We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 89! We have an action-packed 13-fight slate on DraftKings with a ton of Contender Series prospects which makes for a very interesting Saturday evening. 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.

Mick Parkin vs Muhammad Usman
Parkin, -148; Usman, +124

Mick Parkin is coming off a decision victory over Caio Machado in November. Parkin is an 8-0 prospect fighting out of London. Of his eight professional victories, five of them came by knockout and he has your typical heavyweight power. But he has also shown the ability to land takedowns as well. I do not rate anything about his game exceptionally and still believe he will struggle once he starts facing better competition. He is slow and plodding on the feet and I doubt his ground game is good enough to consistently win rounds by itself.

His opponent, Muhammad Usman is coming off a decision win over Jake Collier in September. Usman is 3-0 in the UFC and sports a 10-2 overall professional record. He is similar to Parkin in that he is slow and plodding on the feet. He typically does not push a high pace at all although his volume was better in his last fight. He has also shown the ability to land takedowns and should be the better wrestlers in this matchup.

This is your typical ugly heavyweight slop fight which makes me have interest in the underdog. Neither guy has any sizable advantages and I expect the fight to play out very competitively. I am slightly siding with Usman as the better wrestler and more powerful fighter as well. Usman by decision is the official pick.

Andre Lima vs Igor Da Silva
Lima, -175; Da Silva, +145

Andre Lima is making his UFC debut this weekend fresh off Dana White’s Contender Series last year. He is a 7-0 undefeated prospect with five of his wins coming by knockout. He is extremely powerful for the Flyweight division and can put your lights out with one shot. He comes from a high-level kickboxing and Muay Thai background and is a two-time South American Kickboxing champion. But he is generally low volume on the feet trying to time his big shots. One of his best assets aside from his pure power, is his devastating leg kicks which he will look for repeatedly.

His opponent, Igor Da Silva is a fellow debutant fighter off Contender Series as well. He finished his fight in the second round and is 8-0 professionally with all eight of his career wins coming inside the distance. He is very young at just 20 years old and still improving from fight to fight. He has a solid jab and wants to move forward and put a pace on his opponents. He has also shown he can land takedowns as well. But he is very hittable in striking exchanges and leaves himself open to counters which is a concern against Lima.

This is a fun fight and one that I expect both fighters to be able to land at times. But I think the power difference will be obvious in favor of Lima. His leg kicks are a lot harder and if he connects clean with his hands then he could end the fight right there. Lima by decision is the official pick but a knockout is in the cards as well.

Dariya Zheleznykova vs Montserrat Rendon
Zheleznykova, -175; Rendon, +145

Dariya Zheleznykova is making her UFC debut this weekend. She is an 8-1 prospect fighting out of Russia with five wins coming by knockout. She is big for the division and carries some power as well but I think her overall skillset is limited. On the feet, it is basically just one-two punches on repeat and despite the power, it lacks speed. Her takedown defense is not bad but once taken down, she can be controlled and was finished on the mat a couple fights ago.

Her opponent, Montserrat Rendon is coming off a split-decision victory over Tamires Vidal in September. She is a 6-0 prospect fighting out of Mexico. Of her six career victories, all of them have come by decision. She is primarily a grappler and holds a brown belt in BJJ, but her wrestling is not great, so she struggles at times to get the fight there. On the feet, she is a stationary boxer and I do not rate her striking very highly and if she gets stuck on the feet in this fight, she likely gets boxed up.

I expect this fight to be competitive, so I have zero interest laying juice on the one-dimensional striker in WMMA making her UFC debut. But I do think Zheleznykova will have the striking edge and I do not fully trust Rendon’s ability to get the fight to the ground. For that reason, I slightly side with Zheleznykova but I do not have much interest in this fight for DraftKings. Zheleznykova by decision is the official pick.

