This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
The last pay-per-view of 2021 promises to be an absolute banger, with two title fights and a plethora of intriguing fights comprising the 15-bout slate. We will cover all of it across five platforms, including a nod to a moderate underdog being shown little respect on DFS sites.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Gillian Robertson ($9,300)
Robertson has long been counted as a solid DraftKings option due to her takedowns, ground control time and finishing ability. She will encounter something of a dream matchup against Priscila Cachoeira, who stands square to her opponent while looking to land big shots. This has contributed to a takedown defense rate of just 63 percent in her UFC career. The hefty salary on such a stacked card should take some of the focus away from Robertson, but she can be viewed as a cash option with some tournament upside, as it's unlikely she will remain on the feet long enough to be on the receiving end of "Zombie Girl's" power.
Alex Perez ($9,200)
A few key missteps have kept him from ascending to the next level in his career, but the former title challenger expertly combines pressure, speed and power to suffocate his opponents, with a few calf kicks thrown in for good measure. While Matt Schnell has shown himself to be a functional boxer with a tricky guard, he has always been hittable, and his comfortability in bottom position is likely part of what has led to "Danger" stopping takedowns at just a 50 percent clip. Perez was caught in a triangle the first time he went to the ground with Deiveson Figueiredo, but that was his only submission loss in 29 fights, which gives me confidence that he won't be so careless this time around.
Andre Muniz ($8,500)
Muniz has always been a slick BJJ practitioner with a solid kicking game, but the 31-year-old really turned heads in his last bout when he handed Ronaldo Souza the first submission loss of his 36-fight career. While Eryk Anders is a powerful athlete, he tends to struggle against rangy opponents who can keep him at bay. His 76 percent takedown defense rate may seem impressive, but it should be noted that a lot of his defense comes down to a strength advantage, which shouldn't be so pronounced here.
Erin Blanchfield ($7,800)
While it can be argued that she should have gotten her hand raised, there is no doubt that Miranda Maverick struggled on the feet against Maycee Barber, landing just 47 of the 143 significant strikes she threw in the bout. Erin Blanchfield represents a new challenge for Maverick in the UFC as someone who will seamlessly mix pressure striking with takedown attempts. Maverick's kickboxing is improving all the time, but she'll have no space to work against a fighter like Blanchfield, who will look to wear her down before taking the fight to the floor.
Charles Oliveira ($7,800)
You can't talk about Oliveira without discussing the progress he has made striking throughout his career, but I think the newly-minted champion will revert back to his roots in this one, which means a heavy wrestling attack with the intention of finishing Dustin Poirier by submission. While both men are BJJ black belts, there is little doubt that "Do Bronx" is the superior grappler of the two, as he currently holds the most submission victories in UFC history. Poirier was taken down a combined 11 times in his fights against Dan Hooker and Khabib Nurmagomedov, and I doubt that Oliviera will want to take chances with one of the most heavy-handed fighters in the division.
Plays to Consider on FanDuel
Ryan Hall ($20)
Regular readers of this column may have noticed the sudden absence of FanDuel recommendations. This has mainly been due to the removal of "takedowns defended" as a category, which has left "submission attempts" as its only remaining unique scoring criteria. While it is an interesting stat, most fighters don't rack up enough points via those attempts to make it worth a recommendation. Enter Ryan Hall, who is unrelenting when it comes to trying to get taps (4.0 submission average) and doesn't produce enough consistent offense to make him viable as a favorite on most platforms. Darrick Minner is a grappler who simply can't help but put himself in bad positions while trying to secure his own submissions, as we can see from the eight (!) losses by tapout he has on his resume. I expect the veteran to be competitive to start, but it's only a matter of time before "The Wizard" will find a body part and take home the victory.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Bruno Silva UNDER 6.5 Minutes of Fight Time and Santiago Ponzinibbio OVER Nine Minutes of Fight Time
How confident am I that Silva's fight doesn't exceed the 6.5-minute mark? His opponent, Jordan Wright, has never crossed that threshold in 13 professional bouts. We are looking at a matchup between two powerful strikers who are open to being hit and aren't shy about throwing hands. This sounds like a perfect recipe for a fight that ends inside of the first round, but we will happily take the cushion provided for us.
