This article is part of our Drake's Takes series.
Louis Smolka (17-7-0) v. Vince Morales (10-5-0)
- Smolka last fought a year ago but emerged victorious with a second-round knockout. He is a rangy striker with quick movement around the ring. He darts in and out of the pocket, throwing jabs down the middle while mixing in hooks and overhands. His front kicks to the body can be lethal, and he will combine them with low outside kicks to the calves. The Team Oyama fighter has decent takedowns and will mix them in, often hunting for submission or heavy ground and pound. His takedown defense is not good, but he does fight well off his back and can reverse if needed.
- Morales earned a big unanimous decision victory last fight and now looks to make it two in a row. He is a striker with decent power. His foot and head movements are excellent and help him avoid eating big shots. He has a great one-two, big looping hook, and good leg kicks to the calves and body. He pressures inside well but keeps his hands low, causing him to get hit down the middle. "Vandetta" does not offer much offensive grappling but features decent takedown defense. When taken down, he has shown good scrambling and the ability to get back up quickly. However, he will sometimes struggle to get off his back when flattened out and has been submitted twice in five losses.
DFS Perspective: Neither guy has been imposing in their UFC tenures, and this fight is not overly exciting. Smolka has fought much better competition, and I expect he comes out on top in any scenario. However, if he takes the fight to the mat, he could end up finding a finish against the lesser opponent.
My Pick: Smolka
- Morono moved his record to 9-4 in the UFC with an impressive unanimous decision victory back in September. He is a technical striker with excellent movement featuring a nasty jab-overhand right combo. He will mix in deadly head and spinning heel kicks and has high volume, wearing guys down quickly. Morono is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu with excellent grappling and is challenging in the clinch with elbows and knees. However, he rarely goes for takedowns and has struggled with takedown defense in the past but has shown fantastic improvement over the last five fights.
- Gall pulled off an upset win with a rear-naked choke in round one last fight, moving his record to 6-3 in the UFC promotion. He is a mat specialist with ever-improving striking and carries power in his hands which helps compensate for the usual low volume. He has good movement and ring awareness but tends to stand flat-footed and becomes easy to hit. Gall's takedowns are good, and he works well in the clinch. He enforces excellent control and is elite at taking the back to find a choke. However, his takedown defense is not great, and he often struggles to get off his back.
DFS Perspective: I find this matchup to be closer to a 50-50. Both guys have good striking, with Morono getting an edge. If it stays on the feet, I favor Morono to win a decision or possible knockout. I think this fight comes down to Gall's ability to get it to the mat, and given Morono's subpar takedown defense, I think he does it. I expect Gall to fight smart, get this down to the mat, and hunt for a submission. He could reign down ground and pound from a top mount as well.
My Pick: Gall
- Vanderaa was dominated in his last fight, getting knocked out in round two and dropping to 2-2 in the UFC. He strikes from a distance with ample power and catches fighters as they close in on him. He sports a slick jab and throws a lot of hard low kicks. Unfortunately, he tends to stand flat-footed in front of fighters making it easy to hit him or take him down. "The Mountain" has great grappling and is nasty in the clinch. He can mix in body lock takedowns, and once he is on top, he is a significant problem with ground and pound. However, he struggles with takedown defense and has shown problems getting controlled on the mat.
- Murzakanov earned his UFC contract with a massive knockout win in Dana White's Contender Series in August earlier this year. He is a fantastic striker with immense power and great speed for a big man. He is patient, picking and choosing when to launch forward with a looping hook or overhand. The Russian fighter is deadly in the clinch with knees and elbows and will look to takedown with body locks and wail with hammer fists. He has incredible strength, is challenging to get away from on the mat, and features excellent takedown defense.
DFS Perspective: Murzakanov is making his highly anticipated debut and looks like the far more deadly man. If he wins, it is likely by an early finish. Vanderaa will need to find the mat and control quickly to avoid taking kill shots from Murzakanov. Murzakanov has gone to round three only in his ten fights, so it is difficult to know how good his cardio will be in the latter stages of the contest.
My Pick: Murzakanov
Claudio Puelles (11-2-0) v. Chris Gruetzemacher (15-4-0)
- Puelles earned his most significant win in the UFC in June, pulling off a unanimous upset making it three wins in a row. He is a technical striker with a solid jab and one-two and a strong left hook. Moreover, he showcases good head and body kicks. "El Nino" is an excellent Jiu-Jitsu fighter with deceptive takedowns. He is quick to single and double legs and even quicker getting into control for ground and pound or a choke. Additionally, he has excellent takedown defense and is elite off his back.
