Duke’s UFC Vegas 26: Rodriguez vs. Waterson Breakdown and Predictions for your DFS Lineups!!!
UFC VEGAS 26 BETS – OFFICIAL
Tafon Nchukwi 1.37 to win 1
Alex Morono 1 to win 1.71
Kyle Daukaus 1.24 to win 1
Rodriguez/Waterson DNGTD 1 to win 1.6
de Lima/Greene U1.5 rds 1.47 to win 1
I have a new favorite fighter. Jiri Prochazka is not just the new shiny object in front of my simple brain; he’s legit. I was worried about the left hand landing clean on Jiri, who tends to leave himself open. It did. It stumbled Jiri and Reyes jumped on a half-ass guillotine that allowed him to recover. Outside of that, it was forward pressure and bombs. From his walkout song to his hair to his fighting style and most importantly his skill level in the cage, this is the UFC’s next big star. What’s crazy is that Jan might beat him! The KO was the stuff of legends.
He’s a true martial artist and the way he approaches the entire fight night is the closest thing we’ll get to Blood Sport. There is so much talent on display every week. It’s staggering and Jiri is another name on the list.
The rest of the night was absolutely a mixed bag. We saw the Giga kick put Swanson on his ass early in the first round. We saw what HAD to be judged a 10-8 round from Cutelaba in the first only to have not 1, but 2 judges call it 10-9. The second round was Jacoby’s, but the third was a toss-up. I had that either in favor of Cutelaba or 28-28. That wasn’t the only questionable decision of the night.
I had Kai Kamaka winning his fight with TJ Brown. It was a good fight but I didn’t think there was much of a question as to who won. Sean Strickland was clinical but once again didn’t push for the finish. Merab was given a slight test by Stamann but proved he’s a bulldog and picked up the win. Poliana Botelho gassed out, per usual. KB Bhullar isn’t fit for the sport. Luke Sanders and Felipe Colares can fight every week if they’d like. That was a fun fight to open the night. But let’s talk about two women’s fights that we had our eye on.
First, how about Lookboonmee getting the takedowns and Sam Hughes winning the stand-up battle? As horrible as it was watching my money go up in flames with KB Bhullar, I picked up great value with my Sam Hughes bet. Not only did we beat the line for a few points, but I thought there was a chance Hughes was getting her hand raised at the end of the night. Statistically, the decision was a no-brainer, but Hughes did more damage and controlled more of the fight. The big issue for Hughes was her complete lack of takedown ability. She had double underhooks several times and just flat out got stuck in the position with no way to get it to the ground. More often than not, Loma turned a hip and tossed Hughes.
It was clearly frustrating for Sam and Hughes backers, but I’m not totally down on Hughes moving forward. Her hands were fast and she had some power. There are several girls on the roster that will have a hard time with Hughes moving forward. We’ll keep that in our lockers.
What do you think about Luana Pinheiro? We picked up the win in somewhat controversial fashion. The question isn’t whether Randa Markos delivered an illegal kick to the face of a grounded opponent. That happened. The question is, did Pinheiro embellish the damage done by said blow to get a win? We’ll never know. I will say that when it first happened she seemed stunned that it happened and went to her back to gather herself. It was at that time that her eyes started to bug out and get a little glazed over. She was carried to the locker room from the cage by her coach.
Again, people were mad online about how “dramatic” that was. Man, maybe she was just hurt, and oh, by the way, she was winning the fight! Luana did give Markos an eye poke that was pretty gnarly that seemed to put a little urgency in the game of Markos but I could only really see one person getting their hand raised. Whether it was by illegal upkick or through combat it was going to be Pinheiro.
Alright, Vegas 25 is behind us and it’s time to look forward to Vegas 26. We’ve had so many changes on this card but it appears as though we have a lineup that is set…finally. Cory Sandhagen was supposed to fight TJ Dillashaw in the main event, but Dillashaw suffered a pretty nasty cut and had to pull out. Cowboy Cerrone was going to fight Diego Sanchez before he was cut from the promotion with all of the drama that came out this week. We are left with a Michelle Waterson main event. WTF? That would be her FOURTH main event. The Karate Hottie must put asses in the seats, but can she follow up her split decision win over Angela Hill with another? Let’s dig in.
Once again, I’m changing the format up a touch to give you more info. I’m grabbing the graphics off of ESPN to give you some stats to hopefully reduce the filler background info that’s generally required for these breakdowns. For those who don’t like change, I apologize, but this is a work in progress. Always try to get better. Let’s have a great Saturday!
