After some weeks of Fight Night cards lacking real star power, we get just a mammoth PPV card that will just be a joy to watch. We have 12 fights and the prelims could legitimately be the top of a Fight Night card. I will be at a buddy’s wedding Thursday through Saturday, meaning I will be offering cash thoughts, picks and bets early this week, so pay close attention to late-breaking news. Let’s get to this fun card.
First, a reminder of 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 attractive fights that are 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 for which 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 35-50%.
- “Ugly Fight” – This will be for fights in which the winner is unlikely for the optimal.
Lock It In
Nate Diaz, +135, 7400 vs. Jorge Masvidal, -165, 8800
Fight is five rounds at 170 lbs and is +105 to end inside the distance.
For the “BMF” Title
Two tough as nails high-level strikers with boxing backgrounds showing up to truly throw down. Jorge Masvidal will be the more dangerous at the onset of the fight, and if he’s to find a KO, it probably happens in the first two rounds. Nate Diaz will keep a steady pace and perhaps even turn it up in the later rounds, and if the fight goes long, Diaz becomes the more likely to win. I imagine it’s an unwritten rule to not grapple in a fight for the BMF belt, but if it goes there, the edge belongs to Diaz whether top or bottom. With the favorite having a path to victory in the early rounds and the underdog seizing the advantage later, we can lock this one in between 90-100%, and it is a cash stack. I want a slight exposure edge to Diaz, particularly at his price, but set a floor on each fighter at 40% and go up to 100% total.
Corey Anderson +135, 7200 vs. Johnny Walker, -165, 9000
Fight is at 205 lbs and is -230 to end inside the distance.
Johnny Walker has quickly become one of the most prolific knockout artists in the UFC. His length, power and willingness to use all of his weapons make him more probable than not to find an early KO in just about every fight he enters, including this one. He does, however, have his highest level opponent to date in Corey Anderson and one with a high-end wrestling skill set that could mat return and control Walker. This fight likely plays out one of two ways. Those are a first-round finish for Walker that puts him in the optimal or Anderson surviving the first round, landing takedowns throughout and getting a later ground finish or a decision win that sees him to the optimal at his price. Up to 100% exposure on this one. Go for 50-65% on Walker and 30-40% on Anderson.
Over The Field
Kevin Lee, +140, 7100 vs. Gregor Gillespie, -170, 9100
Fight is at 155 lbs and is +145 to end inside the distance.
Gregor Gillespie is a wrestler extraordinaire and his style is custom made for DK scoring. He will walk into every fight with the same game plan, and that is bull forward, press for takedowns even if it means eating some shots on the way in, rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat. Mat return and ground and pound until his opponent breaks and if his opponent doesn’t break, it’s fifteen minutes of grappling. Kevin Lee has always been long on ability but short on mental toughness and cardio. He has made the move to train at Tristar so perhaps one or both of those issues will be corrected. He is also a wrestler, but will find himself defending takedowns throughout and will be the better and more technical striker, and does have power early on. This is by far the stiffest test to date for Gillespie and potentially the first time his chin is tested by real power. Given pricing, the winner of this fight is a great bet for the optimal and we can go up to 90% exposure on this one, with 45-60% on Gillespie and 30-40% on Lee.
Stephen Thompson, -125, 8500 vs. Vicente Luque, -105, 7700
Fight is at 170 lbs and is +130 to end inside the distance.
This is an intriguing fight between a 36-year-old whose chin is now shot against a 27-year-old who has shown insanely tough chin. Stephen Thompson was put out by Pettis in his last fight and for reference, Pettis has only had KOs by kicks in his long career leading up to that point. Thompson will continue to be a fighter who relies on movement for defense and setting up kicks and quick strikes and it will be of the utmost importance in this one. He will have to keep Vicente Luque at range as every punch from Luque will test Thompson’s chin as Thompson tries to point his way to a decision. Thompson would need a finish to return on price and is unattractive and is a fade to a cap of 15%. Luque is a true KO threat, and he is sound at sliding in chokes and should be in the 35-45% range.
