The promotion has done an excellent job of setting up a lot of tight matchups for the main network card here. Ten of 13 fights have a favorite at lower than 2-1 odds and there are very live dogs. We have three heavyweight fights on the card that are all projected by Vegas to end inside the distance, two of which at greater than five to one odds to do so. In totality, seven of 13 fights are projected as finishes and that doesn’t include the +110 for a finish in the main event. Oh, and we get a full 13 fight card for the first time in weeks. It shall be fun.
As always, cash, single entry, picks and bets updated after weigh ins with other notable thoughts.
Update: All but one fighter made weight with Maia coming in three pounds over at 139. The fight will go on with Maia forfeiting 30% of her purse.
Prelims on ESPN
Dom Pilarte, -330, 9400 vs Felipe Colares, +260, 6800
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -110 to end inside the distance.
Dom Pilarte makes his UFC debut after being forced out of his initial debut due to injury. The debut comes almost a year to the day from his second-round finish on DWCS to punch his UFC ticket. He’s a very long southpaw with ample strength for his large bantamweight frame. He throws a sound left kick to the body often and this particular strike gave his opponent trouble in his UFC debut. Pilarte is able to land punches in the pocket and kicks from distance, but the true strength of his game is his grappling. He powers through takedowns to finish them and once down has got transitions. He did a tremendous job taking the back and finishing the fight on DWCS. He may play around on the feet trying to find a KO for a bit, but he can get a finish on the floor once he sets out for it. The one criticism is that he likes to admire his work after landing strikes a little too much. He will be the better grappler here and submission is his most likely avenue to winning, but KO and decision are both wholly in play.
Felipe Colares makes his second walk to the octagon after a debut loss fighting up a weight class in his debut. He definitely looked like a guy that was more talented than most of the regional competition but not a refined UFC fighter. He was taken down at will and hit often, and if not for having some tough chin, would have been KO’d. He seemed active in grappling transitions but it was alarming he was only able to escape and stand up when his opponent jumped on submission attempts. He’s going to be the smaller fighter here and making this a striking brawl will be in his best interests. Defending the takedown and getting a power strike home early will be the key for him. It’s difficult to envision a submission or decision — the realistic path to victory is KO.
Despite being the highest price on the card, Pilarte should see high exposure exposure having a clear path to finish and he is the highest ITD line on the card. Colares is just low exposure in MME in hopes of the lowest price fighter KO but is a fade candidate in 20 max.
Mario Bautista, +175, 7100 vs Jin Soo Son, -205, 9100
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +140 to end inside the distance.
Jin Soo Son makes his second octagon walk after an extremely game showing in his short notice debut loss to high-level Petr Yan. Before that fight we knew very little about him, save that he worked closely with the Korean Zombie. What we learned from that fight, more than anything, is he has a granite chin and a love for fighting. He never stopped smiling through 15 minutes of eating every power strike Yan had to offer, and asking for more. He showed physical strength in the clinch as well and an ability to get the fight to the floor. Given the striking prowess of that opponent, we still don’t fully know what he offers in the striking power department. He’s going to be the better striker here and probably the better grappler as well. KO, submission and decision are all in play.
Mario Bautista is a volume striker that will be at a power disadvantage in the standup department of this fight. He’s also making his second walk after also drawing a difficult opponent in his short-notice debut in Cory Sandhagen who submitted him in the first round. He doesn’t have a ton of power in his strikes and egregiously hangs his head out there when attempting to throw power strikes and it is very exploitable with counters, mostly uppercuts. His offensive grappling is better than his defensive grappling and seemed unaware of submissions coming his way in his last fight and didn’t have a thought of defending them until they were cinched in. It’s hard to envision where he could find a finish and his path to victory is a standup heavy decision where he simply outpoints Son on the scorecards.
The pricing on Son is unfortunate as he’s at the top of a fairly tight tier of betting lines. He would be a value on many cards, just not this one. He does have real ceiling and can get a finish but we can’t go overboard on ownership due to the pricing. Stick with just middle of moderate exposure in all formats. Bautista brings a little bit of value versus betting line and for that reason we can go low to low end of moderate exposure in MME, but is a fade candidate in 20-max.
