Duke’s UFC Fight Night Breakdown and Predictions for your DFS Lineups!!!
This Week’s Bets
Casey O’Neill 1.6 to win 1
Luis Pena 1 to win 1.45
Darrick Minner 1 to win 1.6
Nate Landwehr 1.25 to win 1
Derrick Lewis 1 to win 3.5
Aleksei Oleinik 1 to win 1.6
Eddie Wineland 1 to win 1
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Lewis
Welcome back! Last week was fairly successful all the way around, but as always, we are looking to improve. I’ve been working on finding a partner in crime for the better part of three months to help provide quality content to you. You know what’s better than one head? Two heads, and that’s what we’ll bring you. I’d like to introduce you to Adam Martin. He’ll be providing a DFS focused article and jumping on the podcast with me. He’s a bonafide MMA lifer who has been in the game for 10 years. He’ll be adding to the betting side, as well. When you see him in the chat room, say hello and welcome him to the #elitemafia. If you haven’t yet, go follow him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.
Alright, as of today, we have a million fights on this card. There is always a chance for cancelation, and I wouldn’t be shocked if we were down to 12-13 by fight night. The schedule will remain the same this week, but with so many fights to break down, I’ll spare you the lengthy breakdown here.
Let’s literally head to the desert!!
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Lewis Fight Info
- February 20, 2021
- UFC APEX, Las Vegas, NV
- Main Card: ESPN+ – 8:00pm
- Prelims: ESPN+ – 5:00pm
Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis – MAIN EVENT
I don’t love paying -400 on a heavyweight fight, but my goodness, this looks one-sided. Lewis has lost or been completely beaten before a haymaker late in so many fights recently that you have to wonder why he even got this fight. Sure, he’s won three straight, but it’s against Ivanov, Latifi and Oleinik. Those are bad and/or one-dimension fighters. None are anywhere near Blaydes from a skill standpoint. Cardo is a massive advantage for Blaydes. Lewis doesn’t have a ton of takedown defense, and Blaydes only had 14 takedowns against Alexander Volkov…
I asked why Lewis got this fight. For one, he has one-punch knockout power. Two, he’s a hell of an interview if he does win. And three? Eh, it’s basically those two. In fact, Blaydes said this week that Dana White has never spoken to him since he joined in 2016. This is the #2 heavyweight. When you wrestle, and at times, lay on a guy for five minutes at time, you can understand why it’s effective but not exciting for the lead promoter.
I’m treating this like Blaydes. I don’t care how he does it; I want the win. I’m fine with him getting one takedown a round, taking zero significant strikes, and winning 50/45. Just give me the damn win, and from a DK standpoint, it could be a nice-looking score.
OFFICIAL PICK: CURTIS BLAYDES
Ketlen Vieira (MISSED WEIGHT BY 2 LBS) vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Ketlen has some really nice wins on her record. Sara McMann just looked great against Pena until she was submitted in the third. Cat Zingano is a legend in the women’s side of the sport and has won two of her last three. Sijara Eubanks was coming off two straight wins before her loss to Viera. The KO loss to Aladana is a touch worrying. Aldana has finished more than half of her fights, but she’s by no means a super power puncher. It was a clean left hook that put her down, no doubt, but it does make me pause a bit. You saw a bit of that hesitation from Viera in her fight against Eubanks and even grabbed a couple of takedowns to seal up that win.
Kunitskaya is a long, lean, beautiful Russian. She can also kick your ass. She’s an accomplished striker and is only a few years removed from a fight with Cris Cyborg at UFC 222. She’s just outside of that super-elite level. She was overmatched with Cyborg. She really struggled with Aspen Ladd before succumbing to punches in the third. Essentially, she beats the women she’s supposed to, but when it’s close or she’s a decided underdog like she will be here, the chips don’t fall her way. What is her best win? 43-year-old Marion Reneau? 16-year-old Wu Yanan?
Yana does have good hands, but I see more paths to victory here for Viera.
OFFICIAL PICK: KETLEN VIEIRA
Charles Rosa vs. Darrick Minner
Minner is an absolute wizard on the ground. He came in as a massive underdog against Laramie. Per usual, he came with the pace early and even backed up against the cage, defending the takedown while still landing some short shots before locking up the arm in guillotine. He used a leg log to tie up the lower half, and Laramie was left having to choose what to fight off; the legs or the hands. Either was a death sentence, and the tap was inevitable. What would have happened if the choke didn’t take? We’ll never know because once Minner has you wrapped up, that’s usually the end.
