On Saturday, the UFC returns after a short break to present their 28th “Vegas” themed card, live from the APEX Center. It’s a modest offering showcasing three heavyweight bouts with the most important of the trio residing in the headlining spot: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Augusto Sakai. The other fights of note are Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza, Muslim Salikhov vs. Francisco Trinaldo and Roman Dolidze vs. Laureano Staropoli. While none of those fights are mega important in the title picture, they are solid bouts that showcase talent that we could see at the entry level of the rankings after Saturday.
The co-main event pits Marcin Tybura in his first fight back since his second-round TKO of Greg Hardy last December. Tybura is currently on a four-fight streak while Harris has struggled recently, dropping his last two fights to Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov, so this could be a proving ground for Harris. The rest of the show has some new faces to watch for, too, as last-minute replacements Tabatha Ricci and Kamuela Kirk make their octagon debuts. Middleweight Gregory Rodrigues is also debuting against Dusko Todorovic with their contest making it onto the main card.
We’ve put together a handy guide of facts and figures to help you when selecting your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Each category will feature the standout fighter for his/her achievements in said category. Let’s get started!
Dusko Todorovic, $8,600
Dusko Todorovic’s photo should be the default image when defining a volume striker. Averaging an astounding 7.45 strikes landed per minute, the Serbian is a whirlwind of activity. That said, he does absorb a significant amount at 5.42 strikes per minute. And just in case you were wondering, those numbers aren’t inflated by a short window of recorded activity. That average is over three contests at nearly 10 minutes of fight time. The 27-year-old is coming off his first loss, a first-round TKO at the hands of Punahele Soriano—no shame there. I’ve been snakebitten in the past with making proclamations about the level of competition newcomers have faced on their journeys to the octagon, but in Gregory Rodrigues’ case, I think I’ll venture into that territory once again, as his record demonstrates quite clearly that even the smallest step to the next level up presents a marked challenge for him. Dusko is by no means a sure thing, but he is the safer bet in this instance, in my very humble opinion.
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Santiago Ponzinibbio, $7,900
Santiago Ponzinibbio was on an incredible run, rattling off seven straight wins before Li Jingliang caught him clean in the first round this past January, taking the KO victory. In fairness, Jingliang has legitimate, one-punch power, so there’s no shame in that loss. The problem is, of his four losses, three are via (T)KO, and he’s facing a younger, stronger version of himself, in Miguel Baeza. Now, I’m not of the mind that one loss to a knockout artist immediately disqualifies a fighter from attaining former greatness, however, time waits for no man, and even though the Ponz is also a knockout artist, this is an especially dangerous fight for him, one that has much more risk than reward. Do I think he can still pull it off? Sure, but it’s not a choice I’d willingly make against a killer like Miguel. Santiago is an orthodox fighter, like Baeza, and maintains a solid level of activity, averaging 4.21 landed strikes per minute. Unfortunately, he absorbs nearly as much as he lands at 4.05 strikes per minute. He has 15 wins by knockout with the most recent being Neil Magny back in 2018. I do love the stylistic elements of this bout, though. Both men have power, and both are pretty active, but Baeza is a bit more composed and definitely more defensively responsible. This is a very tricky one to call, so weigh all the factors before making your lineups.
Makwan Amirkhani, $9,400
Makwan Amirkhani is a bit of a mixed bag. He came into the UFC a promising prospect out of Ireland’s SBG gym, of which Conor McGregor is the most notable athlete, and has gone a very respectable 6-3 in his UFC run. The reason I refer to him as a mixed bag is because when he’s faced with good competition, he has trouble bridging the gap. The Danny Henrys and Chris Fishgolds of the community seemed like easy work for “Mr. Finland” but taking the next step in career evolution has proven to be a hurdle he’s not yet mastered. That said, there’s no denying his wrestling and grappling ability. He’s a very low output Southpaw that depends on the fight getting to the canvas where he can reap the rewards. He’s not infallible there, though, and stronger wrestlers have been able to get by him. Makwan is super active with his takedowns, averaging 3.37 per fight with a 1.4 submission average. He has 11 wins via submission, so it stands to reason that if this one hits the ground, Amirkhani should have the decided edge. His opponent, Kamuela Kirk, comes in as a late replacement for Nate Landwehr, who was forced to withdraw two weeks ago, and while he’s dropped fights to Billy Quarantillo and Bruno Souza, he’s currently riding a two-fight streak. All told, when you weigh the pros and the cons, this is Amirkhani’s fight to lose.
Ilir Latifi, $7,300
Ilir Latifi debuted in the UFC with a loss to Gegard Mousasi, but quickly turned his fortunes around, rattling off seven wins over the course of his next nine fights, but that streak was not to last, and Latifi is now on a three-fight skid, all at heavyweight. While Ilir is ridiculously strong and carries insane power, he is also terribly served at heavyweight where he is just too small at 5’10”. And even though he can go the distance in a fight, he is often out of breath by the midpoint of the fight. He’s especially conservative with his output, averaging just 2.01 landed strikes per minute while absorbing 2.84 in that same time frame. His opponent, Tanner Boser, is much more active, averaging 4.54 landed strikes per minute and is defensively responsible, to boot, absorbing just 2.7 strikes per minute. Boser will have four inches in height and two inches in reach over Latifi, and his ability to control the range will likely be on display here, as again, it should be noted that Latifi is short and entirely too conservative with his output, as he is a bit of a headhunter and likely understands that if he ups his volume, he will probably gas a lot sooner.
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