Steven Nguyen vs Jarno Errens
Nguyen, -192; Errens, +160

Steven Nguyen is making his UFC debut this Saturday. He is another Dana White’s Contender Series contract winner from this past season as he won by TKO over AJ Cunningham. Nguyen is a 9-1 prospect fighting out of Fortis MMA in Texas. Of his nine professional victories, seven of them have come inside the distance. He is primarily a boxer and does have some solid technical skills on the feet. But he lacks big power and rarely looks to grapple which makes him one-dimensional.

His opponent, Jarno Errens is coming off a decision loss to Seung Woo Choi last August. He is 0-2 in the UFC and likely fighting for his job this weekend. Errens is low volume on the feet but does carry some power when he lands. The problem is that outside of his strong leg kicks, he is usually a step behind in the striking. He has multiple submission victories on the regional scene but has poor takedown defense and his grappling has yet to translate at the UFC level.

I expect Nguyen to be the better boxer here by a noticeable margin. Outside of Errens being able to land something big and hurt Nguyen, he gets outpointed here. Nguyen by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings.

Miles Johns vs Cody Gibson
Johns, -148; Gibson, +124

Miles Johns is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Dan Argueta last September but the fight was changed to a no-contest after Johns failed a drug test due to a tainted supplement. Johns comes from a wrestling background although he rarely has used it at the UFC level. He has solid boxing as well and carries some power for his size. But his cardio has been an issue at times as he tends to fade as the fight gets extended and has even been finished in the third round before.

His opponent, Cody Gibson is coming off the decision loss to Brad Katona in the Ultimate Fighter finale. That fight was my vote for fight of the year last year as it was a crazy pace with both guys landing a ton of shots on the feet. Gibson has power and cardio which those two things alone can give Johns issues but Gibson is also turning 37 years old later this year and has had previous knee injuries so there are legitimate concerns for him as well.

I expect this fight to be competitive but with Johns landing the bigger shots and evading the counters of Gibson as he circles around the outside. Johns would also have a theoretical wrestling edge, but I doubt he uses it. Gibson is live if he can survive the early rounds and take over late but it’s likely a case of too little too late. Johns by decision is the official pick.

Ricardo Ramos vs Julian Erosa
Ramos, -162; Erosa, +136

The last time we saw Ricardo Ramos inside the octagon he was getting submitted inside the first round by Charles Jourdain. He is notorious for making fights harder than they should be and has always had durability concerns as well as he has been finished in four of his five professional losses. But when he is at his best, he is a technical striker with power on the feet and sharp leg kicks. On the mat, he is a dangerous submission grappler and has finished seven opponents in that fashion and holds a black belt in BJJ.

His opponent, Julian Erosa is coming off a first-round TKO loss to Fernando Padilla last April. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and was knocked out in both of those losses. The durability is the glaring issue for Erosa as he has now been knocked out seven times in his career. But he is game to brawl on the feet and has power in his own right and 23 of his 28 professional victories have come inside the distance.

Simply put, I do not trust either of these fighters as far as I could throw them. Because of that, I naturally have more interest in the underdog and I know I can count on Erosa’s activity as he is going to bring the fight to Ramos. Either guy is capable of finishing this fight or getting flatlined though which makes it an obvious fight to target both sides on DraftKings. Erosa by TKO is the official pick.

Trey Ogden vs Kurt Holobaugh
Ogden, -148; Holobaugh, +124

Trey Ogden coming off the awkward no-contest against Nicolas Motta where he was largely dominating the fight and on his way to finishing. It looked like a career-best performance for Ogden who is someone that I never rated super highly. He is not great in any one area but is okay in multiple areas. He is the definition of ‘mid’ as the kids say. He has randomly outstruck Daniel Zellhuber at his best but has also been largely outlanded by Jordan Leavitt on the feet as well. Most of his wins have come by submission but he is not a great grappler and rarely even looks to wrestle as he averages just over one takedown per 15 minutes.

His opponent, Kurt Holobaugh is coming off an impressive beatdown over Austin Hubbard at UFC 292. Holobaugh has that kill or be killed style as 17 of his 20 wins have come by finish. He has power on the feet and will be aggressive in getting his offense going but his striking defense has never been good and he is likely to eat some shots as well. The main concern with Holobaugh is that he is old and has never really been able to defend takedowns at just 50% in the UFC.

