UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega – 9.25.2021 – Staff Predictions, Picks, and DFS Analysis (FREE)

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Hello Daily Play Action! Welcome to our collaborative coverage of UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega. The UFC is delivering with a card stacked top to bottom today. We have two championship belts on the line and a rematch 17 years in the making between Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler. Our analysis includes a pick for every bout from Anthony Marro, Nicholas Marro and GB. We also feature write-ups that will provide consideration for building lineups on both FanDuel and DraftKings.

When building your lineups here are a few things to consider. Pricing differs for most fighters making some better value on one site over the other. Scoring is important as well. On FanDuel a first-round finish scores 5x the points as a decision, where on DraftKings it scores 3x as many. Grappling is also scored drastically different as FanDuel awards points for takedown defense and submission attempts. DraftKings neglects those two stats and instead values control time and reversals. This new year, DraftKings has also added a quick win bonus for victories in the first minute as well as scoring for non-significant strikes. Lastly, you will only want to take two fighters from the same fight if you think it goes into the late rounds and expect both to reach value. Optimal GPP builds very rarely stack the same fight but it can be a viable strategy in cash games.

As coverage continues, we will keep our Daily Play Action records up to date. Be sure to check out our reasoning though as records will not reflect confidence, we will be picking all fights regardless of if we are betting on them. I highly recommend using Bovada for their user-friendly format and awesome deposit bonuses if you want to bet on any of these picks.

Lastly, if you are in search of even more combat sports content be sure to visit RingwormMMA.com! This site is dedicated to providing MMA, boxing and gambling content to fight fans around the world.

Current Record

  • Anthony: 204-149-4 (Last Year 223-145-6)
  • Nick: 207-146-4 (Last Year 235-133-6)
  • GB: 195-158-4 (Last Year 216-152-6)

Fight odds are as listed from Bovada and last updated 9:15 AM EST 9-25-2021

Early Prelims- Start 6:00pm EST

Omar Morales -155 (DK $8500, FD $17) vs Jonathan Pearce +130 (DK $7700, FD $13)

  • Anthony: The card opens today with a fun matchup at featherweight between Omar Morales and Jonathan Pearce. This is a classic striker vs. grappler affair as Jonathan Pearce will be working to bring this fight to the mat. In his two previous victories he successfully landed a total of nine takedowns. He poses a small threat on the feet as well but Morales is the more technically refined striker here. Each of Morales UFC performances have impressed me and his sole career loss to Giga Chikadze has aged like a fine wine. His takedown defense should hold serve here and I expect we see Morales fight the much cleaner bout of these two. He has excellent jiu jitsu in his back pocket if things every do get brought down onto the ground. Pearce is certainly a live dog here but I think Morales deserves to be an even larger favorite than where the odds currently stand. It will be a hard-fought contest but I see the Venezuelan getting his hand raised. Omar Morales by Decision
  • Nick: We have a fun matchup here between two explosive featherweights. Omar Morales is coming off a quality decision win over Shane Young. He showed off a very well-rounded game and beat an impressive kickboxer in that one. Morales is an effective striker that does a good job mixing kicks into his combinations. He trains out of an excellent camp in Sanford MMA. He hasn’t won a fight via submission since 2016, but as a BJJ blackbelt he’s more than capable of advancing position and getting back to his feet if this fight does hit the mat. Jonathan Pearce is coming off a nice win in which he mixed in his grappling and finished Kai Kamaka. He pushes a serious pace and throws a lot of volume as a striker. He likes to mix in his grappling, but Morales has a solid 87 percent takedown defense. While it wouldn’t shock me if Pearce is better than his resume projects, I expect Morales have an advantage no matter where this one goes. Pearce is likely to outpace him in terms of volume, but Morales is the more powerful and accurate striker. Pearce may have the better and more effective takedown entries, but Morales is the far more dangerous BJJ player if this fight hits the mat. Omar Morales by Decision
  • GB: Omar Morales by Decision

Matthew Semelsberger -550 (DK $9400, FD $22) vs Martin Sano +380 (DK $6800, FD $8)