- Gruetzemacher pulled off a huge upset in his last fight, winning unanimously, pulling his UFC record to 2-3. He is a pure striker with decent head and foot movement, fast hands, and combines powerful leg kicks with a solid one-two from a distance. "Gritz" works well in the clinch with knees and looping hooks but does not offer much on the ground. He has zero takedowns in the UFC and struggles with his takedown defense. He is easily controlled and has been submitted three times in his four losses.
DFS Perspective: I still am not high on Gruetzemacher, but if he can keep this fight on the feet, he stands a chance for a knockout. Puelles will be looking to get the contest to the mat and should find plenty of success doing so. Early submission is a definite possibility, and how I think this fight ends giving him his fourth win in a row.
My Pick: Puelles
Alonzo Menifield (11-2-0) v. William Knight (10-2-0)
- Menifield enters the night on a two-fight win streak after winning unanimously in his last fight. He is a dangerous first-round finisher with massive power and high pressure. He will continually blitz with huge power shots looking to put his opponent away quickly. He has excellent head and foot movement, but he can take a big hit when he lunges in with some shots. "Atomic" Menifield has superb takedown defense and is elite in the clinch. He will look to get fighters against the cage early and rip into the body with deadly hooks and knees. Only one of Menifield's wins, his last, has seen the judges' scorecards, so a finish is likely if he is victorious.
- Knight flashed his immense power with a first-round knockout in his last fight bringing his UFC record to 2-1. He is a strong grappler with thunder in his hands and uses his explosiveness to blitz into the pocket and land quick strikes. He mixes strong leg kicks to the legs and body with flurries of hooks and overhands. "Knightmare" has an excellent ground game to pair with his striking on the feet. He is tough in the clinch and will look to body-lock and slam fighters on the mat and then rain down heavy ground and pound. However, he has shown struggles with aggressive grapplers and being controlled on his back.
DFS Perspective: This fight will go one of two ways; a quick knockout or a decision. Both guys love to fight in the clinch; neither are high-volume, but both have immense power. I imagine this fight will stay on the feet, and if either guy lands clean, it could be over quickly. I lean towards Menifield to pull out a win in either scenario but would not be surprised if Knight snags a finish.
My Pick: Menifield
Cheyanne Vlismas (6-2-0) v. Mallory Martin (7-4-0)
- Vlismas(Formerly Buys) earned her first win and UFC Fight Night performance of the night with a 60-second knockout win last time out. She is a Taekwondo striker with excellent footwork and is quick with every part of her game, throwing jabs and hooks mixed with front and round kicks to all parts of the body. She is aggressive and walks her opponents down with power. Additionally, "The Warrior Princess" has solid clinch work with nasty elbows and will look for trips to get the fight to the mat. However, she has struggled with her takedown defense and getting off her back against solid grapplers.
- Martin last fought about ten months ago, getting submitted in round one dropping to 1-2 in the UFC promotion. She is a decent striker who plods forward with a stiff jab and solid one-two. She does tend to stand tall and flat-footed, causing her to get hit often. The Elevation Fight Team product is a strong wrestler and features excellent body lock and double leg takedowns. She employs tremendous top pressure, heavy ground and pound, and is always hunting for a submission.
DFS Perspective: Vlismas is by far the better fighter here, and so long as she avoids putting herself in a position to get submitted, she should win. On the feet, she will dominate with high volume and power. However, Martin does have a chance here. If she can take this to the mat, she has the opportunity to lock up a submission.
My Pick: Vlismas
Jake Matthews (17-5-0) v. Jeremiah Wells (9-2-0, 1NC)
- Matthews had his three-fight winning streak end with a round-three submission loss in his last fight. He is an explosive striker with excellent movement and level changes, throwing quick jabs and heavy overhands and hooks. He will look to bait fighters into the pocket, counter, and then look for a takedown. "The Celtic Kid" is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu with an incredible top game. He is difficult in the clinch with heavy hooks and knees and will look for body lock takedowns and trips. He also has great single and double leg takedowns and will look to take the back for a choke or move into a top mount for ground and pound.