I favor Ogden here as the younger fighter who I believe is more skilled in multiple areas despite not always showing it. He should be able to land more effectively on the feet and take advantage of Holobaugh’s lack of defense. He may even be able to mix in the wrestling more than he has done in the past as well. Ogden by decision is the official pick.

Fernando Padilla vs Luis Pajuelo
Padilla, -162; Pajuelo, +136

Fernando Padilla is coming off a decision loss to Kyle Nelson in September. He is a 15-5 prospect fighting out of Mexico. Of his 15 professional victories, 13 of them have come inside the distance. On the feet, he is mainly a counter striker but does have some power and will be working with a seven-inch reach advantage in this fight. He is also an opportunistic submission grappler but can be taken down and controlled at times as well. I do not think he is a great minute winner by nature, but he does have some finishing ability so you cannot count him out in most matchups.

His opponent, Luis Pajuelo is coming off the Contender Series last season as he won by TKO over Robbie Ring. He is an 8-1 prospect fighting out of Peru. Of his eight professional victories, seven of them have come by knockout. It is very clear watching this guy that he really enjoys hurting people with his hands. All he wants to do is move forward and fight in the phone booth where he can land some of his heavy shots. He is a skilled boxer but is very one-dimensional in terms of his approach. He will need to close distance in this fight as he will be facing the longer Padilla.

I expect Pajuelo to move forward and close distance with nonstop combinations. He does leave himself open at times to counters so it is possible Padilla can catch him. But give me the underdog that I can count on to be aggressive and throw volume and who I think is the more skilled boxer with the power edge as well. Pajuelo by decision is the official pick and he could be the first guy to knock out Padilla as well.

Billy Quarantillo vs Youssef Zalal
Quarantillo, -166; Zalal, +140

Billy Quarantillo is coming off a decision win over Damon Jackson in August. He was originally scheduled to fight Gabriel Miranda who pulled out a couple weeks ago. Quarantillo is high-action fighter that likes to move forward and push a pace from the opening bell. He keeps very active with volume and is capable of mixing in some takedowns as well. He is also a BJJ black belt and has five submission victories. His gas tank is one of his best assets as he can keep a high pace for 15 minutes and break his opponents later in fights. The main concern with him is that he is sloppy defensively and eats a lot of shots and has been knocked out twice in his career.

His opponent, Youssef Zalal is stepping in on short notice this weekend. Zalal last fought Da’Mon Blackshear in August of 2022 and that resulted in a draw. Zalal is an okay striker that relies on his speed and footwork as he does not carry much power on the feet. But his cardio is solid as he will never accept position and will constantly fight until the closing bell. But he struggles to defend takedowns at just 60% and is generally low volume in the striking as well.

I like the Quarantillo side in this fight. He has the full fight camp and should have multiple advantages in this matchup. He is the more active striker and the better submission grappler as well and should do enough to get his hand raised. Quarantillo by decision is the official pick.

Payton Talbott vs Cameron Saaiman
Talbott, -155; Saaiman, +130

Payton Talbott is coming off a third-round submission victory over Nick Aguirre in November. He is primarily a striker and generally starts off slow but works his way into fights. This is something that he has talked about repeatedly in interviews and you see it with the way he has finished most of his opponents in the second half of fights. He has a ridiculous pace once he gets going as he will continually walk his opponents down and carry his power for three rounds. He wrestled in high school but can be taken down and gives up his back in some of those exchanges. He is also very hittable on the feet but seems to be durable.

His opponent, Cameron Saaiman is coming off his first career loss against Christian Rodriguez last time out in October. He is a 9-1 prospect fighting out of South Africa and is the protégé of Dricus Du Plessis. He is a powerful striker with six of his nine wins coming by knockout. But he gets wild on the feet and is very hittable which never makes you feel comfortable. His grappling is still improving but needs some work, but he has excellent cardio and really seems to break his opponents in the later rounds, similar to Talbott.

