This is a lower-level Fight Night card as the rankings would go, and features no single fight with a betting line above -220, which theoretically creates value in the cheaper favorites and cheaper underdogs. From a DFS perspective, this creates a situation where it can be advantageous to not use the full salary in MME builds, in an effort to create unique lineups, attacking solo first place. Let’s get to the fights.
Prelims on ESPN+
Alex White, -160, 8600 vs Dan Moret, +130, 7600
Fight is at 155 lbs and is -120 to end inside the distance.
Alex White is a boxer turned MMA fighter, who is best when relying on his boxing base. He has crisp and powerful punches, and while it’s not one-shot KO power, it doesn’t take many on the button for him to find a KO. He remains a mostly green grappler who can be controlled and submitted on the floor.
Dan Moret gets a reprieve in level of competition after being put out cold while standing by Gilbert Burns in the second round of his UFC debut. He gets a more favorable matchup for his style in this fight as he is a submission seeker, and well, Burns has elite Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He will seek takedowns early and often.
This one boils down to who can dictate where the fight takes place, and both are capable of finishing the fight at any time, should they get their personal preference of standing versus grappling. It’s not a fight to attack for cash but it is a fight with a fairly high probability of seeing the winner into the optimal lineup, and one to use both sides in tourneys. I give a slight edge to Moret in exposure, as grapplers have better scoring ceiling and floor.
Alex Morono, -185, 9100 vs Zak Ottow, +155, 7100
Fight is at 170 lbs and is +170 to end inside the distance.
Alex Morono draws an extremely good stylistic matchup, as he is a fighter who wants to set and keep a high pace and throw heavy leather throughout. He’s willing to eat shots to dole them out. The BJJ black belt is willing to swing heavily because he doesn’t fear the takedown, or so it seems. He will press the action whenever possible.
Zak Ottow is a very low output (but still powerful) striker, who prefers to keep distance. He has a track record of just retreating and covering when pressured, and that’s the stylistic disadvantage he’ll be facing, as Morono won’t relent. He’s also a black belt but I would deem him at a slight grappling disadvantage.
This fight will feature Morono blasting from the word go. He’s in counter-shot danger, but less so than his opponent under the pressure. He brings volume and finish floor and ceiling, and is in play for cash and single entry. Both fighters are in play for MME but you should have at least a 2:1 split towards Morono.
Louis Smolka, -125, 8300 vs Matt Schnell, -105, 7900
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -115 to end inside the distance.
Despite being only 27 years old, Louis Smolka is entering the second fight of his second UFC stint, after being derailed by alcohol use in his first UFC run. He started his first stint at 4-1 including three finish wins, and was considered an ascending prospect, but was released after four consecutive losses. He got his drinking in order, finished three wins ITD in different promotions and returned to the UFC with a second-round submission win in November. He’s capable of winning by KO but he tries to grapple, and chases submissions early and often. He’s never been KO’d, and has been submitted just once in 20 pro fights.
Matt Schnell is a moderate- to low-output freestyle fighter who prefers to stand and strike since he’s reached the UFC. He entered the promotion being KO’d in the first round in consecutive fights, and his chin is a mammoth question mark. Since those losses, he’s had two decision wins that were literal bottom of the barrel for DK scoring. He is a BJJ purple belt and has a sound guillotine that he’s willing to jump while standing, but he’s the lowest floor and ceiling fighter on any card he fights on in median 90 percent ranges of outcomes.
Smolka will be active and is likely to create grappling points throughout, and does not need to find a finish to score. He is viable in all formats. Schnell is just fully optional for MME and a full fade candidate. His realistic (albeit unlikely) scoring ceiling comes in finding a submission.
Maurice Greene, +190, 6900 vs Jeff Hughes, -220, 9300
Fight is at heavyweight and is +100 to end inside the distance.
This fight is being run back after Jeff Hughes defeated Greene via decision on a regional promotion in April of 2018. Hughes is a freestyle fighter (and sparring partner of the GOAT, Stipe Miocic) who is willing to stand and strike, but word from Strong Style is he’s looking for a clinch to takedown to ground and pound heavy approach to this fight. What Hughes gives up in reach in this fight, he makes up for in chin and power in the hands. He will, however, not have the advantage in distance kickboxing situations.
Maurice Greene is longer and will have 5 inches of both height and reach, and will be capable of landing shots, but will not want to find himself against the fence or in bottom position. He’s not a helpless grappler, but he has certainly preyed on weaker competition. Ideally for him, he keeps this fight at kicking distance for 15 minutes and earns a point decision or a distance KO
This fight, like many heavyweight fights, should play out one of two ways: a big KO, or a snoozer that sees a lower volume of output. Both fighters are just MME plays with an edge to Hughes on exposure, and potential grappling scoring.
Marion Reneau, +155, 7300 vs Yana Kunitskaya, -185, 8900
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +180 to end inside the distance.