- Wells had a successful UFC debut, delivering an impressive second-round knockout win. He is a well-rounded fighter with significant power in his striking. In addition, he features a decent jab that helps him pressure forward and will follow with deadly hooks and overhands. The Renzo Gracie fighter is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and commands the mat well. He has excellent takedowns, great control and is always looking for a way to move into a rear-naked choke.
DFS Perspective: Wells could easily land another early kill shot here, and that is about his only path to victory as he fades after round one. Matthews will be better everywhere and should control where this fight goes. Look for him to wear Wells down and finish him in round two or three.
My Pick: Matthews
Manel Kape (16-6-0) v. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-5-0)
- Kape earned his first UFC win with a nasty flying knee knockout in round one of his previous fight and is looking to build on his newfound confidence. He has elite speed and strong hands, throwing a slick one-two, strong hook, and deadly overhand right. He is also a phenomenal counter striker and will hold his hands low to bait strikes and fire back quickly with immense power. "Starboy" does not shoot for takedowns often but has been successful against lesser opponents. However, his takedown defense is laudable, and he is challenging to control on the mat. Though he has struggled to start his UFC tenure, he does have 15 professional finishes in 16 wins.
- Zhumagulov ended his losing streak and earned his first UFC win unanimously in his previous fight. He is a well-rounded fighter with a good mix of boxing and grappling. However, he does not throw much volume or have much power. He has a solid one-two and hook and will mix in kicks from time to time to change levels. "Zhako" will shoot for multiple takedowns throughout the fight but does not have the best control over fighters on the mat. If in a top mount, he does have powerful ground and pound but is not much of a submission threat.
DFS Perspective: If Kape comes out as he did in his last fight, aggressive and fast, I think he delivers another early finish. If he lulls and is slow out of the gate, Zhumagulov can get ahead on the scorecards and potentially take two rounds in a decision. I think Kape's early knockout win replenished his confidence, and he comes out firing on all cylinders here.
My Pick: Kape
Make Pitolo (13-8-0) v. Dusko Todorovic (10-2-0)
- Pitolo's back is against the wall, having lost three in a row after getting submitted in his latest fight. He is a powerful striker with a solid jab, great one-two, and strong inside and outside kicks. He is excellent at attacking the body with heavy uppercuts and applies constant forward pressure into the cage. However, he struggles and becomes easy to hit when fighters pressure him backward. "Coconut Bombz" will mix things up and shoot for takedowns, often looking to pass guard and take the back of a fighter trying to stand back up. He does become wild at times and gets himself caught in a choke.
- Todorovic won his debut as a dog just over a year ago but has since dropped two in a row, with the most recent being a unanimous decision. He is a technical striker with good movement, a slick jab, and massive hooks and overhands. Unfortunately, he fights with his hands low, causing him to get hit easily. "Thunder" has a decent ground game but does not often attempt takedowns or hunt for submissions. Instead, he will move into a top mount and lay down heavy ground and pound. He also does not have the most outstanding takedown defense, and although he has never been submitted, fighters can control him.
DFS Perspective: Both of these guys are on slides making it hard to figure out who has what going for them. Both guys have good striking and power, but Pitolo should have an advantage on the mat if he takes it there. I expect Pitolo to develop an intelligent game plan, getting this fight to the mat and working for a finish to save himself from getting cut.
My Pick: Pitolo
Bryan Barberena (15-8-0) v. Darian Weeks (5-0-0)
- Barberena took a tough loss as a heavy favorite in a majority decision to drop his UFC record to 6-6 in the UFC. He is a volume striker with significant power, quick hands, and pressures fighters forward with jabs and hooks. Unfortunately, he tends to fight with his hands down and eats shots to deliver them right back. The MMA Lab fighter does devastating work in the clinch with knees and elbows but does not often shoot for takedowns and has poor takedown defense himself. However, his scrambling on the mat is elite, and he can reverse his way into submission attempts or works himself back to his feet.
- Weeks gets a short notice MMA debut putting his 5-0 record to the test. He is a well-rounded fighter with a solid skillset, good movement, and considerable power featuring a powerful overhand right, right hook, and a solid jab. In addition, Weeks has a solid ground game and will grapple offensively or defensively. He has excellent body lock takedowns and trips, and when taken down himself, he is terrific at scrambling and shifting momentum to his favor.
