Adam Martin’s GPP Plays and Cash Game advice for UFC 259: Blachowicz vs. Adesanya
Another week, another UFC card. This weekend, we have UFC 259 taking place on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a stacked card that features three title fights and 15 fights in total, and it should be a lot of fun to watch go down. With 15 fights to choose from, we have 30 fighters to break down ahead of this weekend’s card from a DFS perspective. Let’s get into the matchups in detail. Below, my complete breakdown for every fight at UFC 259, along with my DFS recommendations for both GPP and cash and my set of bets for this card.
UFC 259 Card
Israel Adesanya ($9200) vs. Jan Blachowicz ($7000) – TITLE FIGHT
The main event of UFC 259 sees UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya move up to 205lbs to challenge UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. Adesanya stepped onto the scale at 200.5lbs on Friday at the official weigh-ins, while Blachowicz has said he will weigh around 220lbs the night of the night. It will be intriguing to see how that weight discrepancy plays out in the fight. Even with the weight advantage, Adesanya is still eight years younger than Blachowicz (30 to 38), he has a two-inch height advantage, and he has a two-inch reach advantage. At middleweight, Adesanya enjoyed being the biggest man. At light heavyweight, it will be interesting to see how he ends up looking in this particular matchup against Blachowicz.
Adesanya has become one of the biggest stars in MMA over the last couple of years, and for good reason. The 30-year-old New Zealand native is 20-0 in mixed martial arts with a 9-0 record in the UFC alone. He’s been the betting favorite in every single one of his UFC fights, and he’s come through for his backers, defeating the likes of Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, and Anderson Silva over the years.
Adesanya wins his fights by outstriking his opponents at range before eventually finishing many of them. He’s super tall, long, and is extremely smart at using his range. Defensively, Adesanya is sound, though we have seen him get tagged a few times by Whittaker and Romero, something to keep in mind going forward at 205lbs. Indeed, Adesanya hasn’t been knocked out in MMA before, but he has been KOed in kickboxing, so he’s not unbeatable. As for his grappling, we have heard good things about it but haven’t seen much. Overall, Adesanya hasn’t shown many flaws in his game, but moving up in weight might expose some of them. We will find out on Saturday night at UFC 259.
Staring across from Adesanya will be Blachowicz, who is once again being overlooked in this spot. Looking back at Blachowicz’s UFC career, he’s been an underdog an astonishing 12 times, but he’s cashed eight times as the dog. That’s a 75-percent winning percentage as an underdog, which is absurd. In his last four fights, Blachowicz has knocked out three of his foes, including Dominick Reyes in his last fight to take the vacant 205lbs belt. Remember, Reyes is the guy many people felt beat Jon Jones.
We also saw Blachowicz’s KO power against Corey Anderson and Luke Rockhold. In addition, we saw the Pole’s improved submission skills on display in wins over Devin Clark and Nikita Krylov, plus improved takedown defense and clinch work against Jacare Souza. The one KO loss to Thiago Santos does cause pause, as do some of his early-career losses in the Octagon. But Blachowicz’s improvements have been amazing to see, and at this point, he’s becoming someone who you just don’t want to bet against.
It’s always tough to pick against an undefeated great like Adesanya, but very few fighters truly go unbeaten in their MMA careers. Everyone is beatable, even some as great as Adesanya. I’m going off the board here and taking a shot on Blachowicz. It is mixed martial arts, and I believe he’s the more complete mixed martial artist. He’s also the bigger man, and in the small cage, I see that potentially being a big factor. On the feet, Blachowicz is going to be tougher to handle than most believe. Yes, Adesanya is faster and moves better, but Blachowicz hits harder. There’s a reason we have weight classes, after all.
I also see Blachowicz using his weight and trying to get the fight into the clinch where he can wear on Adesanya and tire him out. As great as Adesanya is, I think he’s beatable, and the recent form from Blachowicz leads me to believe he will win this fight. I know it’s risky, but I love the underdog odds. For $7000, you’re getting an elite fighter in their prime who has the ability to score over 100+ points. I’ll back the dog here.
Pick: Jan Blachowicz
Amanda Nunes ($9600) vs. Megan Anderson ($6600) – TITLE FIGHT
The co-main event sees Amanda Nunes defend the UFC women’s featherweight belt against Megan Anderson. Nunes is absolutely amazing. She’s a two-division champion in the UFC, and she has an amazing 13-1 record in the UFC with an 11-fight win streak. Her resume is absolutely phenomenal, with wins over the likes of Cris Cyborg, Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko, Germaine de Randamie, and in her last fight, a five-round beating over Felicia Spencer. Her only UFC loss came to Cat Zingano seven years ago. Nunes is an amazing fighter who is good everywhere. She has power in her punches and kicks. She has strong wrestling, slick submissions, a great chin, and amazing cardio. At age 32, Nunes is in her prime. She’s the GOAT of women’s MMA, and it’s hard to see her losing any time soon.
