Welcome once again fight fans! We’re back for more UFC DFS picks with the UFC 203 edition. UFC 203 goes down for the first time in Cleveland, Ohio, headlined by a heavyweight title match between Ohio native Stipe Miocic, and Alistair Overeem. The co-main event is also a heavyweight bout, with former champion Fabricio Werdum taking on Travis Browne. Get your picks in on Draftkings soon and makes some money! Usual disclaimer, look out for fight cancellations, like the one we just had with Ian McCall and Ray Borg on this very card. Let’s get to the picks.
Stipe Miocic ($10,00) vs. Alistair Overeem ($9,600)
Stipe Miocic defends his heavyweight title for the first time in the UFC’s first foray into his home turf, Cleveland. Opposing him will be longtime veteran Alistair Overeem. Miocic has been dominant in his last 3 outings, winning all 3 by knockout against stiff competition. Miocic has actually won 6 of his last 7 bouts overall, with a widely disputed loss to Junior dos Santos being his own blemish. Overeem has also been on a roll, winning his last 4 bouts with 3 knockout finishes. This is one of the harder main events to call, as both men have a legitimate shot to walk out of Quicken Loans Arena with the heavyweight belt. Miocic has great boxing, as well as very good wrestling, and will probably need to mix both up well to defeat Overeem. He is also one of the best athletes in the heavyweight division, so he’ll have more than enough gas to go 5 rounds if needed. Overeem will provide the stiffest of tests for the new champ. He’s a veteran of the UFC, Strikeforce, Pride, and K1, having won gold in Strikeforce and the K1 Grand Prix. He’s one of the most polished strikers in the history of MMA, let alone his weight class. This fight is going to boil down to the mental game for me. Who truly wants this fight more is going to walk out as the champion. Having watched more than my fair share of Overeem fights, I’ve seen him quit in the face of adversity many times. Stipe is going to weather an early storm from the Dutchman, and drag this bout into later rounds, eventually breaking him. A combination from Miocic sits Overeem down where he finishes the fight with follow up strikes, sending the Cleveland crowd into a frenzy for their champion. The pick is Miocic by TKO in round 3.
Fabricio Werdum ($10,700) vs. Travis Browne ($8,700)
The co-main event of the night pits heavyweight contenders Fabricio Werdum against Travis Browne in a rematch. The pair first squared off in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Browne in April 2014. Werdum was victorious over Browne with a lopsided unanimous decision. Since that bout, Werdum has claimed and lost the heavyweight title, relinquishing the belt to current champ Stipe Miocic in his last fight. The 1st round KO loss snapped an impressive 6-fight winning streak for Werdum. Browne has alternated wins and losses since his defeat at Werdum’s hands, going 2-2 with crushing losses to Andrei Arlovski and Cain Velasquez. Both men are on a quick turn around off of KO losses which is a little concerning. Werdum was flat-lined by Miocic in May, while Browne’s loss was just 2 months ago. It will be interesting to see how well each man can take a punch. A lot has changed since their first bout but I believe much of the same will happen in this fight. Werdum was reckless in his title loss, chasing Miocic with his hands down before he was caught. He will be much more calculated this time, as he was in his previous fights. Browne’s game is pretty straight forward. He’s going to try to keep Werdum at bay, using kicks and a jab to keep the Brazilian away. I expect Werdum to work the clinch game, and dominate on the ground should the fight hit the floor at any point. This will be a shorter repeat of the first fight. Werdum wins the exchanges and works Browne on the mat for a unanimous decision win.
