Adam Martin’s GPP Plays and Cash Game advice for UFC Vegas 22: Holland vs. Brunson
We’re back with another night of MMA action as UFC Vegas 22 goes down this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hopefully, it’s a great night of fights, and hopefully, no one throws an illegal knee, loses an eye, or gets robbed by the judges. With 12 fights set for this weekend’s UFC Vegas 22 event, let’s dive into them all from a DFS and betting perspective.
UFC Vegas 22 Card
Kevin Holland ($8400) vs. Derek Brunson ($7800)
The main event of UFC Vegas 22 is a five-round middleweight bout between Kevin Holland and Derek Brunson. This should be a great fight for as long as it lasts. Starting with Holland, he was arguably the fighter of the year in 2020 after winning five fights between May and December, including his signature win, a KO over Ronaldo Souza at UFC 256. Holland is just 28 years old, and he’s showing improvements every fight. He’s extremely long and rangy on the feet, having been blessed with an 81” reach, and we’ve seen the KO power he possesses in the Souza and Joaquin Buckley fights. He’s also got BJJ in his back pocket as well, being crafty on the mat.
The problem is, Holland is too easy to take down. He does good work off his back, but in the eyes of the judges, that’s not always the best gameplan. It nearly cost him against Gerald Meerschaert and Darren Stewart, but he was able to win split decisions in those fights. Against Brunson, Holland is going to need to keep this fight on the feet where he will have the biggest edge. In this matchup, Holland has a four-inch reach advantage, a two-inch height advantage, and he’s also eight years younger. The threat of the takedown is Holland’s biggest worry in this fight, but as long as he can keep the fight standing, he should have the advantage.
Getting to Brunson, he’s proven himself to be a top-10 middleweight for many years now. Though he’s 37, Brunson is fighting at a high level, and he’s won his last three fights in a row, including a big upset TKO win over Edmen Shahbazyan in his last outing. Brunson’s one of the best wrestlers in the division, he has great cardio, and he has KO power on the feet. He has everything you want out of a contender, except he’s getting up there in age now. As well, he’s been knocked out four times in the UFC, and that has to be a worry against someone like Holland. Brunson’s path to victory in this fight is to wrestle. If he can utilize his takedowns and get this fight to the ground, then he will have a good chance to pull off the upset here.
The problem is, this fight is scheduled for five rounds. Neither Holland nor Brunson has gone five rounds before in their MMA careers, but if I had to guess, Holland will have more gas in the tank in the fourth and fifth rounds. If this was a three-round fight, I might lean towards Brunson to win a decision. But since it’s a five-round fight and I think Holland has the better cardio, he’s my lean in this one. I’m expecting a very competitive fight that goes into the later rounds, but eventually, I think Brunson will tire, and Holland will take over for a TKO win. I’ve been riding the Holland train for his last five fights, and I’m not ready to get off yet. Give me Holland for the win.
Pick: Kevin Holland
Gregor Gillespie ($9000) vs. Brad Riddell ($7200)
The co-main event features the return of top-15 lightweight Gregor Gillespie, who makes his comeback to the UFC a year-and-a-half after a brutal head kick KO loss to Kevin Lee when he takes on Brad Riddell. Prior to the loss to Lee, Gillespie won six straight fights in the UFC, including five by stoppage, and many thought he was a potential champion due to his dominant ground game. Outside of the Lee fight, Gillespie completely ran over everyone that was in his way. He can get nearly everyone he fights to the ground, and once on the mat, he can finish them by strikes or by submissions. Gillespie’s layoff is the biggest concern in this fight, but as long as he can land the takedown, he should be able to pick up the win against Riddell.
That being said, I’m not completely writing off Riddell here. He is five years younger than Gillespie in this matchup, and he has the better striking if the fight stays on the feet. The biggest problem is the takedown defense, which has caused Riddell some issues in the past. Although he won a split decision over Magomed Mustafaev, the fact Riddell was taken down eight times in that fight is very concerning. I just don’t have much faith that he’ll be able to consistently stop the takedowns.
Given that control-based wrestlers score so many points in DraftKings now, I expect Gillespie to be a very popular play this weekend. Outside of getting caught with a big shot on the feet, I expect Gillespie to be able to win this fight on the strength of his takedowns. And given his controlling style, he could be a good play in fantasy this weekend, as well.
