This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
The phrase "the wait is finally over" can be used to describe more than one fight at the top of the UFC 273 card, which will take place this Saturday at 6 PM EST. While it likely won't surprise many regular readers, I see plenty of underdogs worthy of a play here, including a young fighter aiming to be known for something more than beating the WWE competitor, and a heavyweight looking to restart momentum after a setback. We will be looking at all 13-fights across four platforms so without further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Alexander Volkanovski ($9,500)
Recent matchups have dictated that "The Great" show more of his striking arsenal, but he could get back to his relentless wrestling style against Chan Sung Jung, who tends to stand flatfooted in the pocket to land combinations. While it's nice to see "Zombie" get a shot at the title, it seems unlikely that he will have much joy in any phase of the fight, as Volkanovski has shown himself to be a slick striker capable of walking his opponents into traps and weaponizing his cardio. As long as he doesn't get hit with a big shot, this looks to be another 100+ point performance for the featherweight champion.
Khamzat Chimaev ($9,400)
Chimaev's price against such a high-level opponent will likely have many opting to play Gilbert Burns, but there are good reasons to believe that "Borz" can continue his upward trajectory. While he can look uncomfortable going forward, Chimaev is an accurate and lethal counterpuncher, as we can see from the one-punch knockouts that populate his resume. It should also be noted that Burns' takedown defense has always been poor and Chimaev is big for the weight class. It will be fascinating to see these two fighters tangle on the ground, and while it's logical to think Burns will have a jiu-jitsu advantage, it wouldn't surprise me if the Chechen fighter is too heavy in top position.
Mark O. Madsen ($7,800)
Madsen tends to get stuck on an island if he can't get his wrestling game going, but he shouldn't have to worry about that against Pichel, who has logged just a 25 percent takedown defense rate in nine UFC fights. Pichel's awkward movement could momentarily trouble the former Olympian, but he was able to track down a perpetually-moving Clay Guida often enough to tell me that he will be able to find Pichel and bring the fight into his world.
Marcin Tybura ($7,600)
We saw a revived Tybura after the Polish fighter suffered back-to-back KO/TKO losses in 2019, with the 36-year-old winning his next five fights before dropping a decision to Alexander Volkov. While Jair Rozenstruik can knock out anyone if the right shot lands, the slow pace he keeps in fights makes it difficult for me to pick him here, as an active Tybura should be able to out-pace him. There's also the question of his wrestling, as "Tybur" has landed at least one takedown in five of his last six fights, and "Biggi Boy" has looked lost when he has found himself on his back in the cage.
Anthony Hernandez ($8,700)
Josh Fremd is one of several newcomers on this card I don't care for. He throws decent leg kicks and can scramble well on the ground, but his lack of defensive responsibility got him knocked clean out by Gregory Rodrigues, and Hernandez will constantly be coming forward while throwing big shots. Fremd's insistence on looking for sloppy takedowns and willingness to work off of his back could get him into trouble here, as Hernandez is a capable wrestler and grappler.
Aspen Ladd ($7,300)
Seeing Ladd as a sizable underdog confuses me, as we have only ever seen her lose via knockout, or when she couldn't outwrestle her opponent. Raquel Pennington has just one KO/TKO victory in her 21-fight career and has been taken down and controlled by every committed wrestler she has faced, including 44-year-old Marion Reneau in 2021. It should also be noted that Ladd took her last fight on short notice after having a rough weight cut just a week prior, which could have played into her general ineffectiveness against Norma Dumont.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Aleksei Oleinik -2.05 X Multiplier
I was ready to pick Oleinik when he was a sizable underdog last week against Ilir Latifi, so I will jump at the chance to take him with a decent multiplier in a fight that Vegas sees as a coin flip. Jared Vanderaa is a decent volume puncher, but it's hard to see him get absolutely mauled on the ground against Sergey Spivac and conclude that "The Boa Constrictor" can't do the same. The finishing ability Vanderaa showed on the regional scene has yet to translate to the highest level, and Oleinik has been able to stand up to all but the biggest punchers inside the Octagon.
Mickey Gall – 2.25 X Multiplier
Large gaps in the resume and quick finishes make it difficult to know what to expect from Mike Malott. Gall hasn't done enough in his UFC career to shed the label of "gimmick fighter" due to his debut against C.M. Punk, but he's big for the weight class, has excellent jiu-jitsu, and has improved his counter-punching in recent fights. The latter skill should pay dividends here, as Malott can get hit hard while pressuring opponents.
Tecia Torres – 2.05 X Multiplier
For a little insight as to why I am frequently picking against Mackenzie Dern, consider that after going 1-for-8 on her takedown attempts against Marina Rodriguez, her success rate improved to 10 percent. If she can't get the fight to the ground, Dern could really struggle against someone like Torres, who is agile and very strong for the weight class. There's always a chance that Torres finds herself on the ground, but I expect "Tiny Tornado" to keep her feet and overwhelm the BJJ prodigy.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Julio Arce OVER 60.5 Significant Strikes and Piera Rodriguez OVER 52.5 Significant Strikes
Arce was doing quite well in his fight with Yadong Song before getting caught with a head kick, showing off his stiff jab, crisp combinations, and head movement. Daniel Santos will likely come forward throwing wild shots, which should allow Arce to rack up numbers while leading and countering.
Kay Hansen likes to use a superficial boxing game to get inside on her opponents and go for takedowns, but Rodriguez has looked very strong in clinch situations, which should help her keep this fight where she wants it. From there, "La Fiera" should be able to take the center of the cage and do damage with her striking.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Darian Weeks UNDER 62.5 Strikes and Ian Garry OVER 58.5 Strikes
Weeks will likely look to wrestle early, but Gary is such a good scrambler that I don't expect him to be on his back for long. Weeks works far too slowly on the feet to get much consistent offense going, which should leave Garry to use his athleticism and sharp striking to cover this number.
Petr Yan UNDER 146.5 Strikes and Aljamain Sterling OVER 105.5 Strikes
Yan is an avalanche when he gets rolling, but the fact that he generally doesn't throw much in the first round (or two) while making reads needs to be considered when facing such a high strike total. Sterling had less success grappling in the first fight than he likely anticipated, so it may surprise some that I am expecting "The Funkmaster" to double down on these exchanges as he tries to force Yan off of what he does best. This will leave Sterling with the task of breaking a total he has exceeded in two of his last three 3-round bouts.