Ponzinibbio and Geoff Neal are both crisp technical boxers who throw hard, which might make some bristle at the notion that both men will remain conscious deep into Round 2. The issue is that both men have been hard to put away in their careers, as they sport just four KO/TKO losses between them in 49 professional fights. This is likely the result of excellent defense, as "The Argentine Dagger" relies on footwork and evasive movement, while Neal keeps a high guard while wading into the pocket.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Pedro Munhoz – 2.05 X Multiplier
The fact that Munhoz and Dominick Cruz have identical multipliers tells me that people are putting too much emphasis on "The Dominator's" past, his most recent win over Casey Kenney, or both. It's not that Cruz didn't look good in his fight with Kenney, just that Kenney is the type of opponent that is willing to give him the space to move around and be evasive in the Octagon. Munhoz will do everything he can to close down the space, apply smothering pressure, and fire the same hard calf kicks that gave the former bantamweight king so much trouble against Henry Cejudo. If prospective owners are thinking that Cruz will be able to use his wrestling as an escape hatch, it's worth remembering that Munhoz is armed with one of the fiercest guillotines in all of MMA, which can turn a strength in Cruz's game into a major liability in an instant.
Tai Tuivasa– 2.05 X Multiplier
Tuivasa has had his ups-and-downs in the UFC, but we have seen some evidence that the Australian fighter is taking his craft a bit more seriously of late, as he has come into his last two fights in shape, allowing him to be more agile in the cage. Augusto Sakai may have the more well-rounded game, but he is too easy to put on the back foot and can be hesitant to let his hands go, which should give "Bam Bam" opportunities to walk him down and unload. Prospective owners should be advised that Tuivasa gets hit hard more often than one would like, but I expect his hand speed and pressure to get the job done.
Kai Kara-France – 2.2 X Multiplier
It seems to me that fighters generally switch weight classes for one of two reasons: either they want their skills (like speed and power) to transfer and become more useful, or they see no path to a title in their current division and are simply looking for a fresh start. I fear it's the latter for Cody Garbrandt, who had lost four of his last five fights before making the move to flyweight. While his power will get a boost, he will sacrifice his speed in the process, which is (arguably) just as important. Kara-France should be able to use his footwork and push a pace that Garbrandt can't match. There is a chance Garbrandt will opt to use his wrestling, but the former bantamweight champion got tired after executing early takedowns against Rob Font and hasn't exactly looked like the picture of health in his weight-cutting photos.
Tony Kelley – 2.25 X Multiplier
Randy Costa is a ferociously quick and powerful kickboxer, but he showed us in his last fight with Adrian Yanez why he has never won a fight that lasted longer than five minutes, as Yanez was able to weather the storm and melt a clearly-tired Costa early in the second frame. Kelley is a sharp, fundamental boxer who showed how durable he can be in his debut against Kai Kamaka, which gives me enough confidence to take a shot with this multiplier.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Amanda Nunes UNDER 86.5 Strikes and Julianna Pena UNDER 46.5 Strikes
As with most Nunes fights, the total number of strikes will be determined by whether or not her opponent is game enough to survive. I'm betting against that survival in this case, as Pena is a strong top-control grappler but slowly plods into range swinging big, mechanical strikes. I tend to think Nunes gets this done with strikes early, but even if she does get taken down, I trust "The Lioness" to handle matters against an opponent who was recently submitted by lifelong kickboxer Germaine de Randamie.
Sean O'Malley UNDER 85.5 Strikes and Raulian Paiva UNDER 51.5 Strikes
Much like Nunes, O'Malley has rewarded opponents able to survive against him with an ocean of strikes. Paiva turned to his wrestling after getting absolutely hammered in the first round against Kyler Phillips, and I doubt he will want to be on the end of "Sugar's" accurate, powerful punches for very long. If grappling doesn't keep the strike total down, I think there is a decent chance that Paiva simply gets knocked out, as he stands far too upright in the pocket.
Josh Emmett OVER 82.5 Strikes and Dan Ige OVER UNDER 70.5 Strikes
When he's healthy, Emmett provides a combination of power and speed that is rarely seen in the lighter weight classes. While he may not be quite as fast, Ige is a crisp boxer in his own right. Both men will mix in a wrestling attack, but I think we are in for a high-paced brawl in the pocket for the better part of 15 minutes, with both competitors tough enough to avoid being finished along the way.