We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Mexico! We have a solid 13-fight slate on DraftKings this weekend. They will be fighting at high elevation which could cause cardio issues for some of the fighters. Be sure to check out my article I did that outlined the data behind fighting at elevation as it could help this weekend. It also helps that on DraftKings we have another $100,000 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.

Muhammad Naimov vs Erik Silva
Naimov, -305; Silva, +245

Muhammad Naimov is coming off a decision victory over Nathaniel Wood at UFC 294 in October. Naimov is a powerful striker with five of his 10 career wins coming by knockout. He has been taken down and out wrestled in the past but has clearly been working on his ground game as his wrestling looked much better in his last fight. It does seem like Naimov has been very fortunate to be 2-0 inside the UFC to me and I worry his luck will run out soon.

His opponent, Erik Silva is coming off a third-round submission loss in his UFC debut to TJ Brown at UFC 282. That loss snapped an eight-fight winning streak for him on the regional scene and he looks to get back in the win column this weekend. Silva is an explosive striker with heavy leg kicks and power in his punches. He comes from a Karate striking background and keeps his hands low which makes him eat a lot of clean strikes. He is typically striking to initiate his grappling as he possesses a solid ground game as well and has some slick back takes and multiple submission victories. The concern with Silva is mainly the age as he turns 37 years old next month and was rocked in his last fight before being finished.

I think the line is wide here and may even end up betting Silva this weekend which gives me some interest in him for DraftKings. Silva has explosive knockout ability on the feet, much like Naimov. But both fighters are also capable of landing takedowns. I expect Silva to be the better submission grappler but he can also be stuck on his back at times and is likely at a cardio disadvantage as well. Naimov by TKO is the official pick but I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings.

Felipe Dos Santos vs Victor Altamirano
Dos Santos, -305; Altamirano, +245

Felipe Dos Santos is coming off a decision loss to Manel Kape at UFC 293 in September. He is a Chute Boxe prospect and trains with UFC fighters, Charles Oliveira, Danny Santos and Mateus Mendonca among others. Dos Santos relies on constant pressure. He moves forward and utilizes his kicking attack with switch kicks and front kicks consistently. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns although his control is not great. I do worry about him in certain matchups though as he gets very sloppy when pressing forward and will eat some shots. He can also give up takedowns and does not always work back to his feet urgently. Lastly, his cardio checked out in his UFC debut as he was able to keep a high pace for 15 minutes with nonstop activity.

His opponent, Victor Altamirano is coming off a decision loss to Tim Elliott last June. I always refer to him as the budget version of Brandon Royval who is coincidently fighting on the same card this weekend. But Altamirano is very similar to Royval in that he is not super technical, but he is very active. He does not carry much power at all in his hands but he is constantly pumping his jab and mixing in the leg kicks well. He is also capable of landing takedowns as he averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes. The concern with him is that he is very sloppy defensively and will eat some shots. He has also been stuck on his back multiple times which is never good optics.

This is going to be a fun fight as both fighters want to move forward and spam volume. Both fighters have issues defensively and both get sloppy in multiple areas. But I side with Dos Santos as I think he carries more power and may even have a cardio advantage as well. Dos Santos by decision is the official pick.

Denys Bondar vs Ronaldo Rodriguez
Bondar, -115; Rodriguez, -105

Denys Bondar is coming off a third-round knockout loss to Carlos Hernandez last June. I know it’s technically considered a “technical decision” but real ones know he got knocked out. Bondar’s start to the UFC career has been riddled with fights falling off, a nasty injury and the previously mentioned knockout loss to Hernandez. He could be fighting for his job in this spot and will try to play spoiler against the hometown fighter. Bondar is a powerful striker with multiple first-round finishes but most of his wins have come by submission. He is capable of landing takedowns but gets sloppy in grappling exchanges and is very hittable on the feet.

His opponent, Ronaldo Rodriguez is making his UFC debut this weekend in front of his home crowd. Rodriguez previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series years ago and dropped a competitive decision to Jerome Rivera. He is a powerful striker that mainly relies on timing his big hook counters. He also has some sharp leg kicks and decent wrestling as well. He is also pretty slick with his submission game and has ended four fights by sub. The primary concern with Rodriguez is the lack of output on the feet as he regularly lets his opponents lead the dance.

