Jon Jones vs Cyril Gane
The much anticipated return of arguably one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time is here. It’s been over 3yrs since he’s been inside the octagon, and this’ll be a HW debut for him. It seems clear he was bulking to potentially face Ngannou, so will be interesting to see what adding 50+ lbs on his frame will do, especially as we hit championship RDs in this fight. Jones is able to keep range well in most of his fights, he was typically the larger fighter against most of his opponents, so front kicks allowed for him to keep his distance pretty well. He also features some of the nastiest elbows in the clinch I think I’ve ever seen. From a numbers standpoint, he’s pretty solid on the feet, he’s a technical striker, he lands 4.3 SS/m (absorbs just 2.2 SS/m), for Gane, he’s slightly better, landing 5.1 SS/m (absorbing 2.25 SS/m). Gane’s entry into the UFC was a breath of fresh air for the HW division. And IMO, if he doesn’t try a heel hook at a crucial point in RD 5 in his fight with Ngannou, he’d be defending his championship tonight vs competing for it. I had that fight even going into the 5th. Gane moves like a MW on his feet, and he likes to touch and go. Utilizing his kickboxing to keep distance. Ngannou had previously never actively wrestled in nearly any of his bouts, the activity Gane was able to keep up I think caused him to want to slow the pace due to volume discrepancy. I think Jones will/should do the same thing here. He averages nearly 2 TDs per 15mins (1.85), while Gane averages less than 1 (0.62). Gane’s TDEF is less than average (55%), so it’s an area Jones could have the sustained success Ngannou had. But again, but worry there is cardio for Jones after adding 50+ lbs to your frame. I don’t care what you’ve read/heard to this point about it, it matters. I’ve gone back and forth on this fight since it was announced, and I’ve ultimately landed on the side of Gane. I think his speed will be a slight surprise for Jones and how light he is on his feet. I think it’ll allow for him to at least take 3 RDs of this one. Both men are extremely durable, so I figure this’ll hit the scorecards, but wouldn’t be surprised if it ends ITD. If doing multiple LUs, it’s definitely wise to have ownership to both. AND NEWWWWWWWW
PICK: Ciryl Gane $17 FD ($7800 DK)
Jon Jones $20 FD ($8400 DK)
Co Main Event
Valentina Shevchenko vs Alexa Grasso
Women’s Flyweight Championship
Shevchenko will defend her title for an 8th consecutive time tonight. Her dominance in this sport has been insane, but in her last outing vs Santos, she got all she could handle in what was a much closer bout than anyone expected. No offense to Grasso, but it speaks to the level of depth this division has that she’s already in title contention. She’s won 4 straight, but wins over Ji Yeon Kim, Joanne Wood, Maycee Barber, & Viviane Araujo wouldn’t scream title shot to me. Grasso has elevated her gm though, she’s solid everywhere, and would prefer a kickboxing affair. She lands 5.1 SS/m (absorbs 4 SS/m). On the other side, Shevchenko lands just 3.1 SS/m (absorbs just 1.9 SS/m), she also averages nearly 3 TDs per 15mins (2.5). That hasn’t really been a consistent part of Grasso’s gm yet, as she averages less than 1 (0.44). Grasso has solid grappling though, but Shevchenko has seen it all, so there shouldn’t be many surprises. The fact that her last outing wasn’t as dominant as usual, I think plays a part of how this one will go. She wants to prove she’s still dominant in every facet of this sport. Grasso will be a sacrificial lamb to once again proving that. She fight could look akin to when she faced Andrade. I think she’ll close distance and test the TDEF of Grasso early. Her top pressure/control is insane and if you’re not prepared for it it’s a different game. Shevchenko should find another finish here, just a matter of how soon. I do believe we see it within the 1st 3 RDs. If it goes longer, her activity should still be good enough that she’ll be one of, if not the nights highest scorer. I can’t fade her on most cards, this one is no different.
PICK: Valentina Shevchenko $23 FD ($9400 DK)
Alexa Grasso $14 FD ($6800 DK)
Shavkat Rakhmonov vs Geoff Neal
Shavkat is a future title contender in this division. He’s come in and handled every opponent with ease. Magny was his toughest test last time out, this’ll now be his toughest test to date. Neal is a vet of the gm, but he lost to the same Magny that Shavkat dominated, so in a way, this is most certainly Neal’s toughest test to date as well. Neal wants to stand in the pocket and have a kickboxing match. He lands 5.2 SS/m (absorbs 5.2 SS/m). And he’s pretty accurate with his striking, lands 51% of his strikes. The difference in this one will be how well his 85% TDEF holds up. Shavkat to this point gets TDs at a 50% clip and averages 2.3 per 15mins. And when you consider his average fight time is about 6.5mins, that’s a high success rate. Shavkat doesn’t offer a ton of power on his feet, lands just 2.5 SS/m (absorbs just 1.39 SS/m). He closes distance looking to get the fight grounded. It feels inevitable that he’ll once again be able to have his way with this, just a matter of how quickly he can find a finish. I think 2nd RD submission is what we’ll see in this one. Tough to love him for DFS on DK due to low output, feels safer on FD. But he could surprise.
