Alexander Volkanovski vs Yair Rodriguez
Here we go. One of the most anticipated championship fights of the year. Volk is a few months removed from his bout with Islam, when he tried to get double champ status. I’ll admit, his performance surprised me, the size discrepancy ended up being too much once things hit the mat. Although, Islam didn’t have as dominate a wrestling performance as we’re used to seeing, he only had about 8mins control. Volk showed why he’s been levels above the FW division though, he’s got beautiful technical striking, durability has never been a concern, and his wrestling is high level. He’s a complete fighter, you don’t TRULY see that in MMA. He lands 6.3 SS/m (absorbs 3.4), while averaging nearly 2 TDs per 15mins (1.5). He’ll likely use kickboxing early in this matchup, to try and take away the lead leg of Yair. He’ll need to neutralize that part of Yair’s gm quickly, as that’s one of his best offensive weapons. He won’t mind mixing in the TD either, we saw just how defensively aware he is while he had given up his back to Islam, and was in a body lock. It’ll be tough to get an angle, Islam talked about how strong Volk is, surprised him a bit. In steps Yair, who’s had a bit of luck on his side with some of his most recent wins, there was obviously the Zombie fight, and Ortega came via injury, who knows how that one would’ve faired. Nonetheless, the kid is talented, and has some of the best kickboxing skills you’ll see. His striking is also unique, and he throws shots at different angles you may not see coming. Head kicks is one part of his gm he thrives on too, and Volk has a tendency to lean into them, and again, durability hasn’t been a concern to this point, but eventually one of those could land flush and do some damage. The advantage I think Volk takes advantage of most here is his wrestling. Yair allowed Holloway to take him down 3 times, & he’s never really been known for a consistent wrestling approach of any kind since he’s been in the UFC, that has me worried for him here. Yair is definitely extremely active in guard/off his back though when it comes to looking for submissions, throwing strikes etc, so won’t be a complete wash there, but could see him spending 8+mins on his back. I’ve gone back and forth on this one, and for DFS, it’s tricky, because Volk SHOULD win, likely goes to a decision, & if it does, even in a loss, Yair is in a great spot in terms of potential scoring, 50-60 points on DK could do it. FD you probably need a win outright with how their pricing is for this card, a losing fighter won’t be optimal there. I’m playing both sides here, but the pick is Volk. AND STILLLLLLLL
PICK: Alexander Volkanovski $20 FD ($9200 DK)
Yair Rodriguez $13 FD ($7000 DK)
Co Main Event
Brandon Moreno vs Alexandre Pantoja
Couldn’t ask for a better Main/Co Main in terms of the immediate outlook for both divisions. New bloods trying to reign supreme, with both current champs recently concluding trilogies/quadrilogies (in Moreno’s case). Pantoja has a leg up in this matchup though, he’s currently 2-0 in his career against the champ. Things have certainly changed for both over the last 5 years, though. Moreno was much earlier in his career than Pantoja, Moreno is just 29yrs old, while Pantoja is 33. Both young & in their prime. Pantoja has won 4 of his last 5, with the most recent 2 won via submission over Perez & Royval. Royval is the backup for this fight should anything happen. & regardless, he’s next in line for the belt. Pantoja’s best attribute is his BJJ, he’s got some solid grappling skills, and is usually pretty smart in terms of not rushing positions. He’s solid on the feet too, landing 4.2 SS/m (absorbs 3.3 SS/m). His striking can be a bit wild at times (looping hooks etc), but for the most part it’s fine, I do think Moreno’s striking is the much more improved in this matchup though than previous. Moreno’s striking style is a bit unorthodox the way he stands in the pocket, along with his movement on the feet. Pantoja will probably throw hammering leg kicks to the lead leg with how wide of a stance Moreno uses, we’ll see what that does for the TD attempts. They’re both pretty good at getting TDs when pursuing them. Moreno (45%); Pantoja (40%). They’ll each be able to find success there throughout the fight. My biggest worry on the Pantoja side of things is cardio down the stretch, we haven’t seen him go 5 full RDs, & like I said before, I think