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UFC 218 DraftKings Picks and Preview

UFC 218 DraftKings Picks and Preview
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UFC 218 DraftKings Picks and Preview: Violence, Violence Everywhere!

It seems apt that Detroit would get one of the most violent UFC PPVs of the year. Not only does the card contain a thrilling rematch between featherweight champion Max Holloway and Jose Aldo, there are several important match-ups that could decide future title shots. The winner of Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou likely gets the next HW title shot, while Henry Cejudo gets a surging Sergio Pettis as Cejudo continues his hunt for another crack at champ Demetrious Johnson. And of course, the fight between Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez has the potential for the most violent match of the year. It’s an action-packed 13 fight card with plenty of promising prospects and intriguing match-ups that should be crowd-pleasers. It’s a privilege to give incorrect picks for such a violently-themed UFC card.

Amanda Bobby Cooper vs Angela Magana

Magana gave Cooper a hilarious nickname of Amanda Baby Pooper. That’s about all Magana’s good for these days, as she’s been a punching bag for most of her MMA career. What Magana has to offer could be described as the indiscernible ramblings of an angry old drunk hobo trying to fight a rabid dog for the last piece of meat in the garbage. Cooper actually has a recognizable piece of her MMA skill-set, and that’s her boxing skills. That’s pretty much all she needs against Magana, who was only able to land EIGHT significant strikes in 2 and half rounds against Waterson. She only got one take-down and very little control if you were wondering. Magana’s now lost 4 in a row with two of those being submission losses, and Cooper could very well make it 5 in a row with a submission victory. All Baby Pooper has to do is not get taken down and it’ll be one of her easiest victories ever. Is Cooper worth the price? Well, if she can simply box Magana up for all 3 rounds without gassing or giving up her back, then it could be a 100-150 sig demolition.

Baby Pooper via unanimous decision

Allen Crowder vs Justin Willis

It’s a battle between a fat and a really fat fat. Crowder is the fat who’s more in shape than most of the HWs in the division, while Willis looks like he could win a doughnut eating contest. That’s actually awesome cuz I love doughnuts. Anyway, Crowder will having a striking advantage against Willis, having a good sense of when to attack with a counter right or landing a stiff jab over top of incoming strikes. On the other hand, Willis does not have that same sense as Crowder, electing to swing wildly with erratic overhands and winging hooks as he beleaguers his way into a take-down. Willis is a large man with an even larger take-down offense, mostly based around the single/double leg take-downs. Crowder is clearly the more athletic HW with a competent striking base, but will be at a big size disadvantage which could result in being stuck on the ground for long stretches. I was disappointed by Willis’ last fight against Mulheron, as Willis didn’t really show much urgency in his top control. He did showcase a hefty left straight that could be the foundation for his stand-up offense. It still leaves little to the imagination, but as long as Willis stays away from Crowder’s right hand and keeps the pressure on with opportunistic take-down attempts, it should be an easy road for Willis. Will it be a road full of statistical gold mines? Probably not unless he really gets aggressive with his wrestling/ground’n’pound. Crowder seems the type to continually get back up on his feet only to get dropped down again. It’s a heavyweight fight which basically makes it a 50/50 chance for either guy. No fat-shaming here!

Willis via unanimous decision

Dominick Reyes vs Jeremy Kimball

Reyes has been a powerhouse at LHW for the duration of his short MMA career, going 7-0 with 6 total finishes (5 KO/TKO and 1 sub). Point blank, the guy has heavy hands (and feet) and has been on a tear. He just recently dismantled Joachim Christensen with an utterly dominant 1st round TKO. He’ll get a slightly tougher opponent in Jeremy Kimball, who’s long been a name some hardcore fans have known over the years. Kimball’s a scrappy but undersized LHW who really relies on making fights dirty and gritty. He wants the fight to be chaotic as possible, grabbing limbs and getting inside his opponent’s faces and mind. The problem with that is Kimball’s got a very chinny chin chin, having just recently been cracked by Marcos Rogerio De Lima in the 1st round. His other career losses have mostly came by either getting dropped and choked out, or just simply outmuscled to the mat, trying his best to squirm out of a hopeless situation. Reyes has a great knack at feeling out his opponent’s range and what he realistically can get away with, hitting fantastically timed counters from his range. Kimball likely wants to get inside Reyes’ guard and get the fight to the fence, tiring him out in the clinch with the possibility of some ground work. Unfortunately for Kimball, Reyes is on a different class than him in every category including clinch work. It should be an easy affair for Reyes as he continually clobbers Kimball with well-timed combinations and keeping himself upright. Lock him in!

