The third installment of the cable fight night comes to Minneapolis on Saturday. The UFC is showcasing a mixture of vets and up-and-comers including a No. 1 contender eliminator for the next crack at the heavyweight title in the main event. The card doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of attractiveness for underdogs as nine of the 13 fights have a favorite between -235 and -395. We will need to decipher which underdogs can get it done as well as which of these high-end favorites are the likeliest to outscore the others. We will likely have to spread ownership more than feels ideal given this card. Let’s get to it.
Cash plays, picks and bets updated after weigh ins.
Update: with the cancellation of the Griffin/Murdock bout, we won’t have to spread ownership as much as originally anticipated.
All fighters are on weight.
Prelims On ESPN
Junior Albini, -115, 8000 vs Maurice Greene, -115, 8200
Fight is at heavyweight and is -215 to end inside the distance.
Junior Albini makes the walk in a literal win-or-go-home-permanently scenario. After a win in his UFC debut, he’s on a three-fight skid including being finished twice. He will need a win to have a future with the promotion. He will be at a massive length disadvantage in this fight, giving up 4 inches of height and 8 inches of reach, and will have to fight through many jabs to find his way inside to secure a KO. He simply will be unable to win on volume in a decision. He tends to fight with his left arm extended which takes away the risk of overhand rights from orthodox fighters but puts him in danger of straight shots and jabs, of which there will likely be many in this fight. He’s not a high-level grappler by any means but will have the better BJJ in this fight if he’s able to get it to the ground. Even if this is the case he will be at risk of a triangle due to his opponent’s length and competence. He will almost certainly a get either a KO or a new career path here.
Maurice Greene is a very long heavyweight making the octagon walk for the second time after his stint on TUF28. He uses his length well and does have a very nice jab, despite not bringing high-level power. He does well with stance switches and that could do well to open up power shots with the left in this spot. He will be the busier striker and is in play for both decision win and KO. His wrestling is mostly non existent but he is competent off his back once he hits the floor. His length puts him in play for a triangle should he find himself in guard. His chin is still a relative unknown. He’s very much in play for an attrition KO or a decision win.
The middling pricing in this fight combined with the low ITD lines for both fighters make it a necessity to have both in any build. The ownership edge goes to Greene for the decision-based floor and pricing edge while both bring a KO ceiling. Exposure should be at the high end of moderate for Greene and mid-to-low end of moderate for Albini.
Emily Whitmire, -180, 8500 vs Amanda Ribas, +150, 7700
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +155 to end inside the distance.
Amanda Ribas makes her Octagon debut after a two-year fighting absence due to a controversial USADA suspension that the organization terminated prior to reaching its full term. She is a BJJ black belt with an extremely high-level judo background and the floor is her home. We don’t truly know where her level of striking is and whether or not she will be at a disadvantage there, but we do know she will have a sound advantage in clinch and ground situations, and is very much in play to find a finish on the floor as an underdog. Her judo and BJJ combo background gives her a rare skill set that can find takedowns that transition right into smooth passes and she knows how to finish both via submissions and ground and pound.
Emily Whitmire has made strides in her development as a fighter and is on a two-fight winning streak in the UFC. She will be slightly longer than her opponent and probably has an edge in technical striking on the feet, but doesn’t have anything resembling scary power in her strikes. She may very well be too much in love with her grappling skill set that pales in comparison to that of her opponent and may even opt to put herself in the danger zone on the floor. The last time she fought a high-level BJJ fighter, she was submitted in the first round, but it should be noted she’s improved in that area since then. While the oddsmakers believe she’s actually a better bet for a submission win of the two fighters, I’m strongly on the other side of this. She does have a defined path to a decision win by keeping it standing for the duration.
Considering salaries and skill sets for DK output, Ribas is perhaps the premiere underdog on this card. She can score in a decision win with grappling/ground points and is completely capable of finding a finish. She should see high exposure in both MME and 20-max. Whitmire can win a decision to be sure and is still the favored fighter. She is however a fade candidate in 20-max and should see just low to variance level exposure in MME.
Dalcha Lungiambula, -250, 8700 vs Dequan Townsend, +205, 7500
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -365 to end inside the distance.