UFC Vegas 26: Rodriguez vs. Waterson Event Info
May 8, 2021
UFC APEX, Las Vegas, NV
Really? Four main events for a fighter that’s 18-8 and has never held a belt in the UFC. That is wild. Let’s be honest here. Her nickname isn’t Dog Faced Killer. It’s the Karate Hottie. It’s good to be marketable! Apparently, it’s profitable too. This is now the main event after TJ Dillashaw had to pull out due to a nasty cut over his eyebrow. It’s not the main we wanted but it’s still going to be a fun scrap. Michelle Waterson fights are rarely boring and usually close.
Waterson’s fight with Angela Hill went all 5 rounds and featured over 300 strikes landed. She really tried to work the wrestling with little success, going just 1/18 on takedown attempts but that loan takedown may have won her the fight. She’ll likely go back to the well here considering how poor Rodriguez is off her back while limiting her best weapons. I like the gas tank on Waterson compared to Rodriguez. We’ve seen Michelle go a hard 5 rounds and still have some in the tank. We simply haven’t with Rodriguez and even in fights she’s won, has lost energy late.
Marina Rodriguez is a bulldozer. She’s an extremely skilled striker who finished Amanda Ribas in the second round the last time out. Rodriguez does a great job circling away from the power of her opponents and trying to stay out of the range of the impending shot. Ribas had some success early with her wrestling, and Rodriguez struggled off her back, as she always does.
That is our worry here for Rodriguez backers. Can Waterson work her wrestling and keep Rodriguez pinned to the mat? If not, we’ve seen what Rodriguez’s hands can do. She dropped Ribas early in the second with a straight right behind a looping left hook and landed clean on the button. You just don’t see that level of striking, with power in this division and it’s why she’s such a scary fight for any opponent. She has vicious knees and wild elbows from the clinch. She’s a complete striker.
With the total sitting at 4.5 and juice on the over, this fight is trending towards a finish. It’s an odd spot where Rodriguez is far more likely to finish the fight inside the distance but if it does go all 5, Waterson is a very live dog. Let’s pretend Waterson lands a few takedowns and gets some control time. I don’t see Waterson submitting Rodriguez. They start every round standing up. Rodriguez will have another camp to continue working on her takedown defense.
I don’t love either of these women in DFS. Waterson in a loss likely doesn’t land more than 1 or 2 takedowns. At just $7k she’s not the worst option but I’m concerned about her upside. Rodriguez needs a finish at 9200. I’m leaning ever so slightly towards Rodriguez because she’s so superior on the feet but my bet will likely fall to Waterson to string this out over 5 rounds. This fight will take place at 125. With Rodriguez being the bigger woman I have given her a slight edge there as well at this weight. She did have some insane visa and travel issues and only arrived in Vegas on Wednesday. That is a lot for the week of the fight but I’m sticking with what my eyes told me.
OFFICIAL PICK: MARINA RODRIGUEZ
This was supposed to be Diego Sanchez. In that fight, I was all in Cerrone. I think we all were. Morono provides a different and more difficult fight in my opinion. Cerrone is on a pretty damn horrible run here but against the best of the best. He’s an extremely well-rounded fighter and a vaunted striker. He has that upright Muay Thai style that he’s synonymous with and with Morono’s aggressive style, Cerrone’s kicks could be the weapon of choice.
It looked like we were seeing the old Donald Cerrone against Niko Price. He was super sharp with his striking and did some damage to Price. He was still swinging and throwing with power in the third round. He’s a consummate professional and was training for Sanchez. I expect him to be in shape but we’ll have a look at him on Friday when he steps on the scale.
Morono is a BJJ black belt but would prefer to keep this fight standing. He’s managed to completely underwhelm me and impress me over his last 3 fights. We can’t say much about the Khaos knockout. He got caught and bum-rushed. It was over before it started. Morono was the big favorite, and Khaos took offense to that.
His fight against McKee was super entertaining and was a better display of the full range of skills Morono has in his locker. He’s light on his feet, he has decent power, and he can wrestle a bit if it’s to his advantage. McKee was significantly taller and simply provided a big target to take down. The fight also featured a mouthpiece leaving the cage and what seemed like the longest delay in the history of the sport IN fight. It was a dominant display, and I don’t think Rhys McKee is a bum. Then the Pettis fight happens. This was a fight that would show the level of Morono, and he just wasn’t up to it. After a decent first round, it was as if Morono was a deer in headlights. The big wheel kick at the end sealed the win for Pettis and Morono needed to bounce back.
I’m not sold on Morono. I’m taking Cowboy.