  • Anthony: Next up is a strange welterweight bout between Martin Sano and Matthew Semelsberger. Sano has not won a fight since 2014 and is really only on this card as he is the primary training partner for Nick Diaz. His last time in the cage was a bout he drew in Bellator over four years ago. Semelsberger has had a solid start to his UFC career but has yet to do anything to warrant being such a large favorite. He boasts heavy hands and the ability to take down opponents but not much else has really impressed me. With all the questions surrounding this bout I recommend leaving Semelsberger out of your parlays today. The former Marist football player could always get caught in a submission against an opponent more well versed than he is in jiu jitsu. My gut says Sano at least survives a few rounds here but I do not want any action on this one. Matthew Semelsberger by Decision
  • Nick: Semelsberger has impressive footwork and he does a better job switching stances than most fighters at his level of experience. He’s coming off a hard-fought loss to Khaos Williams, and prior to that boasted five straight wins albeit against a low level of competition. Sano likely wouldn’t be on this card (or even in the UFC) if Nick Diaz was not fighting this weekend. The narrative this week is that part of Nick’s contract to return included placement of Sano on his PPV card. Semelsberger is very aggressive and does a good job forcing his opponents to keep up with his pace. Unless Martin Sano made some dramatic improvements in his years away from competition, he should be outmatched considerably. Sano has decent BJJ, but he’s far from athletic and his striking seems very slow and predictable. Matthew Semelsberger by Round One KO
  • GB: Matthew Semelsberger by Round Two KO

Nick Maximov -120 (DK $8000, FD $18) vs Cody Brundage +100 (DK $7700, FD $12)

  • Anthony: This should be an interesting middleweight bout between Cody Brundage and Nick Maximov. Originally it was slated to be Karl Roberson facing Maximov in his debut but the late change of opponent was made official on Wednesday. Maximov is a student of Nick Diaz Academy in Stockton, hence his place on this card. He is a very talented grappler who was 5-0 as an amateur and now 6-0 as a pro. While he looked solid against Oscar Cota in his last appearance, he was unable to completely dominate on the mat due to a 55-pound weight disadvantage. Middleweight is the far more appropriate division for him and he looked solid on the scales yesterday. Maximov is a BJJ brown belt with an impressive high school wrestling pedigree. He has been honing his skills at Submission Underground events and I see him submitting most of the strikers he gets matched up with moving forward. Brundage poses a greater threat in scrambles than Roberson would have but I am sticking with Maximov regardless. Brundage’s willingness to get into grappling exchanges could be to his detriment here. Getting a similar price tag to the Roberson matchup seems more than fair as Brundage is less experienced and stepping in the cage with little to no time to prepare. Nick Maximov by Round Two Submission
  • Nick: Cody Brundage is taking this fight on less than a week’s notice, as Maximov’s original opponent Karl Roberson was forced to pull out due to injury. Brundage is a highly regarded prospect who was booked to compete on Dana White’s Contender Series, but he’s jumping right on to the roster here by doing the UFC a favor and taking this fight. Maximov is a product of the Nick Diaz Academy. He’s an extremely strong grappler with a seemingly infinite arsenal of submissions at his disposal. We really haven’t seen him tested much against a high level of competition, but all signs seem to indicate he could be a staple of the middleweight roster for years to come. Brundage poses an interesting test for Maximov here as he’s a decent grappler in his own right. He has a powerful wrestling base and does a good job pouring damage on his opponents if he can find himself in top position. That being said, he doesn’t really have the dangerous offensive grappling game that Maximov does. This fight will be close when it’s standing, but I see Maximov finding a finish if and when this one hits the mat. I don’t want to overinvest here as Maximov is still developing, but he’s the rightful favorite. Nick Maximov by Round One Submission
  • GB: Nick Maximov by Round Two Submission

Uros Medic -125 (DK $8400, FD $15) vs Jalin Turner +105 (DK $7800, FD $15)