Mickey Gall ($11,400) vs. CM Punk ($8,000)
One of the more interesting MMA/UFC debuts ever takes place when CM Punk (Phil Brooks) takes on Mickey Gall at welterweight. The UFC signed CM Punk back in December of 2014, but training time and a long injury list has prevented him from making his debut until now. He takes on another relatively inexperienced fighter in Mickey Gall. Gall made his debut at UFC Fight Night: Hendricks vs. Thompson in February, where he bullied the outmatched Mike Jackson, winning in just 45 seconds by rear-naked choke. This is an easy pick for me. Unless the fix is in, Gall will be victorious. CM Punk is already 37, has limited training, and is not some great athlete making the transition to MMA. This is not a Brock Lesnar situation, as Lesnar was already a very accomplished NCAA champion wrestler before his WWE days. It’s also been reported that CM Punk has fared miserably in smoker matches in the gym. Smokers are simulated fights that take place in the gym and have no bearing on records. This will be a quick one. The pick is Gall by TKO in the 1st round.
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Urijah Faber ($9,700) vs. Jimmie Rivera ($9,700)
After losing another title match, Urijah Faber makes a quick turnaround when he takes on rising prospect Jimmie Rivera at bantamweight. Faber was dispatched again by rival Dominick Cruz in June, essentially ending his quest for UFC gold for good. He faces Rivera, who has opened his UFC career with 3 straight victories, including his last bout against Iuri Alcantara. He looked like a savvy veteran in that fight, using a lot of his power from his stocky frame to shut down the Brazilian stud. This will be an interesting fight for both men. How will Faber fare knowing his career is almost over? Is Rivera ready to take on the elite in the UFC? Those questions will surely be answered Saturday. I look for the speed of Faber to be the deciding factor in this one. Rivera has impressed me thus far, but this may be too stiff a test for him this early in his career. Rivera won’t be able to take Faber down, so I believe the majority of this fight is going to be on the feet, where I think Faber’s speed will exploit Rivera. Rivera will have his moments to keep this one competitive, but Faber’s athleticism and experience will help him stave off retirement for now. The pick is Faber by unanimous decision.
Jessica Andrade ($9,900) vs. Joanne Calderwood ($9,500)
The women strawweights open up the pay-per-view card when Jessica Andrade faces The Ultimate Fighter veteran Joanne Calderwood. This is a great fight to get the night going on PPV, as both women employ styles that are appealing to the fans. Andrade was victorious in her debut at 115 pounds, after dropping all the way from bantamweight (135). She picked up a dominant TKO win over former strawweight title challenger Jessica Penne in June at UFC 199. Calderwood was also victorious against a former strawweight title challenger when she defeated Valerie Letourneau at flyweight. Both women excel in the stand-up game, and I am willing to bet that the majority of the fight takes place on the feet. Calderwood is the more polished striker of the two, and possesses world class muay thai skills. This is another fight that is virtually a toss-up. I’m taking Calderwood here. She’ll be the more technical fighter, picking her shots against Andrade. In a back and forth battle, she will get the better of the exchanges en route to a close unanimous decision.
Jessica Eye ($10,100) vs. Bethe Correia ($9,300)
Veteran women’s bantamweight contenders Jessica Eye and Bethe Correia do battle in a bout with great importance for both. Eye, who has largely disappointed thus far in her UFC career, has lost 3 fights in a row, albeit to very stiff competition. Correia is also on a slide, having lost her last 2 bouts. Since coming to the UFC from Bellator, the highly ranked Eye has just not performed well against the division’s elite, losing to Miesha Tate, Julianna Pena, and Sarah McMann consecutively. Correia burst onto the MMA scene after earning a shot at then champion, Ronda Rousey. She defeated 2 of Rousey’s teammates to earn the ire of Rousey, who dominated Correia in the title bout. Correia then lost her next bout to Raquel Pennington back in April. Jessica Eye is too skilled to continue losing, and she’ll have the support of a sold out Cleveland crowd to back her. Correia looked impressive in her early fights for the UFC, but they were against fighters no longer on the roster. Correia is a fighter that likes to bully her outmatched opponents, and I don’t believe Eye will be bullied by the inferior skilled Brazilian. I look for Eye to use crisper striking to pick Correia apart, winning a lopsided decision.