OFFICIAL PICK: DONALD CERRONE
Two guys coming off 5 round decision losses. I like Magny against Chiesa but was out-classed in the grappling department. Chiesa had over 15 minutes, and we didn’t really get to see the stand-up weapons that Magny has. To be fair, Magny doesn’t have a bad ground game and could look to take down Neal. He’ll have a 5” reach advantage and will look to use his movement to keep the fight at range. It’s when Neal dives in that perhaps Magny could level change and get the takedown.
Neal is all power all the time. He’s a skilled striker with 4 legit weapons, but I’m not sold on his ring IQ. I had to go back and watch the Muhammad fight. I didn’t take away much from the Perry/Price/Camacho fights. If you want to stand in a phone booth with Geoff Neal, god bless you. I don’t see this fight going in that direction.
Belal was 0 for 7 on takedowns. Neal was able to just walk Belal down. It’s actually wild to see how much Belal has improved since that fight. One way Neal closes the distance is with a power left kick to the body. It allows him to step off to the right of his opponent, close the distance and come with the straight left up the middle, if the opening is there. He’s a scary, powerful fighter when he’s on. He can fluidly string together combinations and land the death punch. It’s that power that has my interest here.
Magny is the veteran who seems to always be underestimated. He’s taking on some money this week which I don’t disagree with but Geoff Neal has the scarier set of weapons and more roads to finish this fight. He’ll need to get inside that reach of Magny, but I have him winning the fight inside the distance.
OFFICIAL PICK: GEOFF NEAL
Gross. This is a low-level heavyweight fight, but we probably get a finish here, so it should be fun.
Rogerio de Lima has to be the more skilled fighter here. It won’t be a striking clinic but he does mix in the kicks and hands to keep his opponent guessing. Rogerio is more prone to bite down on his mouthpiece and swing from left field. At 35, he knows what he is. Let’s go out and try to get a finish and if not he’ll get finished and collect his paycheck.
At 6’7”, Greene looks more like a fighter than he actually is. I think we were all rooting for Greene against Hardy and still managed to get KOd in the second round. He was losing the Villante fight before he locked up an arm triangle to get the win. He was submitted by Oleinik and knocked out by Sergei Pavlovich. There just isn’t a ton to love.
IF Greene gets out of the first round perhaps he’ll have a chance here. If he can keep his distance and use his jab then Rogerio could just wear himself out chasing. I don’t see it happening. I have Marcos Rogério de Lima winning this fight. The height and length issue doesn’t really scare me. He beat the living hell out of 7’ Stefan Struve and knocked him down but didn’t knock him out. Ironically, Struve caught Rogerio de Lima in an arm triangle while getting his ass kicked. Perhaps that is Greene’s path here but I’ll trust the big bombs of the old man.
OFFICIAL PICK: MARCO ROGERIO DE LIMA
Fight of the night? It could be. FERREIRA MISSED WEIGHT BY A MILE AT 160 LBS. GREGOR STILL ACCEPTED THE FIGHT. THAT EXTRA WEIGHT SHOULD HELP FERREIRA IF IT’S A GRAPPLING MATCH. I’M TRULY TORN HERE BUT I’LL STICK WITH GILLESPIE. NOW MOVES TO A NO BET
We know what Gregor is going to try to do. He’s a gas tank wrestling machine. You see the takedown average of 7.02, and it’s fairly clear his path to victory. At 34 and coming off a knockout loss to Kevin Lee and a 2-year absence, you have to wonder how he’ll look early. This is a 3 round fight, and there isn’t time to shake off the ring rust. You’d think the grapplers would have an easier time getting back into the swing of things, but we’ll have to see on fight night.
My concern with Gillespie is his path to this point. He’s winning these fights, but he’s never really in a fight he’s supposed to lose. He’s a -500 favorite against Yancy Medeiros. -400 against Vinc Pichel. -600 against Jordan Rinaldi. -430 against Jason Gonzalez. These are all fights in the UFC and all perfect matches for Gillespie. The UFC was building a potential star. Kevin Lee, to me, looked like the perfect step up and level jump for Gregor, and it backfired. He was a -150 favorite and was finished in the first.
Gillespie looked like someone trying to do what he’s not yet capable of doing. It was clear he’d been working on his standup, but trading with Lee was the undoing of Gillespie. Gregor did not have an answer after getting punched in the face. His face wore the damage and even picked up a cut from basically just jabs. The slip and rip followed by the left high kick literally KOd Gillespie. This is a guy who’s never been knocked out. He’s never really been hit. How does he respond?
