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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Kansas City! We have an awesome 14-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.

Lucie Pudilova vs Joselyne Edwards
Pudilova, -135; Edwards, +115

Lucie Pudilova is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Wu Yanan at UFC 278 last August. That was her return fight to the UFC as she previously went 2-5 in the UFC and was released back in 2020 only to get resigned last year. She is currently on a three-fight winning streak and has won six of her last seven bouts. Pudilova is not great in any area, but she is not a pushover either. She is competitive in the striking department and has recently increased her aggressiveness in terms of the grappling which is encouraging from a minute-winning standpoint.

Her opponent, Joselyne Edwards is coming off a split-decision victory over Ji Yeon Kim at UFC 277 last July. She is currently on a two-fight winning streak although she has not been impressive whatsoever. Edwards can put out decent volume in terms of numbers because of how many push kicks she will throw but she rarely does any real damage. She has also looked noticeably tired in multiple fights recently that have been extended. I have always been of the belief that Edwards is not a good fighter. But this is a low level fight on both sides and Edwards does have sneaky submission potential if Pudilova pushes the grappling.

I have very little interest in this fight for DraftKings. This is a big slate and the only potential for a ceiling performance is a round one armbar or something of that nature which is relatively low percentage. This should be a competitive kickboxing match and I slightly lean Pudilova due to grappling upside and better gas tank but not confident in her at all. Pudilova by decision is the official pick.

Gaston Bolanos vs Aaron Phillips
Bolanos, -195; Phillips, +165

Gaston Bolanos is making his UFC debut this weekend. He previously fought in Bellator and is sporting a 6-3 professional record. Of his six career victories, all of them have come by knockout and he has only reached the final bell once in his entire career. He is yet to face great competition but he does have clear knockout upside as he is very explosive and will go for it early in the fight. However, he seems very sloppy and his defensive grappling is completely untrustworthy and has been submitted twice in his career.

His opponent, Aaron Phillips is coming off nearly a three-year layoff as he last fought Jack Shore and was submitted in July of 2020. Phillips comes from a Karate background and has a black belt in Taekwondo and BJJ. He is generally a slow starter but does carry some power in his hands and has some sharp body kicks that he will look for repeatedly. I do not trust him to win minutes against a big moment fighter like Bolanos but he does have clear finishing potential in this matchup.

This is a solid fight to target on DraftKings as both guys have finishing upside but both have also been finished multiple times which makes me think the winner of this fight scores well. Phillips by submission is the official pick but I will have exposure to both sides this weekend.

Bruna Brasil vs Denise Gomes
Brasil, -170; Gomes, +145

Bruna Brasil is making her UFC debut this weekend, coming off a highlight knockout victory on Dana White’s Contender Series last season. She is an 8-2 prospect fighting out of Brazil and is currently on a seven-fight winning streak. She comes from a high-level kickboxing background as she is a former national kickboxing champion and holds a black belt in kickboxing. She is going to be throwing leg kicks relentlessly as that is her biggest weapon. The concern with her is that if she gets taken down, she can be controlled and out grappled on the mat.

Her opponent, Denise Gomes is coming off her short-notice UFC debut against Loma Lookboonmee last September where she dropped a decision. She is a 6-2 prospect fighting out of Brazil like her opponent and also fought on last season of Dana White’s Contender Series. Gomes comes from a Muay Thai striking background and carries real power for the division. She has shown good volume and decent cardio as she has outlasted and taken over late against multiple opponents on the regional scene. Lastly, she has also shown the ability to land takedowns, which should be an advantage for her in this fight.

I see this is a competitive kickboxing match with Brasil landing the leg kicks while Gomes tries to close distance and swing leather. Additionally, I think Gomes has more of a path to victory with the grappling although I do not trust her completely to implement that game plan. Either way, I think there is value on the dog here in what should be a competitive striking bout. Gomes by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings.

Daniel Zellhuber vs Lando Vannata
Zellhuber, -120; Vannata, +100

Daniel Zellhuber left a bad taste in our mouths after he laid an egg in his UFC debut against Trey Ogden.

Needless to say, I’m not over it just yet. Anyway, Zellhuber is a 12-1 prospect and a decorated striker who comes from an undefeated Muay Thai background. He is very long for the division and will have a six-inch reach advantage in this matchup. He has a dangerous kicking attack but is not afraid to trade in the pocket as well. He is also a brown belt in BJJ, and he has shown solid takedown defense and defensive grappling on the regional scene. I want to believe that he still has a bright future but the obvious concern is whatever he did in his UFC debut.