PICK: Shavkat Rakhmonov $20 FD ($9200 DK)
Geoff Neal $10 FD ($7000 DK)
Mateusz Gamrot vs Jalin Turner
Of all fights on this card outside of the main event, this is the one I’m most excited to see. Two surging LW prospects going head to head. IMO, Gamrot should be on a 2 fight losing streak, he didn’t win that bout vs Tsarukyan, I’m sorry. There was an extremely high level of skill in that bout for sure though. Gamrot’s path to success is through his wrestling/grappling and chaining TDs together. We saw in his last bout vs the vet Beneil Dariush, that when that part of his gm isn’t going well, it’s an uphill battle. He was only able to get 4 TDs on 19 attempts. His output on the feet was otherwise low as a result. Turner has been on an insane run over his last 5 outings. All were finishes, 3 submissions and 2 KO/TKO. It’s pretty miraculous Turner is able to maintain his weight with this size. He’ll largely be the bigger man in most all bouts he’s in in this division. He’ll have a 7” reach advantage in this one, and 4” height. That allows for Turner to use his kickboxing to keep a comfortable distance while he employs his own attack. He’s got solid power, and if he can put combinations together consistently, anyone he faces will be in trouble. Gamrot’s wrestling will be better here, but he’ll need to be mindful of Turner’s grappling. This is yet another bout that hinges on Gamrot being successful not only getting TDs, but keeping control. And to do that for the better part of 15mins against Turner seems unlikely. I love the value on Turner in this one. And I think he can find another finish, its just a matter of how quickly. Gamrot’s durability leads me to believe it’ll come later. 3rd RD is what I’ll predict.
PICK: Jalin Turner $13 FD ($7600 DK)
Mateusz Gamrot $17 FD ($8600 DK)
Bo Nickal vs Jamie Pickett
This fight was supposed to happen back in December but got pushed back. I’ll keep this one simple. Nickal only has 3 professional fights, but he’s been dominant in all. He’s a 3 time division 1 national champion in wrestling at Penn State. And that’s largely what his gm consist of. He does have some power in his hands, which allows for him to close distance and look to get the fight grounded. Pickett simply isn’t UFC caliber, he’s lost 3 of his last 5. And I wouldn’t pick any of the 3 that beat him to have a chance against Nickal either. Pickett wants to fight at range, he lands 3.2 SS/m (absorbs 4.3 SS/m). The most important part of his gm with this one will be his TDEF (65%). Which won’t be anywhere near good enough to limit what Nickal wants to do. I feel fairly confident Nickal finishes this in the 1st RD again, but for DK, it’ll matter whether or not he can finish within 60 seconds, which is possible. But at his price, I’d take the gamble that he won’t. There won’t be a ton of volume from him, so his value relies solely on that.
PICK: Bo Nickal $22 FD ($9600 DK)
Jamie Pickett $8 FD ($6600 DK)
Cody Gabrandt vs Trevin Jones
The combined record for these 2 over their last 10 fights is 2-7-0-1NC. So to say a win is necessary for them is an understatement. It’s hard to trust either fighter here but one will take it. Jones debut win (which got overturned) vs Timur Valiev seems more and more like a fluke than anything, and tbh, I personally think it was stopped too soon. That result made a ton of us think he’d have more success than he’s had to this point in his career. He’s been extremely inconsistent, but has shown flashes of success. He has solid power if he can put his striking together, but has been too gun shy in most bouts. For Gabrandt, it almost feels like for him the ascension was to fast & he wasn’t able to manage expectations. This feels like a fight he needs to get his head back in the right place to continue his career. He’s only 31, and there’s opportunity in this division. Garbrandt is well known for his speed & power. Which is an advantage he’ll also carry in this matchup. If he were wise though, he’d lean on his wrestling, Jones has shown an inability to have success off of his back. And while Gabrandt doesn’t chase TDs on a consistent basis, one would hope his fight IQ leads him there here. He averages just over 1 TD per 15mins (1.02), and Jones’ TDEF is average at best (66% defense rate). There is the chance an overzealous Gabrandt gets cracked with a counter from Jones on the feet, but the pick is that the experience and level of competition Garbrandt has faced will be enough to see him through to a win here. A finish is possible, but I’ll say it comes via decision. If Jones wins it’s likely only by way of finish, anything else means he was as timid as he has been recently.
