fbpx

We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 77 in Las Vegas! We have an action-packed 13-fight slate on DraftKings which is usually the sweet spot for me assuming we don’t lose any fights. It also helps that we have $100K up for grabs to first place!

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.

Ailin Perez vs Ashlee Evans-Smith
Perez, – 165; Evans-Smith, +140

  Ailin Perez is coming off a second-round submission to Stephanie Egger in her UFC debut last September. She was scheduled to fight Hailey Cowan recently, but Cowan pulled out of the fight due to medical reasons. Perez is a 7-2 prospect fighting out of Argentina. She is primarily a grappler and does her best work on the mat although she is not a high-level grappler and we saw that exposed in her last fight. But against fighters that cannot defend takedowns and struggle to get back to their feet, she will be able to have some success. The level of competition has been low on the regional scene but her only two career losses have been against UFC fighters.

  Her opponent, Ashlee Evans-Smith is coming off a lengthy absence of over two and a half years since she last fought inside the octagon. Prior to the long layoff, she had lost four of her last five fights although she was facing stiffer competition than that of Perez. She is a high-volume striker that wants to keep the fight standing and brawl. The issue is that she struggles to defend takedowns at 66% in the UFC. Additionally, part of the long layoff was that she tested positive for steroids and had a major surgery as well.  

It is hard to know what to expect from Evans-Smith with all of the red flags. However, even at her best, this is not an easy matchup for her and it’s not like she was looking great prior to the layoff either. I expect Perez to have a grappling advantage and expect that to be the difference here with takedowns and potentially a submission as well. Perez by decision is the official pick.

Alex Munoz vs Carl Deaton III
Munoz, -150; Deaton, +130

  Alex Munoz is coming off a two-year layoff since he dropped a split-decision to Luis Pena back in 2021. He is 0-2 in the UFC and previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series during season two. Munoz comes from a division I wrestling background and was a two-time state champion in high school. He trains out of Team Alpha Male and it is clear that the game plan is to use his wrestling skills as he is not much of a finishing threat on the feet. The main issue with him is that if you can stop his wrestling then he does not have many tools to fall back on.  

His opponent, Carl Deaton III is coming off his UFC debut against Joe Solecki where he was submitted in the second round in February. Deaton trains out of American Top Team but skillset leaves more to be desired. He is not a technical striker but times his counter shots well and does carry some power when he lets his hands go. Nine of his 17 career wins have come by submission but it is clear that he will give up takedowns and you can control him for extended periods if you know how to defend submission attempts from guard.

  I expect the wrestling of Munoz to be the difference as he should be able to get multiple takedowns in this fight. On the feet, neither guy is a huge threat but I favor the technicality of Munoz who should be able to have success at kicking range as well. Munoz by decision is the official pick.

Azat Maksum vs Tyson Nam
Maksum, -425; Nam, +320  

Azat Maksum will make his UFC debut this weekend as a sizable favorite. He is a 16-0 undefeated prospect fighting out of Kazakhstan. Of his 16 victories, 12 of them have come inside the distance. He is primarily a grappler and he has shown some solid wrestling skills on the regional scene along with good submission grappling as well. His striking is not great but has improved over his last few fights and is competent enough to be able to get the fight where he needs it.  

His opponent, Tyson Nam is coming off a second-round submission loss to Bruno Silva in March. We know what to expect from Nam as he is a one-dimensional power puncher that needs to keep the fight on the feet. Of his 21 career wins, 13 of them have come by knockout and he has never been taken down in the UFC. But at nearly 40 years old, and being a low-volume power puncher at Flyweight is just not a great recipe for success.

  I expect Maksum to be able to implement his grappling where he should have a big advantage. Nam hits hard but his durability is a concern and Maksum will have the biggest edge in this matchup. Maksum by TKO is the official pick.  

Evan Elder vs Genaro Valdez
Elder, -295; Valdez, +245

  Evan Elder is coming off an unfortunate Dr. stoppage TKO loss due to a nasty gash right on his eyebrow. It was unfortunate because he was up two rounds going into the third where he suffered the laceration which lead to the loss. Elder is nothing special but he is a technical kickboxer that is very durable. He will faint the takedowns as well, but he is not a very good wrestler and will give up takedowns and control against better grapplers.

