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We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Atlantic City! We have an action-packed 14-fight slate on DraftKings with a ton of closely lined fights 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.

Caolan Loughran vs Angel Pacheco
Loughran, -325; Pacheco, +260

Caolan Loughran is coming off his UFC debut against Taylor Lapilus last September where he lost a decision but gave a good account of himself. He is the former Cage Warriors Bantamweight champion and has an 8-1 professional record. Of his eight victories, seven of them have come by finish. He is a well-rounded prospect with power in his hands and a solid ground game as well. His cardio seems to check out as well as he was able to push a heavy pressured pace in his debut against a solid fighter in Lapilus.

His opponent, Angel Pacheco is making his UFC debut this weekend. Pacheco fought Danny Silva on Dana White’s Contender Series last season. He is a 7-2 prospect fighting out of Minnesota. Of his seven professional wins, all of them have come by finish. He has only reached the third round twice in his career, including that Contender Series fight. He is a former Golden Gloves boxer and trains with the New England Cartel with Rob Font and Calvin Kattar and Connor Matthews who is also fighting this weekend. Pacheco is mainly a striker and seems to be very durable. He holds a brown belt in BJJ but can be taken down and controlled.

I expect this fight to be fought at a high pace which makes me have interest in both sides on DraftKings. The difference maker is that Loughran will likely be the one pushing forward and implementing his ground game. Loughran by decision is the official pick.

Jacob Malkoun vs Andre Petroski
Malkoun, -198; Petroski, +164

Jacob Malkoun looks to avenge his loss in September due to an illegal elbow against Cody Brundage where he suffered a disqualification loss. Malkoun pushes a heavy grappling pace as he averages 7.2 takedowns per 15 minutes. He is not a huge finishing threat and mainly relies on mat returns and controlling his opponents as opposed to hunting for submissions. On the feet, he does not have many tools and his durability is a concern if the fight gets stuck at space.

His opponent, Andre Petroski is coming off a first-round TKO loss in October against Michel Pereira. He took the fight on short notice and got dusted immediately after a brutal weight cut. Petroski comes from a collegiate wrestling background and is no stranger to the wrestling mats as he averages nearly 4.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. He has big power on the feet but is at his best when he is going to his bread and butter in the grappling. The main concern with Petroski is always his gas tank which has been hit or miss at times.

This is a fun matchup and one that I could see a legitimate case for both sides. Petroski should have a clear striking and power advantage on the feet. But the cardio dynamic is clearly going to favor Malkoun which makes me think that a Malkoun decision is certainly in play. However, I think Petroski has more ways to win this fight and more finishing potential as well and I plan to be overweight to both sides on DraftKings. Petroski by TKO is the official pick.

Melissa Gatto vs Victoria Dudakova
Gatto, -166; Dudakova, +140

Melissa Gatto is coming off a split-decision loss to Ariane Lipski last July. She is currently on a two-fight losing streak and looks to get back in the win column on Saturday. She is primarily a grappler with a dangerous guard and four of her eight victories have come by submission. But she is a capable striker as well and has hurt multiple opponents on the feet. The main concern with Gatto is that she will give up takedowns and control time to play guard and throw up low probability submission attempts.

Her opponent, Victoria Dudakova is coming off a split-decision win over Jinh Yu Frey at UFC 294 in October. She is primarily a grappler as well and four of her eight career wins have come by submission. Her striking is very limited though and it is clear that she needs takedowns and top time to win most fights. The issue is that she can also be taken down and controlled as well.

Both fighters have issues being taken down and both are also capable of landing takedowns which makes me think we see both fighters have success at times. But I favor Gatto on the feet by a significant margin and she is the better submission grappler as well and could even threaten off her back. Gatto by submission is the official pick.

Ibo Aslan vs Anton Turkalj
Aslan, -115; Turkalj, -105

Ibo Aslan is making his UFC debut off the Contender Series last season. He is a 12-1 prospect fighting out of Austria. Of his 12 professional victories, all of them have come by knockout. He has big power on the feet and will look to land some very heavy leg kicks that he has dropped multiple opponents with. But the level of competition has been extremely poor on the regional scene outside of the last time he fought Anton Turkalj back in 2020. Aslan has legitimate knockout power and devastating leg kicks but his cardio seems to be no good and is liable to cliff dive if the fight gets extended which is a huge concern.

