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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 66 in Las Vegas! We have a fun 14-fight slate on DraftKings which makes for some key decisions with so many fighters to choose from. DraftKings unfortunately decided to limit the prize pools this week due to their massive mistake in implementing late swap for the UFC product so first place only nets you a cool $50K this week.

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.

Sergey Morozov vs Journey Newson
Morozov, -230; Newson, +195

Sergey Morozov is coming off a decision victory over Raulian Paiva in June. He is a well-rounded fighter that pushes a high grappling pace as he mixes in takedowns at nearly three per 15 minutes. He has some solid striking skills as well and will mix in the leg kicks along with his powerful hooks. The main concern with him is that he is very hittable on the feet and does tend to gas out when fighting at a high pace.

His opponent, Journey Newson is coming off a decision win over Fernie Gercia in May at UFC 274. Newson is a decent boxer and does have a little power, but he does not put much volume out there and he has always struggled at defending takedowns. Anyone that has ever attempted a takedown on the UFC has landed one against him. He is a brown belt in BJJ but does not seem to be much of a threat when on his back.

I expect the striking to be competitive with both fighters having moments of success. However, Morozov should be able to land takedowns on repeat and control Newson on the mat. Newson is live to land a big shot early but outside of that he is drawing thin here. Morozov by decision is the official pick and he is a solid target on DraftKings due to the multiple takedown upside.

Manel Kape vs David Dvorak
Kape, -240; Dvorak, +200

We last saw Manel Kape win in style last December when he knocked out Zhalgas Zhumagulov. Kape is an explosive athlete with clear finishing ability as 16 of his 17 career wins have come inside the distance. He has landed knockdowns in back-to-back fights and the power is for real when he lets his hands go. He also holds a black belt in BJJ and has multiple submission victories on his record but rarely looks to take his opponents down.

His opponent, David Dvorak is coming off a decision loss to Matheus Nicolau in March. Dvorak is primarily a striker and has finishing ability in his own right with 16 of his 20 wins coming inside the distance. However, most of his finishes came against low level opponents on the reginal scene. He has a strong jab and will mix in the leg kicks but can be taken down and exposed by better grapplers on the mat.

I expect Kape to be the more powerful striker on the feet and to land the bigger shots as well. I do not trust him to wrestle but think he would have all the upside in that department as well. Kape by TKO is the official pick.

Rinat Fakhretdinov vs Bryan Battle
Fakhretdinov, -110; Battle, -110

Rinat Fakhretdinov is coming off a decision victory over Andreas Michailidis at his UFC debut in June. He is typically a finisher by nature as 16 of his 19 victories have come inside the distance and he is currently on an 18-fight win streak. He is primarily a grappler and will push an aggressive wrestling pace as he landed five takedowns in his UFC debut and was frequently wrestling on the regional scene as well. His striking is not great as he is very sloppy defensively but does have a little power when he lets his hands go.

His opponent, Bryan Battle is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Takashi Sato in August. Battle is technically 3-0 in the UFC already but two of those were glorified Ultimate Fighter bouts and then a layup against Sato whose chin is made of dust. Long story short, I think Battle has outperformed his skillset as he is not a good round winner at the UFC level. His striking defense is nonexistent and he only defends takedowns at 55% which is a major concern for this matchup.

I expect both fighters to be able to land some clean shots on the feet, but I doubt it takes long before Fakhretdinov shoots for a takedown and I expect him to have continued success in the grappling. Fakhretdinov by TKO is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings this week.

Rafa Garcia vs Maheshate
Garcia, -115; Maheshate, -105

Rafa Garcia is coming off a decision loss to Drakkar Klose at UFC 277 in July. That loss snapped a two-fight winning streak for him and he will look to get back in the win column this weekend. Garcia does not put much volume out there on the feet and is typically being outstruck so he needs to rely on his ground game in most matchups. He does push a high grappling pace and averages 3.26 takedowns per 15 minutes and has eight submission victories on his record.

