fbpx

We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Orlando! We have a fun 15-fight slate on DraftKings which makes for an interesting slate with so many fights to choose and 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.

Yazmin Juaregui vs Istela Nunes
Juaregui, -320; Nunes, +265

Yazmin Juaregui is coming off a decision victory in her UFC debut in August. She is primarily a striker with six of her nine career victories coming by knockout. She displayed some impressive striking in her debut along with her regional tape although she has yet to face UFC caliber competition. Her ground game is still a big question mark, but her takedown defense seems to be decent and this opponent will not be looking to grapple anyway.

Her opponent, Istela Nunes is coming off a majority decision loss to Sam Hughes in April. She is 0-2 in the UFC and has not looked great thus far. She comes from a kickboxing background but her striking is nothing special and she does not carry much power either. She struggles to defend takedowns as well which gives her a narrow path to victory in most fights.

This should be a competitive kickboxing match as I do not expect either fighter to be looking to grapple. However, it is Juaregui that has the faster hands and clearly carries more power as well. Not to mention, Nunes seems to slow down in the third round as well while Juaregui can keep the pace for 15 minutes. Juaregui by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on a 15-fight slate on DraftKings.

Francis Marshall vs Marcelo Rojo
Marshall, -175; Rojo, +150

Francis Marshall is making his UFC debut coming off an impressive performance on Dana White’s Contender Series in August. Marshall is an undefeated prospect with a 6-0 record and four of his wins coming by submission. His striking defense still needs work but he has shown some solid grappling and pace along with the ability to land takedowns.

His opponent, Marcelo Rojo is coming off a third-round submission loss to Kyler Phillips at UFC 271 in February. Rojo fights at a high pace himself but unfortunately cannot keep that up for 15 minutes. He also struggles to defend takedowns at 66% in the UFC and has five career submission losses. He is dangerous enough early in the fight, but I expect the pace and grappling of Marshall to be too much to overcome. Marshall by submission is the official pick and he is a solid target on DraftKings.

Natan Levy vs Genaro Valdez
Levy, -180; Valdez, +155

Natan Levy is coming off a decision victory over Mike Breeden in April which was his first UFC win. Levy is a low volume striker with some powerful kicks at range and mixes in the takedowns at a high rate. He averages over five takedowns per 15 minutes and three of his seven career wins have come by submission.

His opponent, Genaro Valdez is coming off a first-round knockout loss at UFC 270 in January. That was his UFC debut and first career loss after coming in with a 10-0 undefeated record. He is a very aggressive fighter with a kill or be killed nature as just one of his 11 career fights have reached the third round. He is going to be very dangerous early but he is going to slow down as the fight goes on and he can be taken down and out grappled as well.

I will have some exposure to Valdez as an underdog because of his round one finishing potential. But over time, I expect the grappling and multiple takedowns of Levy to be the difference. Levy by submission is the official pick.

Amanda Ribas vs Tracy Cortez
Ribas, -120; Cortez, +100

Amanda Ribas is coming off a split-decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian in May. She is a very well rounded fighter that will push a pace on the feet and mix in takedowns as well as she averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes. She will likely be looking to keep the fight standing in this one where she should have an advantage and she has good takedown defense that will be tested on Saturday.

Her opponent, Tracy Cortez is coming off a decision victory over Melissa Gatto in May at UFC 274. She is undefeated in the UFC and currently on a 10-fight winning streak. Cortez is a good wrestler for this division and averages nearly three takedowns per 15 minutes. However, she is very one-dimensional and gets hit too much on the feet to make you feel comfortable.

This is a great matchup and should be a competitive fight. However, Ribas striking advantage should be the difference here as I expect her to have the advantage on the feet. She has also shown much better takedown defense than the previous opponents that Cortez has fought and I expect her to give her fits on the mat even at 125 lbs. Ribas by decision is the official pick.