On the flip side, you have Anderson, who earned this title shot at 145lbs in a shallow weight class. She’s just 3-2 in the UFC, though it’s worth noting her three wins have come by first-round submission. Here’s the good about Anderson. She’s tall, long, and powerful. She is 6’ tall and has a three-inch reach advantage here against Nunes. As far as women’s featherweights go, Anderson is elite.
The problem is, that’s not saying much, and her weaknesses play to Nunes’ strengths. We saw Spencer take Anderson down and submit her quickly in the first round, and we saw Holm dominate her with takedowns when they fought. I don’t believe Anderson will be able to hang with Nunes in the grappling department. She has a puncher’s chance on the feet just due to the nature of MMA, but overall, Anderson has very few edges in this fight. There is a reason why she is by far the biggest underdog on this whole card.
Nunes is the biggest favorite on the card at $9600, but it’s justified. I see her smoking Anderson quick and early, potentially in the first round. My lean is towards Nunes using her wrestling and taking this fight to the mat where she can work her submissions. The question is, do you play Nunes or not? For me, she’s the safest pick on the card, but the price is hefty. It just comes to whether or not you think you can afford her. For cash, I think Nunes is a really good pick because you’re almost guaranteed 100+ points here, though she comes with a double-edged sword due to the high price. For a GPP, you won’t want to have her in all your lineups, but you should build several of them around her. As for Anderson, I wouldn’t touch her in this fight.
Pick: Amanda Nunes
Petr Yan ($8400) vs. Aljamain Sterling ($7800) – TITLE FIGHT
The third title fight on the card features Petr Yan against Aljamain Sterling for the UFC bantamweight title. Beginning with the champion Yan, the UFC’s 135lbs champion has been extremely impressive since entering the UFC in 2018. He’s a perfect 7-0 since then, with notable wins over Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber, Jimmie Rivera, and John Dodson. Yan is a terrific athlete who is explosive and powerful. He has excellent boxing and works off his jab before landing his power shots behind it. He also has power in all of his limbs, as we saw when he knocked out Faber with a knee. He’s very durable and has a good chin, as we saw in his slugfest against Aldo. He has excellent cardio, finishing Aldo in the fifth round.
In nearly all of his fights, we have seen him be able to keep his fights on the feet and batter his opponents standing. His defensive wrestling is excellent, and he’ll need to be on point with his takedown defense against Sterling. But if he can keep the fight on the feet, he’ll have a chance to win this fight.
Getting to Sterling, he’s equally as impressive with his grappling as Yan is with his boxing. He has a great double leg and also works body lock takedowns from the clinch. Sterling has some of the nastiest submissions we’ve seen in the UFC bantamweight division, and we’ve seen him tap out some really tough fighters like Cory Sandhagen and Cody Stamann with ease. On the feet, we have also seen improvements from Sterling with his striking as he displayed against Pedro Munhoz. He just looks a lot more comfortable on the feet these days than he did earlier in his UFC career.
Overall, Sterling is 11-3 in the UFC, but he’s on a five-fight win streak right now, so you know he’s made a lot of improvements to his game. His four-inch reach advantage on the feet could also help him if this turns into a striking battle, though I’m still not convinced his chin will hold up in a striking battle, just like it didn’t when he lost to Marlon Moraes via KO.
This is a competitive fight, and it ultimately comes down to who can dictate where the fight takes place. If Sterling can pin Yan up against the fence and work his body lock takedowns from the clinch, this could prove to be a tough night for Yan. But everything I’ve seen from Yan leads me to believe he will be able to thwart the takedown attempts of Sterling, stay at range, and outstrike Sterling this fight. I know Sterling has really good kicks, but I just feel like the punching power of Yan is a serious game-changer in this fight. Even if Sterling is landing more volume on Yan, he can change the tide of one fight with a big punch. Sterling is great, but I favor Yan to win.
For a cash game, I think you kind of have to take one of the two guys here because the price is right. For me, that’s Yan; as for others, they will be on Sterling. As for a GPP, I’d personally have more shares in Yan than in Sterling, but with the outside shot of a submission, you might have to have a few teams with Sterling. This is also potentially a fight to stack because, if it goes five rounds, both men could rack up a decent amount of fantasy points along the way.
