This week kicks off a streak of nine consecutive weeks of UFC, with some incredibly exciting cards in that span, but … well, this ain’t one of ’em. At least not from a star power perspective. There’s just not a whole lot to attract casual fans without gambling interests here. This is the worst card we will see in quite awhile in terms of star power, and has just 12 fights as opposed to the customary 13, which has lead to a good deal of chopping at the top of tournaments in the past. There’s still viability for DFS and betting purposes, but if your bankroll has limitations, this isn’t the ideal card to attack heavily. Whether playing light or heavy, we’re still going to comb through each fight and find the best avenue of attack in both tournament and cash games. A general note on the card: there are very few high confidence underdogs and in a general sense, we are forced to be more exposed to many or all of them than would be preferred if the fights were happening on a different card. My thoughts on the best way to attack each fight in tournaments is in the fight breakdowns, with cash strategy and bets at the end.
*UPDATE* John Lineker has dropped out of his fight and we are down to 11 fights. All remaining fighters made weight.
Prelims on ESPN+
Andre Ewell, -115, 8300 vs Anderson Dos Santos, -115, 7900
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -135 to end inside the distance
Anderson Dos Santos is a rounded fighter entering his second UFC fight. He lost a clear decision in his debut, but he did have some exciting moments. In this fight he’ll likely fare as well as he is willing to pressure, with the ultimate goal being getting the fight to the floor whenever possible. His grappling advantage will be wider than his disadvantage on the feet, but if there isn’t something of a sense of urgency for grappling, he’s going to get beat up on the feet. The height and reach disadvantage will be significant, as he loses 4 inches of height and 6 inches of reach against a better striker, so both his willingness and ability to push forward and use pressure to get the fight to the floor will be the full key for him. His path to victory is grappling and finding a submission or controlling his opponent to a decision.
Andre Ewell is a long striker who relies on his punches, with an incomplete game. His striking is effective and brings a level of power that isn’t world beating, but does need to be addressed and accounted for by his opponents. He has shown that he is very much a UFC caliber fighter from a striking perspective, while he’s also shown that he falls quite short of that competitive level in the grappling department. While his takedown defense isn’t elite, he does well enough when not being constantly pressured. The brutal part is once he’s taken down, he has shown no competence for getting back to his feet nor being the slightest threat from his back. A win in this fight comes from standing and striking his way to a decision or a KO, but note the KO is very much in play.
A clash of styles and strengths here in a pick’em fight. I would lean heavily towards Dos Santos if I had a degree of confidence that he’d push to get the fight to the floor at the level he should, but I worry he will be too willing to stand and strike for his own good. This simply isn’t a fight to take a stand on in tournaments, and requires moderate exposure to both sides, with the fight being a candidate for overweighting exposure. Dos Santos can get a slight edge due to underdog pricing.
Deron Winn, -285, 9300 vs Eric Spicely, +235, 6900
Fight is at 185 lbs and is -230 to end inside the distance.
Deron Winn makes his UFC debut, and brings an outlier body type at middleweight, similar to that of a fire hydrant. He’s just 5 feet 5 inches tall and will be giving up 9 inches of height to his opponent. This is a massive difference but the true outlier status here lies in that the reach difference is just 2 inches and Winn clearly has more length in his upper body than lower body. He’s an extremely high-level wrestler with a developing standup game. He seems to have sound power but ground and pound is currently the best tool in his developing toolbox. His wrestling is much much better than his BJJ and it makes for an intriguing clash.
Eric Spicely returns (he was released by the promotion after his most recent KO loss) to the UFC as a short-notice replacement and as always, his BJJ is by far the greatest tool in his arsenal. While his technical striking has slowly improved over the years, he’s never brought power, and he will be at a massive disadvantage in the wrestling department. While getting to the mat in a favorable position won’t be in the cards, he will have a large experience and ability advantage in BJJ and is very much in play to find a submission.
