Whoever said “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” was absolutely right. It’s been three long weeks since UFC 229, and fans like myself are more than ready for the promotion’s remaining pay-per-view events. I wouldn’t say I’m foaming at the mouth, but I’m definitely antsy and angsty for the fights to get underway.
Saturday night, UFC 230 will bring fans another chapter for the annals of heavyweight history when Derrick Lewis meets current champion Daniel Cormier in the main event of the evening. This was a surprising matchup to be made, considering Lewis was limited by a much longer medical suspension after the Volkov fight (funny how that got shortened just days later) and Cormier was still in the process of rehabbing his hand, but now that fight night is nearly upon us, I’m not going to complain.
Outside a couple contests on the main card, the rest of the bout sheet is lacking any real name value, but that’s not to say there aren’t some very interesting fights — I’m looking at you, Julio Arce and Sheymon Moraes. For now, let’s just get down to the business of why you’re reading this post: the underdogs I’ve selected. Please remember the fights I’ve chosen represent upsets I feel could happen.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tonight’s fight between Brian Kelleher and Montel Jackson has been canceled.
Montel Jackson ($8,300) vs. Brian Kelleher ($7,900)
Jackson is a fantastically gifted athlete boasting one hell of a reach advantage (nine inches). He’s quick and packs power but is also still a greenhorn who’s made some questionable choices in his previous outings.
Kelleher also has had momentary lapses in reason, No. 1 of which was choosing to stand toe-to-toe with John Lineker. That said, he’s a strong grappler with tons of heart and grit, and holds wins over Renan Barao, Damian Stasiak, Iuri Alcantara and the currently surging Julio Arce x2 (also fighting on this card). It’s a close call, but I think Kelleher could grind out a win here.
Prediction — Brian Kelleher via Decision
Karl Roberson ($8,700) vs. Jack Marshman ($7,500)
Roberson is a dynamic fighter who made his way to the octagon off an impressive knockout of Ryan Spann on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series and looked equally impressive in his UFC debut against Darren Stewart. It was Cezar Mutante who put up the first road block in Roberson’s career: a quick, first-round submission loss. His lack of experience at the highest level might end up being Marshman’s gain.
Marshman has split the difference in his four UFC fights, but to be fair, his losses have come to Antonio Carlos Junior — currently on a five-fight win streak — and Thiago Santos, who has emerged as a legitimate contender at light-heavyweight. Marshman is only nine months older than Roberson but has the experience edge four times over. And while Roberson might be the more technical striker, Marshman has the edge in power and is also a seasoned grappler with several submission wins to his credit.
Prediction — Jack Marshman via (T)KO
Chris Weidman ($8,500) vs. Jacare Souza ($7,700)
Weidman is a tough-as-nails fighter with excellent wrestling and powerful, technical striking. The three losses on his record are only to top tier opponents, and his title defenses were a testament to his skill. The most glaring issues with Weidman are the 15-month layoff and the fact all three of his losses were by violent TKO or KO. I often worry about mental fortitude after back-to-back-to-back knockouts, even with the follow-up win he got over Gastelum.
Souza might be 38 years old, but he still is packing heat in both his hands and feet, and his submission game is still one of the deadliest in all MMA. He’s also got a very sturdy chin, with only one stoppage loss on his record in 10-plus years, and that loss coming at the hands of current champion, Robert Whittaker. It’s a dicey pick, but I think Souza has plenty left in the tank to take home a win Saturday night.
Prediction — Jacare Souza via (T)KO
Daniel Cormier ($9,600) vs. Derrick Lewis ($6,600)
Yes, yes, yes. I am absolutely giving Lewis a chance to upset the applecart. Of course, I know Cormier is undefeated at heavyweight and the massive favorite in this contest. He’s one of, if not the most, gifted wrestlers in MMA today, and he packs serious knockout power.
[Whispers] But so does Lewis. And Lewis was able to close his hand completely as of six weeks ago, a feat Cormier wasn’t able to do, by his own admission.
This is where I base the entirety of my bold choice: Lewis might not be the best wrestler, or even a good one, and he might have the gas tank of a monster truck on empty, but what he does have is tons of heart and the ability to work like a Timex watch — he can take a licking and keep on ticking. Let us not forget Lewis has six finishes past the third round, and most of them were after taking a beating for the majority of the fight. One can never, ever sleep on his ability to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat, and that, my friends, is why Lewis is on this list.
Prediction — Derrick Lewis via (T)KO
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