UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Sakai might look a little light on name value, but there are some hidden gems in there that you should definitely be paying attention to. The one that gets my early nod for fight of the night is Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza. If we revisit our mind palace, we’ll recall that The Ponz was on a seven-fight win streak before he ran into Li Jingliang earlier this year. Jingliang would reap the rewards of a stunning knockout, and Santiago would lose his spot in the rankings. The question is, does Ponzinibbio still have it, or will the surging Baeza show why he’s the new buzz name on the block?
Another great fight worth noting is Francisco Trinaldo vs. Muslim Salikhov. Will Father Time finally slow “Massaranduba” to a pace more fitting his age, or will he continue to defy the odds and make Salikhov No. 4 on his hot streak? He certainly struggled with Jai Herbert in the second round before finally sealing the deal in the third with a tremendous TKO (no doubt due to Herb Dean’s slow reaction in stopping the fight).
Finally, at the top of the card in the headlining position, we get a heavyweight bout that could end up determining a future contender. Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Augusto Sakai sounds like it could be a very gritty, potentially ugly fight. Rozenstruik is a wonderful counterstriker, but his low output and willingness to wait for his opponents to trudge forward and make a mistake could end up costing him the way it did against Cyril Gane. Augusto Sakai is perfectly comfortable in grinders and he has a bit of pop in his punches too. This is a pretty good litmus test to see where Rozenstruik is at after this latest setback.
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.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik, $8,200
Jairzinho Rozenstruik has plenty of issues to work through before we see him get a crack at Francis Ngannou again, but against Augusto Sakai, I feel there’s slightly more upside with “Bigi Boi.” And that “slightly” feeling is all about one element—power—of which Rozenstruik has plenty of. It is the “shut off the power plant” variety, too. Sakai has his good points as well, but his equalizer isn’t quite the same as Rozy’s. What he does well is drag the fight into grinder territory, and we already know that Jairzinho’s ground game is the gaping hole in his skillset, so that should play well in Sakai’s favor. The outcome of this fight boils down to whether Augusto can avoid Rozy’s power hand, and in my opinion, he won’t be able to for the entire fight. At some point, he’ll get confident and wade in. Rozy will be waiting, and one would have to think that Sakai’s chin wouldn’t be able to withstand it.
Pricing: As perfect a line as there ever could be
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Makwan Amirkhani, $9,400
Makwan Amirkhani, another talented athlete who once called SBG Gym in Ireland his training home, should have the heavier advantages in this contest. Kamuela Kirk, a regional talent who stepped in on short notice when Nate Landwehr was forced to withdraw a couple weeks ago, is going to really have to put in a magical performance to get past “Mr. Finland.” Kirk’s record shows a decided lack of quality opposition. As a matter of fact, just taking incremental steps up have resulted in losses to pre-UFC-era Billy Quarantillo and Bruno Silva, so when you make the jump from guys like that to a bona fide grappling stud like Makwan, it’s very hard to find paths to victory. Don’t get me wrong, Amirkhani has the same issues in taking that next step up, his are just failings at a higher level. Amirkhani’s propensity to get into wars is also a little worrisome, but I can’t see Kirk taking the victory here. Hopefully, I haven’t jinxed this pick with my confidence.
Pricing: Just right
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Walt Harris, $7,500
Walt Harris has had a tough couple years, both personally and professionally, but hopefully, this fight will see him back on track (not that I mind Tybura getting the win). He’s facing off against a very tough, battle-tested Marcin Tybura, fresh off his TKO victory of Greg Hardy in December. Marcin has quietly racked up four-straight wins, but outside the Hardy finish, he wins his fights in ugly, grindy fashion. If you want some meaning applied to that statement, just check out some of his fights. If you really want to punish yourself, try the Arlovski fight. I guarantee you will hate me for this suggestion afterward. Another issue that Tybura has is a very pronounced button on his chin, one that Harris probably won’t have issue finding. Of his six losses, four of them are via knockout, so Marcin will definitely need to avoid Walt’s power hand if he plans to make it out of this contest upright. Walt has issues with strong wrestlers/grapplers, but Marcin isn’t Alistair Overeem, or Alexander Volkov, so I’m thinking this is Harris’ fight to lose.
Pricing: Absolute bargain
Santiago Ponzinibbio, $7,900
Santiago Ponzinibbio is a pretty well-rounded athlete who was unfortunately plagued by inactive periods that likely cost him all the momentum he’d gained with a seven-fight win streak. That streak ended up being abruptly snapped in January when Li Jingliang cleaned his clock in the first round. There is absolutely no shame in that loss, especially considering that Jingliang hits like a truck, but fans and pundits seem to have written off “The Ponz” as though he’s been losing fight after fight. Now, he is facing a stud in Miguel Baeza—also well-rounded and the possessor of a hot hand, himself. Santiago and Miguel are both aggressive strikers, but Ponz is a little more willing to take chances, where Baeza is slightly more thoughtful and selective with his shots. It’s a dangerous fight for both, but I am unwilling to think that wins over a very faded Matt Brown and the uninspiring Takashi Sato (his biggest win is over a very faded Ben Saunders) should automatically catapult Baeza into the position of favorite. Not that he couldn’t get the win, just that I don’t think Ponzinibbio is washed yet.
Pricing: Should be Ponz sitting as the slight favorite
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