This is an interesting fight as neither fighter is a high-level striker on the feet, and each has his own advantage on the grappling side of things. The height aspect is something I’m having a hard time getting past on Winn, combined with the fact that executing his strengths in takedowns puts him in the danger zone of grappling with Spicely. Both the line and price feel too high on Winn. It’s not lost on me that Winn is one of two fighters on the card with a negative ITD line and Spicely doesn’t bring the toughest chin. But what I am saying is: proceed with some level of caution. He’s nothing resembling a lock in 20-max and shouldn’t remotely be your highest exposure on the card. Spicely, with a submission path to a large DK score at a tiny salary, needs to be in any build as well. This fight is a strong optimal candidate and Spicely has a clear path to the optimal at his price, so even exposure at a moderate level to both fighters is the play.
Ariane Lipski, -270, 9100 vs Molly McCann, +225, 7100
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +145 to end inside the distance.
Molly McCann is a likable and tough fighter. She has no problem engaging in a brawl and is scrappy and fun to watch. She walks into the toughest test of her career in this fight and is likely going to be on the wrong end of an ability disparity. Her grappling seemed to have improved in her last fight, going from complete novice level understanding to just the most rudimentary understandings. She’s a boxer/brawler and will likely have to land the perfect shot in an exchange to walk away with a win. This is just a rough stylistic matchup for Molly.
Ariane Lipski is a very good and powerful Thai striker with good reach. She’ll have 2 inches of height and 5 inches of reach advantage, as well as the speed and power advantage. She is also willing to brawl, but at a more calculated pace, and has the power to knock her opponents out. She’s a sound, if not elite grappler as well. She has shown good submission defense and has submissions to her record. She did have a problem getting back to her feet in her last fight against a better grappler, but that certainly isn’t the case here. I don’t see a problem area for Lipski anywhere in this fight.
Molly has heart and won’t hesitate to throw punches, so she isn’t a complete MME fade. She can definitely be faded in 20-max, however. Lipski should be a large exposure in all formats and should have her way throughout. The only relative unknown is her scoring ceiling, but a finish is quite in play whether she chooses to strike, grapple or both.
Allen Crowder, +180, 7200 vs Jair Rozenstruick, -225, 9000
Fight is at heavyweight and is -365 to end inside the distance.
Jair Rozenstruick came exactly as advertised in his UFC debut. After some early hiccups in some bad grappling spots, the highly experienced kickboxer earned an early second round KO. He isn’t a large heavyweight but he is a great striker with power, who will eventually need to have his grappling skillset catch up to his striking if he’s ever to be a player in the division. He gets a lower level opponent in his second walk to the octagon and brings the lowest personal ITD line on the card at -150. He is indeed a good bet for a KO, and his DK ceiling hinges on just how early he can make that happen.
All due respect to Allen Crowder, but he is very much JAG (just a guy) as far as UFC heavyweights go. His striking is fine, but there’s no power behind it. His wrestling is best described as capable enough against non-high-level grapplers, and his submission skills are pretty good. If he’s to win this fight, it’s almost certainly by taking advantage of the green nature of his opponent on the floor.
I strongly lean Rozenstruick in this fight, as the striking advantage will be a large one. He should be one of the highest exposures, if not the highest, in any build, with Crowder getting small to moderate exposure in MME and 20-max. Crowder feels kind of gross, but does have an advantage spot on the floor and must be used.
Matt Wiman, +300, 6700 vs Luis Pena, -385, 9500
Fight is at 155 lbs and is -105 to end inside the distance.
Matt Wiman returns to the octagon after a five-year hiatus. There’s an element of unknown as to why such a long hiatus as well as why he’s returning. He isn’t a social media guy and is somewhat reclusive so we’re just not entirely sure what we’re getting on Saturday. He’s generally a decision fighter without a ton of power but does have a slick submission game that he’ll need to utilize in this one. He’ll be giving up 4” of height and a whopping 8” of reach in this one and is the largest underdog on the card. Id deem submission the only realistic path to victory.
Luis Pena moves up a weight class after learning what we mostly already knew after a weight miss in his last fight: he’s just too big for featherweight. It appears the promotion has plans for his future and dusted off a thought to be retired fighter likely in need of a paycheck to aide in the transition up a weight class. He doesn’t yet know how to fully use his insanely long frame, but is capable in all aspects and should have a pronounced advantage striking. He doesn’t have the output pace to return on salary in a decision win and will need to find a finish and likely early to see his way into the optimal.
