This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
Saturday's 11-fight slate is unique in that it features a large underdog who has only put on dominant performances and a 14-fight veteran who doesn't have much film to study. Find out which one I am picking to take home a victory in this edition of the MMA Mashup, which features a breakdown of the entire card across five platforms. Our betting line was taken from William Hill online sportsbook and is accurate as of the post date of this article.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Nick Maximov ($9,300)
I have described wrestlers as "unrelenting" in the past, but Maximov is the definition of the word, with the 21-year-old having shot for 31 takedowns in his two UFC fights. He averaged 110 DraftKings points in those two appearances. It seems inevitable that an opponent will make Maximov pay for his lack of striking defense, but it's unlikely to be Andre Petroski, who throws big, overhand punches, and frequently gets tired due to his own active wrestling game. It's worth noting that Petroski has put up triple-digit scores in his two UFC bouts, but Maximov is too active in scrambles to allow the 30-year-old to secure top control.
Tatsuro Taira ($9,000)
Taira and Carlos Candelario will both try to take control of the fight with wrestling, but the Japanese fighter will have a considerable athletic advantage, which should help him as his opponent bears down with pressure. It should also be noted that Taira is a powerful and accurate counter puncher who will put Candelario at risk if he gets sloppy closing space. Candelario is a tough out, but Taira has multiple advantages that should help him turn the fight in his favor. Taira comes in $200 cheaper than he did two weeks ago before this fight had to be rescheduled, which could make him more favorable on a less-crowded slate.
Alan Patrick ($7,800)
Michael Johnson is at the stage of his career where I can't trust him to beat a grappler. "The Menace" had one of his strongest rounds in recent memory during the opening frame of his bout with Thiago Moises, but all it took was a little persistence from Moises to get the fight to the ground and lock in a submission. Persistence is the name of the game for Patrick, who will shoot takedowns from the opening bell until the judges' scorecards are read. "Nuguette" has been known to empty his gas tank early, and isn't much of a submission threat, so there will be avenues for Johnson to get himself back in this fight after he gets taken to the ground. Unfortunately, it's difficult to trust that the man who owns a knockout win over former lightweight champion Dustin Poirier can be dangerous enough to stop a motivated opponent.
Ion Cutelaba ($8,900)
Cutelaba must have decided he was tired of going to war in the Octagon. "The Hulk" has leaned on his wrestling almost exclusively in his last two fights, scoring a combined 17 takedowns against Dustin Jacoby and Devin Clark. Ryan Spann has big power and is a credentialed jiu-jitsu player, but he hasn't done well against other grapplers in the cage, as Luis Henrique was able to ground him four times, while Clark submitted him with a standing guillotine when the two fought in 2019. We have seen that It doesn't take much to rattle Spann's confidence, and getting repeatedly grounded by Cutelaba seems like something that could take the fight out of "Superman" early.
Plays to Consider on Super Draft
Allan Nascimento – 2.25X Multiplier
After losing both his UFC debut and contender series bout by split decision, the organization decided to give Nascimento another young prospect in Jake Hadley. Hadley has fast hands and can float effortlessly in grappling exchanges, but he's never faced anyone like Nascimento, who can scramble and hit sweeps for 15 minutes without much drain on the gas tank. Nascimento got stuck on his back for most of the third round in his bout with Tagir Ulanbekov, but I expect his active guard will give Hadley a bit more trouble. I also think his ability to counter punch will come in handy as "White Kong" comes charging into boxing range.
Angela Hill – 2.1X Multiplier
Hill threw up a big, red flag in the face of DFS players when she was almost immediately taken down and submitted by Randa Markos in 2019, but "Overkill" has made strides in her takedown defense since then, having stuffed the overwhelming majority of attempts from committed grapplers like Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson and Ashley Yoder in recent years. She will need to stay on her feet against Virna Jandiroba, who is one of a few BJJ wizards in this division. "Carcara" hits hard, but has notched just 39 percent of her takedown attempts in the organization thus far, and won't be able to compete with Hill in terms of speed and agility. I think the veteran will be able to frustrate Jandiroba with movement and pick her apart with volume in a solid decision victory.
Andrea Lee – 1.95X Multiplier
A few tough fights and a dubious decision or two have left Lee with an uninspiring UFC resume, but "KGB" is a functional kickboxer who mixes her targets and can use physicality to wear on opponents. Viviane Araujo is a jiu-jitsu fighter who throws hard but frequently gets tired late in fights, and Lee has been known to punish the body of tired or hurt adversaries. Araujo's 60 percent takedown accuracy rate is better than what you'll see from most pure jiu-jitsu fighters, but Lee has just one submission loss in her 18-fight career, which gives me confidence that she will be able to survive long enough to get back to her feet if she is grounded.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Katlyn Chookagian OVER 65.5 Significant Strikes and Davey Grant OVER 44.5 Significant Strikes
Chookagian has used a crisp jab and lateral movement to carve up opponents in the Octagon, as we can see from the 4.7 significant strikes she lands per minute. Amanda Ribas hasn't absorbed many strikes in her UFC tenure, but that's attributable to the fact that she has mostly fought grapplers. Ribas will look to march forward and land power shots on "Blonde Fighter," which will allow her to stay on her bike and connect with counter punches.
The move up to bantamweight should result in a bit more kickboxing for Louis Smolka, as he won't encounter quite so many tireless wrestlers looking to scramble. While Grant won't shy away from wrestling when he needs it, "Dangerous" will primarily look to get into the pocket and throw power shots. Smolka has landed just two takedowns in his last four fights, making it likely that this bout will largely be contested in kickboxing range.
Bets to Consider
Manuel Torres wins via KO/TKO/submission or DQ (+120)
What can we say about Torres? That's more of a legitimate question than we would like it to be. Only five of "El Loco's" 14 fights have lasted more than a minute, and his bout on the Contender Series ended in a TKO victory as the opponent was complaining of an eye poke. That's not a lot to go on, but we have already seen Frank Camacho sparked out by an aggressive fighter who hits hard, and Torres will have his foot on the gas from the opening bell. "The Crank" hasn't been in the Octagon since that June 2020 loss to Justin Jaynes while recovering from a car accident, which is further reason to think he may have trouble adjusting to the speed of the fight. Some may wonder why I don't just take the established veteran here, but Camacho is just 2-5 in his UFC career, and I'm fine with taking a small shot into the relative unknown.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Aleksandar Rakic OVER 84.5 Strikes and Jan Blachowicz OVER 64.5 Strikes
It's no secret that both Jan and Rakic can get caught in staring matches, but these totals seem incredibly low for a five-round fight. Even in his snail-paced bout with Ronaldo Souza, Blachowicz put up 105 total strikes, while Rakic has cleared this bar in four of his seven three-round fights in the organization. If we were counting significant strikes I would be a bit more cautious, but grappling won't hurt us here, and could even accelerate the totals if both men wind up in a 50/50 position against the fence.