Pick: Gregor Gillespie
UPDATE: Gillespie vs. Riddell was scratched due to COVID-19 protocol.
Tai Tuivasa ($8900) vs. Harry Hunsucker ($6900)
At heavyweight, Tai Tuivasa faces UFC newcomer Harry Hunsucker, who took the fight on short notice for the injured Don’Tale Mayes. Tuivasa was favored to defeat Mayes, and he’s an even bigger favorite to defeat Hunsucker on short notice. I was on the fence about Tuivasa against Mayes, who held a big height and reach advantage, but I like him quite a bit here against Hunsucker. Tuivasa is now on an even level with Hunsucker, as each holds the same reach and the same height. He also has way more UFC experience, and he’s four years younger. We’ve seen Tuivasa’s power throughout his UFC career, and as long as he doesn’t let Hunsucker get him to the ground and wrestle him, we could be looking at a potentially quick KO for Tuivasa.
Looking at Hunsucker, I’m happy for him because he’s living his dream of making it to the UFC, but I really do question if he’s a UFC-level fighter. We saw Hunsucker get finished on short notice by Jared Vanderaa on Dana White’s Contender Series, and he’s taking this fight on short notice, too. There are some things to like about Hunsucker, including the KO power that we saw on the regional scene and a basic grappling skill set that allows him to defeat low-level fighters. However, Tuivasa is a borderline top-15 fighter on the UFC roster. Hunsucker has a puncher’s chance in this fight, but that’s about it. I like Tuivasa to win this fight in the first round by TKO. He’s a pricey favorite on this card, but he should win the fight and score a lot of points doing so.
Pick: Tai Tuivasa
Adrian Yanez ($8800) vs. Gustavo Lopez ($7400)
Top bantamweight prospect Adrian Yanez returns to the Octagon against Gustavo Lopez. Yanez is an LFA veteran who shined on Dana White’s Contender Series before getting his shot in the big show. In his promotional debut, we saw why the UFC matchmakers brought him in, and that’s because of his striking skills. He landed a brutal head kick KO on Victor Rodriguez in his UFC debut, and that’s what we will likely see from Yanez going forward. He has a varied striking attack, and his takedown defense has improved to the point where he’s very hard to take down. In this matchup, Yanez is two inches taller, has three more inches of reach, and he’s four years younger. I’d like to see Yanez improve his striking defense, but overall, he’s a great prospect.
That being said, there’s a lot to like about Lopez, too. He’s another one of these underrated fighters coming out of Combate Americas, and we saw that he’s a UFC-caliber fighter when he finished Anthony Birchak his last time out. He did lose to Merab Dvalishvili in his UFC debut in a fight where he was dominated by wrestling.
Looking at Lopez, he is pretty good on the feet and packs some power in his punches. He’s also a decent wrestler and has some submission skills on the ground. However, he’s not a great wrestler, and I don’t think he’s going to be able to drag Yanez to the ground. On the feet, I just see Yanez being the much more accurate and powerful striker. At $8800, I do see Yanez as one of the better cash options on this card because he has a high floor due to his incredible striking output and KO power, and he could score a finish here.
Pick: Adrian Yanez
Max Griffin ($8500) vs. Song Kenan ($7700)
At welterweight, we have an exciting matchup between Max Griffin and Song Kenan. Griffin has had his share of struggles in the UFC as he’s just 4-6 in the promotion overall, but you have to look more closely at his losses. Looking back, many of them were narrow decisions that could have gone either way. Other than getting stopped by Colby Covington in his UFC debut, Griffin has generally been competitive in every fight he’s had in the Octagon. He’s coming off of his best win to date, a doctor stoppage TKO over Ramiz Brahimaj in his last outing that saw him snap a two-fight losing skid. Griffin is a well-rounded fighter with good striking, some wrestling skills, and decent cardio. In this fight against Kenan, he will have a five-inch reach advantage.