Reyes via 2nd round KO

Abdul Razak Alhassan vs Sabah Homasi

Alhassan is an extremely violent, explosive striker with basically no take-down defense. That gigantic weakness was on display in his last fight, a split decision loss to Omari Akhmedov despite hurting Akhmedov several times through the rounds. He’ll get a much better stylistic match-up against Homasi, who hasn’t fought since his UFC debut loss against Tim Means over a year ago. Homasi is more of an all round guy, with nothing really out of the ordinary regarding his tools. He can put up a quick pace or try to stifle in the clinch, but he mostly leans on a big overhand right and winning the counter battle. Homasi did not fare well against the much quicker, heavy combination-based Means as he struggled to evade pressure for most of the fight. Alhassan doesn’t generate as much pressure as Means, but he’s got infinitely more power and knows how to cut the corner. Simply put, if Homasi wants to get the win and not get knocked out cold, he’ll have to get the fight to the ground ASAP before Alhassan gets warmed up. I’m going with the much more athletic Alhassan who should be by far the more complete striker. I’d maybe put a team or two with Homasi if he’s able to grind his way to a win like Akhmedov did, but his limitations are quite apparent on film.

Alhassan via 1st round TKO

Cortney Casey vs Felice Herrig

This is an interesting fight, as both women are on the rise of their respective careers, with Herrig riding a 3 fight win streak and Casey winning 3 out of her last 4. It could be said Casey had the tougher road, having faced Gadelha, Markos, and even Aguilar in the last 4 fights. Herrig has improved on her striking immensely, which has allowed her jiu-jitsu to shine as a secondary weapon. Casey will have a height and reach advantage on Herrig (3 inches height, 2 inch reach) which will play a major role in the stand-up battle. Casey’s a high volume striker who struggles at times at deciphering either fighter’s range, often times putting herself in precarious situations despite her lanky frame. Herrig isn’t exactly a world class boxer nor an accomplished counter-striker, but she’s been holding her own against what appeared to be better strikers on paper. Herrig sits on a surprisingly effective straight-right counter, while mixing in some well-timed take-downs and head-arm throws. Casey’s very limber on the ground thanks in part to her long limbs, making keeping Casey on the ground for long a difficult task for many. That likely means it’ll mostly be a stand-up battle, and I have to favor Casey in that regard. She’s got the volume and length to really bother Herrig continuously, plus there’s some cardio questions for Herrig in the later rounds. It very well could be an 80+ sig performance for both women in a highly entertaining brawl. Maybe Herrig controls the fight from the ground, where she has a decided advantage if she’s able to maintain top control.

Casey via unanimous decision

David Teymur vs Drakkar Klose

Whew, this has violence written all over it. Teymur’s already an accomplished kick-boxer with several KO victories in his short UFC career. Klose has had a good start to his career as well, going 2-0 with an important win over British phenom Mark Diakiase. They’re both heavy-handed with a penchant for a frenzied pace and little to no care for the other’s counter-attacks. Klose is the much better wrestler but generally prefers to stand and bang, pushing his opponents up the fence and putting down the hammer through overhands and close elbows. Teymur is the more technical striker, hitting tight combinations while readjusting himself for a follow-up counter. Klose has the tools to keep the fight within his means to win, fighting in the clinch and giving little space for Teymur. The problem with that strategy is Klose likes getting hit way too much for my liking. Against Diakiase, he was basically taunting Diakiase every time he got hit HARD by anything, mocking Diakiese’s inability to put him away. What a crazy man. Teymur has the stopping power to put that taunting to rest, which is why I’m picking him as the more technical, savvy striker who should be able to evade Klose’s clinch-up attempts. Will it be a finish? Hmm, that’s a tough one considering Klose does have a mighty strong chin on him. Should still be a high output for Teymur regardless, but maybe temper your expectations.

Teymur via unanimous decision

Alex Oliveira vs Yancy Medeiros

Hey, Fancy Yancy’s back! Medeiros’ on a nice little 2 fight win streak after struggling against some opponents in what can only be described as brutal beat-downs. Oliveira is a mix of lanky, awkward but aggression one-hit striking and big, strong take-down offense to allow him to grab a back-take for potential submissions. Medeiros has struggled mightily at keeping anyone at bay from hitting him multiple times (and I do mean MULTIPLE TIMES), showcasing the defensive capabilities of a blind squirrel in the middle of winter. That’s one of the main reasons why Oliveira is a big favorite, even though Medeiros won’t be an easy man to take down much less get anything going on the ground. Medeiros is a Gracie BJJ guy, having trained with the Diazes and is even Max Holloway’s training partner, so his ground skills are quite formidable. That doesn’t mean Oliveira still won’t take his chances with his patented body-lock take-downs, even if it doesn’t yield the results the Cowboy seeks. I think it’ll be a much more competitive fight than the odds say, but Oliveira’s versatility and ability to match Medeiros’ own awkward striking with his own should give him the edge. I would suggest hedging this fight as Medeiros could very well sneak in a guillotine over an Oliveira take-down for the win, but the pace and volume should still warrant playing either man regardless of the odds.

