After the big UFC 301 PPV, we are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC St Louis! We have an action-packed 13-fight slate on DraftKings 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.

Veronica Hardy vs JJ Aldrich
Hardy, -135; Aldrich, +114

Veronica Hardy is coming off a split-decision victory over Jamey-Lyn Horth in December. She is small for the division but is explosive early in the fight. She has clearly made some improvements over the years and usually starts fast before fading due to cardio issues. She has also been mixing in the wrestling lately and now averages 1.27 takedowns per 15 minutes. Lastly, her striking defense has always been below average which is a concern especially combined with her fading in extended fights.

Her opponent, JJ Aldrich is coming off a decision win over Montana De La Rosa in October. She is currently on a two-fight winning streak and looks to keep the momentum going this weekend. Aldrich is a solid boxer and historically durable. But she fights on thin margins and she has given up takedowns in the past as well but against better grapplers.

This should be a competitive fight and one that I think Hardy could look good in round one just by being the more active fighter. But over 15 minutes, I expect Aldrich to be the better boxer and take over in the later rounds, especially if she keeps the fight on the feet. Aldrich by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings.

Kevin Jousset vs Jared Gooden
Jousset, -245; Gooden, +200

Kevin Jousset is coming off a decision victory over Kenan Song in December. He is primarily a striker and fights out of City Kickboxing gym. Of his 10 professional victories, four of them have come by knockout but he does not seem like a huge power striker. He also struggles defensively as he is very hittable and keeps his chin high in striking exchanges.

His opponent, Jared Gooden is coming off a second-round submission victory over Wellington Turman in December. Gooden is primarily a powerful puncher with 11 of his 23 career wins coming by knockout. But he is also very hittable in striking exchanges and tends to fade as the fight goes on which could end up being the difference here.

I expect Jousset to have success with the jabs and calf kicks. I do not rate him very highly though and expect Gooden to be very competitive while fresh. I think the cardio could be the difference in the favor of Jousset. Jousset by decision is the official pick but I have more interest in Gooden considering the price on DraftKings.

Jake Hadley vs Charles Johnson
Hadley, -166; Johnson, +140

Jake Hadley is coming off a decision loss to Cody Durden last August. He is 2-2 in the UFC and both fights he lost went the full 15 minutes. He is primarily a grappler with five of his 10 wins coming by submission. But his wrestling has never been good and he has not landed a single takedown through any of his four fights.

His opponent, Charles Johnson is coming off a decision win over Azat Maksum back in February as he came through as a huge underdog in that spot. That win snapped a three-fight losing streak and likely saved his job. Johnson is a good athlete but not a great fighter to me as he regularly gives up takedowns and is always on the defensive. He has solid cardio but rarely uses it to his advantage as he is not assertive enough offensively. But he is fighting in front of his hometown crowd so maybe that lights a fire under him this weekend.

This should be another competitive fight where I think it plays out very closely. I have historically been an anti-Johnson guy but this seems like a matchup that he can potentially take advantage of as an underdog. Johnson by decision is the official pick although you will likely get a better price in the live market after round one.

Trey Waters vs Billy Goff
Waters, -170; Goff, +142

We saw Trey Waters make his UFC debut last April against Josh Quinlan and he came through as a sizable underdog and won by decision. He is very long and rangy as he is big for the division and uses his length well with his jab. But he also fights with his hands low and is very hittable in striking exchanges. More worrisome is his defensive grappling as he has issues with being controlled and held against the cage for extended periods and I do not trust his gas tank either.

His opponent, Billy Goff is coming off his UFC debut as well where he won by TKO against Yusaku Kinoshita in August. He is a well-rounded prospect that is going to be competitive wherever the fight goes. He keeps a high pace on the feet mixing in the calf kicks and has legitimate power as well. He also comes from a high school wrestling background and will look to land takedowns. The main issue with Goff is that he is hittable in striking exchanges and seemingly gets hurt in most of his fights although his ability to recover is great.

I like another underdog here in Goff who I think will eventually find ways to close distance against the longer Waters. He is arguably more powerful and has some grappling and cardio upside as well. Goff by decision is the official pick.

TabAtha Ricci vs Tecia Torres
Ricci, -148; Torres, +124

Tabatha Ricci is coming off a close decision loss to Loopy Godinez last time out in November at UFC 295. That loss snapped a four-fight winning streak in the UFC and she looks to get back in the win column this weekend. On the feet, Ricci has powerful leg kicks and solid boxing, but her striking defense has never been good enough. She likely needs to have wrestling success in most matchups and she averages 3.39 takedowns and holds a black belt in BJJ.