Talking about Kenan now, there’s a lot to like from him, too. He’s a very powerful striker and has scored several knockouts in the UFC, winning three of his five bouts in the promotion via strikes. He hits very hard, and Griffin is going to have to watch his power. It’s also worth noting that Kenan has a one-inch height advantage and is four years younger in this spot. That being said, as good of a striker as Kenan is, I question his all-around MMA game. His takedown defense isn’t super impressive, and his cardio is also a concern the longer this fight goes. Kenan has a puncher’s chance to finish Griffin, but Griffin is the more-well rounded fighter, and I have to pick him. As long as Griffin can avoid Kenan’s power in the first round, he should win this fight.
Pick: Max Griffin
Cheyanne Buys ($9100) vs. Montserrat Ruiz ($7100)
At women’s strawweight, Cheyanne Buys makes her UFC debut against fellow debutant Montserrat Ruiz. Buys was originally set to fight Kay Hansen, with Ruiz stepping up on short notice. I like Buys. Just 25 years old, she had plenty of experience as an amateur before turning pro in 2018, and so far, she’s 5-1, including a win on Dana White’s Contender Series that got her into the UFC. Buys is primarily a striker, and in this particular matchup against Ruiz, she’s three inches taller and two inches longer. Additionally, she’s two years younger. Ruiz will look to grapple with Buys, but we saw Buys exhibit excellent takedown defense in her DWCS fight, and I expect the same here. As long as Buys can keep this fight standing, she’ll have a big edge.
Looking at Ruiz, she is going to look and grapple in this fight. She has a nasty scarf-hold armlock, a move that works well against lower-caliber fighters. However, I don’t see her being able to get Buys down to the mat easily, and on the feet, Ruiz doesn’t offer a lot. I look at her fight against Danielle Taylor as the perfect blueprint for Buys to win this fight. In that fight, Taylor was able to stuff the majority of the takedowns, keep the fight standing, and box up Ruiz. I feel like that’s the exact same thing that happens here, so I favor Buys in this spot. But she comes with a hefty price tag, and considering this fight likely goes the distance, she might not be worth paying $9100 for. I favor Buys to get the nod in this fight, but it’s not the best one for fantasy.
Pick: Cheyanne Buys
Macy Chiasson ($8700) vs. Marion Reneau ($7500)
In the women’s bantamweight division, former “Ultimate Fighter” winner Macy Chiasson takes on Marion Reneau. I’ve been high on Chiasson ever since TUF, and for good reason. There’s so much to like about her. She has great boxing, legitimate KO power, and a solid ground game. I was shocked when she lost to Lina Lansberg in 2019, but Chiasson bounced back with a quality win over Shanna Young in her last outing. Despite the loss to Lansberg, I still like Chiasson. In this particular matchup, she should have the advantages in volume and power on the feet, and she should also have the wrestling skills to keep the fight standing. It’s worth noting Chaisson is also five inches taller than Reneau, has four more inches of reach, and is 14 years younger.
Reneau is 43 years old, making her not only the oldest female fighter in the UFC but the oldest fighter overall, which I find pretty incredible. But while I respect her longevity in the sport, I do think she’s past her prime, and we’ve seen that through her last couple of performances. Peak Reneau was back in 2015 when she first entered the UFC. The 2021 version of her is not the same fighter. Don’t get me wrong, Reneau is still game and durable, and she is not coming here to lose. But coming off of three straight losses, including a decision defeat to Raquel Pennington in her last outing, I’ve lost faith in Reneau as a UFC-level fighter.
I like Chiasson a lot in this matchup, mainly because she’s the more active, powerful striker. At $8700, you are going to hope for a finish here, but if even if she doesn’t finish, I expect Chiasson to win this fight.
Pick: Macy Chiasson
Grant Dawson ($8600) vs. Leonardo Santos ($7600)
At lightweight, top prospect Grant Dawson takes on underrated veteran Leonardo Santos. Starting with Dawson, he’s been one of the top prospects at 145lbs for a while now in the UFC, but he’s moving up to 155lbs for this fight. Not surprisingly, he’s giving up some size to Santos, who will be two inches taller and have three more inches of reach here. However, it’s worth noting that Dawson is only 27 years old compared to 41 for Santos. Generally, when there’s that big of an age gap in MMA, the older fighter loses. But in this particular matchup, it’s a bit tricky.