Dalcha Lungiambula is making his UFC debut and is a powerful striker that has one-shot KO power. He is capable of takedowns with sound offensive wrestling but is more dangerous striking than in top position. His defensive wrestling and ability to get back up is a question mark so he will need to keep himself standing. He’s the more patient and technical striker of the two, but is willing to brawl. He’s a likely KO winner here but I don’t see this one going the distance in any event.
Dequan Townsend is not short on experience, but steps in as a debuting fighter on less than a week’s notice. He is heavy handed and a finisher and looks to be the more dangerous grappler of the two. However, he lands himself in bad positions on the floor somewhat frequently. He’s finished 17 of 21 wins but has only been finished once. A KO or submission win is in play.
This one should be a doozy and one to grab a ton of exposure to. As far as we know, the promotion had no plans to sign Townsend, and he will likely look to put on a show and live with the results. Townsend should have a moderate part of any build. Lungiambula should have high ownership in all builds and is a candidate to be at the top of your ownership list.
Jared Gordon, -335, 9200 vs Dan Moret, +260, 7000
Fight is at 155 lbs and is +170 to end inside the distance.
Dan Moret is a grappler that likes to move forward and ultimately land takedowns. Despite having some pop in his strikes that come in flurries, he’s never won a fight recorded via KO, but does have seven submissions on his record and is primarily a ground fighter. He has been knocked out twice in his career by UFC level fighters and he is very much in danger of that in this spot. Despite having 4 inches of height and 5 inches of reach, the key will be to get the fight to the floor as much as possible and work from there. While his opponent is setting off some chin alarms coming off being knocked out in consecutive fights, Moret will be in more danger than he’s offering his opponent standing. His last fight featured him pushing his opponent to the clinch attempting takedowns from there and was mostly a snoozer and a dud for DK. That is in the range of outcomes here, but his opponent is likely too active a fighter for that to happen.
Jared Gordon is an active output fighter that brings excitement and pushes the action. He’s complete with sound takedowns, but the backbone of his game is his striking. He can truly score with or without a finish, but has a new concern that wasn’t present in the past: he’s been hurt and knocked out in both of his last two fights, and there are now chin questions. He’s never been submitted, and his opponent is a ground fighter without any KOs so the concern isn’t as high as it would be in other matchups. Ultimately volume in a decision or finding a KO is the path for Gordon, and the likely way the fight plays out.
Moret will try to grapple, and Gordon’s potential chin issues have been touched on, so Moret at a favorable price is not a fade. If you must fade, do so in 20-max as opposed to MME, where you should stick to the low end of moderate exposure. Gordon certainly brings a ceiling, albeit at an unfavorable price. You’re forcing in at least a moderate amount of exposure in all formats. Don’t go crazy unless you’re fairly certain Moret will have no chance in slowing the pace and output.
Vince Murdock, +305, 6900 vs Jordan Griffin, -395, 9300
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -155 to end inside the distance.
***UPDATE: Murdock was declared medically unfit by the UFC and this fight is cancelled***
Vince Murdock is a compact striker making his UFC debut. He has something of a wrestling background as well, but will prefer to be standing for the duration. He throws sound kicks and punches but he doesn’t necessarily press forward, and that could be a real problem in this fight. He’s giving up 4 inches of height and 7 inches of reach, so he will really have to get inside to get the job done. He’s got a wrestling background but will be at a massive disadvantage if this one hits the floor, and will be in real danger of being submitted. I believe him to be quite outclassed here. His avenues to victory are a perfectly timed head kick or outpointing his opponent in a slow decision. His opponent would have to be quite passive for the latter to happen. Jordan Griffin enters his second fight with the promotion, after respectably having lost a close decision to the ascending Dan Ige. He’s long and tall for featherweight and he’s a better grappler than striker. His punches don’t necessarily have a lot of pop, but he does throw big actions with knees and kicks that put his opponents in danger. These often close the distance to initiate grappling exchanges. Ultimately he wants to get to the floor and he has very slick transitions and chokes and is a great bet to find one of those in this fight. Murdock drew a rough first fight here, and the jump in competition is quite large. He’s a fade candidate in all formats. If you play him, limit his exposure to just variance to low level in MME. Griffin is a sound bet to win and could quite easily find a finish. He should have a moderate to high amount of exposure in all builds.
