This is as stacked as cards get, and the excitement meter should be at 100!
Unlike last week where all the information was in the same place, this piece will offer pertinent thoughts on each fighter and fight and will act as an overview for what to expect, with some preliminary thoughts on how to attack for DFS purposes. There will be another piece later in the week discussing best DFS plays and how to attack the card from a betting perspective, once we have prop lines.
Fight Pass Prelims
Hannah Cifers, +245, 7000 vs Polyana Viana, -310, 9200
Fight is at 115 lbs and is -190 to end inside the distance.
Polyana Viana is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) fighter with a truly elite ground and submission game. She’s very savvy in top or bottom position and always knows where the next submission to attack is in any transition. She throws heavy ground and pound and she’ll always be eager to get the fight to the floor. She has different ways to get the fight to the floor and has some savvy judo throws in her arsenal. On the feet, there’s some good and some bad. She’s fairly heavy handed and has good kicks, but she’s done just about zero training in actual boxing. Her chin stays high and head stays still and relies on chin. The positive on that is in this fight, she’ll have a 6-inch height and 5-inch reach advantage against an opponent that hasn’t shown an ability to effectively close distance while being outclassed and smaller.
Hannah Cifers is a fighter that had success on the regional scene, but was absolutely dominated by the debuting Maycee Barber in her UFC debut. Her strikes thrown were mostly hooks and looping stuff that will have to be extremely well timed to have any chance of getting home against an opponent that’s so much longer. She’s a very borderline UFC talent and will be one or zero losses away from needing a new promotion, should she lose. She will be at a disadvantage in every foreseeable scenario in this fight. It should also be noted the one grappler even in the same universe as Viana that she’s faced is Gillian Robertson, who submitted her.
This fight is a class mismatch. Despite there being higher betting lines on the card, it would be the most surprising fight in which to see the underdog win. Method of victory for Viana is the true unknown in this fight. Cifers is optional for tiny MME exposure only. Viana can be considered in all formats.
Gina Mazany, +330, 6800 vs Macy Chiasson, -440, 9400
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -180 to end inside the distance.
Gina Mazany is best described as a brawler without any subtlety and a not a great deal of technicality to anything she does. She throws heavy shots from the opening bell and eventually shoots takedowns with the intent of ground and pound. Her motor is high, but she has shown the ability to let this gas her in the third round. She’s also been exposed as a fighter who can be controlled and beaten in the clinch which does not bode well in this matchup.
Macy Chiasson makes her debut after breezing through and winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). TUF featured 145 pounders in her season and despite her ease of victory in each of her fights, she drops to her most natural weight class of 135 pounds in her debut. She is a very long and lean fighter and will have 3 inches of height and 5 inches of reach in this fight. She knows how to use her length and showed vicious knees on TUF, as well as a good understanding of how to secure position and submission on the floor.
The betting line is telling of the class difference here, despite the green nature of Chiasson. Mazany is only in play in MME in the hopes she can create a brawl and get some power shots home. Chiasson is so very pricey but brings a scoring ceiling and can be considered in all formats.
Charles Byrd, +105, 8000 vs Edmen Shahbazyan, -130, 8200
Fight is at 185 lbs and is -230 to end inside the distance,
Charles Byrd is a muscular wrestler and boxer. He is very strong with takedowns and applies heavy top control from which he attacks both ground and pound and submissions. He also throws heavily on the feet, but saw his chin give out in his last fight, being hurt and eventually finished by heavy-handed Darren Stewart in the second round. He’s now 1-1 (3-1 counting Dana White’s Contender Series fights) in the promotion and has had each fight end inside of two rounds. He will likely believe he has a striking advantage in this fight. It’s somewhat close but I would not give the edge to Byrd.
Edmen Shahbazyan is a freestyle fighter who’s utilized his striking as his best asset thus far in his undefeated career. Prior to his UFC debut, he never got to the 3:30 mark of the first round, finishing all of his wins inside of those first three and a half minutes. This includes his 40-second KO on Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), leading him to be signed with the organization. In his UFC debut, he won a split decision against (common opponent with Byrd) Darren Stewart, though at times it wasn’t pretty. Stewart hurt him with strikes in the later portion of that fight and he just survived to the bell. He did show off some smothering wrestling in the fight, and there’s now a two-fight trend to look to. In his DWCS fight, he fought a wrestler and threw strikes with purpose from the opening bell. In his UFC debut he fought a striker and opted for wrestling from the opening bell. He’s consistently attacked the weaker portion of his opponent’s skill sets. If this trend continues I see him attacking Byrd with strikes, causing this fight be a short one. Shahbazyan’s pressure will create a KO, one way or the other.
