Donald Cerrone ($8900) vs Rafael dos Anjos ($10500)
In their first fight, Cerrone had a poor first round. dos Anjos was often first and landed several good combinations, one of which dropped Cerrone to the canvas. Countering dos Anjos didn’t work for him. He must be aggressive and not settle for one and done strikes. He’d throw one jab, one kick, one hook. He has to put together combinations, using his length to keep dos Anjos on the outside. If he fails to do this, dos Anjos will again win the striking battle, control the cage, and move Cerrone up against the fence where he can then take him down. I’m also not sure this is a better version of Cerrone than the one in their first fight. I know for certain that dos Anjos is better then he was then. I see dos Anjos getting Cerrone to the ground repeatedly, beating him up in the process. He will finish him in the third round with a TKO win.
Pick: dos Anjos by KO/TKO
Alistair Overeem ($8500) vs Junior Dos Santos ($10900)
Junior Dos Santos has smoked every opponent ever put in front of him, with the lone exception being champion Cain Velasquez. He outstrikes everyone he faces. Everyone. Whether the two beatings he took from Cain have taken a toll on him is to be seen. But he even outstruck Stipe Miocic in his last fight and he’ll certainly be able to do the same against Reem. I wouldn’t say anyone with 53 pro fights has a “glass chin,” but Overeem has been susceptible to the big punch. The speed, accuracy and power of Dos Santos will just be too much for Overeem. The lights go out near the end of round one.
Pick: Dos Santos by KO/TKO
Michael Johnson ($11100) vs Nate Diaz ($8300)
I can’t wait to watch this fight, but I also fully believe it will go to the final bell. Johnson has tremendous footwork, and he will be able to land more than Nate will. Recent pics show that he looks to be in tremendous shape. But he has lost 3 of his last 4 and hasn’t fought in over a year. It will be Johnson by decision, but that won’t justify the $11100 salary. If you play GPPs, throwing Diaz in one or two as a punt play isn’t a bad idea though.
Pick: Johnson by decision
Randa Markos ($10400) vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz ($9000)
First upset of the night, and I think the salaries are a bit skewed here because Kowalkiewicz is making her UFC debut and Markos has some UFC experience and her appearance on the TUF show. If you saw Kowalkiewicz’s Invicta FC 9 fight against Mizuki Inoue, you’ll know why I’m picking her to beat Markos. She put on an amazing, gritty performance in which the both Inoue and her were awarded Fight of the Night. I don’t think she has enough power to finish Markos, but I like her to win the rounds. Will a decision win be worth $9000? Probably not. But it’s still a lower-salaried fighter scoring a win and around 50-70 FPS, so it depends on how you set your lineup.
Pick: Kowalkiewicz by decision
Charles Oliveira ($9400) vs Myles Jury ($10000)
Jury suffered his first loss in January to Cowboy Cerrone, then decided to change camps and drop down to 145. When I first looked at his stats, I was surprised he lands only 2.32 significant strikes per minute. I perceive him as more of a volume puncher, but the stats don’t agree. The flip side is that he absorbs only 1.48 strikes per minute — he’s very difficult to hit. Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira is coming off one of the more odd injuries of the year when he suffered a torn esophagus in his fight with Max Holloway. He’s definitely a bull, constantly on the attack. Look for Jury to be patient and work his counters well, flooring Oliveira to get back on the winning track.
Pick: Jury by KO/TKO
CB Dollaway ($10800) vs Nate Marquardt ($8600)
Dollaway was primarily a wrestler when he was on the TUF show, but he has developed into an all-around fighter. Still, getting the takedown and doing damage on the ground is a strength, and he converts on a whopping 83% of his attempts. Marquardt has always been proficient at defending takedowns, but Dollaway will be able to get this fight to the ground. Nate will likely have trouble getting off his back, and Dollaway will follow that blueprint until the final bell, where he will win by unanimous decision.
Pick: Dollaway by decision
Valentina Shevchenko ($8800) vs Sarah Kaufman ($10600)
Sarah Kaufman was once considered the best women’s fighter in MMA. But it’s been a rough road since her transition to the UFC. Kaufman has lost a split decision to Jessica Eye, later ruled a no contest, beat Leslie Smith, then lost to Alexis Davis by armbar — a fighter she had previously beaten twice. Kaufman needs a win here badly, and she has a favorable matchup in Shevchenko, who took this fight as a replacement just over a week ago. This is everything Kaufman needs to get back in the conversation at 135. Look for her to overwhelm Shevchenko and make a statement on Saturday.
Pick: Kaufman by KO/TKO
Josh Samman ($10300) vs Tamdan McCrory ($9100)
This one hurts right in the feels. I’ve long been a fan of Tamdan McCrory, and was thrilled when he came back after a five-year layoff. He did it in style with two finishes in Bellator, then re-signed with the UFC. But Josh Samman is a beast, scoring three finishes in his first three UFC fights. He has a dynamic striking game and he choked out a BJJ black belt in his last fight. This one will turn into a gun fight, and that favors Samman. I think he’ll finish McCrory toward the end of the bout.
Pick: Samman by KO/TKO
Danny Castillo ($9700) vs Nik Lentz ($9700)
The rare pick ’em in Draft Kings DFS. If this fight was two years ago, I would have said Castillo by knockout in round one. But “Last Call” has dropped three in a row and four of his last five. Lentz is the grindy, wrestler that is unappealing to some fans, but he’s been doing it in the UFC for over seven years. The best advice here is to stay away from this fight. It has decision written all over it, and predicting a finish or win by either fighter is merely a coin flip. I think Castillo has one more win in him, but I’m not willing to wager on it.
Pick: Castillo by decision
Cole Miller ($9600) vs Jim Alers ($9800)
Cole Miller is a ton of fun to watch, and Alers is a great matchup for him. I’m hoping this fight goes to the ground, where both fighters have excellent skills. We were lucky enough to see that with Maia vs. Nelson last week, but I have a feeling this one will mostly be a standup battle. I believe that favors Miller, who has a reach advantage and lands more strikes per minute than Alers. The other factor is Alers is extremely hittable, absorbing four significant strikes per minute. I like Miller to take this via decision, and it’s doubtful that will be worth his salary.
Pick: Miller by decision
Kamaru Usman ($10200) vs Leon Edwards ($9200)
Usman, the TUF 21 champion, will repeatedly take Edwards down. The question in my mind is whether he pounds him out for a TKO win or gets the submission. That’s a question that doesn’t really matter, since all you really need to know is that he will indeed finish. But my guess is victory by vicious ground and pound. I find this to be one of the best picks of the night.
Pick: Usman by KO/TKO
Vicente Luque ($9500) vs Hayder Hassan ($9900)
Hassan was a TUF 21 finalist, losing to Kamaru Usman by submission back in July. This will be a rematch from the TUF 21 show, when Hassan bested Luque by split decision. There is nothing different here, nothing to make me think that either of these guys will finish. Hassan has the better pedigree and has already beaten Luque, so I predict he will win. But I have zero confidence in putting $9900 in salary behind him.
Pick: Hassan by decision
Francis Ngannou ($9300) vs Luis Henrique ($10100)
Two big heavyweights make their UFC debuts to kick off the UFC on FOX event. Having watched Ngannou’s last two fights, I can tell you that speed, power and strength will all be to his advantage. I think he’ll wear down Henrique by pushing him up against the cage and beating him up, then take him down and finish there.
Pick: Ngannou by KO/TKO