  His opponent, Genaro Valdez is coming off a decision loss to Natan Levy in December. He is 0-2 in the UFC since starting his career 10-0 on the regional scene. Valdez is a high-action fighter that wants to brawl as fast as possible in hopes to take your head off. He does have power and is going to swing with all he has on his wild hooks. But the glaring issue with him is his durability. He has only been knocked out once in his career, but he was dropped five times in the fight against Matt Frevola and was hurt multiple times against Levy as well. His cardio looked better his last time out, but it is still a concern as well for fights that make it out of the first round.  

I expect this fight to be very competitive in the first round while Valdez is fresh and I have concerns about Elder being a massive favorite over anyone in the UFC. That being said, Elder’s durability and toughness should be a key difference here and I expect him to hurt Valdez at some point in this fight. Elder by TKO is the official pick but Valdez is worth some exposure on DraftKings as well in case he hits his limited win condition.

Jack Della Maddalena vs Bassil Hafez
Maddalena, -625; Hafez, +440

  Jack Della Maddalena was originally scheduled to fight Sean Brady, but Brady had to pull out of the fight due to a medical issue. He then was scheduled to face a short notice replacement for UFC 290 but that fell through as well so here we are trying again. 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, Bassl Hafez is making his UFC debut on short notice. Hafez is a 31 year old prospect fighting out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and trains at Elevation Fight Team in Colorado. He just fought in Fury FC in February and won by third-round knockout which was his first career knockout. He is primarily a grappler and needs to get this fight to the ground. Three of his eight career wins have come by submission and that seems to be his only path to victory in this matchup.  

Hafez could make things interesting in round one if he has any success getting Della to the ground but I would be surprised. On the feet, this is an absolute beat down and I expect Hafez to struggle with the pace and volume of Della before eventually crumpling over. Maddalena by first-round knockout is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings.  

Melquizael Costa vs Austin Lingo
Costa, -205; Lingo, +175

  Melquizael Costa is coming off his UFC debut against Thiago Moises which was on short notice back at UFC 283 in January. He is a 19-6 prospect fighting out of Brazil and we should see a better version of him with a full training camp this time. He is primarily a striker and fights out of the southpaw stance. Of his 19 career victories, 13 of them have come inside the distance. He seems to be well-rounded enough but his biggest weakness is his defensive grappling as he can give up takedowns as we saw in his debut, and he has been submitted twice in his career.

  His opponent, Austin Lingo is coming off a second-round submission loss to Nate Landwehr in March. That loss snapped a two-fight winning streak and he looks to rebound this weekend. Lingo is also a striker by nature and keeps a good pace while the fight plays out on the feet. He struggles at times defensively but he does carry power. He has just three knockout victories but landed a knockdown against Jacob Kilburn and Luis Saldana in the UFC. His biggest issue is also his defensively grappling as any competent wrestler can have success getting him to the ground.  

I expect this fight to play out on the feet with both guys having spurts of success. Costa is likely to use more of his kicking ability where Lingo wants to get inside and land some of his big power shots. This fight should be competitive and I have interest in Lingo as one of the underdogs on this slate with a viable path to victory. This seems closer to a 50/50 kickboxing match then the current odds suggest and I am siding with Lingo whose power could be the difference here. Lingo by decision is the official pick.  

Victoria Dudakova vs Istela Nunes
Dudakova, -225; Nunes, +190

  Victoria Dudakova is making her UFC debut this weekend. She previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last season and won a contract with a convincing decision victory over Maria Silva as a sizable underdog. She is primarily a grappler and four of her six career wins have come by submission. She is coming off ACL surgery as she was dealing with chronic knee problems coming into that Contenders fight. The level of competition was low on the regional scene and the post-injury concerns are there, but her skillset on the ground is enough for her to win fights at the UFC level in this division.  

Her opponent, Istela Nunes is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Yazmin Juaregui in December. She is 0-3 in the UFC and was finished in two of those fights and is likely fighting for her job in this matchup. Nunes is a solid kickboxer and needs to keep the fight on the feet where she will have a clear advantage. But her issue is that her defensive grappling is not good and she only defends takedowns at 53%. You can take her down and control her and she will likely fade as the fight goes on.

  Despite the concerns on the Dudakova side, I do favor her in this fight. She is going to have a clear grappling advantage and I expect her to be able to get the fight where she needs it early and often. Dudakova by decision is the official pick.  