Nik Lentz ($10,200) vs. Michael McBride ($9,200)
Grinder Nik Lentz returns to The Octagon when he faces short-notice replacement, Michael McBride. McBride will be making his debut with the UFC. Lenz has been with the promotion since 2009, and his bout against McBride will be his 17th appearance. McBride replaces Mairbek Taisumov who withdrew from the bout after repeated visa issues. Though Lentz employs a smothering style that may be unappealing to some fans, he is very dominant in that area. I don’t expect that to change here against the inexperienced McBride. Lentz will grind him out for the majority of the fight, but I predict he’ll finish McBride late with a submission. The pick is Lentz by rear-naked choke in the 3rd round.
Brad Tavares ($9,800) vs. Caio Magalhaes ($9,600)
Long layoffs are finally over for both men when Brad Tavares squares off with Caio Magalhaes in a middleweight contest. Tavares last competed when he was knocked out in 44 seconds by Robert Whittaker in Australia in May 2015. We last saw Magalhaes in July 2015 when his 4-fight win streak was snapped by Josh Samman. The loss was the first since 2012 for Magalhaes. Tavares began his career in the UFC with an impressive 7-1 record before fights against the division’s elite fighters saw him lose 3 of his last 4. The time off for Tavares was much needed after the KO loss to Whittaker, and he should be ready to get back to his winning ways in this one. If he can keep Magalhaes from taking him down, he should be able to win this fight on the feet. Magalhaes is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, so Tavares would be wise to avoid the floor at all costs. I think he will, and he’ll use his boxing to capture a unanimous decision victory over the Brazilian. Tavares is the pick.
Ray Borg ($10,400) vs. Ian McCall ($9,000)
This bout was canceled after Borg’s withdrawal due to an illness.
Yancy Medeiros ($10,500) vs. Sean Spencer ($8,900)
Following a fairly successful career at lightweight, Yancy Medeiros moves up to 170 pounds to take on Sean Spencer. Medeiros won fight of the night honors in a wild bout with Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 198 in May. After losing that fight on the scorecards, Medeiros seems to have decided to shake up his career and move up in weight. He faces Spencer who has lost 3 of his last 4 bouts, including a devastating loss to 40 year old Mike Pyle. Medeiros gets a favorable matchup here, as Spencer has not yet shown that he’s capable of hanging with the fighters in the big show. Medeiros trains every day with the Diaz brothers and many other elite fighters at Caesar Gracie MMA, so he’ll be more than ready for whatever Spencer has for him. Medeiros lands a combination early in the fight, ending Spencer’s night and tenure in the UFC. The pick is Medeiros by TKO in the 1st round.
CB Dollaway ($10,900) vs. Francimar Barroso ($8,500)
CB Dollaway looks to halt a 3-fight losing streak when he takes on Francimar Barroso on UFC Fight Pass. He’ll be jumping up 20 pounds to light heavyweight when he takes on the Brazilian. Barroso was last seen in May when he was submitted by Nikita Krylov. Dollaway was knocked out in his last bout at middleweight by Nate Marquardt, and will look to save his career in a new division. He needs a win here desperately, or he will most likely be given his pink slip. I think it’s the end of the road for Dollaway, as he looks to be outmatched here. CB has always relied on a heavy wrestling game to win fights, but against Barroso that could spell trouble. Barroso is a black belt in jiu-jitsu and kickboxing, so no matter where this fight goes, CB will find problems. At some point CB will get rocked, will shoot a panicked takedown, and Barroso will capitalize with a submission. The pick is Barroso by guillotine in the 2nd frame.
Drew Dober ($10,200) vs. Jason Gonzales ($8,200)
Lightweights Drew Dober and Jason Gonzalez open up the card in Cleveland. Dober was originally scheduled to fight Erik Koch, before Koch withdrew with an injury. Jason Gonzalez steps in on short notice to make his UFC debut. The early prelims are a good spot to cash in on unknown underdogs, so a tournament lineup with Gonzalez makes sense here. As far as the matchup goes for me, I think the experience in the UFC will carry Dober to a victory here over the inexperienced Gonzalez. The pick is Dober by unanimous decision but again, do not be afraid to roll the dice on Gonzalez in a tournament lineup.