We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 35 in Las Vegas. We have a 12-fight DFS slate this week and a few lesser-known debutants, which should create an edge for us.
As always, I give my analysis and DraftKings strategy based on how I see each fight matchup playing out. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter or in the MMA DFS Discord with any questions that you have leading up until fight night Saturday.
Martinez is making his UFC debut and is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Jose Johnson on the regional scene in May. He previously fought on Dana White Contender Series last year but was submitted by Drako Rodriguez in the first round. He is a power striker with all eight of his professional victories coming by knockout, five of which came inside the first round. He does not have much of a ground game and can be controlled while on the mat which is a serious concern if he wants a future in the UFC. Cannetti is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Danaa Batgerel in March of 2020. He turns 42 later this year and has now lost three of his last four fights so the optics do not look great. He is a decent striker though with powerful kicks and willing to swing like crazy in the pocket. However, his typical low-volume kicking approach is not going to win minutes against a pressure power striker like Martinez unless he is successful in mixing in his wrestling. He averages over 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and will need to have success wrestling in this matchup as I expect him to be losing on the feet and liable to get knocked out. I would consider him a live underdog in that he could land takedowns and Martinez is unproven on the mat. However, I do not trust him to land takedowns and his fighting style leads me to believe he gets knocked out here at a high clip. Martinez by knockout is the official pick.
Emmers is coming off a dominant performance over Vince Cachero his last time out in August of last year. He is 18-5 professionally with eight of those wins coming by knockout. He is a well-rounded prospect as he is a high-volume striker with heavy leg kicks and comes from a wrestling background as well. The only real concern with Emmers is that he has been knocked out twice in his career and has been wobbled multiple times as well. Meanwhile, Sabatini is coming off an impressive performance in his UFC debut with a decision victory over Tristan Connelly back in April. He banked nearly 10 minutes of control time in that fight and dominated nearly every minute. He comes from a division I wrestling background and is a black belt in BJJ. He is clearly more comfortable on the ground as his stand up is mostly one two combinations from the outside before mixing in his takedowns. I like Sabatini as a prospect as he has good wrestling and a legitimate ground game. However, he needs to add layers to his striking and Emmers is physically strong and should be able to defend takedowns here. While the fight plays out on the feet, I expect Emmers to have a clear advantage in volume and power. This all comes down to if Sabatini can land takedowns because if he does then he should control Emmers and even threaten with submission. But more than likely I see Emmers keeping the fight standing and outpointing him to a decision. Emmers by decision is the official pick.
Aldrich is coming off a split-decision victory over Cortney Casey back in March. She is 9-4 professionally with seven of her nine wins coming by decision. She is a good boxer and is going to be much bigger than her opponent in this matchup. She will have an eight-inch reach advantage and is the better striker who will be moving forward as well. Demopoulos is making her UFC debut in this fight and is coming off a first-round victory in LFA. Demopoulos previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last August when she lost a decision to Cory McKenna. She is more of a grappler and willing to fight off her back for extended periods while looking for submissions. She is not a good minute winner and is going to be at a size and skill disadvantage on the feet. I expect Aldrich to move forward and land more volume along with the more powerful shots as well. Demopoulos is basically drawing dead to an armbar or triangle and I do not see that as a likely outcome in this matchup. Aldrich by decision is the official pick but Aldrich finishing by knockout would not surprise me either as I expect her to dominate.