Rosa is almost the exact opposite type of fighter. He can wrestle, and he does have some submission wins (BJJ black belt) on the record, but he’s much more technical. He’ll take his time in the attack. He’ll read and react to his opponent and adjust his gameplan on the fly. The one thing we know for sure if that Rosa is tough as shit. I thought Bryce Mitchell had him submitted 10 different times in their match. Rosa fought to find a way out of each of those submissions. His fight against Bermudez could have been a preview for this fight Bermudez comes out hot and gets a lot of first-round submissions, but Rosa battled through a tough start and ended up submitting Bermudez. He has the chops.
Minner isn’t a technical striker with excellent wrestling; he’s a brawler who will grab a neck if the fight ends up where he wants. Charles Rosa has far more paths to victory but will likely want to extend this fight into the second and third rounds. With a Vegas total sitting around 1.5 rounds and Minner’s fighting style, I don’t know that this one goes the distance. If Minner is to win, it’s likely very early. If he doesn’t, there is a good chance he gasses out, and Rosa gets a finish, or Rosa just wins two or three rounds to get it done by decision. I like Rosa here, but Minner is a dangerous dog.
OFFICIAL PICK: CHARLES ROSA
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Chris Daukaus
This is going to be a hilarious fight. Oleinik has 36 more SUBMISSION wins than Daukaus has WINS. He throws wild haymakers with power, but they are to areas, not specific spots. The goal in any fight by the boa constrictor is to get it to the ground and lock in the squeeze. The man is 43 years old. He isn’t going to add anything to his game at this point, and while he did have back-to-back wins against Werdum and Greene, go watch those fights. Werdum looked like a shell of himself. Greene has two eyes that go opposite directions.
Daukaus has big power but is not a plodding heavyweight who will stand in front of you. He’s a bit like Tanner Boser but with big ass power. In that, I mean he’s mobile and will create angles to throw his strikes. He beat Parker Porter’s ass so bad that it cost me money in Porter’s next fight against Parisian. The Nascimento fight was over before it even got started, which is a credit to Daukaus’ power.
I’m a bit worried about the level of competition for Chris Daukaus. Would this be his biggest win? A 43-year-old who’s one loss away from retirement? Probably. That experience difference has me a touch hesitant here. Oleinik has fought Curtis Blaydes, Derrick Lewis, Fabricio Werdum, Allistair Overeem. I’m still picking the younger fighter, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to bet this, even under -200.
OFFICIAL PICK: CHRIS DAUKAUS
Phillip Hawes vs. Nassourdine Imavov
Let’s do this again! Nothing has changed in my mind since we initially broke this down the first time around in mid-January. We finally get a chance to see this fight, so let’s break it down.
Does this fight get out of the first round? This is a great live betting opportunity as I see all the value on Imavov coming back from a potential hot start from Hawes. Phil Hawes should have a big power and speed advantage. He was a junior college national champion wrestler but has been surprisingly unsuccessful with his wrestling in the octagon. By now, you guys should know that I laugh at the “deep waters” saying, but Hawes has shown that when the going gets tough, he’ll find a way out. When he’s fought real UFC level talent, he’s lost. He lost to Marquez after being way ahead in the first. He lost to Andrew Sanchez. He’s done a great job winning against guys who shouldn’t be here.
Imavov – from Dagestan, Russia, and moved to MMA Factory in France. You might recognize a few names from that camp (Ciryl Gane and one Francis N’Gannou). As you can probably guess, he doesn’t want to wrestle. He wants to strike. He’s only 25 and still developing, so I can’t wait to see what he brings to the octagon in this fight. He had an impressive win over Jordan Williams in his UFC debut and is riding a six-fight win streak. Imavov was rocked a few times against Williams and immediately went for the shot.
Hawes gas tank and give a shit meter might be the issue I want to attack here. If it does get to the ground, Imavov is slick and can slip a submission. I know Hawes is dangerous, and surely he can finish this one in 10 seconds, but I have Imavov winning this one after the first as Hawes gets frustrated and looks for a way out.
