UFC 212 looks to answer the question, “Who is the top featherweight in the world?” when it lands in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this Saturday night. Headlined by the most excellent match-up of Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway, the card has several compelling bouts that support the event throughout. This card will also play host to POSSIBLY (I’ll explain that later) the last fight Vitor Belfort will see inside the Octagon when he and Nate Marquardt duke it out in a battle of veterans.
Before you put the final stamp on your DraftKings fantasy teams, take a look at my analysis of the four fighters I feel will upset the favorites. These underdogs could be just what you need to make your weekend fantasy teams the steamrolling success you’ve always wanted them to be. Let’s get started.
Claudia Gadelha $9,000 / Karolina Kowalkiewicz $7,200
Claudia Gadelha is a powerful, aggressive fighter with tons of athletic prowess. Her only losses have come at the hands of the current champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Gadelha’s best work comes on the ground, as she is a gifted grappler, but she’s also quite effective on the feet. Her Achilles heel has always been her cardio, so unless she’s recently been the recipient of an extra lung, that will present a problem.
Kowalkiewicz is a Muay Thai specialist with a gas tank built for running circles around women like Gadelha. She too has only tasted defeat at the hands of Jedrzejczyk, but in my humble opinion, she did a tremendous job against the champ and even had her rocked in the 4th round of their battle at Madison Square Garden.
This was the hardest choice for me, but Karolina won out based on her superior striking, cardio and overall gameness to engage. This is a woman that won’t allow Gadelha to bully her. When it’s all said and done, I have Kowalkeiwicz taking a close decision.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz via DEC
Vitor Belfort $8,400 / Nate Marquardt $7,800
The battle of the fightosaurs is here, and despite many reports to the contrary, this is NOT Belfort’s last fight on his UFC contract. He still has one fight left and feels he still has a few good fight years left in him. That’s right Phenomaniacs, you could be seeing at least one more Belfort fight inside the Octagon if he logs a win Saturday night.
These two veterans have been toiling away in the sport since the 90’s for a combined total of 39 years of MMA action. Both men are heavy hitters and while Belfort carries a black belt under the great Carlson Gracie, it is Marquardt who is the more well-rounded fighter. Both are coming off losses (Belfort’s loss to Kelvin Gastelum was later overturned to a NC), and both have about as even odds for a knockout as I’ve ever seen heading into a bout.
This fight is extremely tough to call, but I’m in favor of Marquardt.
Nate Marquardt via (T)KO
Yancy Madeiros $8,200 / Erick Silva $8,000
Who would’ve ever thought we’d see the day when Erick Silva would be the underdog to Yancy Madeiros? That’s no knock on Madeiros, though. It goes more to show just how quickly the skill sets in MMA can change and evolve (or become obsolete).
Madeiros is a power striker who has been working with the excellent Cesar Gracie team to get his grappling up to the same speed as his meat-hammers. He has excellent ground-and-pound, but his ground game is not on par with Silva’s, even with Gracie’s help.
Silva is a naturally gifted fighter with marvelous grappling and plenty of explosive knockout power. His consistency is spotty at best, but I still have faith that he takes this by virtue of being the better athlete.
Erick Silva via SUB
Antonio Carlos Junior $8,900 / Eric Spicely $7,300
This fight has all the makings of a great ground war. Both men are excellent, black belt-level grapplers (Spicely was just recently awarded his black belt under Tim Burrill), and both have faced similar levels of competition, so we’re looking at a pretty close contest.
Many pundits keep pointing out how Carlos Junior’s striking is vastly superior to Spicely’s, but I can’t help but notice that “Zebrinha” continually improves with each performance and played the spoiler beautifully last summer against heavy odds favorite, Thiago Santos. Spicely also has the better gas tank, so that tips the scale even more in his favor.
Eric Spicely via DEC
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is crooklyn949) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.