Pick: Petr Yan
Islam Makhachev ($9400) vs. Drew Dober ($6800)
At lightweight, we have Islam Makhacehv against Drew Dober. Makhachev, a longtime friend of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, is one of the strongest favorites on this card, but it’s for good reason. Just 29, many believe Makhachev could be a champion like Nurmagomedov, and it’s hard to disagree. He’s another grappling-based fighter, and he is relentless in pursuing the takedown.
Once the fight is on the ground, Makhachev does well to control his opponents and work into dominant positions, as we saw against Kajan Johnson. In his last two fights, Makhachev ran into Davi Ramos and Arman Tsarukyan, two talented grapplers who stuffed the takedowns. But we saw Makhachev’s improved standup skills in those fights, which was nice to see. He’s definitely getting better on the feet, though, he is still susceptible to the KO as we saw against Adriano Martins. Overall I’m high on Makhachev. As long as he can get the takedown in his fights, he will have a very good chance to win them.
As for Dober, he’s certainly improved as a fighter over the years. While starting in the UFC as kind of a brawler, Dober has really improved his game over the years, and he’s now a much more complete and smarter fighter. His takedown defense has looked improved lately as he’s been able to keep his fights on the feet and knock his last three opponents out in brutal fashion. Like Makhachev, Dober is also a southpaw, the same stance Martin was in when he knocked him out. But that’s Dober’s only path to victory here, sprawling, brawling, and getting the KO. If he gets taken down, which I think he will, this could be a quick night. With three submission losses in his career, including a similar matchup against Beneil Dariush where he was stopped with an armbar, look for Makhachev to try and get Dober out of there early.
Makhachev is pricey at $9400, but I believe he finishes this fight. For cash, I do think Makhachev is one of the stronger plays on this card. I really like him to win this fight, and I believe a submission win is likely. If you do take him, you’ll have to pick cheaper fighters to fill out your roster with, but I think Makhachev wins this fight all day. I just don’t think Dober is going to be able to stop the takedowns, and eventually, I see Makhachev getting a stoppage. For GPPs, I would have a decent amount of ownership in Makhachev. You might want to take a small stake in Dober just in case he lands the KO, but I really don’t see him winning this fight.
Pick: Islam Makhachev
Aleksandar Rakic ($8600) vs. Thiago Santos ($7600)
A light heavyweight bout kicks off the main card as Aleksandar Rakic takes on Thiago Santos. These are two former training partners at American Top Team, so it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out in the cage.
Starting with Rakic, he’s a damn impressive fighter and potentially a future champ at 205lbs. He has several physical advantages in this fight, being just 28 compared to 36 for Santos, with two inches in height and reach to his advantage. As far as his skill set goes, Rakic is a dangerous striker with grappling skills, making him extremely dangerous. We saw against Jimi Manuwa and Devin Clark how much power he has with knockout wins. We saw him land nasty low kicks against Anthony Smith that forced his opponent to the mat, where he chose to mix in his wrestling and show off a well-rounded game. The Volkan Oezdemir fight, however, did show some holes in his striking defense. But in that fight, when he was getting standing, he went for the takedown, something he may do here, too.
Getting to Santos, he’s had a fantastic UFC career, too. The Brazilian is one of the most devastating KO artists we’ve ever seen grace the Octagon, with his knockout power on full display against current champ Jan Blachowicz when he finished him two years ago. That win earned Santos a shot at then-champion Jon Jones, who he fought at UFC 239 in July 2019. I thought Santos honestly edged Jones out, but he lost a split decision and then missed over a year while recovering from double knee surgery. When he came back last November, Santos suffered an upset loss when Glover Teixeira submitted him. Though Santos dropped Teixeira in the fight, he was taken to the mat and submitted, one of his weaknesses. If Rakic was smart, he wouldn’t even attempt to stand with Santos, instead shooting in for the takedowns.
This is such a tough fight to call. Rakic, I believe, is a very smart fighter, and if he wants to make this matchup easier for himself, he will choose to wrestle with Santos as he did with Smith. But it is a light heavyweight fight, so if these two end up standing and trading and someone gets finished, it wouldn’t surprise me. I view this as a risky fighter either way. I don’t feel super confident in Aleksandar Rakic at the $8600 price, but I also don’t know if Santos at $7600 will win this fight. You kind of have to play both sides in a GPP just because there is the chance for a finish here, but I personally do not have enough faith in either side here for a cash play.
