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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 285 in Las Vegas! We have an action-packed 14-fight slate on DraftKings and a very solid PPV lineup with the headliner being the return of Jon Jones to face Cyril Gane. It also helps that on DraftKings we have another $150,000 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.

Esteban Ribovics vs Loik Radzhabov
Radzhabov, -275; Ribovics, +230

Esteban Ribovics is an undefeated prospect from Argentina. His professional record is 11-0 with all 11 wins coming inside the distance, six by knockout and five by submission. He is a southpaw striker with clear knockout power in his hands as four of those knockouts came inside the first round. He has yet to be tested against real competition, but he seems to have a solid skillset with some questions yet to be answered.

His opponent, Loik Radzhabov is making his UFC debut on short notice as he is replacing Kamuela Kirk this weekend. Radzhabov is a 16-4 prospect fighting out of Tajikistan. He previously fought in PFL and 12 of his 16 wins have come inside the distance. He trains at a good camp in KillCliff FC and has shown a well-rounded skillset against solid competition.

I expect Ribovics to come out fast as he typically does but if he is unable to get that early finish then things will get dicey for him. Radzhabov has proven to be durable and has never been finished in his career although he was put in a kimura attempt in his last fight which happens to be one of Ribovics specialties. A full training camp would make me more confident, but I think Radzhabov is the more proven fighter and his grappling should be the difference here. Radzhabov by submission is the official pick.

Farid Basharat vs Da’Mon Blackshear
Basharat, -410; Blackshear, +330

Farid Basharat is the younger brother of Javid Basharat and is an undefeated prospect with a 9-0 professional record. He had a convincing win on Dana White’s Contender Series this past season to earn him a contract and six of his nine wins have come inside the distance. His skillset is very similar to his brother in that he has some solid striking with good cardio and a decent ground game as well. His level of competition has been very poor, but he seems to have a future in the UFC.

His opponent, Da’Mon Blackshear is coming off a majority draw in his UFC debut against Youssef Zalal in August. Blackshear trains out of Jackson Wink and is primarily a grappler with eight of his 12 wins coming by submission. His wrestling seems to be decent as well but defensively is where he struggles. He can be taken down and is willing to play guard which is not great in terms of minute winning potential.

I expect Basharat to have a clear striking advantage and to be the one putting more volume out there on the feet. Additionally, Basharat has a well-rounded ground game and could likely land takedowns of his own or avoid the grappling of Blackshear altogether. Basharat by decision is the official pick but there are better spend ups this week on DraftKings.

Tabatha Ricci vs Jessica Penne
Ricci, -230; Penne, +195

Baby shark season returns! Tabatha Ricci is coming off a decision victory over Polyana Viana last 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 last July. At 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.

Cameron Saaiman vs Mana Martinez
Saaiman, -250; Martinez, +210

Cameron Saaiman is coming off a third-round knockout victory over Steven Koslow in his UFC debut at UFC 282 in December. He formerly fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last season and is the protégé of Dricus Du Plessis who also fights on this card. He is an undefeated prospect with a 7-0 record and five wins coming by knockout. I still have concerns with Saaiman’s defensive grappling and striking defense but he has clear power and good cardio.

His opponent, Mana Martinez is coming off a split-decision victory over Brandon Davis in October. He is 2-1 in the UFC but both of those victories were split-decision wins and against the lower tier of the division. He has some power in his hands but is a poor grappler and tends to gas out as the fight goes on as well. This is a tough matchup for him as he likely needs to hurt Saaiman early to have a shot.

I expect both fighters to land some shots early but the cardio and power of Saaiman as the fight goes on will be the difference here. Saaiman by knockout is the official pick and he is a solid target on DraftKings.

Ian Garry vs Kenan Song
Garry, -650; Song, +475

Ian Garry is coming off a decision victory over Gabe Green at UFC 276 last July. Garry is an undefeated prospect with a 10-0 professional record. Of his 10 victories, five of them have come by knockout. He has clear power on the feet and will throw in volume as well. The biggest issue that I have with Garry is his striking defense as he is extremely hittable and at some point, someone will make him pay for it. However, as he continues to face the lower tier opponents in this division, he should be completely fine for now.

