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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 294! We have a fun 13-fight slate on DraftKings and hopefully we do not have any fights fall off. It also helps that on DraftKings we have another $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.

Shara Magomedov vs Bruno Silva
Magomedov, -238; Silva, +195

Shara Magomedov is an 11-0 prospect fighting out of Russia. Of his 11 career victories, 10 of them have come by knockout. He is primarily a striker and has powerful leg kicks that he will repeatedly look for throughout the fight. His level of competition has not been great on the regional scene but his striking should at least make him competitive at the UFC level while we gather more data about him. Lastly, he has only been to decision once in his career but seems to have good cardio.

His opponent, Bruno Silva is coming off a first-round submission loss to Brendan Allen in June. He has lost three of his last four fights but he is always dangerous early in the fight. Of his 23 career victories, 20 of them have come by knockout and he is going to carry his power for multiple rounds before he gasses out.  Historically, the way to beat him is by forcing him to grapple as he has been submitted seven times in his career. But he has been hurt multiple times on the feet as well so the durability is a concern.

I expect this to be a firefight from the opening bell. I favor the powerful kicking attack of Magomedov but Silva should carry more power in his hands if he is able to land. Both guys are capable of winning by knockout but I favor the UFC newcomer who seems more trustworthy in terms of the durability and the gas tank. Magomedov by TKO is the official pick but I will have some exposure to both sides on DraftKings.

Victoria Dudakova vs Jinh Yu Frey
Dudakova, -470; Frey, +360

Victoria Dudakova is coming off a first-round victory over Istela Nunes in June. She previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last year 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 seven career wins have come by submission. Her striking still needs work but she is good at getting the fight where she needs it as she averages nearly five takedowns per 15 minutes.

Her opponent, Jinh Yu Frey is coming off a decision loss to Elise Reed in June. She is currently on a three-fight losing streak and likely fighting for her job here. She comes from a Muay Thai striking background but typically doesn’t throw in volume and gets hit very often as well. Her takedown defense is solid statistically but she has not faced any good wrestlers so it is tough to gauge just how well she will do at keeping this fight standing.

Frey may put up more of a fight than her betting odds indicate but I still do not think she has the skillset to keep the fight standing and take advantage of her striking advantage. Dudakova will eventually get this fight to the ground and the takedowns will come easier as the fight goes on. Dudakova by submission is the official pick.

Nathaniel Wood vs Muhammadjon Naimov
Wood, -325; Naimov, +260 

Nathaniel Wood is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Andre Fili at UFC London in July. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak and looks to keep the momentum building this weekend. Wood is a high volume striker that will work behind his jab and mix in the calf kicks repeatedly. He is also a slick submission grappler as well although he is perfectly content to keep the fight on the feet where he tries to overwhelm his opponents with volume. You guys know that I have always been a Nathaniel Wood fanboy but the one concern with him is his durability as he has been knocked out twice in his career.

His opponent, Muhammadjon Naimov is coming off a TKO upset victory over Jamie Mullarkey in June. He is a powerful striker with five of his nine victories coming by knockout. However, he can be outgrappled and his gas tank is not great either. It is possible he can land a big shot early on Wood but that is his only win condition, similar to his last fight. From a skillset standpoint, Wood beats him everywhere.

If Wood chose to grapple then he would wipe through Naimov but he likely takes the harder approach and fights a kickboxing match with him. Even still, Wood is the much more technical striker and will be throwing and landing at a much higher clip. He simply needs to avoid getting hurt with a big punch and he cruises to victory. Wood by decision is the official pick.

Anshul Jubli vs Mike Breeden
Jubli, -395; Breeden, +310

Anshul Jubli is coming off a second-round finish over Jeka Saragih in February. He came off the Road to UFC tournament and seems to be a solid prospect. On the feet, he has some power and works the body well. He still needs work defensively as he can be tagged but he also goes to his wrestling and can land multiple takedowns. The cardio concerns I had previously seem to be disproven as well which is encouraging.

