On Saturday night, the UFC brings its 24th “Vegas” card, live from the APEX Center. The card is a very good one, showcasing hot prospects like Alexandr Romanov vs. Juan Espino as well as battle-tested veterans like Jeremy Stephens taking on the tough Drakkar Klose. We’ll bear witness to 22-year veteran Andrei Arlovski making his 35th octagon appearance against 31-year-old Chase Sherman.
At the top of the bout sheet in the headlining spot is Robert Whittaker taking on late replacement opponent Kelvin Gastelum, who stepped in for Paulo Costa after Costa was diagnosed with COVID-19. Gastelum is ranked No. 8 while Whittaker is holding it down at No. 1, and Whittaker will likely end up seeing a rematch against champion Israel Adesanya with a win. If Gastelum secures the victory, he would probably be paired with Costa or Marvin Vettori before he’d be able to be within range of the brass ring.
The middleweight division has become quite an interesting cauldron of talent, especially with veterans like Derek Brunson and Uriah Hall still finding ways to keep evolving and holding firm spots inside the top 10 right alongside the exciting prospects that have broken into the rankings, such as Edmen Shahbazyan. There are talented standouts like Jack Hermansson, Darren Till and Jared Cannonier that are all just two or three fights out from a title shot. And that’s where it gets dicey, because reigning kingpin Israel Adesanya has beaten half of the top 10, and four of the top five. Any way you slice it, 185 is as robust as we’ve seen in quite some time.
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!
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Chase Sherman, $7,700
Chase Sherman saw his first run with the UFC net him just two wins out of seven fights, but upon his release, he went out and racked up three successive victories and was invited back to the octagon. He’s notched a win against Isaac Villanueva via knockout and is no doubt looking to do the same with Andrei Arlovski in his second contest since coming back. Both men fight from the orthodox stance and that’s about where the comparison ends when discussing their striking styles. Andrei is a low-output counter-puncher, probably one of the most prolific counter-punchers in the promotion, and Chase is a wild pressure fighter with a pretty good gas tank and the output of a lightweight. Averaging 6.02 strikes landed per minute, he doesn’t have a mind toward defense, like at all. He absorbs 5.55 shots in that same 60 seconds and has found himself on the receiving end of unconsciousness in four of his six losses. That said, Arlovski is very long in the tooth and has had flagging cardio presenting more. It’s not unrealistic to think one of those wild Sherman bombs hits the mark.
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Jeremy Stephens, $8,400
Jeremy Stephens is another “youthful” longtime veteran who started his career at an early age. With more than half his life dedicated to the sport, one can understand why he’s called the UFC his home for 14 years this May. Stephens has come a long way since his reckless brawling days that earned him immediate fan support but has seen him to a near journeyman’s record. He has good footwork and plenty of power, with 19 knockout wins gracing his resume. Stephens’ losses have always been to better competition and they tell a tale of him springboarding from sensational wins into the top 10, then taking losses to the guys ranked above him. A look at his last five fights illustrates this: Jose Aldo, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez (1 NC), Yair Rodriguez (2 UD), and Calvin Kattar. That’s a Murderer’s Row if ever there was one. Against Drakkar Klose, a guy that has also had his own struggles taking the next step up, but at a lower level, Stephens has a chance to prove he still can hold the gates. It’s worth noting that Stephens’ last two wins before this rough patch were both knockouts, most recently in 2018 when he put away No. 7 ranked Josh Emmett.
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Gerald Meerschaert, $7,900
Gerald Meerschaert might only be 33 years old, but there’s a lot of mileage, and more importantly, experience, packed in those 33 years, and he’s worked hard to stay competitive enough to keep a foothold in the UFC. His submission grappling demands respect, especially with 23 submissions to his credit. He averages 2.33 takedowns per 15-minute fight and has a 1.7 submission average. With opponent Bartosz Fabinski, he’ll be facing a takedown artist who spams those takedowns to an impressive degree, a 7.08 average per 15-minute fight. Now those fights aren’t pretty to watch, and against other ground specialists, he can be overwhelmed quickly and has been submitted in three of his four losses, most recently to Andre Muniz. All the long stretches of inactivity might have impacted “The Butcher” more significantly than anyone thought and Meerschaert is the litmus test by which we will measure that idea.
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Andrei Arlovski, $8,500
Andrei Arlovski is a veteran with one of the longest MMA careers around at 22 years, and his tenure with the UFC spans 21 of them. There was a five-year span from 2008-2013 that he fought for other promotions, but this will be his 35th contest inside the octagon, and that says something about staying power. Andrei’s once lauded power hasn’t shown itself in six years when he stopped Travis Browne in the first round. Since then, he’s had 17 fights that have resulted in six wins, ten losses and one no-contest. He’ been knocked out brutally, submitted or outgrinded. He’s been in a lot of wars, and at 42, he’s definitely showing his age, and his cardio has suffered for it. He still manages to hang in there, but much like Jim Miller, he is visibly fatigued midway through the fight. Chase Sherman is a whirlwind of activity, with the highest strike output of anyone on the card. Andrei’s stamina will need a reserve tank to keep up, and when you factor in Sherman’s power, you could end up with a recipe for disaster.
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