Ray Borg, -220, 9300 vs Gabriel Silva, +180, 6900
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +160 to end inside the distance.
Ray Borg makes his second walk after coming up to bantamweight and he somehow missed weight in his first try coming up a weight class. He did not look nearly as fit as he could be in that fight and lost a somewhat controversial decision in that fight. He didn’t look quite as strong at the weight class and did have problems controlling. He’s a wrestler/grappler that wants to control and has a sound submission game. His striking has never been great and his best strike is an overhand right that’s really just meant to close distance. His bread and butter is his grappling, and that’s where he’ll try to take this fight. A submission is in play for him, particularly if he’s able to take the back. Otherwise he’s a ground-control fighter that often sees the judge’s scorecards, and that’s the most likely path to victory here. I’ll be eager to see how he looks at weigh-ins and if his body has caught up with the weight class move.
Gabriel Silva makes his UFC debut and he’s a fighter that’s dropping down a weight class for his debut. His striking isn’t technically crisp, but he will throw hooks with both hands while marching forward and will attack both head and body. He’s a decent grappler whose BJJ is okay and his wrestling is a bit less than okay and will likely have to find sweeps to end up on top when it hits the floor as he will be trailing in the wrestling department. He is able to get up once taken down and that could work in favor for either fighter from a DFS perspective. As is generally the case when fighting Borg, keeping upright will be advantageous and if he’s able to do so, the strikes will be more impactful than Borg. A stand-up decision is the most attainable path to victory but a KO isn’t out of the question by any means as he swings fairly heavy.
Borg is generally a floor fighter for DFS purposes and the ceiling outcomes don’t come often. His price is unfavorable for this, and therefore we have to limit exposure, somewhere around the low end of moderate in all formats. Silva’s cheap pricing and the fact that he’s relatively unknown makes him a viable MME punt at the low end to middle of moderate exposure with the option for less to fade in 20-max.
Roxanne Modafferi, +110, 8000 vs Jennifer Maia, -140, 8200
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +220 to end inside the distance.
Jennifer Maia is a Thai striker entering her third UFC fight and a rematch from Invicta. Maia caps her own potential by sometimes being unwilling to let her hands go and dictate fight pacing and has some issues with takedown defense. Her level of success in this fight will be fully determined by how willing she is to impose her will. She will be the decidedly better striker and if she forces the issue with volume of strikes and stays upright, she will run away with this one and could find a KO. If she allows the pacing to be dictated to her or if she’s taken down she will be on the losing end. She will be at a grappling disadvantage in all facets and she needs to avoid the floor, period. Decision is the most likely path to a win.
Roxanne Modafferi came out on the wrong end of her and Maia’s first bout, but it should be noted she would have likely been the victor had it been three rounds as opposed to five. If you’re unfamiliar with her, I’d deem her to be the least naturally gifted athlete to fight in the UFC. It’s a testament to her work and commitment, but it’s also to say her movement is jerky and often makes her revert to her grappling base, which is her strength. She throws strikes in and out but those don’t come with much power and are only coming out to set up takedowns. On the floor she’s educated and good with passes and knows where submissions are, but lacks high end physical strength and flexibility. She’s going to need multiple takedowns to win this fight by decision and she’ll likely need to find a submission to find her way to the optimal.
As gross as it sounds, both fighters are in play for the optimal with the middling fight pricing and we just can’t fade it. The line is slowly rising making Maia a bit of a value which means we’re just going to hold our nose and get equal exposure to each here, capped at middle of moderate in all formats but less than that is probably ideal.
Sam Alvey, +140, 7600 vs Kildson Abreu, -170, 8600
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -170 to end inside the distance.
