UFC 273 Predictions

The UFC returns with another stacked pay-per-view card down in Jacksonville, Florida at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Stadium, the same stadium where nearly a year ago the promotion held its first event with fans since the start of the pandemic. The card for UFC 273 is headlined by two exciting title fights and an additional bout including one of the most exciting prospects in the entire promotion against a former title challenger coming off of a dominant win. As always, the undercard is filled with talented prospects looking to raise their rankings in hopes of cracking the top 15 in their respective divisions. The prelims kick off with a stellar welterweight bout between Mickey Gall and Mike Malott. Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Marcin Tybura should bring the heat in their heavyweight bout that should produce another top contender. Ian Garry, deemed the next Conor McGregor, gets his second UFC bout against Darian Weeks. As always, let’s break down the main card predictions.

Previous Prediction Record: 35-22

VINC PICHEL VS. MARK O. MADSEN

Mark O. Madsen has used his decorated wrestling credentials to pound through his first three fights in the UFC. The Olympic silver medalist came off a close split decision win against the legendary Clay Guida in August. Guida was able to eliminate Madsen’s wrestling threat but was unable to control the lethal body strikes that carried Madsen to victory. Vinc Pichel on the other hand is a much more decorated striker than Madsen. Pichel is looking to be more active after winning three straight fights in the last three years. He’s handled wrestlers like Austin Hubbard with ease and even has a decent offensive wrestling game himself. If Pichel is able to keep Madsen at distance and use his length to his advantage, I would imagine a tough evening for Madsen as he fights to keep his undefeated streak alive.

Official Prediction: Pichel by KO/TKO

MACKENZIE DERN VS. TECIA TORRES

Mackenzie Dern was on a ridiculous tear through the strawweight division before meeting Maria Rodriguez and was unable to implement her own game plan. Despite that, Dern’s run says a lot about what she can do to the rest of the women in her division when on point. She finished three of her four last wins with first-round submissions. Her striking lacks greatly but her jujitsu has made up for it. She’s matched up with another striker in Tecia Torres. However, the big difference between her former opponent, Maria Rodriguez, and Tecia Torres is power, by a significant margin. Torres only has only TKO to her name compared to Rodriguez’s six. Torres does have some solid volume numbers to her name but I can’t imagine this would be much of a concern for Dern once she’s able to get the fight to the ground where she’ll likely dominate.

Official Prediction: Dern by Submission

GILBERT BURNS VS. KHAMZAT CHIMAEV

Khamzat Chimaev has been one of the UFC’s most exciting prospects since McGregor was on his rise. Even after dealing with what was described as a nasty battle with COVID-19, Chimaev still looked perfect in his last fight against Li Jingliang, which ended in a first-round submission. In fact, Chimaev has been almost perfect in all of his bouts in the UFC. He’s had more UFC fights than significant strikes taken, which is absolutely wild to wrap your head around. All of his fights have ended with finishes in the first two rounds, including a 17-second knockout of Gerald Meerschaert. While Gilbert Burns still looks to be in his prime as a fighter, I think Chimaev is too much of an all-around combatant for Burns to manage. Even though I do believe that the odds for this fight are disrespectful towards Burns. He’ll have to improvise outside of his standard gameplay to pull off a sneaky submission if he stands a chance to win. However, Chimaev’s style of offensive wrestling may simply be too much for Burns to have opportunities. Chimaev will likely be fighting for the belt after this expected win.

Official Prediction: Chimaev by Unanimous Decision

ALJAMAIN STERLING VS. PETR YAN

It took thirteen months for the highly anticipated rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan has come to fruition. While Sterling was recovering from neck surgery, Yan claimed the interim belt against Cory Sandhagen in an all-out brawl that showed Yan has a massive chip on his shoulder to earn back what’s his. Especially considering that Yan was winning the first fight and had all the momentum, all the pressure is on him to perform on Saturday’s UFC 273. Even when Sterling was throwing awkward kicks and hooks, Yan barely bit and technically picked Sterling apart once his tank ran out. I can’t expect much to change unless Sterling can pull something out of his back pocket and pull off a quick submission. Sterling stands little chance to be able to outpace Yan so he’ll have to find a finish if he wants any chance to pull the upset. It’s hard to see Sterling winning this fight and a potential finish would only be the cherry on top for Yan’s continued dominant run in the UFC.

Official Prediction: Yan by KO/TKO

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI VS. CHAN SUNG JUNG

Aspiring to become more of a consistent fighter, Alexander Volkanovski looks to defend his title for the second time within a year. While Max Holloway was originally scheduled to earn his belt back, the popular Chan Sung Jung, AKA “Korean Zombie”, stepped in for one last title shot. Coming off a dominant victory against Dan Ige, Korean Zombie has a high mountain to climb after Volkanovski’s last title defense. Volkanovski was forced to the trenches against Brian Ortega, even describing how he saw the lights dim in a nasty choke. But his resilience carried his way to another victory. I don’t see him facing any problems against KZ with his elite-level striking and phenomenal wrestling skills. KZ’s best chance is to pull a historic upset is to bring some surprise submissions that may catch Volkanovski by surprise. But even in Ortega’s best efforts to do the same, “The Great” still prevailed. I expect the trilogy between Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski to be booked for early fall when they can finally settle the controversy from the second fight.