Moreno’s striking is better, and if you can limit the TDs, you neutralize the best part of Pantoja’s gm. All that leads to more success for Moreno, he’s been in 5 RD bouts consistently over the last couple years, so conditioning won’t be a concern for him. And that could be true of Pantoja as well, I just think he needs a finish within first 10mins or so, if not, it’ll start to slip away on the cards. Should be a fun, close fight, and ownership will definitely be on Pantoja’s side. I think I’m fading entirely on FD, and will have small pieces of both on DK, just due to wrestling upside. Don’t think striking numbers will be gaudy enough to make up scoring difference. AND STILLLLLLLLL
PICK: Brandon Moreno $18 FD ($8700 DK)
Alexandre Pantoja $15 FD ($7500 DK)
Robert Whittaker vs Dricus Du Plessis
What a story this would be for DDP. He’s 5-0 in his last 5, with wins over Brunson, Till, Tavares, Giles & Perez. One could say that neither of this fights was truly a big one, as Brunson/still are clearly past their prime, and all others not being ranked, but with such a scarce division, these things happen. Whittaker has cleared everyone in the division aside from the champ, Israel Adesanya, and he’s still just 32 yrs old. DDP fights out of South Africa, and a win here would not only do so much for him personally, but also for SA in terms of having a legit championship contender. DDP has solid power in his hands, and he looks for the KO’s, he’s also a really well established wrestler, and looks to fall back on that should he need to. He lands 6.7 SS/m (absorbs 3.7 SS/m), while averaging nearly 3 TDs per 15mins (2.8). One thing I’ve noticed though is his cardio always starts to fade, with such a high pace as he sets early, if he can’t get his opponent out of there, he slows a bit by mid second RD. That won’t bode well for him in this matchup. Whittaker is durable, he’s got high fight IQ, and he’ll likely result to being a counter striker early in this one, which’ll be fine for him, before he starts to take over hisself. DDP won’t be able to get TDs consistently enough in this matchup, if at all, for it to matter, and if that’s the case, you’re most likely going to lose a kickboxing match with Whittaker. He’s landing about 4.5 SS/m (absorbs 3.2 SS/m), and does a pretty solid job avoiding the big shots. He could actually find offensive wrestling success hisself should he choose, DDP’s TDEF is not great (50%), and will be even worse as the fight goes long. I personally think this fight will prove that there’s levels to this gm. Whittaker should come away with a clear UD at worst, with potential for a late finish. Not feeling great about Whittaker for DFS though, my shots would be taken on DDP finding an upset.
PICK: Robert Whittaker $17 FD ($9100 DK)
Dricus Du Plessis $12 FD ($7100 DK)
Jalin Turner vs Dan Hooker
These are two of the taller LW’s in this division. Turner stands about 6’3”, while Hooker’s about 6’1”. Massive frames for the weight class. Turner is someone I’ve pegged as a dark horse for LW contender, and I still hold that sentiment despite his last outing. He had previously won 5 straight bouts heading into his bout with Gamrot. Gamrot’s, wrestling was just a bit too much to handle. He couldn’t get his power shots off on the feet long enough for it to matter. But showed defensive wrestling skills to avoid being submitted. If he continues working in that area, he’ll be even tougher to beat. Pretty solid all around skill set. His power on the feet is what makes him so dangerous, of his 13 pro wins, he’s got 9 via KO/TKO, 4 submissions. Hooker has been a fringe top 5 fighter for several years now, and always fights guys near the top of this division. But he’s been up and down here recently, and feels like his best is behind him. He’s 2-3 over his last 5. He’s a striker, with solid tools all around, but I think he’ll be outmatched in every facet of this one. On the feet, he likes to try and keep a high guard, which’ll open up the body shots. But also, with his head movement when he’s trying to block punches, he tends to always open himself up for big counter shots by dropping his hands a bit, it just looks like it feels natural to him. That will feed right into Turner’s offense. I’m not quite sure how early I think it happens, but eventually I think Turner lands a shot that drops him, and then he’ll go in for the submission win. Making him one of my fav targets on both sites today.