This is a tight fight to call and I see it as likely to last just one round. Both fighters are best suited for MME but both can be considered if you’re comfortable taking a stand in single entry. I’ll likely have heavy fight exposure in MME.
Diego Sanchez, +235, 7100 vs Mickey Gall, -285, 9100
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -175 to end inside the distance.
Diego Sanchez, yes the same fighter who won the first season of TUF, is a 14-year UFC vet and has a rounded game with a good motor. While he has a base in wrestling and BJJ, he prefers ground and pound over submission hunting. The BJJ black belt is nearing the end though, as his chin is giving out, having been KO’d in the first round of three of his last five fights. He wasn’t in much danger of being knocked out in his last fight, as he had roughly 14.5 minutes of top control on iffy UFC level fighter Craig White. Despite all this top control, he was hurt and knocked down in the only real striking exchange of the fight. He’s capable of being slept by any head strike at this point.
Mickey Gall is a BJJ fighter who is currently ranked as a brown belt but attacks submissions and grappling and is better than most black belts, including his opponent, in my opinion. Even with this being the case, Sanchez hasn’t been submitted in any of his 39 pro fights. This promotion gives Gall an opportunity to show he is capable of winning with striking, against an opponent with a chin that has fully faded. In six career fights, Gall has five submission wins and a decision loss. His decision loss saw him have difficulty attacking from bottom position against an inferior grappler and a repeat is very much a concern in this fight. He will have a 4-inch height and 2-inch reach advantage.
This fight could play out so many ways, and is not one to mess around with in cash or single entry. However, both fighters do have attainable value ceilings and both should be a part of MME, with heavier exposure on the Gall side.
Alejandro Pérez, +155, 7600 vs Cody Stamann, -190, 8600
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +250 to end inside the distance.
Alejandro Pérez is a slow-paced counter striker, that has striking chops and power, albeit in small volume. He mostly avoids grappling when possible as his game is counter striking, and he sticks to it while he feels he has the standing advantage. He’s also not a great wrestler as he’s 1/12 in takedown attempts in his last four fights and has just a 15 percent accuracy overall in the UFC. It’s ironic that his nickname is “Turbo,” as he does anything but strike in volume or pace a fight quickly. He’ll need to hand Cody Stamann the first KO of his career to find DK viability.
Stamann is a much busier striker, but doesn’t quite have the same technical crispness as Pérez. He is a much better wrestler and should be looking for takedowns often in this matchup. Neither fighter is a strong submission grappler, but Stamann will have a big advantage in wrestling situations. Ground and pound should be his preferred method. Getting a finish will be tough as Pérez has not been knocked out in nine UFC fights.
This fight could easily be the snoozer of the night. It is only in play for MME, and a strong candidate for a full fade.
Johnny Walker, -140, 8400 vs Misha Cirkunov, +110, 7800
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -600 to end inside the distance/
Johnny Walker got a very fast turnaround, and that means we all win. He remains insanely exciting and is quickly becoming a unique and terrifying KO artist, and he is still developing. Don’t blink in this one. Misha Cirkunov’s chin has become extremely questionable, and the limbs of Walker are a huge problem for that. Walker is 2/2 on KO’s in the UFC with a combined fight time of two minutes and thirteen seconds. This fight is a long shot to find the second round. Walker will have three inches of height and five inches of reach.
Cirkunov is a BJJ fighter and a great black belt, but has had chin problems and quick fights. His last four fights have all ended in the first round with two KO losses and two submission wins. It needs to be noted he collapsed from a very short right hand three fights ago and a punch at 1 percent of the power level that he’ll be seeing on Saturday. He is the superior grappler and will need an immediate takedown as he’s in real and immediate danger when standing.
This fight is rough for cash as if you’re incorrect on the winner, it will be a lineup killer. It is okay to choose a side in single entry as the winner is highly probable for 100-plus points at a middling price. You should have massive exposure to this fight in MME, up to 100 percent.