Official Prediction: Volkanovski by Unanimous Decision

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 24

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!

Guards

Jose Alvarado, PG, New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans have done a phenomenal job with developing talent including Herbert Jones as a second-round pick. But Jose Alvarado has been just as impressive recently. He’s provided a big spark off the bench for the Pelicans. In his last 10 games, Alvarado has averaged 10 points, three rebounds, five assists, and 1.8 steals per game. He could improve on his outside shooting but it’s not a major concern considering his role with the team. He’s a great option to roll within the fantasy championships as he rides with the momentum. 

Alec Burks, PG/SG, New York Knicks

Even with all the issues the New York Knicks have had to deal with this season, Alec Burks never fails to still catch fire and go on decent scoring runs. He’s now back in the starting lineup and continues to be a strong scoring option for NYK. In his last 10 games, Burks has averaged 14 points, six rebounds, four assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s also shot a fine 41 percent from beyond the arc. If the Knicks choose to shift some players around, Burks could be one to end up with a contender in the offseason. 

Payton Prichard, PG, Boston Celtics

After an incredible career at the University of Oregon, Payton Prichard unleashed scoring and deep threes have carried over to the NBA. He’s been on a hot streak, earning consistent minutes off the bench. IN his last 10 games, Prichard has been averaging 10 points, two assists, and nearly a steal per game. He’s also shot an absurd 56 percent on over four attempts a game from three. He’s averaging all this in about only 17 minutes per game. Improvement like this could see Prichard earning more minutes for the rest of this season and beyond. 

Forwards

Drew Eubanks, PF, Portland Trail Blazers

Now on his 4th 10-day contract, Drew Eubanks is looking like another young player Portland can add to their mix as they now look to the rebuilding phase. In his last 10 games, Eubanks has averaged 15 points, nine rebounds, and has shot over 60 percent from the field. It would be foolish for the front office not to sign him to a long term deal. Injuries have also given him the opportunity for more averages like for the rest of the season. He’s a perfect player to add for the fantasy championships. 

Marvin Bagley III, PF, Detroit Pistons

After never developing into the superstar he was supposed to be with the Sacramento Kings, Marvin Bagley III has seemed to realign his path with the Detroit Pistons. In his last 10 games. Bagley has averaged 16 points, seven rebounds, and nearly a steal per game. He’s also shot an impressive 56 percent from the field. He could improve on his three-point shooting. But Bagley looks to have finally found a new home where he could develop into a quality player for the Piston’s future. 

Deni Avdija, SF, Washington Wizards

After a slow start to his rookie year, Deni Avdija still looks to be a ways away from the star that many projected him to be coming into the 2020 NBA Draft. With Kyle Kuzma dealing with an injury, Avdija has been given more minutes to show his improvement. In his last 10 games, Avdija has averaged 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists per game. He could use some improvement on his efficiency and shooting percentages. But he still has some solid potential heading into what’ll be his second off-season as a professional. 

Trey Lyles, PF, Sacramento Kings

With Domantas Sabonis expected to miss some games with a knee injury, Trey Lyles has seen an uptick in minutes as a power forward for the Kings. He was also a member of the trade that sent Bagley to the Pistons. In his last 10 games, Lyles has averaged 12 points and eight rebounds while shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 50 percent from the field. Lyles seems to fit well with Alvin Gentry’s system and should be a great option for the rest of the season while Sabonis remains out. 

Centers

Nic Claxton, C/PF, Brooklyn Nets

Nic Claxton has been a great young player for the Brooklyn Nets through his development. He’s been a complementary player to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant as an interior defender and rim runner. In his last 10 games, Claxton has averaged 10 points, six rebounds, and around 1.4 blocks per game in only about 20 minutes a game. He’s also shot an efficient 75 percent form the field in those same games. If Andre Drummond ends up signing with a new team next season, Claxton should be looked at as a legitimate sleeper in drafts next season. 

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 23

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!

Guards

Immanuel Quickley, PG, New York Knicks
Immanuel Quickley has been a key prospect in the Knicks’ development system because they’ve lacked a legitimate starting point guard for the last few seasons now. He’s been on a better run in his young career as of late. In his last 10 games, Quickley has averaged 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, and a steal per game. He’s done a great job at improving his three-point shot, hitting around 43 percent. He’s still has a long way to go before becoming a polished player, but he continues to show consistent improvement. 

