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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 295! 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.

Jamall Emmers vs Dennis Buzukja
Emmers, -258; Buzukja, +210

Jamall Emmers is coming off a controversial split-decision loss to Jack Jenkins in June. Emmers comes from a collegiate wrestling background and averages right around two takedowns per 15 minutes. But he has some sharp striking as well with fast hands and powerful leg kicks. He keeps a high pace on the feet but sometimes does not fight the smartest game plan to give himself the best chance to win. His durability is also a concern as he has been finished in four of his seven professional losses.

His opponent, Dennis Buzukja is coming off a decision loss to Sean Woodson which was his UFC debut on short notice. Buzukja previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series but failed to earn a UFC contract at the time. He trains out of Longo and Weidman MMA in New York with guys like Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili. But he does not have nearly the same skillset of his training partners. He has a lot of heart but not much to go with it as he struggles defensively on the feet. He is able to mix in some wrestling against guys that cannot defend it but that will not be the case in this fight. Lastly, getting taken down multiple times and controlled by Woodson is a terrible look.

Emmers is always tough for me to trust especially as a sizable favorite but he really should be fine here. He is the better striker and wrestler and that should play out over 15 minutes. Emmers by decision is the official pick but I will likely be fading this fight on DraftKings as I do not see much of a ceiling.

Joshua Van vs Kevin Borjas
Van, -238; Borjas, +195

Joshua Van made his UFC debut in June and won a split-decision over Zhalgas Zhumagulov. He is the former Flyweight champion in Fury FC and seems to have a bright future. He is a regular training partner of Rafael Alves and is just 22 years old. He is primarily a striker and seems to have some power in his hands with five of his eight wins coming by knockout. He was originally supposed to face Kevin Borjas on Contender Series this past season, so I am excited that they booked it at the UFC level now.

Borjas won a contract on Contender Series after coming through as a big underdog in impressive fashion. Eight of his 10 career wins have come by knockout and he has only reached the third round three times in his career. But as with many of these Contender Series prospects, the regional competition has been very poor so he is relatively unproven. He comes from a Karate striking background and is a very technically sound striker. His defensive grappling seems like it could be an issue to me but only if you are able to take him down.

I expect this fight to play out on the feet for the majority with both guys landing volume. Van is likely more powerful, but Borjas is a little more clean and defensively sound. This one should come down to who the judges favor and in these close rounds it could be the power that swings it. Van by decision is the official pick but I have basically no interest in him on DraftKings.

John Castaneda vs Kyung Ho Kang
Castaneda, -142; Kang, +120

John Castaneda is coming off a decision win over Muin Gafurov in June. He has won three of his last four fights and looks to keep that momentum going this weekend. Castaneda is a very well rounded fighter with underrated power on the feet and a solid ground game to go with it. He has landed a knockdown in each of his last four fights and averages just under two takedowns per 15 minutes. He has been knocked out twice in his career which is really the only knock on him.

His opponent, Kyung Ho Kang is coming off a first-round submission victory in June over Cristian Quinonez. Kang is primarily a grappler as he averages two takedowns per 15 minutes and 12 of his 19 wins have come by submission. He is low volume on the feet, but he makes it count as he has landed four knockdowns over his last six fights. The biggest issue with Kang is the gas tank as he has had issues in the past when fights get extended. If he cannot find grappling success, then he generally does not have a backup plan.

I like the matchup for Castaneda as he should be the better striker if he can avoid getting clipped early. He is not easy to takedown and has never been submitted so I would be surprised to see Kang have much grappling success. Castaneda by TKO is the official pick.

Jared Gordon vs Mark Madsen
Gordon, -198; Madsen, +164

We last saw Jared Gordon when he fought Bobby Green in April and was knocked out in the first round due to an accidental head clash which was ruled a no contest. He has just one victory over his last four fights but has faced some stiff competition during that span. He does not carry any power in his hands whatsoever but he keeps a relatively high pace and will mix in the grappling as well as he averages two takedowns per 15 minutes. The main concern with Gordon is always his durability as he has been knocked out four times in his career not including that Green fight.

His opponent, Mark Madsen is coming off a third-round submission loss to Grant Dawson last November. Madsen comes from an Olympic level wrestling background and averages over three takedowns per 15 minutes. His striking defense still needs work, but his hands are improving and he does have some power. I am interested to see who wins the wrestling exchanges here because that likely decides the fight.

I expect this to be a competitive fight with both guys being able to land takedowns. I also think Madsen has most of the finishing upside on the feet which has me leaning his way in what should be a close fight. Madsen by decision is the official pick.

Nazim Sadykhov vs Viacheslav Borshchev
Sadykhov, -135; Borshchev, +114

Nazim Sadykhov is coming off a second-round submission victory over Terrance McKinney in July. He is primarily a striker and fights out of the southpaw stance. He wants to move forward and land some big shots on the feet and has the power to put your lights out. 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. The only real concern with him is that he is hittable in striking exchanges and has been clipped multiple times.