As mentioned, it’s extremely unlikely either fighter sees their way into the optimal without a finish, but that’s completely in play for Pena. You have to attack a fighter that was never great coming off an unexplained five year layoff. Moderate exposure to Pena in MME and 20 max while Wiman is a 20 max fade and just variance exposure for MME.
Ashley Yoder, -120, 8200 vs Syuri Kondo, -110, 8000
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +275 to end inside the distance.
Syuri Kondo is a striker who throws in volume, but lacks true strategy and power with her strikes. Her game is simply volume. She will need a two-pronged approach to win this fight. First, being the smaller fighter, she will need to make the volume of strikes get home at a pace to win the decision. Second, she will have to have her takedown defense hold up. Her opponent, despite not resembling an elite grappler, is the best grappler Kondo has faced to date and Kondo has no grappling background to speak of. She’ll be at a big disadvantage on the floor while her advantage on the feet will come from a willingness to let her strikes fly at a greater clip.
Ashley Yoder is a developing fighter, but one without glaring holes in her repertoire. She will be the larger fighter with a 3-inch height and 3-inch reach advantage. As mentioned, she has decent wrestling with some judo throws to get the fight to the floor, and the BJJ brown belt will have a large advantage on the floor, and will be a submission threat. In the past, she hasn’t struck in volume, but has shown adequate power, with her best strikes being a straight left and left kick to the body from her southpaw stance. There needs to be a massive note made that Kondo immediately crumbled to a left kick to the liver from Poliana Botelho and Yoder is quite capable of getting that strike home.
If there’s a finish to be found in this fight, it’s almost certainly to be found by Yoder. Any ceiling in this fight belongs to her, as her style doesn’t lend to being touched by strikes in volume. This fight will be largely ignored and I think overweighting on Yoder is a sound contrarian attack. Moderate exposure in all formats will be overweight compared to the field. Kondo should be just variance-to-fade level in all formats as her path to the optimal lies solely in eclipsing 100 SS in a decision win.
Dan Ige, +120, 7800 vs Kevin Aguilar, -150, 8400
Fight is at 145 lbs and is +140 to end inside the distance.
Dan Ige is being truly disrespected by underdog status in this fight. He’s a complete fighter — a strong wrestler with savvy passes while also being a huge ground and pound and submission threat. His standup striking is sound but far from elite. The only true issue we’ve seen from him is some gas problems, but you’ll have that when your fighter comes out looking for a quick finish, and that’s okay. Ige’s style lends to DK gold as he looks for quick finishes, and wouldn’t find himself in real trouble from gas until later in the fight.
Kevin Aguilar is a good striker and decent wrestler. Any advantage to be had in this fight will be in the standup, and that will rely on high-level takedown defense. I suspect he’s favored in this fight due to stuffing all eight of Enrique Barzola’s takedown attempts in his last fight. While he looked pretty good doing so in a decision win, all takedown attempts are not created equal. Barzola often uses the level change as a counter strike of sorts to advancing strikes, while Ige is a different animal. His attacking chain wrestling is sound and he is quite capable of open mat takedowns set up by his own strikes, so I’m viewing the situations as quite different. Even if Aguilar is able to stay upright for 15 minutes, he’s not a fighter who throws in volume. A win would be a decision or a late KO based on his opponent gassing and isn’t a great bet for the optimal.
I want a high level of exposure to Ige in all formats, as he always brings a real ceiling. Aguilar has enough pop in his punches that he isn’t a fade by any means, but just a low-level exposure in MME. He is a fade candidate in 20-max.
Main Card On ESPN+
Kevin Holland, -225, 8800 vs Alessio Di Chirico, +180, 7400
Fight is at 185 lbs and +100 to end inside the distance.
Alessio Di Chirico is a rounded Italian fighter. He’s a capable wrestler with sound takedowns and is a capable and calculated striker. He doesn’t strike with pace but does have some power to make up for the pace shortage. Despite having some submissions to his record, his wrestling is far better than his BJJ, and executing any takedowns likely works to his disadvantage in this fight. He was previously easily submitted by Eric Spicely while in top position and his opponent is at least as much of a danger as Spicely on the floor. Realistically his paths to victory are an unlikely KO or avoiding sweeps and riding top position on the floor to a decision victory that wouldn’t be useful on DK. He will have a fight IQ advantage on his opponent despite being at a physical ability disadvantage.
