WATCH: FIGHTERS TO CONSIDER
UPDATE: Amanda Nunes has withdrawn from UFC 213. Her and Valentina Shevchenko will not accrue fantasy points.
The UFC returns to Las Vegas this weekend with two events. The second of the two cards is UFC 213, which goes down Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Here are my top-10 fighter rankings for UFC 213.
1. Travis Browne ($8,600)
My top pick for this weekend’s card is Travis Browne who takes on Oleksiy Oliynyk in a heavyweight bout. While it’s true Browne has lost three-straight fights, he’s only lost to elite competition in the heavyweight division. And I certainly wouldn’t consider Oliynyk elite by any means. I believe this is a favorable matchup for Browne. He’s the far superior striker, he has more power and more variety in his strikes, he has solid takedown defense, he’s younger, longer, rangier and more athletic. Browne’s chin is a question mark, but that shouldn’t come into play against a submission specialist like Oliynyk. The Russian has a ton of experience but with 60 fights comes a lot of wear-and-tear, and while he hasn’t been knocked out in the UFC yet, it’s going to come soon. I don’t see Oliynyk’s submissions threatening Browne in this fight. I think Browne picks Oliynyk apart on the feet and knocks him out for big fantasy points.
2. Curtis Blaydes ($9,500)
I really like Blaydes, and I think he’s going to continue rolling with another finish over Daniel Omielanczuk. Blaydes has a funny 1-1, 1 NC record in the UFC so far, but keep in mind his lone loss came against the freak of nature Francis Ngannou, and his win over Adam Milstead was overturned due to a positive marijuana test. Blaydes is a guy with an amazing wrestling base and heavy ground-and-pound. All his wins before the UFC were by knockout as well. And he’s only 26, so he’s going to keep getting better. Omielanczuk is just a gatekeeper and while he’s done well to hang around the UFC for a few years, I don’t see him having many more fights in the Octagon. I think Blaydes takes him down and will and finishes him with ground-and-pound.
3. Gerald Meerschaert ($7,700)
One contrarian pick that I like this weekend is Meerschaert, who takes on Thiago Santos. He’s 2-0 so far in the UFC with two straight finishes, and overall he’s riding a seven-fight win streak. This is a guy who has a ton of experience and a guy who has a really good chin, having never been knocked out before. Obviously, Santos has a ton of power and is a knockout specialist, but Meerschaert is a really smart, crafty veteran and I really like how he’s been looking in the UFC. So I’m going against the grain here and taking Meerschaert to beat Santos, and I think he does so by submission.
4. Fabricio Werdum ($7,800)
I’m leaning towards Fabricio Werdum to defeat Alistair Overeem in a highly-anticipated heavyweight bout. These two have met twice before with each man taking a fight, so this trilogy matchup will decide once and for all who the better man is. I’m thinking it will be Werdum. The reason is that while both men have massive knockout power and slick submissions, the difference is the chin. Werdum has been knocked out a few times to be sure, but Overeem has been knocked out plenty more. With Werdum’s improved striking, I think he’s going to find an opening here and connect on Overeem’s chin and put him out. At this price, Werdum has value because he has a good chance of getting a finish.
5. Rob Font ($9,200)
I’m a big fan of both Font and his opponent Douglas Silva de Andrade. Both fighters are powerful punchers and both have proven they can knock people out at the UFC level. That being said, I like Font. He has three knockouts in the UFC, and his only loss came against John Lineker and there’s no shame in that. He’s the younger fighter and he has more experience against higher-level competition. I think Font outstrikes de Andrade, and in a striking battle, he absolutely has the chance to score a knockout.
6. Anthony Pettis ($8,900)
It’s tough to trust Pettis these days, but I do like him here against Jim Miller. Pettis didn’t look good at featherweight but moving back up to lightweight should give him more energy and durability. On paper Pettis is a way better striker than Miller, he’s faster, more athletic, his ground game is just as good and he’s younger. I’m not sure if Pettis is ever going to be the champion again, but I think he gets by Miller here, and possibly even finishes him.
7. Valentina Shevchenko ($8,200)
In the main event of the evening, Shevchenko looks to win the UFC women’s bantamweight championship from Amanda Nunes, and I think she’s going to become the champion. We saw these two fight already last year and while Nunes did win a decision, she was completely gassed by the end of the third round, and if the fight was five rounds like this one is, I think she would have won. I’m banking on this rematch to play out like the first fight, with Nunes dominating early before fatiguing late and losing a decision or maybe even getting finished late. It’s a five-round fight, so there’s value on Shevchenko here considering how many points she can get from her striking and wrestling techniques with the extra two rounds.
8. Belal Muhammad ($8,100)
I’m liking Muhammad to take out Canadian Jordan Mein in a welterweight matchup. Muhammad has been more active in the UFC, he has more momentum behind him, he’s more durable, and he has better cardio. Mein will have a five-minute window of opportunity in the first round to knock Muhammad out, so he’ll have to be careful, but the longer this fight goes on the more it favors Muhammad. Considering the way Mein loses fights, I wouldn’t be surprised if Muhammad was able to hurt him to the body and finish him late in this fight.
9. Robert Whittaker ($8,300)
I find the interim middleweight bout between Whittaker and Yoel Romero tough to call but ultimately I’m going with Whittaker. He’s the far younger fighter at 26 and with a seven-fight win streak in the middleweight division — including a knockout win over Ronaldo Souza in his last fight — he’s proven himself to be elite. Obviously, Romero has been incredible as well, going 8-0 in the UFC, but he’s 40, and at some point, he’s going to slow down. I’m looking for Whittaker to use his speed advantage to outwork Romero and win a decision. The reason I think there’s some value on Whittaker here is that this fight is for five rounds, and that means he should score a lot of points. I won’t be shocked if he wins by knockout either, making Whittaker a worthwhile option.
10. Brian Camozzi ($6,900)
One of the fighters I would take a flyer on is Camozzi, who fights Chad Laprise on the prelims. Yes, he’s a big underdog, but occasionally underdogs come through and at this price, I think he’s worth a look. Even though he didn’t look good in his UFC debut, he was impressive on the regional circuit, and I think he has more to show than what he has shown so far in the Octagon. We’ve seen Laprise get knocked out before, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Camozzi pulled it off.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is MMAdamMartin) 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.