Oliveira via 3rd round TKO

Charles Oliveira vs Paul Felder

Tough match-up for either fighter, as they’re on different spectrums of MMA skill-sets. Charles Oliveira is a deadly BJJ savant who has sometimes shot himself in the foot trying to be a striker when he shouldn’t. Felder’s a pure technical striker with the feet movement and striking arsenal of an elite kick-boxer, but struggles at creating pressure and can be inactive at inopportune times. The keys to victories are clear for either fighter – Oliveira needs to get it to the ground or risk getting knocked out, and Felder needs to stay upright or risk passing out on a choke. Oliveira’s very persistent with his take-down attempts, as predictable and dismal they may be. It’s really his only way to win against an infinitely better striker, but Felder’s shown in the past he can hold his own against weak, predictable take-downs. His strong and wide base helps Felder maintain possession of his opponent with underhooks and wrist control. The volatility of Oliveira’s skill-set will always keep him as an active underdog to own no matter the match-up, but it should be a simple win for Felder if he keeps Do Bronx at bay.  Oliveira is an all-or-nothing fighter while Felder doesn’t need to rush himself in order to gain the upper hand. Good chance for a KO for Felder if Oliveira ends up going for broke, but I’ll stick with a decision.

Felder via unanimous decision

Michelle Waterson vs Tecia Torres

This might end up being an ugly fight depending on what Torres decides to do. Torres’ been a decision machine and generally forces her opponents to slow down their attacks. Torres’ got a well-balanced attack of range striking and level changes with stifling top control. In fact, Torres recently got her very first finish of her career in a submission victory over Juliana Lima. She’ll get a tough opponent in Michelle Waterson, coming off a surprising submission loss to now champion Rose Namajunas. Waterson’s a Karate-based striker, using a wide base with a plethora of high-arcing kicks and mainly straight-counters. Torres doesn’t care about acrobatic or high-flying attacks, as she stands her ground with an excellent boxing base. She’ll jab and prod her away around Waterson’s offense, keeping out of harm’s way for most of the fight. It’s what she does and excels at, which should force Waterson to get out of her comfort zone and start blitzing Torres. That’s where Torres’ single and double-leg take-downs comes into play, and that’s going to be how the fight ends. A Torres clinic of top control and frustrating defensive boxing lies in wait for Waterson, unless the “Karate Hottie” can muster up some Bruce Lee-like strikes and blows Torres off her feet. Unlikely.

Torres via unanimous decision

Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

Alvarez has already anointed the match-up as the battle for the Most Violent Man title, and I completely agree with that barbarian. Honestly, it’s so difficult to put into words what goes inside Justin Gaethje’s head, as he’s just ridiculous with the amount of violence he’s able to both withstand and deliver. Look, what this boils down to is whoever can outlast the other in a classic fight of fisticuffs. Alvarez has the much better boxing background with more experience but has a wonky chin and a bad habit of eating counter-lefts. Gaethje actually is the better overall wrestler, but only really relies on his wrestling base for defensive reasons. He wants one thing and one thing only – brawl his way to a knock-out. Gaethje rejects any and all striking defensive philosophies in favor of pure, unadulterated offense via his mighty fists of doom. Gaethje will get wrecked, battered, broken down in half, only to mount a massive comeback of epic proportions with a furious rally towards the end of the round for a KO win. That’s what happened against Michael Johnson, and it very well could happen again vs Alvarez. I have no other strategical analysis or advice for you, as they’re both just going to duke it out. Last man standing wins. Your choice.