  • Anthony: Closing out the early prelims is an exciting lightweight bout between Uros Medic and Jalin Turner. As indicated by the odds this is close to a coin flip as the undefeated Medic fights for the second time the year. His wins on Dana White’s Contender Series and in his UFC debut were both extremely impressive first round finishes. In fact, all of his victories have come by finish in the first round aside from one win in the early second. He is a high-level striker that fans are very excited about, but I do have concerns over his level of competition thus far. Medic is going to be my selection here largely due to the fact Turner’s resume is even less impressive. He is a salty 10-5 with his most recent wins coming over Brok Weaver and a featherweight Joshua Culibao. While he should have some success at range here, I largely see Turner being on his heels against a pressuring Medic. These are two potent finishers, but I think the step up for both makes me actually lean to the over here. The winner will score well regardless of outcome though so feel free to play either in your DFS builds where they may fit. Uros Medic by Decision
  • Nick: Medic is coming off impressive wins over two highly regarded prospects in Mikey Gonzalez and Aalon Cruz. However outside of those two wins, there’s no denying that Medic’s record appears padded – as the only other promotion he’s fought in prior to the UFC was Alaska FC. In spite of his spotty resume, Medic is a skilled striker who is clearly gifted in terms of his technical abilities. He throws meaningful shots and pushes a serious pace but doesn’t over-exert himself or get stuck in questionable positions. He should be able to close the distance against Turner here, even as he fights at a six-inch reach disadvantage.Jalin Turner is coming off back-to-back wins over Brok Weaver and Joshua Culibao, but this is the first time he’ll be fighting in 2021. He’s a well-rounded fighter whose greatest strength is his surprisingly long reach and length for the division. He does an excellent job using his length to keep opponents at a distance. He has enough power in his shots to end a fight early, but it’s mostly the volume with his jab that makes him so effective. Eight of Turner’s nine victories have come by way of finish. On the contrary, he’s also fallen by KO in three of his five professional losses. I definitely want shares of both sides to this fight as both of these guys are live for an early knockout. However, I have to back the durability of Medic here. This should be a fire fight early and Medic’s chin should win out. It’s also notable that Medic is managed by Ali Abdelaziz, a manager who usually only backs fighters with serious upside. Since we haven’t seen much from Medic be careful about overinvesting in him, but I feel like the hype is real. Uros Medic by Round Two KO
  • GB: Uros Medic by Decision

Preliminary Card- Starts 8:00pm EST

Taila Santos -500 (DK $9300, FD $21) vs Roxanne Modafferi +350 (DK $6900, FD $9)

  • Anthony: The preliminary card begins with a women’s flyweight bout between Taila Santos and Roxanne Modafferi. After a decent start to her UFC career, Santos will be taking on the division’s true gatekeeper here. Modafferi is not the most intimidating of opponents but she has found a way to cash as a huge underdog in spots like this before. She has exceptional grappling but really is at a disadvantage in most other aspects of mixed martial arts. Her experience usually helps her maneuver fights successfully but some opponents can just dominate on talent alone. Santos is a solid prospect with power, strong hips and above average striking. Her resume is not all that impressive with most of her early career wins coming against soft competition in Brazil. Santos probably takes this one but if Modafferi can make things ugly she certainly has a chance at winning. I will sprinkle a few dollars on her as the underdog but this is purely a value play. Hopefully rounds two and three will be competitive with some exchanges on the mat. Roxanne Modafferi by Decision
  • Nick: Modafferi does a good job using her size and strength to control position, but her offensive grappling does leave a lot to be desired. Even when she wins grappling exchanges, she doesn’t usually do enough damage to slow down her opponent. Roxanne is tough and will keep coming forward, but she’s nowhere near the level of striker that Santos is. Santos is coming off two impressive wins over Molly McCann and Gillian Robertson. Santos is the crisper and more advanced striker here. Much of Santos’ impressive record has come against a comically bad level of competition though. It wasn’t until recently that she began getting taken seriously as a contender in this division, and this spot against Modafferi should serve as the perfect barometer for the trajectory of her career moving forward. The line has gotten out of hand, but Santos is the rightful favorite here. It really wouldn’t shock me if Modafferi made this ugly and pulled off an upset, but Santos is just on a different level in terms of power and athletic ability. The uglier this fight is, the better Modafferi’s chances will be to pull off the upset. Modafferi is way too cheap so I’ll have some shares for DFS, but I’m backing Santos in this spot. Talia Santos by Decision
  • GB: Roxanne Modafferi by Decision