Sam Alvey is a slow-paced counter striker and a UFC vet. He’s got ample power and capable for KOs but his style is just not one that’s recommended. He just likes to keep his back foot against the fence and fight from there. If he can break that trend and pressure with strikes in this fight, it would be advantageous to be sure. He’ll be the better striker but won’t be an ideal spot backed against the cage and would do well to adjust and increase his movement and pressure (don’t count on it). His takedown defense is generally very stout and it is the full key to this fight. Giving up just one is being in full danger of being submitted. His chin is now in question after being KO’d in consecutive fights and this wouldn’t have been an issue or a thought a year ago. He needs to land the perfect counter and find a KO in this one to hit the optimal. His paths to victory are KO or decision and a decision would be fully useless for DFS purposes.
Klidson Abreu is a BJJ fighter making his second walk to the octagon. His striking is very vanilla, as is sometimes the case with BJJ fighters. He does throw some dangerous kicks and punches but they don’t come in combinations and are more one shot dangers. He was what we thought he was in his debut as he was hurt on the feet and had real difficulties with wrestling to get the fight to his comfort zone. He had his nose broken by an uppercut on an entry in the first round and fought the remainder of the decision loss with a very crooked beak. He showed toughness and chin and a little more power on the strikes than expected, despite never finding himself in the comfort zone of top position. While he’s capable of a standing KO here, his most likely path to a decisive win is a takedown to submission or ground and pound KO. Like Alvey, a decision win will be useless for DFS purposes.
Exposure in this fight should be dictated solely on what you believe the likelihood of a finish in the first two rounds is for both fighters. I want more Abreu, who has two separate paths to a finish but certainly not fading either in MME. It should be noted Abreu has the sixth highest ITD line of twenty six fighters and Alvey is the thirteenth highest. Probably landing middle of moderate on Abreu and low end of moderate on Alvey. For 20-max it’s a fight to take a stand on and fade one of the fighters.
Raquel Pennington, +115, 7800 vs Irene Aldana, -145, 8400
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +240 to end inside the distance.
Irene Aldana is a boxer/striker that attempts to stay on the outside and throw punches in volume. She doesn’t pack much power but does move in and out well and the strikes are crisp. She doesn’t generally attempt to grapple at all but has a sound understanding and knows how to attack a submission of it presents itself. It’s difficult to envision her finding a finish of any kind in this fight and her path to the optimal lies solely in landing enough volume to score well enough to reach the optimal threshold in a decision win. This is especially problematic considering how tough her opponent is and how her opponent generally slows the pace.
Raquel Pennington is a well-rounded and tough fighter. She doesn’t fight at a high pace but is strong and I give her the power edge here. She’s the better grappler overall and is in play for a submission if her wrestling is able to get the fight down. I also expect her to have some clinch control time as she tries to work the fight to the floor. This is obviously bad for DK scoring but highly likely to happen so be aware, it will put a hindrance on overall output. She has no real path to the optimal outside of a finish, even as an underdog, and decision is the most likely path. Submission is in play at a less likely level.
This is not a fight to take much exposure to in tournaments but not a fade in MME. The fight as a whole can be faded in 20-max. For MME, limit builds to just low exposure on Aldana and low to the the low end of moderate on Pennington.
Alex Caceres, -135, 8800 vs Steven Peterson, +105, 7400
Fight is at 145 lbs and is +145 to end inside the distance.
Alex Caceres is a tall and long striker that has some pop in his left hand, and he’ll need it, as his opponent has a tough chin. He seems to enjoy the act of fighting more than the psychology of it, or actually winning. His takedown defense and BJJ are both quite suspect, and he’ll need the former to hold up as his opponent is a sound wrestler and the advantage to be had is on the feet. He can hurt opponents with the left hand and with kicks and is capable of a finish with strikes. If he’s taken down at all, he’s going to eat some ground and pound and will be at risk of losing a decision. At price he can’t find the optimal in a decision win so a KO is necessary for DK viability, but possible. Note he’ll have a 2-inch reach advantage and isn’t notably longer as he sometimes is in the division.
Steven Peterson is a rounded fighter that has a bit of a grinding style and is a better wrestler/grappler than striker. His stand up striking defense is generally just tough chin as his head movement is not the best. He’ll have a fight IQ advantage in this fight and will be the better grappler. He needs to not eat the wrong shot but this is a good stylistic matchup for him. He gets an opponent with shaky wrestling/grappling and will likely get plenty of time to work on the floor and rack up DK points. He is very much in play for a score in the 80s to 90s in a grappling-heavy decision win with ground and pound added in, and has the potential for a finish ceiling. He is quite a live dog and has a very favorable DK price.
