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We have $200,000 up for grabs on DraftKings this weekend with 14 fights and two title fights up for grabs! The UFC heads back to the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas as we are set for an exciting weekend of combat sports.

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.

Tatsuro Taira vs Edgar Chairez
Taira, -900; Chairez, +600

Tatsuro Taira is coming off a first-round submission victory over Jesus Aguilar in February. He was supposed to face Kleydson Rodrigues at UFC Jacksonville, but Rodrigues missed weight and the fight was scrapped. Taira is a 13-0 undefeated prospect fighting out of Japan. He is a dangerous submission grappler with seven of his wins coming by submission.  But he has some solid wrestling chops as well and he averages 2.62 takedowns per 15 minutes to go along with some very slick back takes. On the feet, he is not going to throw much output as he mainly uses his striking to set up his takedowns, but he does have some powerful leg kicks.

His opponent, Edgar Chairez is making his UFC debut on short notice. He previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last season and dropped a decision to Clayton Carpenter. Chairez is a 10-4 prospect with all 10 wins coming inside the distance. He trains out of Entram gym in Mexico and is a regular training partner of Andres Luna who also fought on Contender Series. He seems to have some power in his hands and is a finisher by nature, but the level of competition leaves more to be desired. The glaring issue of Chairez is his defensive grappling as he has been submitted in two of his four professional losses.

I expect Taira to be able to land takedowns here and he likely cuts through Chairez like butter when the fight hits the mat. Taira by submissions is the official pick and he is a strong target on DraftKings.

Esteban Ribovics vs Kamuela Kirk
Ribovics, -175; Kirk, +150

Esteban Ribovics is coming off an exciting UFC debut against Loik Radzhabov at UFC 285 in March. He lost the decision but gave a strong account of himself and had multiple big moments throughout the fight. That was his first career loss and all 11 of his wins have come inside the distance. He is powerful on the feet and will keep a good pace and is also opportunistic with his submission attempts and he will constantly look for a kimura if it presents itself. The biggest issue with Ribovics is the level of competition as he ran through some very low-level talent prior to reaching the UFC.

His opponent, Kamuela Kirk is coming off a 15-month layoff since getting submitted by Damon Jackson last year. Kirk is an 11-5 prospect with 10 of his wins coming inside the distance. He comes from a Karate striking background and holds a black belt in BJJ. To me, Kirk has always been one of those fighters that has accolades on paper, but you watch him fight and you realize he does not have much of a ceiling at the UFC level. He struggles to defend takedowns, he is too hittable on the feet, he is not going to out volume many opponents and he tends to fade as fights get extended. Moving up to 155 lbs. here could potentially help his gas tank but he is going to be working harder to grapple bigger fighters so not sure if that is a positive benefit. Outside of some substantial improvements during the past year, I have a hard time seeing him win many fights at the UFC level, if any more at all.

I expect Ribovics to be throwing more output on the feet and landing the heavier shots as well. Ribovics should also have the cardio edge if the fight gets extended. He has multiple paths to victory and I expect him to get it done. Ribovics by TKO is the official pick.

Jesus Aguilar vs Shannon Ross
Aguilar, -180; Ross, +155

Jesus Aguilar is coming off a first-round submission loss to Tatsuro Taira in February. He previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last season and came through as a sizable underdog. He is an 8-2 prospect with six of his wins coming by submission. He is undersized even at Flyweight, but he does carry some power when he lets his hands go. He is capable of landing takedowns as well but also looks to jump guillotine often and that generally only works against lower-level opponents that do not know how to defend it.

His opponent, Shannon Ross is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Kleydson Rodrigues in February. He also fought on Contender Series last season and was knocked out by Vinicius Salvador. Ross is a 34-year-old regional grinder and does have a solid well-rounded skillset. However, at this point you cannot trust his durability against anyone. He has been knocked out three times in his career and hurt multiple times throughout those fights. Fortunately, he is facing a much less dangerous opponent on the feet than his last two fights, but it is still a concern.

Aguilar does not have much output on the feet and backing him as a sizable favorite seems risky in nearly any matchup. But I do expect him to get his game plan going early and get the fight to the ground. He should be the better wrestler and has the power to land a big shot on the feet as well against Ross. Aguilar by submission is the official pick.

Cameron Saaiman vs Terrance Mitchell
Saiiman, -450; Mitchell, +340

Cameron Saaiman is coming off a majority decision victory over Mana Martinez at UFC 285 in March. 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 8-0 record and five wins coming by knockout. I have said it multiple times now, but I still have concerns with Saaiman’s defensive grappling and striking defense, but he has clear power and great cardio which can take him pretty far in this division.