Chris Daukaus -220 (DK $8800, FD $19) vs Shamil Abdurakhimov +175 (DK $7400, FD $11)

  • Anthony: Action heats up in the heavyweight division next as Christ Daukaus takes on Shamil Abdurakhimov. Daukaus has been an easy pick in his three UFC bouts thus far but now gets a very tough opponent ranked inside of the division’s top ten. However, I see Abdurakhimov really struggling to keep up with Daukaus on the feet. While the hand speed and pressure of Daukaus overwhelms opponents as is, fighting him off a two-year layoff will not go well. Abdurakhimov will have trouble finding his timing early in this bout and I see him eating numerous clean shots before he ever gets going. Abdurakhimov will be looking to take this fight to the mat and wear on Daukaus. It is a solid strategy as Daukaus has historically struggled when opponents can survive his early frenzy. I just trust the BJJ brown belt to threaten submissions and find his way upright if he ever does get brought to the mat. Daukaus just recently quit working as a police officer to finally train MMA full time. He is leveling up quickly and I see him getting another early finish here. Be sure to wish him a Happy Birthday today if he does. Chris Daukaus by Round One KO
  • Nick: Daukaus has fast hands for a heavyweight. He’s a bit undersized for the division, but he’s been continuously adding bulk and muscle and it seems that he’s only going to continue to build into this frame. Daukaus is going to have an athleticism advantage here. He’s far from a physical specimen, but he’s already in much better shape than he was when he made his UFC debut and his speed can definitely be weaponized here against an aging opponent. Abdurakhimov is primarily a wrestler. He’s a very strong grappler with powerful hips. He shows solid cardio for a heavy weight but there are questions surrounding his form as we haven’t seen him fight since 2019. He has a path to victory if he can lean on his grappling to slow things down and make this ugly, but Daukaus has underrated BJJ so he should be able to lean on that part of his game to get back to his feet if needed. Abdurakhimov has been KO’d in each of his last three losses. I expect Daukaus’ surprising speed and athleticism to overwhelm Abdurakhimov in this spot. Chris Daukaus by Round One KO
  • GB: Chris Daukaus by Round One KO

Dan Hooker -165 (DK $8700, FD $17) vs Nasrat Haqparast +135 (DK $7500, FD $14)

  • Anthony: This fight should produce fireworks at lightweight as Dan Hooker does battle with Nasrat Haqparast. We have finally arrived at fight day after a hectic week for both fighters. This fight nearly fell apart as both men struggled to have their travel visas approved, but each managed to get clearance and arrive in Vegas just two days ago. Hooker had a long flight from New Zealand while Haqparast returns from Germany after the funeral of his mother. While this whole situation makes it a sketchy fight to bet, I really like Hooker in this spot. His striking is phenomenal and if Dustin Poirier struggled to keep up with him on the feet I do not see an unranked Haqparast fairing well. Hooker has a significant advantage at range and I see him finding success kickboxing here. Haqparast is also a good striker with much better defense than Hooker. He will likely opt to counterstrike the more aggressive fighter but I feel his openings will be few and far between. It would be a surprise to see things hit the ground here but Hooker also poses a submission threat to opponents on the mat. I love the value on him in this spot coming off consecutive losses. If he fails to find a finish, volume and damage should get him the nod from at least two judges. I see the pressure eventually getting to the younger prospect here. It seems too drastic a step up in competition. Dan Hooker by Round Two KO
  • Nick: Both of these fighters had visa issues in the weeks leading up to this fight. They each arrived in the USA just two days ago, but they both made weight so there’s really no reason to expect either will be significantly compromised here. Hooker is an extremely talented kickboxer. He has powerful leg kicks that he combines with high volume and speed. He’s a master of angles and does a great job finding openings against a wide range of opponents. Hooker has a near even striking differential. This means that as technically impressive as he can be offensively, defense is rarely a priority for him. Hooker is coming off back-to-back losses, but they came against an extremely high level of competition in Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier. Haqparast fell via KO to Drew Dober back in early 2020, but he has since secured back-to-back decision wins over Alex Munoz and Rafa Garcia. This represents a massive step up in competition for him here, but he does seem to be a prospect on the rise by most accounts. He is a technical striker who puts on a nice pace and impressive volume. While Haqparast may develop into the better fighter down the road, at this point in their respective careers I have to go with Hooker. Dan Hooker by Decision
  • GB: Dan Hooker by Round Three KO