PICK: Cody Garbrandt $16 FD ($8500 DK)
Trevin Jones $14 FD ($7700 DK)
Dricus Du Plessis vs Derek Brunson
Another fight I’m really looking forward to. There’s a lot of faith in Du Plessis as a prospect to continue to rise to prominence. So the UFC does it’s thing and sends those fighters to Brunson AKA the prospect killer. See, Edmen Shahbazyan & Kevin Holland. Both men had superior striking against him, but were unable to take advantage due to the smothering wrestling from Brunson. His top control is extremely solid and if he gets you there it could be a bad night for you. He rains down elbows etc. Du Plessis is known for his power, and with an opponent in Brunson that can be chinny at times, it makes for the perfect matchup. Du Plessis is 10yrs younger, which should theoretically make a difference, but it may not due to the styles of both fighters. Brunson’s cardio started to fail him big time after RD 1 of his fight with Cannonier, and he paid for it in the 2nd RD. That could very well be how this one plays out too. The later fights go for Du Plessis though also affect his cardio. His striking becomes less of a threat, and more so about volume and potentially trying to seal the deal on a win. Brunson has underrated power too, so Du Plessis can’t get too caught up on defending TDs. Du Plessis throws big looping punches as he looks for KOs, which makes em easier to see coming, that will allow Brunson to duck under some of those successfully as he shoots for TDs with success. If Brunson manages his tank well in RD 1, I see no reason he wouldn’t be able to employ the same approach each RD. Brunson has a way to finish this fight as well, but I see him grinding out a decision, or Du Plessis finds the chin. I like the value on Brunson.
PICK: Derek Brunson $13 FD ($7500 DK)
Dricus Du Plessis $17 FD ($8700 DK)
Amanda Ribas vs Viviane Araujo
Another extremely close fight to call on paper. Both women are 3-2 over their last 5, each coming off of a loss. Araujo lost a kickboxing affair to the title challenger tonight in Grasso, while Ribas lost a close affair to the decision queen Katlyn Chookagian. Ribas’ ability in that fight to handle the longer frame of Chookagian bodes well in this matchup, as some consider Araujo’s strength to be an issue. These two women are near identical in terms of numbers on paper. One big difference will be in striking defense, Ribas moves slightly better on her feet in and out of the pocket, while Araujo tends to keep her head high on a center line. Ribas lands 4.4 SS/m (absorbs just 2.5 SS/m), while Araujo lands 4.8 SS/m (absorbs 5.3 SS/m). Araujo a bit more technical though. I give Ribas the slight edge in terms of her grappling, but wrestling chops are even. Araujo lands 2 TDs per 15mins, while Ribas gets 2.1. And they’re both excellent in terms of TDEF, Araujo 90% vs Ribas’ 88%. Something will give. Ribas will pressure forward with more consistency, which’ll allow her to get her striking going first. Araujo’s counter striking is solid though, so Ribas will need to do a good job of mixing targets. The overall wrestling in this could be a wash, and so I favor Araujo’s power on the feet more. This has split decision written all over it. But most certainly taking the discount on Araujo.
PICK: Viviane Araujo $15 FD ($7900 DK)
Amanda Ribas $16 FD ($8300 DK)
Marc-Andre Barriault vs Julian Marquez
I love this card from top to bottom. Full of fights with really uncertain outcomes, and here’s another. Both fighters come in having won 3 of their last 5. MAB will have the advantage in output, Marquez likely has the power advantage. MAB lands 5.3 SS/m (absorbs 4.8 SS/m), while Marquez lands 4.1 SS/m (absorbs 3.8 SS/m). Marquez doesn’t actively look for TDs, but somehow his fights end up on the mat/clinch, and from there he’s able to hunt for submissions. He averages 3 sub attempts per 15mins. MAB will be mindful of this and likely tries to fight at range. The cardio edge will side with MAB too, so the deeper this goes, the tougher it’ll be for Marquez to find opportunities for the submission. Marquez could certainly find the chin of MAB early in this one, but I feel as if MAB’s pace will win the day over the course of 15mins. Think he gets a decision here.
PICK: Marc-Andre Barriault $16 FD ($8200 DK)
Julian Marquez $15 FD ($8000 DK)
Ian Garry vs Song Kenan
Garry is a perfect 10-0 professionally. And has started his UFC tenure off 3-0. He’s got a longer frame for the division, which’ll certainly help him as he starts to climb. He’s got really good technical striking and he uses his kickboxing really well also. His volume is excellent, he lands nearly 6 SS/m (5.95) (absorbs 4.3 SS/m). While Kenan lands 4.39 SS/m (absorbs 4.3 SS/m). Kenan has power, and can certainly crack his opponent if given the chance, but as evidenced in his most recent bout with Max Griffin, he doesn’t respond well to consistent pressure. And as a result of that, Griffin was able to land some hard shots that ultimately spelled the beginning of the end. Garry is a much harder opponent than Griffin by a mile IMO. Kenan has been away nearly two years, so maybe the time off will do some good down the road, but I don’t think it will here. Garry should have his way for as long as it last. I think there’s an opportunity for a 1st RD finish here, maybe later in the RD as he starts to put it together. And for some reason, feel like Garry will go under owned relative to what he should due to Nickal/Shevchenko/Rakhmonov up top. Making him a sneaky good play today.
