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UFC 243: DraftKings and Betting Breakdown

We had the misfortune of losing a fight, so this PPV card is down to just 11 fights. Be aware this likely leads to chopping at the top of tournaments and lowers the potential ceiling of tournament entries, particularly MME.
This card is a massive draw in Australia, but is a run of the mill PPV everywhere else. If you’re selective on the cards you buy, this one is a pass.

For cash, the main event is an ugly one. The slow striking style of Adesanya is one that will leave us wanting for points, assuming the fight gets to the third round and later. That would leave us without the early finish points and additionally it is a fight that will offer no grappling points scored. My early week lean is to take a stance in that fight and not stack, but definitely check back Friday for final thoughts there.

A reminder the new format for tournament deployment.

I will take each fight and assign it to one of five categories for tournament deployment. Those categories are:

  • “Lock It In” – This will be for fights that the build should have at or near 100% exposure.
  • “Over The Field” – This will be for fights that are attractive and likely to see the winner to the optimal, but not quite at the “Lock It In” level. These fights should be deployed at approximately 80% total fight exposure.
  • “Stance Fight” – This will be for fights that we have a real expectation on one fighter winning and being probable for the optimal. The exposure level will vary. I’ll explain both the level of exposure of our stance fighter and whether their opponent is a fade or low-level exposure.
  • “Defensive Fight” – This will be for fights that are middle of the road for the optimal and have a wide range of outcomes. We will generally deploy the total fight exposure at 35-5.
  • “Ugly Fight” – This will be for fights in which the winner is unlikely for the optimal.

As always, check back after weigh ins for cash, single entry, picks, bets and any other final thoughts.

**Friday Morning Update** With weigh ins not commencing until 8PM EST, I’m going to update cash and the other pieces early, but they will be subject to change post weigh ins.

Lock It In Fights

There are no such fights on this card. The main event, despite being five rounds, has an identifiable path to not reaching the optimal. It will be listed in the “Over The Field” section, but be aware, 75-90% total fight exposure will not be over the field. It’s not quite right to list it in the “Defensive Fight” section, but it might be a more accurate description.

Over The Field

Robert Whittaker, -115, 8200 vs Israel Adesanya, -115, 8000

Fight is five rounds at 185 lbs, is -170 to end inside the distance and is for the middleweight championship.

This fight truly offers more from a viewing perspective than it does from a DFS perspective. If we see any grappling at all, it will be on the Robert Whittaker side, who has the more complete skill set in this fight. Using his wrestling would be the path of least resistance for Whittaker but it remains to be seen whether he is interested in this path and additionally whether he can execute it. Israel Adesanya has established himself at the highest level of technical strikers and has made a quick name hitting all of his opponents without being hit. Adesanya has not yet been tested in the grappling department, but his takedown defense has been very good. Additionally, Adesanya has never had his chin tested — a testament to his overall striking game — but it is something to consider in a fight like this.
This fight will be closer in pace to Whittaker’s last two fights with Yoel Romero than it will Adesanya’s last fight against Kelvin Gastelum. Whittaker won’t consistently attempt to march down Adesanya like Gastelum did, and this will keep the strikes landed lower than in that fight. Whittaker will take some shots on the outside as he tries to navigate his way inside, but the man has an incredible chin and one would think Adesanya strikes will feel like love taps after eating the explosions from Romero for two straight fights. This fight is razor thin and will come down to Whittaker’s ability to land combinations once he believes he has some timing on Adesanya. While either fighter is capable of an early finish, it is not the most likely outcome. We have a good chance of seeing a 25-minute chess match. Adesanya getting the underdog price tag will make him fit with a few more favorable combinations — he gets the narrow exposure edge for this reason. 40-50% on Adesanya and 35-45% on Whittaker.

Justin Tafa -125, 8300 vs Yorgan De Castro, -105, 7900

Fight is at heavyweight and is -400 to end inside the distance.

Two heavyweights making their debut facing each other here. Both have real power but the edge goes to Justin Tafa in that department. He will be the one pushing the action at the onset and the one marching forward. Yorgan De Castro earned the opportunity for this fight with a leg kick KO on DWCS as a massive underdog. A leg kick KO isn’t something that translates to future fights and it will be interesting to see how much power he has in his hands as there will be plenty of opportunity to counter. A first-round ending to this fight is the most probable outcome and I’m looking to have 45-55% Taha with 30-45% De Castro.

Brad Riddell, -150, 8600 vs Jamie Mullarkey, +120, 7600

Fight is at 155 lbs and is -175 to end inside the distance.