Eryk Anders, -355, 9400 vs Vinicius Moreira, +280, 6800
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -260 to end inside the distance.
Vinicius Moreira is a BJJ fighter with great chops on the floor, and is a real threat, but there’s a massive caveat. He’s a below average striker by the measure of any promotion, and is on the short list of being the worst striker in the UFC. He will throw big actions to try to close distance and force a grappling exchange, but he has non existent head movement and really is the proverbial punching bag. His path to victory is solely in getting the fight to the floor and finding a submission before his chin inevitably gives out from getting touched frequently and heavily.
Eryk Anders has had a rough go of late. He’s dropped three in a row, but two of those include an understandable dismantling by Thiago Santos and what I believe to be a putrid and incorrect split decision loss to the since released and boring Elias Theodoreau. The real concern came in his last loss to Khalil Rountree in which he had his legs just destroyed to the point where he couldn’t mount any offense at all. This is more of a long term concern and he’s not in much striking danger in this one. If he stays off the floor, he will win. The narrative that Anders has had a string of opponents unwilling to engage has a good level of truth to it, and his opponent here won’t have much choice because he’s mostly flat footed and immobile. The concern for scoring output is just how calculated/slow he can be. A KO win could come outside the first round.
Moreira is not a fade due to a defined path to victory, and we need to have underdog exposure, as gross as it feels. He’s a small MME play with a tiny salary in hopes of a ceiling submission. Anders is a moderate play in all formats whose pricing won’t see him into the optimal without a first-round KO.
Ricardo Ramos. -325, 9100 vs Journey Newsom, +260, 7100
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +125 to end inside the distance.
Ricardo Ramos remains a young and developing prospect with a complete skill set. Despite entering his fifth UFC fight, he’s still just 23 years old. He had a real hiccup where he looked like a deer in headlights in his last fight. He was tentative to throw and was just not himself, and was finished in the first round due to a body kick. He will be much longer — he has 4 inches of height and likely more in reach, but we don’t have a reach measurement for his opponent. He doesn’t throw at a high rate but will have an advantage no matter where this fight takes place. His opponent is a BJJ fighter and it’s likely the fight hits the floor at some point, where Ramos will also have the advantage, as he is strong at getting up if in bottom position. A lopsided decision or finish are all in play for Ramos, but he certainly needs a finish to find himself in the optimal.
Journey Newsom is a debuting fighter and is what appears to be a “get right” opponent for Ramos in a bounce back spot. He’s stout and powerful and is quite sound on the ground, but doesn’t have an advantage spot in this fight. The reasoning behind playing Newsom is the necessity for underdog exposure. If Ramos is the deer in headlights again for whatever reason, he can win a fight he otherwise wouldn’t win.
Get low-end exposure on Newsom in MME for the aforementioned scenario, but he’s a fade in 20-max. Ramos doesn’t fight fast, and without a quick finish, he’ll be absent from the optimal. Stick with just low level exposure in MME. He is a fade candidate in 20-max.
Main Card On ESPN
Alonzo Menifield, -310, 9000 vs Paul Craig, +245, 7200
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -410 to end inside the distance.
Alonzo Menefield is a powerful striker who is 8-0 with eight stoppages, all in the first two rounds. He’s in as favorable a spot as possible here where it’s highly likely to happen again. His opponent is a punching bag and the physical imposition will get it done.
Paul Craig’s last five fights have seen him dominated in all five. Why is he here? Oh, that’s because he fell into a triangle finish in two of those five fights late in the third round. This opponent is much better than the ones he lucked into the wins against.
Menifield is a candidate for highest ownership on the card in all formats and Craig should be at variance-level exposure or fade in MME, while he is a full fade in 20-max.
*UPDATE* – Quotes from both fighters this week discuss the higher potential for this fight to get to deeper waters, including Craig stating his intention for that to be the case. While this doesn’t do anything to make me want to play Craig, it’s reason for pause on the likelihood of a Menifield scoring ceiling and his ownership can be reduced some. It also throws some cold water on the cash viability of Menifield.
