We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 36 in Las Vegas. We have a 10-fight slate this week, so you can expect higher ownership on all of the fighters.
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 coming off a knockout loss to Davey Grant in March. That loss snapped a two-fight win streak for him. Martinez is primarily a kickboxer and trains out of Factory X in Colorado. He has good leg kicks and is comfortable fighting at range against most opponents. However, where he struggles is against guys with any form of wrestling skills as his takedown defense is only 63% in the UFC. But he also struggles against pressure fighters and guys that are able to close the distance against him which could be a big problem in this matchup. Rojo is coming off an exciting UFC debut against Charles Jourdain where he ended up getting knocked out in the third round. But he gave a good account of himself, and most people agreed that he won the first two rounds against a respectable opponent on short notice as a big underdog. He is an action-style fighter that is going to move forward and pressure his opponents with pace and volume. He has some legitimate boxing skills and mixes in the body work nicely. Lastly, he has a wrestling and grappling advantage in this matchup and think he will land some takedowns here. I favor Rojo due to pace and volume on the feet along with having the ground game advantage as well. Rojo by knockout is the official pick and he is a strong underdog to target this week on DraftKings.
Barriault is coming off a knockout victory over Abu Azaitar back in March. He is 12-4 professionally with nine of his 12 wins coming by knockout. He started off 0-3 in the UFC as he lost three straight decisions to respectable opponents. However, in his last two fights, we started to see him become more aggressive and showcase his power that we saw on the regional scene with two straight knockout victories although one was overturned due to a failed drug test. Regardless, I expect Barriault to control the center of the octagon and throw much more volume in this matchup. Lungaimbula is coming off a decision victory over Markus Perez in January. Lungiambula is a specimen physically, but his fighting skills leave more to be desired. He has a wrestling background but does not go to it enough and while he does carry power, he throws very few strikes per round. For those reasons, winning by knockout is likely his only path to victory and he is facing a fighter who has proven to be historically durable who is going to be throwing more volume and has power coming back his way. Barriault by knockout is the official pick.
Jourdain is coming off a third-round knockout victory over Marcelo Rojo in March. Jourdain is an exciting striker with eight of his 11 wins coming by knockout. He struggles to defend takedowns but while the fight plays out on the feet, he will throw in volume and has various striking attacks including a flying knee which he constantly looks for. Meanwhile, Erosa is coming off a brutal knockout loss to Seung Woo Choi just over two months ago. Erosa is a high-volume banger on the feet as well but also has a solid ground game and should be able to land takedowns if he wants to in this matchup. However, he is way too willing to go to war on the feet and his durability has let him down multiple times. Both guys have defensive liabilities, but I trust Jourdain to land the bigger shots early and Erosa has been knocked out five times in his career including the quick turnaround from his last knockout loss. This is a good fight to target as I am expecting the winner to score well and would get exposure to both sides if playing multiple lineups. Jourdain by knockout is the official pick.
Shore is coming off a “split” decision victory over Hunter Azure in April. I am sarcastic saying “split” because two judges had it 30-27 in favor of Shore while the other had it 29-28 in favor of Azure, which was a terrible scorecard. Shore is an undefeated prospect at 14-0 with eight of his 14 wins coming by submission. He is an aggressive grappler with good wrestling as well as he averages 5.52 takedowns per 15 minutes. Sholinian is making his UFC debut and he is another fighter who fought on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. He lost to Ricky Turcios who we just saw win the contract last Saturday. Sholinian comes from a wrestling background as well, but it is not even remotely close to the level of Jack Shore. This is a massive step up in competition and he is taking the fight on short notice as well. Shore likely dominates him for as long as this fight lasts, and he is the strongest play on the entire slate. Shore by submission is the official pick.
Kim is coming off a decision loss to Alexa Grasso her last time out in August of last year. She is mainly a one-dimensional counter striker with her best attribute being that she is very long for the weight class. She throws decent volume, but she does not move her head at all and tends to get hit more often than her opponents. She also struggles to defend takedowns at just 42% in the UFC. McCann is coming off a decision loss to Lara Procopio back in February where she was largely dominated in the grappling realm. I admit that I have likely overestimated McCann’s skillset in the past, but I do feel this is a good bounce back spot for her. Despite being much smaller and having a 10-inch reach disadvantage, she has always been good about closing the distance to get her boxing going. Additionally, she has always struggled at defending takedowns but is able to land them against fighters that are worse wrestlers than she is like Kim. McCann averages 1.62 takedowns per 15 minutes and if she comes in with a wrestling game plan then she likely wins the fight and comes through as a small underdog. McCann by decision is the official pick.
