UFC International Fight Week is taking place in Las Vegas this week, and the week is headlined by a stacked UFC 276 card. The main event is a middleweight title bout between Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier. Adesanya has nearly cleaned out the division and enters this fight as a big favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook.
The second title fight on the card is a featherweight title bout between champion Alexander Volkanovski and former champion Max Holloway. This will be the third fight between Volkanovski and Holloway. Volkanovski originally won the title by beating Holloway at UFC 245 in December 2019, and Volkanovski beat Holloway again in a close split decision the following summer.
Other notable names on the UFC 276 card include rising star Sean O’Malley, top-five middleweight Sean Strickland, and elite kickboxer Alex Pereira. Pereira is best known for beating Israel Adesanya twice in kickboxing matches. If Pereira can get past Sean Strickland, he could enter the title picture and potentially fight Adesanya again, this time in the UFC.
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Max Holloway ($7,200)
Holloway is one of the biggest volume strikers in the history of the UFC, which gives him an extremely high fantasy ceiling. Holloway has landed a total of 2,848 significant strikes in his UFC career, which is easily the most in the history of the UFC—nobody else is within 1,000 significant strikes of Holloway. Holloway’s striking stats are also elite on a time-adjusted basis, landing about 7.4 significant strikes per minute, eighth-best in UFC history.
Holloway’s striking volume has led to explosive fantasy production in each of his last two fights, scoring an obscene 209 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) two fights ago and 153 DKFP in his most recent fight.
Holloway has not been able to launch heavy volume in either of his previous two fights against Alexander Volkanovski, but the possibility for heavy striking volume still exists, especially since this fight has the makings of another five-round battle. Holloway and Volkanovski are two of the toughest fighters in the UFC and have only been finished a combined two times in 54 total fights. Neither fighter has been finished recently, either, with Volkanovski’s last loss via finish coming in 2013, and Holloway’s last loss via finish coming in 2012. Holloway has an iron chin and his ability to eat punches without it affecting him is remarkable. The fight going the full 25 minutes gives Holloway extra time to land striking volume and score fantasy points.
Holloway is the underdog in this fight on DraftKings Sportsbook, but he isn’t that big of an underdog (+155), and he has a realistic chance to win. At $7,200, Holloway is the fifth-cheapest fighter on the slate and is worth considering as a value play with big upside.
Studs to Pay Up For
Sean O’Malley ($9,300)
Like Max Holloway, Sean O’Malley has been a strong fantasy scorer on the back of heavy striking volume. O’Malley has the best striking volume in the history of the UFC on a time-adjusted basis, landing 8.4 significant strikes per minute. His striking differential is also the best in UFC history, landing about five more strikes per minute than he has absorbed.
O’Malley’s opponent, Pedro Munhoz, has alarming striking metrics. Munhoz has absorbed over six significant strikes per minute, a big number. He has a negative strikes landed to absorbed ratio, which is also a red flag.
O’Malley is significantly longer and will have a large seven-inch reach advantage. O’Malley is in an excellent position to pick Munhoz apart from distance with volume striking and record a strong fantasy score.
Israel Adesanya ($9,400)
Adesanya’s opponent, Jared Cannonier, used to fight at heavyweight and will have a longer frame than Adesanya’s most recent opponents at middleweight. Cannonier’s 77-inch reach is the longest reach Adesanya has faced at middleweight since he fought Anderson Silva in February 2019. Adesanya has had at least a six-inch reach advantage in each of his last six fights at middleweight, and he will only have a three-inch reach advantage for this fight. Cannonier’s longer arms will give Adesanya less room to work at range.
The best path to beat Adesanya is through takedowns and top control. Jan Błachowicz executed this game plan in his win over Adesanya in March 2021, but that fight was at light heavyweight. Błachowicz enjoyed an extra 20 pounds of bulk, which helped make takedowns and top control far easier. At middleweight, Adesanya has been difficult to take down and hold down for long. Adesanya has been taken down four times in each of his last two fights, but was able to get back to his feet without giving up much on the ground.
Cannonier does not have the elite wrestling background to keep Adesanya on his back, which strongly limits his ways to win. Cannonier has recorded only two total takedowns in 13 UFC fights, which is a paltry rate of 0.23 per 15 minutes. That should turn this into primarily a striking match, where Cannonier will be badly overmatched by Adesanya. Adesanya is one of the best strikers in the entire sport.
Cannonier has been knocked out twice in his UFC career and was dropped by strikes in his most recent fight against Derek Brunson. Without having to worry excessively about the threat of a strong takedown, Adesanya is in a good position to utilize his elite striking and win this fight without an issue.
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.
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