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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 298! We have a stacked 12-fight slate on DraftKings and the Featherweight strap on the line. 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.

Miranda Maverick vs Andrea Lee
Maverick, -198; Lee, +164

Miranda Maverick is coming off a third-round submission victory over Priscila Cachoeira at UFC 291 last July. Maverick is a well-rounded fighter with Muay Thai striking and a brown belt in BJJ. She also averages just under 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. However, most of those came against poor defensive grapplers as I do not think Maverick’s wrestling ability is very good at all. Her striking is limited as well as she fights with her hands down and does not put a ton of volume out there.

Her opponent, Andrea Lee is coming off a decision loss to Natalia Silva at UFC 292 in August. Lee is currently on a three-fight losing streak and needs to get back in the win column this weekend. Lee is a technical boxer and will have a striking advantage in this fight. But what I think is being underrated is her wrestling ability as most people expect the grappling to be an advantage for Maverick and I disagree. Lee is very strong in the clinch and has good body lock takedowns and great Judo. She has also fought the much better level of competition up to this point and I think the betting odds are due to recency bias. The only real concern with Lee is that her optics are poor at times, particularly when she gets tired in fights.

I expect Lee to be the better striker and scoring more on the feet as she is better defensively and historically a much higher output than Maverick. Both fighters have the ability to land takedowns but I think Lee will get the better of those exchanges as well. Lee by decision is the official pick and she is one of my favorite underdogs to target on DraftKings this week.

Oban Elliott vs Val Woodburn
Elliott, -290; Woodburn, +235

Oban Elliott is making his UFC debut as he earned a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series this past season with a decision victory over Kaik Brito. Elliott is a 9-2 prospect fighting out of Wales. He previously fought over in Cage Warriors and is primarily a wrestler. He goes for takedowns in most of his fights but he is not a great wrestler and typically does not control guys that well either. On the feet, he tries to push a pace but gets sloppy defensively and will eat some shots. His gas tank has been suspect in the past at times but looked fine against Brito in his last fight which was a high pace that he fought through adversity in.

His opponent, Val Woodburn is coming off a first-round knockout to Bo Nickal last year and is dropping down a weight class this weekend. Woodburn was only signed to the UFC as a last-minute replacement to keep Bo Nickal on the UFC 290 card. He has fought basically nobody on the regional scene and I doubt he will stick around the UFC long. That being said, what the guy does have is big power and he has won five of his seven career wins by knockout. He is also shorter and #SuperThicc so Elliott could have some difficulty taking him down early.

I expect most of the field to ignore Woodburn and I get why. But despite Elliott being the clearly more skilled fighter, he has some defensive issues that give me concern against a powerful fighter like Woodburn. For that reason, I will have some exposure to Woodburn on DraftKings and I expect the winner to score well. Elliott by submission is the official pick.

Danny Barlow vs Josh Quinlan
Barlow, -198; Quinlan, +164

Danny Barlow is another UFC fighter making his debut this weekend that fought on last season of Contender Series. is a 7-0 undefeated prospect fighting out of Tennessee. Of his seven career wins, four of them have come by knockout and all of those were inside the first round. He comes from a very athletic background and has explosive power on the feet. He fights out of the southpaw stance and has powerful leg kicks and is very long for the division. He typically stays attack with his kicking attack and uses his length well to compliment his knockout power. I have some concerns with his defensive grappling at the UFC level but basically just because it was not tested much on the regional scene.

His opponent, Josh Quinlan is coming off a decision loss to Trey Waters in April of last year. Quinlan struggled with the range of the longer Waters and I think that is key in this matchup as well. He will be at a seven-inch reach disadvantage against Barlow and it will be difficult for him to find his boxing range. He does have power and strong calf kicks as well, but I see him struggling to get inside against Barlow.

I favor Barlow significantly in this fight. He is a powerful boxer and should be able to use his tools to keep Quinlan out of range. Unless Quinlan is able to close distance and try to wrestle, I think this could be a blowout. Barlow by knockout is the official pick.

Zhang Mingyang vs Brendson Ribeiro
Mingyang, -130; Ribeiro, +110

Zhang Mingyang is making his UFC debut this weekend. He previously fought on Road to UFC back in 2022 but sat out last year due to an injury. He is a 16-6 fighter who fights out of China and all 16 of his wins have come by finish. Just three of his 22 career fights have gone outside of the first round. He has big power on the feet but has been finished multiple times, including by Askar Mozharov – yes, that guy.

