiple times so the durability is a concern.

It’s hard to know what to expect from Johnson at the UFC level since we saw so little in his debut. That adds a level of variance in this fight, but I have to think that Zhumagulov is going to start getting some of these 50/50 rounds on the scorecards. I also think he’s going to be much more aggressive than Johnson and can potentially smother him against the fence and mix in a takedown or two which has me siding with the underdog in this one. Zhumagulov by decision is the official pick.

Jack Della Maddalena vs Danny Roberts
Maddalena, -560; Roberts, +430

Jack Della Maddalena is coming off a another first-round knockout win over Ramazan Emeev in June at UFC 275. He rides in on a 12-fight win streak and 10 of those have come by knockout. He has some sharp boxing and real power for the division when he starts getting off on his combinations. I still have some questions regarding his defensive grappling but I doubt it matters much in this fight.

His opponent, Danny Roberts is coming off a decision loss to Francisco Trinaldo in May at UFC 274. Not only is that a bad look in his last fight, but it is clear that Roberts durability is a major concern at this point in his career. He has never been someone we can trust and he has been finished in five of his six professional losses. I feel confident that Maddalena pieces him apart before knocking him out relatively early. Maddalena by knockout is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings.

Muslim Salikhov vs Andre Fialho
Salikhov, -115; Fialho, -105

Muslim Salikhov is fresh off a knockout loss to Jingliang Li in July. That loss snapped a five-fight win streak for him and at 38 years old, it seems like a quick turn around to me. However, he is still a technical striker that has clear knockout power with 12 of his 18 career wins coming by knockout. But he also does not put a ton of volume out there so he relies on the big moments or a finish.

His opponent, Andre Fialho is coming off a second-round knockout against Jake Matthews at UFC 275 in June. Fialho is kind of in the same boat as Salikhov in that he is a very powerful striker with a ton of knockouts to his record. But he has durability concerns of his own being knocked out three times in his career. He is also much more hittable on the feet which is a big red flag for this matchup.

It is always risky backing the aging veteran in matchups like this but skill for skill, it has to be Salikhov. Historically, he has been very good at limiting the damage coming back his way and stylistically he should be able to really control the striking against a punching bag like Fialho. Salikhov by knockout is the official pick but I will have some exposure to both sides considering the high variance nature of this one.

Waldo Cortes-Acosta vs Chase Sherman
Cortes-Acosta, -210; Sherman, +185

We just saw Waldo Cortes-Acosta in the octagon with Jared Vanderaa a few weeks ago which resulted in a decision win for Acosta in his debut. But this is not somebody that I think we can trust laying big juice on moving forward as he climbs the ranks of the division. He comes from a boxing background and does have the typical knockout power of a Heavyweight. But he also has glaring holes defensively and in the grappling. He is also taking the fight on just a couple weeks’ notice.

His opponent, Chase Sherman is coming off a knockout win over Vanderaa in July. Sherman finished what Acosta couldn’t so MMA math tells us he wins this fight. No but seriously, Sherman does have some tools that could give an inexperienced fighter like Acosta some fits. Sherman is likely going to be the more active fighter of the two and we saw Acosta really struggle with the leg kicks of Vanderaa which Sherman could implement here. Sherman is also coming in on a full camp and could have the volume cardio edge as well.

As always, Heavyweight gets dicey in most fights but I do think Sherman interests me as a cheap underdog with a real path to victory so I will likely be overweight to the field on DraftKings. Sherman by decision is the official pick.

Kennedy Nzechukwu vs Ion Cutelaba
Nzechukwu, -175; Cutelaba, +150

Kennedy Nzechukwu is coming off a third-round TKO win over Karl Roberson in July. He is super long for the division with a 75” inch reach. But like I always say, he still does not grasp how to use that length to his full advantage. His best asset is likely his cardio as he usually keeps a decent pace on the feet and has the ability to take over late if his opponent starts gassing which could play a factor in this fight.

His opponent, Ion Cutelaba is coming off a first-round submission loss to Johnny Walker at UFC 279 in September. That is now back to back submission losses for him and he has just one victory over his last six bouts. As bad as that looks on paper, Cutelaba is still someone that I want to back for DraftKings purposes as his fighting style correlates very well with the format. He is very explosive early in the fight with legitimate knockout power and multiple takedown upside. The main concern is always the cardio as he will dump and start getting hit too often along with leaving his neck vulnerable when shooting takedowns.

Despite the concerns with Cutelaba, I still favor him in this fight. He is explosive enough to potentially hurt Nzechukwu early and he is very likely to win round one with multiple takedowns. If he can just have enough in the tank to wrestle more in round two and not completely die in round three then he should be fine. Cutelaba by TKO is the official pick and he is one of my favorite underdogs on DraftKings.

Serghei Spivac vs Derek Lewis
Spivak, -195; Lewis, +165

Serghei Spivac is coming off an impressive victory over Augusto Sakai in August with a TKO finish. He is a very well-rounded heavyweight and mixes in the grappling at a strong rate with over four takedowns per 15 minutes. His striking is not great but it is serviceable enough to set up his takedowns where he is at his best. The only concern is durability at heavyweight but you’ll have that with most matchups in this division.

His opponent, Derek Lewis is coming off a knockout loss to Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 277 in July. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and has now been knocked out in seven of his 10 professional losses. Despite the durability concerns with Lewis, he always has the one-punch power which makes him a live underdog in any fight. But outside of him finding the killshot, Spivac should be able to drag him to the ground and have his way with him on the mat before Lewis inevitably wants out of there. Spivac by TKO is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings.