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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 287 in Miami, Florida! We have an action-packed 13-fight slate on DraftKings and a very solid PPV lineup with the headliner being the Welterweight rematch between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira. It also helps that on DraftKings we are back to $200,000 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.

Jaqueline Amorim vs Sam Hughes
Amorim, -250; Hughes, +210

Jaqueline Amorim is the former Strawweight champion in LFA and is making her UFC debut this weekend. She is a 6-0 undefeated prospect with all six wins coming inside the first round. She comes from a high level grappling background and holds a black belt in BJJ and five of her six wins have come by submission. Her striking is still developing but she trains at American Top Team and has shown to have a solid wrestling skillset to go along with her grappling. She actively looks to get the fight to the ground quickly and many of her opponents cannot hang with her on the mat.

Her opponent, Sam Hughes is coming off a decision loss to Piera Rodriguez in October. Hughes trains out of Fortis MMA and is a 7-5 fighter with five of her seven career wins coming inside the distance. She has come through as a big underdog in the past but those were much different matchups and I expect her to struggle against Amorim. Hughes is likely going to be very timid and afraid to engage as she will be aware of the takedown threat. She also defends takedowns at under 50% in the UFC and I expect her to be taken down quickly in this fight.

Once the fight hits the ground, Amorim is always a threat to find the finish. But she also has good control as well which gives her a relatively safe floor in this matchup. Many people will be skeptical of the gas tank as she is entirely unproven outside of the first round. However, I am very interested to back her on DraftKings as she has early finishing upside along with multiple takedown potential and control time as well. Amorim by submission is the official pick.

Shayilan Neurdanbieke vs Steve Garcia
Neurdanbieke, -225; Garcia, +180

Shayilan Neurdanbieke is coming off the infamous knockout victory over Darrick Minner which sparked the James Krause gambling controversy. Neurdanbieke is historically a lay and pray artist as he averages nearly three takedowns per 15 minutes and is always looking to get the fight to the ground. He had a ton of finishes on the Chinese regional scene but has mostly been a decision fighter up until his last fight against Minner. The concern with Neurdanbieke is that he is not much of a striker at all and is not much of a threat to finish so he really needs to have success in the wrestling department.

His opponent, Steve Garcia is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Chase Hooper last October. Garcia is not a very trustworthy fighter but he does have some power in his punches and 10 of his 13 career wins have come by knockout. Despite the power on the feet, Garcia does not have much else to worry about. He has been finished inside the first round twice in his career and has shown a history of being outgrappled as well.

I expect Neurdanbieke to be able to close distance and land takedowns. Garcia is live to land a big shot early but the most likely outcome is a lay and pray decision by Neurdanbieke. Neurdanbieke by decision is the official pick.

Ignacio Bahamondes vs Trey Ogden
Bahamondes, -290; Ogden, +245

Ignacio Bahamondes is stepping in on short notice to face Trey Ogden who had his bout against Manuel Torres pulled on the last card. Bahamondes last fought in February of last year and won by third-round submission. Bahamondes comes from a high-level striking background and is very long and rangy for the division. He has powerful kicks and punches but disregards his striking defense and gets hit way too often to make you feel comfortable. He has shown solid first-level takedown defense but is susceptible to being controlled if you can put him on his back.

His opponent, Trey Ogden is coming off a decision victory over Daniel Zellhuber last September. He looked improved in his last fight, but I still do not rate his skillset very highly. He does not put a ton of volume out there but does have a decent ground game. He just struggles to get the fight to the ground because he is usually at a physicality disadvantage. But when he does get the fight there, he is an opportunistic submission grappler with 11 submissions on his record and he will likely have a grappling advantage if he can get the fight to the mat.

I do not rate Bahamondes very highly but he should have a clear striking advantage in this fight. I expect Ogden to struggle to get Bahamondes down and control him like he needs to and he will get touched up on the feet. Bahamondes by knockout is the official pick.

Loopy Godinez vs Cynthia Calvillo
Godinez, -250; Calvillo, +210

Loopy Godinez is coming off a decision loss to Angela Hill in August. That loss snapped a two-fight winning streak for her and she will look to rebound this weekend. Godinez is a powerful boxer but does not throw a ton of volume and looks her best when she is mixing in the grappling. She averages over 4.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and is usually able to use her physicality and pace to overwhelm her opponents. When she struggles, she is unable to force the wrestling as she does not have the volume or defense to win extended minutes against solid strikers.

Her opponent, Cynthia Calvillo is coming off a split-decision loss to Nina Nunes last August. She is currently on a four-fight losing streak and was finished in two of those fights. What is more concerning is that she nearly quit on the stool against Andrea Lee and has looked like she did not want to be in there at times throughout her fights. I would not trust her whatsoever but at least she is a sizable underdog in this spot.

To be fair, I do not trust Godinez either, although I believe she is clearly more talented. Godinez by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings this week.