His opponent, Viacheslav Borshchev is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Maheshate in May. He comes from a high-level striking background as a former kickboxer and trains at Team Alpha Male. He is very technically sound on the feet and mainly looks to land powerful counters. The biggest issue with him is that he is very one-dimensional and cannot defend takedowns at all. Anyone that can grapple will continuously give him issues.

Borshchev is a good enough striker that can catch Sadykhov if he is not careful. However, he seems to be pretty durable and has mixed in some takedowns in the past on the regional scene which is an obvious path to victory for him here. Sadykhov by decision is the official pick.

Mateusz Rebecki vs Roosevelt Roberts
Rebecki, -550; Roberts, +400

Mateusz Rebecki was originally scheduled to face Nurullo Aliev who pulled out of the fight. Rebecki is 2-0 in the UFC and currently on a 15-fight winning streak. On the feet, his striking is very sloppy as he basically just moves forward and tries to wing heavy overhands while closing distance. But he has a strong ground game and averages 3.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. He is now the biggest betting favorite on the card and should be able to steamroll through the favorable matchup.

His opponent, Roosevelt Roberts is coming off a decision loss to Austin Hubbard in the Ultimate Fighter house. He was previously on a two-fight winning streak since being let go by the UFC in 2021. Roberts is a well-rounded fighter with sharp boxing and will look to mix in the leg kicks as well. He holds a brown belt in BJJ, but his defensive grappling is still suspect and he only defends takedowns at 58%.

I expect Rebecki to be able to land takedowns whenever he wants them. He should control him for as long as he wants to before finding a finish. Rebecki by submission is the official pick.

Loopy Godinez vs Tabatha Ricci
Godinez, -170; Ricci, +142

We last saw Loopy Godinez in September when she submitted Elise Reed in the second round. She is now on a three-fight winning streak and won five of her last six fights. Godinez is a well-rounded fighter that keeps a high pace. She is a decent boxer that wants to move forward and pressure her opponents against the fence. But she can also mix in the grappling as she averages just under four takedowns per 15 minutes. But we have seen the fight IQ be very questionable at times which is always a concern as a sizable favorite.

Her opponent, Tabatha Ricci is coming off a decision win over Gillian Robertson in June. She has now won four straight since dropping her UFC debut back in 2021. Ricci takes a lot of criticism from the MMA betting community for her one-dimensional approach. But she has clearly found success at the UFC level with notable wins over Gillian Robertson, Jessica Penne and Polyana Viana. Her striking still needs improvement and we have seen her fade in the final round. But her grappling is good and she has a style that correlates to winning minutes as she averages over four takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ.

I expect this fight to be competitive with both fighters landing some shots on the feet and both having the ability to grapple as well. But I feel that Ricci will be a lot more competitive on the feet than people are giving her credit and I see her as the better submission grappler as well making this a clear dog or pass situation. Ricci by decision is the official pick.

Steve Erceg vs Alessandro Costa
Erceg, -185; Costa, +154

Steve Erceg is coming off a big upset victory over David Dvorak at UFC 289 in June. That was his UFC debut on short notice and he impressed many people, myself included. Erceg is primarily a grappler as six of his 10 career wins have come by submission. But his striking is serviceable as well and he seems to be very durable. However, this seems like a classic spot where the market is overrating him due to him outperforming expectations in that UFC debut.

His opponent, Alessandro Costa is coming off a knockout victory over Jimmy Flick in June. Costa fought on Dana White’s Contender Series two seasons ago but failed to earn a contract that night after beating a tough opponent. He later fought Amir Albazi in his UFC debut and gave a decent account of himself all things considered. Costa has power in his hands and will throw some heavy leg kicks as well. He is also a capable submission grappler and may even be able to get the better of the grappling exchanges.

This is another close matchup but I worry about Costa’s gas tank being on short notice. I expect the fight to go longer which has me leaning towards Erceg. Erceg by decision is the official pick.

Pat Sabatini vs Diego Lopes
Sabatini, -120; Lopes, +100

Pat Sabatini got back in the win column his last time out with a second-round submission over Lucas Almeida in June. He has now won five of his six UFC bouts and two of those came by submission. He comes from a collegiate wrestling background and averages just under four takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. His striking is not great and he can be hurt on the feet and has been knocked out twice in his career. But his ground game is very solid and he has good control and submissions once he gets the fight there.

His opponent, Diego Lopes is coming off a first-round submission victory over Gavin Tucker in August. Lopes impressed us all in his UFC debut when he gave Movsar Evloev all that he can handle on short notice. But that along with the recent submission victory, has me feeling that Lopes is currently being overrated by the market. He is a dangerous submission grappler and holds a black belt in BJJ but his wrestling has never been great and he can be taken down and controlled as well.

I think this is a good matchup for Sabatini as neither guy has much to offer in the striking department. I favor Sabatini to spend more time in top position and he should be defensively sound enough not to get caught with something while Lopes is on his back. Sabatini by decision is the official pick.