His opponent, Lando Vannata is coming off a first-round submission loss to Charles Jourdain in April of last year. Vannata has loads of UFC experience and will look to give the young kid a veteran lesson on Saturday. Vannata is a very well-rounded fighter that is going to be competitive while the fight is at range and has the capability to mix in the wrestling as well as he averages just over 1.2 takedowns per 15 minutes and has leaned on it more recently. The concern with Vannata is that he is going to be at a size disadvantage and his body has been through a lot more wear and tear at this stage.

This is a tough fight to be confident in considering how different Zellhuber looked in his last fight. However, even the Zellhuber from his previous fights likely struggles with Vannata. I expect Zellhuber to look much better than in his debut, but I still am slightly leaning towards Vannata. Vannata by decision is the official pick.

Gillian Robertson vs Piera Rodriguez
Robertson, -125; Rodriguez, +105

Gillian Robertson is coming off a second-round submission victory over Mariya Agapova last September. At this point, we know what to expect from Robertson as she is one of the easiest fighters to break down. She has a very dangerous ground game and is very aggressive in top position. She is looking to damage on top or hunt for submissions and get her opponent out of there. Eight of her 11 career wins have come by submission and that is clearly her biggest strength as she holds a black belt in BJJ. The problem with Robertson is that she struggles mightily when she cannot get the fight to the ground, and she is forced to strike. She has some leg kicks that she has added to her skillset but overall is still a poor striker and cannot win extended minutes without grappling success.

Her opponent, Piera Rodriguez is coming off a decision victory over Sam Hughes in October. She is a 9-0 undefeated prospect with five wins coming by knockout. She previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2021 and will look to keep her spotless record in tact this weekend. Rodriguez is a very well-rounded prospect that will push a decent pace on the feet. She should have a clear striking advantage over Robertson, and I expect her to be throwing much more volume on the feet as well. She can be taken down at times, but she is a physical grappler and has shown the ability to land takedowns of her own as well. Her biggest weakness to me is that she slows down as the fight goes on the volume starts to decrease which you do not love to see.

The concern with backing Rodriguez is that there may be a sweaty moment or two on the mat if Robertson is able to get her down. But I am not confident that Robertson can land the takedowns she needs, and Rodriguez is not a bad defensive grappler either. On the feet, this is all Rodriguez and Robertson does not have the striking or cardio to take over late if she does not have the grappling success. Rodriguez by decision is the official pick but I will exposure to both sides on DraftKings as I think this fight does have significant upside in the mid-range.

Zak Cummings vs Ed Herman
Cummings, -215; Herman, +185

When the combined age of fighters in the octagon is 80 years old, it’s never fun. I am not sure what we are doing here as Cummings is coming off nearly a three-year layoff and it’s been nearly two years since we have seen Ed Herman as well. In any event, Cummings did beat Alessio Di Chirico his last time out which is somewhat impressive. He is low volume on the feet but does carry some power and is a sneaky good submission grappler as well. The biggest issue with him as a big favorite in any matchup is that the output is very low, so he needs to have big moments in most of his fights.

Herman is coming off a decision loss to Alonzo Menifield at UFC 265. Herman turns 43 years old later this year and has never been a trustworthy fighter in my book. He is by no means a volume machine although his work rate is typically higher than Cummings while he has the cardio. Herman’s durability is a major concern as he has been knocked out multiple times and submitted six times in his career as well.

This is a sloppy fight and while I do favor Cummings, I cannot trust him at this price tag and off the long layoff. Cummings by submission is the official pick but I will not have much exposure to this fight on DraftKings.

Mattheus Nicolau vs Brandon Royval
Nicolau, -205; Royval, +175

Mattheus Nicolau is coming off a second-round knockout victory over Matt Schnell in December. He is 4-0 since being resigned to the UFC roster and currently on a six-fight winning streak overall. He is a very well-rounded fighter that is comfortable wherever the fight goes. He also has shown a high fight IQ and an ability to adapt his gameplan based on each opponent which is very encouraging to see. He rarely puts a ton of volume out there, but he picks his spots well and is very sharp defensively which makes it difficult for his opponents to have big moments and score points on him. Lastly, he is a good grappler as well and mixes in takedowns along with defending them very well.