His opponent, Brendson Ribeiro is making his UFC debut off Contender Series this past season. He came through as a huge underdog and won by first-round knockout. He is a 15-5 prospect fighting out of Brazil. Of his 15 professional wins, all of them have come by finish. Similar to Mingyang, he is not used to seeing the third round as he has only done so twice in his career. He is the former Shooto Brazil Light Heavyweight champion and clearly has some finishing ability. But on the feet, he is sloppy overall and does not react well to being hit. He has also relied on his grappling at times and holds a brown belt in BJJ.

This fight is going to end early and the winner will have a strong case for the optimal lineup. For that reason, I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings, but the official pick is Mingyang by TKO as I trust his durability more than Ribeiro.

Rinya Nakamura vs Carlos Vera
Nakamura, -1350; Vera, +800

Rinya Nakamura is coming off a dominant performance over Fernie Garcia last August. Nakamura comes from a high level wrestling background and averages over four takedowns per 15 minutes. He is undefeated with an 8-0 professional record and five of those wins coming by knockout. He has explosive power on the feet but swings wildly while trying to take your head off.

His opponent, Carlos Vera is making his UFC debut this weekend. He previously fought on The Ultimate Fighter and lost a decision to Brad Katona. Prior to that, he was on a four-fight winning streak on the regional scene. But at 36 years old, it does not make much sense as to why is in the UFC now and I expect him to struggle heavily with the power and wrestling of Nakamura. Nakamura by KO is the official pick and he is an obvious target on DraftKings.

Marcos Rogerio De Lima vs Justin Tafa
De Lima, -142; Tafa, +120

We last saw Marcos Rogerio De Lima when he was knocked out in round one by Derrick Lewis at UFC 291 last June. That loss snapped a two-fight winning streak for him and he looks to rebound this weekend. De Lima is a powerful striker with clear finishing ability and devastating leg kicks as well. But he also has a solid ground game when he wants to use it and he averages nearly 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes.

His opponent, Justin Tafa is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Austen Lane at UFC 293 in September. Tafa has four wins in the UFC and all four came by first-round knockout so we know the kind of upside that he could have. He is a one-dimensional power puncher and fights out of the southpaw stance. He is typically just looking to land his big left hand and his cardio has been suspect at times.

I expect this fight to be a banger for as long as it lasts. Let’s hope it ends early so it does not turn into a gassed out Heavyweight slop fest. I do think both fighters have round one finishing upside here and will target both sides heavily this weekend. I slightly favor De Lima as he has more ways to win if the fight gets extended. De Lima by TKO is the official pick.

Amanda Lemos vs Mackenzie Dern
Lemos, -130; Dern, +110

Amanda Lemos is coming off a title shot loss at UFC 292 against Weili Zhang where she was basically dominated throughout the entire fight. Lemos is one of the hardest hitters in the division and a true knockout threat against anyone. But she is low output on the feet and needs to land a big shot to swing rounds or finish the fight. Her two clear flaws are her cardio and her defensive grappling and we have seen her pay the price for the both of these issues in previous fights.

Her opponent, Mackenzie Dern is coming off a knockout loss to Jessica Andrade at UFC 295 in November. Dern has made large improvements with her striking ability and I would even expect her to be more active than Lemos early in the fight. She is a dangerous submission grappler but has notoriously struggled to get fights to the ground where she needs it with just a 14% takedown accuracy in the UFC.

This is another great fight to target on DraftKings because I expect it to end early and the winner to score well. Dern is good enough that she could end the fight in one grappling exchange but I worry about her getting the opportunity to grapple against the powerful Lemos. I slightly side with Lemos getting the finish but will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings. Lemos by TKO is the official pick.

Check out the new FightPickSim that helps create projections and optimal lineup percentages based on YOUR picks!

Anthony Hernandez vs Roman Kopylov
Hernandez, -205; Kopylov, +170

The last time we saw Anthony Hernandez, he won by third-round finish over Edmen Shahbazyan last May. Fluffy is historically one of the best DraftKings scorers on the slate as he has an aggressive wrestling pace and the ability to rack up multiple takedowns. He is also a legitimate finishing threat as well and has scored an average of over 116 DraftKings points across his five UFC victories. His one glaring weakness is that he is hittable on defense and has been hurt to the body multiple times inside the octagon.

His opponent, Roman Kopylov is coming off his third straight second-round knockout victory when he knocked out Josh Fremd in September. He is currently on a four-fight winning streak and looking to keep riding that momentum to play spoiler this weekend. Kopylov is a technical kickboxer with legitimate power as 11 of his 12 career wins have come by knockout. His defensive grappling is likely still an issue but he has shown solid takedown defense which has forced his opponents to strike with him.

I expect the grappling of Hernandez to be the biggest advantage in this fight. Kopylov will need to keep the fight standing at all costs and while he was able to do that against lesser opponents, I am not sure he will be able to against Fluffy. Hernandez by submission is the official pick.

