We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 39 in Las Vegas. This card is a bit lacking in terms of talent, but any fights are better than no fights and we do have a nice stylistic clash in this week’s main event, so you won’t find me complaining.
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.
Garcia is coming off a decision loss to Luis Pena nearly two years ago in his UFC debut in February of 2020. Unfortunately, he did not get to showcase much of his skillset in that fight as Pena basically held him up against the fence and controlled him for the entire fight. Garcia is a technical striker with legitimate power as eight of his 11 wins have come by knockout. The primary concern with Garcia is his defensive grappling but that likely should not be much of an issue in this matchup.
Ontiveros is coming off his UFC debut when he was knocked out with a body slam by Kevin Holland in October of last year. The main reason he got the UFC call was to step in on short notice to face Holland. He is not very good in any area but is going to go for the finish as his last two wins have come by first-round knockout. He has serious durability concerns though as he has been knocked out in all seven of his career losses.
Garcia by knockout is the official pick and Ontiveros is only worth some exposure as a very low-owned GPP leverage play in the main tournament on DraftKings if you are running multiple lineups.
Godinez is coming off a split-decision loss in her UFC debut to Jessica Penne back in April, her first career loss. She is a good boxer with an appealing combination of technique and power. She is going to have a significant technical striking and power advantage in this matchup against Juarez.
Juarez is 10-2 professionally with six wins coming by knockout. Her only two professional losses came against UFC fighters — Poliano Botelho and Ariane Lipski — and she even has a win over Vanessa Melo years ago on the regional scene. However, most of her wins are against low-level regional opponents, and she turns 37 years old later this year and is making her UFC debut on short notice. I am not convinced she belongs at the UFC level. I see Godinez having a clear striking advantage, but she will need to get inside and close distance as Juarez is likely to dance around the outside and pick her spots. If the fight goes to the ground, then it will be Godinez who is landing takedowns.
I favor the power of Godinez in terms of the wrestling and clinch battles to go along with her clear striking advantage which makes me favor her in this matchup. Godinez by decision is the official pick but there are better fights to target on DraftKings this week.
Jackson is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Ilia Topuria his last time out in December. He previously won his UFC debut against Mirsad Bektic when he submitted him in the third round. He is primarily a grappler with 14 of his 18 wins coming by submission. That makes this a tough stylistic matchup for him as he is facing a black belt in Rosa who should be able to keep the grappling neutralized.
Rosa is coming off a split-decision against Justin Jaynes in June. Aside from the grappling credentials, Rosa is a technical kickboxer that likes to keep distance and kick from the outside. Jackson carries more power on the feet but neither of the two can defend takedowns and both look to grapple so I expect this to hit the mat.
There are better fights to target on this slate, but I do have some interest as the winner should score well. Rosa by decision is the official pick.
Romanov is coming off a controversial split decision over Juan Espino in April. He is 14-0 with eight submissions and five knockouts. He comes from a Sumo wrestling background and is looking to move forward and swarm his opponents before getting them to the mat where he can do some damage. He is very heavy in top position and will look to land damaging ground and pound before hunting for submission attempts. The concern with Romanov is his cardio which was exposed against Espino and his striking defense if he is unable to get his opponents down. Both of those issues should not be much of a concern in this matchup against Vanderaa.
Vanderaa is coming off a decision victory over Justin Tafa in May. The best thing I can say about Vanderaa is that he has good output and decent cardio for heavyweight. However, he struggles to defend takedowns and has poor defensive grappling which both of those are a major issue against Romanov.
I expect Romanov to land a takedown early and dominate position on the mat before likely getting the stoppage victory. Romanov by submission is the official pick and he is a strong play on DraftKings.
Gutierrez is coming off a decision victory against Andre Ewell in February. Gutierrez is a technical kickboxer with sharp leg kicks and fast hands. He is typically more of a decision fighter but does have seven knockouts on his record including a TKO victory over Vince Morales due to leg kicks which are clearly his best weapon. The concern with Gutierrez is he can be taken down and out grappled by those with a competent wrestling game.
Colares is coming off a decision victory over Luke Sanders in May. He has had an up and down UFC career, but he has shown to be extremely durable and a willing wrestler. He also has a black belt in Judo and BJJ which should be a factor in this matchup. Gutierrez drew against Cody Durden and edged a split-decision over Geraldo De Freitas and both had success wrestling him throughout. Colares has attempted at least eight takedowns in all of his UFC fights, and he will not stop coming for 15 minutes.
Gutierrez may be able to edge another decision here, but my interest lies solely in the underdog in Colares who has a real path to victory that includes multiple takedowns and grappling. Colares by decision is the official pick but a submission is within the range of outcomes as well. He is my favorite underdog to target this week on DraftKings.