Caceres’ price is KO or bust, and while the KO is possible, he should be just somewhere between low level exposure and taking a stand and fading in all formats. Peterson is probably the best value on the card and doesn’t necessarily need a finish to land in the optimal and is someone to take high end of moderate to high exposure to.
Main Card On ESPN
Andrei Arlovski, +155, 7200 vs Ben Rothwell, -185, 9000
Fight is at heavyweight and is -140 to end inside the distance.
Andrei Arlovski is now over 40, has dropped four straight fights and is in danger of making his last octagon walk. His opponent was the victim of an atrocious decision call in his last fight and this is unfortunate for Andrei because he lands across from a very powerful striker whom he would have avoided had that decision gone correctly. This is actually a rematch from over a decade ago, and Andrei won that first fight, but both are totally different fighters now. Arlovski bounces around on the outside and doesn’t really threaten finishes, instead trying to point his way to decision wins. Needless to say, this style is unideal from a DFS perspective and even if he finds a decision win, his scoring is going to be capped in the 70s. At price, there’s a chance that could land in the optimal, but that remains very unlikely.
Ben Rothwell enters his second fight after a long layoff and he looked solid in his return, but it can be argued he wasn’t aggressive enough as he was robbed of a decision. He has so much power in his small punches that he often doesn’t choose a stance and stands just square which is really unique and a puzzle for an opponent. He throws moderate volume but throws with big power, even on smaller shots and is a KO threat throughout. Arlovski has successfully avoided KOs in all his recent fights but this one feels a little different as anyone is in real danger from Rothwell. He will keep any ideas of Arlovski grappling at bay as he’s shown just nasty front chokes that no one else has so this will be decided on the feet. Rothwell, especially at price needs a KO in the first two rounds to find his way to the optimal, but that’s about a coin flip to happen, and you just can’t be without.
Arlovski is a super long shot to find a finish but is capable of finding the optimal in a decision win at price, so he’s not a full fade but just low exposure in MME. He is a fade in 20-max. Rothwell has ceiling but a wide-ish range of outcomes so get middle to high end of moderate exposure on him in all formats.
Alexander Hernandez, -195, 8900 vs Francisco Trinaldo, +165, 7300
Fight is at 155 lbs and is -120 to end inside the distance.
Alexander Hernandez remains an extremely high-ceiling young fighter. It turned out he was given too much, too soon as he was matched up with Donald Cerrone in just his third fight with the promotion and suffered a second round KO. He’s got a complete game and can win standing or grind control with his wrestling. He has a propensity for starting fights very quickly but it may not be in his best interests in this one, as he will have a cardio advantage and would be wise to keep a steady pace and grind his opponent down. He does well with pressure and working his way inside with punches which come with pop and can push back his way into clinch takedowns. His top game is more predicated on pressure and control than danger so a finish would almost certainly come standing unless it was later in the fight and one of attrition. His paths to victory are decision or a KO finish. A KO would likely come in the first minute or in the third round after wearing his opponent down.
Francisco Trinaldo is 40 years old and still has something left in the tank, but as noted, will be at a cardio disadvantage in this one. The first round to first seven minutes will likely be his window to win this fight with a finish, and he’s capable of doing so. He’s got a heavy overhand left and a left body kick that can end a fight, but it’s hard to envision this happening after the first round and having the tank drained at all. He also likes to counter strike and he’ll have the opportunity to do so as he will be pressured in the pocket. For Trinaldo in this one it will be a matter of finishing it in the first round or getting worn down and beaten.
Hernandez is capable of scoring well in a decision, as he could truly pour it on a gassed opponent late. That would be quite dicey for the optimal as a higher end favorite and would likely need a finish, even in the third round to get there. Get middle to high end of moderate exposure on him in all formats. Trinaldo is in a ceiling win or bust spot and his score will be predicated fully on getting an early finish. Low to middle part of moderate exposure on him in all formats.
