Alexander Volkanovski vs TKZ
This makes the 6th straight 5 RD’er for TKZ, he’s 3-2 over the previous 5. That speaks to the respect he’s garnered over the years and mainly to his talent/skill level. He’s getting his title shot now, in what legitimately may be his only opportunity left. He’s extremely well rounded and does many things well. And between the two of them in this matchup, I think TKZ packs slightly more power in his striking. 7 of the 10 wins Volk has in his undefeated UFC tenure so far have come via decision. TKZ can head hunt at times, which is a tailor made approach Volk will welcome, he’s one of the most technical counter strikers in the UFC, and he just picks you apart. TKZ could opt to use his wrestling, which at times will almost be a necessity to minimize what Volk is doing. Volk will use the first 2 RD’s to gauge what TKZ is doing, then he’ll start to press the issue in the 3rd RD and beyond. Volk will have the much faster hands too, from a numbers standpoint, Volk lands 6.42 SS/m, while TKZ sits at 4.07/SS m (ufcstats.com). Don’t get me wrong, TKZ is also a good counter striker, but he’ll need to abandon that approach in this style matchup, he doesn’t need to wait because he’ll be down in striking numbers quickly if he does so, and all things considered, he needs a KO to get a win here, and that seems extremely unlikely. Both guys have good chins, so this has the makings of a 5 RD striking affair in which Volk looks like every bit of the champ that he is. Ultimately setting up a rematch vs Max Hollaway. The pick is Volk via clear decision. However, due to his price on both sites, it’s likely a fade for me. Very seldom is the most expensive fighter in most optimal on FD, with the scoring differences on DK it’s not out of the realm of possibility, but still unlikely.
PICK: Al. Volkanovski $23 FD ($9500 DK)
TKZ $13 FD ($6700 DK)
Co Main Event
Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling
It’s not too many times you’ll see a champ this big of an underdog at any time, but Yan currently sits as high as -500 on some books. We all saw how the first one ended, an illegal knee while Sterling was still grounded. There has been back and forth speculation about who was winning on the cards to that point, and many had Sterling up, I didn’t see it that way, but I get why. Yan is very calculating, so he’ll spend 2 RDs feeling things out, even if that means he’s cutting RDs close, but once he gets it going, he’s figured out what his opponent is trying to do and uses his high fight IQ to adjust to make his opponents work to change things up again effectively, or get picked apart. Sterling is elite, that seems to have slightly gotten lost in the shuffle of things that have transpired since the last Yan fight. He moves extremely well on his feet, and puts out good volume on the feet, if he’s the aggressor in wrestling exchanges, he hunts for submissions and has some success. One big issue I noticed the last fight was his cardio, he wore his hisself down a bit in the early RDs and Yan capitalized. I’d assume that’s something he worked on and that won’t be much of an issue. As a result, I think we’ll see a slower paced 1st RD, and a more aggressive Yan to start. He wants this belt, he thinks he deserves it and he’s coming to take it. In his interim title fight vs Sandhagen, he was down in terms of striking numbers slightly, but was also much more accurate (55% landed vs 38% landed for Sandhagen). He also dealt more damaging strikes. In terms of wrestling in this matchup, it seems to make more sense for Yan to utilize that strength, and the numbers back it up. Per 15 mins, they’re near even, Yan lands 1.75 TDs while Sterling sits at 1.77 TDs (ufcstats.com). The biggest difference is defensive wrestling, Yan defends TDs at a 89% clip, while Sterling sits at 41%. In their first meeting, Yan was 7/7 on TDs, Sterling was 1/17. I see this fight playing out similar to the first one, except I don’t think Yan waits AS long to be the aggressor. Sterlings power on the feet won’t do enough, I believe I saw a stat that said he’s landed 900 strikes without a KD, that won’t get it done in this style matchup. I’m not overly confident Yan can get the finish, but if it happens, it won’t until 4 at the earliest. I think he wins via decision. Likely putting up great DFS stats again.