Bones Hyland, PG, Denver Nuggets
Popular because of his nickname, Bones Hyland has become a solid guard for the Nuggets since Jamal Murraymay end up missing the entire season. Like Quickley, Hyland has had spurts of more productive play. In his last 10 games, Hyland has averaged 14 points, three rebounds, four assists, and a steal per game. He’s been lights out with his three-point shooting, hitting around 49 percent on over five attempts a game. He looks to have a bright future in the league but is a great player off waivers currently to ride the hot hand with. 

Davion Mitchell, PG, Sacramento Kings
Once Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliberaton were traded to the Indiana Pacers, Davion Mitchell was looked at as a potential target to see more minutes for the King’s backcourt. Mitchell has slowly seen that increase come for fortune. In his last 10 games, Mitchell has averaged 12 points, three assists, and a steal per game. Mitchell has also shown slow improvement with his three-point shooting, hitting around 35 percent in those same games. Mitchell is another raw prospect off waivers that are continuing to put in solid work as the regular season comes to a close. 

Forwards

Lauri Markkanen, PF/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Once a very confusing signing in the offseason, Lauri Markkanen has proved to be key in the success of the Cavaliers this season. In his last 10 games, Markkanen has averaged 15 points, six rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. His switch to more of a small forward position has been great defensively for the Cavaliers, giving them a new identity with some other key interior defenders such as Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. He’s been a consistent starter in the lineup and that will likely not change as the fantasy playoffs continue to tread through. 

Torrey Craig, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns
While not known for much outside of a versatile defender, Torrey Craig has surprisingly been filling out the stat sheet more recently. In his last five games, Craig has averaged 12 points, eight rebounds, around a steal and a block per game. Compared to his 32 percent average on the season, Craig has hit 60 percent of his threes on around three attempts per game. Despite a consistent role, this run likely won’t last forever. So Craig is worth adding temporarily for the fantasy playoffs. 

De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks
As the fourth overall selection in the 2019 draft, De’Andre Hunter had a ton of expectations coming into the league. He’s yet to hit a lot of those due to consistent injuries but he has shown some promise as a versatile forward. Over his last 10 games, Hunter has averaged 17 points, two rebounds, and around a steal per game. He’s done a great job stretching the floor for Trae Young and company, hitting around 43 percent of his threes. He still has some question marks for his health, but when on the court, Hunter is a proven quality player. 

Centers

Damian Jones, C, Sacramento Kings
With Richan Holmes out for the rest of the season and Domantas Sabonis now expected to miss the upcoming road trip, Damian Jones is now expected to receive a lot of minutes at the center position for the Kings. He had a quality outing against the Suns where in only 22 minutes, he finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, and two steals. He’s far from the most talented player on this column, but his current opportunity could lead to having great stat lines over the next few games. 

Alperen Sengun, C, Houston Rockets
One of the many young prospects on the Rockets roster, Alperen Sengun is one who shows a lot of “unicorn” potential as he’s a very versatile player at 6’9″. In his last 10 games. Sengun has averaged 10 points, six rebounds, and a steal and a block per game. His percentages lack him being an efficient scorer, as he only hits around 44 percent from the field. But his raw ability makes a great candidate to watch for the remainder of the regular season and for future seasons.

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 22

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!

Guards

Cameron Payne, PG, Phoenix Suns
When Chris Paul was ruled to be out 6-8 weeks with a fractured thumb, Cameron Payne was expected to be the new starting point guard for the time being. He’s done a great job keeping the Suns afloat as a top contender in the Western Conference. In his last seven games, Payne has averaged 15 points, four rebounds, 10 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He’s also only averaged 2.4 turnovers, giving him over a 4:1 assist to turnover ratio. He’s expected to hold the job until the end of the regular season, giving him great value for fantasy playoffs. 

Malik Monk, SG/SF, Los Angeles Lakers
Once a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Malik Monk has found some new light with the Los Angeles Lakers despite massive struggles as a team. He continues to be a productive scorer and could see himself a solid paycheck over the summer. In his last 10 games, Monk has averaged 13 points, four rebounds, three assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He’s also shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc in those same games. He’s the hot hand to ride with and a great option for the fantasy playoffs. 

Josh Hart, SG/SF, Portland Trail Blazers
Josh Hart has had his wonders since being traded to the Blazers for CJ McCullom. Not only has he totaled 75 points over his last two games. But Hart has averaged 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and 1.4 steals per game in his nine games with the team. His shooting percentages are decent for his volume, maintaining around 47 percent from the field on 13 attempts. He’s already shaping up to be a quality cornerpiece for the rebuilding Blazers. He also has a high upside for the fantasy playoffs as the number one scoring option. 

Forwards

Darius Bazley, SF/PF, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have a plethora of young talent to mix through and watch who may become the next star to partner with Shai Gilgous-Alexander. While far from a star, Darius Bazley has been able to put on productive stretches on games for the team. In his last 10 games, he’s averaged 10 points, six rebounds, and a steal and a block per game. He could still use some improvement in his three-point shooting, as he’s already hitting around 25 percent from beyond the arc. But he’s still a solid option with a ton of opportunity on a rebuilding team. 