Ferreira is a monster. There are zero questions about the level of opponent Ferreira has faced. Gillespie will have the wrestling advantage but the question is, would Gillespie want to go to the mat with a guy as good as Ferreira? Ferreira is a high-level black belt and will be comfortable if the fight does get there. On the feet, I have Ferreira with a pretty significant edge. Ferreira is coming off a hell of a fight with Dariush who took him down 5 times. It was a split decision loss and Ferreira gave Dariush a tough night. Dariush had high praise after the fight for the power of Ferreira and that is the edge for me.
The problem with wrestlers is how much their success impacts the judges. Landing a few takedowns is valuable and after Gregor’s last fight I expect him to be shooting from all angles to at least go out chasing what he’s good at if he does lose. Ferreira is absolutely a live dog, and after my first pass, I picked him to win. After going back through and cleaning up my article, listening to the press conferences, and re-evaluating the tape, I have to go with Gillespie.
OFFICIAL PICK: GREGOR GILLESPIE
Main Event – lite. Each of these women lost against one of the women in the main event, respectively. With how active Angela Hill is, she was able to pick up a win against Ashely Yoder between that fight and this one. Ribas was dominant in the first round of the Rodriguez fight. She won the fight. It was definitely a 10-9 and if a judge was feeling frisky perhaps a 10-8. However, she was caught by the right of Rodriguez. Ribas dominated Randa Markos. She got her takedown but had the much better stand-up and won a dominant decision. She subbed Paige VanZant inside 2.5 minutes. Also, she beat Mackenzie Dern by decision. Ribas is legit. She has been finished twice but Angela Hill doesn’t present that kind of threat.
Hill is a journeyman (journeywoman?) who’s always been there when the UFC needed someone to step up. She’s an accomplished striker but far more technical than powerful. Gadelha was able to land the big takedown and gain some control time that ultimately won her the split decision over Hill. The same can be said for Waterson, as we discussed earlier. That’s how close Angela Hill fights are. Without the ability to finish the fight and generally being on the wrong end of the ground game she really needs to dominate the stand-up and I just don’t see that happening here.
OFFICIAL PICK: AMANDA RIBAS
FIGHT OFF! LINS NOT MEDICALLY CLEARED.
Lins is an undersized heavyweight coming in off two straight losses. He’ll likely be giving up 25-30 pounds on fight night. The Tanner Boser fight is a worry in that Boser is also on the smaller side for the division but showed a tremendous speed advantage. Boser is not necessarily a monster power puncher but dropped Lins and finished the fight. He’s not a volume striker. He’s not a young guy.
Rothwell is super slow. He’s a big guy but his best days are way behind him but he does have the power you’d expect from a heavyweight. The edge I’d give Rothwell is that for a big man, he can go 15 minutes. He’s fairly efficient with his effort and doesn’t waste energy. He has an iron chin and even though I don’t love it, I’m grabbing him to win.
Last note, this could be the end of Lins if he loses here. At 35, his back is against the wall. He’ll give it a full effort, but I’ll take the vet.
OFFICIAL PICK: BEN ROTHWELL
What a fight. I’m not sold on Kyle Daukaus but Hawes has about a 3-6 minute window to win this fight before his gas tank goes. Hawes is coming off a majority decision win over Imavov and a KO win over Jacob Malkoun. By the way, I had a bet on Imavov so perhaps I’m biased but I had Hawes losing that fight. What did you think? Hawes is a fast starter and super strong. He’s very dangerous in the first 60 seconds. I really liked his approach early against Imavov. He was working the lead calf of Imavov before unleashing his patented combinations. It was a bit more patient than usual. Hawes will most definitely have the wrestling advantage in this one. He didn’t do much of anything in the clinch against Imavov and almost got knocked out later in the fight. The gas tank shows itself again.
Daukaus is 28 years old, improving and coming in off the back of a decision win over Stoltzfus. He’s a big kid who’s very strong in the clinch. Daukaus has a good top game if this does get to the ground and his gas tank is pretty good for such a tall fighter. Daukaus is quick to get an underhook in the clinch and shows good takedown defense. He throws a great 1,2 with the straight left doing the damage.
The second half of the second round and the third round against Brendan Allen are what have me sold on Daukaus in this fight. He was cut up and beaten up and battled back reversing position and still sticking Allen when they were on the feet.
OFFICIAL PICK: KYLE DAUKAUS
Tough to have a better debut than Ludovit Klein had. The big finish for Mr. Highlight was a great way to introduce yourself to UFC fans. He’s extremely fluid on his feet and obviously has big power. The high kick sounds like two pieces of wood being slapped together when it lands and that was the death blow for Shane Young. He’s efficient with his strikes and ties them together really well. Every movement seems calculated. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much from Klein because he ended the fight so early but what we saw was stunningly good.
