Tomorrow afternoon, UFC Vegas 38 will take over the televisions, tablets and computer screens of MMA fans around the world. The outstanding card is one of the best Fight Night offerings we’ve had in a very long time, with important matchups from top to bottom. While some bouts carry more weight than others, the entertainment potential is out of the stratosphere for virtually any fight you choose to put under a microscope.
The main card features a healthy mix of absolutely bonkers pairings like Niko Price vs. Alex Oliveira to high value ranked contender contests like Aspen Ladd vs. Macy Chiasson. There’s also Misha Cirkunov making his middleweight debut against the tough Krzysztof Jotko, and Kevin Holland looking to rebound from a two-fight skid when he takes on Kyle Daukaus, which will serve as the co-main event.
Finally, we get to the main event, Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker, a bout built with TNT, C4 and plutonium. These two fearsome strikers will undoubtedly be looking to clean clocks, starch collars and make sweet chin music when they take center stage in the headliner. Has Johnny Walker shored up his defensive gaps enough to avoid getting slept? Does “Marreta” still have enough in the tank at 37 years of age to take on the young wolf nipping at his heels? Will this fight make it out of the first round?
There are plenty of other fights that will no doubt appeal to all sorts of combat appetites, but we’re going to take a look at the four that we feel are the most optimal bets to make on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Misha Cirkunov vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Misha Cirkunov To Win By Submission (+275)
Misha Cirkunov dropping to 185 pounds raises a lot of questions, namely, where in the world is he going to find 20 more pounds to get rid of? He was never an undersized light heavy, but finding limited success in the division has pushed him toward a lower weight class, as has been the case with so many fighters before him. At middleweight, provided he makes a healthy cut, he should be able to outmuscle most in the division, including Jotko.
Krzysztof’s propensity to keep the fight in close quarters might just be his undoing here, as Misha is an excellent grappler and will likely carry the strength advantage. That’s not to say Jotko has no routes to victory, because Cirkunov is quite chinny and defensively porous. If the fight goes past round one, Misha’s chances diminish mightily, so he’ll need to get this one over quickly. Look for him to power Jotko down early for a quick submission.
Niko Price vs. Alex Oliveira
Niko Price To Win By Decision (+350)
This fight would normally be my early fight of the night pick, but because the main event is also a certified banger, I’ll just say it will definitely be in the running for that honor. Price is known for being a balls-to-the-wall action fighter that gives very little thought to danger. He sets a breakneck pace and is in constant forward motion. Due to the high output he projects (5.29 strikes landed per minute), he often leaves himself exposed for all manner of incoming attacks (5.87 strikes absorbed per minute). That said, his cardio is in much better shape than Oliveira’s, and he can crack just as hard as the other “Cowboy.”
Oliveira has loads of power himself, but it’s been a hot minute since we’ve seen him put someone away (Carlo Pedersoli back in 2018). This seems like it should go Price’s way, as Oliveira is really beginning to show the wear-and-tear that 20 fights inside the octagon has heaped upon him, but I wouldn’t expect it to end early since only top tier grapplers have been able to submit Oliveira. Price has found his way to three submission wins, but over lesser competition. Look for this to go the distance.
Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus
Kevin Holland To Win By Decision (+200)
Kevin Holland made such a big bang in 2020, going five of five with four coming by way of knockout. His brutal finish of Jacare Souza was the stuff highlight reels are made of and only Darren Stewart was able to survive three rounds with him. Then 2021 rolled around and when facing the cream of the crop in the top 10, he dropped both of his fights—first to Derek Brunson, most recently to Marvin Vettori. With Kyle Daukaus, he gets the opportunity to reset with a step down in competition.
Daukaus has had similar troubles, dropping two of his three fights with the promotion. Holland is a gifted athlete with speed and power, but his wrestling, particularly his takedown defense, is woefully inept. Hard to imagine that a guy with legitimate grappling chops could have such a hard time stopping a takedown, but here we are. Daukaus isn’t a walk in the park, despite the sizable gap in their experience levels. He’s a strong wrestler, and by virtue of that, he could find a path to victory here. I just have my doubts that will happen, as his oft-lauded ground game hasn’t really translated in the octagon. Both men have a lot on the line, since a third loss could spell “pink slip” for either. Look for Holland to turn up the volume to score a decision victory.
Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker
Johnny Walker To Win By KO/TKO/DQ (+180)
Thiago Santos might be 37, but he’s still got one of the most durable chins in the sport. He has been stopped by knockout, but only three times in 30 fights. By comparison, Johnny Walker has also been stopped by knockout three times, but in the space of 23 fights, with two of them happening just five months apart. He rebounded from those with a sensational knockout win over Ryan Spann last year, but it was inside three minutes, so we don’t have a clue if he’s been able to shore up the glaring holes in his defense.
Santos is on a three-fight skid, but to top-tier competition, and if you go by many fans and pundits’ score cards, he should have logged the victory to Jon Jones. He does have his own issues, but is a much more complete fighter than Walker, and he has an insane amount of power—the kind that has a homing beacon for soft-ish chins like Johnny’s. And this is where it gets tricky because Johnny Walker also has collar-starching power. While Santos has one of the toughest jaw bones around, it is not indestructible, and when you add in Walker’s lengthy frame, and the fact that he can fire at will from range and stay out of harm’s way, you start to see the dilemma of choosing a winner here.
What it boils down to for me, is the tremendous amount of damage to Santos’ knees after the Jones fight, the way he was soundly dismantled in the Rakic fight and the absolute mauling Glover Teixeira put on him before choking him out in the third. All that attritive damage in consecutive outings has me thinking that the young upstart has a very real opportunity to score a big win. Look for Walker to get the knockout early.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is crooklyn949) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.
Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (CO/NH), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 1-888-532-3500 (VA), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ) or call/text TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN).
21+ (18+ NH/WY). AZ/CO/IL/IN/IA/MI/NH/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.