Jacoby is coming off a split-draw against Ion Cutelaba his last time out in May. He was dominated in the first round and nearly finished but withstood the storm and won the last two rounds in most people’s opinion. He comes from a kickboxing background, and you should expect to see a heavy leg kick approach from him like usual. Stewart is moving up from middleweight in this matchup, and I am not very optimistic for him in this division. He is a low-volume power puncher who will occasionally mix in some takedowns. He needs to come in with a wrestle heavy approach to win this fight in my opinion. He does have knockout power, but Jacoby has proven to be very durable against bigger guys than Stewart in the past. Jacoby needs to keep the fight standing where he will have a striking advantage mainly due to technique and volume. However, seeing how easily the takedowns came for Cutelaba in that first round last time is not comforting when he is priced as a favorite. I would consider Stewart a live underdog with KO or takedown upside which makes him in play on DraftKings. But the move up in weight class along with the limited skillset makes it not as enticing. Jacoby by decision is the official pick, but let’s be honest, I never get Darren Stewart fights correct:
Turman is coming off a brutal knockout loss to Bruno Silva just two months ago. This is a quick turnaround for him, and at this point, he is entirely untrustworthy. I bet him in his last fight, and he immediately went to his wrestling as expected. However, he simply cannot take punches anymore as his durability is a major concern coming off two straight first-round knockout losses. Alvey is coming off a second-round submission loss to Julian Marquez back in April. Alvey has not won a fight over his last six bouts with a split draw against Da Un Jung mixed in there. As always, we can expect Alvey to be backed up against the cage looking to land his power hooks or big left hand. He is not a good minute winner and I expect him to be losing this fight unless he finds the knockout blow. Fortunately for him, it may not take much to knockout Turman and Alvey does have legitimate power. I favor Turman nearly everywhere and expect him to push Alvey up against the cage and try to wrestle him. But again, the chin of Turman (or lack thereof) makes it too difficult to trust him even at cheap price tag in a favorable matchup. Alvey by knockout is the official pick and both guys have upside on DraftKings this week.
Di Chirico is coming off a first-round knockout over Joaquin Buckley in January. He is 13-5 professionally with six knockouts to his record. He is a low-volume striker who will look to mix in takedowns as he averages 1.62 takedowns per 15 minutes. He has also never been knocked out, which is notable in this matchup against a power puncher like Alhassan. Alhassan is coming off a decision loss to Jakob Malkoun his last time out in April. He is currently on a three-fight losing streak despite being a sizable favorite in all those matchups. Alhassan will always be a deadly fighter within the first few minutes as he has significant power and will go for the finish early. However, we have seen it time and time again with him in that his cardio does not hold up and if he is forced to clinch and grapple then he gasses out within minutes. Once he gets tired, he is easily out wrestled and gets stuck on his back for extended periods. For that reason, I favor Di Chirico to withstand the early storm and likely find a finish late or win a convincing decision. However, I would get some exposure to Alhassan as he is always live for an early knockout and that could be a slate breaker on DraftKings.
Muradov is coming off a third-round knockout victory over Andrew Sanchez his last time out in January. He is 3-0 in the UFC and currently on a 14-fight win streak. He is a high-volume striker with legitimate knockout power. 17 of his 25 career victories have come by knockout including 11 of his 14 wins on his current win streak. To this point, he has shown good takedown defense and is surely to be tested in this matchup against Meerschaert, who is coming off a first-round submission victory over Bartosz Fabinski his last time out in April. This fight is very easy to break down in that Meerschaert needs to force some grappling exchanges in order to have a chance at winning the fight. On the flip side, if the fight stays standing then he likely gets knocked out. Sometimes we try to make fights more difficult than they have to be, but this is not one of those times. Muradov by knockout is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings.
These guys were both featured on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. Petroski was likely the favorite to win the entire show, but he gassed out hard in the semifinals and lost to Bryan Battle, who is fighting in the co-main event this week. Petroski comes from a wrestling background and is going to be aggressive in pursuing the takedowns, which we love to see from a fight IQ and DraftKings standpoint. Gillmore is legitimately one of the worst fighters on the UFC roster. Most people were surprised he got a UFC fight, but this is likely just to showcase Petroski as an interesting prospect. Gillmore was not even good enough to be on The Ultimate Fighter but stepped in as a replacement after one guy got injured. He was then taken down and submitted immediately in his fight against Gilbert Urbina. Gillmore has no business being in the UFC and despite the gas tank issues of Petroski, this fight should not last long. A Petroski Round 1 finish is very likely, and he is one of the strongest plays on DraftKings this week.