His opponent, Kenan Song is coming off a two-year layoff as he was most recently knocked out in the first round against Max Griffin. Song has a little power in his hands as well but he cannot match the volume and pace of Garry. I also do not trust his durability if he plans to go toe to toe with Garry as he has been knocked out three times in his career.

I am still not as high on Garry as the market but this matchup should be a cake walk for him outside of a lucky punch from Song early. Garry by knockout is the official pick.

Marc-Andre Barriault vs Julian Marquez
Barriault, -125; Marquez, +105

Marc-Andre Barriault is coming off a third-round submission loss to Anthony Hernandez last September. He has lost two of his last three fights but Hernandez is a difficult matchup for anyone in this division so we cannot fault him too much there. Barriault is historically a high volume striker and does carry some power with nine of his 14 professional wins coming by knockout. He rarely looks to grapple and struggles to defend takedowns but overall a very solid mid-tier fighter in this division.

His opponent, Julian Marquez is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Gregory Rodrigues last June. Marquez is more of a ‘kill or be killed’ style of fighter with all nine of his victories coming by finish. He is simply not a good minute winner but his finishing ability cannot be overlooked. He has power on the feet although he does not throw much volume and he is very opportunistic with his submission attempts. His biggest issue is likely his cardio as he definitely slows as the fight goes on and can be taken down and controlled as well.

I am willing to back the more well-rounded fighter in Barriault who is much better at securing rounds. Additionally, Barriault has proven to be pretty durable as well so I would be surprised if Marquez was able to finish him and I believe that is the only way he can win. Barriault by decision is the official pick.

Amanda Ribas vs Viviane Araujo
Ribas, -130; Araujo, +110

Amanda Ribas is coming off a split-decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian her last time out in May of last year. She looked fine at the bigger weight class and many people argue she deserved to win that fight (myself included). Ribas is a well-rounded fighter with solid striking and a high fight IQ. She is also capable of mixing in takedowns as she averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. Her biggest issue is her durability as she has been knocked out twice in her career and does seem to have a chin issue although the previous weight cut could have affected that to some degree.

Her opponent, Viviane Araujo is coming off a decision loss to Alexa Grasso in October. Araujo is another well-rounded fighter with a solid ground game in her own right as she averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt as well. She has clear power on the feet and will try to take your head off early in the fight. However, her cardio is her biggest issue as she historically fades in all of her fights. Additionally, she is very hittable on the feet as she does not move her head whatsoever and it gets worse the more tired she gets in fights.

This should be a competitive fight and both fighters are similar to a degree, but I favor Ribas as she is much better defensively on the feet. Additionally, she should be able to land more volume and mix in the leg kicks as Araujo is historically just head hunting on the feet. Araujo likely needs to hurt Ribas on the feet or have sustained grappling success and I am willing to bet against that. Ribas by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings.

Dricus Du Plessis vs Derek Brunson
Du Plessis, -240; Brunson, +200

We last saw Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 282 in December against Darren Till. That was a wild fight with both fighters having big moments but Du Plessis was able to persevere and find the submission in round three. He is historically very dangerous as 17 of his 18 professional wins have come inside the distance. But when the early finish does not materialize then things do get a little dicey for him. His defense is poor and he eats some big shots in most of his fights but his cardio has bailed him out a few times as he can outlast many opponents in wars.

His opponent, Derek Brunson is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Jared Cannonier at UFC 271 last February. That loss snapped a five-fight winning streak for him and he will look to get back in the win column this weekend. Brunson is one of the better wrestlers in the division and he averages 3.23 takedowns per 15 minutes. The glaring issue is his durability as he has been knocked out six times in his career and he needs those takedowns in order to not get knocked out.