Trendon Watford, PF, Portland Trail Blazers
With a lot of players on the Blazers dealing with injuries, Trendon Watford has been bumped up in the rotation and has responded well with his production. In his last 10 games, Watford has averaged 12 points and six rebounds a game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc. His role going forward is unclear once players start coming back. But it is a sign that the Blazers have another player with upside in the future. 

Dorian Finney-Smith, SF/PF, Dallas Mavericks
Once going undrafted, Dorian Finney-Smith has worked his way towards earning a four-year extension worth $52 million. His elite perimeter defense and catch-and-shoot threes have been key for the Mavericks this year. He’s currently on one of the better production runs this season. In his last 10 games, Finney-Smith has averaged 15 points, five rebounds, and a steal per game. He’s also done a phenomenal job shooting around 51 percent from beyond the arc. He’s a reliable option for the remainder of the season. 

Jonathan Kuminga, SF/PF, Golden State Warriors
The seventh overall pick in the 2021 Draft has done a good job creating playing opportunities for himself despite playing on a team with a ton of depth. Johnathan Kuminga has continued to raise his upside and has already solidified himself as a rotation player for the remainder of the season. In his last 10 games, Kuminga has averaged 15 points and five rebounds per game. He’s also done well shooting above 50 percent from the field. Kuminga has also shown solid improvement in three-point shooting, averaging 39 percent in the same 10 games. 

Centers

Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C, Los Angeles Clippers
After showing strong flashes with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets, Isaiah Hartenstein is now with the Clippers as a consistent and reliable big man off the bench for the crew. Over his last 10 games, Hartenstein has averaged nine points, five rebounds, three assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. He’s also been efficient, shooting over 70 percent from the field in those same games. He’s not the most appealing player off waivers, but he is one of the more dependable players.

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 21

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!

Guards

Monte Morris, PG, Denver Nuggets
A consistent point guard throughout his entire career, Monte Morris has been tasked with handling a lot more duties this season with Jamal Murray still recovering from a torn ACL. He’s been able to put on some stretches of games where he is hot from the field. In his last 10 games, Morris has averaged 13 points, five assists, and less than turnover a game. He’s also done well shooting above 50 percent from the field and above 45 percent from beyond the arc. his role should stay consistent with the fantasy playoffs around the corner and no signal that Murray is coming back before then. 

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG/SF, Washington Wizards
A member of the trade that sent Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a productive 3 and D player for the Wizards, who are still trying to turn the corner. He’s been on a bit of a hot streak as of late. In his last 10 games, KCP has averaged 17 points, three rebounds, three assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He’s also shot a stellar 51 percent from beyond the arc. His role should also stay consistent going forward since Bradley Beal is expected to miss the remainder of the season. 

Malachi Flynn, PG, Toronto Raptors
With Fred VanVleet being out for the last five games, Malachi Flynn has been able to show off his improvements in his second season. In the four games that Flynn has been able to start in, he’s averaged 16 points, four rebounds, six assists, and a steal per game. He’s also shot an effective 55 percent from three as well. It is unclear when FVV will return to the starting lineup, but Flynn is worth watching on radars for the time being since Nick Nurse relies on his starters heavily.

Forwards

Cam Johnson, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns
After being selected in the lottery a few seasons ago, Cam Johnson has filled out to be a solid player off the bench for the Suns. He’s been on one of the best stretches of his entire career since the All-Star Break. In his last 10 games, Johnson has averaged 17 points, three rebounds, and three assists per game. He’s also shot a very impressive 53 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, and 93 percent from the free-throw line. Johnson has seemed to find his role coming off the bench but it wouldn’t be surprising if he was moved to the starting lineup if his defense improved. 

Jalen Smith, PF, Indiana Pacers
Mentioned on last week’s waiver wire as a player who could break out with his new team, Jalen Smith has done just that with the Pacers. He recently finished a game with 15 points and 15 rebounds. he’s averaged a double-double over his last four games. He’s also shot 57 percent from the field and 37 percent from three on over four attempts per game. After looking like an early bust from his class, Smith has turned his trajectory around to looking like a quality cornerstone for the future of the Pacers. 

Chuma Okeke, PF, Orlando Magic
Chuma Okeke has been on the radar for the entire season as a young prospect who could show a ton of improvement in his second season. While he has yet to show that consistently, Okeke has been on a better stretch of games as of later. Over his last 10 games, Okeke has averaged 11 points, six rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game. He’s shown decent improvement in his three-point shooting, but that’s certainly an aspect he could still improve upon. He’s a great player to add for deeper formatted fantasy leagues. 