PICK: Jalin Turner $17 FD ($8800 DK)
Dan Hooker $13 FD ($7400 DK)
Bo Nickal vs Val Woodburn
New opponent for Nickal, he was originally scheduled to fight Tresean Gore, who had to back out. In steps Woodburn on less than a week’s notice, so props to him. Woodburn is undefeated professionally, at 7-0, 5 wins by way of KO. He carries big power in his stalky frame. They’ve mostly been big looping power shots he throws though, and sure, that works at certain levels, but at this level it won’t, at least not for long. Nickal is even greener if looking at records, he’s 4-0, 3 wins via submission, 1 TKO. He’s got a high level of skill with wrestling/grappling and that’s generally his go-to. He’s a 3 time NCAA D1 wrestling champ, so he’s going to be better than most once things hit the canvas. This isn’t to say his striking skills aren’t also good, he’s developing there, and has solid power. This should be another rather simple fight for him, get it grounded, work your way to a submission, his top pressure is insane. In terms of optimal, don’t know that he gets there on DK, $9800 is most ever by a fighter. On FD, he’s more manageable, even at highest price tag, because of how everyone else is priced.
PICK: Bo Nickal $23 FD ($9800 DK)
Val Woodburn $7 FD ($6400 DK)
Niko Price vs Robbie Lawler
It’s the farewell fight for Lawler. He’s calling it quits after 20yrs+ of MMA experience. He’s 41 yrs old now, so it’s clearly time. He’s been in arguably one of the greatest UFC fights of all time. He’s lost 4 of his last 5 though, so the decline has been on notice. He’s tough as all get out, and I expect him to go out here and put on a show, he’s only ever been finished three times in his career, so durability has never been an issue, for the most part. They’ve matched him with the perfect participant. Price is all about going to war in the pocket. He lands 5.4 SS/m (absorbs 5.5 SS/m). There’s not much of an offensive wrestling approach from either here, as they average less than 1 TD per 15mins, but I could see a scenario where Lawler looks to get it there at some point, to limit damage on the feet. Lawler has always had power, and that should be the case for the most part in this one, it’s going to be about not engaging in an outright brawl with Niko, although, Niko has been chinny in the past. Of Niko’s 15 wins, 10 have come via KO/TKO, and of his 6 losses, 4 have come via KO/TKO. The UFC knew what it was doing, and I expect a banger. I’m not so sure Niko can go at the pace Barbarena did before ultimately getting the finish, and that was nearly 150 strikes landed in the 2nd RD, if he can’t, this fight should favor Lawler after about 5mins. Niko’s fight IQ is just not there sometimes, and he lacks being able to understand certain moments in a fight. His damage comes via accumulation more so than 1 shot power. I think Niko makes a mistake in this one that he won’t be able to recover from mentally, and it’ll allow for Lawler to pour it on late, and with the crowd behind him, no better way to end his career. I think he gets it done.
PICK: Robbie Lawler $12 FD ($7300 DK)
Niko Price $16 FD ($8900 DK)
Yazmin Jauregui vs Denise Gomes
Both these young women look like they’re in for solid UFC careers. Gomes is coming off of a big time performance, with the TKO win over Bruna Brasil in her outing this past April. FWIW, I don’t think Brasil is that good, and her performance showed. Very timid, not aggressive in any one area, and didn’t use her size to her advantage. No bueno. I’ve been seeing people excited for her in this matchup with Yasmin, and I’m confused as to why. Yazmin probably ends up looking -500 in this one before it’s all said and done. Gomes will be at a significant speed disadvantage, she may have more power, slightly, & the grappling probably offsets, because Yazmin is solid there too. Could Gomes catch her on the feet with something? Sure, but I wouldn’t bank on it, Yazmin’s boxing advantage will show itself immediately, and it’ll likely cause Gomes to be desperate and look to shoot for TDs. To this point, Yazmin’s TDEF is 100%, so will be tough. Yazmin lands 6.3 SS/m (absorbs 4.2 SS/m), while Gomes lands 4.6 SS/m (absorbs 3.1 SS/m). For me, this fight simply comes down to do I think Yazmin can find a finish? Yes, I do, probably late, if anything, but also, am I confident she does? No. So all depends on her total volume, which could be limited with Gomes assumed wrestling approach. Yasmin is one of my fav leverage plays on the slate, don’t think she’ll really be on anyone’s radar.