His opponent, Brandon Royval is coming off a first-round submission victory over Matt Schnell last May. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak and 4-2 overall in the UFC with three of those wins coming by submission. I always have interest in Royval as a sizable underdog on principle, as his fighting style is always going to naturally bring more variance into a lot of his fights. He is looking to move forward and spam volume, but his defense is nonexistent which is concerning. He is a very dangerous submission grappler with nine of his 14 career wins coming by submission and that is where he is at his best. The concern with Royval is that when he faces a certain level of grappler, they can outclass him on the mat like in the Pantoja fight.

I expect this fight to be competitive with both men having some success on the feet. I see Royval as having more potential upside but Nicolau being the more skilled fighter overall. For that reason, I will have more exposure to Royval and he is a solid underdog to target on DraftKings. Nicolau by decision is the official pick.

Bill Algeo vs TJ Brown
Algeo, -200; Brown, +170

Bill Algeo is coming off a split-decision loss to Andre Fili in September. That loss snapped a two-fight losing skid for him and he will look to get back in the win column on Saturday. Algeo is a high volume striker and comes from a Muay Thai background. But he is also an opportunistic with six submission victories and he holds a black belt in BJJ. His biggest issue has always been his inability to defend takedowns at just 55% in the UFC. He likes to play guard at times too but he is a capable scrambler and good at working back to his feet when he wants to.

His opponent, TJ Brown is coming off a third-round submission victory over Erik Silva in December. Brown is primarily a grappler and he averages over three takedowns per 15 minutes. The wrestling pace is great but he gets sloppy at times in the grappling exchanges and his cardio and durability have been issues in the past as well. I think he should be able to land a few takedowns in this fight but I expect Algeo to be able to scramble or work back to his feet.

While the fight plays out on the feet, I expect Algeo to be the better striker and to be landing more volume. I also trust Algeo’s durability much more as Brown has been hurt multiple times in the past and has been knocked down in two of his last four fights. Algeo by decision is the official pick.

Rafa Garcia vs Clay Guida
Garcia, -250; Guida, +210

Rafa Garcia is coming off a decision win over Maheshate in December. After starting his career 11-0 on the regional scene, Garcia is just 3-3 in the UFC and has had an up and down career thus far in the octagon. When he is at his best, he is able to push a high pace and mix in the takedowns as he averages over four takedowns per 15 minutes. On the feet, he is a capable striker and will be competitive, but his defense is subpar and he eats too many shots to make you feel comfortable despite him being very durable.

His opponent, Clay Guida is coming off a split-decision win over Scott Holtzman in December. Guida turns 42 years old this year and is still chugging along in the UFC. He is low volume on the feet but does have power when he is able to connect with one of his overhand rights. He has always been a solid wrestler as well as he averages over three takedowns per 15 minutes. Historically, the easiest way to beat Guida is to submit him and Garcia has a sneaky good submission game. I would not be surprised to see Guida stick his head into a guillotine and make this a short fight. Garcia by submission is the official pick.

Chris Gutierrez vs Pedro Munhoz
Gutierrez, -200; Munhoz, +170

We last saw Chris Gutierrez at UFC 281 when he landed a highlight reel knockout over Frankie Edgar in November. He is currently on a four-fight winning streak and has not lost in his last eight bouts. Gutierrez is really only good at one thing, but he is exceptional at it. That one thing being his leg kicks as he is arguably the best kicker on the UFC roster. His nonstop kicking attack makes it difficult for his opponents to get inside their range and eventually the damage to the leg adds up and takes away their movement and power. His biggest issue is his defensive grappling as he can be controlled if you can put him on his back.

His opponent, Pedro Munhoz is coming off a no contest against Sean O’Malley at UFC 276 due to an eye poke. Previously, he had lost four of his last five fights. Munhoz is a great leg kicker as well although I think Gutierrez is better at managing distance. Munhoz is also an opportunistic submission grappler with a great guillotine choke if he can manage to clinch up with Gutierrez here. But overall I think he is very likely to get outvolumed and struggle to find his range while Gutierrez dances around him. Gutierrez by decision is the official pick but this fight does not have much upside for DraftKings.

Ion Cutelaba vs Tanner Boser
Cutelaba, -130; Boser, +110

Ion Cutelaba is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Kennedy Nzechukwu last November. He is currently on a three-fight losing streak and has just one victory over his last seven bouts. At this point, he is entirely untrustworthy, and it is wild that the market continues to give him respect. From a skillset standpoint, he has knockout power early and pushes a great pace with relentless wrestling. However, he is notoriously round one or bust for the most part and his skills fall apart quickly after five minutes.