Drew Dober, -340, 9500 vs Polo Reyes, +270, 6700
Fight is at 155 lbs and is -150 to end inside the distance.
Drew Dober is a complete fighter and large lightweight. He’s got adequate power and his kicks are all sound. He keeps a good but not great pace. His wrestling will be a big advantage in this fight, as his opponent is a pure striker with no grappling skill set whatsoever. Dober probably has a slight advantage on the feet but has a massive advantage on the floor and that should be his avenue of attack. He’s in play for any of a KO, submission or decision win.
Polo Reyes is a striker with good power and is capable of a one-shot KO. He gets in trouble in any grappling situation and is fairly easy to finish in those scenarios. His chin and gas tank are both big question marks as well. I believe his lone path to victory in this fight is via early KO, of which he is quite capable on the feet.
Dober’s price is unfortunate here, and prevents the amount of exposure that is preferable. He has a nice ceiling here and is likely to win, but the pricing means we simply can’t go past moderate exposure in any format. I also want a sound amount of exposure to Reyes. The power in the right hand is real, and his salary opens up a lot of possibilities — he’s a punt with ceiling.
Roosevelt Roberts, -280, 8900 vs Vinc Pichel, +225, 7300
Fight is at 155 lbs and is +115 to end inside the distance.
Roosevelt Roberts makes his third walk to the octagon with a perfect 8-0 record, facing the toughest test of his career by a decent margin. He’s quick and long and throws crisp strikes, but his stance is a worry. He’s very upright with the chin out, but hasn’t run into anyone that can exploit that to this point. He’s a savvy grappler with good chokes, but will likely have difficulty getting his opponent into a spot where he can cinch one in in this fight. He is quite capable of a finish, but a decision win would be the more likely path.
Vinc Pichel is a seasoned striker and complete fighter with good power. He doesn’t fight at the greatest pace but is effective and has a sound chin and good BJJ as a brown belt. He’s perfectly capable of a KO or a decision win, and I believe the line to be far too wide on this one. He is very much in play for a decision or KO win.
With the plethora of favorites that have a clearer path to ceiling scores, Roberts is relegated to a smaller part of any build. He’s a fade candidate in 20-max while he should see low-to-moderate exposure in MME. Pichel is one of the better dogs on the card and needs to be in any build — somewhere in the moderate exposure range.
Demian Maia, -190, 8600 vs Anthony Rocco Martin, +160, 7600
Fight is at 170 lbs and is +105 to end inside the distance.
Demian Maia remains one the best BJJ fighters of all time. This is his 36th pro fight at 41 years old, and he still has a good deal left in the tank. There are very few fighters he’s going to have a difficult time submitting, and his opponent is not one of them. His striking has never been very good, but he has a great way of making his fights grappling heavy and still has a sound chin. He’s not in a spot where he it’s likely he wins a decision, and is submission or bust. While his opponent is a BJJ black belt, Maia’s never in danger of being submitted. The Maia grip strength is something of MMA legend and the sooner he gets it to the floor, the better.
Anthony Rocco Martin is also a BJJ black belt, but in this case, all black belts are not created remotely equal. He needs to keep distance and keep Maia from getting the fight to the floor, especially early. His takedown defense will be the full key, and it has failed before so it’s the main thing to watch. If he can land some head and leg shots early and win the first round, he’ll be set up for a decision win or perhaps even an attrition based KO. He has been submitted twice in his career, so make no mistake of the grappling danger. Decision is the likely route to victory with a KO having an outside chance as well.
Maia, priced as a back-end favorite, requires at least the low end of moderate exposure in all formats. Martin doesn’t generally bring any scoring ceiling but he is a love underdog on this card, which is quite attractive, so he needs roughly the same level of exposure as Maia in all formats.
Jussier Formiga, +130, 7800 vs Joseph Benavidez, -160, 8400
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +180 to end inside the distance.
Jussier Formiga is a grappler that has made strides with his striking, but he still doesn’t resemble an elite striker. He’ll need to strike to get to takedowns but he’ll have to do it multiple times. His opponent isn’t someone that generally can be controlled on the ground, and gets right back up. He does have a great grappling skill set, but controlling his opponent will be an extremely tall task in this one.
