This article is part of our The MMA Mashup series.
The UFC will take a rare extended break later this month, but we get three fantastic cards before the new year, beginning with a 15-fight slate capped off by the Jose Aldo vs. Rob Font main event. We'll cover it all across five platforms, including a recommendation for one of the biggest dogs on the card. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Jimmy Crute ($9,200)
Crute has shown the speed and power to score knockouts in the UFC, but the 25-year-old is adaptable, having famously recorded eight takedowns in less than a round en route to his victory over Michal Oleksiejczuk. While Jamahal Hill is powerful and explosive, he was taken down six times by Darko Stosic in 2020, and Crute will put his BJJ black belt to work once the fight hits the ground. He may have to fade a tense moment or two, but Crute should be able to get this fight into his world without much resistance.
Clay Guida ($7,400)
One thing that was made clear in Leonardo Santos' bout with Grant Dawson is the man who went eight fights without taking a loss in the UFC will not be sharing the cage with Guida. While he's always been a counter striker, Santos had trouble pulling the trigger against Dawson, and Guida will look to overwhelm him with pressure and pace. Now 41 years old, it's worth asking if Santos is having trouble keeping his gas tank, as he looked noticeably slower in Round 3 of his last fight, despite the lack of output on both sides. Guida has been known to carelessly shoot takedowns and get submitted in his opponent's guard, but Santos hasn't had a submission victory since 2015, and I don't like picking fights on such slim margins.
Claudio Puelles ($8,000)
Puelles has always been a relentless grappler, but the Brazilian fighter showed in his win over Felipe Silva that he can take a tremendous amount of punishment, as he was able to find a heel hook despite having one eye almost completely shut from damage. He will need both of these traits against Chris Gruetzemacher, who looks to stay in his opponent's face and throw shots. While Gruetzemacher has shown his own ability to walk through fire in the Octagon, he will come into this contest sporting just a 61 percent takedown defense rate. Puelles may have his kicks smothered by the constant forward pressure of his opponent, but he is a lock-down top control player, which can negate Gruetzemacher's greatest strength.
Jake Matthews ($9,100)
Jeremiah Wells is an absolute powder keg inside the cage, throwing dangerous strikes at his opponent from the opening bell. While one might expect him to get tired as a muscle-bound athlete, it's worth noting that the 35-year-old has gone the 25-minute distance three times in his career. One of the defining features of Matthews is just how big he is for the welterweight division. This size and strength should allow him to control Wells on the ground, keeping "The Celtic Kid" out of the path of the hurricane.
Zhalgas Zhumagulov ($6,800)
Manel Kape may have picked up his first win in the organization in his last bout against Ode Osbourne, but Osbourne was having success by using his speed and throwing leg kicks before "Starboy" landed a flying knee for the finish. Zhumagulov should be perpetually coming forward in this one while using his quick hands and wrestling to grind his opponent down. Kape's power can put any man down, but Zhumagulov has only been finished by strikes once in 19 professional fights, which adds to my confidence in picking the sizeable underdog.
Bryan Barberena ($8,400)
I keep doing double-takes when I look at the odds/prices of Barberena against Darian Weeks because I can't figure out how a veteran of just five professional MMA fights coming in on less than a week's notice is expected to be competitive against a man in Barbarena who has 23 bouts to his name. That's not to say that Weeks does nothing well – he's a decent top control grappler with quick hands – but he leaves himself wide open to be countered, and often throws himself out of position by winging strikes. Weeks may have a future as a professional fighter, but this just seems like way too much and way too soon.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Louis Smolka UNDER 1.5 Takedowns and Brendan Allen OVER 1.5 Takedowns
Smolka has leaned on his wrestling a bit more heavily in his second stint with the UFC, but while he has been willing, he hasn't been a very efficient wrestler, as evidenced by the 37 percent takedown accuracy rate he holds in 15 fights with the organization. Morales is the credentialed wrestler in this matchup and should be able to use his skillset and footwork to stay on his feet.