His opponent, Mike Breeden is coming off a first-round knockout loss against Terrance McKinney in August. He is 0-3 in the UFC and was finished in two of those fights. He is primarily a power puncher with eight of his 10 career wins coming by knockout. But he has never been good with his defensive grappling and he has been knocked out three times in his career as well.

I expect this fight to be competitive on the feet with both fighters landing some shots. Breeden needs to land something big early but if not then I expect him to go for a ride or two as Jubli should be able to land multiple takedowns. I favor the Jubli side in this fight but Breeden is a live underdog with KO1 upside who I do not expect to be owned much in tournaments which gives me some interest. Jubli by decision is the official pick.

Sedriques Dumas vs Abu Azaitar
Dumas, -180; Azaitar, +150

Sedriques Dumas is coming off a decision victory over Cody Brundage in June. Dumas is long for the division and is a powerful striker with devastating head kicks if he can land them. You guys know that I have been critical of Dumas in the past, but it was all relative to the betting market as he was getting way too much respect coming into the UFC. But now it seems to have at least somewhat corrected as he is still a dangerous fighter with some solid tools.

His opponent, Abu Azaitar is coming off a two-and-a-half-year layoff after getting knocked out by Marc-Andre Barriault at UFC 260. He is 37 years old and coming off such a long layoff which is a concern, and it was also due to a USADA suspension as well. Aside from those red flags, Azaitar is still a powerful striker with seven of his 14 career wins coming by knockout. But I do not trust the durability as much as he has been knocked out twice in his career.

This is a high variance matchup as both guys can land a big shot and put each other out. However, Dumas should be able to find an opening for his signature head kick but he also would have some grappling upside if he chose to use it. Dumas by TKO is the official pick.

Javid Basharat vs Victor Henry
Basharat, -550; Henry, +410

Javid Basharat is coming off a decision win over Mateus Mendonca in January. He is a 14-0 undefeated prospect fighting out of England. Of his 14 career victories, 11 of them have come by finish. He is a great striker who will throw in volume and has the cardio to push a pace for 15 minutes if needed. But he has a very well-rounded game as well as he averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and has a slick submission game to go with it.

His opponent, Victor Henry is coming off a split-decision victory over Tony Gravely in March. Henry is primarily a striker and keeps a high output for 15 minutes. Statistically speaking, he lands more volume than Basharat, but he struggles defensively which is where Basharat should have a sizable advantage. Additionally, he has solid takedown defense but has still been taken down in each of his three fights.

This fight will likely play out closer than the betting odds suggest but I still favor Basharat to get it done. He is much better defensively and he should be able to get the fight to the ground as well where he will hold an advantage. Basharat by decision is the official pick.

Trevor Peek vs Mohammad Yahya
Peek, -148; Yahya, +124

We last saw Trevor Peek as he dropped an exciting decision to Chepe Mariscal in June. Peek is a mad man and will throw big hammers (literally) trying to get you out of there. All eight of his career wins have come by knockout. But as we saw in his last fight, when the early knockout does not materialize and he starts to fade, he does not have any real skills to fall back on. But he has good cardio and absolutely has that dog in him so he will keep coming for 15 minutes. Anyone with good durability and a solid well-rounded game could give him fits assuming they can walk through the fire.

His opponent, Mohammad Yahya is making his UFC debut this weekend. He is a 12-3 prospect fighting out of Dubai. Of his 12 victories, seven of those have come by knockout. He is the former UAE Warriors Lightweight champion but the level of competition over there could have been better. He does not seem to be much of a threat in the stand up but he is capable of going to his wrestling as he has landed multiple takedowns across his fights. Lastly, he seems hittable on the feet and has been hurt multiple times and finished three times in his career.

This is a low-level fight which always adds a layer of variance. But I side with Trevor Peek as I am not convinced that Yahya will be able to withstand the crazy pressure and power of Peek early in the fight. But if he can stay alive then he is live to land multiple takedowns and take over in the later fights. Peek by TKO is the official pick, but I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings as this is a great fight to target.

