On Saturday, the UFC will present its 27th “Vegas” themed fight card, and while it might be a little modest on name value, it’s packed with intriguing contests sure to please any fight fan’s appetite. A good sampling of excellent matchmaking is available throughout the bout sheet with fights like Bill Algeo vs. Ricardo Ramos, Raulian Paiva vs. David Dvorak and Jack Hermansson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan. Who needs star power when you have athletes willing to go for broke every time they set foot in the octagon?
In the co-main event spot is the matchup between Yan Xiaonan and Carla Esparza, an excellent title eliminator to set up future contention, no doubt. Will Esparza’s sterling wrestling be enough to overcome the pressure style that Xiaonan brings to the table? Will Yan be able to repel Esparza’s takedowns?
Finally, in the headlining spot, another surefire title eliminator goes down between the surging Rob Font and the “back on the win side of the column” Cody Garbrandt. Will Cody’s blazing speed and power get through Font’s defenses to make it a short night? Will Font’s own power find its mark on Cody’s very suspect chin? These are all questions we hope to get answered on Saturday.
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 MMA lineups. Let’s get started.
Felicia Spencer, $8,700
Felicia Spencer is a tough gal, no two ways about it. Anyone that can survive a full fight with Cris Cyborg and one with Amanda Nunes is more than worth that moniker. But her toughness is just one of the layers that make her a much better bet than Norma Dumont. We’ll start with the physical advantages—there aren’t many. Outside a 1-inch reach advantage and a stockier frame, Spencer’s physicality resides most in the way she can bully an opponent. She’s got decent striking with plenty of pop, although she’s not active enough for my liking. Her opponent, Norma Dumont, is more active and more defensively responsible, but at a much lower level. Felicia’s style, especially her formidable grappling, is just exactly the kind of foil Dumont crumbles to. Honestly, this fight is likely to satisfy contract obligations, but it should be one-way traffic for Spencer.
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Ben Rothwell, $9,200
It’s been a long time since I actively picked Ben Rothwell to win a fight. I don’t say that as a hater, but when your chin is so solid and resolute that you haven’t been faded since 2009, you tend to get paired off with fighters that seem purpose-built to ruin a record. Fortunately for Rothwell, that’s not the case here. To be as blunt as possible, Chris Barnett was brought in to give Rothwell a fight after his two previous ones fell through when his opponents were forced to cancel due to COVID-19 or other infirmity. Enter Chris “Huggy Bear” or “Beast Boy” depending on how long you’ve been a fan. He’s a fun, entertaining ball of energy that possesses legitimate, one-punch power. As much as I love the fact the UFC gave him an opportunity, there are a couple things that hold him back: his size—he’s a 5’9 heavyweight, and his level of competition, which can only be summed up as super regional or ultra local. Names like Eric Prindle, Kirill Sidelnikov and Alex Nicholson have all had enough to take wins off him. He is riding a six-fight win streak, but I am fairly confident that Rothwell still has enough to handle the Chris Barnetts of the sport.
Cody Garbrandt, $7,900
This fight is going to be such fun to watch, a certified banger, for sure. Both men carry significant tools into this matchup, primarily in the striking department. Both men fight from the orthodox stance and both are 5’8, but Font will carry a whopping six-inch reach advantage, meaning he can potshot at range effectively. Font is currently on a three-fight hot streak and seems to be doing everything right, but Cody has the great equalizer—one-punch knockout power and blinding speed. The angles from which “No Love” can score knockouts from are pretty amazing, just check out the last one from June, when he starched Raphael Assuncao’s collar. He literally came up from the floor to land that clock-cleaner. Picture perfect. Font packs heat too, but I think Cody is the more dynamic, quick, powerful striker of the two, and I’m also confident the majority, if not all the fight, will take place on the feet—Cody’s wheelhouse. This is an absolutely sensational bout. A perfect topper to any event.
Carla Esparza, $7,600
The “Cookie Monster” has been quietly and steadily improving her skillset for the last few years. Gone is the lack of confidence in her game that we saw in her fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Gone is the rash decision making that punctuated fights with Claudia Gadelha and Tatiana Suarez. I’m not saying she’s the second coming of Lucia Rijker, but she’s certainly come a long way, and uses her striking much more advantageously than before. Her output is fairly low, but when pressed, she’s been rising to the challenge. What’s really important here are the takedowns, and Carla spams them with reckless abandon, as she should. Being undersized in most of her fights is a hallmark of hers, but she’s come through with her own equalizer, a great wrestling base. Her opponent, Yan Xiaonan, is a pressure fighter who heaps volume to get the job done. Yan may have four inches in height, but the women are equally served reach-wise with both clocking in at 63 inches. This is another bit of superb matchmaking, but when it’s all said and done, I keep picturing Esparza with her hand raised, largely due to her grit and willingness to make a fight ugly to get it won.
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