Centers

Isaiah Roby, PF/C, Oklahoma City Thunder
Even with all the young talent, the Thunder have throughout the roster, Isaiah Roby is one of the more underrated within that core. He’s been on a bit of a breakout of his own in recent games. Over his last nine games, Roby has averaged 12 points, six rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. However, he’s averaged as high as 15 points and seven boards over his last six games. Roby could be a solid frontcourt contributor going forward if he were to stay consistent with his production. 

DeMarcus Cousins, C, Denver Nuggets
Despite not playing a full season with one team since 2019, DeMarcus Cousins has still been able to produce well with whatever team he’s playing for. Now with the Nuggets, Cousins has done well filling a backup center role they’ve been looking for since JaVale McGee left in free agency. Over his last five games with the team, Cousins has averaged 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He’s also shot 56 percent from the field and 45 percent from three on just over two attempts. Even past his prime, Cousins can still play high-quality basketball at 31 years old.

UFC 272 Predictions

UFC returns to the familiar city of Las Vegas to settle some bad blood between two former American Top Team teammates in Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. The two combatants will get to settle their hatred for each other in a five-round main event. While this is the first pay-per-view card that doesn’t feature a belt or Conor McGregor in a very long time, this is not a card to overlook.

A lot of quality prospects will have their chance to raise their stock to hopefully get a crack at the rankings. Mariya Agapova, Umar Nurmagovedov, Devonta Smith, Nicolae Negumereanu, Kennedy Nzechukwu, and Jalin Turner are some of the more recognizable names scattered across the prelims.

Let’s dive right into the predictions of what should be another exciting main card.

Previous Prediction Record: 32-20

SERGEY SPIVAK VS. GREG HARDY

Former NFL star, Greg Hardy, was once poised to be a top prospect in the heavyweight division. But after being knocked out in his last two fights against Marcin Tybura and Tai Tuivasa while becoming the first fighter to ever miss the heavyweight weight limit, Hardy has lost some of his spotlight. His opponent, Sergey Spivak, is coming off of a loss to Tom Aspinall, but has ripped off key wins against Alexey Oleynik, Jared Vanderaa, and Carlos Felipe. His mixture of strong wrestling and power striking has given him a myriad of finishes throughout his career. Unless Hardy shows great improvement in his overall wrestling defense, I expect that to be his Spivak’s primary formula to secure the win and have him back on track moving up the heavyweight rankings.

Official Prediction: Spivak by Submission

KEVIN HOLLAND VS. ALEX OLIVEIRA

After going 5-0 in 2020, Kevin Holland’s wrestling defensive flaws were exposed by dropping his last two main event bouts to Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori in 2021. Holland followed those fights with a no-contest against Kyle Daukaus after an accidental clash of heads.  A new year comes with a new change for Holland as he finally moves down weight classes to 170 pounds after teasing the idea for months. His 170 pound debut comes against veteran Alex Oliveira, an experienced wrestler who is currently on a three-fight losing streak. Holland’s frame and length proved to be a massive advantage at middleweight and that should only be a bigger advantage at a lighter weight class. Assuming he’s improved his take-down defense during training sessions leading up to the bout, Kevin Holland should have a pretty convincing win and put the rest of the class on notice.

Official Prediction: Holland by KO/TKO

EDSON BARBOZA VS. BRYCE MITCHELL

Season 27 winner of The Ultimate Fighter, Bryce Mitchell, returns after a 17-month layoff to square off against veteran Edson Barboza. A slick submission specialist, Mitchell AKA “Thug Nasty,” is riding a five-fight winning streak including four decision wins, proving his durability and cardio to endure multiple rounds. Approximately 45 percent of his time inside of the octagon has been spent on the ground, a level that only fighters such as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev have met. His formula to win is ground and pound with an eventual submission. But his main concern should be Barboza’s hands as he is the clear favorite in the striking department. Barboza also hasn’t been submitted since 2015 by Tony Ferguson, so Mitchell has a tall mountain to climb. I think it will be a tough task considering the layoff too. I expect Barboza to bank another win against a young up-and-comer and hold his ranking.

Official Prediction: Barboza by Unanimous Decision

RAFAEL DOS ANJOS VS. RENATO MOICANO

After Rafael Fizev had to pull out due to a positive COVID-19 test, Renato Moicano joined the card on 10 days notice and the fight has been moved up to 160 lb catchweight. Moicano is coming off a submission win against Alexander Hernandez in February at UFC 271. He now faces former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, who is fighting his second bout since moving back down from 170. He showcased a dominant win against Paul Felder, but that was 16 months ago and injuries have delayed his return to the octagon. Grappling will take center stage in this matchup as both fighters combine for 19 submission finishes. I do think Moicano’s best strategy is to avoid groundwork as he did not have a full camp coming into this fight. Moicano has a chance to win in the stand-up, but I think it’s a tough task to pull off an upset against a former champ who is back in his natural weight class and hungry to get back to fighting.