Marion Reneau is a tenured and respected UFC fighter, but is nearing the end at 41 years old. She’s a sound but not high-volume striker, and has a very sound BJJ (black belt) ground game, but is somewhat lacking in the wrestling department. She was overwhelmed and overpowered by Kat Zingano in her last fight in this area, and draws an opponent who is quite capable of doing the same. She has two wins via triangle choke in the UFC and has this as a last line of defense, but this feels like her only path to victory that also brings some DK scoring. A win in a slower paced standing decision wouldn’t likely bring much DK viability.
Yana Kunitskaya was signed to the promotion as a sacrificial lamb during Cyborg’s title reign at 145 lbs, and while she temporarily put up a fight there, she lost, as expected. She then dropped to her natural 135 lb weight class and physically dominated the generally extremely slow-paced Lina Lansberg and struck and grappled her way to a decision win and a good DK score. She’s likely to repeat this performance, with her sound Thai striking and wrestling. She just needs to avoid a submission.
Kunitskaya is in play in all formats while Reneau is just variance-level exposure in MME.
Tony Martin, -205, 9200 vs Sergio Moraes, +175, 7000
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -125 to end inside the distance.
Anthony Martin against Sergio Moraes has the potential to be a painful one to watch, unless you’re a big fan of striking feints and of subtle movements meant to improve position while grappling.
These fighters are very similar. Both are BJJ fighters at their base, neither throw anything resembling striking volume, both look for single power shots over combinations and both are quite happy to grapple, but neither can really wrestle.
While both are BJJ black belts, Moraes is the more decorated, and frankly the better grappler, and greater threat to win on the floor. Both have an easier time once the fight hits the floor than actually getting it there, with Moraes being willing to pull guard to do so.
If neither fighter is able to land a difference-making power shot or find a submission on the floor, this fight will be a candidate for an all-time low DK score for a decision winner. Get MME exposure on both sides, much more so for Moraes in the case of a finish at price, but that’s the extent of the usefulness of this fight. Martin’s price is unlikely to return value.
Main Card on ESPN+
Grant Dawson, -180, 8700 vs Julian Erosa, +150, 7500
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -250 to end inside the distance.
Grant Dawson makes his UFC debut after earning his way in on Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) via a second-round rear naked choke. He looks smooth getting into range and looks to be a very sound grappler. He showed savvy technique using ground and pound to advance position and eventually find a submission finish. He’s also ended each of his wins ITD. He’ll be looking to grapple at the earliest opportunity.
Julian Erosa enters the second fight of his second stint with the promotion. He’s a TUF 22 (2015) vet and was given one fight after TUF, before being released. He found his way back into the promotion with a (lucky) head kick KO in the second round of his DWCS fight. He was KO’d in under a minute in his second debut by up and comer Devonte Smith with a non-power shot. He’s a long and unorthodox striker who needs to land something big on the outside to find success, and is rightfully the underdog.
I believe it’s the beginning of the end for Erosa the second this fight hits the floor. Dawson will pursue grappling and is savvy at passing and ground and pound, and brings a great floor and ceiling. Dawson is in play in all formats while Erosa is just for variance-level exposure in MME.
Tim Boetsch, +110, 7700 vs Omari Akhmedov, -140, 8500
Fight is at 185 lbs and is -185 to end inside the distance.
Omari Akhmedov is a combat Sambo-based fighter who pursues takedowns and throws heavy leather on his way in, but there’s not much technical boxing. It’s bite down on the mouth piece and throw. He showed real power in his return to the middleweight division. One strike he throws heavy: the leg kick. Boetsch keeps the lead leg planted and it could be an issue early.
Tim Boetsch is a fighter who isn’t anything near elite, and he’s mostly unathletic, but he throws heavy punches and kicks, and is a sound wrestler with smooth transitions. He’s seen his last 10 fights over the past six years end in the first or second round, and this one will likely be no different.
Bombs will be thrown, submissions will be in play, and we will see someone finished. This is a great fight for MME and exposure should be evenly split on these fighters.
Beneil Dariush, -195, 9000 vs Drew Dober, +165, 7200
Fight is at 155 lbs and is +120 to end inside the distance.
Beneil Dariush is a busy UFC vet, fighting 14 times for the promotion in his five-year tenure. That level of activity has caught up with him as he’s been knocked out twice in his last four fights, despite only being finished once in his first 16 pro fights. He’s a BJJ fighter (black belt) at his base and is a better grappler than striker. However, his wrestling is mostly lacking. On the feet, he’ll be at a slight disadvantage, but is a capable Thai boxer. He’ll be at a large disadvantage in wrestling transitions but will be a true submission threat once on the floor.
Drew Dober is a freestyle fighter who’s best described as just okay or pretty good across the board, but lacks anything resembling an elite tool. He’s a sound striker, a sound grappler, and an average at best submission attacker/defender. Of the two fighters, he will have the slightly higher striking output. His avenues to victory are winning standing (almost certainly by decision) or utilizing ground and pound. He will be in trouble if he finds himself on the bottom grappling.