His opponent, Maheshate is coming off an impressive first-round knockout victory over Steve Garcia in June at UFC 275. He is 9-1 professionally and just 23 years old having formerly fought on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021. He is primarily a striker and has four of his nine victories coming by knockout although most of those came against low level Chinese regional talent.

I prefer the Garcia side in this matchup. Although I expect Maheshate to have success striking and be the more dangerous fighter on the feet, I do not trust his defensive grappling whatsoever. I think Garcia is going to land multiple takedowns in this spot and potentially expose Maheshate on the mat. Garcia by submission is the official pick.

Said Nurmagomedov vs Saidyokub Kakhramonov
Nurmagomedov, -110; Kakhramonov, -110

Said Nurmagomedov is coming off a decision victory over Douglas Silva De Andrade in July. He is a very explosive striker with flashy spinning attacks and eight of his 16 wins coming inside the distance. He is not your typical Nurmagomedov grappler as we have become accustomed to. He is primarily a striker and has only landed two total takedowns across six of his UFC fights.

His opponent, Saidyokub Kakhramonov is coming off a decision victory over Ronnie Lawrence in July. It was a very impressive performance as he dominated that fight and largely beat Lawrence at his own game which was surprising to many, myself included. Kakhramonov is a well-rounded fighter with powerful striking and a decent ground game as well. He is currently on a four-fight winning streak and seven of his 10 career wins have come by finish.

This fight is going to be fought at a high pace. I favor Nurmagomedov in terms of the striking exchanges but the cardio and wrestling upside is in the camp of Kakhramonov. I am going to have exposure to both sides on DraftKings but Kakhramonov by decision is the official pick.

Julian Marquez vs Deron Winn
Marquez, -170; Winn, +145

We last saw Julian Marquez in a wild back and forth fight with Gregory Rodrigues in June which resulted in him being knocked out in round one. Marquez is historically not a great round winner and typically relies on big moments and finishes. All nine of his career wins have come inside the distance. His cardio is a real concern as he tends to fade as the fight goes on and has never been able to defend takedowns well at just 53% in the UFC.

His opponent, Deron Winn is coming off a brutal beatdown at the hands of Phil Hawes in June. Winn is 2-3 in the UFC and comes from a collegiate wrestling background and averages 4.28 takedowns per 15 minutes. Unfortunately for Winn, all he has is his wrestling skills. He is not much of a threat while in top position and struggles to hold down bigger opponents. On the feet, he gets hit way too often and his cardio is a concern as well.

There are some red flags on both sides of this fight but Marquez is the more powerful striker. He is going to be much bigger and stronger and has some submission grappling skills that could give Winn trouble on the mat. Winn is a little tempting on DraftKings for the multiple takedown upside but I do not trust him to win and I think Marquez more than likely finishes him. Marquez inside the distance is the official pick.

Jake Matthews vs Matthew Semelsberger
Matthews, -255; Semelsberger, +215

Jake Matthews is coming off one of his best performances to date at UFC 275 in June. He knocked out Andre Fialho in the second round and has won four of his last five fights. He typically does not put a ton of volume out there but he averages nearly two takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. He has historically been tough to trust in the past, but this should be a favorable matchup for him.

His opponent, Matthew Semelsberger is coming off a decision loss to Alex Morono at UFC 277 in July. Semelsberger is a high volume striker on the feet and will mix in leg kicks with his powerful boxing. Six of his 10 career wins have come by knockout and he has landed four knockdowns across his six UFC bouts. However, he only defends takedowns at 63% in the UFC and does tend to slow down as the fight goes on.

I expect the striking to be competitive with both fighters landing some big shots early. But I expect Matthews to have the grappling upside and I trust his cardio more than Semelsberger as well. Matthews by decision is the official pick.

