This card offers zero in terms of star power, but there are highly intriguing underdogs. It should make for a fun DFS and betting experience. It’s yet another card of only 12, rather than 13, fights, which makes tournaments less fun, but there is still plenty to attack.
As always, tourney exposure is listed with fight breakdowns. Cash and single-entry plays along with picks and bets will be added after weigh ins.
Update: While all fighters are on weight, there are two quite notable updates. Aspen Ladd had a horrific cut and it’s hard to envision how this would not catch up with her late in the fight. The other is Julianna Pena looking great and appearing to be good to go.
Prelims On ESPN+
Benito Lopez, +115, 7700 vs Vince Morales, -145, 8500
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +145 to end inside the distance.
Vince Morales is a striker that relies almost exclusively on his boxing. His strikes come nearly exclusively from punches with an occasional leg kick mixed in. He’s got good movement and adequate power. His defense on punching is pretty sound, but kicks have been able to get home on him in his first two UFC fights. One thing he does that could get him into trouble in this fight is ducking the head straight down and forward to avoid counters when he’s coming forward with a flurry, and his opponent is good with throwing a jumping knee that would find its way home in this scenario. He will be able to land plenty of punches as long as he can find his way inside against a longer opponent. He’s probably the slightly better grappler of the two, but neither are great, and this fight is likely to take place on the feet. Morales’ paths to victory are decision or potentially a right-hand KO.
Benito Lopez is a long, rangy kickboxer who will enter with a 3-inch advantage in both height and reach. His punches are crisp enough but he doesn’t have a ton of power in his hands. His striking danger comes from knees and kicks, and he uses them well and they land quick. His long frame doesn’t pack a ton of muscle so he’s not imposing from a strength perspective, but he uses the length well for the most part. He is willing to brawl, and has sneaked knees home against rushing opponents — it is something to watch for here. His gas tank doesn’t totally deplete but his activity can decrease as a fight wears on. His paths to victory are also decision and KO.
Range will be the key in this fight, along with Morales’ willingness to engage. Morales seems to be the more willing to let the judges decide, and if that’s the case, neither will find their way to the optimal. If Morales forces his way inside, and if he can avoid knees to the chin, he’s in play for a KO and potential volume of strikes. Lopez has the better shot at a one shot KO with a kick or knee, and the underdog pricing makes that more attractive. Morales needs a KO to get to the optimal and he should be at the low end of moderate exposure in all formats. Lopez should see moderate exposure in all formats.
Livinha Souza, -105, 8000 vs Brianna Van Buren, -125, 8200
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +185 to end inside the distance.
Brianna Van Buren makes her UFC debut and is a pressure fighter with really good wrestling and has pace to her striking. She is very short at just 5 feet tall, but will only be giving up an inch of reach in this fight. This could become a problem for her in the future but it won’t in this fight. She’s not a polished striker, but she’s the better of the two here and will have the volume advantage. Both fighters are grapplers first, and when that pits a wrestler against a BJJ fighter, it can often lead to a striking battle. Her paths to victory are decision and KO.
Livinha Souza is a BJJ fighter and submission hunter. Her striking has improved to the point where it can be labeled “okay,” but the best part of it is still just single power shots — there’s no nuance to it. When the striking went south in her last fight’s fully incorrect split decision win, she did anything and everything she could to get the fight to the floor, including pulling guard. She is a better offensive grappler than defensive grappler so finding a trip and finding herself on top on the floor will be fairly crucial for her in this fight. She can find a submission from the bottom but it isn’t probable. Her path to victory is virtually solely through finding a submission and it almost certainly would have to come early before Van Buren drains her tank.
Souza is submission or bust, and brings some level of ceiling but doesn’t have much floor. She’s should be on the low end of moderate exposure. Van Buren is capable of scoring with or without a finish and should see the high end of moderate to high exposure.
Liu Pingyuan, -150, 8700 vs Jonathan Martinez, +120, 7500
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +175 to end inside the distance.
Jonathan Martinez is a somewhat rounded and developing fighter. The southpaw’s best tool is his left kick that he throws at all three levels, and his opponent has shown susceptibility to kicks, particularly to the body. Martinez’ kicks pop quick and land hard and if he learns how to hide them and set them up, they’d be truly dangerous. His hands are quick enough and he has decent ground and pound, but the striking danger lies wholly in his kicks. He’s not an advanced grapple,r but is an active one with a decent understanding. He’s sound with getting up and sweeping from guard and will not want to fight this fight on the floor. A liver shot KO is in the range of outcomes but his most probable path to victory is a decision.