Jonathan Pearce vs Darren Elkins
Pearce, -490; Elkins, +390

Jonathan Pearce is coming off a second-round knockout victory over Makwan Amirkhani in July. He is currently on a four-fight winning streak since dropping his UFC debut back in 2019. Pearce is a high paced fighter that will throw in volume on the feet and mix in takedowns at a high rate as well as he averages 6.75 takedowns per 15 minutes. His intangibles are great and he is a good minute winner but his striking defense is still a major concern and he has been out grappled in spots in the past as well.

His opponent, Darren Elkins is coming off a decision victory over Tristan Connelly in April. Elkins is a legend of the fight game and never someone that you want to fully count out in any matchup. The durability is a concern as he gets hurt a lot but is able to persevere most of the time despite the four knockout losses on his record. At 38 years old, Elkins does not defend takedowns well and will probably go for a ride or two in this fight. But he is also good enough in the wrestling department to land takedowns of his own and potentially out scramble Pearce on the mat.

This should be a closer fight than the odds indicate and Pearce has too many concerns to warrant this type of a price tag, especially against a dog like Elkins. Pearce by decision is the official pick but I am interested in a small poke on the underdog at these prices and will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings.

Marc Diakiese vs Michael Johnson
Diakiese, -275; Johnson, +230

Marc Diakiese is coming off a decision victory over Damir Hadzovic in July. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak and has displayed some impressive wrestling as he landed 19 takedowns over his last two bouts. He has always had solid striking but does not throw enough volume so it has been a huge encouragement to see him rely on his wrestling in recent fights. If he continues to make that a focus then he is a very difficult opponent for many in this division.

His opponent, Michael Johnson is coming off a split-decision loss to Jamie Mullarkey in July. At 36 years old, Johnson has just one victory over his last six bouts. It is clear that Johnson’s best days are behind him in terms of skills and durability. He should be the better pure boxer of the two but he will likely be defending takedowns repeatedly in this fight.

I do not trust the defensive grappling or the durability of Johnson at this stage in his career. If Diakiese continues to fight with a strong game plan and focus on the grappling then he should get his hand raised once again. Diakiese by decision is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings considering the multiple takedown upside.

Scott Holtzman vs Clay Guida
Holtzman, -150; Guida, +130

We last saw Scott Holtzman in April of last year when he was knocked out by Mateusz Gamrot. At nearly 40 years old and coming off a lengthy absence, there is some added variance in this fight. Holtzman is an explosive striker that throws with real power and has five knockouts on his record. He does slow down as the fight goes on but is not easy to takedown while fresh. He has also been stung in multiple fights recently which has me thinking his durability is really starting to go.

His opponent, Clay Guida is coming off a first-round submission loss to Claudio Puelles in April. Guida turns 41 in a couple of weeks, so this is a classic old man war. Guida is low volume on the feet but does have a powerful overhand right that could trouble Holtzman if he connects. He also averages over three takedowns per 15 minutes and would be wise to make that the focus of his game plan.

I expect Holtzman to have the striking advantage early with both men having the power to hurt each other standing. Guida is more likely to have wrestling success but it is not automatic and Holtzman should have the early lead in this one. I am still treating Guida as a live underdog if he continues to go for takedowns then eventually as the fight goes on, I think he can find success. Guida by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target this week.

Emily Ducote vs Angela Hill
Ducote, -130; Hill, +110

Emily Ducote is coming off a decision win over Jessica Penne in her UFC debut in July. She is primarily a striker and holds a black belt in Taekwondo. She also has four wins by submission and holds a black belt in BJJ but rarely gets aggressive in pursuing takedowns. A concern with her is that when she is taken down she is willing to play off her back for extended minutes while giving up control time. Fortunately, that will almost certainly not be a factor in this matchup.

Her opponent, Angela Hill is coming off a decision victory over Lupita Godinez in August. That win snapped a three-fight losing streak for her and proved that at nearly 38 years old, Hill is not going anywhere just yet. She comes from a Muay Thai striking background and typically keeps a high pace on the feet but also gets hit too much which keeps most of her fights competitive. Where she has always struggled is her defensive grappling as she has been submitted multiple times in her career.