Benoit Saint-Denis vs Matt Frevola
Saint-Denis, -230; Frevola, +190

Benoit Saint-Denis is really starting to gain the respect of most casual fans now after already being a heart throb in the sharp community. He has rattled off four straight victories since dropping his UFC debut back in 2021. He has an aggressive style as he keeps a very high pace which eventually breaks his opponents. He averages 4.72 takedowns per 15 minutes and nine of his 12 career wins have come by submission. What is so difficult to deal with is that he has great cardio and can keep the smothering pace for as long as needed although he has only gone to decision once in his career.

His opponent, Matt Frevola is coming off a first-round TKO victory over Drew Dober at UFC 288 in May. He is currently riding a three-fight winning streak and won all of them by first-round knockout. Although he has only shown off the power lately, Frevola is known as more of a grinder that wants to make you work and take you down as he averages 2.26 takedowns per 15 minutes. But he can also be taken down and controlled by better grapplers as he only defends takedowns at 42% and has been knocked out twice in his career.

This is a tough matchup for Frevola as Saint-Denis is very durable so I doubt he can hurt him on the feet. I also expect Saint-Denis to be able to land takedowns and control Frevola before eventually finding a finish. Saint-Denis by submission is the official pick.

Mackenzie Dern vs Jessica Andrade
Dern, -192; Andrade, +160

Mackenzie Dern is coming off a main event decision victory over Angela Hill in May. We know what to expect from Dern as she is one of the best submission grapplers across any female weight division. But her wrestling has never been good and she sometimes struggles to get the fight to the ground which is a concern. Her boxing has improved greatly over the years, but you still do not want her spending extended time striking, particularly in this fight.

Her opponent, Jessica Andrade is coming off a second-round submission loss to Tatiana Suarez in August. She is currently on a three-fight losing streak and was finished in all three of those fights. But Andrade has been fighting the best of the division for years and her power on the feet makes her a legitimate threat to nearly anyone she faces. The issue with Andrade is she seems to have lost a step and her durability is very questionable as well as she can be hurt on the feet and been submitted four times in her career.

This is another fun matchup as Andrade has the power to hurt Dern if she can keep it on the feet. But her defensive grappling is bad and Dern may only need one grappling exchange to finish the fight. Dern by submission is the official pick.

Tom Aspinall vs Sergei Pavlovich
Aspinall, -118; Pavlovich, -102

Tom Aspinall is coming off a first-round TKO victory over Marcin Tybura in July at UFC London. He is 6-1 in the UFC with his only loss coming against Curtis Blaydes where he blew out his knee in 15 seconds. He is a dangerous finisher with all of his wins coming inside the distance and most of them being in the first round. He comes from a boxing background and is fast for the Heavyweight division and will mix in some sharp leg kicks as well. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns and holds a black belt in BJJ which may play a key factor in this fight.

His opponent, Sergei Pavlovich is coming off a first-round TKO victory over Curtis Blaydes in what was the title eliminator fight. Pavlovich is a scary man with his last seven victories coming by first-round knockout. It is very clear that the game plan is to find an opening to land one of his big hammers and get you hurt. Once he has you hurt, he is like a dog with a bone and will hunt the finish immediately. But aside from the brutal power he possesses, I still see some holes that Aspinall may be able to take advantage of.

For starters, Aspinall is going to have a clear speed advantage in the striking exchanges. Pavlovich seems to struggle when he cannot find his range and Aspinall’s quickness could give him issues with that. Additionally, the only time we have seen someone clinch with Pavlovich he did not look good. Granted it was years ago, but Alistair Overeem was able to tire him out with clinching against the fence and take him down. Those are both areas that Aspinall should have success if he comes in with the right approach. Lastly, if Aspinall does not take advantage of any of those areas then this fight is still a high variance coin flip with both guys being able to hurt each other on the feet. Aspinall by TKO is the official pick.

Alex Pereira vs Jiri Prozachka
Pereira, -122; Prozachka, +102

Alex Pereira is coming off a split-decision victory over Jan Blachowicz in July. Pereira is a one-dimensional striker, but he has clear power in his hands with six of his eight wins coming by knockout. But his move to Light Heavyweight was uninspiring to me despite winning a bet on him last time out. The volume was not really there and he was taken down multiple times once again. I am not sure he should be favored in a title fight here with most of his win equity coming by knockout.

His opponent, Jiri Prozachka is coming off a sizable layoff after winning the belt against Glover Teixeira last June. Prozachka is a mad man and has obvious power in his own right with 25 of his 29 wins coming by knockout. He showed off some improvements in his grappling as well in his last fight which could play a role here if he mixes it up. The one glaring concern with Prozachka is his striking defense and durability as he will get hit and has been hurt multiple times, including two knockout losses.

This is another exciting matchup and one that I am favoring the underdog in Prozachka. Prozachka arguably has just as much knockout upside as Pereira and should have the grappling upside as well as more decision equity based on his higher output and cardio. Prozachka by TKO is the official pick.