Melsik Baghdasaryan vs Tucker Lutz
Baghdasaryan, -170; Lutz, +145

  Melsik Baghdasaryan suffered his second career loss at UFC 284 in February as he was submitted in the second round by Josh Culibao. Baghdasaryan is a powerful striker that likes to start fast and has the power to put your lights out with hard elbows and devastating leg kicks. Of his seven career victories, five of them have come by knockout. His biggest issues are managing his gas tank and his defensive grappling if you can get the fight to the ground.

  His opponent, Tucker Lutz is coming off a second-round submission loss to Daniel Pineda in March. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak after winning his debut against Kevin Aguilar in 2021. Lutz comes from a high school wrestling background and averages just under two takedowns per 15 minutes. But he likes to strike at range as well and keeps a solid pace but still needs to improve his boxing defense.  

Baghdasaryan is going to have a clear striking advantage while the fight plays out on the feet, particularly in the first round. He is likely to test the chin of Lutz early and wins round one at a very high clip. But if Lutz can avoid getting knocked out and withstand the early storm, he is live to be competitive in rounds two and three, especially if he starts implementing the wrestling. I will have some exposure to both sides on DraftKings, but Baghdasaryan carries some obvious risk. Baghdasaryan by decision is the official pick.  

Nazim Sadykhov vs Terrance McKinney
Sadykhov, -145; McKinney, +125

  Nazim Sadykhov is coming off a third-round TKO victory via doctor’s stoppage over Evan Elder in his UFC debut in February. To be honest, he underwhelmed in that fight as he got clipped in the first round and was down two rounds going into the third so was lucky to land a fight stopping gash and get the win. He is mainly a striker and fights out of the southpaw stance. He wants to move forward and land some big shots on the feet. He is very well-rounded and can land takedowns but also defends them well and works back to his feet very quickly making him difficult to control on the mat.

  His opponent, Terrance McKinney is coming off a second-round TKO loss to Ismael Bonfim at UFC at UFC 283 in January. McKinney tried to pace himself more than he usually does in that fight and it simply did not matter. He is a kill or be killed style of fighter by nature and is going to be dangerous against anyone in the division in the first few minutes. But after that, he clearly starts fading and can be hurt as his durability is an issue having been knocked out four times in his career.

  McKinney is always live to land something big in the first exchange or aggressively get the fight to the ground and try to finish. For that reason, he is always a strong underdog to target on DraftKings. But I do favor Sadykhov stylistically in this fight. He is a better striker and even if he does get taken down, he will work back to his feet urgently. He has much better cardio than McKinney as well and will be able to take over as McKinney starts fading. Sadykhov by TKO is the official pick and this is a great fight to target on DraftKings.  

Francisco Prado vs Ottman Azaitar
Prado, -120; Azaitar, +100

  Francisco Prado is coming off a decision loss in his UFC debut at UFC 284 in February. That was his first career loss and he is looking to right the ship and get back in the win column this weekend. Prado is an 11-1 prospect fighting out of Argentina. Of his 11 victories, all of them have come inside the distance. He has only reached the third round once prior to his debut as he typically does most of his work early in the fight. He is primarily a striker and has explosive power with his big hooks being some of his best weapons. His cardio seemed fine in his debut, but he can be taken down and controlled by good grapplers.

  His opponent, Ottman Azaitar is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Matt Frevola in November. That was his first career loss and much like Prado, he has only reached the third round once in his career. He is a one-dimensional power puncher with 10 of his 13 career wins coming by knockout. His durability is a concern coming off the knockout loss and at 33 years old, he just does not have much upside in winning fights without landing an early knockout.

  This is going to be a firefight from the opening bell. Both fighters typically finish their fights early and neither are interested in fighting to a decision. There are some concerns on both sides and either guy can win by knockout, but I favor the younger fighter in Prado. He should be the more durable of the two and Azaitar leaves opening for hook shots constantly which plays right into Prado’s hands. I also expect Prado to have more in the tank if the fight does reach the later rounds. Prado by TKO is the official pick and this is a great fight to target on DraftKings.  

Norma Dumont vs Chelsea Chandler
Dumont, -145; Chandler, +125

  Norma Dumont is coming off a decision win over Karol Rosa in April. She is currently on a two-fight winning streak and looking to build on that momentum this weekend. Dumont is a technical boxer and she is not going to keep a high pace but she defends well and makes it tough for her opponents to get off on volume. She is also capable of clinching up and mixing in some grappling as she holds a brown belt in BJJ. Although she is solid, her lack of output and her durability concerns make her tough to back as a favorite.