Pick: Aleksandar Rakic
Casey Kenney ($8100) vs. Dominick Cruz ($8100)
The featured prelim bout sees up-and-comer Casey Kenney against former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Kenney is one of the best prospects at 135lbs right now, and he could be fast-tracked to the title should he get by Cruz. Kenney is a lot of fun to watch. In his last two fights, he stood and traded with Nathaniel Wood and Heili Alateng, showing off an incredible kicking game and beating both those guys up for 15 minutes. He’s an extremely high-volume striker. Something great for fantasy as he racks up the points.
Kenney is very hittable himself, but he’s extremely durable and hits harder in return. At age 29, he’s right in his prime, and he’s still getting better. The problem I did see with Kenney is his takedown defense. For instance, Merab Dvalishvili, Ray Borg, and Manny Bermudez were all able to take Kenney down. I hope he’s worked on his TDD for Cruz because that is his opponents’ path to victory. But as long as this fight stays on the feet, you have to give Kenney a big advantage.
As for Cruz, he’s one of the greatest bantamweights of all time. But at age 35, he is on a serious and sharp decline. Cruz has barely fought over the last five years, with his lone appearance since 2016 coming in May 2020 when he was brutally knocked out by Henry Cejudo. I know Cejudo is an all-time great himself, but re-watching that fight, Cruz just isn’t the same fighter he once was. Injuries have really made him a shell of his former self, and I’m not convinced he’s a top-15 fighter anymore. That’s why I think you have to ignore his statistics because, quite frankly, they are not relevant to the fighter he is today.
In his prime, Cruz would have styled on someone like Kenney with his amazing takedown ability and movement on the feet. But in 2021, I don’t see a lot to like about Cruz here. His only way to win is to wrestle, as far as I’m concerned.
The prices indicate this is one of the closet fights on the card, with both men being priced at $8100, but I like Kenney here. If he can keep this fight on the feet, he could really rack up a lot of strikes and make his price tag worth playing. Cruz has a path to victory with a wrestling-based approach, but I’m not sure how well that translates to fantasy. This one is Kenney or pass.
Pick: Casey Kenney
Song Yadong ($8800) vs. Kyler Phillips ($7400)
We have another awesome fight at 135lbs as Song Yadong takes on Kyler Phillips. Yadong is just 23 years old, and he already has four years of experience fighting in the UFC. It’s incredible how much experience he’s racked up for a young fighter, and the Team Alpha Male product has been very impressive so far in the UFC, going 5-0-1 overall.
I’ve been a fan of Yadong for a while and believe he can go far in this sport. His best attribute, in my opinion, is his KO power. We saw that on full display in KO wins over Alejandro Perez and Felipe Arantes. The problem with Yadong is, now that he’s fighting better competition, we are seeing the holes in his game. Against Cody Stamann, he got tired late and narrowly escaped with a draw. Against Marlon Vera, he was given a controversial decision by the judges in a fight many thought he won. Don’t get me wrong, Yadong is good. But there are holes in his game that Phillips can exploit here. At $8800, I view Yadong as a very risky play, given that I think he may very well lose this fight.
Now, let’s get to Phillips, who is one of the most underdog plays on this card. At $7400, you are getting a young, improving fighter who can finish his fights. Just 25, Phillips has looked absolutely outstanding in the UFC so far with dominant wins over Gabriel Silva and Cameron Else. Yes, it’s low-level competition, but you can see the skill in those fights. On the feet, Phillips is a long, rangy striker who loves to use his kicks. Against Yadong, he has a five-inch reach advantage. Phillips can also mix in takedowns, as well, making him a very well-rounded fighter. Most of his wins are by stoppage, and you can see the killer instinct in his fights. Training at the MMA Lab, I believe we are poised to see a real breakout from Phillips this weekend at UFC 259.
The name of the game is mixed martial arts, and after really watching these two fighters, I believe Phillips has the more well-rounded skill set. I like him here to win this fight, probably by decision. I think he is going to be able to mix in his grappling with his striking and win this on points. At $7400, you are getting really good value on a fight that has an excellent chance to win. I also think there’s an outside shot of him getting the finish. I’m backing the dog in this race.
Pick: Kyler Phillips
Askar Askarov ($8300) vs. Joseph Benavidez ($7900)
At flyweight, emerging contender Askar Askarov takes on perennial contender Joseph Benavidez. Askarov is unbeaten and has never lost, with a draw to Brandon Moreno his lone UFC blemish. Just 28 years old, the Russian is coming off of back-to-back wins over Alexandre Pantoja and Tim Elliott, showing he’s an elite flyweight. He’s skilled pretty much everywhere, with solid striking and grappling skills. I do see some holes in his defensive grappling, and an elite wrestler might be able to control him on the mat. But overall, he’s a solid fighter who is still improving. In this particular matchup with Benavidez, he’s both two inches taller and has two inches of reach. If this fight stays on the feet, that extra reach could really come into play.
