UFC Fight Night: Hall vs. Strickland airs live this Saturday from the APEX Center, and while it’s an understated card, I’ve found that these tend to be sleeper hits flying under the radar most of the time. Originally slated to have 15 bouts, the show lost a pair of fights and had to scramble to save a third. As of this writing, the main event—the most important fight on the card—is still in intact.
Now that we’ve gotten the pleasantries out of the way, let’s actually take a brief look at some of the more intriguing matchups that Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard have put together. The first one that caught my attention was
Wu Yanan vs. Nicco Montano. Montano will be competing for the first time since her defeat at the hands of Julianna Peña back in 2019, and Yanan is just 1-3 in her UFC run. Both women have the cloud of a pink slip hanging over them, so the stakes are incredibly high.
MMA NEWS ALERT: The following fights have been pulled from Saturday's UFC card:— DK Nation (@dklive) July 30, 2021
Nicco Montano vs. Wu Yanan
Ronnie Lawrence vs. Trevin Jones pic.twitter.com/tfzeeaeiYg
Flyweights Ryan Benoit and Zarrukh Adashev seem like they’re in a similar position, although Benoit has seen more success inside the octagon. Most importantly, he holds a win over current Bellator bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis. Adashev, however, has yet to log a win since joining the roster. Both men are on two-fight skids, so expect fireworks in this one, too.
The co-main event has a gnarly bit of matchmaking between Kyung Ho Kang and longtime staple Rani Yahya, a man who has been competing for 19 years, yet is just 36 years old. This might just be my favorite fight on the card, as both are submission grapplers on win streaks. Kang is the bigger man with a lot less wear-and-tear, but Yahya is still bringing home the bacon. Will he finally get his first performance bonus with the promotion? Despite numerous wins via submission, he has yet to enjoy an extra chunk of cheddar since his WEC days.
We’ve put together a handy guide of facts and figures to help you when selecting your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Each category will feature the standout fighter for his/her achievements in said category. Let’s get started!
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC Fight Night fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $500K in total prizes, including $100,000 to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $500K Throwdown [$100K to 1st].
Chris Gruetzemacher, $6,700
Chris Gruetzemacher has had a rough time in his UFC tenure. Logging just two wins in the six years he’s been with the promotion, with the most recent one being over a very faded Joe Lauzon more than three years ago, another loss here could spell disaster for the 35-year-old Arizona native. He is a very active, aggressive fighter, and the definition of a volume striker, averaging 7.02 strikes landed per minute. He also absorbs 5.54 shots in that same stretch, so defense isn’t exactly a priority. “Gritz” isn’t alone in that regard, though. His opponent, Rafa Garcia, only lands 3.47 per minute, but absorbs nearly double that (6.60/minute). The problem Chris faces here is that Garcia hits a lot harder, hence the pricing. That’s not to say Chris doesn’t have a chance—he absolutely does. It’s just that long injury layoffs and a lack of power don’t favor his odds here.
Uriah Hall, $6,900
Uriah Hall is a power striker, and not just with his hands. His destruction of Adam Cella via spinning kick is what first put him on the map as a dangerous striker. He’s racked up 13 wins by knockout, including the latest, a horrific leg injury win over Chris Weidman. He’s currently on a four-fight win streak, the longest in his professional career since his exhibition run on TUF. It should be noted that three of those four wins were by knockout, which brings his total to 16 knockouts, but in the interest of keeping things ordered, we’re using his pro record only. Hall has come a long way since joining the Fortis MMA team, and the fight with Antonio Carlos showed the strides he’s made in managing his cardio, his fight IQ and the completeness of his game. He faces a very tough task against the technical prowess of Sean Strickland, a man that is also enjoying a four-fight win streak. Strickland has only lost three fights, but just one of those was a knockout. His chin has held up well, even against the likes of Santiago Ponzinibbio and Kamaru Usman. Only Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos has managed to put him away inside the distance. Hall has the tools to do the same, but the question here is if he will be able to get through the excellent defense that Strickland puts forth?
Rani Yahya, $7,700 Rani Yahya has been one of the most successful, high level grapplers to grace the octagon. With 21 of his 27 wins coming by submission, he poses a threat to anyone that faces him. He’s not a powerful striker, but he knows how to defend himself, as he’s only been stopped by knockout twice in 10 losses over the course of 19 years. His opponent, Kyung Ho Kang, is also a seasoned grappler with 11 submissions to his credit. He will enjoy the physical advantages of being the bigger, younger man, as well as a small, almost imperceptible edge in power. Neither man logs much in the way of output, with Yahya coming in at a dismal 1.57 strikes landed per minute and Kang at 2.52. Both men have been submitted just once in their careers, so it seems their defensive grappling is quite potent. Yahya’s long career and size disadvantage are definitely key factors at play, but he’s a crafty fox and should never be counted out.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The scheduled bout between Rani Yahya and Kyung Ho Kang has been removed from the card.
Jason Witt, $6,600
Jason Witt is an action fighter that wades into danger pell-mell with little to no thought towards protecting his chin. He’s a solid grappler with eight submission wins, and he actively looks to get the fight on the ground quickly, averaging 3.65 takedowns per 15-minute fight. The problem with Jason is the tremendous button he has on his chin. Of his seven losses, five are by knockout. The way Matthew Semelsberger slept him was scary to watch and just 10 months prior, he was felled by Takashi Sato. Both those losses were inside the 60-second mark. He faces Bryan Barberena, a volume striker with 10 knockout wins. The man known as “Bam Bam” also has a button on his chin, albeit recently discovered over the last two years with two losses in his last three fights coming via TKO. This fight should be fun while it lasts, but one almost has to favor Barberena, as his durability, while starting to fade, is a much more reliable factor than Witt’s.
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