DFS Perspective: Could another late LFA replacement score an early finish? Weeks has that chance. He comes in 5-0 with five finishes and looks primed for a solid debut. Unfortunately, Barberena has fought far better competition and should be better everywhere this fight goes. I expect him to enter with a solid game plan and get back on track with a win.
My Pick: Barberena
Brendan Allen (17-4-0) v. Chris Curtis (27-8-0)
- Allen continued his successful UFC stint earning his fifth win in six fights, winning unanimously last time out. He is a well-rounded fighter with good movement on the feet and improved striking. He uses level changes with jabs, hooks, and kicks to find his entry for a takedown. "All In" Allen has excellent takedowns and control and is one of the best submission specialists in the division. In top mount, he has massive ground and pound. His scrambling is elite, and he can reverse when taken down himself.
- Curtis wowed in his debut, earning a major upset win via first-round knockout. He is a technical striker with good forward pressure and power in his hands. He will lead with a quick jab and follow it with a massive overhand or hook. He throws moderate volume but constantly applies pressure to work in the pocket to dish out maximum damage. "The Action Man" does not grapple much offensively and rarely even attempts to clinch. Instead, he prefers to stand and fire in the pocket. He has shown excellent takedown defense but has been controlled when he goes down or clinched.
DFS Perspective: If this fight stays on the feet, I expect a very even fight with someone potentially getting knockout. Curtis showed his raw power in his debut and stuffed all three takedowns attempted against him. However, Allen has demonstrated much more willingness to stand and brawl lately, and he does have power himself. If Allen can take the fight to the mat, I fully expect him to dominate and potentially find a submission.
My Pick: Allen
Jimmy Crute (12-2-0) v. Jamahal Hill (8-1-0, 1NC)
- Crute had his winning streak snapped due to a doctor's stoppage leg injury and is now looking to get back on track here. He is a solid striker with terrific ring control and movement. He throws a slick jab with a powerful hook and overhand while applying constant forward pressure with the intent to take down his opponent. In addition, the Australian fighter has a commendable ground game and will look to take it to the mat early and often. He has deadly ground and pound in a top mount and is always a threat to submit fighters any time it is on the mat
- Hill suffered a big blow with an early first-round knockout loss as a favorite in his last fight. He is a great striker who jumps on you from the get-go and throws a lot of volume very quickly. He has nasty power in his jabs, hooks, and overhands and looks to keep the fight in the pocket to brawl with fighters. Additionally, he has a fantastic counter and will look to bait fighters into unleashing it. "Sweet Dreams" does not offer much in the way of grappling or wrestling and prefers to keep the fight upright. However, he is fierce in the clinch with deadly knees and hooks. He has been taken down several times but is challenging to control and gets back up quickly.
DFS Perspective: I think this is an exciting match. Hill has massive power and can end it at any time. However, he suffered his first knockout loss last time out against a lesser opponent. I think Crute is better everywhere this goes, and so long as he avoids the kill shot, I think he wins easily.
My Pick: Crute
Clay Guida (36-21-0) v. Leonardo Santos (18-4-1)
- Guida, the long-time veteran, took a tough split decision loss in his last fight dropping to 1-4 in his previous five contests. He has tremendous forward pressure, and his striking has significantly improved over the years. He has excellent ring control and constant movement throughout the fight, making him difficult to hit or clinch up. "The Carpenter" shines on the mat and would wrestle the entirety of the contest if he could. His takedowns are excellent, and he controls his opponents well. He can hunt for submissions or just control for the round.
- Santos suffered his first UFC loss, getting knocked out in the final second of the third round in his latest fight. He is a rangy striker with excellent distance control and throws a slick jab, nasty one-two, and a big left hook. In addition, he has a nasty counter and will invite fighters in and nail them with straight punches. The Brazilian is one of the best Jiu-Jitsu fighters the UFC has seen. However, he rarely takes it to the mat nowadays, preferring to strike on the feet and catch fighters coming in. If it does get to the mat, he is dangerous on top with ground and pound or submission attempts. He has incredible takedown defense but waning cardio given his age.
DFS Perspective: This is a battle of two aging veterans, and I do not want any part of it. Both guys have looked impressive lately, and both have similar strengths. Given how their previous fights went, I can see this going the distance and offering a low DFS score. Guida has shown far better cardio and could find a late submission after Santos gasses a bit.
