The UFC may not be giving us many star-studded cards to speak of lately, but the 13-fight slate on Saturday does feature a number of battles at bantamweight, which has proven to be one of the most exciting divisions in the sport. We'll cover each bout across four platforms, including a well-rounded fighter on the cusp of a coming-out party and a veteran looking to defy the odds yet again. Our lines this week come from the RotoWire betting page and are accurate to the post date of this article.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Da'Mon Blackshear ($7,800)
It wouldn't surprise me if Blackshear was knocking on the door to the top-15 at bantamweight sooner rather than later, as "The Monster" has a big frame for the division and has a nice jab to go along with a slick jiu-jitsu game. This skill set wasn't quite enough to topple another bright, young prospect in Farid Basharat, but Blackshear's success in the third round of that contest should make him someone to pay attention to going forward. Luan Lacerda is a powerful puncher who can pour on the pressure, but I expect Blackshear to use his range and athleticism to control where this fight takes place.
Jinh Yu Frey ($7,600)
Our win condition for Frey remains the same, which is to say that she will succeed when she is able to bully her opponent. Elise Reed has struggled with physically strong fighters throughout her run in the UFC, as she was taken down four times by Sam Hughes and controlled for a whopping 12 minutes before being finished in the third round. While Frey is not a wrestler by trade, we have seen her switch up her game when appropriate, taking down Gloria de Paula twice in a victory in 2021. Frey will likely be at a bit of a speed disadvantage here, but I don't see Reed providing enough offense to dissuade her from getting on the inside.
Tim Elliott ($9,100)
Victor Altamirano's struggles against a limited fighter like Vinicius Salvador should make it hard to trust him against a consistent performer like Elliott, particularly since he won't be able to use his wrestling as an escape hatch when he gets into trouble. The UFC veteran will pour the pressure and pace on from the opening bell, which should lead to a dominating performance.
Jamie Mullarkey ($6,700)
Mullarkey officially became the free square of the slate when Guram Kutateladze was pulled from their scheduled bout earlier this week. I've chosen to play him on DraftKings, where we can take advantage of the relentless pace and pressure he puts on opponents with his wrestling game. Muhammadjon Naimov was controlled on the ground for large portions of his loss on the Contender Series, and I expect him to wilt in the face of an opponent like Mullarkey on short notice.
Daniel Santos ($9,100)
It's never a good thing to get your bell rung three times in a round, but Santos showed incredible resolve to walk through the fire and finish John Castaneda in the second frame. Johnny Munoz doesn't pack anywhere near the punch of "Sexy Mexi" and should find himself getting out-scrambled when he chooses to employ wrestling of his own.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Karine Silva OVER 1.5 Takedowns Alex Caceres OVER 0.5 Takedowns and Amir Albazi UNDER 2.0 Takedowns
Silva is aggressive wherever the fight goes but would prefer to get to the ground to work her BJJ game. Ketlen Souza's strength deficit will likely be an issue for as long as she remains at this level, which should allow her undefeated opponent to bring this to the mat when she pleases. Souza is tough and skilled enough to scramble to her feet, providing the opportunity for rinse-and-repeat takedowns
Even as a skilled grappler, Caceres has shown a preference to use his agility and creativity on the feet. He will likely lean on his wrestling a bit more heavily here if only to try and curtail the pressure and power of Daniel Pineda. This should work to his ultimate advantage, as "The Pit" has logged just a 48 percent takedown defense rate.
Albazi will seize on his wrestling in order to employ his skills as a submission grappler, but Kai Kara-France has been an absolute wall in his UFC career, logging an 87 percent takedown defense rate in 10 fights. I expect Albazi to abandon his wrestling fairly early in this one rather than waste the energy on attempts that don't materialize.
Plays to Consider on Super Draft
Philipe Lins – 1.95 X Multiplier
Lins started uncharacteristically fast in his last fight, knocking out Ovince Saint Preux in under a minute to record his first finish in the organization. He will already have the speed advantage over Maxim Grishin and could really get ahead if he continues to push the pace on his opponent, who likes to take his time and pick power shots. Inactivity has seen Grishin come out on the wrong side of decisions in the past and there's nothing to suggest he will operate any differently here.
Umar Nurmagomedov 1.9 X Multiplier
Numagomedov is such a clean and sharp striker that I don't think he will be bothered much by the big actions of Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. Instead, I expect Umar to crowd the space of his opponent, rendering him unable to throw kicks and make explosive movements. "Capoeira" has been melted by punchers in the past, and while Nurmagomedov doesn't have the power of Li Jingliang, he did notch a KO/TKO over a fighter who had never previously been finished in Raoni Barcelos in his last outing.
Bets to Consider
Muin Gafurov (+108)
Gafurov is perhaps best known for his war with former UFC fighter John Lineker in ONE Championship, but the fighter from Tajikistan features a deep skill set that includes a Master of Sport in Sambo and a crisp and powerful boxing attack. John Castaneda throws hard, but that shouldn't be very concerning to us here, as Gafarov saw the final bell in his battle with "Hands of Stone." Gafurov may eat some shots early, but he should be able to melt Castaneda over time with pace and pressure.
Andrei Arlovski (+120)
Arlovski seems determined to be the longest-tenured fighter in the company's history, as the former UFC heavyweight champion had his first fight in the organization more than two decades ago. He will have a fairly favorable matchup here, as Don'Tale Mayes has shown himself to be far too passive. He is also a sloppy striker, leaving the door open for Arlovski's speed, accurate jab, and right hand to do enough work to get him yet another victory.
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