I feel Brunson could have some grappling success early but while the fight plays out at range, this is Du Plessis all day on the feet. He has big power and is going to connect at some point and I do not trust Brunson to be able to withstand the power and pressure. Du Plessis by knockout is the official pick.

Cody Garbrandt vs Trevin Jones
Garbrandt, -160; Jones, +145

Cody Garbrandt is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Kai Kara-France at UFC 269 in December of 2021. That was fight was at Flyweight and he is now back at his normal weight class at 135 lbs. He has now lost five of his last six fights dating back to 2017 and has been knocked out four of those five losses. The durability is the glaring concern with Garbrandt but the skillset is still there. He is a good boxer with power in his hands and sharp leg kicks as well. He is also a very capable wrestler although he does not go to it as often as he should as he only averages one takedown per 15 minutes.

His opponent, Trevin Jones is coming off a decision loss to Raoni Barcelos in October. He is currently on a three-fight losing streak and likely fighting for his job this weekend. Jones is historically not a good round winner as he is very low volume on the feet but does carry a little bit of power in his hands. He holds a black belt in BJJ but rarely looks to grapple and does not have good wrestling either. He struggles to defend takedowns and can be controlled on the mat.

I expect this fight to be very low output as both fighters are historically low volume. Add in the fact that Garbrandt will likely be extra gun shy due to his known durability issues and this has a high chance of turning into a staring contest for extended periods. I would be surprised if Jones was able to one-shot knockout Garbrandt despite the fragile chin and outside of that do not think he wins. Garbrandt by decision is the official pick but I expect this fight to be somewhat popular on DraftKings and I plan to look elsewhere in most lineups.

Bo Nickal vs Jamie Pickett
Nickal, -1400; Pickett, +850

We have finally made it to the debut of MMA’s next superstar, Bo Nickal. Most people know the name by now but Nickal previously fought on this past season of Dana White’s Contender Series and then did it again in the final episode and earned finishes in both fights. He has had just three professional fights and has never fought out of the first 1:02 of any fight. He comes from a very high-level wrestling background and has power on the feet as well.

His opponent, Jamie Pickett is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Denis Tiuliulin at UFC 279 in September. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and this is a brutal matchup for him to try to get back in the win column. Pickett is low volume on the feet and only defends takedowns at 65% in the UFC. Nickal is a stylistic nightmare for him and I expect Nickal to take him down and find the finish in round one. Nickal by submission is the official pick and he is an obvious target on DraftKings this week.

Mateusz Gamrot vs Jalin Turner
Gamrot, -170; Turner, +145

Mateusz Gamrot is coming off an exciting match with Beneil Dariush at UFC 280 in October. That resulted in a decision loss, but it was a close fight and Dariush is an excellent scrambler with good jiu jitsu. We know what the gameplan will be from Gamrot as he averages 4.66 takedowns per 15 minutes and will relentlessly mat return many of his opponents. The concern with him is that he has never been a great control grappler so his opponents typically work back to their feet and his striking leaves more to be desired.

His opponent, Jalin Turner is coming off a first-round submission victory over Brad Riddell at UFC 276 last July. He is currently on a five-fight winning streak with all five wins coming inside the distance. He is long for the division and a dangerous striker with clear knockout ability with nine of his 13 wins coming that way. The issue with Turner is that he can be taken down and controlled and that is exactly what Gamrot will be looking to do.

Turner is very dangerous while the fight plays out at range but I expect Gamrot to be shooting takedowns repeatedly from the jump and should be able to break Turner as the fight goes on. Gamrot by TKO is the official pick and this is a great fight to target on DraftKings.

Shavkat Rakhmonov vs Geoff Neal
Rakhmonov, -500; Neal, +400

Shavkat Rakhmonov has looked nearly flawless through his four UFC bouts. He is an undefeated prospect with a 16-0 record. Of his 16 professional victories, all of them have come inside the distance with eight knockouts and eight submissions. He is a dangerous finisher but he is low volume on the feet and is mostly trying to clinch up and grapple as he averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes. I still have some concerns in his round winning ability especially as he starts to face the better fighters in the division.