Merab Dvalishvili -265 (DK $8900, FD $19) vs Marlon Moraes +210 (DK $7300, FD $12)

  • Anthony: The featured prelim is a bantamweight bout between Merab Dvalishvili and Marlon Moraes. This matchup has huge implications for the division as the rising star Merab looks to take the place of one of the bantamweight staples. Moraes is always a threat to mess up his opponents early in bouts with his power and unpredictability. His best performances include finishing Jimmie Rivera and champion Aljamain Sterling both by knockout in under two minutes. Unfortunately, he has been on the losing side of first round finishes in his two most recent fights. Dvalishvili is not a real power threat on the feet but instead a high-volume wrestler that likes to break his opponents on the mat. He is going to be the bigger and stronger fighter here and I see him implementing his game plan effectively as long as he can survive the first round. The UFC is giving him an interesting puzzle to solve but I think Ray Longo and Matt Serra have him ready for this step up in competition. It is tough to pay up for Dvalishvili here as Moraes could stuff takedowns for a full five minutes, I just feel eventually Merab starts chaining his wrestling together. Ideally this is a fight he lands ten takedowns and wins convincingly on the judge’s scorecards. The odds are a bit wide but I am confident he gets his hand raised here. Merab Dvalishvili by Decision
  • Nick: Merab Dvalishvili might be the best pure wrestler on the roster at bantamweight. He has shown an ability to score takedowns from a wide range of positions, as he’s set several UFC records for most takedowns in a fight. Dvalishvili averages more than 7 takedowns per fifteen minutes. He almost always leans on his grappling to control position so most of his wins come via decision. Moraes has a decent 66 percent takedown defense, but it’s tough to imagine he’ll be able to keep this fight standing consistently. The key to this match-up will be how much damage he can put on Dvalishvili early. Moraes is going to be the much better striker in this match-up. He’s going to have an advantage when this fight is contested at range, Marlon Moraes is coming off two ugly KO losses, but the chances of Merab knocking him out are slim to none as his striking is fairly elementary and he really doesn’t carry KO power. Dvalishvili’s takedown heavy game-plan should help him score well here for DFS, but I feel like Moraes is very live for the upset. This should be a fun scrap regardless, but I’m going to take a stab at the underdog here. This is the toughest opponent Dvalishvili has ever seen, and Moraes has been training his takedown defense incessantly for this camp. This is a low confidence pick and I’m very concerned about Moraes’ cardio if he can’t end this early. However, I think he lands his shot. Marlon Moraes by Round One KO
  • GB: Merab Dvalishvili by Decision

Main Card- Starts 10:00pm EST

Jessica Andrade -240 (DK $9000, FD $20) vs Cynthia Calvillo +190 (DK $7200, FD $10)