PICK: Petr Yan $21 FD ($9300 DK)
Aljamain Sterling $14 FD ($6900 DK)
Khamzat Chimaev vs Gilbert Burns
The peoples main event. I guess it’s officially time to see if Khamzat is who he’s shown himself to be throughout his first 4 UFC outings, and that’s a finishing machine with great skill and elite fight IQ. In his fight with Gerald Meerschaert, his clear path was on the feet due to Gerald’s grappling/wrestling abilities, and he did just that, didn’t attempt a TD and basically ended the fight with 1 combination. Against Li Jingliang, his best shot was on the mat, and in short order, he got the fight grounded and it was the beginning of the end. There’s people who believe the hype is too much, I don’t see it that way, sometimes a fighter just has IT, and that’s the case here, it’s just about seeing if he’s ready for that next step, and if he dispatches the #2 ranked Welterweight with ease, it’s time to have that conversation. Without saying, Burns is far and away Khamzat’s toughest test, and he’s always extremely dangerous in the first RD with his power, but if anyone is able to figure him out, he’s not as dangerous as the fights go longer. He’s one of the best jiu-jitsu fighters in the game. But his last few wins weren’t anything notable if you ask me, he beat Wonderboy who can’t wrestle, a washed Tyron Woodley, and a washed Demian Maia, I’d say this is Burns toughest test to date too outside of the obvious Usman bout. I doubt Khamzat will opt for the wrestling approach, but if he gets top control, he could just be too strong for him. I think Burns will be the one that tries to get a TD first, and we’ll know quickly how the rest will play out if he isn’t able to secure it. Khamzat will test the striking exchanges for as long as he can, he’s a great counter striker and will pressure forward when given the opportunity. Something has to give, but I think everyone finds out why Khamzat has so much buzz, I think he gets a TKO/KO in the 2nd RD.
PICK: Khamzat Chimaev $22 FD ($9400 DK)
Gilbert Burns $8 FD ($6800 DK)
Mackenzie Dern vs Tecia Torres
I’m extremely conflicted on this fight, such a tough one to gauge because each have clear advantages. On the feet, it’s Torres and her pressure striking, she dishes out 4.71 SSLpM and moves really well, but her natural weight class would be atom weight, so there’s a strength disadvantage. For Dern, it’s once things hit the mat, she’s pretty awful at landing TDs, only has 10% accuracy to this point, her opponents generally engage with her in the clinch and get the TD for themselves or someone slips, from there, she’s really good off of her back or in a dominant position. She looks for that arm-bar. She’s not bad on the feet, but will certainly be at a speed and power disadvantage. If I had any confidence that this would stay on the feet for 12+mins, I’d pick Torres probably 9/10 times, but I just think it hits the mat at least a couple times and Dern is so elite at getting what she wants there that I have to favor her here slightly, and I think she finds another sub, RD 2.
PICK: Mackenzie Dern $17 FD ($8200 DK)
Tecia Torres $15 FD ($8000 DK)
Vinc Pinchel vs Mark Madsen
I was honestly surprised to see Madsen as the dog here, even if it was just slightly. He’s an Olympic medalist in Greco Roman wrestling and has the ability to wrestle/grapple with anyone in the division. He showed in his last bout too that his striking is improving and he doesn’t mind having a kickboxing match if needed, in fact, he didn’t shoot for a single TD, and instead won a close decision on the back of his striking. He doesn’t offer a ton of power though, so in most cases his opponents are safe from a flash KO from him. He’s just well rounded, but has shown issues with cardio late in fights. In this particular matchup, I think he’ll go back to the well in this matchup and go back to shooting for TDs. Pichel’s TD defense is only 25%, but he’s more of a threat to lock up a submission if things do play out on the mat. That won’t deter Madsen though because he believes in his own abilities. On the other side, Pichel is well rounded, he averages nearly 3.3 TDs per 15mins, and on the feet, lands at a clip of 3.42 SS/m. But what stands out is his striking defense, only absorbs about 2.5 SS/m. He moves pretty well in and out of the pocket. He’ll likely be the one dictating things early while Madsen is counter striking and looking for ways to change levels. This is a really close call, but Madsen’s wrestling should be enough in the first two RDs to win this, assuming he doesn’t gas himself too badly for the 3rd RD. He’ll probably get anywhere from 5-7 TDs in this one, and if there are some moments of consistent striking exchanges, could get roughly 50-60 SS, which makes for a decent fantasy score at his price. I like Madsen to get it done via decision.
PICK: Mark Madsen $12 FD ($7800 DK)
Vinc Pichel. $17 FD ($8400 DK)
Ian Garry vs Darian Weeks
There’s a lot of hype around Garry, and rightfully so, he’s an undefeated prospect at 8-0, and had a nice showing in his debut vs Jordan Williams. However in that debut we saw a glaring weakness in his game he’ll have to get better at fast and that’s his striking defense, with him being the aggressor in most cases, he leaves himself open to being countered, and he took a big shot from Williams. He’s got a chin on him, but one can only take so much of those. Weeks debuted on short notice vs Bryan Barbarena and had a great showing. He probably wins that fight if he doesn’t gas late and allow Barberena to have good cage control as well as landing the cleaner shots. It’s an extremely small sample size with just the 1 fight obviously, but ufcstats has Weeks landing a massive 7.87 SS/m, with an average of 4 TDs landed per 15mins. Garry’s frame and ability to control his hips really well should allow him to stuff most of the TD attempts from Weeks, but he’ll inevitably give up a few, but may not matter much because Weeks struggles to keep the fights grounded. From a pure power perspective, Garry has the edge there, and he’ll also be the more technical slightly. If he’s able to maintain his distance better and not be so willing to trade in the pocket, I think he can make some noise in this matchup, especially if Weeks gasses late. I think Garry will be able to take the big shots on the feet from Weeks, and over the course of the fight, should start to take over down the stretch. I think Garry gets a 3rd RD KO/TKO. Weeks will be one of my fav underdogs to target though, because as mentioned, Garry has holes and a full camp could’ve been what Weeks needed to get it going, and the fact I don’t see Garry long term being who they want him to be. He’ll be a fringe top 15 guy at best.
PICK: Ian Garry $20 FD ($9200 DK)
Darian Weeks $9 FD ($7000 DK)
Raquel Pennington vs Aspen Ladd
Pennington has reeled off 3 straight wins, looking to make it 4 here against Ladd. Ladd was initially slated to fight Irene Aldana, so I figure she got a favor getting Pennington instead. On the other side, Ladd took a somewhat discouraging loss last time out vs Norma Dumont, she just wasn’t able to get much done. Ladd has power in her punches when she’s able to throw cleanly, the issue is a lot of her bouts end up in the clinch at some point and fights become ugly grappling affairs looking to see who can gain control up against the fence. Pennington offers similar output and power on the feet, but is much better defensively when it comes to avoiding strikes. She should be the one dictating the cage, and at some point, will shoot for a TD to try and work her wrestling, I think she’ll be the stronger between them and should have success. When it boils down to it, this seems like a mess of a fight, and I’m not sure how excited I am to have either for DFS purposes on FD, at least. The pick is Pennington via decision.
PICK: Raquel Pennington $19 FD ($8900 DK)
Aspen Ladd $11 FD ($7300 DK)
Mike Malott vs Mickey Gall
I went back and forth on this one when I saw Gall against a debutant with much less experience. I was reminded of Gall vs Jordan Williams, but thought about the fact that I don’t think Williams is built to have longevity in the UFC and has a clear ceiling, so does Gall. I’m also reminded of the fact that Gall lost a mostly striking match to Mike Perry and I came to my senses. Gall is decent everywhere, and mostly effective as a wrestler/grappler. Malott most recently made an appearance on DWCS back in October with a submission win. He’s extremely athletic, and will pressure forward from the jump. Throws good combinations and has decent power. No matter where this fight takes place, Malott should have the upper hand, especially if it hits the mat. I always think of experience with Vets, and Gall has that, so taking a shot on him in DFS isn’t a bad thing, but I like Malott here to impress in his debut. I think he gets a sub RD 2.