Muhammad Mokaev vs Tim Elliott
Mokaev, -455; Elliott, +350

Muhammad Mokaev is coming off a third-round submission over Jafel Filho at UFC 286. He is an undefeated prospect with a 10-0 record and five submission victories. He is just 23 years old and has looked mostly dominant through his four UFC bouts. He is primarily a grappler and averages over seven takedowns per 15 minutes. He has a smothering style that makes it very hard for his opponents to get much offense going as they are constantly having to defend takedowns and work back to their feet. If you force him to stand and strike then you can have success against him because his striking is still developing.

His opponent, Tim Elliott is coming off a decision win over Victor Altamirano in June. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak and looking to play spoiler this weekend. He comes from a wrestling background and averages just under four takedowns per 15 minutes. He has been dealing with some personal issues outside of the octagon recently but when he is at his best, he can push a serious pace. The concern with Elliott for me has always been his durability as he has been wobbled multiple times over his last few fights and has been submitted five times in his career.

I expect to see many exciting grappling exchanges in this fight. Elliott is likely to have some success in the wrestling and grappling but he also makes a lot of mistakes due to his overconfidence in his ability on the mat. I think he will be too willing to grapple with Mokaev and eventually pay the price. Mokaev by submission is the official pick.

Said Nurmagomedov vs Muin Gafurov
Nurmagomedov, -205; Gafurov, +170

Said Nurmagomedov is coming off a decision loss to Jonathan Martinez in March. That loss snapped a four-fight winning streak for him and he looks to rebound this weekend. Nurmagomedov is a very technical striker with powerful leg kicks and spinning attacks. He is also an opportunistic submission grappler with five submission victories on his record although he rarely looks for takedowns. The issue with Nurmagomedov is that he is low volume on the feet and tends to fade as the fight gets extended as well.

His opponent, Muin Gafurov is coming off a decision loss to John Castaneda in his UFC debut on short notice. He previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series but dropped a split-decision to Chad Anheliger. He fights out of Tajikistan and is a two-time world combat sambo world champion. He has clear power on the feet and is capable of landing multiple takedowns as well. But his control is not great and managing his cardio has been an issue in the past as well although it looked good against Castaneda. Lastly, he tends to put his neck where it does not belong and someone with a tight guillotine like Nurmagomedov may be able to make him pay.

This is another fight where I think the underdog can make it competitive but likely loses. Nurmagomedov is never a guy that covers big margins in terms of round winning but I really see Gafurov getting finished here. Whether he gets club and subbed or sticks his neck out there too long diving in on a takedown. Nurmagomedov by submission is the official pick.

Ikram Aliskerov vs Warlley Alves
Aliskerov, -575; Alves, +425

We last saw Ikram Aliskerov win by first-round knockout over Phil Hawes at UFC 288. He is a former multiple time combat sambo world champion, and his only professional loss came against Khamzat Chimaev back in 2019. His takedowns and grappling are when he is at his best, but his striking is serviceable as well and he clearly has knockout power as we saw in his last fight.

His opponent, Warlley Alves is coming off a split-decision loss to Nicolas Dalby in January at UFC 283. Alves is historically a finish or be finished style of fighter. 10 of his 14 career wins have come inside the distance as he has power on the feet and holds a black belt in BJJ. But he is also known for having cardio issues and having some quit in him which likely doesn’t bode well for him in this matchup and he is also moving up a weight class on short notice. But you can never fully overlook him because of his early finishing potential.

This is another great fight to target on DraftKings as I expect the winner to score well. I expect Aliskerov to go to his grappling and wear on Alves before eventually breaking him down the stretch. Aliskerov by TKO is the official pick.

Magomed Ankalaev vs Johnny Walker
Ankalaev, -360; Walker, +285

We last saw Magomed Ankalaev fight to a draw against Jan Blachowicz for the vacant Light Heavyweight strap. Ankalaev is one of the most technical fighters in the division but I still have issues with his round winning ability. He is not a big volume guy and averages less than one takedown per 15 minutes so he typically wins on thin margins and that was evidenced by his last fight as well. He was also susceptible to the leg kicks which could be a factor in this fight. But regardless, Ankalaev is the more skilled fighter but it is just a question of if he will use his tools to optimize for a victory.