His opponent, Geoff Neal is coming off an upset victory over Vicente Luque as he knocked him out in the third round last August. Neal is a high volume striker with legitimate knockout power as he has landed eight knockdowns in the UFC and nine of his 15 professional wins have come by knockout. He is going to be the best striker that Rakhmonov has yet to face but he has also been taken down and controlled in the past which is not promising considering this matchup.

I expect Neal to be the better striker and to be putting more volume out there as well. That likely means he makes this a more competitive fight than the betting odds suggest and I do not hate getting some exposure to him on DraftKings. However, I think the most likely outcome is Rakhmonov’s grappling is too much for Neal to handle and he takes him down multiple times before finding a submission. Rakhmonov by submission is the official pick but I prefer some of the spend ups in that range.

Valentina Shevchenko vs Alexa Grasso
Shevchenko, -600; Grasso, +450

This is the first of two title fights as Valentina Shevchenko looks to defend her belt once again for the eighth straight time. She is one of the best pound for pound female fighters that the UFC has ever had. She is a technical kickboxer with powerful leg kicks although she is not going to overwhelm her opponents with volume. However, she is very physical and well-rounded as she averages over 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and seven submission victories on her record.

The challenger, Alexa Grasso is coming off a main event decision victory over Viviane Araujo in October. She is currently on a four-fight winning streak and will look to shock the world and snatch the belt as a big underdog this weekend. She is historically a high volume striker with great boxing for this division and solid footwork. Her grappling has improved over the years but her defensive grappling is still the easiest way to take advantage of her as she defends takedowns at just 64% in the UFC.

I think Grasso can be competitive in the striking realm and likely performs better than a massive underdog as the betting line suggests. But ultimately, the physicality and takedowns of Shevchenko are likely the difference here as that has plagued Grasso throughout her career and she is now facing one of the best at implementing that gameplan. Shevchenko by decision is the official pick.

Jon Jones vs Cyril Gane
Jones, -155; Gane, +135

The highly anticipated return of one of the all time UFC greats in Jon Jones is finally here. Jones has been plotting a move up to Heavyweight for years and it seems to finally be happening. We have not seen him inside the UFC octagon since February of 2020 when he beat Dominic Reyes to a decision. The extended layoff along with the extra weight and new division, all add an extra layer of variance into this matchup. At his best, Jones is one of the most technical kickboxers on the roster. He fights with a high fight IQ and although he has turned into more of a point fighter as of late, he still possesses some dangerous weapons with 16 of his 26 victories coming via finish. The main concern is that he may not be the same fighter with all the added weight and against much bigger opposition.

His opponent, Cyril Gane is coming off a third-round knockout victory over Tai Tuivasa in September. Gane is an excellent striker that will throw in volume as he stays very active with his kicking attack much like a prime Jones does. Gane has typical heavyweight power with five of his 11 wins coming by knockout but he is not overly aggressive in pursuing a finish as he is perfectly content to stay safe and win minutes while the fight plays out at range.

Oddly enough, I find these two similar in their fighting style. Both are very active with their kicking attack and willing to fight a smart game plan staying safe at kicking range as opposed to getting inside the pocket and slugging it out. The difference in this fight is that Jones can likely land multiple takedowns as Gane struggles with his defensive grappling. But Jones has not looked to wrestle as much in recent fights and those skills may not translate to a bigger weight class as easily. With so much variance in the unknowns on the Jones side, it has me leaning towards the underdog in Gane. Jones is priced as if he is just as good as he was (if not better) coming off a three-year layoff with an added 40 lbs. and facing one of the best Heavyweights in the world.

I expect this fight to be a snooze fest for the most part with it being a low-volume striking match with neither guy wanting to take risks early on. Jones takedowns could be the equalizer but I am leaning towards the underdog to get his hand raised. Gane by decision is the official pick and this is a main event that you can fade despite the mid-range price tags on DraftKings.