This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
After what seems like an eternity away from the Octagon, the UFC is ready to put on its first card of 2023. Debuting fighters and big underdogs are strewn about the 12-fight slate, giving us plenty of opportunities to hit big. We'll cover every bout across four platforms, including a boxer looking to get back on track and a burgeoning athlete with sneaky power. Our betting lines this week come from William Hill and are accurate as to the post date of this article.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Sijara Eubanks ($8,800)
Eubanks can usually be relied upon to have a strong first round before gassing out, but one frame might be all she needs against Priscila Cachoeira who has shown virtually no ability to stop takedowns. Once on the ground, I expect Eubanks' control and jiu-jitsu prowess will either lead to a quick submission, or allow her to work at her own pace while racking up points. The power of "Zombie Girl" is live in every fight, but she has struggled so mightily with experienced grapplers in the past that there is only one pick to make here.
Mateusz Rebecki ($9,400)
There isn't much to the game of Rebecki, who generally just sprints across the cage looking to get a hold of his opponent and drag him to the floor. This may lead to an opportunity if he remains a big favorite in his next bout, but there's no way to pick Nick Fiore, a 6-0 fighter who has two wins against a 106-loss fighter in Jay Ellis. As a Renzo Gracie brown belt, it's not as though Fiore has no skills to develop, but he is far too erratic in the cage, while Rebecki seems to be a solid positional grappler.
Allan Nascimento ($9,100)
After a tough organizational debut against another strong grappler in Tagir Ulanbekov, Nascimento was able to show the full breadth of his grappling game against Jake Hadley, notching two takedowns and three reversals en route to a decision win. Carlos Hernandez is a slick boxer with good striking defense but was far too willing to clinch with Victor Altamirano, and was taken down five times in his Contender Series bout. Both men are adept at scrambling, but Nascimento is the play, as he is more likely to be given the fight he wants.
Jimmy Flick ($7,200)
Flick's two-year layoff probably has something to do with him being a large underdog, but "The Brick's" pace, pressure, and lightning-fast transitions on the ground make him an intriguing dog play nonetheless. Charles Johnson should almost certainly be looking for his first UFC win after a controversial decision against Zhalgas Zhumagulov, and while he is unquestionably the better striker in this matchup, his penchant for getting backed to the cage should allow Flick to control the bout with his grappling.
Dan Argueta ($8,600)
Argueta and Nick Aguirre share similar approaches as aggressive brawlers who will mix in a wrestling game. I see Argueta as the much cleaner and explosive grappler and scrambler, however, as we saw in his fight with Damon Jackson. I expect both men will try to break each other with pressure and pace, but it should be the more dangerous Argueta who takes control down the stretch.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Ketlen Vieira UNDER 1.5 Takedowns and Umar Nurmagomedov UNDER 2.5 Takedowns
Vieira has always been a grappler first, but a sudden desire to play a counter-striking game has limited the former prospect's chances to get the fight to the floor, as she has notched just one takedown in her last two fights. Raquel Pennington isn't shy about muscling her opponent in the cage and should be able to use her physicality to stay upright in clinch situations.
A wildly inflated line here has many (correctly) taking a shot on Raoni Barcelos to win outright, but those looking for another angle would do well to remember the Brazilian's 93 percent takedown defense rate in eight UFC fights. It should also be noted that Barcelos is a world champion BJJ brown belt, so it's possible that Nurmagomedov chooses to limit his time on the mat if Barcelos can threaten him from bottom position.
Nassourdine Imavov OVER 22.5 Minutes of Fight Time and Abdul Razak Alhassan OVER five minutes of fight time.
No one necessarily asked for back-to-back main events featuring Sean Strickland, but we've seen enough to know that he is incredibly durable, as he was constantly coming forward despite eating big shots from Jared Cannonier. Imavov likes to stay in the face of his opponents until they break, but Strickland should be able to upset his rhythm with crisp jabs, allowing this one to stay in the center of the Octagon and go to decision.
Two wild-swinging KO artists seem destined to go under the five-minute mark, but we've seen Alhassan use the Judo in his nickname when necessary before, and I doubt he will want to stand toe-to-toe with a windmilling homerun hitter like Claudio Ribeiro. While either man could go to sleep quickly here, the fact that Alhassan has been away from the cage for nearly a year makes me think he will want to build into the fight and try and spend the gas tank of his explosive opponent.
Bets to Consider
Mateus Mendonca (+270)
I don't care for most of the debuting fighters on this card, but I'm willing to take a shot on Mendonca, betting that his athleticism, power and grappling will allow him to outwork a fighter in Javid Basharat who is content to let the fight come to him. Basharat is solid everywhere, but I fear that this fight will slip away from him if he is unable to land a big shot, as Mendonca takes the opportunity to score points with the judges. "Bacao" is about as raw as you'd expect a fighter coming off the Contender Series to be, but there is enough to like about the potential and the matchup to take a shot here.
Dan Ige Wins by KO/TKO or DQ (+350)
Damon Jackson can dominate a fight when he is able to out-grapple less-skilled opponents, but his lack of defense and positional control makes nearly every win a sweat. This includes his win against Argueta, who knocked down "The Leech" and nearly had him out on his feet in Round 3. Ige is great at establishing and keeping his distance and a good enough scrambler that I think he will be able to return to his feet and land hard enough shots to end Jackson's night.
For more UFC betting picks, check out our UFC Vegas 67 Best Bets for this weekend. For the latest in UFC odds, head to the RotoWire MMA Betting section.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Punahele Soriano UNDER 64.5 Strikes and Roman Kopylov UNDER 53.5 Strikes
As a counter-fighting kickboxer, Roman Kopylov has been known to drag fights out, collecting a decision loss and two third-round finishes in his three UFC bouts. Soriano is a boxer who will look for openings and won't force action until he sees an opportunity. This should result in prolonged periods of the two feeling each other out, which should see totals stay low for the duration of the bout.
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