It’s very hard to follow up on what we just saw in Madison Square Garden for UFC 281, but we’re going to try. This Saturday gives us another opportunity to earn some cash playing UFC DFS on DraftKings. Let’s take a look at this slate for UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivac!
Now, the elephant in the room is that MMA DFS is not the same game as it was a week ago. DraftKings has added late swap, meaning that you can edit each fighter in your lineup until the time their fight starts. This creates an edge in DFS tournaments for those watching live, and dramatically changes lineup strategy pre and post-lock.
So, in the spirit of this new game we’re playing, I’m writing up every single fight on this card! It is more important than ever to know as much about each slate as possible. Getting the early fights right is critical since late swap will inherently condense ownership onto later fighters, making it very hard to differentiate with value options later on in the card.
Natalia Silva ($8,900) vs. Tereza Bleda ($7,300)
Natalia Silva is a rising star in the Flyweight division. Some have already tapped her as a future title contender, and for good reason. 13-5-1 as a professional, Silva has developed tremendously as a prospect, earning a 9-1 record since 2017 with her only loss coming to Marina Rodriguez, a top 10 UFC contender in this division. Primarily a submission threat in her early career, Silva dominated her UFC debut fight against Jasmine Jasudavicius, demonstrating improved striking and a controlling ground game.
Tereza Bleda enters her UFC debut as an undefeated professional (6-0). The 20-year-old is a grappling and submission specialist who won a dominant DWCS debut against Nayara Maia. While she’s a fun prospect, I do not believe she can hold her own against Silva on the feet. Silva’s aggression, athleticism, and distance management should keep her up in this matchup, and I’m projecting a win for Silva. I hesitate to predict a finish, but given that we’re searching for Early Wins on this card, I’m in favor of playing Silva here.
Pick: Natalia Silva by Decision
Brady Hiestand ($8,500) vs. Fernie Garcia ($7,700)
Brady Hiestand might be my favorite DFS play on this slate, and it’s great that we can lock him in early to our lineups. With advantages in height, reach, leg reach, and weight, he’s the more physically imposing fighter in his matchup against Fernie Garcia. Additionally, he’s an incredibly well-rounded fighter, earning 83% of his wins by finish, hitting 4.4 strikes per minute and averaging six takedowns per 3-round fight.
While he out-measures Garcia in every offensive statistical category, I can’t say he’s a perfect prospect. He absorbs 6.67 strikes per minute, much higher than Garcia’s 4.19, which is not that impressive of a number itself. If Garcia increases his striking volume from a measly 2.85 strikes per minute, there could be a path to him winning. However, I’m taking a strong stance on Brady Hiestand and playing him at his $8,500 price.
Pick: Brady Hiestand by KO
Maria Oliveira ($8,200) vs. Vanessa Demopoulos ($8,000)
I was shocked seeing the DFS prices and Sportsbook odds on this fight. As the 2nd closest opponents in price, these two are a pick’em fight on DraftKings Sportsbook, with Maria Oliveira a slight favorite at -115.
Maybe I’m missing something, but I struggle to see Vanessa Demopoulos surviving the first round in this fight. Oliveira’s calling card as an MMA athlete is her extremely fast starts. Combining significant pressure on the feet with a flurry of powerful and creative strikes, “Spider Girl” has 58% of her professional wins by KO/TKO. Vanessa Demopolous doesn’t have a ton of offensive striking in her game. 2-0 in the UFC, she has one win by split decision, and a surprising submission against now-former UFC roster member Silvana Gomez Juarez. I’ll also add that the submission came as a result of Gomez Juarez knocking Vanessa down, and putting herself in a bad position against Demopoulos. If this fight doesn’t get to the ground, Oliveira should lead the dance with a significant edge in strikes landed on her way to her first UFC finish.
Pick: Maria Oliveira by KO
Ricky Turcios ($8,600) vs. Kevin Natividad ($7,600)
I don’t love either fighter a as DFS option, but do believe Turcios winds up a decision winner in this matchup. With a 3-inch height advantage and a +2.64 edge in strikes per minute, he should keep this one on the feet. I’m not expecting much in terms of takedowns/knockdowns, and think this is a matchup to avoid based on the relatively unappealing DFS environment. If you feel differently, there is an edge to be had with low projected ownership for this fight.
Pick: Ricky Turcios by Decision
Miles Johns ($8,400) vs. Vince Morales ($7,800)
Another decently unappealing DFS matchup here, as late-replacement Miles Johns takes on Vince Morales in the third and final bantamweight matchup of the night. Morales has some knockdown and knockout upside, especially against a fighter who took this fight on short notice. Earning 73% of his wins by finish, Morales enters as the underdog despite an edge in striking. However, Miles Johns is just a better fighter. His defense is very strong, only absorbing 2.9 strikes per minute, and boasts a 92% takedown defense. I see him grinding this one out to a decision win here.