Merab Dvalishvili vs Henry Cejudo
Dvalishvili, -205; Cejudo, +170

Merab Dvalishvili is coming off his first main event fight last March where he largely dominated Petr Yan to a decision victory. He has one of the highest motors on the UFC roster and he is another fighter that likes to rack up takedowns as he averages over 6.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. He does not have great control on the mat and that allows his opponents to work back to their feet temporarily before going for another ride. He usually keeps a high pace on the feet as well but gets sloppy at times and has been rocked multiple times.

His opponent, Henry Cejudo is coming off a split-decision loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288 which was a shot at the belt. At 37 years old, it is hard to imagine that Cejudo is the same fighter that he used to be back at 125 lbs. He will always have his Olympic level wrestling but the athleticism and the output have surely declined. It will be tough for him to match the hellacious pace of Dvalishvili and Cejudo is content to accept the back foot as well.

I expect the output and pace to be too much for Cejudo in this fight. He likely has to hurt Dvalishvili to stop the forward pressure and I do not see that happening at a very high clip. Dvalishvili by decision is the official pick.

Ian Garry vs Geoff Neal
Garry, -225; Neal, +185

This fight was originally booked at UFC 292 but Geoff Neal pulled out of the fight due to undisclosed health reasons. Then Ian Garry pulled out of his fight against Vicente Luque at UFC 296 in December so now we get the original booking of Neal vs Garry.

Garry is coming off a dominant performance over Neil Magny at UFC 292 in August. He is an undefeated prospect with an 13-0 professional record. Of his 13 victories, seven of them have come by knockout. He is a great striker and has clear power on the feet and will throw in volume as well. The biggest issue that I have with Garry is his striking defense as he is extremely hittable and relies on head movement too much at times. I still believe that the better fighters in the division will give him real problems but while he continues to get matchups against middling veterans, he is going to cruise.

Neal is coming off a third-round submission loss to Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 285 last March. Neal is a high-volume striker with legitimate knockout power as he has landed eight knockdowns in the UFC and nine of his 15 professional wins have come by knockout. He will likely need to hurt Garry in this fight as I do not see him being able to keep pace with the volume coming back at him. Garry by decision is the official pick.

Robert Whittaker vs Paulo Costa
Whittaker, -225; Costa, +185

Robert Whittaker is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 290 last July. He is very 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 34 takedowns over his last six fights and that could be another potential advantage for him this weekend. The only real concern with Whittaker is the durability as he is coming off the knockout loss and has been hurt multiple times throughout his career.

His opponent, Paulo Costa is coming off a sizable layoff as we last saw him at UFC 278 when he won a decision over Luke Rockhold. Costa is a powerful striker who will throw in volume and mix it up nicely between the leg kicks and working the body. Of his 14 career wins, 11 of them have come by knockout and he will likely need to add one more in that column to get a win this weekend.

I feel Costa is knockout or bust in this matchup. Whittaker is too good defensively and should be able to stick and move on the outside along with mixing in some wrestling here and there as well. Whittaker winning a decision is the most likely outcome but I will have some exposure to Costa for the early knockout possibility and he is my preferred DraftKings side.

Alexander Volkanovski vs Ilia Topuria
Volkanovski, -125; Topuria, +105

Alexander Volkanovski took a rematch with Islam Makhachev up a weight class on 11 days’ notice to save the UFC 294 card last October. He ended up getting knocked out inside the first round and I feel that outcome is why the market is not as high on him as they used to be. But for my money, Volkanovski is still one of the best pound for pound fighters on the roster. 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 mixes it up well which has his opponents always guessing. He has also shown the capability to land takedowns at a decent rate as he averages 1.84 takedowns per 15 minutes and typically fights a very smart gameplan. Lastly, his cardio is among the best and he has no major weaknesses unless you think his durability is a concern coming off the knockout loss.

His opponent, Ilia Topuria is coming off an absolute beat down over Josh Emmett last June. Topuria is a very powerful boxer with legitimate knockout power as he has landed four knockdowns across his six UFC fights. But he also has a solid ground game as well as he averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. This is clearly a big step up in competition for him and easily the best fighter he has ever faced. It was good to see him go five rounds with Emmett so we know the cardio can hold up across 25 minutes, but will it hold up against Volkanovski for that long? Only time will tell.

This is a great matchup with arguably one of the best pound for pound fighters on the UFC roster versus one of the most exciting young prospects in the division. As much as I love Topuria, I feel this is too much too soon as Volkanovski is such a strong round winner and I could see Topuria struggling down the stretch. Volkanovski by decision is the official pick.

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