Lee is coming off an 18-month layoff after losing by submission to Charles Oliveira. He had multiple injuries during that span including ACL surgery and is now moving back up to 170 pounds in this matchup. Lee is good wherever the fight goes as he is a capable striker with knockout victories over Gregor Gillespie and Edson Barboza. But where he really shines is with his wrestling and grappling. He averages 3.21 takedowns per 15 minutes and eight of his 18 career wins have come by submission. Rodriguez is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Preston Parsons last month. He is 15-2 professionally with eight of his wins coming by knockout. He is a high-volume boxer and needs to keep the fight standing to have a chance in this matchup. He has shown defensive lapses in multiple fights along with being taken down multiple times by Mike Perry. I expect Lee to land takedowns and he has good top control so he should be able to control Rodriguez on the mat. This is also a massive step up in competition for Rodriguez and I am not convinced that he is ready for it. Lee by knockout is the official pick and this is a strong fight to target on DraftKings.
In this matchup, we have another TUF fight as this one is for the Bantamweight finals. Turcios was coming off a second-round submission in February of last year before joining the house. Since then, he has won two fights and looked impressive throughout. He is clearly more comfortable on the feet with his high-volume attack but does have some decent grappling as well and is difficult to hold down for extended periods. Hiestand is more of a wrestler who is looking to land takedowns and control you on the mat. His striking is not terrible, but he is very hittable defensively and his cardio is a notable concern as well. I expect this to be a sloppy fight much like the ones that we have seen on TUF, but more than likely Turcios keeps it standing enough to win minutes and take over more as the fight goes on. Turcios by decision is the official pick but I am more interested in Hiestand on DraftKings as this should be a competitive fight and his path to victory involves takedowns and control time.
In the co-main event this week, we have another TUF finale matchup at middleweight with Battle versus Urbina. Battle was the last pick of the house but has been impressive throughout as he won a decision in his first fight and submitted Andre Petroski in the second round in his next fight. Battle is not exceptional in any area but is not horrible anywhere either and that is the best way I can describe his game. His biggest advantage in most matchups is his strength in the clinch and his cardio, which certainly helped him outlast Petroski. Urbina on the other hand, was knocked out by Tresean Gore in the semifinals but Gore was injured, and Urbina is stepping up as a short-notice replacement. I actually think Urbina is the better prospect of the two as he has fought tougher competition and trains at a better camp. Gore had a clear striking advantage against Urbina and dropped him repeatedly, but it was mainly due to Gore’s combination of speed and power. Battle is not likely to have a speed advantage and he is less likely to throw in combinations. I favor Urbina’s grappling and think he should try to get this fight to the mat, but I worry about the size difference as Urbina’s frame is more suited for welterweight. This is another fight that could get sloppy, but I have interest in the underdog Urbina who should have multiple advantages and his win condition likely involves grappling. Battle is mostly a fade for me on DraftKings as his path to victory is likely a low-volume-based striking decision. Urbina by submission is the official pick.
Barboza is coming off one of the weirdest knockout victories we have seen in the UFC. He was landing multiple shots on Shane Burgos, but it was a delayed knockout where Burgos just fell back on his own and went out. He has now won back-to-back fights and has settled in nicely since moving down to Featherweight. Even at 35 years old, he remains one of the more dangerous strikers in the UFC with his nasty leg kicks and ability to finish the fight. Chikadze has been on an impressive run in the UFC as he is 5-0 in the UFC and coming off a knockout victory over Cub Swanson in May. We know the story with Chikadze as he comes from a high-level kickboxing background and wants to stay at range and pick you apart. However, his defensively grappling still needs work and his cardio is a concern as well. Additionally, this is a massive step up in competition as his run in the UFC has mainly come against low-level talent. Barboza is the best striker he has yet to face in his career and expecting him to have five round cardio in what should be a war is a bit of a stretch to me. I doubt either fighter looks to wrestle but Barboza would have the advantage on the mat along with the better cardio as well. While the fight plays out on the feet, I expect both guys to land shots, but Barboza is going to throw more volume and Chikadze historically slows down even in three round fights. Chikadze needs to knock him out early or do enough to win the first three rounds convincingly before his cardio fails him. More than likely, I see Barboza being the better minute winner and likely finishing Chikadze as the fight goes on. Barboza by knockout is the official pick and this is another strong target on DraftKings as I am expecting a finish in this fight.
Jon Kelly is a savvy daily fantasy sports player with years of experience across all major sports. He has over a dozen GPP wins across multiple sports and is ranked in the top 100 in MMA on RG rankings. He is an MMA contributor to FadeTheNoise and owner of FightNumbers.com where he provides free resources for MMA DFS players and sports bettors.