OFFICIAL PICK: NASSOURDINE IMAVOV
Andrei Arlovski vs. Tom Aspinall
Does anyone else want Arlovski to go away? That’s no disrespect to Arlovski, but he’s always taking a dump on my chest at the end of the night. He’s so experienced and still so athletic that he can find a way to get through fights if his chin holds up. The fight against Boser (second shoutout in this article!) was one that had me screaming at my TV. Arlovski was willing to sit back and wait for the mistake. He didn’t land much, but he landed enough to get a win. I HATE THAT. I get he’s trying to make a living, but that’s always hard to handicap. The bad news for Arlovski is that his chin has been checked. The guys with massive power like Rozenstruik, Ngannou, Miocic and Overeem have bent him over early. More bad news for Aspinall – my man has big power.
He’s one of the heavyweights who isn’t cutting weight to hit the number, but he’s still a big guy with a big frame and big power. Obviously, he’s only a couple minutes into his UFC career, but he has two quick KOs and two wins. He’s looked damn good in each, as well. When you go back and watch film, there aren’t a ton of issues that pop up. The loss in 2015 was just getting caught in a heel hook, and the loss to Parobiec was a DQ. He’s just coming into his prime and won’t sit back and let Andre dictate the pace.
It’s a heavyweight fight, so I rarely go all in, especially with Curtis Blaydes on the card as well, but this is all Aspinall, likely by KO.
OFFICIAL PICK: TOM ASPINALL
Jared Gordon (missed weight by 4 lbs)vs. Danny Chavez
What a fight. Maybe not the fight on the card with the most Twitter followers but two grimy dudes who like to scrap.
The issue with Gordon is not necessarily his offensive output; it’s the damage he’s accumulated. He was a victim of his own success and getting too much too quick in the UFC. He was 15-1 with three wins over now UFC vet Bill Algeo, Michael Quinones and Hacran Dias when the UFC handed him, Diego Ferreira. It was over in under two minutes with Gordon face down taking bombs. Then he got Joaquim Silva and initially looked great. He landed three takedowns and was probably in contention if not ahead on the cards until late in the third when it looked like his arms weighed 10,000 pounds each. He was out on his feet, and Silva gave him a merciful death with pitter-pat punches to the face to end it. At this point, it’s decision time for Gordon in his career.
He’s no longer a hot prospect and now is trying to find his niche in the division. He grinds out a unanimous win over Dan Moret and then gets Charles Oliviera. That was only going to end one way, and once again, it was Gordon completely out of it with a ref flying in to save him. He actually tagged Charles a few times and was pressing the action, but a short shot to the chin put him down.
So, he can’t fight with the best, but what about the rest? That’s three devastating finishes out of four fights. He got the job done, but that looked like a fighter who was still shaking the cobwebs out. It’s an indictment of Fishgold, for sure, but it’s a worrying sign for Gordon. He’s tough as nails but will want to get this one to the ground to avoid the big strike coming back the other way.
Chavez has an odd career arc where he’s only recently starting putting people to sleep. After seven straight wins by decision, he picked up three straight first-round KOs, earning him a UFC debut. Chavez had a bit of a cardio issue late, but he looked pretty damn good against Brown in that fight. I mentioned that Gordon likely needed to get this one to the ground, but Chavez will have something to say about that. His takedown defense was fantastic, and he actually landed several takedowns himself. Chavez will likely have seen the same film that I’ve seen and want to keep this one standing. If it does go to the ground, Chavez will be ok, because that takedown defense means Chavez was the one getting the takedown.
Over 2.5 is juiced to -200 right now on most sites. Considering that Chavez showed a bit of a fatigue issue late, and Gordon likes to press the action before completely gassing out late, I wouldn’t be shocked to see one of these guys get the win inside the distance. I’m going with the slight favorite as I see Gordon heading in the opposite direction in his career.
OFFICIAL PICK: DANNY CHAVEZ
Drakkar Klose (MISSED WEIGHT BY 4.5 LBS) vs. Luis Pena
Pena is a physical freak for the division, but do you ever feel great about betting Pena? By the way, he didn’t grow five inches in the last few months. He’s been 6’3” for this entire record.