I remain wholly intrigued by Kevin Holland and believe he has a limitless ceiling should he decide to leave some of his big personality out of the octagon and opt to walk in there as a killer. He has an extremely large frame for a middleweight and despite his opponent not being small for 185 pounds, Holland will have a 3-inch height and 7-inch reach advantage. He has extremely effective striking when he’s focused and is quite an effective grappler. His grappling ability can work against him as it makes him too willing to accept being taken down. He is able to sweep and attack submissions from the bottom but it is maddening at times how willing he is to be there. He brings a massive ceiling every time he steps in the octagon and is a great bet for the optimal in this matchup. I’ll go so far to say he’s a lock for the optimal should he decide he wants a highlight reel finish instead of a fun fight.
Di Chirico is able and there is a reasonable chance he could capitalize on a mental error. He should have small to low-moderate exposure in both MME and 20-max. Holland should see very heavy ownership in all formats.
Andrea Lee, -215, 8700 vs Montana De La Rosa, +175, 7500
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +180 to end inside the distance.
Montana de la Rosa is a wrestler with some chops on the floor, whose striking is not on the level with her grappling. Her head movement is, in a word, poor. She is able to land punches effectively and close distance on non high level fighters and has finished all three of her UFC fights via submission, but she was finished both times she ran into a higher level opponent prior to her UFC tenure. This fight marks the toughest striker she’s ever faced and while she will have the wrestling advantage, she is not the better BJJ fighter in this matchup. While she is accustomed to being the longer fighter she will be at a 1-inch reach disadvantage in this fight. Her path to victory is controlling her opponent on the floor, likely needing some mat returns for a decision win, or the low level possibility of finding a submission.
Andrea Lee is an extremely well-rounded fighter. She’s a great Thai striker with additional high-level background in Judo and BJJ. She will hold a massive advantage in the standup striking department and has the know how to get back to her feet or attack submissions even if she finds herself taken down. She’s rightfully favored here as she’s simply the more mature and rounded fighter. She throws with plenty of volume and is capable of pounding home enough strikes for a KO.
De la Rosa will almost certainly have to come in with a wrestling attack, which needless to say is sound for DK scoring and needs at least a small part of any tourney build. Lee is a sound bet to win and should have a moderate part of any build bringing a very good floor and attainable ceiling.
Bryan Barberena, -275, 9200 vs Randy Brown, +220, 7000
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -130 to end inside the distance.
Brian Barberena is one of the toughest fighters the world has to offer. He has the proverbial granite chin and is not afraid to eat a couple shots to move forward and put his opponent out. We obviously won’t forget the all timer he put on with Vincente Luque in his last outing, and if we get that type of fight again, they will be scraping his opponent off the canvas. Where Barberena has struggled in the past is being neutralized and controlled by high-level wrestler/grapplers. While his opponent is competent on the floor and in transitions, he’s not a controlling fighter and will be forced to stand in front of Barberena. It should be noted the last couple of times Barberena walked into a fight as a large favorite like he is in this one, he went out and got a first-round KO.
Randy Brown got knocked out in top position in his last fight, and it’s not likely he ever accomplishes anything better or worse than that so as to be remembered for anything else. The promotion obviously isn’t thrilled with that outcome or they wouldn’t be throwing a guy like Barberena at him in his follow-up fight, and he now has a high chance of being ushered out of the promotion. He’s extremely long for the division and will have the length advantage in virtually every fight. He’ll have 3 inches of height and 6 inches of reach in this one, and he’ll need every bit of it to stay on the outside if he’s to eke out a decision win. He does throw a decent enough head kick, and those can get through any amount of chin, so that would likely be his only path to securing a finish.
Barberena is a great bet for a win and a finish, with the biggest question being how quickly can he get the job done. Even a second-round KO could be not early enough to see his score into the optimal, and is enough of a reason not to be highly overexposed. The price is prohibitive so it boils down to high-level exposure being perfectly fine. Just don’t create another high-salary full fade by going overboard on Barberena. Brown is just variance level in MME and a fade in 20-max.
John Lineker, -210, 8900 vs Rob Font, +175, 7300
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +155 to end inside the distance.