I really like Dawson. He’s an exceptional grappler, and outside of one knockout where he got elbowed against the fence while going for a takedown, he’s essentially unbeaten as a pro and has looked fantastic in the UFC. Dawson’s grappling is out of this world, and he’s able to get nearly everyone to the ground. But against Santos, you have to have some question marks about him for a few reasons. One, will Dawson be as strong at 155lbs against a huge lightweight like Santos? And two, if Dawson can’t get the takedowns, will he be able to stand and trade with Santos on the feet? These question marks make this a tricky fight to predict.
While I like Dawson, I like Santos, too. I think he’s one of the most underrated fighters in the sport, and even at age 41, I find it tough to bet against him in this spot. He’ll prove tough to take down, and on the feet, he does have the better striking. That being said, it’s still a 14-year age gap here, and with Dawson training under James Krause at Glory MMA & Fitness, I expect him to come into this fight with a solid gameplan. I think this is going to be a close fight, but my lean is towards Dawson to edge out a decision. That being said, Santos is certainly a live dog.
Roman Dolidze ($8200) vs. Trevin Giles ($8000)
In a middleweight bout, Roman Dolidze drops down to 185lbs for the first time when he takes on Trevin Giles. It’s worth noting that Dolidze is taking the fight on short notice, filling in for the injured Dricus Du Plessis. Dolidze has been impressive in the UFC. Though he’s 32 years old, he’s a bit of a late bloomer in MMA. We’ve seen him look pretty impressive in the UFC so far at 205lbs, knocking out Khadid Ibgrahimov and winning a decision over John Allan. He’s a solid grappler with some big power on the feet, and he’s very physically strong. In this matchup with Giles, Dolidze will have two more inches in height and reach. He should also have the advantage in this fight goes to the mat, though the striking exchanges should be competitive.
That’s kind of where I see Giles having success in this fight, in the striking department. We saw him look outstanding on the feet in his last fight when he knocked out former top prospect Bevon Lewis. Overall, Giles has far more experience than Dolidze, with a 4-2 record inside the Octagon. He was also an experienced fighter on the regional scene before joining the UFC, defeating the likes of Ryan Spann and Brendan Allen. I think, on the feet, he will be a lot faster than Dolidze and might even hit a bit harder. I also think he will have better cardio if this fight gets out of the fight round, especially with Dolidze’s weight cut to 185lbs. This is a close fight, but my lean is towards the more proven fighter in Giles to walk away with his hand raised here.
Pick: Trevin Giles
Montel Jackson ($9400) vs. Jesse Strader ($6800)
At bantamweight, Montel Jackson takes on UFC newcomer Jesse Strader. This fight was booked on short notice, with both men getting about two weeks’ notice for the fight.
Starting with Jackson, there’s a lot to like here. He’s had five fights so far in the UFC and has gone 3-2 while showing a dominant wrestling game at times, averaging over 4 takedowns per 15 minutes. In addition, Jackson is blessed with physical gifts at 135lbs, being two inches taller than Strader here and having seven inches more reach. Jackson’s also shown some power in his hands at times. That being said, for a guy who has already lost twice in the UFC and who is coming off of a loss in his last fight, I don’t really understand why he’s the biggest favorite on the card here. Jackson is a solid fighter, but considering he’s already lost to Brett Johns and Ricky Simon, I’m not sure how you can trust him here against a quality fighter like Strader at these crazy odds.
I have to be honest, guys, I liked Strader a lot when I watched his tape, and I think he’s a legitimate live dog here. I don’t get the line for this one. Strader has insane KO power in his hands, and he does a great job of mixing up his boxing attack to the body and head. He also comes from a wrestling background, though we haven’t seen much of it in his MMA fights so far. A lot of people are down on Strader because he only has six pro fights, but he also had quite a few amateur fights before his pro career began. As well, his only pro loss came against current UFC fighter Marcelo Rojo, and he actually did well in that fight before he gassed out and got stopped. Hopefully, he’s learned from that loss.
Strader hasn’t fought since 2019, and I hate betting on fighters coming off of a long layoff, but he’s had several fights fall through and has stayed in insane shape the entire time. Just check out his Instagram. The guy is in crazy shape.
