FIFTEEN FIGHTS! That’s the pot of gold at the end of the polar vortex rainbow. A UFC card loaded with talent that should give us plenty to talk about around the water cooler come Monday morning. UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Lewis is a pretty loaded card with plenty of veteran talent, some newcomers making their promotional debuts and the jewel in the crown, Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis in yet another heavyweight bout I don’t dread. Don’t get me wrong, there are some heavyweight bouts that deliver, but those are kind of outweighed by some serious duds. This fight is not one of those duds.
There are some really good contests throughout the show that are flying well under the radar, so for all of you that are snowed in like me, you might end up with a sensational fight(s) you weren’t even expecting. Chas Skelly vs. Jamall Emmers and Phillip Hawes vs. Nassourdine Imavov are a couple to keep your eye on. I think what I’m looking forward to the most is that there are five heavyweight bouts scheduled for the little cage. Perhaps it’s merely the power of suggestion, but I’m always a little more excited for heavyweight matchups in the small cage.
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.
Editor’s note: Rafael Alves and Patrick Sabatini has been scrapped after Alves missed weight by 11.5 pounds.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC Fight Night fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $400K in guaranteed prizes, including $100,000 to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 5:00 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $400K Throwdown [$100K to 1st].
Curtis Blaydes, $9,400
It’s hard not to single out Curtis Blaydes for a dominant victory. His wrestle-heavy style is the Kryptonite that has plagued Derrick Lewis for years. Curtis has exceptional wrestling that is well-adapted for MMA. His entries to takedowns are just outstanding and you can almost set your watch by how efficiently he gets those legs out from under their owners. Granted, Lewis is crazy strong and has, on several occasions, simply stood up from a takedown as though his opponent were a pesky fly to be flicked away.
I don’t know that he can accomplish that with “Razor” simply because his takedown game is relentless, and he doesn’t abandon it. Sure, he can stand and trade and has 10 knockouts to show for it, but Curtis sees much more return on investment with his crushing top game. He’s an intelligent fighter who might grind out some of his wins (hello Alexander Volkov!), but those are dominant wins. The only reason Volkov was able to gain some headway was in the fifth round when Blaydes had basically gassed himself out from keeping “Drago” firmly planted on the canvas.
While the odds are entirely too wide in this instance, mainly because Lewis has the ultimate equalizer with that heater of a right he’s got, Blaydes is certainly the proper favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook and with good reason.
Tom Aspinall, $9,200
This is a fight I’ll probably end up having to watch through my fingers. I’m a big Andrei Arlovski fan and this matchup is clearly to give Tom Aspinall a stepping stone with solid name value. Aspinall started out primarily a grappler, but ended up going the boxing route briefly. With his heavy hands, the big Brit found immediate success. He’s now back in the MMA fold and riding a four-fight win streak with both his UFC performances being knockouts. As a matter of fact, he’s never been the distance. He’s never even made it out of the second round, if that tells you anything. He has two losses on his resume, but one is a DQ for a downward elbow.
Andrei Arlovski is now 42 years old and has quite a bit of fight mileage on him. He’s approaching journeyman territory with a record of 30-19, but is still good for three or even five rounds, even if he visibly slows down about midway through a three-rounder. He doesn’t get to what I would call “gassed” but he’s noticeably slower and his reflexes aren’t firing as quickly. He is riding a two-fight win streak, but over competition that lies outside the Top 10. Taking fights inside the Top 10 or 15 has resulted in losses to Rozenstruik, Sakai, Abdurakhimov and Tuivasa just in the last three years.
Aspinall hasn’t faced a tough, crafty OG like “The Pit Bull” but there’s no denying the power he possesses is more than enough to shut off the lights at the Arlovski power plant.
Aleksei Oleinik, $7,600
Listen, Aleksei Oleinik is long in the tooth, I already know this. He has a tendency to get winded midway through fights because of age and a long fight career dating back nearly 25 years (November, 1996!). That said, he’s still incredibly dangerous, especially on the ground where this absolute grappling ace has 46 submission wins. Forty-six. Did I mention that 14 of those are via the rare Ezekiel choke? He has a penchant for scarf holds, too. To put it simply, this big guy knows his way around the canvas quite well and if the fight goes to the ground, which it most likely will, the definitive advantage lies with Aleksei.
His opponent, Chris Daukaus, is carving out a spot for himself in the octagon, logging two wins already, both via knockout. He’s a dangerous man who moves deceptively quick and has cannonballs for hands. He’s much younger, and with a lot less fight wear on his bones. That said, he’s been knocked out a couple times by lesser men than Oleinik and submitted once, too. This is a well-matched bout pitting the young lion against the older one. The pricing reflects how competitive this fight is likely to be.
I know I might end up regretting my choice here, especially since Oleinik was knocked out by Derrick Lewis this past August, but fights like these can see a young upstart sent to the back of the line by crafty vets like Aleksei, and that’s what I’m banking on here.
Eddie Wineland, $7,900
Eddie Wineland may only be 36 years old, but he’s had a long career dating back to 2003. Half of his life has been spent on the pursuit of sanctioned violence. Wineland and his opponent, John Castaneda, have exciting, “go for broke” styles that make this fight a certified banger. Eddie keeps a solid pace of around 3.39 strikes per minute fighting from the orthodox stance. He absorbs a fraction more, but as noted, he is all offense and leaves the defense to movement rather than hands up. This strategy doesn’t always pay off, but it’s seen him to 24 wins with 15 of them coming by way of knockout.
Castaneda’s chances rise a bit due to youth and athleticism and the frenetic pace he likes to keep, but his numbers, especially defensively, are not good. He averages 3.43 strikes per minute, but he absorbs 5.30 in the process. Against a guy with the legit hot hand, that statistic really stands out.
Wineland has had issues with taking steps up in competition, but Castaneda should be just the kind of meal Wineland frequently makes of prospects looking to make their name off him.
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