His opponent, Terrance Mitchell is making his UFC debut on short notice. Mitchell is a 33-year-old 14-2 fighter who comes from the Alaskan regional scene. Say no more. All of Mitchell’s 14 wins have come inside the distance with most of them being quick first-round finishes. He took five years off from the sport back in 2018 and returned with two ultra-fast finishes over turbo bums. He has zero business fighting in the UFC and it is clearly a setup for Saaiman to get a highlight-reel finish.

Saaiman should really own this dude from the opening bell. He generally starts slow, but I still do not expect this fight to last long as Saaiman wins it wherever it goes. Saaiman by knockout is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings.

Vitor Petrino vs Marcin Prachnio
Petrino, -275; Prachnio, +230

Vitor Petrino is coming off a dominant performance over Anton Turkalj in March. He is an 8-0 undefeated prospect with six of his eight wins coming by knockout. He is another Dana White’s Contender Series contract winner from last season and seems to have a bright future in the division at just 25 years old. We were already aware of his power coming into his last fight, but he showcased some solid wrestling skills and good cardio which many people were weary of, myself included.

His opponent, Marcin Prachnio is coming off a decision win over William Knight in February. Knight had no interest in fighting that evening and Prachnio still failed to even threaten to put him away. Prachnio is a decent kickboxer and does carry some power with 11 of his 16 career wins coming by knockout. However, he can be taken down as he only defends at 62% in the UFC. I also still worry about the durability as he has been knocked out four times in his career and now facing a very powerful striker.

I expect Petrino to land the heavier shots on the feet. He can be hit and hurt as well but I still trust his durability more than Prachnio. He also could go back to the grappling in this fight where he would have a sizable edge as well. He has multiple paths to victory and is one of the safer targets on DraftKings this week. Petrino by TKO is the official pick.

Jimmy Crute vs Alonzo Menifield
Crute, -120; Menifield, +100

This matchup is a highly anticipated rematch as these two just fought to a majority draw at UFC 284 in February. Their first fight was very exciting with nonstop action and both fighters having some big moments throughout the fight. It was a tough fight to score and ultimately, Menifield grabbing the fence to prevent a takedown in round three cost him a point deduction and the fight. Crute is a relentless style grappler similar to that of Grant Dawson who we just saw last week. Both guys good at getting takedowns and both guys very hittable on the feet. The key difference between the two is that Dawson is very good at taking the back and controlling his opponents whereas Crute struggles to control as he is looking to do damage or finish the fight most of the time.

Alonzo Menifield has been a frustrating fighter to back at times as he has had questionable cardio and fight IQ in multiple fights in his career. However, we have seen some significant improvements from him throughout his career. Menifield carries obvious knockout power on the feet and nearly knocked out Crute the first time they fought. But he also defends takedowns well and is difficult to control on the mat. His cardio has been better in recent fights as well which is encouraging.

This is a tough fight to predict as Crute will likely have some success grappling early in the fight again. However, Menifield has a big power and striking advantage and was closer to finishing the fight the first time around along with nearly winning it on the judges’ scorecards. This is a great fight to target on DraftKings as the winner should score well either way, but the official pick is Menifield by TKO.

Yazmin Juaregui vs Denise Gomes
Juaregui, -400; Gomes, +300

Yazmin Juaregui is coming off a second-round knockout victory over Istela Nunes in December. She is an impressive 10-0 prospect fighting out of Mexico. Of her 10 career victories, seven of them have come by knockout. She keeps a high pace on the feet and has clear knockout power. Her defensive grappling has yet to be tested at the UFC level, but she has shown some solid takedown defense throughout her career.

Her opponent, Denise Gomes is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Bruna Brasil in April. She is primarily a striker and will throw in volume. She carries some power as well although that will likely be Juaregui’s advantage in this fight. Gomes has had good cardio and been able to take over late in fights multiple times throughout her career. She can be taken down and outgrappled but if you stand and trade with her then she is going to be competitive.

I expect this fight to play out on the feet primarily. Juaregui is the cleaner striker but both women have power and are going to land some big shots. I favor Juaregui’s striking ability and her defense more so than Gomes but do expect this fight to play out closer than the betting odds suggest. Juaregui by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on this slate.

Jack Della Maddalena vs Josiah Harrell
Della Maddalena, -950; Harrell, +600

Jack Della Maddalena was originally scheduled to fight Sean Brady, but Brady had to pull out of the fight due to a medical issue. Maddalena is a 14-2 prospect fighting out of Australia. He is a dangerous boxer with legitimate knockout power with 11 of his 14 wins coming by knockout. He has rattled off four straight UFC victories after winning a contract on Contender Series in 2021. Of those four victories, all of them have come inside the first round. I still have some concerns with his grappling and overall defense, but this is not a matchup where you need to be worried about that.