PICK: Ian Garry $21 FD ($9300 DK)
Song Kenan $9 FD ($6900 DK)
Cameron Saaiman vs Mana Martinez
This’ll be an interesting matchup. Saaiman eventually got the finish in his debut back in December, but it was definitely hard work to get it. His opponent Koslow was well renowned in his wrestling/grappling and he found success there until Saaiman eventually broke him down. Martinez is 2-2 in the UFC thus far. He’s best in a kickboxing match, he lands 4.4 SS/m (absorbs 4 SS/m), while Saaiman lands 4 SS/m (absorbs just 1.8 SS/m). They both have good movement on the feet. Martinez typically likes to start things at a slower pace though, which is going to allow Saaiman to set the pace early. I don’t fear Martinez being KO’ed, but should Saaiman choose to actively wrestle, he could find success. Someone so young & eager in his career may not opt for the path of least resistance, so we’ll see. Saaiman’s pace will be his friend in this fight though, and I ultimately believe that to be the reason he wins. I’ll stay away from a DFS perspective though, don’t think his volume will justify his price in this one.
PICK: Cameron Saaiman $19 FD ($8800 DK)
Mana Martinez $11 FD ($7400 DK)
Tabatha Ricci vs Jessica Penne
Ricci sits 2-1 in the UFC thus far, and has a favorable matchup in this one. Her debut against Manon Fiorot went probably as expected, but with a couple full camps under her belt these last two bouts, she’s been much better. She has a really heavy wrestling approach, and her success comes with how well she does there. She averages early 4 TDs per 15mins (3.9), and on the feet does a decent job, but most everything is done to help close distance. She lands just 2.9 SS/m (absorbs 4.8 SS/m). Penne doesn’t have the power to exploit the lack of head movement from Ricci. Penne is much more patient these days, and allows her opponents to dictate matchups. That’ll likely be the case here too, because Ricci will pressure forward from the opening bell. Ricci would be wise to chop away at the legs the same way Ducote did. Once she took away the lead leg, Penne was helpless. Ricci won’t deviate from her game plan though. And I think she gets anywhere from 4-6 TDs over the 15min bout which’ll be enough to control things in this one.
PICK: Tabatha Ricci $18 FD ($8900 DK)
Jessica Penne $11 FD ($7300 DK)
Farid Basharat vs Da’Mon Blackshear
Basharat gets his chance now making his debut. And if he’s anything like his brother, he’ll be just fine, at least to start his career. Basharat is extremely well rounded with a solid submission gm, 5 of his 9 wins professionally have come via submission. He’s got solid kickboxing on the feet, and does a good job mixing targets. Blackshear had his late notice debut not go his way against Zalal. He’s got a strong wrestling base with solid striking on the feet. His best path to victory would be through wrestling though. So for this matchup, that’ll be hard to come by. Basharat will do well enough on the feet to keep range, and even if Blackshear does find success with entries, Basharat’s fight IQ is high, and his skills are even higher, so he’ll be able to get out of most situations he finds himself in. A finish seems hard to predict in this one, but a clear decision win seems likely for Basharat. He’ll be a contrarian play, especially in tournaments due to the uncertainty with output. Don’t mind taking a chance on him up top.
PICK: Farid Basharat $19 FD ($9100 DK)
Da’Mon Blackshear $10 FD ($7100 DK)
Loik Radzhabov vs Esteban Ribovics
This one will be interesting to start the night. Ribovics is undefeated professionally at 11-0 with an 100% finishing rate, 6 KO/TKO; 5 submissions. So he’s well versed anywhere the fight is, the issue with considering him is the level of competition he’s faced to this point. Radzhabov definitely has the better competition faced outside of the UFC. And he hasn’t been finished in his career. He has heavy hands as well, but looks to get the fight grounded if he can. He seems to have solid cardio, as well as Ribovics. I envision this being a high paced affair for the better part of 15mins. The experience of Radzhabov will be key here. I think he’ll have enough to take this one. I’ll be lower owned on the fight overall than others.
PICK: Loik Radzhabov $18 FD ($9000 DK)
Esteban Ribovics $12 FD ($7200 DK)
By: Chris Joseph (cmj0009)