Brad Tavares, -110, 7900 vs. Edmen Shabazyan, -120, 8300
Fight is at 185 lbs and is +135 to end inside the distance.
This fight is truly a measuring stick for where very real prospect Edmen Shahbazyan sits in the grand scheme of things. Shahbazyan is a finisher sitting at 10-0 who only has one fight that wasn’t a first-round finish. He’s capable of a striking finish on the feet or a submission on the floor after working his strong wrestling. Brad Tavares is his biggest test to date, and Tavares isn’t necessarily a finisher but is technically sound. He will look to work leg kicks and jabs and drag the fight to deeper water where Shahbazyan has the potential to fade. Tavares was knocked out twice in 2014 and 2015 in the first round, and this is the first fight he’s had since then where there’s real power coming back at him, and it really could come into play. Tavares is most likely for a decision in a win while Shahbazyan is far more likely for a finish. I want 30-40% on Shahbazyan and only about 10-20% Tavares in tournaments when attacking ceiling.
Kelvin Gastelum, -205, 9200 vs. Darren Till, +170, 7000
Fight is at 185 lbs and is -145 to end inside the distance.
This is likely a good spot to play defense on Kelvin Gastelum ownership while topping the field on Darren Till. Gastelum’s skill set is complete. He’s the better grappler in this fight, but I don’t think this fight takes place there. He has the better chin and is a good striker with sound power. Till, despite moving up from 170, is the larger fighter, having a 3-inch height and 3.5-inch reach advantage. He was knocked out in nasty fashion in his last fight at 170, but coming up a class should help with chin issues, and it’s not as if Till is on Vick or Rockhold level of chin giving out. It was one fight and not a spot to hit the panic button. He very well could still get knocked out by Kelvin but make no mistake, Till will have the power advantage here. If Kelvin is stubborn and wants to stand and trade, I don’t care whose chin it is, doing that with Till is a 50/50 scenario at best. Gastelum should be level with the field, 30-40% should do the trick while 25-35% Till should have us over the field on him as a KO or bust fighter.
Shane Burgos, -245, 9300 vs. Makwan Amirkhani, +195, 6900
Fight is at 145 lbs and is +170 to end inside the distance.
This will very much play out as a striker vs. grappler matchup, with Shane Burgos being the striker. Burgos is the longer fighter with 3.5″ of reach and has a massive advantage on the feet. He is quite in play for a KO on the hittable Makwan Amirkhani. It won’t take long on the feet before Amirkhani realizes he needs to get the fight to the floor is he’s to have a chance. Amirkhani is a sound wrestler and has submission chops, but that is his lone path to victory here. Burgos has sound takedown defense and is favored as he is and the highest price on the card for a reason. Now, for Burgos to return on this price tag, he will need a first-round KO so we can’t go crazy on him, and we also aren’t fading Amirkhani as he does have a submission path. Get 25-35% on Burgos and 20-25% on Amirkhani.
Andrei Arlovski, +120, 7500 vs. Jair Rozenstruick, -150, 8700
Fight is at heavyweight and is -185 to end inside the distance.
The grizzled vet Andrei Arlovski gets an up-and-comer in this one in Jair Rozenstruick. We (I) have been (unsuccessfully) predicting the demise of Arlovski for a few fights now, but all opinion aside, his chin is in real danger in this one. Rozenstruick has an extensive kickboxing background, has power, and is truly in play for a KO here. While Arlovski is certainly seasoned in the striking department, he will be at a speed and power disadvantage there and should look to get the fight to the floor, or at least to the clinch. Rozenstruick is fairly green in the grappling department, will have massive difficulty getting up and would be in danger of being finished in that department. Of course Arlovski will have to get through some strikes to get it there and that’s far from guaranteed. We want 20-25% Arlovski and 30-40% Rozenstruick.
Lyman Good, -125, 8400 vs. Chance Rencountre, -105, 7800
Fight is at 170 lbs and is +145 to end inside the distance.
