The UFC moves to Moda Center in Portland, Oregon for UFC Fight Night 96. Like UFC Fight Night 95, the card isn’t chock full of interesting bouts or big names. However, there are a few intriguing matchups and strong DFS plays. One thing you might notice on DraftKings this week is a change to the rosters, as you will now need to select six fighters rather than five.
The main event is a flyweight matchup between John Dodson and John Lineker, and Vegas has Dodson installed as a slight favorite at -130. It should be the highlight of the evening and a very entertaining battle between two active and energetic combatants.
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Joshua Burkman ($8,900 vs. Zak Ottow): Burkman will now face Ottow after Bobby Greene was forced to pull out due to injury. Burkman, who fights for the third time in the lightweight division, will look to weaken Ottow with painful leg kicks and heavy punches. Burkman is also considered a top control specialist, and if he’ll be looking to get Ottow down on the mat early and often. The younger Ottow is not battle tested like Burkman, and again he is fighting on short notice. Burkman might not make quick work of Ottow, but he will come away victorious.
Ion Cutelaba ($8,700 vs. Jonathan Wilson): Cutelaba lost his UFC debut against Misha Cirkunov at UFC Fight Night June 18, falling victim to the arm triangle. It was still a respectable showing on short notice against a veteran. It did put the brakes on a seven-bout win streak, all coming via knockout, TKO or submission. That included a win in eight seconds over Malik Merad at WWFC: Cage Encounter 4 last September. Cutelaba is a powerful puncher and very athletic, an he will be looking to put Wilson away early. He is a talented prospect with a bright future despite falling to the veteran Cirkunov last time out. Look for Cutelaba to secure his first UFC victory and knockout, likely before the end of Round 2.
Louis Smolka ($9,400 vs. Brandon Moreno): Smolka enters this bout with nine finishes in 11 victories, and he’ll be up against Moreno, another fighter who steps in on short notice for the injured Sergio Pettis. It is eight days’ short notice, too, so don’t expect too much from Moreno against the heavily favored Smolka. ‘Da Last Samurai’ took apart Ben Nguyen at UFC Fight Night July 13, winning by KO/TKO by before the end of Round 2. Look for a similar fate for Moreno, who will be overwhelmed, especially if Smolka can get him down on the mat. Smolka’s go-to move is the rear-naked choke, and you can expect one before the end of Round 2.
Shamil Abdurakhimov ($7,400 vs. Walter Harris): The Dagestani-born Abdurakhimov has won one and lost one since coming up to the UFC. He is a top-notch grappler who will be tested frequently in this coin-flip bout against Harris. If Abdurakhimov and Harris go toe-to-toe it might not end well for the large Russian. However, if he can get this match down on the mat or up against the fence, raining elbows down on his opponent while avoiding his hard punches, Abdurakhimov will end up on top.
Joachim Christensen ($7,000 vs. Henrique Da Silva): Christensen makes his UFC debut fighting against Da Silva, who has just one fight under the UFC banner. This is a bout featuring two of UFC’s freshest and unknown faces looking to make a name for themselves. Da Silva does have a signature win over Ildemar Alcantara back in January, and he also pushed aside Jonathan Wilson who is on this card. Christensen is the better fighter across the board, and Da Silva’s not known for being good at takedown defense. Christensen will be looking for the submission finish in his UFC debut, and he just might get it since a majority of this fight figures to come on the ground.
Hacran Dias ($8,500 vs. Andre Fili): Dias does good work with the leg kicks, trying to tenderize his opponent. He is a very patient fighter, and sometimes that can be mistaken for a lack of aggression which lands him in disfavor if it comes down to a judge’s decision. Fili is a whirling dervish and high-energy fighter. Dias will be looking to tie him up, get Fili down to the ground and assume top position to finish him with a rear-naked choke. Dias is a better wrestler and more rounded fighter, and while this one could go to the judges, Dias is more technically sound and will get the victory. As your No. 4 fighter he is a strong DFS option.