Cheyanne Vlismas vs Cory McKenna
Vlismas, -190; McKenna, +160

Cheyanne Vlismas is coming off a decision victory over Mallory Martin last December. She is an explosive striker that will throw in high volume and push a pace on the feet. She averages nearly six significant strikes per minute which is among the highest in the division. Her biggest issue is that she can be controlled on the mat if you can take her down and we saw that repeatedly against Montserrat Conejo.

Her opponent, Cory McKenna is coming off a second-round submission win over Miranda Granger in August. McKenna is just 23 years old and primarily a grappler. Her striking is not great but she does have a decent ground game and will look to get the fight there as she averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes. On the feet, I expect Vlismas to be landing the more powerful shots and much more volume as well. McKenna needs to get this fight to the mat and keep it there in order to win this fight. Something that I doubt she will be able to do at a high clip. Vlismas by decision is the official pick but there are much better fights to target this week on DraftKings.

Michal Oleksiejczuk vs Cody Brundage
Oleksiejczuk, -280; Brundage, +235

Michal Oleksiejczuk is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Sam Alvey in August. He has now won three of his last four fights with two of those wins coming by knockout. He is primarily a boxer and will throw in high volume and has legitimate power with 12 of his 17 career wins coming by knockout. He has landed knockdowns in four of his nine UFC bouts but his weakness has always been his defensive grappling.

His opponent, Cody Brundage is coming off a first-round knockout win over Tresean Gore in July. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak since dropping his UFC debut to Nick Maximov in September of last year. Brundage is not a super talented fighter but he does come from a collegiate wrestling background and is an opportunistic finisher with seven of his eight wins coming inside the distance.

I would expect these two to stand and trade for a bit with Oleksiejczuk’s pressure and volume giving him the upper hand on the feet. Brundage is liable to look for takedowns especially if he starts to get hurt on the feet and that is where I think he could have some success in this matchup. The most likely outcome is that Oleksiejczuk’s striking is too much for Brundage and he knocks him out. However, I will look to be overweight to this fight in general on DraftKings and specifically to Brundage for the multiple takedown and finishing potential. Oleksiejczuk by knockout is the official pick.

Drew Dober vs Bobby Green
Dober, -150; Green, +130

Drew Dober is coming off another electric performance against Rafael Alves in at UFC 277 in July which resulted in a third-round knockout victory for him. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak and has won five of his last seven bouts, all of which coming by knockout. The game plan is clear from Dober as he wants to stand and trade and has a very powerful left hand that he will look to take you out with. He has always struggled against good grapplers but that shouldn’t be an issue here. Lastly, his durability has not been as rock solid as it used to be as we have seen him stung multiple times now but that risk is also negated in this matchup as Green is not much of a power puncher.

Bobby Green is coming off a first-round TKO loss to current champion, Islam Makhachev in February. Green is a high volume striker with one of the best jabs in the division and we know he can keep pace for 15 minutes. Along with his slick boxing, he has also shown the ability to land takedowns when he wants to although that is not as often as it should be. Historically, the way to beat Green is by outgrappling him as he is a very difficult opponent to stand and trade with.

Which is why I do not have as much confidence in my guy Dober as many would think. I do still think he carries nearly all of the finishing equity in this fight but Green is very live to win rounds if this fight goes to decision. For that reason, I will have more exposure to Dober on DraftKings but not ignoring the volume upside of Green at a cheaper price. Dober by knockout is the official pick.

Julian Erosa vs Alex Caceres
Erosa, -170; Caceres, +145

Julian Erosa is coming off a decision win over Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 279 in September. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak and has won five of his last six fights. He is an all-action style fighter with power on the feet and a black belt in BJJ as well. He throws in high volume on the feet and loves to stand and bang but the problem is his durability. He has been knocked down seven times in the UFC and knocked out five times in his career.

His opponent, Alex Caceres is coming off a decision loss to Sodiq Yusuff in March. That loss snapped a five-fight winning streak for him and he will look to rebound this weekend against Juicy J. Caceres is a well-rounded fighter and has been in the fight game for years so you can never fully count him out. His awkward striking style is difficult to deal with and he holds a black belt in BJJ as well.