This is a great matchup with two young prospects that have similar fighting styles. I slightly favor Talbott as his forward pressure and power is likely the difference down the stretch. Saaiman also seems to wear the damage a lot more which could make a difference in a very close fight. Talbott by decision is the official pick.

Edmen Shahbazyan vs AJ Dobson
Shahbazyan, -198; Dobson, +164

Edmen Shahbazyan is coming off a third-round TKO loss to Anthony Hernandez last May. After starting his career 11-0, he has now lost four of his last five fights with his only victory in that span coming against Dalcha Lungiambula. Shahbazyan is a dangerous finisher early in the fight as all but two of his 12 career wins have come inside the first round. His biggest issue is that he is historically known to have clear cardio concerns as he fades badly outside of the first round. Once the cardio fails him, he can be tagged at will on the feet and outgrappled easily on the mat.

His opponent, AJ Dobson is coming off a decision victory over Tafon Nchukwi last August. Dobson is a well-rounded fighter with decent boxing and power but can also mix in a takedown when he needs to. But his striking defense still needs work as he regularly gets eat up by the jab. His biggest strength is his power and he can carry it for multiple rounds which makes him dangerous against Shahbazyan.

I just do not see how you can trust Shahbazyan at a chalk price tag anymore, even though I expect him to have a strong round one. But Dobson has proven to be durable and Shahbazyan turns into a pumpkin after round one especially if he pushes any type of pace. For that reason, I like leaning into the underdog in Dobson who seems to have the skillset that could give Shahbazyan issues. Dobson by TKO is the official pick.

Karl Williams vs Justin Tafa
Williams, -180; Tafa, +150

One of our MMA experts has a 2 Unit bet on this fight… Find out who here

Karl Williams is coming off a decision win over Chase Sherman last May. Williams is not a good striker, but he is very good at getting the fight to the ground. He averages four takedowns per 15 minutes and landed eight takedowns in his UFC debut against Lukasz Brzeski. He is not great at controlling his opponents, but he is good at sticking to them and mat returning if needed. The concern with Williams is that he does get tired late and does not good look if he gets stuck on the feet.

His opponent, Justin Tafa is stepping in on short notice to replace his brother who replaced him against Marcos Rogerio De Lima. Yes, you read that right. Tafa is a powerful striker with all seven of his career wins coming by knockout. This fight basically comes down to whether or not Tafa can keep the fight on the feet. He has yet to be really tested in the grappling but we can reasonably expect him to not have much of a get up game if he is taken down.

I expect Williams to get the takedowns early and often in this fight so it makes sense to have him as the betting favorite. But I have serious concerns with Tafa’s power being able to hurt Williams at any moment if he cannot get the takedowns. For that reason, this is a great fight to target on DraftKings as I expect the winner to score well either way. Williams by decision is the official pick.

Rose Namajunas vs Amanda Ribas
Namajunas, -258; Ribas, +210

Rose Namajunas is coming off a decision loss to Manon Fiorot in September. She has fought most of her career at Strawweight and it is yet to be determined if she can become a contender in the Flyweight division. On the feet, she is a very technical striker with great footwork and speed to go along with her power as well. On the mat, she is an opportunistic submission grappler as well with five of her 11 career wins coming by submission.

Her opponent, Amanda Ribas is coming off a third-round TKO finish over Luana Pinheiro in November. Ribas is a well-rounded fighter with a strong jab and sharp leg kicks. She likes to move forward and pressure her opponents with controlling the center of the octagon. But she also has a strong ground game as well as she holds a black belt in BJJ and averages two takedowns per 15 minutes. The only real concern with Ribas is her durability as she is chinny and has been knocked out three times in her career.

I think having Namajunas as a slight favorite makes sense because of the potential to hurt Ribas and I expect her to manage her gas tank better over 25 minutes. But this price is significantly too wide and I think outside of a TKO, Ribas keeps this fight very close and likely even wins the early rounds. For that reason, I will have some exposure to both sides but definitely more towards the underdog due to price as Namajunas may not even score well in a win. Ribas by decision is the official pick.

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