We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC 46 in Las Vegas. Following a lengthy break, it is always fun to get back on the grind and have fights to look forward to every weekend.
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.
(All odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook)
Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez
Demopoulos, -110; Juarez, -110
Demopoulos is coming off a decision loss to JJ Aldrich in her UFC debut in August. She is a former LFA champion, although I do not see her having much success at the UFC level. Her boxing defense is a massive concern as she is a punching bag in striking exchanges. She is, however, a tricky submission grappler, as three of her six career wins have come by submission, and she holds a purple belt in BJJ.
Juarez is another fighter I am not impressed with whatsoever. She is 37 years old and, despite having decent striking power, she is absolutely lost in grappling exchanges, and Lupita Godinez was able to cut through her on the mat with ease in her debut.
This is one of those fights where either side has the potential to look like the value side in hindsight, but I have zero interest in this fight outside of a few shares of Demopoulos in multi-entry in case she pulls off an early submission. Demopoulos by decision is the official pick but this is an easy fight to pass on for the most part.
Saidyokub Kakhramonov vs. Brian Kelleher
Kakhramonov, -155; Kelleher, +135
Kakhramonov is coming off a third-round submission victory over Trevin Jones in his UFC debut in August. He is currently on a three-fight win streak, and seven of his nine professional wins have come inside the distance, as he is clearly looking to always finish the fight. He packs some decent power in his punches, but he has some sneaky good chokes to watch out for as well as evidenced in his last fight against Jones.
Kelleher is coming off a decision victory over Domingo Pilarte in August. Kelleher is tough veteran to face for any opponent. He has capable boxing with legitimate one-punch power along with a well-rounded wrestling game to go with his black belt in BJJ.
This is a tough matchup for me to feel confident on either side as they both do similar things well, but this should be a competitive fight. Both guys are typically finish or be finish style of fighters and this seems like a good violence spot as I am expecting the winner to score well on DraftKings. I will have shares of both sides, but Kelleher by submission is the official pick.
Joseph Holmes vs. Jamie Pickett
Holmes, -160; Pickett, +140
Holmes is making his UFC debut in this spot after winning by first-round knockout on Dana White’s “Looking for a Fight” in November. Prior to that, he fought on Dana White’s Contender Series in October and won by second-round submission but did not earn a contract. He is tall and lanky for the division but is not much of a striker outside of his jab. He is a willing grappler, but the technique is lacking despite the fact that five of his seven career wins have come by submission. I have major concerns about Holmes at the UFC level as I do not believe he is ready for it from a skillset standpoint.
Pickett is coming off an impressive underdog showing against Laureano Staropoli his last time out in October which snapped a two-fight losing streak for him. I have some concerns with Pickett as well but not really in this matchup as he is the more proven fighter and more skilled in every area of martial arts. The main concern with Pickett is lack of initiative at times but he looked better in his last fight and Holmes is not super aggressive either.
I expect Pickett to be the better striker and wrestler in this matchup and do not understand why he is the underdog here. Pickett by decision is the official pick.
Slava Borshchev vs. Dakota Bush
Borshchev, -170; Bush, +150
Borshchev is making his UFC debut after winning in highlight fashion on Dana White’s Contender Series with a knockout in the second round over Chris Duncan in October. He is a former kickboxing world champion and is 5-1 as a professional MMA fighter, with his only loss coming by split-decision in his LFA debut. He is a high-level striker and trains out of Team Alpha Male and is a tough matchup for any opponent at the lower levels of the UFC. The only real concern with Borshchev is that he is able to be taken down and controlled at times on the mat. The right opponent may be able to take advantage of that and avoid the striking exchanges where he has the most success.
Bush is coming off a decision loss to Austin Hubbard in his UFC debut last April. Bush is not very impressive outside of his willingness to go for it and some OK grappling chops. However, he does not always go to the wrestling even though that would be his best chance in this matchup. On the feet, he is burnt toast against Borshchev so you would hope that he comes in with a smart game plan, but at this price I cannot trust that.
Borshchev by knockout is the official pick.
Court McGee vs. Ramiz Brahimaj
McGee, -115; Brahimaj, -105
McGee is coming off a decision victory over Claudio Silva in May that snapped a three-fight losing skid. He has made a living in the UFC on being well-rounded fighter that is able to push a decent pace and is extremely durable. At 37 years old, he is not going to blow you away with his skills, but he has continuously proven that he is a tough test for up and comers.
Brahimaj is coming off a first-round submission victory over Sasha Palatnikov in August. Brahimaj trains out of Fortis MMA and is a crafty submission grappler with all nine of his career wins coming by submission, all but one of them inside the first round. Brahimaj is a solid prospect, but I have concerns about him being able to run through McGee on the mat and he looked lost against Max Griffin in the striking exchanges.
It is possible he is just levels better on the mat, but McGee has never been submitted in his long UFC career and things will get dicey for Brahimaj in the later rounds if he cannot pull off the submission. McGee by decision is the official pick.
Joanderson Brito vs. Bill Algeo
Brito, -130; Algeo, +110
Brito is making his UFC debut after earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series with a decisive victory over Diego Lopes in August. After starting his professional career just 2-3, he has since gone on a 10-fight win streak including a win over Jose Mariscal in LFA. He is extremely explosive with 10 of his 12 wins coming inside the distance and seems to have all the tools to compete at this level.