Her opponent, Tecia Torres is coming off a two-year layoff as she recently became a mother. She last fought at UFC 273 and lost a split-decision to Mackenzie Dern. Torres is a good striker but typically not a high-volume fighter and she has always struggled with defending takedowns at just 61% in the UFC. The takedown defense along with the layoff and age difference give me concern about Torres here and think she drops another competitive fight. Ricci by decision is the official pick.

Esteban Ribovics vs Terrance McKinney
Ribovics, -175; McKinney, +145

Esteban Ribovics is coming off a decision victory over Kamuela Kirk at UFC 290 last June. He has knockout power on the feet and will keep a high pace for as long as the fight lasts. He is also opportunistic with his submission attempts and he will constantly look for his patented kimura if it presents itself. 11 of his 12 career wins have come inside the distance and I expect this one to end early as well.

His opponent, Terrance McKinney is coming off a first-round TKO victory in October. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak and all five of his UFC wins have come inside the first round. He has also never fought to a decision yet in his entire career. We know he is going to be very dangerous early in the fight with his powerful kicks and aggressive grappling style. But if he is unable to find the finish early then the gas tank falls off and he typically fades until he is finished.

As with every McKinney fight, this is an easy one to target on DraftKings as the winner is going to score well. I will have exposure to both sides but the official pick is Ribovics by TKO.

Viacheslav Borshchev vs Chase Hooper
Borshchev, -155; Hooper, +130

Our experts are split on this fight… See who is backing which fighter NOW

Just like Ricci, Viacheslav Borshchev also fought on that UFC 295 card and went to a majority draw against Nazim Sadykhov. He was hurt and nearly finished on multiple occasions but pushed through it and won the third round after being beat 10-8 in the second. He is primarily a counter striker and is going to have a clear striking advantage in this fight. Of his seven professional victories, six of them have come by knockout. The issue with him is that he has paper hips and only defends takedowns at 36% in the UFC. He will need to stay off the mat at all costs to win this one.

His opponent, Chase Hooper is coming off a first-round submission over Jordan Leavitt in November. Hooper is a dangerous submission grappler with six of his 13 career wins coming in that fashion. He is also 2-0 at 155 lbs. and this seems to be the right weight class for him. He will desperately need to close distance here and force grappling exchanges to win this fight. His wrestling has never been good as he averages just under 1.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. But he has a lengthy history in the UFC of turning failed takedown attempts into grappling exchanges by pulling guard or diving on legs to tangle up his opponents.

This one is pretty simple, if Hooper is forced to box with Borshchev then he gets destroyed. If Borshchev is forced to grapple with Hooper then he gets cut through like butter. For that reason, you should look to have exposure to both sides on DraftKings, but I am siding with the grappler in Hooper. Hooper by submission is the official pick.

Robelis Despaigne vs Waldo Cortes-Acosta
Despaigne, -205; Cortes-Acosta, +170

We just saw Robelis Despaigne make his UFC debut two months ago at UFC 299 and he won by highlight reel knockout over Josh Parisian. He is a former Olympic medalist in Taekwondo and is a very powerful striker. He has just five professional fights now and won all of them by first-round knockout. The jury is still out on his overall skillset as his cardio and defensive grappling is entirely untested. But it’s very clear that he is dangerous on the feet and liable to get any opponent out of there if they stand and trade with him at space.

His opponent, Waldo Cortes-Acosta is coming off a decision win over Andrei Arlovski in January. He is 4-1 in the UFC and 11-1 overall and he has proven he can fight hard for 15 minutes if needed. He is not nearly as powerful as Despaigne but he keeps a solid pace for the Heavyweight division and can keep it up for more than just one round which is yet to be proven by his opponent. He will be at a six-inch reach disadvantage in this fight so it’s possible his jab will not be as effective as previous matchups.

This one is straightforward to me. Despaigne is winning by first-round knockout or Cortes-Acosta is taking over and winning the fight if it gets extended. For that reason, you can make a case for both sides on DraftKings but my preferred play is Despaigne for the potential upside. Despaigne by TKO is the official pick.

Sean Woodson vs Alex Caceres
Woodson, -198; Caceres, +164

Sean Woodson is coming off a split-decision win over Charles Jourdain at UFC 297 in January. He came through as a sizable underdog in that spot and is 5-1-1 overall in the UFC. He is primarily a boxer and is very long for the division with a 78-inch reach. He keeps a high pace on the feet and really starts to flow once he gets his reads and can fight behind his jab for 15 minutes if needed.