Joseph Benavidez remains at the top of the flyweight division and owns a win over champion Henry Cejudo. This fight really should have been an interim title fight, but that’s neither here nor there. Benavidez owns a win over Formiga and will continue to have the striking advantage. Neither fighter throws with excessive volume, but Benavidez is easily the busier striker. His takedowns are very quick and he will take full advantage if Formiga gets too liberal in the striking department. A KO is in play for Benavidez but a decision win is the most likely path.
This fight will need some grappling volume or a finish to find its way to the optimal. The fight as a whole is a strong fade candidate in 20-max. For MME, the low-end of moderate exposure on each fighter is prudent. The likelihood of a scoring ceiling edge goes to Benavidez but any winning score for Formiga will be more valuable as an underdog, so go even on exposure.
Francis Ngannou, -235, 8800 vs Junior Dos Santos, +200, 7400
Fight is five rounds at heavyweight and is -530 to end inside the distance.
Francis Ngannou is the heaviest handed fighter in the UFC today. His power is simply unmatched and a KO can be nearly assumed every time he makes the walk against any opponent not named Stipe Miocic. He’s only been neutralized by Miocic’s grappling, and it’s unlikely his opponent in this fight brings a grappling game plan, which means Ngannou will be able to let his hands go. He needs an early finish to find the optimal as he won’t have a volume of strikes, even over five rounds, but that KO is completely in play, and even probable.
Junior Dos Santos is attempting one last run at the belt, and there is a strong chance this is where the run ends. He’s completely in love with his striking and thinks he can outstrike any heavyweight, and will try to do so in this one. He’ll have to stay on the outside and pick Ngannou apart early, and have a volume-based decision win or late finish. He will have to fight a mistake free first couple rounds for this to happen, but the path is there.
Ngannou is a great bet for an early finish and should have a large part of a build. JDS has a volume-based shot at a later win. He’s another dog in play, and you need at least moderate exposure there in all formats.
Picks With Personal Confidence Percentage:
- Greene – 65%
- Ribas – 65%
- Lungiambula – 69%
- Gordon – 75%
- Anders – 90%
- Ramos – 85%
- Menifield – 93%
- Dober – 85%
- Roberts – 58%
- Maia – 69%
- Benavidez – 61%
- Ngannou – 80%
Cash and Single Entry Strategy
With this main event being a heavyweight clash and one that could see a quick finish, I do not advocate the stacking of that fight, rather picking a side of it.
In Ngannou lineups, more underdogs are needed and I think Ribas should be the first one in. Pichel will be the next up as he’s unlikely to be finished and has a path to victory. Another underdog is needed in this lineup and that will need to be either Newsom at a cheaper price who is unlikely to win but is a grappler and a good bet for three rounds of output, or the more likely to win Anthony Rocco Martin. If opting for Newsom, we can then fit Anders and Dober. If opting for Martin, we can fit Gordon and Anders.
If playing a Dos Santos cash lineup, he replaces the need for Newsom or Martin and creates a spot where you can play Lungiambula with two of Dober, Anders and Gordon. Another option is with Menifield, Gordon and Anders.
For single entry, we want to attack ceilings a little more and I want to play a side in the Lungiambula fight no matter what. Lungiambula is the better play of the two. Any way to fit Gordon, Dober, Anders and/or Menifield is certainly perfectly fine and Ribas remains the dog to play. You can move down from Pichel to a full punt in Reyes if not playing Dober. Going to Greene or Benavidez is a sound way to make a lineup fit with floor and use near full salary.
- Greene -115
- Ribas +155, can be pressed for partial units with Ribas ITD at +425
- Anders by KO at -135 with the backup of Moreira submission at +580 to cover wager amount
- Ramos -340
- Menifield -285
- Dober -340 with the backup of Reyes by KO at +690 to cover wager amount
- Pichel +230
- Benavidez -155
- Ngannou by KO -180
Note: the backup wagers simply ones where the underdog has a singular path to victory and only hedges on a tick of the profit on the initial wager.