I have no interest in laying juice on a fighter like Erosa but I do feel he is the rightful favorite. He will have a clear power advantage to go along with the volume and he is the more likely to hit takedowns as well. Erosa by decision is the official pick.

Amir Albazi vs Alessandro Costa
Albazi, -425; Costa, +340

Amir Albazi is fresh off a first-round submission victory over Francisco Figueiredo at UFC 278 in August. Albazi is 3-0 in the UFC and quickly making a case that he deserves a crack at a top five opponent. He has just one career loss which came against Jose Torres on the regional scene in 2019 and has looked nearly flawless since then. He is a solid enough striker but it is clear that he is at his best when he implements the grappling. Nine of his 15 career wins have come by submission, and he averages over three takedowns per 15 minutes.

His opponent, Alessandro Costa is a far cry from a top five opponent. He is making his UFC debut on short notice and recently fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last season. He did not earn a contract for that performance as he went to a close decision as a sizable favorite in that spot. Costa is 12-2 professionally with nine of his 12 wins coming inside the distance. He is low volume on the feet and typically a counter striker with legitimate power so Albazi will need to stay sharp defensively.

Costa is more of a grappler though and I doubt he will be able to have sustained success against Albazi who I feel is just a step above him in nearly every area of martial arts. Costa is not a bad prospect by any stretch but this is too much too soon for him and Albazi gets his hand raised. Albazi by submission is the official pick.

Arman Tsarukyan vs Damir Ismagulov
Tsarukyan, -190; Ismagulov, +160

Arman Tsarukyan is coming off a main event decision loss to Mateusz Gamrot in June. Tsarukyan is a powerful striker and an explosive athlete with 12 of his 18 career wins coming inside the distance. Aside from his power, he is a good grappler as well and averages 2.71 takedowns per 15 minutes. He has excellent cardio as well which will likely play a role in this fight.

His opponent, Damir Ismagulov is coming off a split-decision victory over Guram Kutateladze in June. He is 5-0 in the UFC and currently on a 19-fight winning streak which speaks volumes about his experience and skillset. He is a technical kickboxer with solid defense and a high fight IQ as he is willing to mix in takedowns when he needs to although I would be surprised if he did in this fight.

I expect Ismagulov to be the more technical boxer but Tsarukyan to have a clear power advantage and be the more likely to land takedowns. I also favor Tsarukyan’s cardio as well which has me picking him this week. Tsarukyan by decision is the official pick.

Sean Strickland vs Jared Cannonier
Strickland, -110; Cannonier, -110

Sean Strickland is coming off an embarrassing knockout loss to current champion, Alex Pereira. That was his first loss in the Middleweight division since making his return to fighting post injury in 2020. He is a sharp boxer and high volume striker as he averages over 5.5 significant strikes per minute. He is also a capable submission grappler but rarely initiates the takedowns as he only averages just one over 15 minutes. Lastly, the fight IQ is always a concern when backing a fighter like Strickland as he will generally not take the path of least resistance.

His opponent, Jared Cannonier is coming off a decision loss to the former champion, Israel Adesanya at UFC 276 in July. Cannonier carries a ton of power at the Middleweight division which is his best asset. He is not a high volume guy but makes his strikes count when he lets them go. 10 of his 15 career wins have come by knockout and he is always live to land a kill shot. However, he is not a great round winner since he is low volume and relies on big moments. He also struggles to defend takedowns at just 65% in the UFC.

This should be a fun fight and a solid main event to close out the year. I have to favor the Strickland side despite him coming off a knockout loss. He is going to be throwing much more volume over 25 minutes and would have the grappling upside as well although I doubt he will use it. Either way, I trust his round winning ability much more than Cannonier who likely needs a knockout. Strickland by decision is the official pick.