Liu Pingyuan, like Martinez, makes his third walk to the octagon. He was gifted a split decision in his last fight that he clearly lost, and he was hit quite a lot. He doesn’t defend kicks well, which could be the key to this fight. His striking very much consists of pushing forward while throwing heavy punches to ultimately land takedowns. There appears to be good power in his hands but his movement isn’t slick on the feet and it keeps him to a grappling base. He is the better grappler and a submission threat. His paths to victory are most likely a decision, but both KO and submission are in play as well.
The price on Pingyuan is a tough one to pay, at least not at any high exposure. A decision win would need a large number of takedowns and passes to see him to the optimal and would likely need a finish to find himself in the optimal. Limit your builds to just low exposure to him. Martinez is a value on price versus betting line and has the ability to find a KO from a kick. He should stay around the low end to middle of moderate exposure. This is not a fight to go overboard on as a decision is probable.
Darren Elkins, -115, 7900 vs Ryan Hall, -115, 8300
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -150 to end inside the distance.
Darren Elkins is a very tough vet, fairly well known for his ability to take a beating. His chin has always been good and he’s a very competent wrestler and BJJ grappler but he draws the funkiest opponent the UFC has to offer with his insanely high-level BJJ attack and avoidance of striking exchanges. He will be the better striker in this matchup, which isn’t always the case, and will truly need this fight to be standing for just about the duration. Any grappling exchange almost certainly leads to him being submitted or falling behind on the scorecards. It will be difficult for him to win this fight via any avenue besides a KO, which is in play.
Ryan Hall is the highest-level BJJ fighter you will see, and would be truly dangerous if his striking caught up at all. He’s a true submission threat against anyone, even rolling for heel hooks and leg attacks with a true talent for getting them. His striking mostly consists of outside kicks with the end goal being getting the fight to the floor. His paths to victory are most likely submission or, less likely, decision.
This fight is one to take a sound amount of exposure to. While I think Hall is more likely to win, he is not a salary value — that edge goes to Elkins. Elkins should see low end of moderate exposure with room for more and Hall should see middle of moderate, also with room for more.
Julianna Pena, -190, 9000 vs Nicco Montano, +160, 7200
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +185 to end inside the distance.
Julianna Pena returns to the octagon after giving birth and enters a matchup that would be wildly favorable if she didn’t have the leave, but is still one she’s rightfully favored in. She’s a complete fighter but is best on the floor, and will likely get the fight to the floor and hunt ground and pound and submissions, which she is quite capable of getting. She’ll also have a 4-inch reach advantage to keep her opponent at bay in the striking department. She can win this fight via any avenue, all of which likely be on the floor.
Nicco Montaño returns to the octagon after being the most fraudulent champion of all time and subsequently running at full sprint from Valentina Shevchenko and a subsequent USADA suspension. She’s a striker that doesn’t bring much power or an exciting skill set. If she’s got the striking advantage, she will still be at a fairly steep grappling disadvantage. Her path to victory is a standup heavy decision.
Pena has a ceiling with a real path to a finish and is certainly a favorite to have sound exposure to — high end of moderate to high. Montaño wouldn’t be in play if Pena weren’t coming off the leave, but we can’t be sure what we’re getting, so low low to low-end-of-moderate exposure on her.
Andre Fili, 7800, -110 vs Sheymon Moraes, 8400, -120
Fight is at 145 lbs and is +175 to end inside the distance.
Andre Fili is a high-output striker who has a decent grappling game as well. Power isn’t his game. Instead he prefers touching his opponents often from the outside and getting in and out with good movement and taking scorecard wins. He’s not incapable of a finish, but isn’t really a one-shot power type of guy. He mixes in takedowns well and is a sound enough grappler when he needs to be. He is the better grappler in this fight. Any finish he gets will be via attrition and shouldn’t be relied upon, but his price and volume are both favorable for a decision win.
Sheymon Moraes is a fairly powerful Thai striker that relies heavily on counter striking. He’s got power and is capable but hasn’t finished a fight in four years. His path to usefulness is solely in finding a KO. This is pretty straightforward — he just doesn’t grapple much and doesn’t throw much volume so it’s KO or bust.
Given pricing, limit your builds to a low amount of exposure on Moraes. Fili is an extremely live dog and should easily be one of the top two owned fighters, and you should follow suit. His true scoring ceiling is questionable, but he’s still worth having at the high end of moderate to high exposure.
Mike Rodriguez, -425, 9400 vs John Allan, +325, 6800
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -315 to end inside the distance.
Mike Rodriguez is a long and powerful striker with some very quick KOs to his record, including his last fight, which was his second in the UFC. His striking is leaps and bounds ahead of his grappling, and he is fighting another striker. This fight should be a fun and quick one. Rodriguez will have 7 inches of reach despite just 1 inch of height, and is a better striker than his opponent. If for some highly unlikely reason he is losing the striking, he’s probably the better of two unsound grapplers and may be able to take it to the floor. But the most likely path to victory is a quick KO.