It's a bit tougher to cap Brandon Allen's performance, as he tends to forget about his wrestling despite being a fantastic jiu-jitsu player. Chris Curtis is a solid boxer with power in his hands who has shown an inability to stop takedowns with regularity, so Allen should look to the path of least residence here.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Maki Pitolo – 2.1 X Multiplier
Pitolo has had a rough go in the UFC, but he's still a crisp puncher and volume striker who mixes his targets well. We have already seen straight punchers give Dusko Todorovic problems, as his proclivity to lean away from strikes rather than get his guard up generally results in "Thunder" getting clipped hard. Pitolo takes too much damage in his own right, but this looks to be one of the more forgiving matchups he's had in the Octagon.
Brad Riddell – 2.05 X Multiplier
Rafael Fiziev has made such a splash with his flashy, powerful kickboxing that we are able to roster a fighter who is undefeated in four UFC bouts as an underdog. Riddell is a solid fighter everywhere and should be able to crowd the kicks of Fiziev and get his hands going. As lethal as Fiziev can look at times, Bobby Green was able to tee off on him from boxing range in the third round of their fight. Riddell is capable of following a similar pattern and is assertive enough to not give away any rounds looking to counterstrike.
Jared Vanderaa – 2.25x Multiplier
This was a close one to call, as I'm not that high on Vanderaa, but the undefeated Azamat Murzakanov looks so raw that I am willing to take a shot. While he has big power and is reasonably fast, Murzakanov's primary weapon is an overhand right, which he will throw from too far out and without setup. I think Venderaa has shown good enough boxing that he should be able to fade the big shots, though the bout could get ugly in a hurry if the Russian fighter leans on his wrestling.
Rob Font – 1.8 x Multiplier
As a card-carrying member of the Jose Aldo fan club, this is tough for me to write, but we have seen the featherweight king wilt no fewer than three times in as many five-round fights dating back to 2017, to the point where Aldo refused to take 25-minute affairs before he moved to bantamweight. Rob Font is the wrong guy to get tired in front of, as he features a stinging jab and throws tight, powerful combinations. It is for these reasons that one can't help but be reminded of the Max Holloway fights, but Aldo has looked great in his new weight class, showcasing his own slick boxing and managing his energy well. I will almost be hoping to get this one wrong, but I would need to see Aldo win this kind of fight before I could pick him at this stage of his career.
Bets to Consider
Alonzo Menifield by KO/TKO DQ: +200
This is the third time Menifield has been scheduled to take on William Knight, and here I am to not only complete the hat trick but throw in a prop to boot. Menifield is a fast, athletic striker who sometimes has issues with range, but Knight looks to be entirely too raw to survive against a fighter with such clear knockout ability. A judo player by trade, Knight constantly leaves his chin in the air while striking, and pulls his head straight back to avoid strikes. Menifield had an underwhelming performance in his win against Ed Herman, but unless Knight finds a big shot, I think Menifield is strong enough to stay on his feet and find a KO blow of his own.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Alex Morono UNDER 86.5 Significant Strikes and Mickey Gall UNDER 48.5 Significant Strikes
Morono's total here is indicative of the fact that he likes to come forward and throw heat, but I don't think it will take long before Gall decides he isn't comfortable and reverts back to the strength of his BJJ. This should lead to fewer strikes as the men vie for position in the clinch and on the ground. If this does stay standing, I don't think a knockout is out of the question, as Gall leaves his chin up in the air, and Morono is often unprotected as he enters the pocket.
Cheyanne Buys UNDER 88.5 Significant Strikes and Mallory Martin Under 48.5 Significant Strikes
The rationale for these plays isn't that dissimilar from the last fight, as Buys will likely use her strength and wrestling ability to ground Martin early and often. Martin is a pressuring counter striker who is also a grappler, meaning this should be a bout that treads lightly where significant strikes are concerned.