Dan Hooker, -140, 8500 vs James Vick, +110, 7700
Fight is at 155 lbs and is -155 to end inside the distance.
Dan Hooker is a tough, rounded fighter with a propensity for finishes. He’s finished all seven of his UFC wins, six of which have come in the first two rounds. He’s also quite durable as three of his four losses have been via decision. His strikes are deceptively powerful and truly tests chins. His grappling is very offensive submission based but lacks a full BJJ skill set. He’s also deceptively long as most fighters are losing at range to James Vick, Hooker while giving up 3 inches of height will only be giving 1 inch of reach here. He will be the more dangerous fighter here and quite capable of a finish, most likely a KO.
Vick is kind of losing his allure after losing two straight, one of which being a brutal KO. If we look at the list of fighters he’s beaten, after Francisco Trinaldo the next most impressive win is over an unimpressive pervert who was indicted on some nasty stuff this week and I don’t even want to name him. The three instances he fought higher level opponents he didn’t sniff a win and was put out twice in the first round. This particular opponent is better than all the fighters he’s beaten and it’s kind of up in the air where he fits in amongst the fighters Vick has lost to. While he’s in danger of being KO’d from the opening bell, he will need to fight his fight. His best path is to stay on the outside and keep range — to outpace his opponent and keep his chin out of danger. While he’s not incapable of finding a KO, decision is easily his most likely path to victory. His output makes that a long shot for the optimal, but not impossible.
Hooker is a favorably priced favorite and has a real ceiling and is a must in any build. Get at least middle of moderate exposure with room for more. Vick is a smaller ownership and should be low to low end of moderate. If you want to be aggressive on this one I wouldn’t blame anyone for a Vick fade. Note that if we see the judges scorecards, it’s highly probable Vick wins.
Greg Hardy, -115, 8100 vs Juan Adams, -115, 8100
Fight is at heavyweight and is -475 to end inside the distance.
Greg Hardy is well known by now, and the promotion is showcasing him on another network fight night card. He’s akin to a heel in pro wrestling as people tune in to root against him. A reminder: the former NFL star is a fantastic athlete but still quite green as far as UFC heavyweights go. I would say Hardy has the power advantage in the standup, but won’t be quite as technical. He will be at a big disadvantage with the wrestling and would be in for some nasty ground and pound if he allows just one takedown. We don’t know what he has as far as cardio but it’s not probable we get into deep water in this one. Hardy’s path to victory is melting his opponent with power in the standup.
Juan Adams is a rounded and large heavyweight. Like his opponent there is a weight cut to get to 265. He’s got ample power in smaller shots and doesn’t need to swing heavy to be effective with his striking. He’s capable of a standup KO but his biggest advantage in this fight will be the ability to wrestle and drop heavy ground and pound. His gas is a massive question as his activity goes from high to hitting a wall and just dragging so pacing could be an issue if this fight hits the third or fourth minute. If he comes out to wrestle, this fight will be not close but if he comes out to strike, he’ll be in more danger than he’s posing. His path to victory is also KO.
This fight seems very personal between these fighters and it could be a one minute banger. The dead middle pricing means the optimal is highly likely to have one of these two fighters and it’s certainly reasonable to have high exposure on both. I’ll probably edge ownership towards Adams with the wrestling wild card, but get very much of both in all builds.
Aleksei Oleinik, +125, 7500 vs Walt Harris, -155, 8700
Fight is at heavyweight and is -675 to end inside the distance.
Aleksei Oleinik is another heavyweight who has had a successful career but is very near the end. He remains the master of the Ezekiel Choke and is a submission threat in just about any fight he enters. The tricky part for him is he will likely have a difficult time getting in close enough to clinch and lock up an Ezekiel attempt or try to land a takedown. He’s going to have problems in the striking department and his chin isn’t what it once was at 42 years old. He’ll be in trouble if he gets rocked once and closing distance will be a big key for him. His path to victory is almost exclusively via submission.