  • Anthony: The main card opens with what may be a flyweight title eliminator as Jessica Andrade faces Cynthia Calvillo. Andrade is coming off a loss to champion Valentina Shevchenko in April. It is hard to imagine her getting a rematch anytime soon, but she seems to be a level above most of the other female fighters on the roster. Her losses are only against the absolute best and Andrade usually dominates fights against any fighter yet to touch UFC gold. Calvillo’s championship aspirations took a hit in her last bout as Katlyn Chookagian was able to beat her by decision. It is usually a wrestling heavy gameplan from Calvillo but I do not see her finding success grappling Andrade here. There is a distinct advantage in power for Andrade who has finishes in the promotion’s bantamweight division. I see her outmuscling Calvillo and landing the far more powerful strikes on the feet. This betting line is right where it should be and I think Andrade is a rather safe pick. She should bounce back here. The high likelihood of a finish makes her an appealing DFS play but there are other pay up options I plan to focus on rostering first. Jessica Andrade by Decision
  • Nick: Jessica Andrade will be the more powerful striker in this one. Her only recent losses have come against champions or former champions, all of whom are amongst the best strikers in women’s MMA history. I don’t think Calvillo will be able to score takedowns on the shorter and stronger Andrade here. When this fight is on the feet, she’ll likely be in trouble as soon as Andrade manages to close the distance. Calvillo finds the majority of her success executing a grappling heavy game plan against smaller and weaker opponents. It wouldn’t shock me if she managed to ground Andrade early here, but I don’t expect she’ll be able to keep her down if she does. Ultimately, Andrade’s striking advantages are much greater than Calvillo’s grappling. Andrade is the clear pick in this one. Jessica Andrade by Round Two KO
  • GB: Jessica Andrade by Decision

Curtis Blaydes -335 (DK $9200, FD $21) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik +255 (DK $7000, FD $11)

  • Anthony: Next is an interesting heavyweight fight between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Curtis Blaydes. These are two elite fighters at the top of the division with entirely different styles. Rozenstruik is a refined kickboxer with staggering power. He often looks to counterstrike with opponents as he hunts the perfect shot, but I loved the aggression we saw out of him for a change versus Augusto Sakai in his last time out. Blaydes is conversely a wrestler who looks to ground and wear on his opponents, a very effective strategy at heavyweight. It will be interesting to see how Rozenstruik’s 80 percent takedown defense holds up against Blaydes’ 6.6 takedowns per fifteen minutes. We have yet to see Rozenstruik flat on his back but the betting line implies Blaydes smothers him here. Both men need a win to stay on the cusp of title contention but Blaydes is under much more pressure. This is the final fight on his contract and I could perhaps see some sour negotiations with the UFC if he loses two fights back-to-back. I’ve been torn on this pick all week. It is hard to imagine Blaydes getting caught by something again here but I think there is too much value on Rozenstruik to ignore. I will get plenty of exposure to Blaydes in DFS this week but am ultimately backing Suriname’s Rozenstruik as the sizeable underdog. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by Round Two KO
  • Nick: Blaydes is primarily a wrestler and one of the best heavyweights in the world in terms of grappling ability. He has excellent takedown entries and averages more takedowns per minute than any other heavyweight in UFC history. Blaydes says he’s been working more on conditioning leading into this fight. I expect him to lean on his grappling to wear on Rozenstruik here, as the one path to victory for Jairzinho is by knockout. Rozenstruik is well-rounded, but he’s most content fighting on the feet. He doesn’t throw much volume, but he is an extremely skilled counter-striker who has shown on several occasions that he has enough power to end any fight with a single punch. While he throws well off his back foot, he sometimes lets fights get away from him as he never pushes much of a pace. He throws powerful high kicks on occasion, but he uses low kicks frequently to keep his opponents at range. Blaydes is coming off a brutal KO loss to Derrick Lewis. I feel that he’ll be forced to learn from the mistakes he made here and fight a safe and conservative gameplan. Curtis Blaydes by Decision
  • GB: Jairzinho Rozenstruik by Round Three KO

Robbie Lawler -165 (DK $8300, FD $16) vs Nick Diaz +135 (DK $7900, FD $14)

