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No time to waste as we are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 88! We have an action-packed 12-fight slate on DraftKings with a ton of Contender Series prospects 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.

Charalampos Grigoriou vs Chad Anheliger
Grigoriou, -205; Anheliger, +170

Charalampos Grigoriou is making his UFC debut this weekend as he earned a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series with a big knockout victory as an underdog. He is primarily a striker and carries real power for the division with six of his eight career wins coming by TKO. He is a well-rounded fighter with heavy leg licks and powerful hooks on the feet but has also shown the ability to land a takedown or two if he needs to.

His opponent, Chad Anheliger is coming off a third-round submission loss to Jose Johnson in November. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and could be fighting for his job this weekend. He turns 38 years old later this year and I have always considered him more of a regional journeyman rather than a UFC gatekeeper. He carries some power on the feet himself and does have some sneaky submission attempts, but he continuously puts himself in bad spots on the mat and has been submitted six times in his career.

I expect Grigoriou to have success with the leg kicks and the ability to hurt Anheliger on the feet as well. Anheliger can potentially clip him back which makes me have some interest on both sides for DraftKings. But I think the consistent round winner is Grigoriou and he has more finishing upside as well. Grigoriou by TKO is the official pick.

Jaqueline Amorim vs Cory McKenna
Amorim, -110; McKenna, -110

Jaqueline Amorim is coming off a third-round TKO finish over Montserrat Ruiz in August. She is 7-1 professionally with all seven wins coming inside the distance. She comes from a high level grappling background and holds a black belt in BJJ but her cardio has been an issue in the past as she fades heavy after round one.

Her opponent, Cory McKenna is coming off a sizable layoff as she last fought in December of 2022 and won a decision over Cheyanne Vlismas. McKenna is not a specialist like Amorim, but she is solid wherever the fight goes. She averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes although she would be wise to try to avoid grappling in this fight. On the feet, she is low volume and struggles defensively. Her likely only advantage here is in the cardio department which could be enough.

I expect Amorim to threaten anytime these two are grappling as long as she is fresh. But we know the cardio struggles after round one and McKenna is going to fight harder for 15 minutes. McKenna is an obvious potential live betting target this week but only if she survives round one – which is a big if. Amorim by submission is the official pick.

Josh Culibao vs Danny Silva
Culibao, -185; Silva, +154

Josh Culibao is coming off a decision loss to Lerone Murphy last July. I have never been a big believer in Culibao as he typically relies on big moments versus winning minutes. He is low volume on the feet and can be taken down and outgrappled as well. He needs the big shots on the feet and knockdowns or finishes, especially if facing solid competition.

His opponent, Danny Silva is making his UFC debut off the Contender Series this past season. He is an 8-1 prospect fighting out of California. Of his eight career wins, five of them have come by knockout. He is primarily a boxer and can fight from both stances comfortably and mix in the leg kicks. His boxing is very strong, but he can be hit on the feet and struggles to get inside his range at times. He faced a low level of competition on the regional scene prior to coming over to LFA with mixed results. Lastly, he can be taken down and good grapplers should be able to expose his one-dimensional approach although I doubt that matters much against Culibao.

I like the underdog in Silva here as I trust his boxing skills more along with the volume that I can rely on. Culibao is low volume and I expect Silva to be landing more strikes and has just as much big moment potential as Culibao. Silva by decision is the official pick.

Jafel Filho vs Ode Osbourne
Filho, -175; Osbourne, +145

We last saw Jafel Filho in July of last year when he won by first-round submission over Daniel Barez at UFC London. Filho is a former Contender Series fighter from the 2022 season and lost his UFC debut to Muhammad Mokaev but gave a good account of himself. He is more of a grappler and holds a black belt in BJJ and nine of his 15 wins have come by submission. On the feet, he carries some power as well and has some sharp leg kicks, but he is at his best when he can get the fight to the mat. His wrestling is not great but if he gets you down then you could be in trouble.

His opponent, Ode Osbourne is coming off a second-round submission loss to Asu Almabaev who we just saw fight last week. Osbourne is an explosive athlete and has clear finishing ability with nine of his 12 career wins coming inside the distance. He is historically not a great round winner as he does not push a high pace or aggressively grapple so he needs those big moments or knockouts. His cardio definitely seems to slow when fights get extended and his durability is a concern as well as he has been finished in five of his six professional losses.

I expect this fight to be competitive on the feet early but Filho has all of the grappling upside and I expect him to be able to get this fight where he needs it. Filho by submission is the official pick.

Josiane Nunes vs Chelsea Chandler
Nunes, -142; Chandler, +120

Josiane Nunes is coming off a decision win over Zarah Fairn at UFC 283 and looks to keep her momentum rolling this weekend. She is 3-0 in the UFC and currently on a nine-fight winning streak with her only career loss coming against Taila Santos on the regional scene. Nunes has heavy hands for the division and will swing wildly trying to land one of her big shots. But if she is unable to get you out of there then the volume and explosiveness clearly dwindles as the fight gets extended.

