This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
The threat of cancelation still hangs over a card already ravaged by Health and Safety Protocols, but we currently have 10 fights to analyze as we welcome back the UFC from an extended layoff. We'll cover each bout in detail, including a heavyweight fight expected to go the distance, and a main event that features a surging specialist. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Without further Ado, let's get to it
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
T.J. Brown ($7,100)
Brown came into the UFC as a tireless wrestler, and while he hasn't abandoned his takedowns, there was an undeniable improvement in the fluidity of his boxing and footwork in his fight with Kai Kamaka. His defense may still need work, but Charles Rosa will be noticeably slower and less agile than "Downtown." Rosa's price as a late replacement ($6,800) makes him worth a look as a scarcity play, but the veteran has been outwrestled and controlled by superior grapplers in the past, and Brown has a good enough top-control game to fend off any submission attempts from the guard.
Joanderson Brito ($8,600)
It should be noted at the outset that this fight will be canceled if Brito doesn't return a negative COVID-19 test before Saturday, but if he is able to compete, the big puncher and aggressive wrestler has the potential to put up big points against Bill Algeo. While his come-forward style can border on reckless, Algeo has never been a big puncher, and Brito was able to successfully defend multiple submission attempts from jiu-jitsu ace Diego Lopez in his fight on the Contender Series. Algeo has been taken down at least three times in each of his four UFC contests, which should allow Brito ample opportunity to secure dominant position.
Ramiz Brahimaj ($7,900)
After deciding to have a boxing match in his UFC debut against Max Griffin, Brahimaj got back to his roots in his sophomore effort, securing an early takedown and finding a choke in his fight with Sasha Palatnikov. I expect more of the same in this bout, as Court McGee doesn't have the footwork to keep Brahimaj at bay, and while "The Crusher" has never been submitted in 30 professional MMA bouts, Brahimaj's price allows for a substantial return on investment from a grappling-heavy decision victory.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Joseph Holmes Fight Time UNDER 12.5 Minutes and Slava Borshchev Fight Time UNDER 10 minutes
With just eight professional fights to his name, Holmes is a bit unpolished, but the 26-year-old has finished all seven of his wins in under 10 minutes. His quick hands, power, and grappling game make him a threat to end the fight wherever it goes. Jamie Pickett has been reluctant to let his hands go at times but used his length and physicality well to notch his first UFC victory over Laureano Staropoli in October. The pace at which this fight will take place, combined with suspect defense and finishing ability on both sides, makes the under an enticing play here.
Borschchev impressed in his fight on the Contender Series in October, showcasing fast hands, crisp combinations, and power. Dakota Bush will never shy away from a firefight, but will likely look to take this fight to the ground, as he has finished four of his eight professional victories via submission. Borshchev has shown issues defending shots in the past, making this something of a binary contest. Whichever fighter gets their way will likely end proceedings before the final bell, as these two men have combined to finish 11 of 13 victories.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Brian Kelleher – 2.05 x Multiplier
Kelleher gets transformed from an underdog to a favorite with an underdog multiplier, as he will face Kevin Croom after Saidyokub Kakhramonov was pulled from the bout for undisclosed reasons. It goes without saying that this will be a much easier test for Kelleher, as the last time we saw Croom, he completely exhausted himself trying to land takedowns against Alex Caceres. Croom likes to close the distance by simply walking forward and throwing shots, which should set up nicely for someone with the agility and counter-punching ability of Kelleher.
Rogerio Bontorin – 2.05 x Multiplier
Brandon Royval's lack of concern for his own well-being has always made for exciting fights, but rushing into the pocket with your chin up likely isn't the best strategy against Bontorin, who rates as one of the harder punchers in this division. Both men are credentialed grapplers, so this fight will get interesting if it hits the floor, but Bontorin should be able to use his size and power to dictate where this fight takes place.
Bets to Consider
Jake Collier wins via KO/TKO: (+400)
This price seems incredibly generous when one considers that half of Sherman's losses (4) have come via KO/TKO. My guess is that the oddsmakers saw that Collier has just one KO/TKO victory in his last 12 fights and acted accordingly. The trouble with that is "The Prototype" has spent the overwhelming majority of his career at middleweight. While he hasn't notched a finish in his three fights at heavyweight, Collier throws a tremendous amount of volume, and Sherman has a terrible habit of leaving his chin exposed during exchanges. "The Vanilla Gorilla" has shown toughness in his last two losses, but this price would be worth a look for most fights in the weight class, and one where we can identify some favorable dynamics is no exception.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Katlyn Chookagian UNDER 103.5 Strikes and Jennifer Maia UNDER 73.5 Significant Strikes
Chookagian has exceeded this strike total a few times in her UFC career, but Maia is a crisp boxer who is one of the bigger punchers in this division, which makes me think we will see "Blonde Fighter" use her movement and try to out-point her opponent from kickboxing range. Maia's lack of agility should make it difficult for her to get into the range of Chookagian, whom we have seen go for takedowns when she doesn't like how the fight is progressing.
Giga Chikadze OVER 68.5 Strikes and Calvin Kattar OVER 88.5 Strikes
Chikadze is an expert at keeping range, but he has never fought someone as active as Kattar, who has attempted more than 8.00 strikes per minute in his UFC career. It should also be noted that Kattar has landed over 100 strikes in both of his five-round fights (including a loss), and both men are tough enough that I don't see a finish materializing. I almost feel like I'm walking into a trap, but these totals are too low for me to consider going in the other direction.