WATCH: TOMMY TOE HOLD FIGHTER TIPS
The UFC returns after a month-long hiatus for UFC Fight Night 98, which takes place this Saturday at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Mexico. The card features a number of high-quality matchups between some of the best fighters in the world, particularly in the lightweight division, with a fantastic fight between top-five fighters Tony Ferguson and Rafael dos Anjos scheduled as the main event of the evening.
Here are the top five things to watch for at UFC Fight Night 98, including my breakdowns of some of the best fights on the card.
1) Top Contenders Battle For Five Rounds (Or Less)
The main event of UFC Fight Night 98 is a real treat for the fans as top lightweight contenders Tony Ferguson ($7,900) and Rafael dos Anjos ($8,300) square off. Ferguson, the winner of The Ultimate Fighter season 13, is 21-3 in MMA and is an incredible 11-1 in the UFC. He is currently riding an eight-fight win streak and has finishes in six of those eight wins. In his career he has 17 finishes, making him one of the most dangerous fighters in the lightweight division.
Much of the same can be said for dos Anjos, the former lightweight champion. RDA is 25-8 in MMA including a 13-6 record in the UFC. RDA has won 10 of his last 12 fights but in his last outing he was brutally knocked out by Eddie Alvarez to lose his title. Though RDA has generally shown solid durability in his career, that knockout loss was concerning, and the fact it was just a few months ago makes it even more concerning.
As far as this fight goes, it’s an excellent matchup between two extremely well-rounded fighters. Ferguson holds a slight edge in the wrestling department, but RDA likely holds a slight edge in the standup. And while RDA is a black belt in BJJ, Ferguson has shown more of an ability to score submissions in MMA, so he would get the edge there. It’s a tough fight to call, but with the bout being 25 minutes, a finish seems likely here, and it’s hard to go against Ferguson considering how hot he is. At just $7,900, Ferguson represents a solid boom-or-bust pick in my opinion.
2) Youngster Held Makes Long-Awaited UFC Debut
Former Bellator lightweight contender Marcin Held ($9,000) signed with the UFC a few months ago and the matchmakers have thrown him right into the fire by pitting him against long-time veteran Diego Sanchez ($7,800). Held is only 24 but he has already racked up a 22-4 record in MMA with 12 of those wins coming by submission. Though he has no fought in the UFC yet, he has been fighting a fairly-high level of competition in Bellator which should have him well prepared for this fight.
As for Sanchez, the winner of TUF 1, he’s 26-8 in MMA and is 15-8 in the UFC. He has been on the UFC roster since 2005, and generally has been one of the most durable (not to mention exciting) fighters in the sport, but in his last fight he was knocked out for the first time in his career by Joe Lauzon. He has been in some real wars in his career and at 34 appears to be on his last legs.
With Held being so much younger and more talented, I think he wins this fight, though finishing Sanchez won’t be easy.
3) Lamas, Oliveira Collide In Clash Between Top Featherweights
In a battle between top-10 featherweights, Ricardo Lamas ($8,100) takes on Charles Oliveira ($8,100). Lamas is 16-5 in MMA including a 7-3 record in the UFC with his only losses coming against top-five opponents. Lamas is a well-rounded fighter with excellent wrestling and underrated striking, including an underrated ability to finish his opponents. At 34, though, he appears to be on the downside of his career, though he is still competing at a high level. He was supposed to fight BJ Penn last month, but that fight was scrapped last minute and thus he was pushed into this short-notice bout against Oliveira.
The Brazilian Oliveira is just 27 and is 21-6, 1 NC in his MMA career, including a healthy 9-6, 1 NC record in the UFC. Oliveira is one of the top submission artists in the game and of his nine UFC wins, eight have come by submission. The knock on Oliveira has always been his durability, but make no mistake about it, he’s as skilled a featherweight as there is in the sport.
This should be a good fight, but I like Oliveira here. Although Lamas is notoriously difficult to finish, I believe Oliveira has a good shot at picking up a submission victory in this bout and at $8,100 he holds solid value.
4) Top-Ranked Lightweights Dariush, Magomedov Fight
Two of the top-15 lightweights in the UFC clash as Beneil Dariush ($7,800) takes on Rashid Magomedov ($8,400). Dariush, who at 27 is in the prime of his career, is 13-2 in MMA and an impressive 7-2 in the UFC while generally facing a high level of competition. He is known for his elite ground game, but as we saw in his last outing against James Vick, his striking is always improving and he has sneaky knockout power.
As for Magomedov, he’s 19-1 in his career including a 4-0 record in the UFC, with many of his victories lately coming by decision. At 32, he is the older fighter in this bout by five years, but he is also riding a 12-fight win streak so he has all sorts of momentum coming into this fight. This is definitely an intriguing matchup and not an easy one to call. Dariush will likely have a hard time taking Magomedov down to the ground, meaning this will probably be a standup fight between two guys who aren’t afraid to go to decision.
Both fighters have solid striking, but I do think Dariush’s kicks can score a few extra points which will help him in what should be a competitive match. I’m expecting a close fight on the judges’ scorecards, though I slightly lean towards Dariush to pick up the victory as the slight underdog, though I don’t really see a finish in this fight either way.
5) Top Women’s Strawweight Prospect Makes UFC Debut
Former Invicta FC standout Alexa Grasso ($9,300) makes her long-awaited UFC debut against Heather Clark ($6,900). Grasso, who is just 23, is undefeated in her career at 8-0. She is a well-rounded fighter mainly known for her striking skills, though like most 115lb fighters, she lacks knockout power. Still, she is one of the top prospects the division has to offer and fighting in her home country of Mexico, I expect her to have a good performance.
As for Clark, she is a mediocre 7-5 in her MMA career, including a 1-1 mark in the UFC. Like Grasso, she will stand in the pocket and trade hands, but lacks knockout power. Another knock on Clark is her age, as she’s 36 years old. I expect Grasso to get the better of the standup exchanges in this fight and win a clear decision.
The problem with putting her on your team, however, is that a finish seems unlikely. So, at $9,300, you may be better off looking to pass on Grasso and look for another fighter more likely to get a stoppage victory.
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.