UFC action starts in 2021 back at a familiar location on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, but this time at Etihad Arena in front of fans for the first time since March 2020. The main event features the return of former featherweight champion Max Holloway, coming off two straight losses to Alexander Volkanovski and fighting his first non-title fight since 2016. His opponent, Calvin Kattar, holds a two-fight win streak since he lost to Zabit Magomedsharipov in November 2019. This includes a five-round victory over Dan Ige in his most recent bout, the first time Kattar has ever fought in the later championship rounds. That experience should help as he faces an experienced five-round fighter in Holloway.
UFC Fight Island 7 DraftKings Picks
Santiago Ponzinibbio – $9,300
The ‘Argentine Dagger’ Santiago Ponzinibbio is riding a seven-fight win streak heading into this fight against China Top Team member Li Jingliang. Jingliang is more than formidable as a welterweight with a recent victory over Brazil’s Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos. However, this pick is a pure bet on Ponzinibbio to get the job done. I think he is slightly better than Jingliang in the striking department and grappling. Both fighters recently faced Neil Magny, with Ponzinibbio finishing Magny with a KO victory in the fourth round, while Jingliang struggled throughout, failing to win a round against Magny. Although steeply priced at $9,300, I do not see any other result than Ponzinibbio getting his hand raised when this fight is all said and done.
Max Holloway – $8,900
Holloway mentioned in his pre-fight interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani that his fight preparation for Kattar is no different than any other fight despite no championship title on the line. Many believed, including me, that Holloway edged out Volkanovski in their rematch on July 11, 2020. Holloway stylistically matches up well with Kattar’s strengths and should be able to push Kattar’s cardio as Dan Ige did in his first five-round fight. With that in mind, I think Holloway gets the job done against Kattar and is back on track to regain the featherweight title he held for years.
Carlos Felipe – $8,600
Carlos ‘Boi’ Felipe is coming off his first UFC victory against Yorgan De Castro and is looking to make it two straight when he faces Justin Tafa this weekend. Both fighters are young heavyweights with ample promise. However, at this point it seems Felipe is the more complete fighter with more to offer in the octagon. Felipe handled Yorgan De Castro during their fight, but Tafa was unable to make it out of the first round against Castro for the first loss in his career. I will back Felipe’s experience in his 10-fight career compared to Tafa’s five to get the victory this weekend.
Wu Yanan – $8,400
My favorite pick of the night is Wu Yanan out of China with a fair price of $8,400. Yanan enters this fight against Joselyne Edwards with three career UFC fights compared to Edwards making her UFC debut on Saturday. I believe the experience of Yanan will be effective to make Edwards’s debut a struggle for the lady from Panama.
Punahele Soriano – $7,700
The matchup between Soriano and Dusko Todorovic has big fight of the night potential and is the fight I am most looking forward to besides the main event. These fighters are both young and undefeated, a UFC matchmaking recipe for a fantastic fight. Despite Todorovic’s “lack” of UFC experience, one fight in the UFC and one on Dana White’s Contender Series, he also has a vicious first round KO victory against Michel Pereira in a 2018 Serbian Battle Championship fight. Despite all of that, I need to make a few upset picks. Soriano is a complete fighter, and I am betting his ground game will be enough to pull off the upset against Todorovic this weekend.
Vanessa Melo – $7,100
Vanessa Melo out of Brazil has yet to record her first UFC victory in three attempts. But I believe she gets her first victory this weekend. Canada’s Sarah Moras comes into this fight with more experience and just as much to prove with her record of 6-7. I just think this price is too low (and Moras’s too high), to not pick Melo in my lineup. Melo’s three career UFC fights have been against challenging opponents and Moras might be the worst of the pack. Back Melo to get her first UFC victory of her career.