  • Anthony: The real main event tonight is a five round middleweight bout between Robbie Lawler and the returning Nick Diaz. Having last fought in January 2015, Nick Diaz is a pioneer of mixed martial arts and a true legend of the sport. There is a large library of fights showing just how exciting he has been since the early days of WEC, Strikeforce and the UFC. Partial blame for his long hiatus rests with the Nevada State Athletic Commission who attempted to ban Diaz for life after multiple failed tests for marijuana metabolites. His return comes just a few months after the NSAC decided they will no longer punish athletes for cannabis use. I expect the same high pressure, boxing heavy approach from Diaz that fans have come to love. There are a lot of questions surrounding the 38-year-old’s return, but this seems like a fair matchup against an even older Lawler. These two fought once already in 2004, a bout Diaz won by knockout in the second round. I expect a more measured fight from both but a stand-up war still seems inevitable. Diaz is a third-degree black belt and if things do ever hit the mat, his advantage should be significant. His gogoplata submission of Takanori Gomi is perhaps the greatest of all time. The former champion Lawler has lost four consecutive bouts and his skills seem to be in a sharp decline. I’d probably pick Diaz here regardless of opponent but I truly believe this is a winnable fight in his return. With all the questions surrounding this one I’d advise you not to bet either side heavily. While the action may start slow here, I see Diaz easing into the fight and finding his striking rhythm in the later rounds. Nick Diaz by Round Four KO
  • Nick: I’m likely carrying some bias here as Nick Diaz is one of my favorite fighters of all time. He’s one of the reasons I became interested in the sport and his kill or be killed style and well-rounded game has always been something I’ve admired. Some of my earliest memories of the sport are Diaz’s early UFC fights, and I followed his career as a fan through his time in Strikeforce. Seeing as we haven’t seen him in action since 2015, I’m both excited and nervous for his return to professional competition. Diaz’s greatest strength is his jiu jitsu but he’s very well rounded – as his high volume boxing style has proven extremely effective. He is far from conventional, but he has excellent footwork and head movement defensively. He throws creative combinations and his cardio is seemingly infinite. Diaz was formerly a top contender, but there are obviously questions regarding his current form here as he’s been out of action for so long. In the same breath we have some similar concerns here with Robbie Lawler. Lawler is a former champ at welterweight, but he hasn’t won a fight since he beat Donald Cerrone in 2017. To his credit, his losses have come against elite level competition. Still, it’s at least marginally concerning that he hasn’t won in so long. The biggest concern about backing Lawler here is he doesn’t throw a ton of volume. He’s going to need to up his output if he has a chance to take this on the scorecards. He has enough power to end a fight by knockout, but Diaz has become known for his durability. Just a few days before this fight Nick Diaz asked to have the fight moved up from 170 pounds to 185 pounds. Lawler obliged, but this is likely more of an advantage for Diaz than it is for Lawler as Lawler was planning for a weight cut. The narrative heading into this fight is that Diaz is far past his prime, but the fact of the matter is that Lawler is as well. My confidence is extremely low in this one and I know my bias is showing. Regardless, I think (and hope) Diaz gets it done. Lawler will look good early, but I expect Diaz to take over as the fight wears on. Nick Diaz by Round Four Submission
  • GB: Robbie Lawler by Round Three KO

Valentina Shevchenko -1400 (DK $9500, FD $23) vs Lauren Murphy +750 (DK $6700, FD $10)

  • Anthony: In the co-main event we have Valentina Shevchenko in search of her sixth straight flyweight title defense facing Lauren Murphy. It has been a dominant run for the champion who appears to be unbeatable at 125 pounds. She is one of the most technical strikers in the sport and we have seen her continue to improve with each performance. I doubt we will see anybody come close to her talent when it comes to striking in the female weight divisions. As solid as Murphy is a fighter, Shevchenko should beat her no matter where this fight takes place. The grappling has improved for Valentina and there really isn’t a single hole you can poke in her skillset. I see her beating Murphy with volume on the feet and eventually getting a historically durable opponent to crumble. This may be one of the more dominant title reigns in the sport’s history and I am not fading Shevchenko anytime soon. Her past two performances each yielded over 130 DraftKings points. And still. Valentina Shevchenko by Round Two KO
  • Nick: Shevchenko is one of the best female strikers to ever step in a cage. She is a highly technical kickboxer with extremely powerful kicks and enough speed to land a variety of combinations against anyone in this division. She is a far more technical and polished fighter in comparison to Murphy. Shevchenko has been leaning on her grappling a bit more lately as we saw in her last fight, a dominant win over Jessica Andrade. No matter where this fight goes, she should be able to dominate. Murphy’s greatest strength has always been her toughness. She has no real standout skill, but she’s solid pretty much everywhere and her sheer grit and determination often carries her to victory. Unfortunately for her, toughness and grit just won’t be enough here. Shevchenko is the top DFS play on the slate, and I expect her to absolutely dominate here. And still. Valentina Shevchenko by Round Two KO
  • GB: Valentina Shevchenko by Round One KO

