We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 38 in Las Vegas. We have a 13-fight card slate this week and a few really good matchups including an exciting main event with two guys that have massive finishing power.
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.
Alejandro Perez vs. Johnny Eduardo
Perez, -235; Eduardo, +190, DraftKings Sportsbook
Perez is coming off a two-year layoff after getting knocked out by Yadong Song at UFC 239. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak after stringing together a 6-0-1 streak. He was previously ranked in the top 15 before the layoff and trains at a good camp in American Kickboxing Academy. He typically does not throw a ton of volume on the feet, but he is explosive and well-rounded and does carry some power for his small frame.
Eduardo is coming off a 3.5-year layoff, and I honestly did not think he was still under contract in the UFC. He last fought in June of 2018 and was submitted by Nathaniel Wood. Even back when he was active, Eduardo historically struggles to defensively grapple. Nine of his 12 career losses have come by submission and combine that with the long layoff for him at his age and it is pretty concerning.
Perez should win this whichever way he wants as he is explosive enough to land something heavy but also would not be surprised if he just massively outpoints him to a decision win. If the fight were to hit the mat, then Perez is live for a submission as well. Perez by decision is the official pick.
Stephanie Egger vs. Shanna Young
Egger, -115; Young, -105, DraftKings Sportsbook
Egger is coming off a decision loss to Tracy Cortez in her UFC debut last October. That was just a difficult matchup for her though and now she gets a good opportunity to get her first UFC win against Shanna Young. Egger is a former Judo champion and has a crafty submission grappling game. Her striking is not great, but she is long and will have a three-inch reach advantage.
Young is coming off a loss in her UFC debut to Macy Chiasson where she was taken down three times and controlled for the majority of the fight. Young is not a prospect that I believe will stick around long in the UFC as her striking is awkward and she plays little to no defense on the feet. She also has a clear weakness when it comes to defending takedowns which should be key in this matchup.
I see the striking playing out evenly with Egger having a clear edge in the wrestling and she is live for a submission as well. Egger by decision is the official pick and she is my preferred play on DraftKings as well for the potential grappling upside.
Douglas Silva De Andrade vs. Gaetano Pirrello
De Andrade, -250; Pirrello, +200, DraftKings Sportsbook
De Andrade is coming off a decision loss to Lerone Murphy his last time out in January. He is a decent kickboxer and will likely have a speed advantage in this matchup. However, his striking defense is not great, and he does not look to wrestle as much as he should.
Pirrello is coming off a second-round submission loss to Ricky Simon in his UFC debut in January. The fight lasted just nine minutes and he was controlled for seven of them and taken down seven times as well, so we did not get to see much from him. Based on his regional footage, he is a power puncher with 11 of his 15 wins coming by knockout and eight of those were inside the first round. He tends to gas out later in fights and his grappling defense is suspect as well. Outside of an early big shot, I do not see much of a path to victory for him here.
I expect someone to get finished and it likely is Pirrello, but I would get exposure to him as well because he does have upside in a win and should be relatively unowned. De Andrade by knockout is the official pick.
Devonte Smith vs. Jamie Mullarkey
Smith, -150; Mullarkey, +130, DraftKings Sportsbook
Smith is coming off a second-round knockout victory over Justin Jaynes in February. He is 4-1 in the UFC with four knockouts and three of those came in the first round. He is a powerful boxer and clearly wants to keep the fight standing where he is most comfortable. He has yet to be tested much in the grappling realm, but I do have some concerns, and Mullarkey may be able to test him there.
Mullarkey is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Khama Worthy in March. Despite the knockout win, he is primarily a wrestler as he averages 3.9 takedowns per 15 minutes and will push a pace on his opponents. My main concern with Mullarkey in this matchup is that he is too comfortable in striking exchanges at times and eats many shots clean without moving his head. That could be a major problem against a one-shot power puncher like Smith.
This fight has two clear possible outcomes in my opinion: Smith knocks him out or Mullarkey stays alive early and wears on Smith with his wrestling and takes over in rounds two and three. This is a great fight to target as the winner should score well. Mullarkey by decision is the official pick.
Karol Rosa vs. Bethe Correia
Rosa, -450; Correia, +340, DraftKings Sportsbook
Rosa is coming off a decision victory over Joselyne Edwards in February. She is 3-0 in the UFC and currently on a five-fight win streak. She is a high-volume striker as she averages just under eight significant strikes per minute and will also mix in the takedowns over opponents she has a clear wrestling advantage over. She is also a BJJ black belt despite having two losses by submission and questionable decision making on the mat at times. The ground game likely won’t be a factor here as she is facing Correia, who is primarily a one-dimensional boxer.
