On Saturday, the UFC kicks off once again at the APEX Center in Las Vegas. Remarkably enough, as of this posting (Friday morning), all 15 fights that are booked for this event are still on. That, my friends, is a Festivus miracle. The card is a diverse showcase of talent with a pretty sizable focus on the heavyweights and featherweights.
At the top of the mountain are the big men, Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis. In a classic stylistic matchup, we have the ace wrestler paired off with the power hitter. Blaydes has shown some power, but typically, his wrestling gets the job done. Lewis is the owner of a rocket launcher right. The winner of this one will almost certainly be in the running for next crack at the title.
The rest of the card has some very interesting veteran bouts and some that feature the debuts of talented prospects. Drakkar Klose vs. Luis Pena is flying so far under the radar it’s absurd. Charles Rosa vs. Darrick Minner looks like the perfect recipe for a ground battle that will provide a real treat for grappling fans.
We’ve put together a handy guide of facts and figures to help you when selecting your DraftKings fantasy lineups. Each category will feature the standout fighter for his/her achievements in said category. Let’s get started!
Editor’s note: Rafael Alves and Patrick Sabatini has been scrapped after Alves missed weight by 11.5 pounds.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC Fight Night fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $400K in guaranteed prizes, including $100,000 to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $400K Throwdown [$100K to 1st].
Nate Landwehr, $8,100
Nate Landwehr has one of those “kill or be killed” mentalities that provides for amazing scraps, but also leaves him wide open for being finished, and that happened in his UFC debut against Herbert Burns. It happens. He came back with an absolute thriller against Darren Elkins to get back on track and is now facing TUF 22 veteran Southpaw Julian Erosa.
Landwehr is the busiest striker on the roster, averaging 6.89 strikes per minute. However, Nate fits that dreaded profile of the volume striker with subpar defense. Absorbing 7.22 strikes per minute speaks to defensive holes you could probably drive a semi through, but again, he’s also landing at a high rate. Landwehr has exceptional cardio, so a distance fight is right up his alley. His opponent, Julian Erosa, is a tough veteran who also has incredible stamina, so the potential for an all-out war of attrition could be in the cards here.
Derrick Lewis, $6,800
Derrick Lewis hits like a truck. There is no pillowy softness to his punches. The softest thing most of his opponents feel is the referee gently shaking them awake. Lewis fights from the orthodox stance, as does his opponent, Curtis Blaydes. Both possess power, but Lewis consistently delivers big finishes—to the tune of 19 wins by way of knockout. Lewis isn’t a particularly busy striker, averaging just 2.64 strikes per minute, while absorbing 2.09 in that same space of time. He prefers to keep the fight standing, although we have seen him go for the takedown more frequently these days.
Derrick has a massive Achilles’ Heel, and that is his ground game. Now there is a bit of an equalizer with him in that regard—his insane strength. On more than one occasion we’ve seen Lewis taken down, only to simply stand up from positions of dominance most fighters would be incapable of.
Curtis Blaydes isn’t most fighters, though. He’s an exceptional wrestler who’s adapted that skill perfectly for MMA. His takedowns are almost always on the money, whether it be a thunderous blast double or a crafty single up against the cage. Blaydes has his own Kryptonite: Francis Ngannou, but perhaps Lewis can find similar success since he hits stupidly hard and Blaydes has been put away twice. Lewis will have his work well and truly cut out for him in this contest.
Curtis Blaydes, $9,400
Curtis Blaydes doesn’t have submission wins on his resume. Not a single one. He does have 10 knockouts and a bunch of really lopsided decisions in his favor, though. I know he has a reputation for being a wet blanket at times, but that wet blanket has a lot of lead in it, and it’s that lead blanket effect that wins him fights. “Razor” is a dynamic wrestler with a nasty blast double, a deadly single leg, power and the most insane top control.
There are plenty of fighters on this card with excellent BJJ credentials and submission wins on their resume, but of all the fighters on this card, including Aleksei Oleinik, I went with Blaydes because you can count on this fight hitting the ground at his discretion. You can count on that happening over and over, because he’s a smart fighter who isn’t going to want to stand and trade with a wrecking machine like “The Black Beast.”
His entries to the takedown are slick, and the stats speak for themselves. He averages about 6.98 takedowns every 15 minutes. That is a bonkers statistic. BONKERS! He’s also got very capable striking. He’s not wildly active, but he is busier than Lewis, averaging 3.55 strikes per minute while only absorbing about half of that. But when we think of Blaydes, we immediately are reminded of that impeccable top game (at least I am). Lewis could certainly play the spoiler, as he has before, but in all seriousness, this is Curtis’ fight to lose.
Aleksei Oleinik, $7,600
Aleksei Oleinik might be 43 years old, but he’s still dangerous. He recently trimmed down and became a much more svelte version of himself, but all the fight mileage and age have taken their toll, and while he is good for about a round to a round-and-a-half, he starts sucking wind directly after. This was abundantly clear in his bout with Werdum, where he looked sensational for the first half, and was hanging on in the second half. He did win, but it was a close split-decision. Then he ran into Derrick Lewis right after that and was knocked out for his trouble in the second round. The bottom line here is that age and wear-and-tear is a chronic factor that doesn’t work in reverse, no matter how many new-age supplements and therapies pop up.
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