Pena is what he is. He can use his reach at distance. He uses his length off his back to create a little offense if he needs to. He’s not a super high-level fighter at any one skill, but he has enough to get by at almost all areas of MMA. He’s so lean that he doesn’t overpower anyone, and honestly, it’s not even the losses that worry me most about Luis Pena; it’s some of the wins. Matt Wiman was basically retired. He hadn’t fought in five years before returning to fight Pena and took it to the third round before getting the stoppage. That’s the same Matt Wiman who was KOd by Jordan Leavitt in 22 seconds on literally the first punch he threw.
Klose has wins over Diakiese, Bobby Green and Christos Giagos. Those are some bad dudes and much scarier fights for Klose than Luis Pena. Klose to me it should be -200 or more. I do think there is value on his line to win. The only worry I really have about Klose is how he responds to his loss to Dariush. That was the first time he’d been finished in his career, and it came early in the second round on a big shot. Klose was landing some absolute bombs on one of the best fighters in the weight class.
I wish Klose were more of a finisher, but he’s been a decision monster in his UFC career. His low kicks could soften up the long legs of Pena, and even though Pena hasn’t been KOd in his career, Klose does throw with power.
OFFICIAL PICK: DRAKKAR KLOSE
Eddie Wineland vs. John Castaneda
Old vs. new. The news isn’t exactly young. Castaneda is 29 but has only one fight into this UFC career. Eddie Wineland has been in the UFC before Castaneda started his professional career. For what it’s worth, Castaneda opened as a betting underdog and has been bet to a -125 favorite.
Wineland has an appealing fighting style. It’s a bit kill or be killed, right? He will hold his hands low and put his plate on a chin, just hoping his opponent will take the bait. The thought being, Wineland has more speed and can counter punch with combinations to inflict damage. The issue with that style is that it’s much more effective at 26 than 36. It can also lead to no one wanting to be the first to the dance, but typically Wineland will lead the dance if his partner isn’t cooperating.
Wineland is hugely experienced and throws sharp, straight punches. He doesn’t over-extend himself and still carries power into his mid-late 30s. The problem is that he can get hit, and my guess is people remember that vicious knockout by Sean O’Malley, who slept Eddie with one shot to the jaw. It wasn’t a fluky punch but was it a fluky knockout? Can Castaneda cause the same damage? Let’s evaluate.
Castaneda has some curious losses on his record, but he also has some decent performances. He took out Gustavo Lopez in 2016. He just lasted 15 minutes on short notice against Nathaniel Wood in his UFC debut. However, he wasn’t particularly impressive in that loss, but he did last the full 15 and was right back in Wood’s face every time he was knocked back. There is no doubt he’s tenacious and hungry. I do think that is his weapon. He wants to wrestle and can wrestle a bit, but he’s not a high-level striker, and Wineland has above-average takedown defense.
This is my first dog of the night. I’m going with the veteran here, who I don’t think is quite done if he gets this win. I’m a bit worried about Wineland’s chin after that last KO, but I don’t think Castaneda has the power to get it done.
OFFICIAL PICK: EDDIE WINELAND
Nate Landwehr vs. Julian Erosa
Where were you when Nate Landwehr and Darren Elkins landed a combined 263 strikes in 15 minutes? That is the question we’ll be asking our grandkids! Honestly, I’m still trying to work out Nate Landwehr as a UFC fighter. He was dominated by Herbert Burns in his debut. A quick shot to the nose had Landwehr touching his face, but he had no answer for the Burns takedown. He survived a D’arce choke attempt and got back to his feet. Awesome composure and great toughness. Back on the feet, he started throwing 1-2s and got absolutely dropped by a knee to the chin. It was lights out for Nate. Against Elkins, it was showtime. He was landing from everywhere but taking shots, as well. Clearly, he’s tough. He’s clearly a good striker. He can grind it out. Is he a top-level fighter? He might look like it here.
I don’t love Julian Erosa. This is his THIRD go-round with UFC. He lost three straight before heading to CageSport for a quick first-round submission and getting back to fight Sean Woodson. Woodson was undefeated at the time, but Erosa picked up the submission in the third round in what was definitely a close fight that could have gone either way. He has 33 fights to his name and has had massive highs and lows in his career. He’s had chin issues throughout his career. Woodson dropped him in that fight, but Erosa was right back in his face.
