It's not often the UFC serves us back-to-back cards featuring just 11 fights, but we have a few more dogs to take seriously on this slate, which makes it a bit more interesting than last week's event from DFS and betting perspectives. We'll take a look at every fight across four platforms, including a longtime veteran looking to add to his collection of victories, and the favorite in our main event taken to long odds through the magic of props. Our betting line this week comes from William Hill and is accurate to the post date of his article.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Jacob Malkoun ($9,500)
It's difficult to believe that the man who was viciously knocked out in his UFC debut by Phil Hawes can be among the biggest favorites on an entire fight card, but Malkoun's durability and relentless wrestling have seen him win three of his last four fights. We should also note that "Mamba" has been an excellent DraftKings play over that span, scoring at least 115 points in all three victories. While Cody Brundage is a strong wrestler in his own right, recent mid-fight decisions leave me questioning if he wants to be in the Octagon at all, as he seems to try to finish the fight as quickly as possible. This is followed by acquiescence when his opponent shows the slightest bit of resistance.
Tim Means ($7,300)
Speaking of fighters who can be sapped of their confidence, Andre Fialho is a force to be reckoned with when his opponent allows him to take the center of the cage and throw big combinations. However, we have seen the will to fight leave him late, and Tim Means is someone who will look to be in Fialho's face throwing volume until he finds a finish. Even if he gets off to a good start, I expect the mix of high-intensity striking and wrestling to be too much for the Portuguese fighter, who was taken down twice in three attempts by a dedicated striker in Joaquin Buckley.
Mohammed Usman ($8,400)
Usman may never live up to the lofty goals set by his brother, but he doesn't need to fight at a championship level to beat Jake Collier, who frequently comes on strong before fading if he is unable to finish his opponent. "The Motor" has yet to be knocked out in his professional MMA career and should be able to lean on his wrestling to get "The Prototype" tired ahead of schedule. This could result in Usman's first 100-point performance on DraftKings.
Ricardo Ramos ($7,900)
Charles Jourdain may have become an expert in keeping himself safe on the ground ahead of his bizarre fight with Kron Gracie, but this says nothing with regard to his takedown defense rate, which still stands at 48 percent. Ramos doesn't always elect to use his grappling, but it seems likely that will be the route to take when standing in front of such a dangerous kickboxer. The Brazilian fighter should stay on the pressure from the opening bell, denying Jourdain the space he needs to get his offense going.
Bryce Mitchell ($8,900)
It's been quite a long layoff for Mitchell after he was rather easily beaten and submitted by Ilia Topuria in December, but I find it hard to read too much into the loss, as Topuria has a combination of power and ground acumen that is without equal in the bantamweight division. Dan Ige is illustrative of this point, as he is a slick boxer who can operate on the ground but doesn't have the kind of power to stop "Thug Nasty" in his tracks and was taken down nine times in his fight with Movsar Evloev. Ige will have the advantage for as long as this fight takes place at range, but it seems inevitable that Mitchell will drag the bout into his world before long.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Dan Argueta OVER 41.5 Significant Strikes, Marina Rodriguez OVER 70.5 Significant Strikes, and Mizuki Inoue UNDER 75.5 Significant Strikes
Miles Johns came to the UFC with a wrestling pedigree, but "Chapo" hasn't been very adept at getting opponents to the mat, having logged just two takedowns in six fights. By contrast, Argueta has gotten each fighter he has faced to the mat at least once in his three bouts with the organization. Johns is a physically strong presence and will bring his 92 percent takedown defense rate to the cage. This likely means the two competitors will have a standup battle for the better part of three rounds, allowing us to clear this total with ease.
Michelle Waterson will throw volume and look for grappling exchanges whenever she can, but her small stature and lack of power will likely see her on the wrong end of decisions more often than not. That high pace will be great for our purposes, however, as it will ensure that Rodriguez throws along with her. "The Karate Hottie" has been finished by KO/TKO just once in 29 professional MMA fights, giving us a nice recipe for a bout with a high strike total.
While Inoue is certainly an active kickboxer, she doesn't have much power in her hands, as she has never finished a fight with strikes as a professional. However, she does have nine submission victories in her career. Hannah Goldy should be the fighter with more physicality in this matchup, and though she will need to stay guarded on the ground, that will likely be preferable to facing the Japanese fighter in a kickboxing match. This should lead to enough ground exchanges to stifle a relatively high total.
Plays to Consider on Super Draft
Montserrat Rendon - 2.1 X Multiplier
Rendon is right where you would expect a promising 5-0-0 fighter to be at this point in their career, as she clearly has the building blocks of a style that can be successful at a high level. This includes some crisp boxing, and the ability to move her head to evade strikes. She can still look somewhat mechanical in her movements, however, which could pose a problem when facing someone as powerful and aggressive as Tamires Vidal. While there is a bit of danger here, I simply can't justify "Tratora" as such a large favorite, which has pushed me towards the dog on such a small slate.
AJ Fletcher – 2.05 X Multiplier
After taking tough losses in each of his first two UFC appearances, we saw Fletcher work his grappling to perfection against Themba Gorimbo, keeping up in scrambles until he found enough space to land a thudding elbow, which led to a submission victory. "The Ghost" will be at a considerable height and reach disadvantage against Bryan Battle, but "Pooh Bear" has had issues with grapplers in the past, as we can see from his loss to Rinat Fakhretdinov, in which he was taken down seven times. Fletcher should be able to do solid work in the clinch and on the mat in this fight, exhausting his opponent for what should be a comprehensive victory.
Bets to Consider
Rafael Fiziev to win by decision or technical decision (+270)
Both Fiziev and Gamrot have shown how tough they are during their respective UFC campaigns, but I'm going to take it a step further and back a horse for that result, as Gamrot has proven to be largely ineffectual when he can't get his grappling game going. "Gamer" is so relentless in his pursuit of the takedown that he is likely to score one or two as the fight progresses, but along with a 90 percent defense rate, Fiziev has largely been able to get quickly back to his feet after hitting the mat, which should leave Gamrot on an island to absorb strikes until we hear the final bell.
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