Getting to Benavidez, he’s one of the greatest flyweights of all time, but I feel like he’s had his best days. At age 36, he is one of the oldest flyweights on the roster. Something which will compromise his speed and chin going against younger, harder-hitting fighters. We saw that firsthand in his last two fights when he was brutally stopped by the champ Deiveson Figueiredo twice.
Benavidez has suffered four knockdowns in his last two outings combined (UFC stats says three, but I counted, it’s four), and I’m not sure he can recover from it. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Benavidez, and I made a lot of money betting on him throughout his career. But every fighter has a shelf life, and based on what we’ve seen from Benavidez lately, he’s a shell of his former self. If he is going to beat Askarov, he’s going to have to wrestle him. If he chooses to stand and trade, this could be another bad night at the office for Benavidez.
This is really a pure fade on Benavidez coming off of those two brutal losses to Figueiredo. I know Askarov doesn’t have as much power as the champ, but Benavidez’ chin may be completely gone at this point. The $8300 price tag on Askarov is cheap if you think Benavidez is going to get finished early. If that’s the case, then the price would be a steal. The problem is if the fight goes the distance, then even if Askarov wins, he might not score a ton. Still, I’d rather have ownership of Askarov here rather than Benavidez. I wouldn’t touch him at all here.
Pick: Askar Askarov
UPDATE: Askarov came in at 127lbs, so he missed weight by a pound. I still think he wins the fight, but it’s something to keep note of.
Kai Kara-France ($8500) vs. Rogerio Bontorin ($7700)
Another tricky fight to predict here in the UFC flyweight division between Kai Kara-France and Rogerio Bontorin.
Let’s start with KKF. He’s another City Kickboxing fighter on this card, so he’s had good training coming into this event. KKF is just 4-2 in the UFC, but his losses came against top contenders Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval, and he was competitive in those fights. He is generally able to keep his fights standing (90% TDD) and outstrike his opponents on the feet for his victories, as we saw in his wins over Raulian Paiva, Mark de la Rosa, and Tyson Nam. Overall, KKF has good takedown defense. On the feet, he’s light, fast, and active. I’m not sure we are ever going to see the KO artist out of KKF that we once saw on the Asian regional circuit, but his ability to sprawl-and-brawl should help him stick around the UFC. The two-inch reach advantage KKF also benefits from in this particular bout should help him out.
As for Bontorin, he is primarily a submission specialist. Although, we have seen some striking skills from him at points, as well. Watching back his tape, he really is an excellent grappler, especially if he’s the one pursuing the takedown and gets on top. On the Brazilian regional scene, we saw his submission abilities, though we haven’t seen them on full display in the UFC yet. Against Magomed Bibulatov, Bontorin picked up the upset when he was able to outgrapple his foe. Against Raulian Paiva, we saw improved striking when he busted his opponent open and won via TKO (doctor stoppage).
The fight that gives me pause is the Ray Borg fight, where Borg outwrestled him and won the decision. Bontorin looked pretty bad in that fight, especially from a cardio perspective. If Bontorin can’t be the one dictating where the fight takes place vs. KKF, then he could be in for a frustrating night at the office. It’s worth noting Bontorin hasn’t fought in 13 months. I also noticed his striking defense is below average heading into this fight.
This is a tough one to call for fantasy. If KKF wins, it is likely going to be by decision. I don’t see a lot of finishing ability from him here, so the $8500 price tag seems pricey for a fight that might not see him score a lot of points. I’d probably try to stay away from KKF and go for fighters at similar prices who have better finishing abilities. Bontorin as a dog at $7700 is more interesting because if he does win, it’s likely going to be by submission, so that could be the side here.
Pick: Kai Kara-France
Tim Elliott ($8200) vs. Jordan Espinosa ($8000)
In the flyweight division, we have Tim Elliott against Jordan Espinosa. Let’s start with Elliott. He’s been in the UFC for years and has fought at both 125lbs and 135lbs. He is a high-paced wrestler who averages over four takedowns per 15 minutes. He constantly moves forward in pursuit of the takedown. He’s very slick on the ground and can submit his opponents, though he is also susceptible to the submission. As far as his striking goes, it’s not great, and he can lose to superior strikers. He’s a talented guy, but he makes a lot of mistakes.