***Lineker has dropped out of this fight and it is cancelled***
John Lineker is a short and strong striker. He’s exceptional at using the known power in his hands to neutralize the distance and jab of longer fighters. He doesn’t grapple much and has very sound takedown defense, so a true DK ceiling comes only via early KO. This is a rematch, and he neutralized his opponent in an easy decision win in 2016. It’s again the most likely outcome here, which would bring a high probability of a score in the 80s, which at his salary would almost certainly not put him in the optimal. Rob Font is a long and well-rounded fighter, who generally has a high output, but Lineker is really good at neutralizing that aspect. Font was unable to establish a jab and keep distance in the first fight, and will have to deal with the same pressure again. I do believe he’s improved since the first matchup and has a better chance in this one, but he’ll need to do one of two things to get the win. Either put faith in his chin and be willing to engage in a brawl and try to put Lineker out, or more realistically find a home for the jab and pick his opponent apart and in volume from the outside. This isn’t a fight to grab a ton of exposure to. Lineker is a likely winner but also one that doesn’t project favorably to be in the optimal. Limit your builds to just the low end of moderate exposure to him in MME and less so in 20-max. Font isn’t a fade at salary but is just a low exposure in MME. He is however a fade candidate in 20-max.
Renato Moicano, -205, 8600 vs Korean Zombie, +170, 7600
Fight is five rounds at 145 lbs and is -195 to end inside the distance.
Renato Moicano is a still-ascending, long and well-rounded fighter, that does well keeping himself on the outside and winning a war of attrition. He was a victim of bad cornering in his last fight. After neutralizing Jose Aldo early, his corner told him to get inside. That tactic got him knocked out. He really has the ability to chew up a leg with kicks and that very well could come into play in this fight. His overall Thai striking is sound and has good movement, despite lacking top-end power. He’s also a BJJ black belt that will have an advantage on the floor in this one. His movement will be the key here. Despite not having a reach advantage, the height advantage will help with leg kicks and keeping outside and away from the power shots. Moicano should land a high volume of strikes and win a decision or find a later finish. His chin is somewhat of a question mark, and he will have to avoid the massive shot early. The price and line on him is appropriate.
Chan Sung Jung, universally known as the Korean Zombie, is a very fun and complete fighter entering a stylistically poor matchup. He has crisp and powerful striking, but his movement, or lack thereof, will get him in trouble in this fight. He stands in the middle of the octagon and wants to phone booth fight and rush forward in flurries. This style doesn’t work extremely well against high-level strikers, evidenced by his track record. His signature win is over the 2012 version of Dustin Poirier, and he has been knocked out late in the fight by the other two high-level strikers he’s faced, in Aldo and Yair Rodriguez. He very much has the power and ability to find a KO, but given the matchup, that will have to happen early in the fight or not at all. I expect his legs to be compromised by kicks somewhat early.
As with almost all main events, this is one to get heavy exposure to. We are far more likely than not to get into the championship rounds, and there will be points accumulated on both sides, with the winner being a near lock for the optimal. Moicano should be one of if not the highest exposure in all formats, and Zombie should see at least moderate exposure in all formats as well.
Cash and Single Entry
Cash lineups will begin with a main event stack and the underdog with the combo of ceiling and win probability, Ige. Next in is the floor/ceiling combo of Holland, but it gets a little bit wide open and dicey after that as there’s no more dogs that are attractive. Ashley Yoder will be fully contrarian in cash but she’s a sound bet to win and can be combined with Lee on the safe side or Rozenstruick on the aggressive side. Going down to her opponent in Kondo brings at least a SS floor and would allow a pairing with either Lipski or Barberena.
For single entry, picking a side in the main event will be the first domino to fall in building the lineup. Ige and Holland remain in the lineup. In Moicano lineups, you’ll have to take a stand and use either Spicely or Crowder as a ceiling punt. If using Spicely, it opens up combos of Lipski/Lee and Lipski/Rozenstruick, and feels the better option. If using Crowder, you’ll almost certainly have to go to Yoder and will have the option to pair her with Barberena, Lipski or even Winn.
Spicely by sub at +450 is a great value. Optional hedge with Winn by KO at -110
Ige +125. Optional additional press of Ige in R1 at +675
Barberena -275. Can press with Barberena by KO at +180.