Her opponent, Chelsea Chandler is coming off a decision loss to Norma Dumont last July. Chandler is a 5-2 prospect fighting out of Stockton, California. Of her five professional victories, three of them have come by finish. She is still pretty green in terms of MMA, but she is a solid boxer and has clear power for the division. She has also shown the ability to land takedowns and has some vicious ground and pound if she is able to get the fight there. Lastly, she is going to be much bigger than her opponent in this fight.

The size is a concern, but Nunes has always fought fighters much taller than her and does not seem to have an issue with blitzing into the pocket to find her range. Chandler also really struggles defensively and Nunes has big power to make her pay. Nunes by decision is the official pick and I would not sleep on the knockout possibility either.

Mike Davis vs Natan Levy
Davis, -290; Levy, +235

It’s been a while since we saw Mike Davis in the octagon as he last fought in October of 2022. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak and looks to keep that momentum rolling this weekend. Davis is a powerful striker with seven of his 10 wins coming by knockout. But he has also shown a well-rounded skillset and has landed 14 takedowns over his last three fights. The weight cut has been an issue for him in the past along with the gas tank as well but that is usually after pushing a heavy pace for nearly 15 minutes.

His opponent, Natan Levy is coming off a decision win over Genaro Valdez in December of 2022. Levy is a solid kickboxer with mostly leg kicking attacks and will try to push the wrestling as well. He averages nearly 5.5 takedowns per 15 minutes although he is not a great control grappler. His cardio has been dicey at times as well, so I do not expect that to be an advantage for him in this fight.

I expect Davis to clearly have the striking advantage with the hands as he is fast and powerful. I also think Davis is just as likely to land takedowns as Levy in this fight. Davis should be winning a decision here at a high clip and that is the official pick.

Thiago Moises vs Mitch Ramirez
Moises, -205; Ramirez, +170

Thiago Moises is coming off a second-round TKO loss to Benoit Saint-Denis last September. That loss snapped a two-fight win streak for him and he looks to rebound this weekend as a sizable betting favorite. Moises is more of a grappler and averages 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. On the feet, he has some sharp leg kicks but is low volume and historically is being out struck at range. Long known for his durability, but he has now been finished in each of his last three losses.

His opponent, Mitch Ramirez is coming off a first-round TKO finish in LFA. He is 8-1 professionally with seven of his eight wins coming by finish. He trains out of Syndicate MMA and seems to be a very well-rounded fighter. He has big power on the feet with some sharp leg kicks and devastating hooks when he closes distance. But he is also a capable submission grappler as well as he is an experienced purple belt under Ramsey Nijem and has two submission victories on his record. He is a fast starter and has big power but the striking defense still needs work and the cardio is a legitimate concern after round one.

This is just a tough spot for Ramirez making his UFC debut on short notice. He needs to land something big early because if not, he likely gasses out and gets out grappled by Moises. Moises by submission is the official pick.

Gerald Meerschaert vs Bryan Barberena
Meerschaert, -225; Barberena, +185

Gerald Meerschaert is coming off a split-decision loss to Andre Petroski at UFC 292 last August. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and has lost three of his last four fights. But this should be a solid rebound opportunity for him on Saturday as he comes in as a sizable betting favorite. We know what to expect from Meerschaert as he does not present much on the feet, but he is a very dangerous submission grappler and will try to tie you up at all costs. The main concern with him is his durability as he has been finished 12 times in his career.

His opponent, Bryan Barberena is coming off a decision loss to Makhmud Muradov last year. He is currently on a three-fight losing streak and could be getting close to calling it quits as his body has taken a ton of damage throughout his career. On the feet, Barberena should have the advantage as the more active striker with more tools as well. But he has never had good takedown defense at just 49% and his durability is arguably worse than Meerschaert’s too.

The big number is concerning for Meerschaert but I do expect him to be able to get this fight to the ground where he needs it and he should be able to finish once he does. Meerschaert by submission is the official pick.

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Macy Chiasson vs Pannie Kianzad
Chiasson, -198; Kianzad, +164

This fight is a rematch of the Ultimate Fighter finale back in 2018 which Macy Chiasson won by submission. Chiasson is big for the division and mainly relies on her physicality as opposed to her actual skill level. She is low-volume on the feet and struggles defensively but is good about holding opponents against the fence and muscling them to the ground. She averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes and that is her path to victory in this fight.

Her opponent, Pannie Kianzad is coming off a decision loss to Ketlen Vieira last July. Kianzad is primarily a striker and comes from a Muay Thai striking background. She keeps a high pace on the feet and is well rounded wherever the fight goes. Her biggest issue is that she can be controlled for extended periods if you are able to get her to the ground. But she is not easy to takedown and should make Chiasson work hard for any takedowns.