His opponent, Josiah Harrell is making his UFC debut on short notice. He just made his LFA debut a few weeks ago and won by third-round knockout. He is a 7-0 undefeated prospect with all seven of his wins coming inside the distance. He seems to have an okay skillset, but this is a brutal matchup for him, especially for a short notice debut. I expect Maddalena to outclass him on the feet and eventually get another finish. Maddalena by TKO is the official pick.

Niko Price vs Robbie Lawler
Price, -255; Lawler, +215

Niko Price is coming off a third-round TKO loss to Phil Rowe in December. Excluding the no-contest against Donald Cerrone in 2020, he has now lost three of his last four fights. Price has always been a big moment fighter as opposed to a consistent round winner. He has clear finishing ability with 13 of his 15 career wins coming inside the distance. But he struggles to defend takedowns at just over 60% in the UFC and his durability is becoming a big concern as he has been knocked out four times in his career and finished in five of his six professional losses.

His opponent, Robbie Lawler is coming off a second-round TKO loss to Bryan Barberena last July. He has now lost five of his last six fights and has been finished in nine of his 16 professional losses. At 41 years old now, it does not look like there is much left in the tank for Lawler as he has not looked particularly great his last two fights.

I have a hard time seeing how Lawler wins this fight. I guess he would have to hurt Price which is always possible, but Lawler seems to have just a fraction of the power he used to carry on the feet. Price is going to have higher output and Lawler is mainly a punching bag at this stage in his career. I expect Price to put a pace on him and eventually get him out of there. Price by TKO is the official pick.

Bo Nickal vs Tresean Gore
Nickal, -1300; Gore, +750

One of the most exciting prospects in the UFC, Bo Nickal makes his highly anticipated return to the octagon this weekend. Nickal is coming off a first-round submission victory over Jamie Pickett in his debut in March. The former Penn State all-american wrestler is just 4-0 professionally with all four wins coming inside the first round. The wrestling is next level and he has been developing his striking as well.

His opponent, Tresean Gore is coming off a second-round submission victory over Josh Fremd in October which was his first UFC victory. Gore is primarily a striker with technical boxing and fast hands. The issue is that he typically does not put much volume out there so he needs to land big shots or win by knockout in most matchups. The takedown defense is going to be key in this fight and Gore defends at 81% in the UFC but both Bryan Battle and Cody Brundage were able to take him down. If he gives up takedowns here it may be a quick night for him.

I expect Nickal to get the fight to the ground where he needs it. Gore can hang with him on the feet but once it hits the mat, Nickal will have a sizable advantage. He has enough power to potentially hurt Gore on the feet as well so not ruling that out either. Nickal by submission is the official pick and he is one of the highest upside plays on DraftKings this week.

**Update: Tresean Gore pulled out of the fight due to injury. I am expecting them to keep Nickal on the card based on reports. This means we likely see some regional bum that we have never heard of get signed and make a short notice debut against Nickal. Nickal first-round finish is extremely likely.**

Jalin Turner vs Dan Hooker
Turner, -250; Hooker, +210

Jalin Turner is coming off a split-decision loss to Mateusz Gamrot at UFC 285 in March. That loss snapped a five-fight winning streak for him and he looks to get back in the win column this weekend. Turner is one of the more dangerous strikers in the division with clear knockout power as he mixes it up on the feet and works the body well and is not just a headhunter. Of his 13 career victories, nine of them have come by knockout and all of them have come by finish. The only real concern with Turner is his durability as he has taken some damage in his career and been knocked out three times.

His opponent, Dan Hooker is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Claudio Puelles at UFC 281 last November. Hooker is primarily a striker and will keep a good pace on the feet. He is also a capable finisher with 18 of his 22 victories coming inside the distance. Hooker is still a skilled fighter but it is hard not to feel like he is on the back end of his career even at 33 years old. He has been in countless wars and been finished in six of his 12 professional losses. I am not implying that he is washed but I do feel he needs to fight the lesser tier of opponents in the division similar to the Puelles fight as he will struggle to keep up with the future of this division.

I expect this fight to play out on the feet with Turner landing more output and the bigger shots. Not only do I favor the skillset of Turner at this stage in his career, but I favor the durability and the willingness to want it more than Hooker who may be calling it quits soon. Turner by TKO is the official pick.