Official Prediction: dos Anjos by Unanimous Decision

COLBY COVINGTON VS. JORGE MASVIDAL

Entering his 51st professional bout, Jorge Masvidal, is known as the guy who can pull off sneaky victories where he isn’t favored. His flying knee knockout of Ben Askren will go down as one of the best finishes of all time. Wins over Darren Till and Nate Diaz show his grit and toughness in situations where he’s labeled as the underdog. Covington has to make this a wrestling match to have any chance of winning. Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is a huge challenge stand-up-wise because of his dynamic style with a lot of kick and knee movement. Recent back-to-back losses against Kamaru Usman have to spark some fire for Masvidal to improve his wrestling defense. I think if the bad blood is real between the two, the big brother effect will play at large too. As Masvidal has stated that he provided a lot for Covington upon entering the MMA scene. I think Gamebred shows off for the fans and adds another exciting finish to his resume of knockouts.

Official Prediction: Masvidal by KO/TKO

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 20

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!

Guards

Bruce Brown, SG, Brooklyn Nets
After being considered a steal when traded from the Detroit Pistons to the Brooklyn Nets, Bruce Brown has been a critical role player for the Nets as they continue to work through injuries to their star players. In his last 10 games, Brown has averaged 10 points, five rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s been excellent with his shot selection, hitting around 50 percent from the field. And while not taking many three-pointers, Brown has averaged 53 percent from three. His role will continue to be important if the Nets want to stay alive in the playoff hunt while Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons continue to work towards their return. 

Tre Mann, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Mentioned on last week’s waiver wire after having a 30 point game against the New York Knicks, Tre Mann has taken a solid jump as he’s been included in the starting lineup. In his last 10 games, Mann has averaged 13 points, three rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. He could use some major improvement on his shooting percentages, as he only averaged 36 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc. But at only 21 years old, he has plenty of room for improvement. It’s important that Mark Daigneault is including him in the rotation. 

Raul Neto, PG, Washington Wizards
Now in his second season with the Washington Wizards, Raul Neto has seen an increased role with Bradley Beal going down for the rest of the season. In his last 10 games where he has started in seven of them, Neto has averaged 11 points, five assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He’s also shot a solid 48 percent from the field in those same games. While the Wizards are still a bubble team in the Eastern Conference, Neto should see a consistent role for the rest of the season.

Forwards

Bogdon Bogdanovic, SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks
After having one of his best seasons last year, Bogdon Bogdanovic has struggled a bit to put on that same kind of production as he’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries. He has improved a little bit of late, averaging 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, and 1.8 steals over his last 10 games. He’s also shot a lethal 43 percent from beyond the arc in those same games. Now looking to be fully healthy, Bogdanovic could be lined up for a productive end-of-the-season run. 

Terance Mann, SF, Los Angeles Clippers
After a stellar playoff run with the Clippers last season, Terance Mann has failed to establish consistent production due to a lot of changes in the team’s lineup. In his last 10 games, Mann has averaged 13 points, six rebounds, three assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He’s also shot a stellar 53 percent from the field. It’s hard to determine what his role is going forward as he has been featured in and out of the starting lineup with fluctuating minutes but he has proven to be productive with whatever role he’s given. 

Oshae Brissett, PF, Indiana Pacers
After Domantas Sabonis was traded to the Sacramento Kings, a lot of rotation changes were made to the frontcourt of the Pacers. With that, Oshae Brissett has benefited a ton from the changes. In his last six games since the trade, Brissett has averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. He’s also shot around 14 field goals a game, hitting about 43 percent of them. He’s been involved a ton in the offense since the trade deadline and that should only continue for the rest of the fantasy season. 

Jalen Smith, PF, Indiana Pacers
Jalen Smith is another player who has benefited well after he was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Indiana Pacers. He’s finally been given the opportunity to show his game after being drafted to a very crowded frontcourt. In his six games with the Pacers, Smith has averaged 12 points and seven rebounds. He’s shot a very impressive 45 percent from beyond the arc, something he never got to showcase with the Suns. He still has a ton of upside as a top-10 draft pick from only a year ago and should have plenty of opportunities to improve with the Pacers going forward. 

Centers

Andre Drummond, C, Brooklyn Nets
After being part of the James Harden deal that shipped him to Philadelphia, Andre Drummond has been given an opportunity to join a new team’s starting lineup after primarily being the backup with the 76ers. In his first five games with the Brooklyn Nets, Drummond has averaged 11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He’s also done well shooting 56 percent from the field, his best since his second season in the NBA. He’s a solid pickup if still available as he fills a critical role for the Nets who are looking to stay in the playoff hunt.

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Mid-Season’s Best

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!