Jeremy Stephens, +200, 7300 vs Zabit Magomedsharipov, -250, 8900
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -125 to end inside the distance.
Jeremy Stephens returns after being body shot KO’d in his last fight by one of the GOATs, Jose Aldo. He now transitions back to being the one to welcome a very exciting prospect to gauge their actual current level of ability. Stephens isn’t quite elite, but he’s very good and has been a UFC staple since 2007. He remains quite heavy handed and has mostly strong takedown defense. He prefers to exchange standing and would be happy to be standing for 15 minutes, should the fight last that long. This fight is reminiscent of two fights ago when Josh Emmitt was rapidly ascending and Stephens was able to win by second-round KO. Of course, this is a different prospect, but Stephens is not to be taken lightly. This betting line seems too high. Stephens has enough power in his hands to sleep just about anyone.
Zabit Magomedsharipov is taking a quantum leap in class of opponent for this fight, and if you’ve been following, you’re on the edge of your seat for this one. Zabit is a complete fighter who has some long and highlight-reel-attempt-level striking techniques, but he is also a very sound wrestler with a good submission game. I’m anxious to see if he can hang with Stephens’ striking and, if it begins to go south, how long it will take for him to try to make it a grappling fight. Class jump fights are usually the most fun, and this one has a little something extra in level of excitement.
As mentioned, Stephens is a massive class jump for Zabit. The scoring ceilings he’s found in previous fights could be more elusive in this one. I do believe Stephens is the better striker. How effectively Zabit can get this one to the ground could be the determining factor. This fight is not for cash or single entry, but both fighters need places in MME. Stephens’ power makes him a high-ceiling fighter for a tiny price. I’ll have more exposure to him than to Zabit.
Main Card on PPV
Cody Garbrandt, -170, 8500 vs Pedro Munhoz, +140, 7700
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -195 to end inside the distance.
Cody Garbrandt is a freestyle striker, and an elite one at that. The former champ is a heavy-handed KO seeker who is coming off a two-part encounter with TJ Dillashaw that saw him knocked out twice in a combined three rounds, for the first two losses of his career. Prior to those fights he won the bantamweight championship with a decision win over all-time great Dominick Cruz. Despite this huge win, his experience against high-end competition ends there as he fought (later exposed to be) middling at best fighters prior to his title shot. He will prefer to keep this fight standing throughout as he’ll be at a large grappling disadvantage. While he’s a lightning fast and powerful striker, he does have some holes. He’s susceptible to kicks at all levels and his opponent throws extremely heavy kicks at all levels and it will be vital he defends these.
Pedro Munhoz isn’t a household name, nor a popular one … yet. But this is the fight that could put this very high-level fighter on the tongues of many fans, should he find a win. His skill set is fully complete and he can find a win in a variety of different ways. In his last two fights he had a body kick collapse both of his opponents. Both were wins and one was stopped due to the body kick. His punches are crisp and moderately powerful, but the real striking danger is coming from his kicks. He’s also a BJJ black belt that can throw strikes with no worry of being taken down, and he has a masterful guillotine, finishing seven fights with that specific choke. He’s also never been finished and showed a ton of chin, but Garbrandt will be the most decorated KO artist he’s faced to date.
As a fan, I’m truly excited for this fight. It will be action packed. I lean Munhoz in this fight, but am stopping short of recommending him as a cash play at this time. I do believe he’s a very strong tournament play with real ceiling, and I want heavy exposure. Garbrandt’s KO record requires he gets moderate MME exposure as well.
Tecia Torres, +105, 7900 vs Weili Zhang, -130, 8300
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +225 to end inside the distance.
Tecia Torres is a nine-fight UFC vet who is one of the best bets on the entire roster to have the judge’s scorecards come into play, as 12 of her 13 career fights have gone to decision. She’s a striker who prefers to not initiate any grappling exchanges, and despite being a sound striker, she doesn’t bring any level of scary power. She’s also a short fighter and will be giving up three inches of height and reach.
Weili Zhang is entering her third UFC and is very much an ascending prospect, facing what will be easily her highest-level opponent to date. After losing her pro debut in 2013, she’s rattled off 18 straight wins with 16 of those wins coming inside the distance. She’s a little more rounded than Torres as she’ll be a little more active trying to get to the floor, but I anticipate the majority of this fight will be standing. It’s a very close fight to call, but it’s one that’s likely to hear the final horn.