  Her opponent, Chelsea Chandler is coming off an impressive first-round TKO victory in her UFC debut against Julija Stoliarenko last October. Chandler is a 5-1 prospect fighting out of Stockton, California. Of her five professional victories, three of them have come by finish. She is still pretty green in terms of MMA but she is a solid boxer and has clear power for the division. She has also shown the ability to land takedowns and has some vicious ground and pound when she gets the fight there.

  I expect this fight to be very competitive and could be tough to determine who is clearly winning rounds. Although Dumont is more proven at this stage, I favor the power and physicality of Chandler and think she will have success if she turns this into a dog fight. Chandler by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings.  

Walt Harris vs Josh Parisian
Harris, -165; Parisian, +140

We last saw Walt Harris in June of 2021 when he lost by TKO in the first round against Marcin Tybura. Now at 40 years old, he is currently on a three-fight losing streak and coming off a lengthy absence which does not look great on paper. But it really does not change much from his win condition as he has always been an early knockout or bust style of fighter. All 13 of his career wins have come by knockout but if he is unable to finish you then he fades badly and typically gets himself finished.

His opponent, Josh Parisian is coming off a decision loss to Jamal Pogues in February. Parisian is one of the worst fighters in the Heavyweight division. He is very hittable on the feet and has been finished three times in his career. He struggles defensively in terms of the grappling as well but he is tough and will not give up easy so it is possible he can take over if Harris gasses himself out.

This is your typical Heavyweight sloppy fight, but I favor the early finishing upside of Harris and do not trust Parisian to withstand the early storm. Harris by knockout is the official pick.  

**This fight has been cancelled**

Jun Yong Park vs Albert Duraev
Park, -150; Duraev, +130

Jun Yong Park is coming off a first-round submission victory over Denis Tiuliulin in February. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak since getting knocked out by Gregory Rodrigues. Park is a very well-rounded fighter and he pushes a good pace on the feet and can mix in the takedowns as well. He can be taken down himself though by better wrestlers and that is typically when he struggles in those style of matchups.

His opponent, Albert Duraev is coming off a split-decision victory over Chidi Njokuani in March. Duraev is primarily a grappler and averages just over two takedowns per 15 minutes. Of his 16 career victories, nine of them have come by submission and he does his best work on the mat. But the glaring issue with Duraev is his gas tank as he repeatedly fades in the later rounds. Once he gets tired, he becomes very lazy defensively and I struggle to want to have any investment in him against opponents with good cardio.

Duraev will likely have some grappling success early but I expect the gas tank and work rate to both be in favor of Park down the stretch. I think he takes over in rounds two and three and gets his hand raised. Park by decision is the official pick.  

Holly Holm vs Marya Bueno Silva
Holm, -165; Bueno Silva, +140

  Holly Holm is coming off a dominant decision victory over Yana Santos in March. At nearly 42 years old, she is still a difficult matchup for nearly anyone in the division. Despite coming from a kickboxing background, she has relied heavily on her grappling over the last couple years. With her physicality, it has clearly improved her longevity in the division as she is able to land multiple takedowns and hold her opponents up against the fence for extended periods. She is also extremely durable which helps.

Her opponent, Mayra Bueno Silva is coming off a second-round submission victory over Lina Lansberg in February. She is currently on a three-fight winning streak since dropping a decision to Manon Fiorot in 2021. Silva is a dangerous submission grappler with seven of her 10 career wins coming by submission, including in each of her last two fights. But she also has big power on the feet while she is fresh which makes her a dual-threat opponent early in her fights. Her biggest issues are her cardio and willingness to give up takedowns and fight off her back. Both of those will be key in this matchup.  

I expect Bueno Silva to be more dangerous in terms of finishing the fight whether it’s on the feet or the ground. But I struggle to believe she can confidently win rounds across 25 minutes against someone as physical as Holly Holm. I expect Holm to land multiple takedowns and bank control time. Holm will also have the cardio advantage if the fight gets extended. She just needs to avoid getting hurt on the feet early or getting caught with a submission during a grappling exchange. Holm by decision is the official pick.