His opponent, Turkalj, is coming off a first-round TKO loss to Tyson Pedro at UFC 293 in September. It is no secret that Turkalj struggles on the feet. He has no sense of striking defense and just tries to explode on his opponents like Jordan Wright in his prime. But he does have relentless pace and his cardio alone makes him a tough matchup for anyone that is unable to out grapple him or knock him out.

Aslan should be a sizable favorite to win round one and potentially even finish with an early knockout. But the cardio dynamic drastically favors Turkalj if he is conscious after round one which makes him a live underdog. He won the first fight back in 2020 but he had to walk through some fire before breaking Aslan in the second round. I am not convinced he will be able to walk through that fire again which is why he seems like a better potential live betting target after round one. Turkalj by submission is the official pick and this is a great fight to have exposure to both sides on DraftKings.

Dennis Buzukja vs Connor Matthews
Buzukja, -125; Matthews, +105

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Dennis Buzukja is coming off a first-round TKO loss to Jamall Emmers at UFC 295 in November. Buzukja is a well-rounded fighter that has not given the best account of himself yet at the UFC level. He trains out of Longo and Weidman MMA in New York with guys like Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili and will likely have the crowd behind him. He struggles defensively on the feet but is able to mix in the wrestling as he wrestled a lot on the regional scene but drew two difficult matchups in the UFC. Now he is fighting for his job and gets a clear step down in competition.

His opponent, Connor Matthews is making his UFC debut this weekend. He fought on the Contender Series last season and won a decision as an underdog. Matthews trains with the New England Cartel with Rob Font and Calvin Kattar and has a 7-1 professional record with six wins coming inside the distance. He fights out of the southpaw stance and has some power in his hands and will stay active with the body kicks as well. But his grappling is his best weapon as he is capable of landing takedowns and will look to threaten with submissions.

I expect this fight to be competitive early as both guys have defensive concerns. But I favor the cardio of Buzukja and think his UFC experience will pay off in this fight. Buzukja by decision is the official pick.

Julio Arce vs Herbert Burns
Arce, -410; Burns, +320

Julio Arce is coming off a lengthy layoff as we last saw him back at UFC 281 in November of 2022 when he lost a decision to Montel Jackson. Arce is a technical striker that will throw in volume. He fights out of southpaw stance, has good takedown defense and is tough to grapple with. The anti-grappling of Arce will be key in this fight as he is going to have a massive advantage in the striking department.

His opponent, Herbert Burns is coming off an even longer layoff as he last fought in July of 2022 when he lost by TKO to Bill Algeo. He was coming off ACL surgery in that fight and blew out his knee again and was unable to continue. At 36 years old, coming off a long layoff and multiple knee surgeries, it is certainly tough to put much faith in him. But his submission grappling ability is so high level that it makes him live to a degree in any matchup.

Unfortunately for Burns, he is facing someone in Arce that is tough to take down and difficult to submit as well which makes me worry about his path to victory. There could be a sweaty moment early if Burns forces a grappling exchange but Arce lights him up like a Christmas tree on the feet and will have the conditioning advantage down the stretch as well. Arce by TKO is the official pick.

Loopy Godinez vs Virna Jandiroba
Godinez, -218; Jandiroba, +180

Loopy Godinez is coming off a split-decision win over Tabatha Ricci at UFC 295 in November. She is currently on a four-fight winning streak and is looking to keep building on that momentum on Saturday. Godinez is a well-rounded fighter with powerful boxing and the ability to close distance and land takedowns as she averages just under 3.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. Although that may not be the gameplan in this fight as she should keep it on the feet as the better striker here.

Her opponent, Virna Jandiroba is coming off a decision win over Marina Rodriguez at UFC 288 last May. She is currently on a two-fight winning streak and looks to play spoiler as the underdog this weekend. We know what she is going to bring to the table as she is a one-dimensional grappler. She is dangerous on the mat with 13 of her 19 career wins coming by submission but her wrestling could be better as she averages just under 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes.