This will be the most underrated fight before the card starts, but it is a legitimate spot for a performance bonus for a pair of debuting fighters. Brad Riddell will be the larger fighter and will hold the power advantage and is quite a good kickboxer. He likes to keep close range and there should be a healthy amount of strikes landed. Jamie Mullarkey is the more complete fighter and finding takedowns in this fight is likely the key to finding a win here, and a ground finish is completely in play against the kickboxer. Both fighters have a real path to a win, and both bring a scoring ceiling. Eighty percent total fight exposure is the baseline. An exposure edge to Riddell is desirable, but it is difficult to pull off given the desired exposures to other favorites on the card.

Stance Fights

Sergey Spivac, +300, 6900 vs Tai Tuivasa, -395, 9300

Fight is at heavyweight and is -460 to end inside the distance.

This line and our stance on it has more to do with Sergey Spivac than it does with Tai Tuivasa. Tuivasa knocked out his first two low level opponents in the first round but struggled with a jump up in competition, going 1-2 since then with no finishes. He’s now back to a lower level opponent in Spivac who showed no interest in being hit in UFC debut and was melted in under a minute in his debut. Spevac however, will have the grappling advantage in this fight and is quite capable of finding a ground finish if he’s more willing to be hit in this one and is able to initiate grappling. Easily the most likely outcome in this fight is an early KO for Tuivasa and he should be one of, if not your highest exposure on the card, between 50-70%. Spevac is far from a fade as he has a path to victory and a ceiling and should be in the 10-30% range. Total fight exposure should be 70-80%.

Callan Potter, +235, 7200 vs Maki Pitolo, -305, 9000

Fight is at 170 lbs and is -315 to end inside the distance.

Callan Potter moving up and fighting at 170 might improve the chin a little bit but will see him considerably undersized against a debuting opponent in Maki Pitolo that is moving down from middleweight. Potter was melted easily in his UFC debut and it is highly likely an encore is en route. You’d have to be blind to miss how effectively Pitolo mixes in body strikes and Potter will be melted again if he can’t get the fight to the mat immediately, despite possessing poor wrestling and entries. Potter is probably the better BJJ fighter but the gap on the feet is so enormous, combined with a size advantage for Pitolo, it’s safe to say a first round KO for Pitolo is the most likely ending to this fight. Potter’s BJJ game makes him not a fade, but just a tiny exposure capped at 10%. Pitolo should be used at a minimum of 55%.

Megan Anderson, -485, 9400 vs Zarah Fairn Dos Santos, +370 6800

Fight is at 145 lbs and is -185 to end inside the distance.

This fight is one made to get the career of Megan Anderson back on track. She has seen her full lack of a grappling game get exposed and the UFC has brought in a debuting opponent that is also wholly a striker. Zarah Fairn Dos Santos will give Anderson a new look as she’ll see someone with a similar frame to her, but Anderson will hold the power advantage. Anderson is someone the promotion wants to keep around, and eventually she will need wins for that to happen, and this is setting her up to do just that. There is however an outside chance that Anderson has just been completely overrated to this point and a loss here would relegate her to being useless. Fairn Dos Santos isn’t a fade but just in the 10% range. Anderson is the likely winner, but needs an early finish to return on her top overall salary, so she is 35-45%.

Defensive Fights

Al Iaquinta, +130, 7700 vs Dan Hooker, -160, 8500

Fight is at 155 lbs and is +155 to end inside the distance.

Dan Hooker is establishing himself as one of the most explosive strikers in the lightweight division. He’s finished five of his last six fights including three first round knockouts in that span, with one strike power. He also has a great chin and is tough as nails, and he’ll need it to deal with the pressure of Al Iaquinta. Iaquinta is a tenured fighter with a complete skill set, who we’ve learned is best served as a gatekeeper for the top 10 in the division. Iaquinta will be busiest to start the fight, and would be best served to use his wrestling as early as possible, as his chin will be tested if he doesn’t. Iaquinta survived a five round beating from Cowboy Cerrone in his last fight and has shown plenty of chin, which is the sole reason this fight falls into the Defensive Fight category and not the Over The Field Category. Either fighter can win a decision, Iaquinta with wrestling and Hooker with striking. There’s a note to make that Hooker has a great guillotine and something Iaquinta has to be aware of.  Hooker has the far greater chance of finding a finish/KO, but Iaquinta has never been knocked out in 20 fights. Like the main event, there’s a very realistic chance this fight is better for viewing than DFS purposes. 25-40% on Hooker and 15-30% on Iaquinta.

Jake Matthews, -305, 9100 vs Rostem Akman, +240, 7100

Fight is at 170 lbs and is +110 to end inside the distance.

Jake Matthews is the type of fighter that brings a wide range of outcomes every time he steps into the octagon. In just his UFC tenure he has both won and lost via KO, submission and decision. Rostem Akman will be the fighter taking the center and leading the dance, and Matthews will be looking to counter, and will likely have some success and does have adequate power to find a finish. Matthews probably has a slight edge everywhere this fight goes in a matchup of two fighters with a mostly complete skill set. Akman might have an edge in the wrestling department but its close, and Matthews is the better striker and has the better BJJ game. As I said, there’s a wide range of outcomes with Matthews but the most probable ones include Matthews having his hand raised. A win for Akman is likely a KO, but there’s an outside chance for a decision as well. The likelihood of a scoring ceiling for Matthews is the real question mark, and I believe it to be the lowest probability of the four fighters priced at 9,000 and above. Get just enough on both to not kill the build should that ceiling come — 30-35% on Matthews and 12-25% on Akman.