I will give Elliott a lot of credit for fighting tough competition over the years, but he is just 5-9 overall in the UFC, meaning he’s someone you generally want to bet against. I don’t think he should have won the decision against Ryan Benoit in his last fight, either. So to me, he’s on a four-fight losing skid at the moment, and at age 34, he appears to be on the decline at this point of his career.
As for Espinosa, he has some skills, too. He seems like a pretty well-rounded fighter to me, someone who is decent on the feet and decent on the ground. It’s just hard to get a true read on him because he’s beaten bad fighters but has only lost to top-10 guys. We saw his well-rounded game in his decision wins over Mark De La Rosa and Eric Shelton, but we saw holes in his game in losses to David Dvorak, Matt Schnell, and Alex Perez. The thing is, those three fighters are really good, so I’m not convinced Espinosa is a fade based on those losses.
I really liked what I saw from Espinosa on DWCS when he defeated Riley Dutro via TKO with two seconds left in the fight and tapped out Nick Urso with a D’arce choke after knocking him down with a head kick. In this matchup, Espinosa has some physical advantages, including being three years younger and having a three-inch reach advantage. It will be interesting to see that play out.
This is one of the hardest fights on the entire card to call because there are several paths to victory for both men. I could honestly see either fighter winning a decision, but I could also see either guy winning by submission. It makes it a true wild-card type of matchup in DFS and one that could potentially decide many tournaments given the moderate price points for both fighters. I feel like you need to play both guys in some small capacity in GPPs due to that threat of a submission win for either. However, it’s hard to be confident enough to play either in cash. My lean here is towards Espinosa to win a decision, but I also have this sneaky feeling he could sub Elliott. Again, you can’t go crazy on it given the variance in this matchup, but that’s my lean.
Pick: Jordan Espinosa
Carlos Ulberg ($9000) vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu ($7200)
The light heavyweights go at it when Carlos Ulberg meets Kennedy Nzechukwu. Ulberg is a teammate of UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. He is just 3-0 in MMA, but he’s also fought in several professional kickboxing bouts. In his last fight on DWCS, we saw Ulberg KO Bruno Oliveira with a massive left hook. We already knew he was a good kickboxer, but we, unfortunately, didn’t get to see his other skills tested in that fight. Digging deeper into Ulberg’s other two MMA fights, they honestly weren’t as impressive as I had hoped. In his fight with John Martin Fraser in 2018, he basically just stayed on the outside and won a low-volume decision. In his MMA debut in 2011, he beat Kaota Puna and won via retirement. I would really like to see more of Ulberg. He certainly has potential, but the sample size isn’t there at this time.
Checking out Nzechukwu, he’s a pretty solid light heavyweight prospect with some physical advantages in this matchup. At 6’5”, he’s one inch taller than Ulberg, and at 83”, he has a six-inch reach advantage in this fight. If he can stay at his range, he could prove to be a tricky matchup for Ulberg. However, he’s still relatively green in MMA, and I feel like he hasn’t learned how to use his reach correctly yet. We saw Darko Stostic outstrike him only to lose on the scorecards because he had two points deducted for kicking Nzechukwu in the groin repeatedly. We did see a brutal head KO over Dennis Bryant on DWCS, but the level of competition wasn’t UFC level. Against Paul Craig, he showed holes on the ground when he was subbed. There’s potential here, but he could be in trouble against a more technical striker like Ulberg.
This is a weird fight from a DFS perspective. I do favor Ulberg to win, but I’m not sure if he gets the KO or not, and if he doesn’t, he won’t be worth this price tag. At $9000, I think Ulberg is a risky play because I could definitely see this being a low-output fight that goes the full three rounds.
Don’t get me wrong. I could definitely see Nzechukwu rushing in and getting caught just as Oliveira did. But I feel like the more likely path to victory here is for Ulberg to win on points. At $9000, I don’t have a ton of interest in him for cash, though you’d have to throw Ulberg in some GPPs just in case he gets the quick KO. As for Nzechukwu, he could have some sneaky value as a cheap flyer if you are filling out your team. I’m not convinced he gets completely blown out in this fight, and I could see him scoring a few points over the course of the fight.
Pick: Carlos Ulberg
Sean Brady ($9300) vs. Jake Matthews ($6900)
Up next, we have young welterweights Sean Brady and Jake Matthews going at it. Starting with Brady, he’s nothing short of impressive. A former champion in the CFFC organization, Brady is undefeated with a 13-0 record, and he is getting better every time we see him step into the Octagon. With a BJJ black belt on the ground, we saw his submission skills on full display when he tapped out Christian Aguilera in his last fight. He also dominated Ismail Naudiev with his wrestling and outstruck Court McGee in a unanimous decision win. I like everything I see from Brady so far and believe he has what it takes to make the top-15. He has elite grappling skills and incredible cardio, and I think he has all the makings of a future title contender at 170lbs.