With the All-Star Break here, we look at some of the best pickups throughout the first half of this season. Some honorable mentions include Josh GiddeyWill Barton, and Josh Hart

Guards

Jalen Brunson, PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks
One of the more underrated players in the NBA, Villanova alumni, Jalen Brunson, continues to play some impressive basketball after being a second-round selection. In his fourth season, Brunson is averaging career bests in points (16.3), rebounds (3.8), assists (5.4), and steals (0.9). His shooting percentages are down but still better compared to his earlier seasons. He’s a well-polished prospect at 25 years old. He’s also been a very consistent and effective pickup off the waiver wire. 

Cole Anthony, PG, Orlando Magic
After a raw rookie season, Cole Anthony exploded into his second season with the Orlando Magic. He became the best guard on the team despite the team spending a top-five selection on Jalen Suggs. Anthony has made a jump this season in points (17.7), rebounds (5.8), assists (5.9), and steals (0.8). He could improve with his deep-ball shooting. But his athleticism and explosiveness make him one of the better prospects at only 21 years old. He’s served well to anyone who was able to scoop him in the first few days of the regular season. 

Tyrese Maxey, SG/PG, Philadelphia 76ers
With Ben Simmons expected to sit out games coming into the regular season, Tyrese Maxey was a prime target who could have a huge second jump in the NBA. He’s done just that as he’s made jumps in points (16.9, nearly double last season), rebounds (3.5), and assists (4.6). He’s also shown massive improvement in his three-point shooting, jumping from 30 to 39 percent. He’s also been one of the better prospects in the NBA and it’ll be interesting what his role becomes with James Harden going forward for the Philadelphia backcourt.

Forwards

Desmond Bane, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies
Few expected Desmond Bane to make the kind of jump he did this season. After being mainly three and d player off the bench, Bane has now held the role as a primary perimeter scorer with Ja Morant. Averaging 17 points, four rebounds, and 1.2 steals while shooting 41 percent from three, Bane has been huge for the Grizzlies jump as a team this season. He’s also been one of the best players off the waiver wire this season. Proving his consistency and ability to have huge games had been critical for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award contender to show his worth in fantasy. 

Franz Wagner, SF/PF, Orlando Magic
Franz Wagner quickly turned into being the more promising rookie for the Orlando Magic despite not being the higher one drafted. He has yet to miss a game this season and has been stellar and consistent in his play. He’s averaging 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, and nearly a steal per game. He’s shooting a solid 37 percent from beyond the arc. He’s a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year and has a ton of promise going forward for the Orlando Magic who is looking to turn it around as a franchise. 

Gary Trent Jr., SG/SF, Toronto Raptors
After being traded from the Portland Trail Blazers, Gary Trent Jr. made a massive jump and has only continued that in his first full season with the Toronto Raptors. He’s made a huge improvement defensively, now averaging nearly two steals per game after never averaging more than one in a season. He’s averaging a career-high 19 points per game while also shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. He’s proven to be another cornerstone in the new-look Raptors who have since moved on from the Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan duo. 

Centers

Evan Mobley, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers
Many questioned what kind of impact Evan Mobley could have being partnered alongside another interior big man in Jarrett Allen, who signed an extension in the off-season. That was quickly doubted when Mobley found his craft on defense and in the mid-range game offensively. He’s been more than impressive in his rookie season, averaging 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and 1.6 blocks per game. He’s done well shooting around 50 percent from the field. While it isn’t necessary, a three-point shot could make Mobley become an elite all-around player. 

Bobby Portis, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks
After putting on a very strong season with the Milwaukee Bucks in their championship run, it was surprising that Bobby Portis wasn’t being considered a decent draft selection in the leagues the following season. Nonetheless, he is proving again to be a quality producer for the Bucks. Portis is averaging 15 points, nine rebounds, and nearly a steal and a block per game. He continues to be elite from beyond the arc, hitting around 40 percent on almost five attempts per game. Maybe with a second strong season, he’ll be considered a quality fantasy draft selection for years to come.

Oregon Rebounds Offensively as the Ducks Cruise Past UCLA

After offensive struggles in their series against Oregon State that ended with each team earning a win, Oregon came out against UCLA with a much better offensive performance in their 67-53 win over the UCLA Bruins. 

The Ducks opened up the first quarter with three assists on their first three baskets, including an opening three from Maddie Scherr. For a team that only averages about 15 assists a game, they ended with 11 in the first half. The Ducks had a much better offensive output in the first half as well. Oregon finished the first half hitting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. Te-Hina Paopao, Endyia Rogers, and Maddie Scherr all finished the first half with two threes each. Oregon also did a great job defensively only holding the Bruins to 36 percent shooting in the first half. Oregon ended the first half doubling UCLA’s score, 40-20. 

While the second half was much more scrapper compared to the first, Oregon still prevailed in keeping a consistent lead over UCLA. The third quarter kicked with a four-point play from Charisma, who finished with a team-high 16 points and 5 rebounds but shot very inefficiently, 6-15 from the floor. Dominique Onu also scored 16 points of her own for the Bruins, off the bench. UCLA did outscore the Ducks by 10 and was out-rebounded by 9 in the third quarter. But Oregon’s offense prevailed in the fourth quarter, not allowing the Bruins to ever close the gap from the first half. Despite being outrebounded in the third quarter, the Ducks fixed that and outrebounded the Bruins by 5. UCLA struggled shooting 4-18 as the game came to an end. 