PICK: Yazmin Jauregui $18 FD ($9300 DK)
Denise Gomes $11 FD ($6900 DK)
Tatsuro Taira vs Edgar Chairez
Due to a late cancellation of his last bout, scheduled with Kleydson Rodrigues, they found a late replacement for this card, to be fought at CW of 130lbs. Chairez is a DWCS alum, who fought Clay Carpenter and loss via UD last year. He’s a decent prospect with solid skills, of his 10 professional wins, he has 6 wins via submission, and 4 via KO/TKO. For Taira, he’s a bright prospect, he’s 13-0 overall to this point, and has a really solid all around skill set, especially in the grappling. Of his 13 pro wins, 7 have come via submission, 3 via KO/TKO. No one really pays much attention to his striking skills, but he’s fundamentally sound on the feet too, he just knows where his bread and butter is, and that’s through grappling. That’ll be the case here too, Chairez is a solid BJJ practitioner, so it won’t come easy, but eventually, Taira will work positions, before he ultimately ends up finding an arm bar, think it comes in the 2nd RD. With how little he does strike though, and the price he’s at, he’ll need a spectacular performance, with an early finish, to pay it off, and I don’t think that happens here. Should be another relatively easy win, but I’m fading him this card.
PICK: Tatsuro Taira $21 FD ($9600 DK)
Edgar Chairez $9 FD ($6600 DK)
Jimmy Crute vs Alonzo Menifield
If you were wondering, yes, you did see this matchup, back in February at UFC 284. It was an awesome fight, that ultimately ended up a draw. The two agreed to run it back. But, if not for the fence grab in RD 3 for Menifield, he wins the fight. Crute is on a bit of a skid right now, dating back to 2021, he’s 0-2, 1 draw, both losses come via finish. He’s stated he’s fully healed this time around, after dealing with a knee injury suffered from the Anthony Smith bout. Time will tell, but I expect this one to provide a winner one way or the other. For Crute to have more success in this one, he needs to manufacture TDs earlier in the fight, he was able to get them relatively easy come RD 3 of the 1st fight, but didn’t have enough steam to finish it. Both guys were exhausted. He averages over 5 TDs per 15mins (5.1). And on the feet, he’s landing 3.6 SS/m (absorbs 3 SS/m), which, by the numbers, doesn’t seem as bad as it really is, his striking defense needs work. He was dropped twice in that first matchup, but his toughness reigned supreme, he’ll need that again here too. He’s talked all week about how powerful Menifield was in their first meeting, and that generally means a fighter is thinking heavy about it, which I’m sure anyone would. He’s got solid power in his hands too, but doesn’t compare to Menifield’s. Menifield has been a frustrating fighter to watch over the last few years, but he’s seemingly putting it together and being more consistent, knowing where his strengths are. It’s going to be important he keeps this fight standing early, if he can, I think we’ll see a repeat of the first fight, where Crute blocks punches with his face, this time though, finds a finish. I’m playing both sides if this one because I expect better scoring from the winner, but the pick is Menifield via 3rd RD TKO.
PICK: Alonzo Menifield $13 FD ($8000 DK)
Jimmy Crute $15 FD ($8200 DK)
Vitor Petrino vs Marcin Prachnio
Prachnio is coming off one of the most bizarre performances I’ve seen in MMA when he beat William Knight. Knight threw a total of 33 strikes, and landed 8 of them. Prachnio was able to remain defensively sound, and used his kickboxing from range to get the win. Knight is no longer in the UFC, and I hope we don’t see him again. Petrino is another DWCS product, he earned his contract from a performance last September where he won via KO/TKO. He’s extremely green, with just 8 professional bouts, buts he’s undefeated, and 6 of the 8 wins have come via KO/TKO. He’s known for his power, but has solid wrestling/grappling to lean on, he’s not just a one trick pony. Which’ll do him favors in this division. Prachnio wants to be a kickboxer at range, he lands 5.7 SS/m (absorbs 3.2 SS/m), and without true KO power, fights like this will be issues for him. Petrino will be patient on the feet, if he isn’t having success there, he won’t be shy to shoot for a TD and look to find a finish via TKO from ground and pound. This all boils down to how quickly he can get it done. Can this be a 1st RD finish? Sure, but I think the patience of both early makes it an extended affair that will be it to the 2nd RD before Petrino finds his shot.