Correia is coming off a decision loss to Pannie Kianzad last July and has now lost three of her last four fights. She has been facing a much tougher level of competition, but it is still clear that Correia’s best days are behind her, and she has already announced that this is her retirement fight at 38 years old.
While I expect her to land some damage on Rosa, I favor Rosa to be landing much more frequently along with being more responsible defensively as well. Rosa by decision is the official pick and she is typically a high-floor play on DraftKings due to her work rate being so high especially when she mixes in takedowns.
Casey O’Neil vs. Antonina Shevchenko
O’Neil, -220; Shevchenko, +180, DraftKings Sportsbook
O’Neil is coming off a third-round submission victory over Lara Procopio in June. She is 7-0 professionally with both of her UFC wins coming inside the distance. Her striking defense is still a concern to me as she leaves her chin high and will eat some clean shots during striking exchanges. But where she shines is when she is able to get the fight to the ground. She has an aggressive top game and has shown good control over her opponents along with staying busy looking for opportunities for ground and pound or submission attempts.
Shevchenko is coming off a second-round submission loss to Andrea Lea in May. Shevchenko comes from a high-level Muay Thai background and the story has always been the same throughout her career. She is a good striker but struggles to defend takedowns at just 50% in the UFC and she is not good at working back to her feet after being taken down.
This fight is pretty clear to me as Shevchenko will have the striking advantage but it likely won’t matter if she is unable to keep the fight standing. O’Neil averages just under 3.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and unless we see some noticeable improvements from Shevchenko’s defensive grappling then O’Neil will get the fight to the ground and bank control time along with trying to finish the fight. O’Neil by submission is the official pick.
Joe Solecki vs. Jared Gordon
Solecki, -130; Gordon, +110, DraftKings Sportsbook
Solecki is coming off a decision victory over Jim Miller his last time out in April. He is 3-0 in the UFC and currently on a six-fight win streak. Solecki is a high-level grappler and holds a black belt in BJJ and seven of his 11 wins have come by submission. This is an interesting matchup for him though, as Gordon has good wrestling and grappling and will not get tired throughout the fight like Jim Miller did. Solecki is very dangerous on the mat, but he needs top position and I am not convinced that he can do that against Gordon without hurting him on the feet first.
I expect Gordon to be more active in the striking along with potentially landing takedowns himself. Solecki has shown a willingness to accept bottom position and play off his back and Gordon is experienced enough to stay safe and earn control time in that scenario. The concern with Gordon has always been his durability, as he has been knocked out in all four of his career losses.
I expect him to be the better minute winner but also think he is more likely of the two to get finished which makes this a fight that I want to get exposure to both sides. Both guys have grappling and control time upside and Solecki has some finishing potential as well. Gordon by decision is the official pick.
Alexander Hernandez vs. Mike Breeden
Hernandez, -525; Breeden, +385, DraftKings Sportsbook
Hernandez is coming off a decision loss to Thiago Moises in February. My stance on Hernandez has not changed since the last few times that we have seen him in the octagon: He is a very talented fighter with all the skills but struggles to put it all together. He is a technical striker but rarely lets his hands go and he has a good wrestling base with a solid ground game as well but only averages 1.6 takedowns per 15 minutes. Fortunately, he is simply levels better than his opponent in this matchup in Breeden.
Breeden previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last season and dropped a decision to Anthony Romero. Since then, he has two wins on the regional scene against very low-level opponents. He is primarily a striker with eight of his 10 career wins coming by knockout. He trains out of Glory MMA & Fitness with James Krause which is a camp I respect but this is just a brutal spot to make his UFC debut. Outside of a lucky power shot, he has no chance of winning this matchup.
Hernandez is better than him wherever the fight goes, and the wrestling edge is very clear as well. Hernandez by knockout is the official pick.
Aspen Ladd vs. Macy Chiasson
Ladd, -240; Chiasson, +195, DraftKings Sportsbook
Ladd has not fought since December of 2019 when she knocked out Yana Kunitskaya in the third round. She is 9-1 professionally with her only career loss coming by knockout against Germaine De Randamie after a brutal weight cut. She was suspended by the state of California to fight at this division, but the restriction was lifted later that year. Keep an eye on weigh-ins this week, but I would expect she has it more under control after taking some time to focus on it with the long layoff. In terms of her skill set, she is a difficult matchup for any opponent, as she has cardio for days and will throw in volume for as long as the fight lasts. She will also look to mix in some takedowns, as she averages just under 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and has some aggressive ground and pound to go with it.