John Allan is a brawler making his UFC debut on short notice. He’s not fought anything resembling stiff competition and was even finished by punching bag Vinicius Moreira on DWCS, so he’s certainly not a technical masterpiece. Even still, he’ll come forward and let his hands go, and certainly has a puncher’s chance as the cheapest fighter on the card. He will need a KO — and it’s not impossible — but he likely ends up eating canvas.
This fight is by far the most likely on the card to be a one-round war and produce an instant finish. You should not be underexposed. The low end of moderate on Allan is the cap while Rodriguez requires high exposure.
Main Card On ESPN+
Marvin Vettori, -150, 8600 vs Cezar Ferreira, +120, 7600
Fight is at 185 lbs and is +110 to end inside the distance.
Marvin Vettori is a rounded fighter who probably doesn’t have a go-to weapon in the tool box. His striking is sound enough but he doesn’t bring devastating power, and will likely only have a small advantage in the standup. He throws with just moderate volume and will likely need a KO to find his way to the optimal. He’s a sound wrestler and a BJJ brown belt, but the floor is a spot for him to avoid in this fight. Even if in top position and completing his own takedowns, he’s just not the better BJJ fighter and he will want to win this one standing. His most identifiable path to victory is a decision consisting mostly of standup striking.
Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira is very much a BJJ fighter and a stout black belt. His best strike come from kicks, and he isn’t much of a threat standing outside of that. He wants to grapple and it’s what he’s best at. Where some BJJ fighters struggle with executing takedowns to get the fight to the floor, Mutante is good with his offensive wrestling and has completed at least one takedown in each of his last eight UFC fights. It is possible his gas tank becomes an issue later in the fight. He’s in play for a submission and it might be his most likely path to victory. He could also win a decision if the striking pace is slow and he lands just a couple takedowns and is able to control at all.
Note this is a southpaw vs southpaw matchup so they won’t be mirroring each other’s power side. Vettori would be smart not to play in the danger zone on the floor, meaning his path to the optimal lies with a KO — stick with just a low level exposure. Mutante has a submission ceiling and should see more exposure than Vettori — somewhere in the low to middle range of moderate.
Karl Roberson, -215, 9100 vs Wellington Turman, +175, 7100
Fight is at 185 lbs and is -210 to end inside the distance.
Karl Roberson is a sound, accurate and powerful striker that generally doesn’t bring much volume and prefers to wait for counter strikes. His offensive wrestling is okay but he’ll want no part of the floor as he’s been submitted by both BJJ black belts he’s run into in the UFC thus far. While his takedown defense and grappling defenses have been and will remain the weaknesses, the level of wrestler/fighter across from him takes ticks downwards. He will be the superior striker and is completely in play for a KO — it can be called the most likely avenue for this fight to end. At price, he needs to get the KO, as a decision won’t see him to the optimal.
Wellington Turman is primarily a BJJ fighter who does his best work on the floor and in the clinch. His head movement is poor and he can throw wild strikes that will leave him wide open to have his chin tested. Getting the fight to the floor could prove problematic as his wrestling is subpar. He would have to rely on trips, but if he’s able to get it there, he is very much in play for a submission. I don’t believe he can find a KO or win a decision — submission or bust here.
This is a fight to draw a good amount of exposure to as both fighters have a defined path to both victory and the optimal. Roberson should see at least the high end of moderate with room for more while Turman should see at least the low end of moderate with room for more.
Josh Emmett, +135, 7400 vs Mirsad Bektic, -165, 8800
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -115 to end inside the distance.
Mirsad Bektic is a very well-rounded featherweight that is physically strong and is still seeking his signature UFC win. Like his opponent, he owns a win over Ricardo Lamas, but that was a decision and not a runaway. His striking consists mostly of heavy punches moving forward, and he is in a spot where he can’t make a mistake with this, as the counter punches are coming. He throws heavy enough that a KO isn’t out of play, but he will not be the better technical striker and getting that clean shot home isn’t a high percentage outcome. He has good and high-motor wrestling and is sound at controlling, but his ground and pound and submissions aren’t super high level or dangerous. Any wrestling in this fight will be a tall task if he hopes to grind control time. His most likely path to victory is a decision with a KO being next most likely.
Josh Emmett is a complete fighter and slow-ish counter striker that does have thunder in both hands. If Bektic wants to stay out of the danger zone, he’ll need to keep good movement and keep his striking in and out, and that just hasn’t described his striking thus far. Emmett’s movement is really good, and he keeps a low base that makes takedown entries problematic for his opponents. It still needs to be noted that this is his second fight back after a career trajectory changing KO and broken orbital he sustained due to an illegal knee and other strikes at the hands of Jeremy Stephens. He looked to be back and ultimately slept Michael Johnson who has previously only been KO’d by Justin Gaethje. KO and decision are equal in terms of the most likely path to victory.