Joe Pyfer vs Gerald Meerschaert
Pyfer, -175; Meerschaert, +145

Joe Pyfer is coming off a first-round knockout in his UFC debut over Alen Amedovski in September. Pyfer formerly fought on Dana White’s Contender Series and won a contract last season with another knockout win. Of his 10 career victories, seven of them have come by knockout and it is clear he has big power in his hands. But he is also a physical grappler as well and has shown the ability to land takedowns in the past. The only real concern I have with Pyfer is his work rate as he does not throw in high volume and is not aggressive in forcing the grappling.

His opponent, Gerald Meerschaert is coming off a third-round submission victory over Bruno Silva in August. At this point, we know exactly what to expect from Meerschaert as he is one of the most dangerous submission grapplers in the division. Of his 35 career wins, 27 of them have come by submission including his last seven victories. But he has never been a good wrestler and his striking is pedestrian at best. He has also been knocked out three times in his career including in two of his last three losses.

Pyfer is going to have a clear striking advantage in this fight. It should only be a matter of time before he lands the big shot and gets Meerschaert out of there. Meerschaert is always live to pull off a hero submission so you can have some exposure to him as well on DraftKings but the official pick is Pyfer by knockout.

Karl Williams vs Chase Sherman
Williams, -500; Sherman, +385

Karl Williams is stepping in on short notice to replace Chris Barnett who pulled out of this fight. Williams just fought less than a month ago and won a decision over Lukas Brzeski. He is not the most technical guy out there but he is very good at getting the fight to the ground. He landed eight takedowns in that fight against Brzeski and outwrestled Jimmy Lawson on Dana White’s Contender Series in his previous fight as well. He is not great at controlling his opponents but he is good at sticking to them and mat returning if needed.

His opponent, Chase Sherman is coming off a decision loss to Waldo Cortes-Acosta in November. He has now lost five of his last six fights and will try to right the ship this weekend. But to his credit, he has faced solid competition recently and still does carry some power. Of his 16 victories, 15 have come by knockout. But I do not trust his durability as he has been knocked out four times in his career. More importantly for this matchup, I do not trust him to keep the fight standing as he only defends takedowns at 66% in the UFC.

I think Williams is getting a bit too much respect here on short notice. But I do feel he should be able to consistently win minutes due to his nonstop wrestling style and Sherman’s inability to defend takedowns. Williams by decision is the official pick but I think Sherman is more live than the betting odds suggest.

Luana Pinheiro vs Michelle Waterson
Pinheiro, -160; Waterson, +140

Luana Pinheiro is coming off a year and a half layoff since she beat Sam Hughes to a decision in November of 2021. She is another Dana White’s Contender Series graduate and sports a 10-1 professional record with seven wins coming inside the distance. She is generally a fast starter and will look to use her background in Judo and her submission skills to try to dominate her opponents on the mat. However, she has had some serious cardio issues at times in the past and that always is a concern for me in her fights.

Her opponent, Michelle Waterson is coming off a second-round submission loss to Amanda Lemos last July. She has lost four of her last five fights and recently turned 37 years old which is not super encouraging. But to her credit, she has mostly faced the top tier of the division and has had competitive rounds in many of those fights. But historically, she is not a great round winner as she is a low volume kickboxer that is going to look to stay on the outside and use her karate style kicking attack. She is a capable submission grappler but not a strong offensive wrestler and only defends takedowns at 67% in the UFC.

I expect Pinheiro to start fast as she typically does and she should be able to get this fight to the ground along with having some success on the feet too. But the worry is the gas tank. I do think she wins but I still consider her one of the more untrustworthy fighters on the slate. Pinheiro by decision is the official pick.

Kelvin Gastelum vs Chris Curtis
Gastelum, -130; Curtis, +110

Kelvin Gastelum is coming off nearly a two-year layoff as he last dropped a decision to Jared Cannonier in a main event in August of 2021. He is another fighter on this card that has had a rough patch lately as he has lost five of his last six fights but has faced mostly the best that the division has to offer. Gastelum is a very well-rounded fighter that is competent wherever the fight takes place. He does not put a ton of volume out there as he is primarily a counter striker but is sharp with his boxing. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns in the past but only when he has a grappling advantage.

His opponent, Chris Curtis is coming off a second-round knockout victory over Joaquin Buckley in December. Curtis is a one-dimensional boxer as he never looks to grapple. But he has shown some strong takedown defense and sharp counter boxing as well. Of his 30 career victories, 17 have come by knockout and it is clear he has some power.

I expect this fight to be competitive and slow paced for the most part with both fighters waiting for the other to initiate. I slightly lean towards Curtis as I trust his volume a bit more and to be able to land the bigger shots as Gastelum is more hittable. Curtis by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings.

Raul Rosas Jr. vs Christian Rodriguez
Rosas Jr, -210; Rodriguez, +180

RauL Rosas Jr. burst on to the scene in the UFC when he won a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series last season as the youngest fighter to ever do so. He followed that up with an impressive performance in his UFC debut when he submitted Jay Perrin inside the first round in December. He is just 18 years old and 7-0 with five of his seven wins coming by submission. He comes from a high-level grappling background and holds a black belt in BJJ. But he is also a very solid wrestler and has shown good cardio as well. His only real weakness is on the feet as his striking is wild and he is way too reckless defensively which causes him to eat some clean shots.