Hawes is coming off a decision victory over Kyle Daukaus in May. He is now 11-2 professionally and currently on a seven-fight win streak. Hawes comes from a collegiate wrestling background and has big time power in his hands with seven knockouts on his record, the majority of which are inside the first round. The problem with Hawes has always been his gas tank as he is notorious for slowing down when the fight gets outside of the first round. His cardio did look much better against Daukaus in his last fight, but it is still something to note moving forward.
Winn is coming off a decision victory against Antonio Arroyo in December. Winn also comes from a high-level wrestling background and averages just under five takedowns per 15 minutes. The big concern with Winn is two-fold for me. For starters, he is going to be undersized as always and Hawes is very physically strong and has never been taken down before.
I expect Hawes to be the one landing takedowns if he desires. The second concern is that when both fighters know their opponent can wrestle, it sometimes turns into a boxing match and in that scenario, I strongly favor Hawes. He is going to be much bigger, longer and powerful along with being the better striker in general and he likely knocks him out. Hawes by knockout is the official pick and this is a good fight to target as the winner should score well on DraftKings.
Mazo is coming off a decision loss to Alexis Davis her last time out in February, which snapped a three-fight win streak. She is a technical kickboxer that will throw in high-volume and keep a good pace throughout 15 minutes. Her issue has always been her defensive wrestling as anyone with competent wrestling is able to take her down. Once taken down, she is too comfortable to play off her back instead of working back to her feet.
Agapova is most recognized for losing to Shana Dobson as the biggest favorite to ever lose at the time, which cost me a massive night on DraftKings and I’m honestly still not over it.
Agapova is still an exciting prospect despite cardio dumping against Dobson in her last fight. She is an explosive striker that will look to mix in takedowns if she needs to. If she comes in with a wrestling game plan, then I would consider her a live underdog. However, the fight IQ and cardio concerns along with some concerning reports outside of the octagon make her difficult to trust.
Mazo by decision is the official pick although I have a little more interest in the underdog in Agapova on DraftKings.
Nicolau is coming off a split-decision victory over Manel Kape in his last fight in March when he returned to the UFC. He is 16-2 professionally with nine of his wins coming inside the distance. He is very well-rounded and his only two losses have come by first-round knockout. He has historically shown good takedown defense as he has never been taken down in the UFC but that is surely to be tested against Elliott in this fight.
Elliott is coming off a decision win over Jordan Espinosa and is now on a two-fight win streak. Elliott is a high-volume wrestler, which correlates well for DraftKings scoring. But Nicolau is not easy to takedown and is a competent grappler as well which is concerning for Elliott who tends to stick his neck out there when going for takedowns. Lastly, the durability for Elliott is a concern as well despite only being knocked out once in his career, he has been wobbled multiple times and even out on his feet before.
Elliott is another live underdog for this slate but think his win condition most likely comes from a finish as I cannot see him taking down Nicolau repeatedly and controlling him for 15 minutes. Nicolau by decision is the official pick but I have more interest in Elliott for the upside and the price.
Brown is coming off a first-round submission victory over Alex Oliveira in April. He is 13-4 professionally with 11 of his wins coming inside the distance. Despite his last two wins coming by submission, he is typically more of a striker with decent boxing and uses his length well. The concern with Brown is his durability as he has been knocked out twice in his career and does not react well when his opponents overwhelm him moving forward.
Gooden is coming off an electric knockout victory over Niklas Stolze in July. He is primarily a striker with legit power as three of his last five wins have come by knockout. He is also a brown belt in BJJ and should be fine if the fight were to hit the mat although I expect it to play out striking. In what I expect to be a competitive striking match, both fighters have upside to win by knockout. But I expect Gooden to be the more active fighter throwing more volume even if that means throwing caution to the wind.
This is another good fight to target as I expect the winner to score well and would suggest hedging on both sides if running multiple lineups. Gooden by knockout is the official pick.
Dern is coming off a first-round submission victory over Nina Nunes where she looked fantastic. Some would say it’s the best she has ever looked.
Her wrestling looked improved, and we already know she is the best submission grappler in the division. If she is going to start having more success in getting her opponents to the mat, then she is a serious problem for the division. Four of her last five victories have come by submission and she is so dangerous on the ground that she may only need one takedown to find a finish.
Rodriguez is coming off a unanimous decision over Michelle Waterson in her first UFC main event in May. Rodriguez is 14-1 professionally with six wins coming by knockout. She is a dangerous striker for any opponent but needs to keep the fight standing. That has historically been an issue for her as she only defends takedowns at 62%.
Even though I expect her to get the better of Dern while the fight plays out on the feet, I do expect Dern to get this fight to the ground at some point and she cuts through Rodriguez on the mat. Dern by submission is the official pick and this is another good fight to target this week.
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.