Alexander Volkanovski -200 (DK $8600, FD $20) vs Brian Ortega +160 (DK $7600, FD $16)

  • Anthony: This epic card concludes with the featherweight title bout between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. After cancellations and filming of The Ultimate Fighter, we finally get to see two of the best in the world lock horns today. The champion Volkanovski has had a dominant start to his title reign, beating Max Holloway twice. He has out landed every opponent thus far in the UFC and boasts a resume stacked with high level competition. Volkanovski is extremely powerful, deceptively long and very skilled technically. His entries are beautiful and you can tell just by watching him that he is a master of angles and feints. His combinations are crisp and we often see him use his strong lower half to chop down the legs of his opponents. We have also seen him implement wrestling effectively in the octagon, but against a BJJ ace like Ortega that may be neglected in this performance. While the striking of Ortega has improved dramatically, he will still be overpowered if this is a kickboxing bout. The only path I see for T-City is locking up a submission but I think the champion keeps himself out of harm’s way here. The leg kicks should start to immobilize Ortega early and I see Volkanovski continuously gaining momentum as this fight gets into the later rounds. He seems to have gotten into Ortega’s head and I think this matchup is one of the easier ones stylistically for Volkanovski when looking at the other elite fighters at 145 pounds. I think there is a decent chance he finds a finish here as the accumulation of damage eventually gets Ortega to break. And still. Alexander Volkanovski by Round Five KO
  • Nick: Alexander Volkanovski will look to defend his featherweight title for the second time here, against a worthy adversary in Brian Ortega. As a black belt under Rener Gracie, Ortega has extremely advanced jiu jitsu and offensive grappling. We’ve seen him score standing guillotines against the best of this division and while he has made serious improvements in his striking over the years, there’s no denying that his BJJ remains his most effective weapon. Ortega is a decent striker and I expect him to show improvement in this spot. He should be able to hang on the feet with Volkanovski for a while, but he’ll likely need to find a submission here if he’s going to pull this one out. While the path for Ortega is clear, I’m not sure Volkanovski is going to give him any openings. Volk has an extremely high Fight IQ. He’s a gifted striker that does an excellent job mixing kicks into his combinations. He does a good job closing distance against taller opponents and his low and powerful base makes him difficult to takedown. He’s capable of finding entries to takedown his opponents, but I imagine he’ll want to spend most of this fight on the feet and out of Ortega’s dangerous guard. The most impressive thing to me about Volkanovski is his ability to feint. He does an excellent job faking attacks and leading his opponents into traps. This works especially well against a guy like Ortega who is still developing in the striking department. As good as Ortega looked on the feet against The Korean Zombie, Volkanovski poses a different type of challenge. He’s extremely aggressive and does an excellent job controlling range with powerful leg and body kicks. We saw Ortega decimated by Max Holloway, who Volkanovski beat twice albeit controversially. The champion feels like the rightful favorite here. We’ve never seen him submitted, and he likely has more paths to victory as he carries the more well-rounded game. In a fight I expect to mostly take place on the feet, Volkanovski should be too much here for Ortega. I’ll have shares of Ortega for DFS purposes as he’s very cheap with upside, but Volkanovski is the play. And still. Alexander Volkanovski by Decision
  • GB: Alexander Volkanovski by Round Three KO

*Anthony, Nick and GB play on both FanDuel and DraftKings, and although they express their opinions, they may also implement other plays and strategies without notice