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No time to waste as we are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 87! We have an action-packed 11-fight slate on DraftKings with a ton of big favorites which makes for a very interesting Saturday afternoon. 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.

Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady vs Loik Radzhabov
Al-Selwady, -166; Radzhabov, +140

Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady is making his UFC debut this weekend. He fought on Dana White’s Contender Series this past season and came through as a big underdog and looked great. He is the former Fury FC lightweight champion and trains out of Fortis MMA. Of his 15 career victories, eight of them have come by knockout. He has clear knockout power while the fight plays out on the feet but he is also very well rounded as he has shown the ability to land takedowns as well and holds a brown belt in BJJ. His cardio checked out great as well. The only real concern with him is his durability as he has been knocked out three times in his career and all of them came inside the first round.

His opponent, Loik Radzhabov is coming off a second-round TKO loss to Mateusz Rebecki last June.  Radzhabov is a 33-year-old fighting out of Tajikstan with a 17-5 professional record. Of his 17 victories, 12 of them have come inside the distance. He is well-rounded and capable of mixing in takedowns and landed 11 in his UFC debut. But he was also dropped in that debut and again in his last fight before being finished. His cardio has been problematic at times as well which is concerning in this matchup.

I see this fight playing out similarly to that Rebecki fight except Al-Selwady carries more risks due to the durability concerns. But Al-Selwady is very well-rounded and I doubt that Radzhabov will be able to grapple him as he likely needs an early KO to win this fight. I think Al-Selwady just as likely to hurt him early and I favor him down the stretch due to the cardio advantage. Al-Selwady by knockout is the official pick.

Vinicius Oliveira vs Bernardo Sopai

Vinicius Oliveira was originally scheduled to fight Yanis Ghemmouri who pulled out of the fight. Oliveira is another Contender Series prospect from this past season and he makes his UFC debut this weekend. He is a 19-3 prospect fighting out of Brazil. Of his 19 professional victories, 15 of them have come by knockout. He is a very explosive striker with clear finishing ability. He typically starts out by trying to chop his opponents down with heavy leg kicks to open up the head with his punches. He has very fast hands and will throw some flash spinning wheel kicks and other high variance attacks. The concern with him is that he typically fights with his hands down and gets reckless with his defense when swinging in the pocket. He has been knocked out three times in his career and can be taken down by grapplers as well.

His opponent, Bernardo Sopai took this fight on just a few days’ notice and is making his UFC debut as well. He is an 11-2 prospect fighting out of Albania. Of his 11 professional victories, 10 of them have come inside the distance. He seems to be pretty well-rounded with legitimate power on the feet. He has some sharp leg kicks and fast punches but has also shown the ability to land takedowns as well. Lastly, his cardio seems to check out too.

This is one of my favorite fights to target on DraftKings as I expect the winner to score well. Oliveira likely has more power but his durability is clearly worse as well. I think the most likely outcome is Oliveira wins by knockout but I have significant interest in targeting Sopai if the field is going to ignore him on DraftKings. For that reason, I’ll have exposure to both sides but the official pick is Oliveira by knockout.

Christian Leroy Duncan vs Claudio Ribeiro
Duncan, -265; Ribeiro, +215

Christian Leroy Duncan is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Denis Tiuliulin in November. He is a powerful striker with seven of his nine wins coming by knockout. He is typically low volume and does not put a ton of activity out there but when he lets his hands go he is very fast. He will also try flying knees at any opportunity but he is very one-dimensional and does not seem to have great cardio either.

His opponent, Claudio Ribeiro is coming off a second-round TKO loss to Roman Kopylov last July at UFC 291. Ribeiro is a powerful striker in his own right with all 11 of his career wins coming by knockout. But he is very sloppy on the feet and swings wild which tends to get himself caught on multiple occasions. He is a kill or be killed style of fighter and has been finished in three of his four professional losses.

This is a fight that has a wide range of outcomes in terms of DraftKings as both fighters are capable of winning by an early knockout. But they both are not super high output fighters which could lead to a low-volume kickboxing match if the fight does get extended. I lean with a finish but am not as confident as the market will be in this one ending early. Duncan by TKO is the official pick.

Javid Basharat vs Aiemann Zahabi
Basharat, -600; Zahabi, +440

Javid Basharat is coming off a no-contest due to a groin strike against Victor Henry which sent Henry to the hospital. Basharat has yet to lose in the UFC and sports an undefeated 14-0 professional record. He is a very well-rounded prospect with technical striking and a legitimate ground game as well. He averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and has six submission victories on his record.

His opponent, Aiemann Zahabi is coming off a big first-round knockout victory over Aori Qileng last time out at UFC 289. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak and finished two of those inside the first round. Zahabi is very technically sound on the feet but historically does not put much volume out there and I expect him to be losing the striking exchanges against Basharat. I also think he can be taken down as well and struggle to see him win minutes in this fight.

This one should be Basharat’s fight to lose and I do not think he will as it is hard to see a path to victory for Zahabi. Basharat likely wins this by decision at a high clip but this is likely a stay away for me on DraftKings as I doubt he finds a ceiling at his price.

Ludovit Klein vs AJ Cunningham

Ludovit Klein was originally scheduled to face Joel Alvarez which would have been world’s different of a matchup. He now should be one of the bigger favorite on the card and I expect him to perform as such. Klein is a very explosive fighter with legitimate knockout power and 16 of his 20 career wins coming inside the distance. He has randomly not shown up in certain fights which is not great but even a lesser version of him should handle this softball matchup.

His opponent, AJ Cunningham fought in the last season of Contender Series and got knocked out by Steven Nguyen. He followed that up with a first-round finish on the regional scene against a nobody. He is hittable on the feet and his best asset is just pure grit. He is sloppy defensively and has been rocked multiple times on the feet. He trains with Bryce Mitchell and has an okay ground game, but he likely will not have any advantage in this fight.

I expect Klein to win this fight however he wants to whether it comes by knockout or with multiple takedowns. Klein by TKO is the official pick.

Steve Erceg vs Matt Schnell
Erceg, -325; Schnell, +260

Steve Erceg is coming off a decision victory over Alessandro Costa in November. Erceg is primarily a grappler as six of his 11 career wins have come by submission. But his striking is serviceable as well and he seems to be very durable. He averages two takedowns per 15 minutes and will likely be the better wrestler in this fight. The major concern with Erceg is his striking defense as he is going to eat some shots.

His opponent, Matt Schnell is coming off a lengthy layoff as we last saw him in December of 2022 when he was knocked out by Matheus Nicolau. Schnell is a skilled fighter wherever the fight goes but his glaring issue has always been his durability. He has been knocked out four times in his career and finished in six of his seven professional losses.

The most likely outcome is that Erceg hurts Schnell early because that’s what happens when Matt Schnell fights. But if Schnell can stay conscious then this fight likely plays out much closer than the betting odds suggest which makes me have interest in both sides on DraftKings. Erceg by TKO is the official pick.

Umar Nurmagomedov vs Bekzat Almakhan
Nurmagomedov, -1200; Almakhan, +750

We last saw Umar Nurmagomedov in January of last year when he knocked out Raoni Barcelos inside the first round. He is an undefeated prospect with a 16-0 professional record and is 4-0 in the UFC. He has the typical Dagestan grappling skills on the mat but his striking is what makes him so difficult to deal with. He is very technically sound on the feet and has sharp leg kicks that he will constantly attack his opponents with.

His opponent, Bekzat Almakhan is making his UFC debut on Saturday as the biggest betting underdog on the card. He is a 14-1 prospect fighting out of Kazakhstan. Of his 14 professional victories, 12 of them have come by knockout. He has some power on the feet but is a little one-dimensional. He is able to land takedowns but does not control his opponents well and has only fought to a decision once in his career.

Almakhan is not a total bum which is what this betting line indicates. However, a matchup against a future champion contender in the division for your UFC debut is a lot to ask. I expect Nurmagomedov to be the more active striker and having success with the kicking attack while the fight plays out at range. I also expect Nurmagomedov to get the better of the grappling exchanges as well. Nurmagomedov by decision is the official pick.

Eryk Anders vs Jamie Pickett
Anders, -410; Pickett, +320

Eryk Anders is coming off a decision loss to Marc-Andre Barriault at UFC 289 last June. He has now lost three of his last four fights and turns 37 years old in a couple months. Despite those red flags, Anders is still a solid fighter in this division and very athletically gifted. He fights out of the southpaw stance and has legitimate power in his hands with nine of his 15 career wins coming by knockout. He is also capable of mixing in some wrestling as he averages 1.54 takedowns per 15 minutes.

