The UFC’s 116th Fight Night offering features a decent card, marked by Luke Rockhold’s return to octagon action after more than a year away from its caged walls. The card also has been adjusted, with Mike Perry facing Alex Reyes instead of Thiago Alves, who pulled out of the fight earlier this week, and Justin Ledet meeting Zu Anyanwu, who stepped in for the injured Dmitry Sonsvskiy.
The late bout-sheet changes provide some interest — particularly in the Ledet-Anyanwu fight — and since these contests aren’t title eliminators or don’t involve top-five contenders, there’s no real damage done to the event’s drawing power. All in all, it still looks like a very fun card.
As you’ve come to expect, I’ll select four fighters I believe have a fighting chance to upset the favorites, and these underdogs could make all the difference when selecting your DraftKings teams. Let’s get started:
Gilbert Burns $8,300 / Jason Saggo $7,900
Burns has some of the best jiu-jitsu in the UFC — we’re talking legit world class — and he has shown a very well-rounded skill set against lower-level opponents, but he hasn’t fared so well when stepping up, as evidenced by his losses to Michel Prazeres and Rashid Magomedov. Side note: “Durinho” has been out since last September. I don’t really put much stock in the cage-rust theory unless it’s approaching the two-year mark or better, but it’s food for thought.
Saggo is a great grappler with real submission savvy and a steadily evolving striking game. He, like Burns, suffers under the pressure of strong wrestlers, but he seems to make real efforts to grow with each fight. This is a very well-matched contest, but I’m leaning toward Saggo walking away with the victory.
Saggo via decision
Krzysztof Jotko $8,900 / Uriah Hall $7,300
Jotko is the human incarnation of a lead blanket. He’s a great wrestler, and once he gains top control, opponents find it incredibly difficult to get free. Jotko has underrated boxing skills, mainly because he doesn’t seem overly concerned with using it more than as a setup to his wrestling. He’s the exact kind of fighter Hall shouldn’t take lightly.
Despite being on a three-fight losing streak, Hall still is quite dangerous on the feet. Eight of his wins have come via knockout, and with his job surely on the line, the sense of urgency Hall normally lacks in fights could be a big factor in this one. Make no mistake — taking Hall in this fight is not a safe pick. I just want to put that out there now. That said, he has the power to get the job done, as long as he ramps up the volume of his output.
Hall via (T)KO
Olivier Aubin-Mercier $8,400 / Tony Martin $7,800
Aubin-Mercier’s excellent judo and submission game has made him a UFC staple, especially considering he has won five of his seven contests. The Canadian’s latest victory — a rear-naked choke over Drew Dober — is the biggest one to date. OAM’s 5-foot-9, fire-plug body type will give up three inches to Martin, who has a very good grasp on how to maximize his giant frame’s potential.
Martin had rough beginnings when he first signed, losing to both Magomedov and Beneil Dariush back-to-back, and he struggled with cardio issues. But Martin has won his last three fights — all by decision — so he seemingly shored up that hole in his skill set. He has very aggressive, technical striking, and he has improved with each outing. His last win — over the promising Johnny Case — was an absolute clinic. Let’s not forget this cat has stellar takedown defense. Overall, I believe Martin has more tools at his disposal and will walk away with the W.
Martin via decision
Justin Ledet $9,200 / Zu Anyanwu $7,100
Ledet is a towering 6-4 striker who’s probably best served by dropping down to light heavyweight. He’s undefeated but against regional-level talent. He’s a capable grappler, but he typically gets fights to the ground with his very technical boxing (has a 5-0 boxing record). He’s also not to be trifled with when on his back, as he has secured submissions from there.
Anyanwu is a Cage Fighting Fury Championship alum with a very respectable 14-4 record. You all might remember him from Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, where he slept Greg Rebello in the second round. Anyanwu has careful, measured striking — particularly his jab, which he mostly uses as a lure to get his opponents to overcommit, then BLAM! He has launched that counter right like a sledgehammer. Anyanwu also is very good at getting his opponent’s timing down, whether it be punches or kicks (of which he has caught a few). His grappling isn’t on par with Ledet’s, but he can adequately defend himself should the fight hit the floor.
This was a tough call for me, but I believe “Zulu” has everything he needs to score the upset.
Anyanwu via (T)KO
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. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.