Aaaand… we’re back! A quick one week break from action brings UFC back to Las Vegas for a second consecutive Fight Night headlined by women! After seeing Yan Xiaonan outduel Mackenzie Dern, we’re ready to watch Alexa Grasso ($9,000) take on Viv Araujo ($7,200) in a bout that will almost certainly lead to a title shot in the Women’s Flyweight division. We can safely assume that Valentina Shevchenko will be watching this one closely.
Let’s get ready for this Fight Night with our top DFS picks for Saturday.
Victor Henry ($9,300)
Victor Henry should be a focus of cash game builds this week. Coming off an impressive decision win against 5-to-1 favorite Raoni Barcelos, the oddsmakers put some respect on Henry’s name, opening odds at -330 in his favor. Henry is also one of the UFC’s highest volume strikers, landing an absurd 12.07 strikes per minute.
Henry’s opponent, Raphael Assuncao ($6,900), is in the midst of a four-fight losing skid. At 40-years-old and hitting a paltry 3.2 strikes per minute, his best fighting days are likely over. For Assuncao to be competitive in this fight, he’ll have to close distance between himself and Henry, use his middling 38% takedown accuracy to bring to the mat, and then force a submission attempt. Easier said than done against Victor, who possesses two inch advantages in height and reach, and defends takedowns at an 85% clip.
I’ll take Henry to win by decision here. Assuncao’s extensive experience should keep him upright, but Henry’s striking and ability to maintain distance should sway the judges’ scorecards in his favor.
Alonzo Menifield ($8,900)
If you want KO Power, you can end your search with Alonzo Menifield. 11 of his 12 victories have come by stoppage, and he looks to continue his hard hitting ways against submission specialist Misha Cirkunov ($7,300).
Cirkunov returns to the Light Heavyweight division after a three-fight skid spanning back to 2019. While he should have plenty in the tank for this fight, Menifield may prove to be too big of a challenge, defending takedowns at an 83% clip and hitting significant strikes at 56%.
There’s no more friendly environment for DFS than an early KO, and we could be looking at one here. I’d play Menifield in cash and tournaments, hoping to capitalize on that early win bonus.
Nick Maximov ($8,300) vs. Jacob Malkoun ($7,900)
Nick Maximov’s matchup with Jacob Malkoun represents a very small sample size of UFC experience. Both are relative UFC newbies, each with single digit fight experience and no common professional opponents. In both DFS and sports betting, where there are unknowns, there is value. Both are in play in DFS tournaments as the exact middle of the pricing on this slate, but I would recommend including a maximum of one in each lineup.
On the tale of the tape, Maximov looks like a decent value at -140. At 6’0 with 76 inch reach, he has a three inch advantage in both areas. Those edges tend to be beneficial when fights stay on the feet, but his low 1.2 strikes landed per minute is a cause for concern if the fight does not reach the mat. Luckily, Maximov is primarily a wrestler, clearly preferring to fight on the ground with 5.51 takedowns per 15 minutes and a 45% takedown accuracy.
In the other corner stands Malkoun. A boxer with wrestling tendencies, Malkoun lands 3.09 strikes per minute and hits 6.95 per 15 minutes. His underlying stats look stronger than Maximov’s, yet he remains the underdog in this matchup. In a fight I expect to transpire on the ground, I doubt Malkoun wins by submission, as he has not yet done so in his UFC career. Jacob’s path to victory lies in keeping the fight on his feet and using his striking to keep Maximov at bay.
Both are viable tournament plays, but I prefer Maximov of the two. His only professional loss came to an enraged Andre Petroski, who was fighting as the underdog for the first time in his UFC career. Malkoun doesn’t fight with the same fire, and I’d predict Maximov to earn a lot of control time on his way to a decision win.
Jordan Wright ($7,500)
Jordan Wright is the least impressive fighter we’ll discuss today, and recommending him here gives me pause. The start to Wright’s career has been less than stellar, as he’s won just one of his four fights since 2021. That said, low ownership and KO upside could turn him into one of the best plays on this slate.
Wright is currently a +165 underdog in this matchup with fellow DWCS graduate Dusko Todorovic ($8,700). Wright is not the only one with a bad record in this matchup, as the duo have one win each and six combined losses since 2021. Of their eight fights since 2021, only one has gone the distance, and it was Todorovic, who lost that decision.
You may be asking: Why would I play either of these guys?
We’re talking about this fight for one reason. DraftKings Sportsbook has under 1.5 rounds set at -240. DraftKings expects the fight to end early, forecasting a favorable DFS environment for knockdowns, knockouts and early win bonuses.
Wright holds several advantages in this fight. He is an inch taller, possesses a three inch reach advantage and lands 7.37 strikes per minute compared to 5.36 for Todorovic. As the underdog with a lower salary, he should come in at lower ownership than his opponent. If Wright wins by KO/TKO, there’s a strong chance he winds up in the optimal lineup on Saturday.
Cub Swanson ($7,400)
Cub Swanson is an established UFC veteran competing in his first bout since his HOF Induction for his war against Doo Ho Choi at UFC 206. This will be his first fight as a bantamweight after completing each of his previous 29 matchups at featherweight. Cub has always been an entertaining fighter. His creative and unorthodox striking patterns have earned him a fight-night bonus on nine separate occasions. His most recent win was an impressive first round TKO of Darren Elkins, representing the third straight fight of Cub’s that did not go the distance.
Cub’s opponent, Jonathan Martinez ($8,800), enters as a -205 favorite for good reason. Three consecutive unanimous decision wins within the last 12 months paint Martinez as one of the more consistent and active fighters on the roster. He’s demonstrated veteran’s poise and shockingly powerful kicks in his 19-fight career, but Cub will be the most experienced and talented fighter Martinez has faced to date. These two match up extremely well on paper. Neither possess a height or reach advantage, and both average at least 4.7 strikes per minute with 60% strike defense.
I’ll take Cub here as a value, but this play is not without risks. This is a new weight class for him, and Martinez certainly has the talent and defense to keep Swanson at bay. However, his path to victory is by KO, and Cub has proven his finishing ability several times throughout his career. I’m not betting against him.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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.