I think Rodriguez is more live to finish the fight which gives me some interest on DraftKings and I expect him to be the lower owned side of the two. But I think more times than not, this fight does see the judges scorecards and if that’s the case then I expect Bondar to be the more active fighter outside of big moments. Bondar by decision is the official pick.

Fares Ziam vs Claudio Puelles
Ziam, -205; Puelles, +170

We last saw Fares Ziam in July of last year when he won a decision over Jai Herbert. Ziam is primarily a striker and he has an educated jab and sharp leg kicks. But he has also improved his clinch work and wrestling over his past few fights and now averages right around one takedown per 15 minutes. He is very sharp defensively and rarely lets his opponents to get off on volume in striking exchanges. The main concern with Ziam is that he is historically not going to push a pace as he is low output on the feet and has been submitted in the past.

His opponent, Claudio Puelles is coming off a TKO loss to Dan Hooker last year. Puelles is a dangerous submission grappler with seven of his 12 career wins coming by submission. But he is extremely one-dimensional as he has little tools outside of his kicks while the fight plays out on the feet. He averages nearly 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes but needs to get the fight to the ground or he likely gets out pointed here.

I expect Ziam to be able to keep this fight on the feet and win the striking exchanges. But he does not have much of a ceiling for DraftKings unless you think he finishes the fight (I don’t). I have more interest in taking some shots on Puelles on DraftKings as a win from him likely means an early submission. The official pick is Ziam by decision but I will likely be rooting for Puelles as I plan to fade Ziam on DraftKings.

CHAIREZ, -340; LACERDA, +270

These two fought in September but a premature stoppage deemed the fight a no-contest so they are running it back. Chairez is a 10-5 prospect fighting out of Mexico and all 10 wins have come by finish. He trains out of Entram gym in Mexico and will likely get a nice pop from the home crowd. 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 on the regional scene. The glaring issue of Chairez is his defensive grappling as he has been submitted twice in his career although he avoided it against Tatsuro Taira.

His opponent, Daniel Lacerda is coming off a second-round TKO loss to CJ Vergara last March prior to the fight with Chairez in September. He is 0-4 in the UFC and was finished inside of two rounds in each of those fights. Despite failing to find success in the UFC yet, he has had spurts of success in all of his fights and nearly even finished a few of those as well. He comes out like a bat out of hell and tries to put it on his opponents with powerful kickboxing and flashy submission attempts. The problem is when he cannot get the early finish, he typically wilts and gets finished as we have seen.

This is my favorite fight to target on DraftKings as the winner is a guarantee to score well (assuming we do not have another no-contest). I will have heavy exposure to both sides on DraftKings and am hoping the field has lost faith in Lacerda as a high-upside underdog. Chairez by TKO is the official pick but I plan to be overweight to both sides this week.

Mateus Mendonca vs Jesus Aguilar
Mendonca, -142; Aguilar, +120

Mateus Mendonca is coming off a disappointing performance where he lost to Nate Maness by first-round TKO as a big favorite. Mendonca is powerful on the feet and has some flashy kicks to go along with his nature athleticism. He is another Chute Boxe fighter and training partner of Dos Santos who is fighting on this card and Charles Oliveira. He comes from a Muay Thai background but is very well rounded and will look to mix in the grappling. He is a former two-time champion in jiu jitsu and holds a black belt in BJJ. The concern with Mendonca is that he does not have a high fight IQ as he will pull guard at times and look for leg locks too often. His cardio is also not great as he typically overexerts himself in round one searching for a finish.

His opponent, Jesus Aguilar is coming off a first-round TKO victory over Shannon Ross at UFC 290 last July. That was his first ever career knockout as he is not known for his power. Aguilar is more of a grappler as he averages nearly three takedowns per 15 minutes. If he is unable to get takedowns he will look to jump guillotine as he has finished five fights in that fashion. But he is undersized for the Flyweight division and will be at a nine-inch reach advantage in this fight. He is also not some stud grappler as he has been submitted twice in his career.

