This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
A wrestler's delight gives way to an absolutely stacked main card on Saturday's 14-fight slate. We'll cover every bout across four platforms, including an oft-overlooked underdog, and a one-time title contender looking to claw his way back to the top.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Casey O'Neill ($9,500)
O'Neill has been a goldmine for DraftKings players since her UFC debut in 2021, leaning on a relentless wrestling attack and ferocious ground-and-pound to score at least 110 points in each of her three appearances. Roxanne Modafferi has struggled with the physicality of her opponents throughout her run in the organization, as evidenced by the 25 percent takedown defense rate she holds in 13 fights. Much to the chagrin of MMA fans around the world, it seems likely that O'Neill will send "The Happy Warrior" into retirement with a whimper.
Ronnie Lawrence ($9,300)
Mana Martinez is a pressuring striker with heavy hands but tends to wait on his opponent while looking to counter, which should give Ronnie Lawrence the opportunity he needs to create grappling exchanges. Like O'Neill, Lawrence has the gas tank to break the will of his opponents, having shot for 20 takedowns between his debut and his bout on the Contender Series. Lawrence has looked hittable at times, but Martinez had his hands full grappling with Guido Cannetti, which gives me confidence that the 29-year-old will be able to control this fight on the mat.
Sergey Morozov ($9,000)
Those who witnessed the grapple-heavy attack of Morozov in his fight with Khalid Taha may take him for a submission specialist, but the 32-year-old is an incredibly well-rounded fighter, having notched eight of his 17 wins by KO/TKO. Douglas Silva de Andrade is a powerful striker who likes to leap into the pocket with big combinations, which should allow Morozov to step back and land the powerful check hooks that we saw him connect with in his debut. De Andrade has been known to slow down as fights progress, so look for Morozov to utilize his wrestling early in order to take some wind out of the veteran's sails.
Jeremiah Wells ($9,100)
Wells absolutely steamrolled Warlley Alves in his UFC debut by pushing a frantic pace and mixing a bit of grappling in with power striking. Mike Mathetha is an accomplished kickboxer who is known for his creativity but "Blood Diamond" can get wild at times, and doesn't appear to have the cardio to deal with a pressuring opponent for 15 minutes. It would hardly be surprising if Wells ran into a big counter shot closing the distance, but if he doesn't, expect the 35-year-old to grind his opponent down en route to a finish.
Jacob Malkoun ($8,000)
Malkhoun may not have a ceiling much higher than your average wrestle-boxer, but it's hard not to pick him over the powerful, wild-swinging A.J. Dobson after he was able to routinely hit reactive takedowns against another explosive striker in Abdul Razak Alhassan. There is always a chance he gets sparked out, as he did in his debut fight with Phil Hawes, but the prospect of rinse-and-repeat takedowns makes Malkoun an interesting play in the mid-range.
Kyler Phillips ($9,400)
Marcelo Rojo's pressure and physicality against Charles Jourdain gave the illusion of a competitive fight, but "Pitbull" was constantly getting tagged with hard counter shots as he would attempt to enter the pocket on straight lines. Meanwhile, Kyler Phillips has shown himself to be the total package and should be able to use his agility, combination striking, and wrestling to control the fight no matter where it takes place.
Derek Brunson ($7,100)
Jared Cannonier has made obvious improvements with regard to his lateral footwork but still cedes the center of the Octagon to pressuring opponents. Cannonier backers will no doubt take confidence from the fact that he has only been taken down once in 16 attempts over his last three fights, but this suggests that a strong wrestler like Brunson will have ample opportunity to get in on "The Killa Gorilla's" hips. While he has learned to relax and take his time, Brunson is still liable to get stung by counter shots while diving to close the distance, but the point potential here is too much to pass up.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Renato Moicano UNDER 10 Minutes of Fight Time and Derrick Lewis OVER five minutes of fight time.
Moicano has spent most of his time in the UFC as a pressuring kickboxer, but three KO/TKO losses in the span of four fights saw the BJJ black belt lean on his wrestling and grappling in a submission win over Jai Herbert. The speed and power of Alexander Hernandez will be on full display for as long as this fight is on the feet, as I expect "The Great" to either get a quick knockout or succumb to the heavy top control and ground work of Moicano before the end of the second round.
It's only natural to expect that the man with the most knockouts in UFC history would get his work done early, but Lewis' finish of Chris Daukaus was the first time he hadn't seen a second round since his win over Gabriel Gonzaga in 2016. While Tai Tuivasa is much more accustomed to earning quick paychecks, he will undoubtedly be cautious against a fighter like Lewis, who works slowly enough to pull his opponents into his type of fight.
Plays to Consider on Super Draft
Jared Vanderaa – 2.1X Multiplier
Vanderaa was likely ecstatic to learn his next bout would be against Andrei Arlovski, who hasn't completed a takedown since his bout with Shamil Abdurakhimov in 2018. While he may struggle with the speed of the UFC veteran, Vanderaa should be able to control the center of the cage and outwork his opponent over three rounds. We saw this approach on full display in his bout with a slick kickboxer in Justin Tafa, against whom Vanderaa landed 121 strikes over the course of 15 minutes.
Robert Whittaker – 2.35X Multiplier
Whittaker looked like a different fighter in his title defense against Israel Adesanya, trading his usual sharp footwork and varied striking techniques for big looping shots aimed at taking the then challenger's head off. He has righted the ship during his three-fight winning streak, and while he will need to get past the length of Adesanya, I think more emphasis on the kicking game combined with intelligent pressure will be enough to freeze "Stylebender" as he looks for counter shots.
Bobby Green – 1.8X Multiplier
Green is such a crisp, fluid striker that it's hard to believe the knockout of Al Iaquinta in November was his first in nearly nine years. He should be able to use his evasive movement and counter striking against a fighter like Nasrat Haqparast, who likes to stand on the outside and lunge into the pocket with big strikes. Green has only been knocked out once in his UFC career and I see a style like Haqparast's playing straight into "King's" hands.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Maxim Grishin OVER 59.5 Strikes and William Knight UNDER 49.5 Strikes
William Knight will be at a height and reach disadvantage just about every time he steps in the cage, but "Knightmare" should have a particularly difficult time getting inside against Maxim Grishin, to whom he will surrender five inches of height. We saw Knight struggle mightily against the 6'4" Da Un Jung, and while Grishin probably won't opt to wrestle, he should be able to tag his opponent with straight shots. Knight has opted for a grapple-heavy approach since his fight on the Contender Series, but he may be left without answers once again when facing a physically imposing fighter like "Maximus."
Carlos Ulberg UNDER 88.5 strikes and Fabio Cherant UNDER 41.5 strikes.
I see this fight ending with either an Ulberg knockout or a Cherant grappling-based decision. Neither outcome is likely to see these overs hit. We should also consider that Ulberg gassed out hard trying to finish Kennedy Nzechukwu in Round 1 of his UFC debut, and may look to pace himself. In either case, I would be surprised if we see this fight register anywhere close to the 230 strikes that were landed in Ulberg's first fight.