UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Prochazka kicks off from the UFC’s APEX Center in Las Vegas once again this Saturday evening, and will host a veritable cornucopia of fun fights, even if they aren’t all big on name value. Don’t get me wrong, there are some especially intriguing matchups, but big names are sparse outside the main and co-main events. There are some extremely important pairings, though, especially the one with Sean Strickland and Krzysztof Jotko, that will likely see the winner propelled into the middleweight rankings. Then there’s the light heavyweight bout that will be the appetizer to the main course—Moldova’s Ion Cutelaba will take on Dustin Jacoby in a fight that’s sure to be punctuated with flashy, powerful kicks and an abundance of aggression.
The co-main event features long-time veteran Cub Swanson taking on the surging Giga Chikadze, currently undefeated in his UFC run. It’s an outstanding pairing of strikers in a classic “young lion vs. old” story. Will Swanson be able to hold off this thrilling young upstart, or will he send him to the back of the line? Another great contest is the outstanding matchmaking involved in getting Merab Dvalishvili and Cody Stamann to the center of the octagon. From top to bottom, there’s bound to be a fight for every palate.
We’ve selected four fighters from the event that will illustrate why they are worthy of their lofty or budget-conscious price tags in an effort to help you select your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Let’s get started.
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Jiri Prochazka, $8,300
Full disclosure, I am a Jiri Prochazka superfan, so keep that at the forefront of your brain at all times when reading this. Prochazka’s thrilling career has been punctuated by insane knockouts all the way back to his first pro bout. He fights from the orthodox stance and is hot right out of the gate. Absolutely zero warmup time, absolutely zero feeling out period and absolutely zero time spent trying to take his opponent’s head off. He was probably born swinging, which probably made for a tough birth, but look at him now! He’s a hyper-aggressive banger that has finished 26 of his opponents—24 by knockout. Yes, that does mean he can submit you, but let’s be honest, Rizin was particularly interested in setting him up with true ground wizards, so that part of his resume is still a bit of a mystery. He’s also gone the distance once, and he did it without difficulty. The Czech fighter will have a tall order in Dominick Reyes, but I like his chances and I’ve decided to name my next pet Jiri.
Pricing: Just right
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Sean Strickland, $9,200
Sean Strickland’s lightning jab is what’s going to win him this fight. He’s fast and precise with it, and he puts a lot of fire on it when he throws. He’s also quite active, clocking in with volume striker numbers—5.09 strikes landed per minute while absorbing 3.77 in that same stretch. He’s not a defensive fortress, but he repels more than he sustains, so there’s that. Jotko, by comparison, only averages 2.98 landed strikes per minute, absorbing 1.9 shots in that same time frame. Jotko’s propensity to be outpaced and outworked is concerning in this particular fight, especially since Sean has such a high work rate. You’d never even know that Strickland was involved in a career-threatening motorcycle accident that left him with massive amounts of knee damage, but after successful surgery and recovery, Sean returned looking better than ever, taking sensational wins over Jack Marshman and Brendan Allen. It’s been proven that extremely athletic, high-volume fighters are Jotko’s Kryptonite. Sean Strickland more than fits the bill to get the win here.
Cub Swanson, $7,600
Cub Swanson at $7,600 is a steal! Yes, I know he’s getting a little long in the tooth, but he’s still looking sharp, and while Daniel Pineda isn’t in the form he was in during his prime, that performance from Cub was sensational. He picked Pineda apart like the seasoned veteran he is before mercifully finishing him with a big knockout. Just before that, he ended Kron Gracie’s undefeated run. Gracie hasn’t even competed since that October 2019 loss. Giga Chikadze presents a big challenge to Swanson with his stellar kickboxing and third-round resurgences (although those resurgences typically come after gassing himself to the limit in earlier rounds). That said, Giga has had carefully selected opponents meant to maximize his footprint. Swanson, on the other hand, has been fighting the top of the heap for years, most of them successful ventures as his 27 wins suggest. Cub also has a significant power advantage and has the ability to shut off the power plant at any given time. Swanson’s power, stamina and footwork are well beyond Chikadze, which is why I’m confident he’ll take the victory lap here.
Pricing: On point
Dustin Jacoby, $8,000
This contest between Ion Cutelaba and Dustin Jacoby has fireworks written all over it. The Moldovan Cutelaba is known for coming out hard and fast, but with little mind to form and technique. Think of him as the bull in the China shop. Jacoby has looked really good in this second incarnation of his UFC career. He’s on a four-fight win streak, two of them inside the octagon with the latest being a unanimous decision victory over Maxim Grishin. Cutelaba is the favorite here, and with good reason, he’s got a ferocious left that hits like a Mack truck. Jacoby doesn’t pack that kind of heat, but he is a well-conditioned, technique-oriented fighter with great striking ability. His kickboxing days show his excellent kicking form, but what I think will win him this fight is his composure under pressure. He had some tense moments against Grishin, but rose to the occasion, taking a comfortable decision. Cutelaba depends on his opponents letting him run right through them. I think Jacoby has placed a high value on this second run in the UFC and isn’t going to let “The Hulk” derail him. This is a brave pick, but fortune favors the brave, or so I’ve heard.
Pricing: Exactly as it should be
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