Walt Harris is the striker in this striker vs grappler matchup. He has had some odd occurrences lately as he was DQ’d on a pretty egregious lat bread kick that resulted in a KO and had a decision win overturned. He was actually beaten in just one of his last seven fights and that was just being taken to BJJ school by Fabrício Werdum, which was expected. Oleinik is a good grappler but nowhere near the level of Werdum and these two fighters have trained together in the past, so we have to assume Harris will have a good game plan on how to keep distance. His path to victory is KO and this is another fight highly unlikely to go the full 15 minutes.
Oleinik brings a real underdog submission ceiling and simply can’t be faded. We need at minimum middle of moderate exposure on him in all formats. Harris is more likely than not to walk away with a KO and requires high exposure in all formats.
Leon Edwards, -125, 8300 vs Rafael Dos Anjos, +105, 7900
Fight is five rounds at 170 lbs and is +110 to end inside the distance.
Leon Edwards is a striker who has made it a point to improve his wrestling after having that part of his game fail him in previous fights. He doesn’t throw in high volume but he will certainly be the quicker fighter, and will be able to have success on the outside. He will have 4 inches of both height and reach in this fight, and while it won’t be the most fan friendly approach, staying on the outside and out pointing for five full rounds will be his absolute best game plan. I do think both fighters land at least one takedown at one point in time and they’re about even in the wrestling department. Edwards will be at a disadvantage in the BJJ department and would be the one at risk in extended grappling sequences. He is generally the less busy fighter and will have to keep his activity up to keep ahead on scorecards. His most likely path victory is decision but a late KO can’t be ruled out.
Rafael “RDA” Dos Anjos is an extremely well rounded fighter who has been somewhat relegated to being a gatekeeper for the top five in the division. He’s fought very high end competition in his four fights at 170 with mixed success, going 2-2. His losses were both against elite grinding wrestlers. His output is solid and he mixes up combos, kicks and takedowns extremely well and will be the one forcing the action. If he’s able to dictate the pace throughout, this will be a solid fight for DK output, but if Edwards is able to stay outside it may end up being a bit of a dud. RDA will have an advantage in the championship rounds as his cardio and consistent pace is a huge asset for him. His most likely path to victory is also decision with room for a late finish. Note an RDA decision win is likely a higher DK output score than an Edwards decision win.
We have to take plenty of exposure to this main event. I want more exposure to RDA for DFS scoring purposes, but this fight is so razor thin. Get middle to high end of moderate exposure on Edwards in all formats with high exposure to RDA in all formats.
Cash and Single Entry
For cash, we are certainly starting our lineup with a main event stack and Peterson. This leaves us 8800 per slot and the next decision to be made is on Pilarte, who I would opt to put in. This moves the average remaining to 8500 per. Aggressively and embracing a more ceiling while sacrificing floor we could opt for Harris paired with either Maia or Modaferri. If we go down to another underdog that lacks ceiling but brings floor, Pennington can be paired with Son, Hernandez or even Rothwell and this is my personal preference.
For single entry we have to take a stand on both the main event and on the Hardy/Adams fight to replace the main event fighter being excluded. This will be necessary to do for a high level cash and not the advised route if you’re looking for just a min cash. Assuming we’re not looking for min cashes, Peterson remains in the lineup, as does Pilarte. We then get two mid range favorites with ceiling. Abreu is a possibility to pair with Hooker but personally I would opt for Harris and Hooker as the last two in.
Picks and Bets
Picks with personal confidence percentage. I’m trying to take stands here but there are some truly tight fights to call.
- Pilarte 90%
- Son 80%
- Borg 60%
- Maia 50%
- Abreu 65%
- Pennington 57%
- Peterson 65%
- Rothwell 85%
- Hernandez 78%
- Hooker 69%
- Adams 56%
- Harris 78%
- RDA 50%
- Pilarte -340
- Son -200
- Peterson +105
- Rothwell -185
Optional Partial Unit Punts:
- Silva ITD at +475
- Abreu by sub at +300
There’s just not a lot of betting value this week, might be a good parlay week.