Robert Whittaker vs Dricus Du Plessis
Whittaker, -390; Du Plessis, +295

A long staple of the Middleweight division, Robert Whittaker is looking to make a statement and let the rest of the 185 lb. division know that he still belongs in the title conversation. Whittaker is coming off an impressive performance win over Marvin Vettori last September where he simply outclassed him over 15 minutes. He is just so well-rounded wherever the fight goes. On the feet, he is a strong boxer and will keep a solid output but what is more impressive is his striking defense. Many times during exchanges, he is able to land multiple punch combinations and be out of his opponent’s range before they can return. Additionally, he and his team have focused more on the wrestling of late. In fact, since the first loss to Adesanya, he has attempted 33 takedowns over his last five fights and that could be another potential advantage for him in this matchup.

His opponent, Dricus Du Plessis is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Derek Brunson at UFC 285 in March. He is 5-0 in the UFC with four of those wins coming inside the distance and he sports a 19-2 overall record. He fights out of South Africa is very explosive with 18 of his 19 career wins coming via finish. He wants to push a high pace on the feet and swings with everything he has to try to take your head off. He is not super technical, but he is going to go for it and if he connects clean, he can put your lights out. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns although his defensive grappling has some issues that can be exploited. His cardio is great as he is able to carry his power and explosiveness for three rounds which makes him a very dangerous opponent.

I favor Whittaker in this matchup as the more technically sound fighter and he is going to be much better defensively as well. Additionally, I think having the wrestling in his back pocket to fall back on if he needs to could be a benefit. Whittaker has been hurt before and knocked out twice in his career, but Du Plessis has to hurt him to win this fight. I will be treating Du Plessis as a live underdog on DraftKings but would still be surprised to see him pull off the big upset. Whittaker by decision is the official pick.

Brandon Moreno vs Alexandre Pantoja
Moreno, -180; Pantoja, +155

Brandon Moreno is coming off a third-round TKO victory in his title defense against Deiveson Figueiredo in January at UFC 283. It is nice to prepare for him to fight someone other than Figueiredo for a change as he has faced him in four of his last five fights. Moreno fought Alexandre Pantoja back in 2018 but has made countless improvements over the years and I expect this fight to go much differently as Pantoja largely controlled that bout. For starters, Moreno’s boxing has improved greatly since then and he has become one of the most well-rounded fighters in the Flyweight division. What makes him so dangerous is that he can mix in the grappling as well as he averages 1.8 takedowns per 15 minutes and has a strong ground game when he gets it there.

His opponent, Alexandre Pantoja is coming off a first-round submission victory over Alex Perez at UFC 277 last July. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak and has won four of his last five fights. Pantoja has been a staple of the Flyweight division for years but has failed to make that next leap and this will be the first time he will fight for a title. Pantoja is very dangerous, particularly early in the fight as he wants to move forward and turn it into a brawl. He is a very good grappler as well with a very active guard and 10 of his 25 wins coming by submission. The main issues with Pantoja is that he is very hittable on the feet and can be hurt but more concerning is that he fades as the fight goes on and he has never fought 25 minutes before either.

I expect Pantoja to come out hot early as he typically is a fast starter. But over time, this is going to favor the patience and technicality of Moreno who is going to prove that he has made more improvements since the last time they fought. I expect Moreno to take over in the middle rounds and eventually put it on Pantoja and get him out of there. Moreno by TKO is the official pick.

Alexander Volkanovski vs Yair Rodriguez
Volkanovski, -410; Rodriguez, +310

Alexander Volkanovski moved up to 155 lbs. to fight Islam Makhachev for a chance at double champ status. He lost the fight but gave Makhachev his toughest fight to date in the UFC and lost a competitive decision. Volkanovski will move back down to 145 lbs. here to defend his title and his 22-fight winning streak at this weight class. He is primarily a striker and will push a high pace that many opponents cannot keep up with. He is constantly attacking the legs but mixing it up well to the body and head which has his opponents always guessing. He has also shown the capability to land takedowns at a decent rate as he averages 1.52 takedowns per 15 minutes and typically fights a very smart gameplan. Lastly, his cardio is among the best and he has no major weaknesses which is precisely why many argue he is among the pound for pound GOAT conversation.

His opponent, Yair Rodriguez is coming off an impressive second-round submission victory over Josh Emmett at UFC 284 in February. He is a flashy kickboxer with a dangerous combination of power and technique. He throws in good volume and will repeatedly look for openings to land his kicking attacks but can also be taken down and controlled as he defends takedowns at just 63% in the UFC. He is going to be competitive early in the fight and he is always dangerous to land a big head kick or spinning attack.

I struggle to see Rodriguez being able to match the output of Volkanovski over 25 minutes. The way Volkanovski blends everything together makes this a very difficult matchup for Rodriguez. He will likely need to hurt him early and Volkanovski is extremely durable, so I do not see that happening. Volkanovski by decision is the official pick although a later TKO would not surprise me at all.