On Saturday, March 27 at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, “The Baddest Man on the Planet” will be determined in the main event of UFC 260. Stipe Miocic is the reigning heavyweight champion who wants to make it 2-for-2 against Francis Ngannou, a man widely considered to be the most fearsome puncher in MMA. This card was supposed to feature featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski against Brian Ortega, but unfortunately Volkanovski tested positive for COVID-19 and the matchup was postponed. Instead, the new co-main event will be a welterweight bout between former champion Tyron Woodley and Vicente Luque.
Before fight night arrives, let’s look at some of the fighters on UFC 260 who are poised to deliver high scores for your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups as we wrap up the month of March.
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Stipe Miocic ($7,800) vs. Francis Ngannou ($8,400) - Heavyweights
Considered by many to be the greatest MMA heavyweight and certainly the best UFC heavyweight of all-time, Miocic has beaten a who’s who of top fighters and avenged two of his three career losses, including winning the title back from Daniel Cormier and beating him again in the rubber match. He can beat you in striking and with his takedowns and ground-and-pound, plus his cardio is terrific by HW standards. Ngannou had a meteoric rise towards a title shot, most memorably wiping out Alistair Overeem to earn his showdown with Miocic. He had a harsh reality check when Miocic took his power and beat him by decision, then his stock dropped after a tepid defeat to Derrick Lewis. Since then, he’s knocked out Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik in less than three minutes combined.
Essentially there’s nothing new we have really learned since their first matchup. Ngannou still hits exceptionally hard and knocks opponents out quickly, while Miocic proved that he was the better man in his trilogy with Daniel Cormier. We knew from the first fight that Ngannou tired pretty quickly trying to KO Stipe early, and that Miocic’s blend of wrestling and boxing exploited his defensive flaws, which we don’t really know if Francis has patched up. I picked Ngannou in the first fight and got burned. He may very well just make any deep analysis moot by hitting Stipe hard and knocking him senseless, but Miocic’s $7,800 value is too good to pass up and I believe that he can get past Ngannou again with takedowns and cleaner striking.
Number of Note: 6. Miocic took Ngannou down six times in 14 attempts in their first meeting. Those takedowns netted Stipe a whopping 15 minutes of control time, or the equivalent of three whole rounds.
Vicente Luque ($9,100) vs. Tyron Woodley ($7,100) - Welterweights
Luque is a winner of eight of his last nine fights, with that one defeat coming against two-time title challenger and former Woodley rival Stephen Thompson. The Brazilian is coming off stoppages over Randy Brown and Niko Price, and many fans will no doubt remember his three-round war with Mike Perry. He has a lethal D’arce choke but he’s established himself as a formidable knockout threat. Woodley has won titles in both Strikeforce and the UFC, but it’s safe to say that his best days are behind him. He lost his UFC belt to Kamaru Usman, then dropped a lopsided decision to Gilbert Burns, and most recently suffered an injury TKO defeat to Colby Covington in what was also a one-sided contest. You have to go back to 2018 and his submission of Darren Till to find Woodley’s last victory.
There is a valid concern that Luque’s willingness to engage in firefights can get him caught by one of Woodley’s vaunted right hand shots. With that said, Woodley is not only increasingly hesitant to pull the trigger, he has a very hard time dealing with fighters who can effectively pressure him and back him up. Luque loves to pressure, and if that causes Woodley to freeze, then Vicente has the power to hurt him, if not put him away. I’ve got Luque by knockout to notch his biggest career win and perhaps send Woodley out of the UFC.
Number of Note: 7. Seven of Luque’s previous eight wins have come via stoppage, with six by knockout and one by submission. Woodley is difficult to finish historically speaking, but he’s been hurt and busted up throughout his losing streak.
Sean O’Malley ($9,200) vs. Thomas Almeida ($7,000) - Bantamweights
O’Malley saw his undefeated record go away against Marlon Vera, who stopped him in a round with strikes not too long after Sean once again suffered an apparent foot injury. Prior to that, ‘The Sugar Show’ dazzled with knockouts over Eddie Wineland and Jose Alberto Quinonez, exemplifying his talents as a striker. The 26-year-old still has plenty of room for improvement as a fighter, and the UFC is undoubtedly hoping he’ll still reach his potential as a contender. Almeida was once one of the hottest prospects in the division, wowing fans with his striking and impressive finishes over Brad Pickett and Yves Jabouin. However, he’s not been the same since a first-round KO loss to future champion Cody Garbrandt. He’s just 1-4 in his last five, with injuries and vision problems costing him two years of his career. Almeida is coming off a decision loss to Jonathan Martinez, which represented his first bout in two years.
You can earmark this one as the leading candidate to win Fight of the Night honors. We should see almost entirely a stand-up battle that is not necessarily a lock for O’Malley given Almeida’s own offensive potency and Muay Thai prowess. Almeida would be wise to attack Sean’s legs early and often. Ultimately though it’s hard to ignore Almeida’s shaky chin, which is not a good thing to have against someone as powerful as O’Malley. I think O’Malley bounces back with a knockout victory.
Number of Note: 26. Both O’Malley and Almeida are prolific in the first round. All but one of O’Malley’s nine stoppage victories have come in the opening frame, whereas the more experienced Almeida has needed less than five minutes in 17 of his 21 pro wins.
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Michal Oleksiejczuk ($8,500) vs. Modestas Bukauskas ($7,700) - Light Heavyweights
Bukauskas was a standout in Cage Warriors FC before making the jump to the UFC last year. ‘The Baltic Warrior’ won by TKO in his Octagon debut with a series of elbows against Andreas Michailidis, but found himself quickly KO’d by Jimmy Crute in his next outing. Oleksiejczuk got off to a bright start in his UFC career when he defeated Khalil Rountree, only for a failed drug test to nullify the result. He won his next two fights by KO coming out of suspension, but the Polish fighter has lost his last two by submission to Ovince Saint Preux and the aforementioned Crute.
This ought to be a fun one for however long it lasts. Bukauskas is arguably the more well-rounded fighter and he might even have the edge in speed. Where it may fall apart on him is Oleksiejczuk’s power and willingness to get forward. If Oleksiejczuk pressures early and lets his hands go it will be a short night for Bukauskas and his defensive flaws, and that’s why I’m backing Michal by knockout, but expect a finish either way.
Number of Note: 21. Bukauskas and Oleksiejczuk have a combined 21 stoppages out of 25 victories. Oleksiejczuk has 10 knockouts and one submission out of 14 wins, while Bukauskas has eight knockouts and two submissions out of 11 wins.
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