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UFC Fight Night 80 DraftKings Preview

Paige VanZant (Michael Thomas, Associated Press)
Photo Courtesy of AP

Potentially the biggest week in UFC history is kicked off by the Fight Pass-exclusive card featuring two of the UFC’s hottest prospects: Paige VanZant and Sage Northcutt. The two are very young yet already saddled with hype. VanZant gets her first true test against the finisher, Rose Namajunas, who is deadly on her submission game. Northcutt will have to get through Cody Pfister, a rough and tough journeyman. Both are favored to win and they could in spectacular fashion.

The first of three consecutive UFC events has the least popularity points but it still has the recipe to entertain with some potential back-and-forth brawls and one-sided fights leading to some fantasy points. UFC Fight Night 80 DraftKings preview:

MAIN CARD (UFC FIGHT PASS)

Rose Namajunas ($9,200) vs. Paige VanZant ($10,200)
Strawweight Bout (115 lbs)

An injury to Joanne Calderwood was a blessing in disguise as VanZant and Namajunas makes a more interesting fight. VanZant will likely push the pace on Namajunas, keep the fight close and get into plenty of clinches or VanZant being on top.

Namjunas is dangerous off her back and very nimble letting her pull off creative high risk submissions. But the Esparza fight exposed her weakness and VanZant is a younger more explosive fighter from a camp renowned for its wrestling and submission dominance.

VanZant should rack up points and maybe get a finish some time while Namajunas is always a submission threat. There’s justifiable reasons to have both on your team or one of the two.

Play: Draft VanZant or Namajunas

Michael Chiesa ($9,700) vs. Jim Miller ($9,700)
Lightweight (155 lbs)

Chiesa and Miller’s even price tells the whole story: this is a really tight matchup that could lead to a submission finish from either or a close decision. Both Miller and Chiesa are crafty at securing submissions. Miller, however, seems to be slowing down while Chiesa is on the upswing. But Miller’s tough as nails and will make Chiesa earn every position.

Play: Pass

Sage Northcutt ($11,300) vs. Cody Pfister ($8,100)
Lightweight Bout (155 lbs)

Northcutt squashes Pfister in one round. If Pfister somehow manages to win, it’ll be one of the craziest upsets ever. Northcutt is the better athlete and will pick his elder apart. It’s likely to be a finish, it’s just a question of when. Northcutt’s price should mean he guarantees a first-round knockout but he’ll also be a popular pick among everyone else.

Play: Draft Northcutt or Pass

Elias Theodorou ($10,700) vs. Thiago Santos ($8,700)
Middleweight Bout (185 lbs)

A classic striker (Santos) versus grappler (Theodorou) affair. If Theodorou has his way, it’ll be three long brutal rounds for Santos on the ground unless he can keep himself upright. Santos has finishing power if he’s given range. It may likely be Theodorou keeping the fight close and applying heavy pressure to win a decision.

Play: Pass

PRELIMS (UFC FIGHT PASS)

Tim Means ($10,900) vs. John Howard ($8,500)
Welterweight Bout (170 lbs)

“Dirty Bird” vs. “Doomsday” has chance to be a vicious brawl like their nicknames suggest. Expect Means to eat up Howard in the clinch. He’s the sturdier and stronger fighter. Howard is a scrappy fighter with some good grappling so he’s always a tough out but if anyone is fishing the fight, it’s Means via something violent.

Play: Draft Means

Omari Akhmedov ($9,800) vs. Sergio Moraes ($9,600)
Welterweight Bout (170 lbs)

Once upon a time, Moraes submitted Neil Magny. The Brazilian is a very dangerous BJJ practitioner but does his best work from the top position, something he may have trouble finding against the sturdy Akhmedov who prefers ground and pound. The fight will likely end in a decision with Akhmedov winning.

Play: Pass

Antonio Carlos Jr. ($10,600) vs. Kevin Casey ($8,800)
Middleweight Bout (185 lbs)

A showcase fight for Carlos in theory. The BJJ world champion looks big and good at middleweight allowing him to implement his pressure-oriented grappling. Casey is a Black House fighter with some power although it’s not consistent. Carlos will likely manage to get Casey to the ground at some point and make it a short or long night for him.

Play: Draft Carlos

Aljamain Sterling ($11,000) vs. Johnny Eduardo ($8,400)
Bantamweight Bout (135 lbs)

Both Sterling and Eduardo are riding impressive wins and a win over the other is going to propel them to a possible title shot. Sterling is a beast of an athlete who is improving rapidly. He’s tough with dominant grappling but he’ll have to watch out for Eduardo, the Nova Uniao striking coach. He has power and very technical. He’s also dangerous on the ground. Sterling should win but Eduardo at such a low price is worth a budget lottery play.

Play: Draft Eduardo or Pass

Santiago Ponzinibbio ($10,500) vs. Andreas Stahl ($8,900)
Welterweight Bout (170 lbs)

Ponzinibbio and Stahl has a lot of potential to be a barnburner depending on how Stahl fights. The Swede is tough and isn’t afraid to sling heavy leather. He is a pressure fighter who comes forward. Ponzinibbio happens to be almost the same guy and will look to throwing heavy salvos at Stahl. If it’s a brawl there will be points but this may be a decision given how tough both are.

Play: Pass

Danny Roberts ($10,100) vs. Nathan Coy ($9,300)
Welterweight Bout (170 lbs)

Roberts is a great prospect worth watching. He’s a long athletic boxer with knockout power and explosiveness but still developing his all-around game. Coy is a more well-rounded fighter who can put Roberts on the ground if he wants. If Coy wins it’ll likely be by decision but Roberts is the high risk high reward play.

Play: Draft Roberts or Pass

Zubaira Tukhugov ($10,400) vs. Phillipe Nover ($9,000)
Featherweight Bout (145 lbs)

Tukhugov is a Muay Thai fighter from the renowned Tiger Muay Thai gym. He’ll pick apart Nover on their feet despite Nover having some Muay Thai experience of his own. Tukhugov will likely hit Nover enough to get a judges’ decision but Nover’s improved wrestling and grappling makes him a live threat. Tukhugov should still get it done but it’s likely a decision.

Play: Pass

Kailin Curran ($10,800) vs. Emily Kagan ($8,600)
Strawweight Bout (115 lbs)

The UFC still feels highly about Curran despite being 0-2; she’s still a legit prospect with explosiveness, heavy hands and solid ground and pound. Kagan is a striker coming off a year layoff from the bad beating she got from Angela Hill. Curran should dominate.

Play: Draft Curran

 

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