Chiasson is coming off a unanimous decision over Marion Reneau in March and is currently on a two-fight win streak. I consider her the lesser version of Ladd, as she tries to implement a similar game plan but is less successful at executing it. She is, however, going to be much taller and longer with a six-inch reach advantage in this matchup. Her fighting style does not really use that length though, as she is typically more of a hold you in the clinch and lean you up against the cage type of fighter. It is difficult to see how she wins minutes here unless she can clinch battle Ladd for the majority of rounds, but I do not see it happening.
Despite being shorter, Ladd is strong for the division and should be able to work her way out of those clinch positions and even get the better of them at times. I favor her striking at range and think she is more likely to land takedowns as well. Ladd by decision is the official pick, but there are better fights to target on this slate.
Krzysztof Jotko vs. Misha Cirkunov
Jotko, -150; Cirkunov, +130, DraftKings Sportsbook
Jotko is coming off a decision loss to Sean Strickland in May. Prior to that, he was on a three-fight win streak. Jotko is another fighter that I never have much interest in backing in the betting market or on DraftKings. He is well-rounded and has a solid skillset everywhere but is too low output to convincingly win minutes standing and only averages 1.16 takedowns per 15 minutes. It is no surprise the majority of his wins are competitive decisions.
Cirkunov is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Ryan Spann. Cirkunov is a relatively easy fighter to break down. He is a very slick submission grappler and eight of his 15 career wins have come by submission. He is almost always looking to get the fight to the mat, and he averages 4.28 takedowns per 15 minutes. He has power on the feet as well, but the problem is that he simply cannot take the damage as he has been knocked out four times in his career and all four came inside the first round. He clearly has more upside of the two in terms of DraftKings and for that reason, he is my preferred target. If he can avoid getting knocked out, then I trust him to be more active with his striking and mix in the takedowns along with threatening Jotko with his grappling as well.
This is another fight that I would suggest getting exposure to both sides and I’ll be leaning Cirkunov because he has the higher ceiling despite the fact that he may just get knocked out cold instantly. Jotko by knockout is the official pick but this one can legitimately go either way.
Niko Price vs. Alex Oliveira
Price, -165; Oliveira, +145, DraftKings Sportsbook
Price is coming off a decision loss to Michel Pereira in July. Price is a fan favorite due to his aggressive fighting style. He throws caution to the wind and is constantly looking to finish fights even if that means putting himself in danger as well. All but one of his 14 career wins have come by finish, and he has been finished in all but one of his five losses.
Oliveira is coming off two straight first-round submission losses. Based on the way he has looked in his last couple fights and missing weight as well makes it seem like he is just going through the motions. Price has defensive lapses that could get him in trouble here and the takedowns should be there if Oliveira wants them, but I simply cannot trust him to come in with the right game plan or execute it properly.
Price by submission is the official pick and this is a solid fight to target in the mid-range on DraftKings.
Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus
Holland, -150; Daukaus, +130, DraftKings Sportsbook
Holland is coming off a main event decision loss to Marvin Vettori in April. He has now lost two straight decisions after going on a five-fight win streak in 2020. The way to beat Holland is very clear. If you give him space to fight at range, then he is likely to pick you apart with his speed and length. However, if you can take him down then you can likely control him on the mat.
Daukaus is coming off a decision loss to Phil Hawes in May. He has the skillset to give Holland trouble as he is historically durable and has a solid wrestling base as well. He averages just under two takedowns per 15 minutes but has shown a willingness to wrestle more in matchups where he has a clear advantage. The concern I have with Daukaus is Holland should have a clear striking advantage while the fight plays out on the feet and will have a five-inch reach advantage as well. Daukaus will need to land multiple takedowns and keep Holland on his back to win this fight.
This has split decision written all over it as Holland will have clear moments on the feet but likely spend half the fight on his back. Daukaus by decision is the official pick and he is my preferred side on DraftKings.
Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker
Santos, -160; Walker, +140, DraftKings Sportsbook
Santos is coming off a decision loss to Aleksandar Rakic his last time out in March. He is now on a three-fight losing streak, but his last win came against Jan Blachowicz in 2019. 15 of his 21 career wins have come by knockout and he always has the power to finish any of his opponents. The concern with Santos is that he struggles to defend takedowns at just 66% in the UFC and he has been knocked out three times in his career.
Walker is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Ryan Spann in last September. Walker is an athletic specimen and is like Santos in that he is extremely powerful with 15 of his 18 wins coming by knockout. Additionally, he can also be taken down and controlled by competent grapplers and he has also been knocked out three times in his career. He is going to have a six-inch reach advantage in this matchup and is likely going to be more aggressive early in the fight as well.
Both guys are capable of finishing each other and both guys have durability concerns, although I think Santos is more durable and likely has better cardio as well. Santos by knockout is the official pick but I will be hedging this fight as well and will likely be overweight to Walker for the salary savings and his slate-breaking upside.