Paddy “The baddie” Pimblett is making his highly anticipated UFC debut. He is a former featherweight champion over in Cage Warriors but transitioned to the lightweight division years ago and is coming off a first-round submission victory in March. He is a high-level grappler and holds a black belt in BJJ with seven of his 16 professional victories coming by submission. His striking defense has improved since the early years but still needs some work as he eats way too many shots on the feet. But where he shines is on the mat and he has one of the most dangerous triangle submission skills out there. Just see for yourself:
Vendramini is coming off a decision loss to Fares Ziam his last time out in June. Vendramini is also a black belt, but I would favor Pimblett in the grappling realm. On the feet is where Vendramini should hold an advantage especially early in the fight. He is very electric and will throw with all of his power early in fights. If he is able to connect with one of those big shots, then he likely knocks out Pimblett here. Outside of an early knockout for Vendramini, I could see Pimblett getting the fight to the ground where he is always dangerous. Because his opponents are so worried about defending submissions, it opens up room for him to release some powerful ground and pound. I really think the winner scores well and I am expecting an early finish. I suggest hedging this fight as both guys are capable of winning, but I give a slight lean to Pimblett. If he is half as good as he thinks he is then he should get this fight to the ground and finish Vendramini. Pimblett by TKO via ground and pound is the official pick.
Bukauskas is coming off a split-decision loss to Michal Oleksiejczuk in March. He is a powerful striker with eight of his 11 professional wins coming by knockout. He has some powerful kicks that he will mix in before looking to go upstairs with his heavy punches. My biggest concerns with Bukauskas: He does not throw a ton of volume and he does not wrestle so his margins are thin in terms of round winning potential. He basically needs to win by knockout or clearly have big moments to win fights. His defense is also a concern especially when facing powerful fighters as he has been knocked out twice in his career. His opponent in this matchup is Rountree, who is coming off a decision loss to Marcin Prachnio in January. Rountree is much of the same as Bukauskas except older and throws less volume. I have been fading Rountree for a while, but his last fight made it clear that it is tough for him to win fights at this level anymore. I have all the same concerns with him as I do for Bukauskas except to a greater degree. This is an ugly fight and both guys are liable to get knocked out, but I lean Bukauskas because he is willing to do more and has slightly better durability. Bukauskas by knockout is the official pick.
Morono is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Donald Cerrone back in May. A UFC veteran, Morono is 19-7 professionally with 12 of his 19 wins coming inside the distance. He is a high-volume striker on the feet and holds a black belt in BJJ although he rarely tries to get the fight to the ground. Zawada is coming off a split-decision to Ramazan Emeev back in January. Zawada is low volume on the feet but does carry some power as 11 of his 17 wins have come by knockout. Both fighters have durability concerns, but I have to favor Morono in this matchup as the much more active fighter and more well-rounded as well. Morono by decision is the official pick but this fight has a wide range of outcomes so I would avoid having either fighter as a core piece in your builds this week.
Aspinall is coming off a second-round submission victory over Andrei Arlovski in February. He is 3-0 in the UFC and currently on a six-fight win streak. Eight of his 10 wins have come by knockout and none of his fights have ever reached the third round. Aside from his obvious power on the feet, he holds a black belt in BJJ as well. Aspinall should have a bright future in the UFC especially in this division. The only real concern I have with him is the cardio as he is unproven and has looked to be getting tired multiple times in round two including his last fight. His opponent Spivak is coming off a decision victory over Alexey Oleynik in June. Spivak is a well-rounded prospect who is 4-2 in the UFC with his only two losses coming against Marcin Tybura and Walt Harris. He is an adequate striker but what I like about him is his willingness to mix it up and grapple. He averages 2.83 takedowns per 15 minutes and has six submission victories as well. He certainly has the skillset to give Aspinall issues if he can avoid the early power. The most likely outcome is that Aspinall does get the early knockout but outside of round one, I favor Spivak in this fight, so I definitely have some interest in him as an underdog. Aspinall by knockout is the official pick but this is a good fight to target on both sides as I expect the winner to score very well.
Till last fought Robert Whittaker in July of last year and lost a unanimous decision. Till is a tough fighter to cap because he is very talented but rarely throws volume on the feet, so he finds himself in close striking matches even when he holds an advantage. He has obvious power on the feet and 10 of his 18 career wins have come by knockout. He has also shown historically good takedown defense at 82% in the UFC which is key in this matchup. Brunson is coming off an impressive performance in his main event matchup against Kevin Holland in March that resulted in him winning by decision. Brunson is an interesting underdog to target as his path to victory always involves multiple takedowns and control time. He averages over three takedowns per 15 minutes and is likely to go after them in this matchup but Till is physically strong and may be able to defend them for the most part. On the feet, I expect both guys to land shots but Till is much more powerful and Brunson’s durability is still a concern. He has been knocked out five times in his career and even had some dicey moments against Holland in his last fight. I will have some exposure to Brunson as he is a main event underdog with wrestling upside, but the most likely outcome is Till keeps the fight standing and hurts him on the feet. Till by knockout is the official pick.
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.