This should be a competitive striking match with both fighters landing volume and exchanging early. Ducote is the more likely one to implement the grappling and if she can get the fight to the ground then she should have a clear edge on the mat. Ducote by decision is the official pick but this is not a great fight to target on DraftKings on such a full slate.

Niko Price vs Phil Rowe
Price, -140; Rowe, +120

Niko Price is coming off a decision win over Alex Oliveira last October. That was his first win since 2019 and good to see him get back in the win column. Price is a dangerous striker and opportunistic finisher with 13 of his 15 wins coming inside the distance. Despite his finishing ability, he has never been a great round winner due to the low fight IQ nature of his fighting style. He can keep a pace on the feet but struggles to defend takedowns and can be controlled on the mat.

His opponent, Phil Rowe is coming off a first-round knockout over Jason Witt in February. He is 2-1 in the UFC with two knockout victories but the level of opponents have been very low and this is a significant step up for him in terms of competition. Rowe is similar to Price in that he typically keeps a decent pace on the feet but can easily be taken down and controlled by better grapplers. He also seems like he is not the most durable fighter despite knocked out once in his career.

There is clear durability concerns on both sides but skill for skill, I favor Price in this matchup. He is the more experienced fighter that has fought much better competition. He also throws in more volume and should be landing more effectively as the more powerful striker. Price by TKO is the official pick and this is a solid fight to target in the mid-range this week.

Kyle Daukaus vs Eryk Anders
Daukaus, -200; Anders, +170

Kyle Daukaus is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Roman Dolidze in June. He is a well-rounded fighter that is competent wherever the fight goes. He is tall and lanky but is low volume on the feet and is at his best when he forces the grappling exchanges. He averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and has nine of his 11 wins coming by submission.

His opponent, Eryk Anders is coming off a split-decision loss to Jun Yong Park in May. Anders has always been a frustrating fighter to back because he rarely gives himself the best chance to win. He is very athletic as he comes from a collegiate football background but he rarely pushes a pace inside the octagon. He is low volume on the feet and will mix in takedowns occasionally but is not a good submission grappler and will be at a disadvantage there in this fight.

I expect the striking to be competitive but I do expect to see some grappling in this fight and that is the area where I expect Daukaus to have a clear advantage. He should get the better of those exchanges and potentially threaten with a submission as well. Daukaus by decision is the official pick but considering his price, I prefer other fighters in that range.

Jack Hermansson vs Roman Dolidze
Hermansson, -180; Dolidze, +155

Jack Hermansson is coming off a decision win over Chris Curtis in July. I still consider Hermansson to be among the top tier fighters in this division. He is a high volume striker that will push a pace on the feet and can mix in the grappling as well although his takedowns are not very strong for the most part. He still averages over 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and he should be the better submission grappler in this fight so I would not be surprised to see him have success in that area. The main concern with Hermansson is his durability having been finished in four of his seven professional losses and hurt multiple times as well.

His opponent, Roman Dolidze is coming off a first-round knockout win over Phil Hawes just last month. He is 5-1 in the UFC and coming off back to back knockout victories. His finishing potential is real but I still have major concerns with Dolidze’s skillset. Despite the knockout power, he is very low output on the feet and also fights with a poor gameplan most of the time. His cardio is my biggest concern as he always slows down after one round even when the pace is relatively low.

I expect Hermansson to win this fight. He is the more skilled fighter in nearly every area. Dolidze will be dangerous in round one as always but outside of that, Hermansson gets the job done here and it likely comes from multiple takedowns and a finish on the mat. Hermansson by TKO is the official pick.