My Pick: Guida
Brad Riddell (10-1-0) v. Rafael Fiziev (10-1-0)
- Riddell pushed his UFC record to a perfect 4-0, winning unanimously in his last fight. He is a rangy striker with great one-twos and hooks, has solid power, and applies constant pressure to blitz fighters and keep ahead. He will gladly stand in the pocket to trade blows and land more precise shots with counters. "Quake" has decent grappling and good takedown defense. In addition, he has excellent single and double legs, and solid body locks from the clinch. He is also dangerous in top mount, where he can lay heavy ground-and-pound.
- Fiziev looked sharp in a unanimous decision win in his last fight moving to 4-1 in the UFC with a four-fight win streak. He is a dangerous technical striker with massive power and uses colossal pressure to blitz and overwhelm fighters looking to end the fight early. He has a crisp jab down the middle and will throw flurries of hooks and overhands behind them. "Ataman" is fantastic in the clinch and will attack the body with powerful punches and knees. He does not grapple often but occasionally will get a body lock and look for ground and pound. He also features an elite takedown defense and has yet to be taken down in the UFC.
DFS Perspective: This fight could provide fireworks or fizzle out and be a dud. I expect this to be a 15-minute striking match between two technically sound strikers. I think this will come down to who throws more volume as both guys are heavy hitters. However, the two do have 11 knockouts combined, and a finish is always possible.
My Pick: Fiziev
Rob Font (19-4-0) v. Jose Aldo (30-7-0)
- Font pushed his winning streak to four, winning unanimously in five rounds in dominating fashion. He is a phenomenal striker with a nasty jab, one-two, and tight hooks. He will often attack the body to wear fighters down and apply relentless forward pressure with vicious counter punches and kicks. In addition, Font has ever-improving defensive grappling and impressive offensive grappling with big clinch and single-leg takedowns. However, he does not often go for submissions on that mat, instead looking to control or rain down heavy ground and pound.
- Aldo is an elite Muay Thai technical striker with fantastic defense. He carries significant power in his hands, throws a lot of hooks to the body, and looks to mix in nasty leg kicks and combinations to all parts of the body. His body shots can be devastating and cause a lot of damage early. The former TUF Champ has a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and features excellent grappling. However, he hardly uses it, preferring to keep the fight on the feet. He has decent takedown defense, does well at getting back to his feet, and has only been submitted once in his professional career.
DFS Perspective: This should be a 25 minute striking contest, and I am all for it. Aldo has stated that he no longer likes five-round fights but has shown he still has the skills and cardio to compete in them. Font seems to get better with each passing round, and when he starts feeling confident, he is a big problem. This fight could go either way in five rounds, but I expect Font to pull it out and inch closer to that title shot.
My Pick: Font
Significant Strikes = 0.6pts
Takedown = 6pts
Takedown Defense = 3pts
Knockdown = 12pts
Submission Attempt = 5pts
Fight Conclusion Bonuses
1st Round Win = 100pts
2nd Round Win = 75pts
3rd Round Win = 50pts
4th Round Win = 35 pts
5th Round Win = 25pts
Decision Win = 20pts
- Significant Strikes are "Distance Strike" or "Clinch/Ground Strikes" that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
- A knockdown is awarded to a fighter who knocks his/her opponent down due to debilitation for what the official scorers consider a substantial amount of time.
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Control Time: +0.03 PTS/SECOND
Takedown (TD): +5 PTS
Reversal/Sweep (REV): +5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +10 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses
1st Round Win (1rW+): +90 PTS
2nd Round Win (2rW+): +70 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rW+): +45 PTS
4th Round Win (4rW+): +40 PTS
5th Round Win (5rW+): +40 PTS
Decision Win (WBD+): +30 PTS
Quick Win Bonus: +25 PTS
(fight is finished in 60 seconds or less)
- Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
- A Significant Strike will count as both a strike and a significant strike and will be worth a total of 0.4 Pts
- Control Time is the time spent in the dominant position on the ground or in the clinch. +0.03 points are awarded per second.
- A Knockdown is awarded to a fighter who knocks his/her opponent down due to debilitation for what the official scorers consider an appreciable amount of time.
- A Quick Win Bonus is awarded to the winning fighter if they win in the first round in 60 seconds or less.