This will likely be a rough fight for DK scoring and is relegated to MME only. It is in play for a fade, but that would be aggressive. Torres as a salary underdog doesn’t have much ceiling and will need a lot of other favorites to win to find her way to the optimal. Zhang is the higher ceiling fighter, but is likely hard pressed for a finish here. I’ll have small exposure to this fight with more on the Zhang side.
Ben Askren, -275, 9000 vs Robbie Lawler, +220, 7200
Fight is at 170 lbs and is +155 to end inside the distance.
Ben Askren makes his much anticipated UFC debut and opens as a considerable favorite in a matchup that is easily his toughest to date. Askren is no spring chicken at 34 years old, but the promotion thought he was marketable and high-level enough to make a rare trade with the ONE Championship promotion, sending all time great Demetrious Johnson for the rights to Askren. Askren is an elite wrestler through and through and a BJJ black belt, albeit one with what I perceive to have an anemic standup game. He will do any and everything in his power to get this fight to the floor from the word go. The nature of his attack is one that can be perfect for the DK scoring system, landing takedowns with passes and the ability to continuously mat return an opponent that momentarily gets back to their feet.
Robbie Lawler is a 12-fight UFC vet and former middleweight champion, defending his belt twice before losing it to current champ Tyron Woodley in 2016. He’s a striker who has sound takedown defense, and will need every bit of it in this one. His takedown defense isn’t world class, but it is good enough that he won the championship from wrestler and Askren-like high volume takedown shooter Johny Hendricks. That will be key, but I also envision Lawler coming out guns blazing in the first 30-40 seconds (exactly like the beginning of the second Hendricks fight) trying to put away the wrestler before the fight can hit the floor.
Assuming Askren isn’t KO’d early in this one, he has a huge floor that’s great for cash and is very much in play in single entry as well. Askren should have ample exposure in an MME build with a hedge for value that includes some Lawler, but less than Askren.
Kamaru Usman, +155, 7500 vs Tyron Woodley, -185, 8700
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -115 to end inside the distance. This is a five round fight for the welterweight championship.
Kamaru Usman is a rapidly ascending wrestler who has a relentless motor, pursuing takedowns and top control. He is truly elite with his wrestling, which hides his pedestrian standup game. It will be vital for him to be the one completing the takedowns and getting a chance to land some ground and pound.
Champion Tyron Woodley is also an elite wrestler with world-class takedown defense, so it will be quite interesting to see the irresistible force of Usman’s takedown attempt volume against Woodley’s immovable object takedown defense. Woodley is the superior striker here and will likely be the one winning the standup battle.
This is a fight with a reasonable probability of going the full 25 minutes, which means it is very much in play for a cash stack. The stack itself would be buoyed in a wrestling-heavy fight, adding takedown points. Don’t stack this fight in tourneys but do have MME exposure to both fighters, with an edge to underdog Usman on scoring ceiling and exposure.
Jon “Bones” Jones, -900, 9600 vs Anthony Smith, +570, 6600
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -750 to end inside the distance. This is a five round fight and is for the light heavyweight championship.
Jon Jones is the most recognizable name in MMA today and will be technically better than everyone he fights. He is this much of a favorite for a good reason. However, his DK price doesn’t reconcile with his likely scoring output. The last time he had a finish win in the first two rounds was 2013, and it’s likely he needs to snap that streak with higher output than his average to find his way into the optimal lineup.
Anthony Smith is a fun, heavy-handed fighter who has had a career rebirth since his move up to the light heavyweight division. What separates him from all of Jones recent opponents, is his power striking. Jones has fought extremely high level competition, but it’s been years since he ran into a truly heavy handed opponent. Smith might do well to seek a brawl and hope to test the recently untested chin of Jones, as he will be technically picked apart otherwise.
Jones has the possibility of being a heavily owned cash play. You can consider playing him as mostly a blocker, as he is highly likely to win. I would avoid both fighters in single entry but am playing both in MME. In the event Smith wins, it will be by early KO, and he will have a great score and is the better game theory exposure for MME, as his ownership is likely tiny. I will likely be underweight on Jones, but I will have some exposure.