Algeo is coming off a decision loss to Ricardo Ramos in May. Algeo is a high-volume striker and a black belt in BJJ. However, he is very hittable on the feet and is taken down too easily as Ramos landed eight takedowns against him. Brito has solid wrestling and a good ground game to go along with it, which is likely the biggest factor in this matchup.
Brito by decision is the official pick and he is a solid target in the midrange on DraftKings.
TJ Brown vs. Charles Rosa
Brown, -280; Rosa, +220
Brown is coming off a controversial decision victory over Kai Kamaka in May, his first UFC win. He is an aggressive grappler and averages over four takedowns per 15 minutes. The issue with Brown is that he has major durability issues and has been finished in six of his eight losses. Fortunately for him, he is not facing much power coming back the other way with Rosa.
Rosa is more of a grappler himself and holds a black belt in BJJ. However, Rosa has repeatedly been out wrestled and controlled in multiple bouts including his last time out against Damon Jackson in October.
The durability of Brown is always a concern, but I have no interest in backing the underdog in Rosa here outside a sprinkle in large-field GPPs in case he pulls off a first-round submission, but I doubt it. Brown by decision is the official pick and he is a solid target on DraftKings.
Jake Collier vs. Chase Sherman
Collier, -130; Sherman, +110
Collier is coming off a controversial split-decision loss to Carlos Felipe his last time out in June at UFC 263. Despite the new look, Collier still moves well for a heavyweight and keeps up a high pace throwing strikes in volume. I expect a similar approach from his opponent in Sherman.
Sherman is coming off back-to-back decision loss and will look to rebound against Collier in what should be a back-and-forth striking affair. When we have two big boys who are not interested in wrestling, there is always a possibility we see someone go to sleep. However, I favor the Collier side to have a slight edge in cardio and durability but there are better fights to target on this slate for DraftKings.
Brandon Royval vs. Rogerio Bontorin
Royval, -160; Bontorin, +140
Royval is coming off a second-round submission loss to Alexandre Pantoja in August. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak, although the other loss was to current flyweight champion Brandon Moreno. Royval is one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the UFC as he is nonstop action all the time. He is a very slick submission grappler with eight of his 12 career wins coming by submission. On the feet, he does have some power, but he overextends on his punches and fights with his hands down most of the time leaving himself wide open for counters.
Bontorin is coming off a decision victory over Matt Schnell last May that snapped a two-fight losing skid. Bontorin is also a BJJ black belt although he has yet to really showcase his grappling at the UFC level. I expect Bontorin to be the one more likely to land a takedown, but I favor Royval’s grappling on the mat and in the scrambles.
While the fight plays out on the feet, I expect Royval to be the one moving forward and pressuring Bontorin against the cage. Bontorin will need to earn Royval’s respect with a big power shot, or he is fighting an uphill battle in this matchup. I will have exposure to both sides, but I favor the pressure, cardio and grappling of Royval and think he finds a finish inside the first two rounds. Royval by submission is the official pick.
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia
Chookagian, -180; Maia, +155
Chookagian is coming off a decision victory over Viviane Araujo in May and is now on a two-fight win streak. At this point in her career, it is clear Chookagian is looking to strike from the outside and land in volume on her way to a decision. She does not have much in terms of offensive grappling and has zero finishes at the UFC level across her 13 bouts.
Maia is coming off a decision victory over Jessica Eye at UFC 264. She is a solid boxer with a Muay Thai background and holds a black belt in BJJ. These two fought already back in 2019 which resulted in a Chookagian unanimous decision. Chookagian will have a four-inch reach advantage will serves her fighting style well. In the first match, Maia struggled to get inside her boxing range and that was the biggest factor in the fight.
Maia will need to initiate her wrestling more in this fight as I expect her to lose a decision if the fight plays out on the feet. I consider Maia a live underdog if she comes in with a wrestling heavy gameplan, but I do not trust her to do so. For that reason, I am expecting a competitive decision and Chookagian to get her hand raised. Chookagian by decision is the official pick.
Giga Chikadze vs. Calvin Kattar
Chikadze, -235; Kattar, +190
Chikadze is coming off an impressive third-round knockout victory over Edson Barboza in August. He is now 7-0 in the UFC, and nobody has been able to crack the code yet. He comes from a high-level kickboxing background and is quickly becoming one of the best strikers on the UFC roster. That said, I still have concerns with Chikadze regarding his cardio and defensive grappling. Fortunately for him, I do not think Kattar will be interested in a wrestling match here.
Kattar is coming off a demoralizing loss to Max Holloway in January of last year on Fight Island. I still consider him to be one of the best pure boxers in the division, but this is a difficult matchup for him considering Chikadze shines in striking affairs. Selfishly, I want to back Kattar in this spot, but I do not feel confident in the matchup from a stylistic standpoint. I could see him getting stuck fighting at Chikadze’s range and struggling to get inside until it is too late. But he does have some crazy good durability and has never been knocked out before so he should at a minimum be able to test the cardio of Chikadze in the later rounds.
I consider Kattar a live underdog, but I will have exposure to both sides with more of a lean toward the underdog for pricing purposes and I do not think Chikadze scores well on DraftKings.