I favor the Godinez side in this fight as she should be able to keep the fight on the feet and outstrike her opponent. Godinez has shown some fight IQ issues in the past which makes me not want to trust her at this betting price, but she really should win with the right game plan. Godinez by decision is the official pick but she does not project great for me on DraftKings.

Jamall Emmers vs Nate Landwehr
Emmers, -218; Landwehr, +180

Jamall Emmers is coming off an impressive first-round knockout over Dennis Buzukja in November. Emmers is a very well-rounded fighter with technical striking and legitimate power when he connects. But he also comes from a collegiate wrestling background and averages right around two takedowns per 15 minutes. The main issue with Emmers is his fight IQ has been poor at times and his durability is a concern as well as he has been finished four times in his career.

His opponent, Nate Landwehr is coming off a decision loss to Dan Ige last June where he took a beating throughout the fight. That loss snapped a three-fight winning streak for him and he looks to rebound this weekend as a sizable betting underdog. Landwehr is a high-volume striker that wants to move forward constantly and push a pace on the feet. He can mix in some wrestling as well but I doubt he does in this fight as he will be at a disadvantage in that department.

Anytime Landwehr is this big of an underdog, you can almost always make a case for him. But this matchup should really favor Emmers as he will have a speed advantage on the feet and is sharper defensively as well. If either guy is going to have success wrestling then it should be Emmers as well. Emmers by decision is the official pick.

Chidi Njokuani vs Rhys McKee
Njokuani, -142; McKee, +120

Chidi Njokuani started off his UFC career with two straight victories but since then he has lost three in a row and was finished in two of those fights. He turns 36 years old later this year and could be fighting for his job this weekend. Njokuani is primarily a striker and has legitimate knockout power with 14 of his 22 career wins coming by knockout. He technically holds a black belt in BJJ as well, but his grappling seems to be not very good and he can be taken down and controlled by solid wrestlers. Lastly, he has been knocked out five times in his career, so the durability is tough to trust.

His opponent, Rhys McKee is coming off a decision loss to Ange Loosa in his return fight to the UFC in September. This is his second stint in the UFC and he is 0-3 in the octagon. He is primarily a striker as well and 10 of his 13 wins have come by knockout. But his durability is not rock solid either as he has been knocked out twice in his career. He also struggles defensively on the feet and has poor takedown defense as well so it is easy to see why he is 0-3 in fights that have gone the distance in his career.

There has been some significant line movement in favor of Rhys McKee this week but I favor the Njokuani side. He is the more proven striker at this level and getting a significant step down in competition. That being said, keep an eye on the weigh-ins as Njokuani has historically had very difficult cuts to 170 lbs. and has said previously he would never do it again which makes this very sketchy to me. I do not trust either fighter’s durability but think that Njokuani has more knockout upside early which has me siding with him in this matchup. Njokuani by TKO is the official pick but I will have exposure to both sides as this is a good fight to target on DraftKings.

Bill Algeo vs Kyle Nelson
Algeo, -230; Nelson, +190

Bill Algeo is coming off a decision victory over Alexander Hernandez in October. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak and has won four of his last five fights. He has an awkward striking style but is high-volume on the feet and constantly on the attack. He has great cardio as well and holds a black belt in BJJ so he is capable wherever the fight goes. The main issue with Algeo is that he fights with his hands completely down much of the time so his defense is not great and he will eat some shots.

His opponent, Kyle Nelson is coming off an upset decision victory over Francisco Padilla his last time out in September. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak and looks to play spoiler again this weekend. Nelson is a one-dimensional power puncher with five of his 15 wins coming by knockout. He generally gets outlanded on the feet and his cardio has been suspect at times as well.

This really should be Algeo’s fight to lose. Unless Nelson is able to hurt him on the feet then I fully expect Algeo to be the better round winner in this fight. A finish would not shock me but I do expect this to go 15 minutes and think that favor’s Algeo as well. Algeo by decision is the official pick.

Nursulton Ruziboev vs Sedriques Dumas
Ruziboev, -258; Dumas, +210

Nursulton Ruziboev made a statement in his UFC debut when he knocked out Brunno Ferreira inside of two minutes. He has a lengthy career on the regional scene with a ton of finishes both on the feet and the ground. But most of those came against low level fighters and he clearly fades in the few fights that get extended. It is very tough to get a read on him yet as his debut did not show us anything we didn’t already know – he has finishing upside early in fights.