PICK: Mike Malott $20 FD ($8800 DK)
Mickey Gall $10 FD ($7400 DK)
Aleksei Oleinik vs Jared Vanderaa
Oleinik finally gets a replacement in Vanderaa after the Latifi fallout. In a much more favorable matchup. Vanderaa recently fought in Feb vs Arlovski and lost a close decision. Vanderaa is a striker and he’d prefer it stay that way, gives him the best chance to win. He doesn’t have that heavyweight KO ending power, but what he lacks in power he makes up with volume and pressure. Oleinik has long been known for his grappling/wrestling prowess and ability to get submissions. At 44 yrs old, he’s still pressing on, have to wonder how many more times we’ll see him after this. He’s a good striker, but generally uses it as a means to get into the clinch and try to change levels. Vanderaa struggled mightily against Alexandr Romanov when things hit the mat, but Romanov is much more athletic than Oleinik is now and may not produce the consistent TDs that Romanov did, but Oleinik should have the same type of success in terms of control. This fight is a hit or miss for me in terms of DFS, I like Oleinik to find a submission here, but think it’ll come later in the fight, 2nd or 3rd RD. I have zero interest in Vanderaa, don’t think he’ll produce enough to matter, even in a potential win.
PICK: Aleksei Oleinik $16 FD ($8100 DK)
Jared Vanderaa $15 FD ($8100 DK)
Piera Rodriguez vs Kay Hansen
I firmly believe Kay Hansen is fighting for her job Saturday night, she hasn’t been impressive at all IMO. She’s only been in 3 fights in the UFC, but it just doesn’t seem to click with her, even in favorable matchups. She’s moving back down to Strawweight for this one and still missed weight. Her best skill is to rely on her wrestling, but fight IQ is an issue and she doesn’t always put herself in the best spots. Rodriguez is undefeated as a professional at 7-0 and has talent. She’s getting the perfect opportunity with this matchup to get going. Rodriguez stays busy on the feet and will pressure forward throwing hard combinations. She can mix things up and change levels, but has trouble maintaining control of her opponents on the mat. She seems to be better suited to have a striking match, because if a switch has turned on with Hansen, her best shot is with offensive grappling. Rodriguez doesn’t except positions and will always work to get back to the feet. This has the potential to be an ugly affair where a split decision could be in play, but I think Rodriguez’s power on the feet will shine through and be enough, she could potentially find a finish too, she’s got 5 TKO/KO victories.
PICK: Piera Rodriguez $17 FD ($8300 DK)
Kay Hansen $14 FD ($7900 DK)
Julio Arce vs Daniel Santos
Over his last 6 fights, Arce has alternated wins & losses, his last fight being a L to Song Yadong this past November. Arce is a talented kickboxer, and has fight ending power, especially for this division. Santos is making his UFC debut here and hasn’t fought in nearly 2yrs. He’s a talented striker, but doesn’t have much power, it’s more volume, and he can be wild in his striking at times, which will leave him open to being countered. Arce moves extremely well on his feet, and likely will dictate the way this fight is going. He’ll also have the wrestling/grappling to fall back on. Simply put, it’s hard to know what a debutant who hasn’t fought in nearly 2yrs is going to look like after fighting much lower competition. I think Arce can get back in the win column in a nice way to open the card. I think he wins via 2nd RD KO/TKO.
PICK: Julio Arce $19 FD ($9000 DK)
Daniel Santos $10 FD ($7200 DK)
Anthony Hernandez vs Josh Fremd
Fremd is making his debut on late notice to fight Hernandez after some shuffling of opponents that eventually screwed Du Plessis, whom was understandably upset about it. Fremd utilizes a kickboxing approach, and likes to throw low leg kicks to set up his wrestling to try and shoot for TDs. He’s decent on the feet, but his striking defense is a worry, so anyone who has any competence in the striking department can find success. He struggles off of his back when things hit the mat, and Hernandez is a capable grappler/wrestler. Hernandez’s striking will be so much more technical in this spot too. He should be able to dictate how things play out for most of this as well. I’m not confident in how quick it’ll happen, but I believe Hernandez finds a finish either via sub or TKO/KO. He has that ability in this matchup.
PICK: Anthony Hernandez $20 FD ($8700 DK)
Josh Fremd $9 FD ($7500 DK)
by: Chris Joseph (cmj0009)