I have to be honest guys, I really liked Strader here as an underdog, and I was planning on picking him here. That is until the weigh-ins went down, and he didn’t make weight. Strader looked like he really struggled to make it to the scale, and then he missed weight, coming in at 137.5lbs. Jackson, meanwhile, looked like the cut to 135lbs was easy for him. I still don’t think Jackson is worth playing at this overpriced number, but I have to back off of Strader now that he’s missed weight so badly. My official pick is now going to be Jackson to win this fight.
UPDATE: Strader missed weight at the official UFC Vegas 22 weigh-ins, coming in at 137.5lbs.
Julia Avila ($9200) vs. Julija Stoliarenko ($7000)
In the women’s bantamweight division, Julia Avila returns after suffering a surprising loss to Sijara Eubanks when she takes on Julija Stoliarenko. I really like Avila, and I was very surprised when she lost to Eubanks, but I’m glad we saw that fight happen because now we know she has a weakness with her takedown defense. That being said, she has some of the best striking attacks in this division. “Raging Panda” is mean, nasty, and aggressive. We saw that first hand when she finished Gina Mazany in 22 seconds last summer. In this particular matchup, Avila will also hold a two-inch reach advantage which should help her out if the fight stays standing. As long as she can keep this fight on the feet, Avila should be able to piece apart Stoliarenko.
I will give Stoliarenko some credit here. She’s a very tough and durable fighter, and we saw that in her loss to Yana Kunitskaya in the UFC, plus her split decision win over Lisa Verzosa in Invicta FC. That is seriously one of the bloodiest MMA fights of all time, and I would recommend anyone watch it if they haven’t seen it. She’s definitely tough, but she has so many flaws in her game, including no striking defense, no power, and no wrestling. Stoliarenko indeed has a great armbar, but the problem is she typically pulls guard to get her fights to the mat. As long as Avila can keep it standing, she should pick Stoliarenko apart and either win a lopsided decision on the judges’ scorecards or get the TKO. She’s $9200 on DraftKings, but she should be worth it.
Pick: Julia Avila
UPDATE: Julija Stoliarenko fainted on the scale at the UFC Vegas 22 weigh-ins, and the fight with Julia Avila was canceled.
JP Buys ($8300) vs. Bruno Silva ($7900)
In the flyweight division, JP Buys makes his UFC debut against Bruno Silva. This is a tricky fight to call. Buys is a good prospect, and he has several advantages in this fight, including being six years younger, having two inches in reach, and one inch in height. He’s also coming into this fight with more momentum, having won his last five fights in a row, most of them by submission. Buys is a great wrestler and his submissions are his bread and butter. If he can get Silva to the mat in this fight, he will have a good chance to win the fight. But if it stays standing, or if Buys can’t get the submission and the fight goes to the later rounds, it becomes a tougher fight to call.
Silva hasn’t looked good in the UFC, going 0-2 with 1 NC (originally a submission loss), but I think he’s a better fighter than his record indicates. The Brazilian is a teammate of Henry Cejudo at Fight Ready in Arizona, and he has performed decently well in the UFC despite the losses. He showed in his fights with both David Dvorak and Tagir Ulanbekov, two top prospects at 135lbs, that he can hang with them and make it tough to beat him.
Silva’s been submitted a few times, and if Buys gets his neck, it could spell trouble in this one. But if Silva can avoid the submissions and keep this fight standing, he’ll have a chance to pull off the upset because he has the better striking, from what I’ve seen. This is a close fight, and I’ve been going back-and-forth on it, but ultimately I am going to side with Buys due to his physical advantages in this particular bout.
Pick: JP Buys
MVPs: Tai Tuivasa ($8900), Adrian Yanez ($8800), Macy Chaisson ($8700)
Live Dogs: Trevin Giles ($8000), Leonardo Santos ($7500), Jesse Strader ($6800)
Avoid: Montel Jackson ($9400), Cheyanne Buys ($9100), Marion Reneau ($7500)
Straight: JP Buys 1.37 to win 1
Parlay: Macy Chiasson/Adrian Yanez 1 to win 1.12
Parlay: Tai Tuivasa/Harry Hunsucker doesn’t go the distance AND Derek Brunson/Kevin Holland doesn’t go the distance 1.02 to win 1
For more on UFC Vegas 22, check out Duke’s MMA Breakdown!