If this goes the distance, we could see 300 punches thrown. Both of these guys are action fighters, but Landwehr, to me, has far more upside in his career and is the better fighter today. It looked like Erosa was thrown in there to give Woodson a UFC win. Erosa wasn’t having it and could be a headache in this one, as well. Both of these fighters are juiced, so clearly, Vegas thinks it’s a close fight. Nate could keep this closer than it needs to be, but I’m going Nate Landwehr here.
OFFICIAL PICK: NATE LANDWEHR
Rafael Alves (MISSED WEIGHT BY 11.5 LBS!!!) vs. Patrick Sabatini – FIGHT OFF
These fighters are completely unknown, but Alves has a win on the contender series, and Sabatini is making his UFC debut. It’s a free fight card but still bright lights for both guys. Alves was originally scheduled to fight Mike Trizano, but Sabatini steps in on relatively short notice, which puts Sabatini in a tough spot. Sabatini is not a minnow here. He’s 30 years old and has 16 fights in his career, but I’m leaning towards Alves here.
Alves has shown development in his career. He throws with big power from wide angles and can scrap on the ground, as well. Against Guilherme Miranda, he was all over him in the first few seconds while working a heavy top game. He did look a touch overconfident in his ground game against a BJJ black belt in Miranda but pulled off the victory. He started fast against Douglas, as well. A big hip toss once against put the fighters on the mat. He can fight in all areas of the cage.
Sabatini has been fighting in Cage Fury Fighting. The competition is a bit suspect, and there isn’t a signature win on the record. I’d be interested to see how Sabatini performed with a full camp, but we simply won’t know. In his fight against Stirn, he showed some decent ability to land takedowns, but while he was on top for large portions of the first round, he didn’t have a ton of success with the ground and pound. In reality, everything was to set up submission attempts, which he did land in the second round. He had no problem getting the fight to the ground, but this is a much different test.
I don’t know that Sabatini will want to mess with the ground game of Alves. With both fighters making their debut, there are more questions than answers, but I’ll trust my eyes from what I’ve seen on film with Alves over the wrestling and limited striking of Sabatini in this spot.
OFFICIAL PICK: RAFAEL ALVES
Shana Dobson vs. Casey O’Neill
Female fight! Our first and only female fight on the card, and frankly, this is a pretty low-level contest. This feels like it was thrown in for profiling purposes, like there is some magical clause saying you have to have both genders on a card.
What do we trust more, an average to bad fighter who might be making improvements to her game, or an unknown fighter who hasn’t won a relevant fight in her very very very young career? O’Neill is a 23-year-old Aussie who’s undefeated at 5-0, coming in off a second-round finish. What’s not to like, right? She’s undefeated but hasn’t looked overly impressive to me. Miki Motono put her on her back several times. O’Neill was struggling on the feet in her last fight before taking it to the ground. She is long for the division and throws with bad intentions, but even low-level UFC competition will be a big step up for her. She is very young and can make big leaps in her development, but this win would give her great confidence.
Shana Dobson looks like she should be better than she is. The Cachoeira fight was a shock to the system as we don’t often see women dropped from punches, but a sharp uppercut put an end to her night just 40 seconds into the first round. At that point, she’s almost cut from the UFC, but they put her out for slaughter against Agapova, and she pulled off one of the biggest upsets statistically in UFC history. She was +950 to win…that’s under 10% implied odds to win, and she pulled it off. She’s long and has decent striking. She is training full-time and wants to make this her career. I appreciate commitment and working towards goals, but if she happens to lose here, she might be looking for work in a new promotion.
O’Neill opened as the big favorite, but some money has come in on Dobson. I agree with both aspects, but even the -150 where it sits now is too rich for the unknown Aussie. Neither of these women looks very good! Dobson has zero takedown defense, and perhaps that’s where O’Neill has the edge.
OFFICIAL PICK: CASEY O’NEILL
Chas Skelly vs. Jamall Emmers
Chas Skelly was done! Welcome back, big man. The 35-year-old has been off since September of 2019. That fight was a win over Jordan Griffin, who is #notgood. To say Skelly’s best days are behind him would be an understatement. Skelly is a wrestler who can throw some wild shots on the feet. I don’t see a ton of paths to success for Skelly here.