Pick: Miles Johns by Decision
Maryna Moroz ($9,000) vs. Jennifer Maia ($7,200)
Moroz is a little pricey for a fight we expect to go the distance, Moroz enters as one of the heavier favorites on this card. Moroz is a great wrestler but goes against the established Jennifer Maia, who has her own wrestling props. Popular opinion leans on Maia nearing the end of her career, and I’m inclined to agree. I’m taking Moroz, but struggle to believe she’s a great DFS option unless she can manage a submission.
Pick: Maryna Moroz by Dec
Charles Johnson ($8,700) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov ($7,500)
It’s hard to blame Charles Johnson for the loss in his last fight. Going against the seemingly unbeatable Muhammad Mokaev, Johnson did hold his own and force a decision. He did show off some good striking and cage maturity but failed to show a lot on the stat sheet given Mokaev’s offensive pressure.
The reason I bring up this past fight with Mokaev is because of how much that fight skews his stats. He currently projects as a sub-1 strike-per-minute fighter, which is simply not an accurate representation of his game. He won his last five fights in LFA, four by finish!
He enters this fight against struggling 34-year-old Zhalgas Zhumagulov. While his stats look better than Johnson’s on paper, he’s lost 4 of 5 fights in the UFC and might be past his prime. He’s very fast, but Charles Johnson has fought faster, specifically new UFC roster member Carlos Mota, who he beat for the LFA title in January. I’m taking Charles Johnson here, expecting a decision but hoping for a finish.
Pick: Charles Johnson by KO/TKO
This is a reminder that the later we get in the night, the less leverage we have. These are the last five fights of the card, and as late swaps happen, some of these fighters will be very highly owned by the time their fights begin.
Jack Della Maddalena ($9,600) vs. Danny Roberts ($6,600)
Jack Della Maddalena doesn’t have a lot of octagon time because he knocks everybody out in the first round. He’s the highest betting favorite on the slate and the most expensive DFS option at $9,600 against weak-chinned Danny Roberts.
I don’t recommend Danny Roberts, but he profiles as a very interesting tournament play now that late swap is a part of our game. If you miss out on an early favorite, pivoting to Roberts could give you the salary relief to pay up for another fighter. Danny is older and is always one punch away from being knocked out. However, if the veteran can play some solid defense, he’s talented enough and has enough experience to win against the much younger Della Maddalena. However, surviving the first round against JDM is much easier said than done, and I’m taking him in this one.
Pick: Jack Della Maddalena by KO (1st Round)
Andre Fialho ($7,900) vs. Muslim Salikhov ($8,300)
This is the second pick’em fight on this card, and this welterweight bout probably isn’t going the distance. Fialho and Salikhov both have the majority of their wins by KO, which should create a great DFS environment for whichever side wins.
Fialho is the slightly better striker, while Salikhov holds the edge in grappling and takedowns. In a fight that will probably stay on the ground, I’m taking the higher-volume striker to win, despite this being a tossup. For late swaps, you can do a lot worse than either side of this matchup.
Pick: Andre Fialho by KO
Chase Sherman ($7,100) vs. Waldo Cortes-Acosta ($9,100)
My biggest stance on this card is choosing Chase Sherman to beat Waldo Cortes-Acosta. I’m as big a fan of “Salsa Boy” as anyone, but I think Sherman is incredibly undervalued in this spot. Waldo Cortes-Acosta last fought Jared Vanderaa less than two weeks ago, where he suffered a ton of leg kicks. Additionally, Vanderaa exposed the blueprint to beating the undefeated Waldo, kicking him in the leg to limit forward movement and rob Waldo of his finishing ability. While Cortes-Acosta did win by decision against Jared, Chase Sherman was actually able to finish their common opponent. It’s tough to use Vanderaa as a true talent barometer, and Waldo could still easily get it done, but with the price discrepancy and potential for a finish, I’m taking Sherman in this spot.
Pick: Chase Sherman by KO (3rd Round)
Kennedy Nzechukwu ($8,800) vs. Ion Cutelaba ($7,400)
In our co-main event, Kennedy Nzechukwu stands four inches taller and possesses a combined 14-inch advantage in arm and leg reach over his opponent, Ion Cutelaba. As a Light Heavyweight bout, I struggle to see this one going the distance as well. Both men are competent and accurate strikers, while Cutelaba edges Nzechukwu out significantly in takedowns. I do not believe that Cutelaba has the strength to take Kennedy down, and I see Nzechukwu finishing this fight either on the feet or on Cutelaba’s back.
Pick: Kennedy Nzechukwu Inside the Distance
Main Event: Serghei Spivac ($9,200) vs. Derrick Lewis ($7,000)
While some may pick on the name brand here, my selection is going to be the younger, faster, and more well-rounded Serghei Spivac. Derrick Lewis is past his prime at this point, and while “The Black Beast” always has the power to KO his opponent, I don’t see him having enough firepower to defeat Spivac. If Lewis gets taken to the ground, I’m not sure he’ll be able to survive Spivac’s offensive wrestling. In what should be a highly entertaining and potentially short main event, I’m taking Spivac to dethrone Lewis here.
Pick: Serghei Spivac Inside the Distance
Good luck this weekend!
All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests. The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups.