Robbie Lawler ($9800)
The UFC welterweight champion will not be denied. You can take him down five times like Johny Hendricks. He’ll still win. You can outstrike him like Rory MacDonald and Matt Brown. He’ll still win. Carlos Condit is simply too hittable, too willing to get into a firefight with Lawler. He poses little threat of taking Lawler down. Lawler has more power and perhaps the best chin in MMA. The rapid fire exchanges will be traded. This favors Lawler. Look for the Ruthless one to end it sometime during the championship rounds, if not sooner.
Stipe Miocic ($10500)
Andrei Arlovski has had one of the greatest comebacks in MMA history. After a horrid stretch of four consecutive losses from 2009-11, Arlovski resurrected his career with Jackson MMA and has won six straight fights. But those six opponents lack the exceptional wrestling skill of Miocic, who will be able to get Arlovski to the ground. Miocic has only been KO’d once, and he has survived against power punchers like Mark Hunt, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson. He’s solid enough defensively and quick enough where he won’t take a lot of big shots from Arlovski. He won’t take Arlovski down as much as he did Mark Hunt, but he will finish him there just the same.
Diego Brandao ($9100)
For all his faults, Diego Brandao excels at getting people to brawl with him. And when he does that, he’s as dangerous as any fighter in his division. The prediction here is Ortega will be more than happy to oblige Brandao in a street fight, and he’ll end up staring at the bright lights on the ceiling if he does. Brandao’s last two losses were against Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Brian Ortega is a fine prospect, but he’s nowhere near their level yet. Brandao has looked great in his last two fights after those two losses, and I love him here to finish Ortega.
Lorenz Larkin ($9300)
Lorenz Larkin finally found a division he can call home since making the move to welterweight. He had the power and speed to compete at 185 and 205, but he did not have the strength to battle the big wrestlers, as evidenced in his fights against Derek Brunson and even Brad Tavares. In his two fights at 170, Larkin has outstruck his opponents by more than a 2-1 margin. While Tumenov is a top prospect — and ruined my DraftKings night by beating Alan Jouban back in October — I love Larkin here. He’s a tricky matchup for any fighter and has one of the most dynamic striking games in the UFC. Look for Larkin to make it three KOs in a row, a super bargain at just $9300.
Tony Sims ($9400)
Sims’ opponent Abel Trujillo is Brandao-like in that he has big, big power but too often gets reckless in the cage. His 12-7 record points to that, and Trujillo has better skills than his record would indicate. But Sims is a finisher with 12 of them in his 12 wins. He’s a sneaky pick here because he is coming off a loss in his last fight and people have a mental image of Trujillo being a knockout artist who can finish quickly. But Trujillo is coming off back to back losses and needs to make a statement. He might even need to win to save his job. Sims is much too polished to get KO’d by Trujillo, and when Trujillo makes a mistake Sims will fire away and get the TKO win.
Some prognosticators like to definitively pick winners and losers for every fight. I’m not a fan of that, and in DraftKings you need to find fight finishers to win. So if I’m unsure of a matchup or think it will go the distance, I’ll make a prediction as to who will win, but caution that it is probably best to stay away from playing that fight. With that said, here are the fights I’m not playing.
Joe Duffy ($10700) vs Dustin Poirier ($8800)
Yes, Joe Duffy is the last man to beat Conor McGregor. You’ll hear that repeatedly on Saturday night. And yes Duffy has absolutely dominated in his first two UFC fights. But I bet you don’t remember who he fought. Poirier has mega-power, and while you may hear rumblings about a suspect chin, he has been knocked out just once in 22 pro fights. His defense may be in need of improvement, but by no means is he an easy out. I want to see Duffy beat a top name like Poirier before I throw $10700 in salary behind him. I do not see him finishing Poirier, so even if he wins, his large price tag will not be worth the return.
Joe Soto ($9700) vs Michinori Tanaka ($9700)
Simply put, Joe Soto confuses me. I watched him dominate back in the early days of Bellator, then leave the organization after losing to Joe Warren. He dominated again with Tachi Palace Fights, and fought TJ Dillashaw on short notice in his UFC debut just over a year ago, looking like a worthy opponent until the champ finished him in round four. Then he came out and got steamrolled by Anthony Birchak in his last fight. So who is Joe Soto? I have no idea. Which is why I’m staying away from this fight.