Sergei Pavlovich vs Tai Tuivasa
Pavlovich, -195; Tuivasa, +165

Sergei Pavlovich is coming off an impressive first-round knockout victory over Derek Lewis in Texas at UFC 277. Since losing his UFC debut to Alistair Overeem back in 2018, he is currently on a four-fight win streak with four straight first-round knockout finishes. The power is clearly there as 13 of his 16 career wins have come by knockout, the majority of which have come inside the first round. I still have some concerns with his cardio and defensive grappling although I doubt it comes into play in this fight.

His opponent, Tai Tuivasa is coming off a third-round knockout loss to Ciryl Gane in September. Most people (myself included), did not expect him to win that fight but he gave a good account of himself and even landed some big shots on one of the best strikers in this division. Tuivasa has knockout power in his own right with 13 of his 14 career wins coming by knockout. His cardio is not great either which makes me think these two slug it out in round one until somebody drops.

Because of the high variance nature of this matchup and the Heavyweight division in general, I am going to target both sides on DraftKings. Naturally, I prefer the underdog in Tuivasa for the price and will shade my exposure towards him. Tuivasa by knockout is the official pick.

Matheus Nicolau vs Matt Schnell
Nicolau, -365; Schnell, +300

Matheus Nicolau is coming off a decision victory over David Dvorak in March. He is 3-0 since coming back to UFC after being let go when the Flyweight division was nearly disbanded. He is a very well-rounded fighter with solid striking skills, albeit low volume. He averages around 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ with five of his 18 career wins coming by submission.

His opponent, Matt Schnell is coming off what was arguably the most exciting fight in UFC history against Su Mudaerji back in July. Schnell is a skilled fighter wherever the fight goes but his glaring issue has always been his durability. He has been knocked out three times in his career and finished in five of his six professional losses. Even in that amazing fight against Mudaerji, he had to fight through the depths of hell as it seems like he was going to be finished multiple times.

It would not be the craziest thing to see Schnell turn this into a dog fight where he would have a fighting chance. However, Nicolau is a smart fighter and very skilled and I think the more likely scenario is that he cruises his way to a boring decision victory. If Schnell forces a pace in this one then he likely gets himself finished. Nicolau by decision is the official pick.

Rafael Dos Anjos vs Bryan Barberena
Dos Anjos, -540; Barberena, +420

I’ll be honest. I’m not quite sure what we are doing here. Rafael Dos Anjos is coming off a fifth-round knockout loss to Rafael Fiziev in July. He has consistently fought the best of the best and is now facing *checks notes* Bryan Barberena?

Barberena is coming off a second-round knockout win over Robbie Lawler in July at UFC 276. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak but the level of competition he has faced is more washed than a bath towel. Barberena is willing to bite the mouthpiece and throw in volume. The problem is his durability has been a concern for years and he struggles mightily to defend takedowns at just 55% in the UFC.

I expect Dos Anjos to win this fight wherever it goes. He is the better striker, more durable and has all of the takedown and grappling upside. It is a big price tag, but he is deserving of it. Dos Anjos by TKO is the official pick.

Kevin Holland vs Stephen Thompson
Holland, -155; Thompson, +135

Kevin Holland is coming off a first-round submission loss to Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 279 in September. That was not a surprising result as historically, the way to beat Holland is through grappling. Despite having a black belt in BJJ, Holland has repeatedly been taken down and controlled by competent grapplers and struggles to work back to his feet. While on the feet, he is a dangerous striker with fast hands and power with 13 of his 23 wins coming by knockout.

His opponent, Stephen Thompson is coming off a year layoff as he last dropped a decision to Belal Muhammad last December. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and similar to Holland, struggles with his defensive grappling. In his prime, Wonderboy was one of the most difficult matchups in the division with his next level striking and superb defense on the feet. However, he turns 40 years old in a couple months and this seems like a passing of the torch style matchup.

I expect both fighters to have moments of success on the feet but I favor the durability and quickness of Holland, particularly at this stage in their careers. Holland will work behind a six-inch reach advantage and be patient until he starts finding the opening of Thompson. Holland by decision is the official pick but a late stoppage would not be surprising one bit.