This fight has a wide range of outcomes but I do have some interest on DraftKings especially if it not projected to be owned much by the field. Both fighters have finishing ability and either guy could pull off a submission but I favor the bigger, stronger fighter in Mendonca to rebound this weekend. He should be able to big brother Aguilar in round one and will have multiple opportunities to lock something up on the mat. Mendonca by submission is the official pick.

Raoni Barcelos vs Christian Quinonez
Barcelos, -175; Quinonez, +145

Raoni Barcelos was a popular fighter that some even referred to as a “dark horse” in the division just a couple years ago. But now the experienced veteran has lost four of his last five fights and turns 37 years in a couple months. It seems as though he has started to regress and his durability is no longer rock solid either. Outside of the intangibles, the skillset is still there as he is a technical striker that will throw in volume and can mix it up in every area on the feet. He also has a solid ground game as well and averages nearly two takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ.

His opponent, Christian Quinonez is coming off a first-round submission loss to Kyung-Ho Kang last June. He got dropped before being submitted and that is the main issue with him is that he gets reckless defensively and can be cracked. But on the feet, he usually pushes a decent pace and does carry some power of his own with 10 of his 18 career wins coming by knockout. I do not trust the durability but Barcelos typically does not carry a ton of power.

This should be a competitive fight and I have zero interest in laying juice on the aging Barcelos who has not looked good recently. Quinonez will also have the home crowd and arrived in Mexico City early to get acclimated to the elevation whereas Barcelos did not. For those reasons and because I think this plays out more competitively than the line indicates, I am leaning into the underdog in Quinones and hoping he pulls off the upset. Quinonez by TKO is the official pick.

Manuel Torres vs Chris Duncan
Torres, -155; Duncan, +130

Manuel Torres is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Nikolas Motta last June. He is currently on a five-fight winning streak with all five of those wins coming in the first round. In fact, he has had just one career fight reach the second round. He is a powerful striker and is looking to take your head off with powerful hooks. He will mix in the leg kicks as well but head hunts too often and his cardio is entirely unproven.

His opponent, Chris Duncan is coming off a decision victory over Yanal Ashmouz last July. Duncan has won back-to-back decisions in the UFC since coming off the Contender Series. He is more of a brawler and has clear knockout power when he lands. But he is also capable of mixing in some takedowns as he averages over 3.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. The concern with him is that he is slow and plodding and his durability is no good. He has only been knocked out once in his career but has been rocked and wobbled multiple times over the last couple years.

This is a banger matchup and one that either fighter can win by knockout early. I favor Duncan if the fight were to get extended due to his wrestling ability and that he has shown he can fight for three rounds. But I really think this fight ends early and Torres is a powerful striker going up against someone that wants to brawl, but cannot take the punches. Torres by knockout is the official pick and this is a great fight to target on DraftKings.

Yazmin Juaregui vs Sam Hughes
Juaregui, -500; Hughes, +380

Yazmin Juaregui suffered her first career loss last time out at UFC 290 when she was knocked out instantly by Denise Gomes. Juaregui is a 10-1 prospect fighting in front of her home crowd in 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, Sam Hughes is coming off a decision win over Jaqueline Amorim at UFC 287. Hughes trains out of Fortis MMA and is an 8-5 fighter with five of her eight career wins coming inside the distance. She has come through as a big underdog in the past but those were much different matchups and I expect her to struggle against the powerful striking of Juaregui. She also struggles to defend takedowns at just 57% in the UFC but I doubt Juaregui tries to wrestle her.

I expect Juaregui to have a clear striking advantage and the power when she lands will be noticeably different than Hughes. Juaregui by TKO is the official pick but her price makes it tough to get up to her on DraftKings.

Raul Rosas Jr. vs Ricky Turcios
Rosas Jr., -278; Turcios, +225

Raul Rosas Jr. is coming off a first-round TKO victory over Terrence Mitchell in September. He is just 19 years old and 8-1 with five of his eight wins coming by submission. He comes from a high-level grappling background and holds a black belt in BJJ. But he is also a very solid wrestler and has shown good cardio as well. His only real weakness is on the feet as his striking is wild and he is way too reckless defensively which causes him to eat some clean shots.

His opponent, Ricky Turcios is coming off a split-decision win over Kevin Natividad in November of 2022. He’s not the most technical fighter by any stretch but he usually pushes a pace on the feet with nonstop kicks at range. My biggest issue is his willing to give up takedowns and play off his back along with poor fight IQ in general. That is going to be key in this fight as he is facing someone that wants to get the fight to the ground.

I expect Rosas Jr. to be able to get this fight to the ground as Turcios gets taken down multiple times in all of his fights. Rosas Jr. is very physical with his wrestling and good at getting to the back which is what I expect here. Rosas Jr. by submission is the official pick and he is an obvious target on DraftKings.

Daniel Zellhuber vs Francisco Prado
Zellhuber, -278; Prado, +225

Daniel Zellhuber is coming off a second-round submission victory over Christos Giagos in September at UFC Noche. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak since dropping his UFC debut to Trey Ogden.  Zellhuber is an exciting striker with a Muay Thai background. He is powerful and long for the division. He can be taken down by decent wrestlers but is generally good at working back to his feet and has some sneaky submission upside as well. The concern with him is that he is hittable in striking exchanges but has proven to be durable.

His opponent, Francisco Prado is coming off a first-round knockout over Ottman Azaitar last July. He is a powerful striker with six wins coming by knockout. All 12 of his career wins have come inside the distance and he has only fought into the second round four times in his career. He can be taken down and controlled by better grapplers and is going to be at an eight-inch reach disadvantage in this fight.

I expect Prado to struggle with the length of Zellhuber and think he will have trouble closing the distance. Zellhuber by decision is the official pick but a late finish is certainly in play as well.

Yair Rodriguez vs Brian Ortega
Rodriguez, -155; Ortega, +130

We last saw Yair Rodriguez when he fought for the belt at UFC 290 last year. He fell short against Alexander Volkanovski but that did not surprise anyone. 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 59% in the UFC. He is also fighting in front of his home crowd and has the experience of fighting at elevation multiple times.

His opponent, Brian Ortega is coming off a sizable layoff as he last fought in 2022 against Yair Rodirguez but suffered a should injury in the first round. He has lost three of his last four fights but those came against the top of the division, including Rodriguez. Ortega is a dangerous submission grappler with seven of his 15 career wins coming by submission. But he is one-dimensional and historically does not have great wrestling which can be an issue against the better fighters of the division.

I expect Rodriguez to have a clear speed advantage on the feet and to be able to land more volume with his array of striking tools. Ortega is so good on the mat that he may only need one grappling exchange but I think the takedown defense, striking, and experience at elevation will pay off as the fight extends. Rodriguez by TKO is the official pick and this is one of my favorite fights to target on DraftKings.

Brandon Moreno vs Brandon Royval
Moreno, -270; Royval, +220

In another rematch on this card, Brandon Moreno takes on Brandon Royval in our main event this weekend. These two fought back in 2020 and Moreno won by first-round TKO due to a shoulder injury of Royval. Moreno is super well-rounded with solid boxing and a strong ground game as he averages 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. He also has great cardio and has proven to be durable as well and will be fighting in front of his home Mexican crowd.

His opponent, Brandon Royval is coming off a decision loss to Alexandre Pantoja at UFC 296 in December. Royval is a mad man as he is continuously moving forward and spamming volume on the feet. He fights with his hands down much of the time and disregards his defense which has got him cracked multiple times. But he is a very slick grappler with good scrambles and opportunistic submission attempts. However, his takedown defense is nonexistent and good grapplers like Moreno should be able to control him on the mat.

This line does feel a little wide but Moreno is the rightful favorite to me. Moreno is just more proven in every area and can fall back on the takedowns if he needs to as well. This fight feels similar to the Pantoja fight for Royval in that he likely needs to hurt Moreno to win. Moreno by decision is the official pick.

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