His opponent, Alex Caceres is coming off a decision loss to Giga Chikadze in August. Caceres is a longtime veteran of the sport and a good measuring stick for this division. He has won seven of his last nine fights although most of those came against the lower levels of the division. His striking style is awkward on the feet but he makes it tough for his opponents to get off on volume. He is also a good submission grappler but regularly lacks the wrestling to get it to the mat.

I expect Woodson to be the better striker here although Caceres is usually competitive with everyone he faces. I do not have interest in Woodson at this betting price or the price on DraftKings as I do not see him hitting a ceiling even though I think he wins. Woodson by decision is the official pick.

Mateusz Rebecki vs Diego Ferreira
Rebecki, -380; Ferreira, +300

Mateusz Rebecki won by first-round submission over Roosevelt Roberts at UFC 295 in November. He is 3-0 in the UFC after fighting on the Contender Series back in 2022. He is short for the division but he makes up for it with explosive power and a strong grappling game. On the feet, his striking is very sloppy as he basically just moves forward and tries to wing heavy overhands while closing distance. But he is usually only striking to open up the takedown entries and he averages over four takedowns per 15 minutes.

His opponent, Diego Ferreira is coming off a knockout victory over Michael Johnson last May. He is 39 years old which is the main concern with him in this matchup. But when he is at his best, Ferreira is a very well-rounded fighter with competent striking and is one of the best scramblers in the division. But he has been wilty at times and his cardio has been an issue in the past as well. He has also been knocked out three times in his career.

I give Ferreira more respect than the betting market here especially early in the fight. But over time, I do expect the pace and power of Rebecki to be the difference. Rebecki by TKO is the official pick.

Carlos Ulberg vs Alonzo Menifield
Ulberg, -265; Menifield, +215

Carlos Ulberg is coming off a third-round submission victory over Da Woon Jung at UFC 293 last September. Ulberg is a powerful striker with six of his nine professional wins coming by knockout. But he is one-dimensional in that he is not going to look to grapple at all. We have also seen him not manage his gas tank well and he paid the price for it against Kennedy Nzechukwu.

His opponent, Alonzo Menifield is coming off a decision victory over Dustin Jacoby at UFC 296 in December. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak and has won four of his last five fights with a draw in the middle. Menifield is a powerful striker with 10 of his 15 career wins coming by knockout. But he has had cardio management issues in the past and is hittable in striking exchanges.

Menifield has enough power that he can hurt Ulberg if he lands clean. But I think the majority of the time this fight plays out with Ulberg’s volume and pace being the difference maker down the stretch. Ulberg by decision is the official pick.

Joaquin Buckley vs Nursulton Ruziboev
Buckley, -155; Ruziboev, +130

Ozzy has a bet on this fight… See who he is backing NOW

Joaquin Buckley is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Vicente Luque in March in Atlantic City. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak and trying to keep that momentum going in front of his hometown crowd this weekend. Buckley is a powerful striker with 13 of his 18 wins coming by knockout. He has also shown the ability to clinch and wrestle a bit as he averages 1.4 takedowns per 15 minutes. The concern with Buckley is that his durability has been suspect at times and he has been knocked out four times in his career.

His opponent, Nursulton Ruziboev fought on the same card and won by first-round TKO over Sedriques Dumas in Atlantic City. Ruziboev is 2-0 in the UFC and both wins came inside the first round. Of his 34 career wins, 32 of them have come by finish and his last 10 fights have not even reached the second round. His cardio seems suspect if the fight were to get extended, but he does have legitimate finishing ability on the feet and on the mat while fresh.

This is an easy target on DraftKings as the winner projects to score well either way. I favor the Buckley side especially if the fight makes it out of the first round but I will have exposure to both sides on DK. Buckley by TKO is the official pick.

Derrick Lewis vs Rodrigo Nascimento
Lewis, -148; Nascimento, +124

Which brings us to our main event in the Heavyweight division as Derrick Lewis is coming off a decision loss to Jailton Almeida in November. It is no secret that Lewis is one of the heaviest hitters on the UFC roster and holds the record for most UFC knockouts in the promotion. But he has always struggled when fighters look to grapple him and he gasses out like most Heavyweights do as well.

His opponent, Rodrigo Nascimento is coming off a decision win over Don’Tale Mayes in November. He is currently on a three-fight winning streak and looks to play spoiler this weekend. He is not a great striker but does throw more volume than Lewis and carries some power in his own right. He has shown an okay grappling skillset but lacks the wrestling to have much success against Lewis in my opinion if he tries to grapple.

I think either guy is capable of hurting each other but I favor the Lewis side as the more powerful striker. If this turns into a gassy slugfest then I trust him to be landing the bigger shots as well. Lewis by TKO is the official pick.

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