IIITTTTTT’SSSS TIMMMEEEE! Five Rounds! For the undisputed, UFC Heavyweight championship of the WORLD! Introducing first.... Fighting out of the blue corner. A mixed martial artist, holding professional record of 11 wins and 1 loss. He stands at six feet and five inches tall, weighing in at 247 and one half pounds... FIGHTING out of Nogent-sur-Marne, France, “Bon Gamin” Ciryl GANE!
At least, that’s what I expect Bruce Buffer to say when the action kicks off in our UFC 285 main event. The story of this fight is obviously the return of Jon Jones, who makes his heavyweight debut after a three-year absence from the sport. However, we cannot forget to talk about Gane, who is a dominant threat in today’s MMA and should prove to be an incredibly tough challenge for Jon “Bones” Jones.
As is only fair, UFC has absolutely stacked this card with talent. Champion Valentina Shevchenko will defend her title against Alexa Grasso, and young prospects Ian Garry and Cameron Saaiman are a few high-profile names that fill out the preliminary card.
As such, this is one of the most interesting Reignmakers slates we’ve ever had. There are heavy favorites on this card, such as blue chip prospects Bo Nickal (-1600) and Shavkat Rakhmonov (-500), as well as fights like Derek Brunson vs. Dricus Du Plessis and Cody Garbrandt vs. Trevin Jones, which are heavily favored to end inside the distance.
With the number of high-level fighters and potential finishes on this card, it’s going to be very difficult to find the optimal lineup in Reignmakers this week. I’m going to break down my top three underrated purchases for DraftKings Reignmakers, as well as both sides of the main event.
DISCLAIMER: I firmly believe that Bo Nickal is the best play on the slate, but given how restrictive his $44 price tag is in the RARE tier, I would probably look elsewhere to build your lineups. If you pulled his card from a pack drop, congratulations!
The Studs: As always, our Reignmakers plays will be highlighted by the highest floor/ceiling combo fighters on the slate.
Shavkat Rakhmonov, RARE Floor: $25
In our featured bout of the evening, undefeated Rakhmonov takes on the talented Geoff Neal in a bout that should land the winner in the top six of the division.
MMA math tells us that Rakhmonov should be the winner here. He was able to submit Neil Magny, who beat Geoff Neal by decision. DraftKings Sportsbook seems to agree, holding Rakhmonov at -550 to win.
Rakhmonov is a talented wrestler who relentlessly pursues takedowns on his way to finish fights. He has strong wrestling and a lethal ground-and-point game, finishing each of his 16 matchups by KO/TKO or Submission. Neal also BADLY missed weight, so there are concerns that he may not be ready to give 100% in the octagon.
I love Rakhmonov in this spot and think he finds his way into the optimal lineup. Given Nickal’s massive price point, he’s projecting as a great value at $25 in Reignmakers.
Cameron Saaiman, RARE Floor: $15
A little earlier on the card, Saaiman prepares to make his second walk to the UFC octagon to face another exciting prospect in Mana Martinez.
Saaiman is a very intriguing prospect. A well-rounded mixed martial artist, Saaiman is fluid in the pocket and chooses his shots well while also maintaining a strong presence on the mat. He hasn’t been without flaws, though, as late-replacement debut fighter Steven Koslow gave him a run for his money and nearly submitted him in the first round of both of their UFC careers in December.
Martinez has more UFC and MMA experience at 2-1 in UFC competition. He is also a former Fury FC champion, with a memorable first-minute, title-defense TKO of Jose Johnson in 2021.
Martinez missed weight for this fight. As the underdog, that does not bode well for his chances against the younger prospect. Saaiman is a -260 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook. Make sure to grab Saaiman at $15 in Reignmakers in case he’s able to finish a tired Martinez.
Dricus Du Plessis, RARE Floor: $12
While his last win is slightly soured since the release of Darren Till, Du Plessis has been a force in the middleweight division and is being discussed as a future title contender in the division. While his fight IQ could use sharpening, Du Plessis is large, powerful and fluid middleweight who throws bombs in the pocket. He also has the ability to wrestle, which he showed in his third-round submission against Till just two months ago. While his opponent, Derek Brunson, likely has an edge in that department, I predict Du Plessis’ offensive pressure to be the differentiator in this matchup, and it will help him find an early finish in this fight.
Main Event: Jon Jones ($13) vs Ciryl Gane ($5)
Gane is looking to claim the undisputed version of the Heavyweight Championship belt at UFC 285. The former interim champion has been incredibly impressive in his UFC career, amassing nine wins and one quality loss to former champion Francis Ngannou. While only winning 66% of his fights inside the distance, Gane is an athletic kickboxing freak who has the raw technique and immense power to finish any fighter in the division.
Jones is returning to the octagon after his three-year layoff, and he put on nearly 50 pounds in preparation of his UFC Heavyweight debut. He weighed in at 248 exactly, which is .5 pounds heavier than the natural heavyweight. There were concerns that Jones did not put the weight on well, but MAN did he look good on the scales.
Oh my pic.twitter.com/1lcjVpdpsb— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) March 3, 2023
There are so many factors to consider in this fight, and a lot of questions on the side of the former Light Heavyweight Champion. Can he maintain his game plan against the biggest opponent he’s ever faced? Can he bring Gane to the ground, or will he be kept at distance and forced to fight a kickboxing match? Will he be able to go five rounds at his heaviest weight? Can he shake off the ring rust? Is HE still the GOAT?
We know Gane is ready to go, and he has the stamina to go five rounds at heavyweight. However, as his fight against Ngannou showed, his wrestling leaves a lot to be desired, and his path to victory revolves around keeping Jones on his feet.
I believe Jones wins this fight. I’m leaning on his experience as the most dominant force MMA has ever seen and believe that he’ll have success wherever he wants against Gane. However, I also believe that both guys are in play in Reignmakers.
Jones is $13, and if he truly has the wrestling advantage, he’ll take Gane down and finish this fight early. Gane is only $5 and much cheaper than other underdogs who aren’t in five-round fights. If he takes this fight to a decision, there’s a good chance he won it. If he wins a full decision, he’ll earn plenty of striking points on his way in and should pay off that $5 price tag handsomely.
I’m lucky enough to be at UFC 285, so I’ll be sharing updates on my Twitter @JeffGailius. Feel free to follow along this EPIC card on Saturday, and let me know how your Reignmakers Lineups turn out.
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