Khalid Taha, -250, 8900 vs Bruno Silva, +200, 7300

Fight is at 135 lbs and is -130 to end inside the distance.

Khalid Taha makes his third octagon walk against the debuting Bruno Silva. Taha was ground out by a wrestler up a weight class in his debut but showed what he can do at 135 lbs with a 25-second KO in his encore. He has real power and will threaten to knock out all or most bantamweights, and this fight is no different. Taha is the larger fighter and is certainly the better and more powerful striker, but the overall grappling edge goes to Silva, and it will be a must for him to bring some ground work to this fight if he’s to have a chance at winning. A finish for Silva is probably a stretch and he would need to grind out a decision at underdog pricing, which could be valuable on this card. Silva should be in the 15-25% range with Taha in the 25-40% range.

Ugly Fights

Luke Jumeau, +120, 7800 vs Dhiego Lima, -150, 8400

Fight is at 170 lbs and is +155 to end inside the distance.

There is a bit of an odds discrepancy here as the +155 ITD line feels like it should be higher as both fighters have at least a +345 personal ITD line, and the skill sets of each fighter would follow that line of thinking. Both fighters are low-output decision fighters. It is puzzling why this fight would land on the PPV portion of the card, and I suspect it is there as a time filler to compensate for the two heavyweight fights that are likely to be short affairs. Lima might have a grappling edge and a submission would be the ceiling outcome for him, otherwise a ceiling for either fighter is simply landing the perfect strike and is quite low percentage. Just 12-25% on both fighters with a slight exposure edge for Lima.

Nadia Kassem, +145, 7500 vs Ji Yeon Kim, -175, 8700

Fight is at 125 lbs and is +250 to end inside the distance.

This is likely to be the lowest owned fight on the card. The favorite, Ji Yeon Kim, is simply not a finisher and has seen all four of her UFC fights hit the scorecards. She also doesn’t have volume, her peak SS output in any fight was just 73 and prefers to strike as she’s not an effective wrestler. She’s a large flyweight that does her best work moving inside with punches, but also doesn’t have KO power. Any finish to be found would be from a multitude of clean shots. Nadia Kassem enters her third UFC fight and second flyweight fight at 23 years old. She has committed to transforming her physique for the flyweight division and it will be a large help. This line would suggest she’s fighting another superior grappler as she did in her last fight, but that simply isn’t the case. While neither fighter is a great wrestler, I believe Kassem is the far more dangerous of the two on the floor and could sell out to get it there if she finds herself eating too many punches. While both fighters are quite hittable, Kassem brings the ability to knock an opponent out with kicks and spinning back fists. This is listed as an ugly fight for a reason, but to attack ownership on an 11-fight card, full disclosure, I will have more Kassem than I recommend. Kim is the only true fade candidate on the card and you should have little or none. Kassem with paths to victory and what I see as a ceiling should be in the 20% range.

Cash and Single Entry

This 11 fight card is not a good one for cash, it simply isn’t. I wouldn’t recommend playing cash, but if you’re insistent on it, let’s explore how to build for it.

We first have to determine whether we are using the main event or not. I believe it’s an all or none scenario, meaning you are either stacking the fight or fading it. With the worry the winner of a winner via decision or late finish only scoring in the 70s or 80s, it is the most important decision on the direction of the lineup. No matter how we structure the build, the necessities in the lineup will be Tuivasa, Pitolo and Taha. If including the main event, the only option left for the sixth and final spot is Akman. If not including the main event stack, we are going to also add another strong favorite in Matthews with two punts. The punts will be the two underdog female fighters in Kassem and Fairn Dos Santos.

The divergence in single entry comes with taking a stand in the main event and adding that side with our original three core fighters. I know some eyebrows will be raised, but I still believe Kassem to be a very live underdog and would add her. This will leave the final spot open to Iaquinta or Mularkey in a dead heat for strength of play.

Picks and Bets

Picks With Personal Confidence Percentage

  • Taha 78%
  • Kassem 65%
  • Anderson 91%
  • Riddell 64%
  • Pitolo 98%
  • Matthews 85%
  • Tafa 70%
  • Lima 55%
  • Tuivasa 95%
  • Hooker 69%
  • Whittaker 55%

Bets

  • Kassem +150
  • Pitolo by KO -165
  • Tafa -125
  • Hooker -170

Partial Unit Punts

  • Taha by KO +185
  • Kassem ITD +675
  • Hooker R1 win +500

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