His opponent, Christian Rodriguez is coming off a first-round submission victory over Joshua Weems last October. Rodriguez is an 8-1 prospect with seven of his eight wins coming inside the distance. He is a well-rounded fighter with power in his hands and capable grappling as well. However, he does not put much volume out there and struggles to defend takedowns at just 56% in the UFC which is key in this matchup.

I expect Rosas to implement the grappling from the jump and I do not trust Rodriguez to be able to defend submissions for the entirety of the fight. Rosas by submission is the official pick and he is a solid target on DraftKings.

Kevin Holland vs Santiago Ponzinibbio
Holland, -250; Ponzinibbio, +200

Kevin Holland is coming off a TKO loss to Stephen Thompson in December. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and will look to rebound this weekend in what should be a favorable matchup. Holland is a great striker with multiple weapons on the feet and legitimate knockout power. Of his 23 career wins, 13 have come by knockout and he should have a massive speed advantage in this fight. The glaring hole in Holland’s game is his inability to defend takedowns and get controlled on the mat.

His opponent, Santiago Ponzinibbio is coming off a third-round knockout victory over Alex Morono in December at UFC 282. Ponzinibbio is primarily a striker as well which should mean we get a banger matchup between two guys that want to stand and trade. But the way I like to fade Holland is with grapplers and fighters that are going to push a wrestling pace. Ponzinibbio rarely looks to wrestle and he is going to be at a massive reach disadvantage and speed disadvantage as well.

Holland is going to be the much faster fighter in this matchup and I expect him to beat Ponzinibbio to the punch repeatedly. I also trust his power and durability more as well which has me leaning towards him in this fight. Holland by TKO is the official pick.

Adrian Yanez vs Rob Font
Yanez, -180; Font, +155

Adrian Yanez is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Tony Kelley last June. Yanez is 5-0 in the UFC since winning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2020. He is currently on a nine-fight winning streak overall and seven of those wins came by knockout. He is primarily a boxer with sharp striking and clear power. The concern with Yanez is that he is hittable in those boxing exchanges but has proven to be durable throughout his career. Lastly, he has shown some defensive grappling liabilities on the regional scene but that was years ago so hard to know how much he has improved in that area.

His opponent, Rob Font is coming off a main event decision loss to Marlon Vera last August. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and his last three fights were all five rounders as opposed to this 15 minute bout against Yanez. Font has one of the best jabs in the division and is a high volume striker in his own right. But he has taken loads of damage over his last few fights and despite never being knocked out in his career, he has been knocked down five times over his last two fights.

I expect this to be a banger for as long as it last. I trust the power and durability more on the Yanez side which has me leaning towards him in this fight. Yanez by knockout is the official pick.

Gilbert Burns vs Jorge Masvidal
Burns, -450; Masvidal, +360

Gilbert Burns is fresh off a first-round submission victory over Neil Magny in January at UFC 283. Burns is known as one of the more dangerous submission grapplers in the division with nine of his 21 career wins coming by submission. But he has some explosiveness on the feet as well with some powerful hooks when he lets his hands go. But his striking defense is where he struggles and he has notoriously had cardio issues in the past as well.

His opponent, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is making his return to the octagon after a year off. He last fought Colby Covington and dropped a decision but did have some moments in the fight. Masvidal is currently on three-fight losing skid but that was against the truly elite of the Welterweight division. He is a great striker with clear knockout power and sharp counter striking. 16 of his 35 wins have come by knockout and he will try his best to keep this fight standing where he should have a clear advantage.

This is an interesting matchup as it basically comes down to whether or not Burns is going to have sustained grappling success. While I acknowledge that Burns is the better submission grappler, I cannot help but feel Masvidal is getting disrespected in the betting market. If Masvidal can avoid getting submitted, and keep the fight standing more than expected then he is extremely live for the upset. Masvidal by knockout is the official pick.

Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira
Adesanya, -135; Pereira, +115

Israel Adesanya looks to get his championship belt back this weekend. He was up three rounds to one before getting knocked out by Alex Pereira in the final round at UFC 281 last year.  Adesanya is a high-level striker with an array of tools and excellent distance management. His ground game is improving over the years as well and he even landed a takedown in the last fight.

His opponent, Alex Pereira has a ton of hype behind him coming into this fight as the defending champion. The former Glory kickboxer has captured UFC gold in short order with just four UFC fights and he won by knockout in three of them, including against Adesanya last fight. He is a big powerful striker with clear knockout power and can match Adesanya in volume. However, he seems to be more knockout reliant than Adesanya who I believe is the better round winner.

This should be competitive early as Adesanya is willing to fight patiently over five rounds. I expect both guys to have moments in the striking, but I trust Adesanya defense and cardio much more than Pereira. Despite losing the last fight, Adesanya has proven to be the better round winner in this matchup. Adesanya by decision is the official pick.