As for Matthews, it’s actually been really nice to see his improvements over the years. Remember, he was just 19 years old when the UFC first signed him in 2014. He’s 26 now, and he has grown and evolved over the years in front of our very eyes. A lightweight at the beginning of his UFC career, Matthews has been fighting at welterweight over the last few years, and I like him better at this weight class.
In his last fight, he was able to outclass veteran Diego Sanchez, and he also has a notable decision win over top-15 fighter Li Jingliang on his record. I think Matthews is underrated. He’s well-rounded and good everywhere, but the problem is he makes too many mistakes. He can leave his neck out at the wrong time, as we saw in his losses to Anthony Rocco Martin and James Vick, and he better be careful he doesn’t against Brady.
Matthews is a good fighter, but Brady is on another level. I already think he should be in the top-15 of the UFC welterweight division, and I’m convinced he beats Matthews in this fight. In my opinion, he’s better anywhere this fight goes. If it stays standing, I like Brady better, and if it goes to the mat, I like him there, too. The question is, does Brady finish this fight, or does he win a decision? Both are realistic paths to victory, but based on what I saw with Matthews’ submission defense and the mistakes he can make on the ground, someone with a superior level of grappling like Brady can tap him out.
I actually do favor a submission in this fight, though I see it coming in the later rounds once Matthews tires a bit and becomes more susceptible to the takedown. A price of $9300 isn’t great value, but if he gets a finish, it will be worth it. I really like him to win this fight, and he does seem like one of the safer picks on the board from a cash game perspective. Value-wise, you might be better off looking at some of the other fights on the card.
Pick: Sean Brady
Amanda Lemos ($8700) vs. Livinha Souza ($7500)
Up next, we have a women’s strawweight bout between Amdana Lemos and Livinha Souza. Lemos comes in as the favorite here, and watching her fights back, I’d agree with that. Lemos is a big, strong 115lber. In this particular matchup, she will sport a one-inch height advantage and a two-inch reach advantage, and she has the added benefit of being a southpaw. I did like what I saw from her on the feet outside of her loss to Leslie Smith at 135lbs. More importantly, I believe she is the physically stronger fighter in this matchup with Souza.
In what is likely to be a grappling-based fight, I see it playing out on the ground with Lemos being in top position. We saw her submit Miranda Granger in her last fight, and she also beat Mizuki Inoue by being the physically stronger fighter. Taking on someone who wants to grapple like Souza, I can definitely see this being a fight that goes the full 15 minutes with Lemos winning simply by being on top.
Souza is definitely an experienced fighter, and she has picked up some big wins over the years, particularly if she’s able to get the fight to the ground and unleash her submissions, as we saw in the Alex Chambers fight. She’s also very tough and durable, and at times can show some power on the feet. The problem with Souza is that she is too content to stay in bottom position on the ground and look for submissions. That’s how Brianna Van Burren beat her — by being the aggressor, taking her down, and staying in top position. If Lemos can get the fight to the mat, it will likely play out that way as well. I also saw some issues with Souza as far as her cardio fading in the later rounds, and I believe that could really hurt her in this particular fight.
There are a lot of fights to choose from on this card, and this one seems like it could be more of a grappling-based fight. Even though I favor Lemos to win the fight, I don’t like that $8700 price tag on her at all. She does have some power, but Souza is really tough to finish, and I believe this fight likely goes the three rounds. Souza at $7500 is more interesting to me, though her path to victory is likely a decision as well, meaning limited fantasy points. Out of the 15 fights, this one seems like one to pass on from a DFS perspective. I might have Lemos in a few GPP teams just because she does have finishing power, but overall, I’d just stay away from this fight.
Pick: Amanda Lemos
Uros Medic ($8900) vs. Aalon Cruz ($7300)
Up next, we have a pair of DWCS alum as Uros Medic takes on Aalon Cruz at lightweight. Let’s start with the undefeated Medic, who is moving down from welterweight. Just 27 years old, Medic will be 6’1” at lightweight. There’s a lot to like about his game, starting with his striking skills. Medic has big power in his hands, and he also has nasty leg kicks that have hurt numerous opponents. He often lands the low kick right after he lands his straight left, which is a very pretty combo to watch.
On DWCS, we saw Medic’s finishing skills on full display when he destroyed Mikey Gonzalez. Looking at his fights in Alaska, I did see some holes in Medic’s game, particularly in regards to his grappling. I do believe that a superior grappler can beat him. But his striking is deadly, powerful, and accurate, and if it can carry down to 155lbs, he can win a lot of fights in the UFC.