This isn’t a fight that is likely to see a world of action, but it’s not impossible that either fighter finds a first-round finish. This is a fight to get exposure to each side in MME, with an edge to the favorably priced Dober.
Blagoy Ivanov, -130, 8400 vs Ben Rothwell, +100, 7800
Fight is at heavyweight and is -160 to end inside the distance.
Ben Rothwell returns to the octagon after serving a two-year suspension. Before the suspension, he was on the cusp of a title shot and a high-level fighter, with finishes of Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem, Matt Mitrione and Brandon Vera. His output level is sound for the heavyweight division, but the early finish threat by either KO or sub is where his DK ceiling lies. His last fight in the octagon was a five round decision loss to Junior Dos Santos in which he wasn’t outclassed, but instead outworked. If he is even 69 percent of the version pre-suspension, the wrong fighter is favored in this fight. He will also have a 5-inch height and whopping 7-inch reach advantage.
Blagoy Ivanov is a Sambo and Judo based fighter entering his second fight with the promotion after debuting in a lopsided decision loss to Junior Dos Santos. He’s a sound striker and counter striker, and will continue to have a future with the promotion, but this fight is a puzzling one for him to agree to. His opponent is so much longer, and the last we knew of him, had chin for days. Finding his way inside in this fight will be necessary, and could prove difficult. It does work in his favor that his opponent is now 37 years old and coming off a two-year suspension
This is another favorable fight for MME and tournaments. You need exposure to both sides, but Rothwell should be one of your highest exposures as an underdog with ceiling.
Tim Means, -200, 8800 vs Niko Price, +170, 7400
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -220 to end inside the distance.
Tim Means is another grizzled UFC vet, entering his 15th fight with the promotion. He’s a long and lean striker and throws with volume. He’s willing to go in for an occasional takedown and throw some ground and pound, but he generally wants to brawl for the entirety of fights. He throws volume to the point where he can properly score in a decision win, but with his opponent’s skill set, there’s likely a finish in this one.
Niko Price is one of the weirdest fighters to attempt to analyze. He finds himself in serious trouble in just about every single fight, but has found some miracle finishes to bail him out of a couple of those spots, while being finished himself in others. He does have power in his hands but his striking defense is not sound, and he gets his chin tested in just about every fight. He’s not a sound wrestler, but he is a good grappler and is a submission threat from the floor.
This is a fight that should have fantastic pace and is a very good bet for having the winner land in the optimal lineup. Consider up to 100 percent exposure on this one in MME with an exposure edge toward Means.
Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos, +105, 8000 vs Curtis Millender, -125, 8200
Fight is at 170 lbs and is +130 to end inside the distance.
Curtis Millender is a very long striker who uses his length very well. Both punches and kicks cover a world of distance and land with accuracy. His weakness thus far has appeared to be off his back, and that shouldn’t be an issue against an opponent who’s completed just two takedowns in seven UFC appearances, and is also a striker by style.
Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos is also a striker, but with a different, more eccentric style, as he goes by “capoeira.” Neither fighter throws excessive volume, but both throw at a steady pace, and if the fight were to hit the floor, the advantage would belong to Dos Santos.
This is an extremely thin fight to call with a wide range of outcomes. A KO by either fighter or a decision win by either fighter would simply be unsurprising. My lean is that the length of Millender is the difference in this one. If this fight hits the third round, it’s a near certainty the winner does not land in the optimal lineup. I’m just playing both sides at a moderate- to low-exposure level in MME.
Derrick Lewis, +180, 6800 vs Junior Dos Santos, -210, 9400
Fight is at heavyweight and is -300 to end inside the distance. This is a five round main event fight.
Derrick Lewis is a slow-paced but skilled striker who has 16 UFC fights under his belt. I put emphasis on slow-paced because he’s hit the 50 significant strike mark just twice in those 16 fights and has never topped 53. He certainly has KO power, but for that to matter in DFS, he’ll have to find the needed KO in the first two rounds, even at his rock-bottom price. That said, Dos Santos is no longer a spring chicken and has been stopped in the first two rounds in two of his last five fights, and is in KO danger. Lewis also has a great chin and can eat damage well.
Junior Dos Santos fights with a boxing style and utilizes a jab well. He has become a fighter who outpoints other heavyweights with volume and still has very sound cardio. Make no mistake, he will outstrike Lewis in this fight, but the chin is at risk. He does have sound BJJ skills on the floor but usually chooses not to utilize them, opting to box on the fight. His mission will be to wear Lewis down and beat him with attrition.
The pricing and activity levels of these fighters has perfect correlation, and well, that’s unfortunate. You simply can’t fade a five-round fight, especially one with an active striker and a home run hitter, but this is a main that doesn’t feel great for cash. You can use Dos Santos if he fits, but Lewis isn’t in play there. I want an even level of exposure at a moderate level to these fighters in MME. This main event is not stackable for cash.