His opponent, Johnny Walker is coming off a decision victory over Anthony Smith in May. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak and looking to play spoiler this weekend. Walker is historically not a good round winner but he does have some physical intangibles to go along with his explosive early finishing ability. Of his 21 career wins, 16 of them have come by knockout and many of those were inside the first round. He is at a disadvantage from a technicality standpoint in this fight but he is working with a seven-inch reach advantage which should help. He will need to keep the fight on the feet and attack the legs of Ankalaev to keep the rounds competitive outside of any big shots. The concern with Walker is that he can be controlled on the mat and has also been knocked out four times in his career.

I am not sure if Ankalaev is a huge knockout threat to Walker on the feet but he should be able to land multiple takedowns and control him on the mat. But he has been content to stand and trade at times for too long and I question the ceiling for him on DraftKings. Ankalaev by decision is the official pick but I will likely be overweight to Walker as a live underdog.

Khamzat Chimaev vs Kamaru Usman
Chimaev, -305; Usman, +245

Khamzat Chimaev is officially moving up to 185 lbs. and looking to make a title run in this division. It was anticipated as he had struggled to make 170 lbs. in the past and his fight against Kevin Holland last year was at a Catchweight. Chimaev is a forceful grappler with a smothering style and he averages just under four takedowns per 15 minutes. His striking is still improving but he clearly has the power to put guys lights out when he connects clean. The concern with Chimaev is that he is very hittable in striking exchanges and we saw that against Gilbert Burns. He has also slowed down some in fights that were extended past the first round. This is clearly his toughest test to date against a former UFC champion in Kamaru Usman.

Usman is taking the fight on short notice and up a weight class. He is coming off a rematch loss against Leon Edwards for the Welterweight title in May. He is mostly known for being a great wrestler and averages just under three takedowns per 15 minutes. But he is also a good striker as well and should be the cleaner striker of the two while the fight plays out on the feet. But the concern with Usman is that it does seem to me that he is declining in a couple areas recently. He is over 36 years old now and has had notorious knee problems for years and it seemed clear in his last fight against Edwards. But what was more concerning to me is that we did not really see him fight behind his strong jab hardly. He seemed like a desperate crotch sniffer that was doing nothing with the takedowns and that simply will not work here.

This is an interesting dynamic because many times when you have two good wrestlers, it turns into a boxing match. If that happens here, then Usman is a very live underdog. Part of me thinks that is possible but the other part of me thinks that Usman is the trap ‘value’ play of the week. The physical advantages and explosiveness will be enough on the Chimaev side that he will be able to overwhelm the older Usman both on the feet and be able to get takedowns when he wants them. Chimaev by submission is the official pick.

Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski
Makhachev, -285; Volkanovski, +230

This was originally supposed to be the Charles Oliveira rematch but after Oliveira was forced to withdraw due to injury, Volkanovski will be stepping in on short notice for his rematch of the Lightweight title. These two squared off in February of this year and the fight was honestly much better than I expected. Makhachev’s control grappling was the difference but Volkanovski made him work for it every second and even had some big moments on the feet including a knockdown. Makhachev is still one of the best grapplers in the division and I see a similar gameplan for him in this fight as well. He averages over three takedowns per 15 minutes and needs to get the fight to the ground where he will be in control.

On the flip side, Volkanovski will have the striking advantage and despite Makhachev showing improvements, that was clear in their first fight. He will be throwing and landing more volume than Makhachev and proved in the first fight that he has the power to potentially hurt him as well. The issue is that he will likely be fending off takedowns and submission attempts similar to last time except he did not have a full camp to prepare this time around.

I will be rooting for Volkanovski but do see this fight playing out similarly to the first fight with Makhachev’s takedowns and control grappling being the difference. Makhachev by submission is the official pick.