On Saturday, UFC 258 comes to us live from the APEX Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The small cage is much more pronounced when we get the big boys in there like last weekend’s clash of heavyweight titans, but with welterweights, we tend not to notice the dimensions of the octagon quite as much. The show is headlined by a pair of teammates clashing for the welterweight crown in Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns, although they’ve trained separately at different camps for this bout. Usman has said that his move to the Elevation Fight Team under Trevor Wittman is a temporary one, brought about by this particular fight. The two men have declared that there’s no animosity or bad blood between them, and that they will pick up the teammate mantles once again after the fight.
The rest of the card, while not heavy on name value, certainly doesn’t lack entertainment and action potential. The co-main event features a red-hot bout between rising stars Alexa Grasso and Maycee Barber at the women’s flyweight limit of 125 pounds, as well as the stellar bit of matchmaking that has given us Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher. It’s an unassuming event that has the potential for massive fireworks.
We’ve selected four fighters from the event that will illustrate why they are worthy of their lofty or budget-conscious price tags in an effort to help you select your DraftKings fantasy lineups. Let’s get started.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 258 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $600K in guaranteed prizes, including $150K to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $600K 258 Special [$150K to 1st].
Bobby Green, $8,900
Editor’s note: Bobby Green vs. Jim Miller has been pulled from UFC 258.
Bobby Green is a marvel of composure inside the cage. He might be great on the mic outside it, but once the cage door closes, he is all business, and it never seems like he’s the slightest bit flustered once the action is underway. The “King” has very good, technical standup, and super underrated wrestling. It’s virtually impossible to outwrestle him, or even get him down, however briefly. That nullifies a significant portion of Jim Miller’s arsenal. Miller is an outstanding grappler, especially off his back, but Green is smooth and unflappable, and has pretty good submission chops of his own, as nine submission wins on his resume illustrates.
Miller’s advanced age and fight wear is becoming more and more pronounced, with his output slowing considerably and his gas tank routinely failing him at about the midpoint of his fights, which have all been three-rounders. If you want to put his career in perspective, when he enters the octagon to face Green, he will have had more UFC fights than anyone on the roster with 37 fights. THIRTY-SEVEN!
It is always sad to see our favorites start to decline, but that unfortunate fate is inevitable for all of them. Bobby Green has almost as many years in the sport as Miller, but much less wear and tear. It is for this reason that I give Green the definitive edge in this bout.
Belal Muhammad, $9,200
Belal Muhammad is an outstanding wrestler, and while he doesn’t have a ton of finishes, he still manages to put on dominant, exciting performances that always make me feel grateful when I see his name on a bout sheet for an upcoming card. Having amassed a very respectable 17-3 record, Muhammad has proven himself to be educable. He grows and evolves from fight to fight, taking care to address weaknesses and deficiencies. Since losing to Geoff Neal two years ago, he’s put together three consecutive wins, culminating with a phenomenal performance over the powerful Lyman Good. Belal sets a frenetic pace and maintains it throughout his fights thanks to excellent cardio reserves. He’s an intelligent athlete, making sound in-fight decisions, level changing effectively and with good shot selection.
In is fight with Good, we bore witness to Muhammad picking him apart from range and in the clinch. Dhiego Lima isn’t a chump by any means—as a matter of fact, he’s turned his UFC fortunes around after a rocky start and now has three-straight wins to show for it. However, those wins aren’t comparable to the ones Belal has racked up in his current streak. And while Lima has definitely gotten better, I don’t think it’s enough to warrant the nod here. The pricing, while steep, is fairly accurate here.
Brian Kelleher, $7,100
I cannot resist these huge underdogs. When I see price gulfs like this, it’s almost a given that I gravitate to them, especially when there’s a really good path to victory for said underdogs. Here we have a really gnarly match-up of two well-rounded fighters with multiple paths to victory. Both have plenty of stamina. Both are well-versed on the ground and both have good standup.
All those things said, I have to acknowledge that “Boom” is a big risk-taker and has paid for those risks before. He has defensive holes in his games big enough to drive a Prius through. His “kill or be killed” philosophy isn’t sustainable for the long haul—at least it shouldn’t be—but it has somehow seen him to nearly 10 years of professional fighting.
Ricky Simon is the perfect foil to Kelleher’s wild, aggressive style. He’s all volume and pressure and a great wrestler. He also is aggressive, and sometimes, to his own detriment. I mean, if I’m being totally honest, this is Simon’s fight to lose. However, Kelleher’s submission game is what I find most appealing here, and it’s why I’ve chosen him with this super bold pick.
Gilbert Burns, $7,200
Gilbert Burns has the monumental task of fighting one of, if not the strongest welterweights to ever wear the belt. Kamaru Usman’s lead heavy approach is a hallmark of his style, and once he gets you down, it’s nigh on impossible to get back up, and if you do somehow manage it, you can bet he’ll punish you on the feet for your effort. Usman’s strength and ability to bully his opponent’s virtually wherever he wants is what’s seen him to a near-perfect record and successful title defenses. He should win.
So, why am I taking Burns here? Because welterweight Gilbert Burns is sensational. He carries insane power, has an outstanding grappling pedigree, and he’s willing to just go for it. Sure, he leaves openings for sneaky haymakers to put him down, but we haven’t seen that a single time since he moved to 170. Usman’s wrestling may present issues, as historically, good wrestlers could get the upper hand on him, but that was when he was at 155. His stamina reserves seem much more robust these days, providing a power boost, as well.
Both men should have a really good idea of what the other is bringing to the fight since they’ve been stablemates for years under Henri Hooft at some iteration of his gyms, whether it be the current Sanford MMA or going all the way back to the Blackzilians. Henri is the tie that binds, and it’s the striking that brings me to my wild pick here. Because Burns hits like a truck, and seems to have found his own chin durability with the move up, I think a win for him is much more achievable than the pricing suggests.
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