His opponent, Jamie Pickett is coming off a decision loss to Josh Fremd in August. Pickett is currently on a four-fight losing streak and is likely fighting for his job in this spot. He is long for the division and does have some power in his own right, but his skillset is clearly limited. He is low volume on the feet and generally does not use his length to his advantage. He can also be taken down and controlled on the mat as he defends takedowns under 70% in the UFC.

This betting line is getting a bit wide as Anders historically does not cover big numbers. But Pickett is just not a good minute winner and even if I do not think he gets blown out in this fight, I still struggle to see him win rounds and expect him to get his walking papers this weekend. Anders by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings.

Muhammad Mokaev vs Alex Perez
Mokaev, -360; Perez, +285

Muhammad Mokaev is coming off a third-round submission victory over Tim Elliott at UFC 294 in October. He is an undefeated prospect with an 11-0 professional record. Of his 11 victories, six of them have come by submission. His striking is still limited but he is young and likely to improve. It is his ground game that is his strongest skillset as he averages nearly 6.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. However, his control is not great as he regularly loses position or lets his opponents work back to their feet.

His opponent, Alex Perez is coming off a lengthy layoff as he last fought in 2022. Over his last 12 scheduled bouts, he has lost two of them and 10 were cancelled. Many of these were rebooks with the same opponent but the guy clearly has an issue making it to fight night. Which sucks because skillset wise, he is one of the better fighters in the division. He comes from a collegiate wrestling background and averages nearly three takedowns per 15 minutes. His striking is solid as well and keeps a strong pace on the feet. But he continuously puts himself in bad spots on the mat and his fight IQ is not the greatest. He has been submitted five times and been finished six of his seven professional losses.

I have concerns about Mokaev covering this big number as he has been competitive with guys like Jafel Filho and Malcolm Gordon who are much worse fighters than Perez. But Perez so historically untrustworthy and wilting that I cannot trust him enough to show up in good form and fight for my money. I do however, have interest in Perez as this is not a very strong underdog card and skillset wise he should be very competitive here despite the cheap price tag. Mokaev by submission is the official pick but I will have exposure to both sides on DraftKings.

Vitor Petrino vs Tyson Pedro
Petrino, -298; Pedro, +240

Vitor Petrino has quickly become one of my favorite fighters in this division. He is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Modestas Bukauskas in November and that is now three straight victories since coming off the Contender Series in 2022. He has explosive power on the feet with seven of his 10 career wins coming by knockout. But he has also shown that he can wrestle a bit as well as he averages over four takedowns per 15 minutes. Lastly, his cardio has checked out as well and he is still young and improving.

His opponent, Tyson Pedro is coming off a first-round TKO victory over Anton Turkalj at UFC 293 in September. He has won three of his last four fights since returning from a long absence but the level of competition has been relatively low. Pedro has some devastating leg kicks but outside of that, he does not present many issues on the feet. He is also a decent submission grappler but averages less than a takedown per 15 minutes. Lastly, his cardio has been a reoccurring issue as well.

I think Pedro’s only path to victory is an early knockout. Petrino is more powerful on the feet and is likely to land takedowns and spent time in dominant positions along with having the better gas tank down the stretch. Petrino by knockout is the official pick.

Shamil Gaziev vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Gaziev, -148; Rozenstruik, +124

Shamil Gaziev looked great in his UFC debut when he beat Martin Buday in the second-round by TKO. He previously fought on Contender Series and is an undefeated heavyweight prospect with a 12-0 professional record. Of his 12 victories, eight of them have come inside the first round. He has some serious power on the feet and has powerful takedowns as well with some grappling chops on the mat. The concern with him is that he gets overzealous on the feet and can be sloppy at times. His cardio is unproven at best and I have concerns with him in fights that get extended.

His opponent, Jairzinho Rozenstruik is coming off a first-round submission loss to Jailton Almeida last May. He has now lost three of his last four fights but he has been facing the best fighters in the division. He is a technical kickboxer with the typical heavyweight power and has 12 of his 13 career wins coming by knockout. But he is very one-dimensional as he has never had any sort of ground game and needs to keep the fight on the feet.

I feel the market is sleeping on Rozenstruik in this particular matchup. He is a clean counter-striker with loads more of experience at the UFC level along with fighting in previous main events. Gaziev will have a big advantage on the mat but if he does not get the fight there then he could struggle on the feet especially after the first round. Rozenstruik by TKO is the official pick and this is a main event that you need to target.

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