Trizano is a well-rounded fighter but prefers to keep it standing. I have Klein with a striking advantage so my read is that Trizano will need to work his wrestling and try to test Klein on the mat. Trizano is just 29, but we haven’t seen him since the second-round submission loss to Grant Dawson. We are always wondering about these long layoffs and unless he’s improved significantly, could be in for a long night with Klein.
If this does turn into the standup battle I think this will be, there can only be one winner. One last note, he did miss weight in his debut. Obviously, it didn’t hurt his performance but it’s something to watch come Friday afternoon.
OFFICIAL PICK: LUDOVIT KLEIN
FIGHT OFF!! BENOIT WITH A HORRIBLE WEIGHT CUT. HE COULDN’T STAND ON HIS OWN AND MISSED AT 129 LBS.
Adashev should probably be a bigger dog than he is but it’s only because he survived 15 minutes with Su Maderji as a +400 dog. Realistically we didn’t see a ton from Adashev. He does throw with some power but he needs to be within range for it to land. That just wasn’t going to happen against Su but could it happen against a similar-sized Benoit? He’s not much of a wrestler so this could turn into a stand-up battle.
Benoit probably has the wrestling advantage but that’s not really his game. He has just 1 takedown in his last 6 fights. Granted, he’s fighting Brandon Moreno and Tim Elliott, but I would like to see more from him. Benoit stuffed 12 takedowns against Tim Elliott and kept it close on the feet. He doesn’t throw a ton of volume and many of his finishes came early in his career.
Frankly, I’m not really a fan of either of these guys but I’ll take Benoit based on his experience in the octagon with the potential bonus of him kicking his wrestling into gear.
OFFICIAL PICK: RYAN BENOIT
The Iron Turtle! One of the best nicknames in sports. He presents an interesting test for Nchukwi with his wrestling game. He has 9 takedowns over the last 2 fights and has the iron chin to handle some of the shots he eats on the feet. He’s 30 years old and now in his 4th fight in the UFC so he’ll have the experience edge in the cage. He has enough power but is yet to get a finish in the promotion.
Nchukwi is the darling of most guys like me who recommend winners. He’s a scary dude in general but when you consider that he was knocking out William Knight at 205 and now he’s at 185. I really thought Nchukwi would finish Jamie Pickett. He dominated the fight, don’t get me wrong, but he didn’t do what Tafon usually does and get the finish. In a sense, it’s almost good that he picked up some cage time in the promotion. He’s just 26 and 5 fights into his pro career. He is making improvements from fight to fight but the fact that he’s not the finished article worries me a touch against a guy like Park but the power should be too much.
The math tells me to take Nchukwi. My eyes tell me to take Nchukwi. He’ll use that reach and that power to hammer the Iron Turtle. If Park can land the takedowns I’ll be very nervous about my money but I have him keeping this standing and grabbing the win.
OFFICIAL PICK: TAFON NCHUKWI
TONS of money has come in on Harris over the last 10-15 days. He opened as a dog and has been bet through the 0 to now a -160 favorite. The issue is with Aguilera’s takedown defense. Sean Brady is a beast and worked Aguilera on the feet but really could take down Aguilera whenever he wanted. Aguilera is a pressure fighter who wants to KO or get KOd and as he’s stepped up in competition it’s been more of the latter than the former.
I get the love for Carlston Harris. He’s making his debut in the big show after success on the regional scene, and there is no doubt this will be a step up in competition. However, his measurables are off the charts. He’s tall, long and smart. He’s one who doesn’t mess around in the cage and will nullify his opponent’s strengths.
Against Viera, he really didn’t want to stand and bang with him. The first takedown came just 5 seconds into the fight. As Viera made his way back to the feet Harris maintained the body lock to limit the distance and ripped Viera back to the mat. He dictated the fight. His striking is fine. He does tend to reach a little with his right cross but the jab is stiff and he does go for the finish if it’s there. His career has had an interesting arc in that typically we see fighters who make it to this level have several finishes early in their career as they are fighting bouncers and backyard hillbillies but then move towards more decisions as the level of competition increases. He’s had the reverse. Only 8 of his 15 wins have come inside the distance but he’s had 3 straight finishes.
Regardless of who wins, I don’t think we see the judges here, but Harris won’t mess around, and we could see a takedown straight away. I like Harris to dictate the fight. I like Harris to win.
OFFICIAL PICK: CARLSTON HARRIS
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