PICK: Vitor Petrino $16 FD ($9000 DK)
Marcin Prachnio $13 FD ($7200 DK)
Cameron Saaiman vs Terrence Mitchell
Saaiman gets a late replacement with Mitchell. I was bummed when I saw Christian Rodriguez was out of his bout with Saaiman, that was going to be a certified banger. Saaiman is another fighter repping South Africa on this card, he’s undefeated currently at 8-0. Of those 8 wins, he’s got 5 via KO/TKO and 1 submission. Mitchell is 14-2 overall, with an 100% finish rate. He’s got 8 submissions, 6 KO/TKO. Saaiman doesn’t want to get caught playing games on the canvas with him, he’ll make him pay. Other than that, this feels like a fight Saaiman can put on a bit of a show with, in terms of total output etc. He just needs to stay within himself, he’s got great power, and can put the lights out, or, he’s got solid wrestling of his own that he can lean on. Saaiman will be one of my fav plays on the card, he’ll probably see a bit of solid ownership just due to the late replacement, but that’s no big deal, don’t want to miss out.
PICK: Cameron Saaiman $19 FD ($9400 DK)
Terrence Mitchell $10 FD ($6800 DK)
Jesus Aguilar vs Shannon Ross
I get why odds aren’t further apart on this fight I guess, but I feel like Aguilar should at least be in the -175 range at worst, I just don’t think Ross is that good. He’ll have the size edge here, but that’s about it. He’s high volume, but he takes a ton of damage in return. Ross lands 6.5 SS/m (but absorbs 9 SS/m). Aguilar won’t look to engage with Ross on the feet willingly, but given the opportunity, he could crack him with a solid counter. Aguilar wants to close distance as fast as possible, and look for TDs. From there, he’s more position over submission. But once he gets you there, he’ll eventually find something to take advantage of. That’s what we saw in his DWCS bout. Very crafty on the mat. I’m personally not in love with this fight for DFS, think it disappoints in the scoring department, especially if it gets extended out of the first RD. Aguilar should have enough of an advantage to win this one via decision, or potentially finding a late sub. I’ll pass at his price though.
PICK: Jesus Aguilar $16 FD ($8600 DK)
Shannon Ross $13 FD ($7600 DK)
Esteban Ribovics vs Kamuela Kirk
Ribovics debut didn’t go as planned. But he showed us he’s got a solid all around skill set. He fought Loik Radzhabov, and was taken down 11 times, but defended another 10. In spite of that, still managed to land nearly 100 strikes total. That’s promising. His cardio isn’t a concern, and appears durable. He also has solid pop in his hands. Kirk has been away for more than a year now, and is looking to bounce back after a 2nd RD submission loss to Damon Jackson last March. Kirk’s best chance at this one will be through relentless pressure wrestling and keeping Ribovics on his back, and I’m not sure he can do that without absolutely gassing hisself. Kirk does have better fundamental wrestling, but the grappling edge probably sides with Ribovics. If Kirk is able to get TDs, I don’t think he keeps him there for long periods of time. This just feels like a solid rebound fight for Ribovics after a tough debut, and we know he’ll deliver with overall output/volume. He’ll go overlooked on this card and he’s opening the evening. Love this spot.
PICK: Esteban Ribovics $15 FD ($8500 DK)
Kamuela Kirk $14 FD ($7700 DK)
By: Chris Joseph (cmj0009)
Additional Prize Pick Plays
Jalin Turner ‘MORE’ Fantasy Score (102.5)
Tatsuro Taira ‘LESS’ Fanstasy Score (116.5)
Alex Volkanovski ‘MORE’ Takedowns (3)