His opponent, Sedriques Dumas is coming off a decision win over Abu Azaitar at UFC 294 in October. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak since dropping his UFC debut to Josh Fremd. Dumas is long for the division and is mostly known for his powerful head kicks that he has finished multiple opponents with in the past. He is also capable of mixing in some wrestling but those with a better ground game can take advantage of him in that area.

This is a tough fight for me to have a good read on as I still have a ton of questions about Ruziboev and have zero interest in betting on him as a big favorite. On the flip side, Dumas has generally been a fade to me and I worry about his cardio if the fight were to get extended just as much as I do about Ruziboev’s. For that reason, I will side with the more potent finisher early in Ruziboev. Ruziboev by submission is the official pick.

Bruno Silva vs Chris Weidman
Silva, -285; Weidman, +230

Bruno Silva is coming off a decision loss to Sharabutdin Magomedov in October. He is currently on a two-fight losing skid and looks to right the ship this weekend. He has lost four of his last five fights and the last 11 out of 13 fights have ended inside the distance. That speaks to Silva’s fighting style as he is a powerful striker that wants to take your head off early with most of his wins coming by early knockout. His cardio generally fades after the first round and better grapplers have been able to control him on the mat as well.

His opponent, Chris Weidman is coming off a decision loss to Brad Tavares at UFC 292 last year. Weidman turns 40 years old in a couple months and has looked mostly shot to bits his last few fights. He has also lost four of his last five fights with his only win coming against a gassed out Omari Akhmedov. Weidman still has the wrestling prowess and he will need to lean on that here as he averages 3.6 takedowns per 15 minutes. His durability and cardio are not what it used to be though so I have concerns with him in this fight.

This should be all Silva in terms of finishing potential and I expect Silva to hurt Weidman early in the fight at a high clip. It’s possible Weidman can try to lay on him for 15 minutes but I would be very surprised to see that work, even in front of a homer crowd. Silva by TKO is the official pick.

Vicente Luque vs Joaquin Buckley
Luque, -110; Buckley, -110

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Vicente Luque is coming off a main event win over Rafael Dos Anjos last August. He is a very exciting fighter and has been in many of back and forth wars but he is very hittable in striking exchanges and has taken a ton of damage over his career which resulted in some sort of brain injury as well. Additionally, he can be taken down as well as he only defends takedowns at 62% in the UFC.

His opponent, Joaquin Buckley is coming off a decision win over Alex Morono his last time out in October. Buckley is a powerhouse and clearly carries knockout power as 12 of his 17 wins have come in that fashion. Buckley has also mixed in some clinch work and wrestling as well and averages 1.51 takedowns per 15 minutes. The main concern with Buckley is the durability as he has been knocked out four times in his career.

I expect this fight to be a brawl for as long as it lasts. Both guys have durability concerns and both have power as well. I slightly favor Buckley as the more powerful striker and think he could control Luque at times in the clinch and mix in some wrestling as well. Buckley by decision is the official pick.

Erin Blanchfield vs Manon Fiorot
Blanchfield, -185; Fiorot, +154

Erin Blanchfield gets her second main event this weekend and it’s in front of her home crowd in New Jersey. She is 6-0 in the UFC and 12-1 professionally with her only career loss coming to Tracy Cortez on the regional scene. She is a very well-rounded fighter and her ground game is elite for the division. She averages just under three takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. She is not lost on the feet either and has good cardio to be able to push a pace for as long as necessary.

Her opponent, Manon Fiorot is coming off a decision win over Rose Namajunas in September. She is 6-0 in the UFC as well and 11-1 professionally with her only loss coming in her pro debut back in 2018. She is a highly skilled fighter in her own right as she is a powerful striker that will throw in volume and stays active with her kicking attack. She is also very solid defensively and makes it hard for her opponents to cleanly land volume on her. Lastly, she has good takedown defense and has even mixed in some wrestling of her own at times although that will not be the gameplan in this fight.

I like the Blanchfield side in this matchup. Her ground game is elite and I expect her to be able to get Fiorot down multiple times in this fight. She will be competitive in the striking as well and I favor her cardio down the stretch. Blanchfield by submission is the official pick.

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