Alvarez via 1st round KO

Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis

Cejudo arguably could be the 2nd best flyweight in the division, and his win over Reis may have solidified that opinion. He completely trucked over Wilson Reis in what was probably Reis’ most embarrassing loss as Cejudo simply man-handled him everywhere in a 2nd round KO win. Cejudo will get a surging Sergio Pettis that’s finally figuring out the sometimes pesky puzzle that is MMA. He’s now won 4 in a row over some legitimate names like John Moraga and Brandon Moreno. Pettis’ ability to keep himself off the ground and create intuitive strikes with his oxen-like legs have been his biggest catalysts in his wins. Cejudo is on an entirely different level than Pettis though, being a world-class wrestler that’s competed in the Olympics. Not only that, Cejudo’s striking has continued to improve dramatically over the past year. Many may even argue that he should have won against Joseph Benavidez in his split decision loss. That was a great litmus test for Cejudo’s striking, as he was right there blow by blow against one of the better strikers in the division. That leaves Pettis between a rock and a hard place, as he’s not going to have a size advantage, wrestling edge, and might just be about even in the striking department. It’ll likely come down to whether or not Pettis can thrive behind his long-range counter-striking and doesn’t get bowled over by Cejudo’s up-tempo pace and aggressive take-down offense. Cejudo is just simply in a different class compared to Pettis, but it’ll be a good learning experience for an already young at 24 years old Pettis.

Cejudo via unanimous decision

Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou

A heavyweight fight! A fight where one punch will decide each other’s fate! Both guys are huge heavyweights with massive reaches an even massiver (yeah that is a word) knockout power. Overeem is what he is, a crafty toolbox fighter that utilizes his speed and countering ability to the fullest. He’ll pick and choose between the ample choices of tools at his disposal, read the situation and decide what to do in a split second. It’s what allowed him to gain a title shot, in what was almost a victory for Reem before it was snatched away from him in a cloud of stupidity. Reem is a master of octagon control and footwork, with calculated attacks from awkward angles off stance-switching. One thing has always kept Overeem from being a truly historically great heavyweight is his ever-crumbling chin, which almost cost him his last fight against Werdum when he got nearly knocked out in the 3rd round. That chin will absolutely get tested against a behemoth of a man in Ngannou, winner of 5 straight thus far in the UFC with 4 KO/TKO victory and a sub. That includes 3 straight 1st round finishes as well. Ngannou has a freakish combination of power and athleticism that no one has seen, sort of like how Bo Jackson was during his hey-day. That’s not to say Ngannou is some sort of wizard on the feet, but he’s definitely starting to steer in that direction. His hand-speed is phenomenal for someone of his size, and he’s starting to learn the quirks of MMA such as grappling exchanges and foot placement. The same kind of quirks that Overeem has made a living on. Ngannou has the reach and power to obliterate Overeem, provided he doesn’t rush himself and gets lulled into an Overeem trap. In my opinion, I think Reem has to get the fight to the ground and take advantage of Ngannou’s inexperience there. If he’s unable to do that, it’s just a matter of time before one of those meaty fists from Ngannou cracks Reem for the KO victory. May the best pec win.

Ngannou via 2nd round KO

Jose Aldo vs Max Holloway

Holloway was supposed to fight Frankie Edgar before an orbital injury forced Edgar to bow out 3 weeks prior to the fight. Jose Aldo happily obliged to the rematch, frothing at the mouth for the chance to reclaim his belt back. It shouldn’t be a typical short notice fight for Aldo as he had been training for a fight beforehand already, so there won’t be any “short camp” issues in theory. Holloway was caught off guard by Aldo’s precision striking and great footwork in the 1st fight, getting cracked early by counter-punches that very well could have put away half of the featherweight division. That didn’t matter to Holloway, as he was able to ramp up the pace and volume, eventually gassing out Aldo and piecing him up with constant barrages of 1-2 combinations. Holloway was able to take advantage of Aldo’s biggest weakness in his lack of consistent cardio. That may well happen again in the rematch, but there’s going to be one element of surprise that could work in Aldo’s favor. It’s the possibility of more leg kicks from Aldo.

There were rumors of Aldo being injured before the fight and unable to realistically land his patented hard leg strikes that’s shattered even the staunchest of bases. Are they true? I dunno, but it was inexplicable that such a big part of past Aldo fights had involved the low leg kicks went missing in the 1st fight. Whatever the case may be, if Aldo does add that into the game-plan, then that could be his answer in slowing down Holloway’s frenzied pace and forward pressure. Even with the possible emergence of the leg kicks, I think Holloway knows too much about Aldo’s tendencies and exit strategies. He was able to trap Aldo over and over, attacking his body and leveraging his way inside Aldo’s space while in the pocket. That’s something no one had really been able to do against Aldo in his career.

It’s a big reason why Holloway’s a large favorite, but don’t sleep on Aldo making it a 5 round battle all way to the very last second. Aldo’s determined to prove that he’s the real champ and seems at 100% finally for once, making him a very, very intriguing option at his discount price. He should hit value through significant strikes even in a loss, provided his cardio doesn’t betray him again. It’ll be Holloway’s heavy combination work and pace versus the technical counter-striking and movement of Aldo’s. This is truly worth the rematch between two of the top tier featherweights.

Holloway via unanimous decision