Bektic’s price is a tough one against an opponent who is good at dictating pace. Even if he scores multiple takedowns, he needs a finish to find his way to the optimal. It should be noted he’s in a virtual tie with four other favorites for the highest personal ITD line on the card among favorites. The only reason to play him is the suspicion that Emmett’s chin isn’t all the way back, and he should see just low exposure. Emmett, even as an underdog, is highly unlikely to see the optimal in a decision win and also needs a finish, but I think he’s much more capable of it at a friendly price. Get at least moderate exposure on him.
Urijah Faber, +280, 6900 vs Ricky Simon, -350, 9300
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +195 to end inside the distance.
Ricky Simon is a well-rounded wrestler and striker with a great motor. This feels very much like a gimme fight for him, and he’s going to lay the wood to his opponent. His wrestling is relentless when he needs it to be, and sound and crisp when he doesn’t, and he has adequate power. He’s just simply going to outpace his older opponent. Even at price, he can find the optimal in a decision but a KO would make it more likely. The ability gap is huge in this one, and KO or decision are the paths to victory.
Urijah Faber returns to the octagon after a two-and-a-half year absence that saw his 40th birthday come and go. Taking this fight is a mistake, period. Forty year olds don’t do well in the lower weight classes, least of all bantamweight. The only advantage he will have in this fight is better BJJ, and it’s difficult to envision how he gets himself into a reasonable spot for a submission against a young and game opponent that just dismantled superior BJJ fighter Rani Yahya. His only path to victory is a submission, almost certainly on a back take, and it’s a low probability one.
The ability gap is so wide, I think Simon is just going to tee off. He’s a candidate for the card’s high scorer and I want high exposure to him. Faber is a fade candidate. If you don’t fade, stick with just variance to low exposure.
Germaine de Randamie, +135, 7300 vs Aspen Ladd, -165, 8900
Fight is five rounds at 135 lbs and is -185 to end inside the distance.
Germaine de Randamie is an extremely sound Thai striker that is dangerous on the feet and in the clinch, but not high level on the floor. She will have a decided advantage from a technical striking perspective. She is not a high-level grappler and will need to keep herself upright to keep the advantage in the fight from shifting. The clinch will be the key for her as her losses saw her taken down from there. Her opponent’s gas is a question mark and she is very much in play for an attrition-based KO and also for a decision win.
Aspen Ladd is an ascending fighter at 24 years old, and gets her toughest test to date. Her striking is good enough and she has a bit of power, but standing in front of a decorated Thai striker is simply not the gameplan she needs here. The clinch will remain a key spot here as she’s been controlled there by lesser opponents and she is in danger of being grinded down there. She will have a large advantage if and when she can get the fight to the floor as she’s shown suffocating top control and relentless ground and pound. She likely needs to get a ground finish in the first half of the fight or risk her opponent just being much fresher and picking her apart. A ground-and-pound KO is her most likely path to victory, and it is questionable whether she can take a decision win.
De Randamie is fully capable of winning in a low scoring DFS fight or finding a KO and having the strikes add up. In any event, the high end of moderate exposure should be the minimum for her. Ladd is a high-ceiling, low-floor favorite — you can’t skimp on exposure here just because of the ceiling. Get at least as much Ladd as de Randamie. As far as main events go, this has a higher than average potential for a snoozer — you shouldn’t be considering 100% exposure on this fight.
With personal confidence percentage:
- Lopez 56%
- Van Buren 61%
- Martinez 53%
- Hall 75%
- Pena 82%
- Fili 65%
- Rodriguez 90%
- Vettori 52%
- Roberson 75%
- Emmett 62%
- Simon 96%
- de Randamie 51%
- Lopez by KO +750 – Just a partial unit punt but I really envision knee to face here
- Van Buren -125 with partial unit hedge of Souza by sub at +575
- Hall -110
- Pena -190
- Fili -105 with optional partial unit hedge with Moraes by KO at +525
- Ferreira by sub +625 – Just a partial unit punt on the black belt
- Emmett +135, optional press of Emmett by KO at +350
- Simon -350, optional press of Simon by KO at +350
*Pena is the highest degree of confidence and value.
Cash and Single Entry
While this isn’t the best main event to stack for cash, there is value in it as a defensive maneuver against ownership. Fili is a salary underdog that is attractive for cash, but the high end underdog pricing makes us unable to fit the top two prices in Rodriguez and Simon when we also want to pair with Emmett. The pivot off Fili to make it fit would be Martinez. There is also more safety but less ceiling in a pivot from Ladd to Pena in that lineup.
For single entry, we want the Pena version of the above cash lineup with the top two salaries and the underdogs of de Randamie, Emmett and Martinez. Perfectly acceptable pivots from Martinez for ceiling are Turman and Mutante.