Standing across from Medic in this spot will be Cruz, who is moving up from 145lbs to lightweight for this fight. I was mildly impressed by Cruz, though not as much as I was with Medic. With Cruz, the biggest advantage he has is his long reach. At 78”, it’s extremely long for this weight class, and he will be blessed with a seven-inch reach advantage in this matchup with Medic.
Looking at Cruz’ game, he has really nice kicks, and if he can stay at his range on the outside, he can land those kicks all day. We also saw that he has explosive KO power when he landed a flying knee on Steven Nguyen and finished him. The problem with Cruz is his chin. We saw that against Spike Carlyle, a fighter who is no longer with the UFC, who knocked Cruz out. In his fight on the regional scene against Damon Blackshear, he got rocked and finished on the ground with a sub. Cruz’s chin worries me, especially against a power puncher like Medic.
Cruz has a path to victory in this fight if he can stay on the outside and land from range, but I don’t think Medic will let that happen. I see Medic being the more aggressive fighter here, moving forward, and using his size and power advantage to hurt and batter Cruz. Medic has impressive instincts when he smells blood, and I believe he has the power to hurt Cruz and finish him with strikes. I really like Medic in this spot. He’s $8900 at DK, which is a big price to pay, but when you look at some of the other big favorites on this card, Medic is actually a bit cheaper of a price to pay for someone who could get a first-round finish. There’s some risk to playing him in cash, but you have to have some GPP lineups with Medic in them, given his potential here.
Pick: Uros Medic
Mario Bautista ($9100) vs. Trevin Jones ($7100)
Kicking off the card is an awesome bantamweight bout between Mario Bautista and Trevin Jones. Let’s start with Bautista. There’s a lot to like about him. He’s an aggressive fighter who walks forward and isn’t afraid to exchange, as we saw in his fight with Jin Soo Son. He has power, as we saw in his flying knee KO over Miles Johns. We saw a weakness on the ground when he fought Cory Sandhagen and was submitted in the first round, though he did look very strong on the mat when he fought lesser fighters on the regional circuit. Overall, I liked what I saw from him. Just 27 years old, Bautista will also sport a two-inch height advantage in this fight. It’s worth noting that he took the fight on short notice after Randy Costa pulled out of it.
Now, let’s talk about Jones. He made his UFC debut on just two days’ notice and had one of the best comebacks of 2020 when he came back from a 10-8 first round against Timur Valiev and finished him in the second round. Obviously, seeing him get teed off on like that was a bad look, but the fact he came back and won as a +400 underdog was incredible.
Looking at Jones as a fighter, there’s a lot to like here. He’s very physically strong, and at age 30, he is in the prime of his career. Though he’s the shorter man in this fight, Jones does have a one-inch reach advantage, and he has the added edge of being a southpaw. As well, I’d argue he’s the better grappler here, and in interviews leading up to the fight, he suggested he may look for the takedowns. It’s also worth noting he’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is now training with Robert Drysdale.
This fight is way closer than the prices of the fighters and the betting odds indicate. Bautista is a quality fighter, and I would confidently pick him over several fighters in the UFC bantamweight division. However, Jones has some advantages in this spot, and at $7100 on DraftKings and +200 at the sportsbooks, I have to take a shot on him. I think he’s the stronger grappler in this spot, and I don’t believe the gap in the striking between the two fighters is as big as most people believe. My lean is towards Jones being able to win a decision here, but he has finishing potential. If you require a cheap dog to put in your lineup, Jones is your man.
Pick: Trevin Jones
Building Blocks: Amanda Nunes ($9600), Sean Brady ($9300), Islam Makhachev ($9400)
Live Dogs: Kyler Phillips ($7400), Trevin Jones ($7100), Jan Blachowicz ($7000)
Wildcards: Aleksandar Rakic ($8600), Askar Askarov ($8300), Casey Kenney ($8100)
Landmines: Carlos Ulberg ($9000), Amanda Lemos ($8700), Kai Kara-France ($8500)
Jan Blachowicz 1 to win 1.95
Petr Yan 1.2 to win 1
Casey Kenney 1.25 to win 1
Askar Askarov 1.3 to win 1
Kyler Phillips 1 to win 1.4
Trevin Jones 1 to win 1.95
Parlay: Sean Brady/Islam Makhachev parlay 1.16 to win 1
Parlay: Amanda Nunes wins Inside the Distance/Uros Medic 1 to win 1
For more on UFC 259, check out Duke’s MMA Breakdown!