Sedona Prince refound her offensive groove, finishing with nine points, five rebounds, and two blocks off the bench for the Ducks. While the big three of Sabally, Paopao, and Rogers combined for 43 points. While the Ducks held UCLA’s top three scorers in Osbourne, Ilmar’l Thomas, and Jaelynn Penn to only 22 points. Sabally had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Oregon did finish with 16 assists to 13 turnovers. Paopao also had a strong game defensively with 3 steals. A lot of strong performances down to the 12 women off the bench for the Ducks. The Ducks look forward to facing the California Golden Bears on Friday before facing off against Stanford, the number two team in the country.

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 18

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. Here at NFS, we provide the best picks for players you should grab off waivers now before it is too late. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD! 

Guards

Cam Thomas, SG, Brooklyn Nets
One of the most underrated freshmen in college basketball last year, Cam Thomas slid to the 27th overall pick for his lack of defensive ability and lack of efficiency offensively. Nonetheless, his scoring has carried over into the pros, giving Brooklyn a much-needed scoring option with Kevin Durant and James Harden out. In his last 10 games, Thomas has averaged 15 points and three rebounds per game. He’s also improved from three compared to his season average at 27 percent. He’s hit 35 percent of his attempts over the same games. He’s a great option while the team continues to recover. 

Coby White, PG, Chicago Bulls
Once a lottery pick for the Chicago Bulls, Coby White has found a specialized role with the team as a scoring sixth man. He’s been more important now with Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball dealing with long-term injuries. In his last 10 games, White has averaged 15 points, four rebounds, and three assists. He’s also improved a ton in his shooting percentages, hitting 44 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc. One of the biggest flaws in his first two seasons was his shooting percentages so even if White becomes a permanent sixth man, he’s still worth picking up in most formats. 

Tre Mann, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Selected with the 18th overall pick last summer, Tre Mann has shown some solid promise for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Mann carries a lot of length which converts to being a lethal attacker in the paint. He’s also proved to be a decent shooter as well. he recently finished with 30 points and two steals against the New York Knicks. He’s a solid complementary player alongside Josh Giddey and Luguentz Dort as another dynamic scorer.

Forwards

Darius Bazley, SF/PF, Oklahoma City Thunder
After choosing to skip college, Darius Bazley is still trying to prove why that’s a better path to the pros. He continues to show slow growth every season since being drafted. This season has been one of Bazley’s best defensively, becoming a reliable forward on both ends of the floor. In his last 10 games, Bazley has averaged 13 points, eight rebounds, 1.2 steals, and a block per game. He’s also shot 43 percent from beyond the arc during those same games. 

Justice Winslow, SF, Portland Trail Blazers
After being in a fairly lopsided trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, Justice Winslow has actually shown some promise in his first four games with the Blazers. In those four games, he’s averaging 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and nearly two steals per game. He’s also shooting a decent 47 percent from the field, an improvement nonetheless from his time with the Clippers. He still has to prove he can be a consistent producer for the tea, but he’s showing early promise for a rebuilding Blazers team. 

Johnathan Kuminga, SF/PF, Golden State Warriors
Being one of the first players to play for the G-League Ignite team, Johnathan Kuminga has shown some solid skill when playing significant minutes for an already loaded Golden State Warriors team. He’s already shown to be very promising for the future if they were to shuffle some players around in the offseason. In his last 10 games, Kuminga has averaged 13 points, four rebounds, and is shooting 57 percent from the field. And despite the loaded frontcourt, he’s already showing he can be reliable for deeper formatted fantasy leagues. 

Centers

Steven Adams, C, Memphis Grizzlies
After being traded from the New Orleans Pelicans, Steven Adams has been a staple veteran for the Memphis Grizzlies who have made a major jump this season. He’s been a reliable center who doesn’t need a ton of touches, giving more for Ja Morant and Desmon Bane. In his last 10 games, Adams has averaged eight points, 11 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and nearly four assists per game. His passing out of the post has been an underrated aspect of his success this season. He’s a create consistent center off the waivers who generally stays healthy throughout the season. 

JaVale McGee, C, Phoenix Suns
After missing a few games earlier this season, JaVale McGee hasn’t missed a step in proving a critical backup center role for the Phoenix Suns. In only about 16 minutes per game over his 10 games, McGee has been able to average an impressive 10 points, seven rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 65 percent from the field. He’s proved to be even more dangerous when DeAndre Ayton misses games. He’s a perfect unpopular pick off waivers because of his simplistic playstyle and little minutes compared to other players. Yet, he is still able to produce better than some starters per 36 minutes.