I expect Kianzad to be the better striker on the feet, but Chiasson is likely to be able to close distance and try to take her down which should result in a ton of cage push. Chiasson will eventually be able to get her down and the grappling should be the difference. Chiasson by decision is the official pick but I do not expect this fight to score well for DraftKings.

Isaac Dulgarian vs Christian Rodriguez
Dulgarian, -148; Rodriguez, +124

Isaac Dulgarian made a statement in his UFC debut with a first-round TKO victory over Francis Marshall. Of his six career wins, all of them have come inside the first round although most of his opponents were subpar prior to the Marshall fight. He is very explosive and has power in his hands and comes from a collegiate wrestling background as well. He wants to take the fight to the ground as soon as possible and is very good in dominant position with some vicious ground and pound. The concern with him is that he has never fought out of the first round and his cardio is entirely unproven.

His opponent, Christian Rodriguez is coming off a decision victory over Cameron Saaiman in October. Rodriguez is a 10-1 prospect with seven wins coming inside the distance. He is very well rounded as he has powerful counter striking and a decent ground game as well. He is not easy to take down and even harder to control on the mat as he is a good scrambler and works back to his feet well. Lastly, his cardio is on point, and I would expect him to have the advantage in that area as well, but he could struggle with the size and physicality of Dulgarian.

Dulgarian is a beast, but I have some questions about what he looks like outside of the first round. Additionally, this is clearly the toughest fighter he has faced and it will likely answer those questions about him if the fight gets extended. If Rodriguez can avoid getting blitzed early, then he might be able to take over late, but I still lean with the wrestling and power of Dulgarian to get his hand raised. Dulgarian by decision is the official pick.

Kennedy Nzechukwu vs Ovince Saint Preux
Nzechukwu, -500; Saint Preux, +380

Kennedy Nzechukwu is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Dustin Jacoby last August. That loss snapped a three-fight winning streak for him and he looks to get back in the win column this weekend. Nzechukwu is very long for the division and seems to be improving every time out. He is a high-volume striker with eight of his 12 victories coming by knockout. He has also improved his defensive grappling over the years as well.

His opponent, Ovince Saint Preux is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Philipe Lins last February. I was never a Saint Preux guy and now he has lost three of his last four fights and turns 41 years old next month. He is low volume on the feet and has very questionable cardio. Outside of him landing a lucky punch, I do not think it’s possible he wins this fight.

I expect Nzechukwu to landing much more volume on the feet and if he stays on the gas pedal then he is going to get Saint Preux out of there. Nzechukwu by TKO is the official pick.

Bryan Battle vs Ange Loosa
Battle, -166; Loosa, +140

Bryan Battle is coming off a second-round submission victory over AJ Fletcher in September. Since the Ultimate Fighter victory, Battle has won four of his five UFC fights and finished three of those inside the distance. He has clearly improved his striking arsenal and does carry legitimate knockout power. But his striking defense is still a concern and he can be taken down easily as he defends at just 45% in the UFC.

His opponent, Ange Loosa is coming off a decision win over Rhys McKee in September. Loosa is a powerful striker with five of his 10 career wins coming by knockout. But he is able to push a wrestling pace as well and averages over two takedowns per 15 minutes which could be a potential path to victory for him in this fight. Lastly, his cardio is solid as well and I expect him to be the fresher fighter down the stretch.

I favor the underdog here in Loosa who I have historically been higher than the market on. But this just seems like a spot where you are getting the more active fighter who is solid wherever the fight goes and should have the edge in cardio as well. Loosa by decision is the official pick.

Tai Tuivasa vs Marcin Tybura
Tuivasa, -125; Tybura, -105

We last saw Tai Tuivasa in September at UFC 293 and he lost by second-round submission to Alexander Volkov. He is currently on a three-fight losing streak but has faced the best of the Heavyweight division in that span. Tuivasa is a knockout artist with 13 of his 14 wins coming in that fashion. He is not interested in grappling and only defends takedowns at 54% in the UFC.

His opponent, Marcin Tybura is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Tom Aspinall last year. Tybura is 7-2 over his last nine UFC fights with his only losses coming against Aspinall and Alexander Volkov. He turns 39 years old later this year and is definitely starting to slow but his skills are still there for the most part. He likely needs to get this fight to the ground and he averages right around 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. But on the feet, I worry about the durability as he has been knocked out five times in his career.

This fight is very straightforward as Tuivasa has clear knockout upside on the feet and Tybura has all of the grappling upside. I typically lean more towards the grappler but not in this matchup as I expect Tuivasa to land some big shots before Tybura can get him down. Tuivasa by TKO is the official pick and we see another shooey on Saturday.

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