Coming off an international PPV weekend, the UFC kicks off Halloween weekend with some thrilling matchups on this Fight Night. Let’s break down some of the slate-defining fights and give picks for those matchups.
Waldo Cortes-Acosta ($9,000) vs. Jared Vanderaa ($7,200)
Waldo Cortes-Acosta is an awesome option in DFS tournaments this week. This undefeated heavyweight has been on a tear since switching from boxing to MMA, earning nine consecutive wins, six of those coming within the last two years. The powerhouse striker enters his UFC debut after winning his previous three matchups by KO/TKO, racking up 11.73 strikes per minute in those fights.
The only thing standing between Waldo and double-digit MMA wins is Jared Vanderaa, who is a veteran of six fights in the UFC. While this may seem to be an experience mismatch, he is only 1-5 in the UFC, currently on a four-fight losing skid, and has not won a fight since Cortes-Acosta began his MMA career in 2021.
In a heavyweight fight, anything can happen. Both guys punch extremely hard, and I’m confident in a finish in this matchup. DraftKings Sportsbook has this fight to NOT go the distance at -280! I’m buying in on the newbie here and recommending Waldo Cortes-Acosta at $9,000.
Chase Hooper ($9,200) vs. Steve Garcia ($7,000)
Fan favorite Chase Hooper looks to keep the hype train moving against Steve Garcia. The lanky 23-year-old southpaw is still developing as a prospect and has already demonstrated slippery grappling and an aptitude for submissions that should benefit him in this fight.
Steve Garcia makes his UFC featherweight debut after fighting at both bantamweight and lightweight in his first few UFC fights. A very aggressive fighter, he chases KOs as much as he receives them. Only one of his last five fights has gone to decision, earning three wins during that time. In his most recent UFC fight, he was KO’ed in the 1st round by another young UFC prospect Hayisaer Maheshate.
Hooper is the consensus pick in this matchup, and I’m riding with him as well. Garcia’s aggressiveness could be his undoing in this fight. If he closes the distance between himself and Chase, he’ll give Hooper the chance to take him down and earn plenty of control time on his way to either a submission or TKO.
Phil Hawes ($8,400) vs. Roman Dolidze ($7,800)
Phil Hawes vs. Roman Dolidze is an unranked middleweight matchup that I’m not expecting to go to the judges’ scorecard. Both of these men win the majority of their fights by finish, and in a matchup of heavy strikers, I believe one of these guys gets their chin clipped.
The question is: who is walking out of this one? Hawes is a rising prospect who looked dominant in a 2nd-round TKO win against Deron Winn in his last bout. Hitting 5.68 strikes per minute, Hawes uses his 77.5-inch reach to keep opponents at bay and punishes them with a phenomenal mix of straights, crosses, and dangerous elbows. Not surprising for the product of Kill Cliff FC, which has trained elite striking UFC talent including Michael Chandler, Gilbert Burns, and of course, former champion and top PFP fighter Kamaru Usman.
Roman Dolidze is a slight underdog but has viability in DFS tournaments given the matchup. Coming off a similarly dominant, 1st round, underdog TKO of Kyle Daukaus, Dolidze looks to chain another underdog win on Saturday against Hawes. Roman only absorbs 1.45 strikes per minute, which is nearly half the damage Hawes takes in his matchups. This could be a benefit for Dolidze, who also possesses a two-inch height advantage, and may be tougher for Hawes to KO.
Despite those advantages, Dolidze gives up 1.5 inches on reach and is the much quieter striker in this matchup, hitting less than half of Hawes’ strikes at 2.46 per minute. I believe Hawes is the stronger of the two, both physically and as a DFS tournament play. I’m anticipating a Hawes KO in the opening moments of the 2nd round.
Cody Durden ($7,700) vs. Carlos Mota ($8,500)
After originally planning for a matchup with fellow wrestler Kleydson Rodrigues, Cody Durden now faces a kickboxing UFC newcomer in Carlos Mota. While Durden opened as a -175 betting favorite, the odds have shifted significantly, and he is now a +140 underdog to Mota.
Replacement fights are risky for DFS and betting. Late additions are dangerous, as they have not had a full camp and may not be at peak physical condition. On the other side, a more physically prepared fighter likely utilized their camp to strategize and train for a different opponent.
Durden is an experienced MMA professional, but a relative UFC newbie. Racking up a 2-2-1 record in UFC to date, his most recent loss was to Muhammad Mokaev, who submitted him within the first minute of the fight. While Mokaev is clearly the better prospect and wrestler, Durden has his own chops in that area. Cody is aggressive, using a combination of striking and grappling to pin his opponents against the cage. Durden chases takedowns and earns 4.24 TDs per 15 minutes. This aggressive style wears him out, and he does have significant gas tank concerns in the later rounds.
Mota is coming in on less than a week’s notice and is also a vastly different fighter than Durden’s initial opponent. He’s also the favorite for a reason, possessing a high-volume offensive game and an ability to inflict damage on every level of his opponent. However, Mota is not known for his wrestling. If Durden can control the fight and get it to the ground, we could be in store for an upset here. I’ll take Durden as a value play hoping for a decision win with plenty of takedowns and control time included.
Calvin Kattar ($8,000) vs. Arnold Allen ($8,200)
It’s rare to find such a controversial main event on a Fight Night card, but here we are. Calvin Kattar and Arnold Allen are set to light it up in the only five-round bout on this card. This is one of the slate’s most even matchups, and the DK DFS prices and DK Sportsbook odds can prove it. Set at the exact pricing middle, Allen is the implied DFS favorite at $8,200, while Kattar is the implied underdog at $8,000. The story gets better on the DK Sportsbook side, as the odds opened up -150/-125 in favor of Allen, but have now shifted to a -110 pick’em on either side. Please check the DK Sportsbook odds before submitting your lineup, because they’ll likely change even more!
DraftKings Sportsbook says this fight is a pick’em, and there are great reasons to pick either fighter. You can potentially play both sides of this fight in cash games, as this fight is five rounds and each guy has plenty of time to score points if it goes the distance.
Kattar is the veteran in this matchup, coming off a controversial split decision loss where he outstruck his opponent, Josh Emmett, 130-107. The Boston native enters this matchup with a three-inch height and two-inch reach advantage over his opponent. He also possesses a significant edge in strikes landed per minute, hitting 5.19, compared to 3.31 for Allen.
The 28-year-old Arnold Allen is undefeated since joining the UFC, earning an impressive nine straight wins, six of which have come by decision. While it may not come into play against Kattar, he has wrestling in his arsenal and hits takedowns at 50% accuracy. His striking defense is also great, only taking 2.22 strikes per minute compared to Kattar’s 7.15.
This one is truthfully too close to call, but I’ll give a slight edge to Calvin Kattar. This fight is -315 to go the distance, so both guys should get their shots. If one of these fighters were to earn a finish, I’d predict it going to Kattar. This is Allen’s first five-round UFC fight, and he may not have the gas tank to compete in the main event rounds.
Good luck in contests this weekend! Feel free to follow me on the Twitter Machine (@JeffGailius) for more UFC and DFS content!
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.