His opponent, Tanner Boser is coming off a split-decision loss to Rodrigo Nascimento in September. He has now lost three of his last four fights, so he is on a downtrend as well but is dropping down a weight class this weekend. Boser is a decent striker with good volume and heavy leg kicks. He struggles to defend takedowns at just 64% in the UFC. But he is very durable and if he can withstand the early onslaught from Cutelaba then he is live to take over if the fight gets extended. For that reason, I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings but the official pick is Boser by knockout.

Dustin Jacoby vs Azamat Murzakanov
Jacoby, -155; Murzakanov, +135

Dustin Jacoby is coming off a split-decision loss to Khalil Rountree in October. That loss snapped a four-fight winning streak for him since he drew against Cutelaba. Jacoby is primarily a striker and will throw in volume while the fight plays out at range. He is another fighter on this card that relies heavily on his kicking attack. He struggles to defend takedowns but is generally good at working back to his feet quickly.

His opponent, Azamat Murzakanov is coming off a third-round knockout victory over Devin Clark last August. He previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series and is a 12-0 undefeated fighter. Nine of his 12 career wins have come by knockout and seven of those came inside the first round. He does have a powerful left hand and the speed of his punches are faster than you expect for a guy at his size. However, he turns 37 years old later this year and we have already seen him show signs of poor cardio and lacking strong round winning potential.

I expect Murzakanov to have the power advantage but he will likely struggle with trying to track down Jacoby in the big cage. Jacoby should be able to rely on his volume and cardio to get the job done here as long as he doesn’t get one punch KO’d. Jacoby by decision is the official pick.

Billy Quarantillo vs Edson Barboza
Quarantillo, -175; Barboza, +150

Billy Quarantillo is fresh off a second-round knockout victory over Alexander Hernandez at UFC 282 in December. He previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2019 and is 5-2 inside the UFC octagon with four of those five wins coming via finish. He pushes a crazy pace on the feet and while he is hittable on defense, he is very durable, and his pressure is difficult for any opponent. He is also capable of mixing in takedowns and holds a black belt in BJJ. I would only feel comfortable fading him with someone that has some grappling upside as we have seen him taken down and controlled multiple times but that is not Edson Barboza’s game.

Barboza is coming off a decision loss to Bryce Mitchell at UFC 272 last March. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and durability certainly seems to be an issue at this stage in his career. He is a great striker with some of the nastiest kicks in the game, but he has been knocked out four times in his career and was knocked down in each of his last two fights. Additionally, he never looks to grapple which is concerning if he is unable to deal with the relentless pressure of Quarantillo.

I expect Quarantillo to move forward and be the more active fighter of the two. Barboza should be able to land some nasty leg kicks, but Quarantillo is very durable and has the nearly all the grappling upside in this matchup as well. Quarantillo by TKO is the official pick and this is a solid fight to target on DraftKings.

Max Holloway vs Arnold Allen
Holloway, -180; Allen, +160

It has been nearly a year since we saw Max Holloway lose the trilogy against Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 276 last July. Despite fighting in the UFC for over a decade, Holloway is still just 31 years old and I still consider him to be one of the best strikers in the UFC. He historically puts up some of the highest volume of any fighter on the roster and he stays sharp on defense as well. He is extremely durable as he has never been knocked out in his career and has great takedown defense as well which forces his opponents to stand with him. He has no glaring weakness and is a nightmare matchup for anyone outside of the elite tier of the division.

His opponent, Arnold Allen is coming off a TKO victory over Calvin Kattar in October. Kattar landed funny attempting a flying knee and injured himself which ultimately ended the fight but Allen did win the first round. I would love to see that fight play out as I still think Kattar wins but that’s an argument for another day. Allen fights out of the southpaw stance and has good boxing with a powerful left hand. Of his 19 career victories, seven have come by knockout but he is historically not a big volume striker which is a problem here.

I expect Holloway to double up Allen in the striking department. Allen is likely to try to clinch up and control Holloway against the fence after realizing he is losing the striking but I’m not even sure he can have success doing that as Holloway is a good defensive grappler and should have a clear cardio advantage as well. Holloway by decision is the official pick but a finish in the later rounds is certainly live as well depending on if Allen’s cardio holds up.