Lyman Good is a striker/boxer that does his best work on the inside and has power in his hands and capable of finding KOs. He does not do well in fights fought on the outside and doesn’t do well at range. He’s not a grappler by trade, but has sound enough takedown defense and get-ups, which will be a huge key to this fight. Chance Rencountre doesn’t really make it a mystery that he’s trying to grapple and has a knack for using his length well in the clinch and on the floor. If Good can get inside and land with power, it’s not out of the question to find a KO, but Rencountre has a sound chin and more likely he grinds down Good on the floor and potentially finds a submission. Rencountre will be the more popular of the two fighters and we want approximately 25% on him, but less on Good — in the 15-20% range.
Julio Arce, +105, 7600 vs. Hakeem Dawodu, -135, 8600
Fight is at 145 lbs and is +160 to end inside the distance.
This is an interesting matchup, and it is a close one. Hakeem Dawodu is favored, and I understand why, as he’s going to have the better volume which tilts towards him in a decision call, but he definitely doesn’t bring the ceiling of Julio Arce. Arce brings a boxing skill set and is pretty high end with counter punching, an area that’s put Dawodu in trouble in the past. The KO chances lean pretty significantly towards the Arce side, and he’s additionally the more dangerous grappler. Dawodu is the pick if we assume this fight goes the distance, but as a favorite, the scoring ceiling is improbable. Dawodu is between a fade and 15%, while Arce is 20-30%.
Derrick Lewis, +105, 8000 vs. Blagoy Ivanov, -125, 8200
Fight is at heavyweight and is -145 to end inside the distance.
This is going to be a very slow fight, even for heavyweights. We know Derrick Lewis doesn’t throw volume but comes with big explosions, and those are capable of finding a knockout against anyone other than the highest level of heavyweights. Those KOs generally come after the first round after the opponents have slowed down. Blagoy Ivanov is a sound technical striker with good movement that doesn’t throw a ton of volume, nor does he have big power. This fight is more likely for the scorecards than the ITD line suggests, and a KO for Ivanov seems far-fetched as Lewis is quite tough. Any exposure here is solely KO hunting and would cap at 20% Lewis and 10% Ivanov.
Katlyn Chookagian, -160, 8900 vs. Jennifer Maia, +130, 7300
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +290 to end inside the distance.
We have a couple of decision machines in Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia. Each fighter has seen their last seven fights hit the judge’s scorecards, and there’s no reason to think that will change here. Chookagian does have the better BJJ skill set, but she will likely have difficulty getting the fight to the mat. The insanely highly likely outcome here is a decision with the winner around 70 DK points and the loser around 35. Needless to say, this is wholly unattractive in tournaments, and the fight is truly a fade candidate, but if you feel the need for exposure, hard cap at 15% on either fighter. Maia at her price has a small floor and can be the fighter to make a cash lineup fit if needed.
Cash and Single Entry
The cash lineup this week starts with a main event stack. The next fighter in is as much for defensive purposes and how popular he will be as it is his real ceiling in Johnny Walker. We also cannot have a cash lineup without Gregor The Gift. The last two are a bit of a 2-for-2 conundrum. With balance, Luque and Rencountre is a sound option, while going stud and dud works as well, as Rozenstruick and Amirkhani fit. I lean towards the former for cash.
For single entry, we have to pivot off one of the main event fighters. In a lineup that pivots off Masvidal and assuming the Luque build, Rozenstruick is the clear pivot. In a lineup that pivots off Diaz, Arce is the clear pivot.
Picks and Bets
Picks With Personal Confidence Percentage
- Arce 60%
- Rencountre 62%
- Chookagian 73%
- Rozenstruick 65%
- Shahbazyan 60%
- Burgos 75%
- Walker 73%
- Gillespie 82%
- Lewis 54%
- Luque 59%
- Gastelum 55%
- Diaz 60%
- Arce +105
- Rencountre -105
- Chookagian -160
- Rozenstruick -150
- Walker -165
- Gillespie -170
- Luque -105
- Diaz +135
Group of Five Devy Rundown: Week 9