Emmers is younger, more athletic, and just a bit better in all areas. Emmers has been far more active and fought a higher level of competition of late than Skelly. I love Giga Chikadze. I believe I bet Giga Chikadze against Jamall Emmers. I’m not 100% sure Chickadze won that fight with Jamall Emmers. Emmers was dynamic at times and solid at other times. He landed two takedowns. He outstruck Chikadze. It was definitely a close fight. Giga Chikadze murders Chas Skelly. Emmers bounced back with a nice decision win against Cachero, but again, did the fight need to go to the judges? It was a dominant 30-27 win, but I would have liked to see a finish in that spot.
Emmers is one of the bigger favorites of the night, and I agree with the line.
OFFICIAL PICK: JAMALL EMMERS
Aiemann Zahabi vs. Drako Rodriguez
Let’s try this one again too! This was scheduled for December before Zahabi tested positive for Covid, and the fight was moved. My feelings haven’t changed, so here is a reminder of the initial breakdown.
It’s not about what you know; it’s who you know. At least that’s the case for Aiemann Zahabi. If you recognize the last name, it’s because his brother is the famous trainer Faris Zahabi, and that’s seemingly the only reason he’s still in the promotion. Zahabi is coming off two straight losses, and this feels like a win or go home situation. He has a good jab he can work behind, and he has had a long layoff in between fights. Typically, that’s a bad thing, and of course, he will be working with the best trainers in the world. Maybe he’s made some big strides in his game, but he’s 33, not 23. I think Vegas has this one pegged correctly.
Drako Rodriguez is more than just an A+ name. He has eight pro fights, and his one loss was to Tony Gravely, who looks pretty damn good. He picked up the first-round stoppage of Mana Martinez with a triangle choke in dominant fashion. I saw more from those two minutes than I have in all the tape I watch of Aiemann.
One of these fighters is UFC caliber, and it ain’t Aiemann Zahabi.
OFFICIAL PICK: DRAKO RODRIGUEZ
Serghei Spivac vs. Jared Vanderaa
Let’s try this one again! Vanderaa tested positive for COVID back in December as well, and this fight was rebooked. Very similar to other fights, my views haven’t changed much at all.
These are big mo fos in a fight that could end early. These two both have a 90.91% finish rate in their wins. The Polar Bear (Spivac) is more country strong than super physically imposing. He’s in great physical condition for the division but will look like the smaller man next to Vanderaa, who is just big all over.
Spivac is a striker and a wrestler. His gas tank is on the high end of the division, and he’s shown a lot of patience in fights in the UFC. He looks calm, cool and collected in there. He has a stiff jab and a decent right hand. His third round against Felipe was one of the more dominant rounds I’ve seen in the UFC that didn’t end in a finish. Patience can look like indifference at times, which can hurt Spivac in the judges’ eyes. Tybura took him down with ease in their match, and obviously, Spivac lost that fight by decision. I hated his game off his back. Spivac essentially just tried to limit damage in full guard. He wasn’t attacking from the bottom. He wasn’t looking for submissions. And he was taken down in every round of that fight and finished on his back in every round.
Vanderaa fights backing up quite a bit. With Spivac not really being one to push the pace, you have to wonder what gives. Keep in mind, it was Vanderaa who called for this fight, specifically naming Spivac. Vanderaa will stand in front of you and throw those big leg kicks but likes to clinch more than I care for. His big body could easily keep Spivac on his back, as I talked about. The fight would get there by Vanderaa throwing those plodding strikes, getting Spivac in the clinch, and ripping Spivac to the ground. This isn’t going to be a feint, slick right hand, followed by a double leg or anything.
The top game of Vanderaa has me a touch nervous. Spivac has been sparring with Francis Ngannou, so I don’t know Vaneraa will show him any power Spivac hasn’t already seen. Overall, Spivac is the more well-rounded fighter with more experience inside the octagon. There is a very clear path to victory here for Vanderaa, but I think Spivac is too smart and too fit to let the fight get to that place.
OFFICIAL PICK: SERGHEI SPIVAC
UFC Fight Night Cheat Sheet will be posted on Friday… DON’T MISS IT!