After all the lead up to 244, and the card being a bit of a letdown, it’s safe to say this is actually the card of the year. We have three title fights and a full 13 fights for our viewing pleasure. There is also a special MME contest on DraftKings with a top prize of $50,000, and a boost in the size and top prize of the Mini-Max as well.
I know I have some cash thoughts early in the week, as this card is fairly self-explanatory with the three five-round fights scheduled. Stacking the two men’s title fights and using the female GOAT seems to be wholly necessary. We will figure out the final play after weigh-ins.
Our biggest difficulty on this card is how to divide exposure to the favorites as there are some real and attainable ceilings at the top of the pricing list. We do have some live dogs to fit them and identifying exposure level is the more difficult task than identifying proper plays as I see it. Let’s get to the tournament thoughts.
A reminder of the fight classifications for tournaments:
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.
As always, check back after weigh-ins for cash, single entry, picks, bets and any other final thoughts.
**Post weigh in Update** Only Jessica Eye missed weight and it was a huge miss, five lbs over at 131. The fight will go on with 30% of Eye’s purse going to Araujo. Aruajo looked fantastic on the scale and I believe Eye to be too emotional to not let this affect her in the octagon. Update on deployment under that fight.
Lock It In
Colby Covington, +155, 7300 vs Kamaru Usman, -185, 8900
Fight is five rounds at 170 lbs and is +190 to end inside the distance. For the welterweight championship.
This fight is the actual main event and last of the three title fights. There is a huge amount of buildup for this one and very real bad blood between the two fighters. It’s beyond fair to wonder whether Colby Covington has gotten into the head of Kamaru Usman. Colby loves to play the heel role like they do in pro wrestling and he will be the guy in the arena soaking in the boos. Both fighters are very high-end wrestlers but each fighter has some clear-cut advantages in their skill sets. Usman is the larger and stronger fighter with the better clinch game and is probably better at getting the fight to the floor from the clinch. Covington has a cardio advantage on literally everyone and is the better and much heavier volume striker of the two. With the wrestling skill sets, both will be capable of securing takedowns but top control is not the true forte of either fighter and takedowns likely lead to the fight returning to the feet after not much time at all. Usman will have the heavier hand on the feet but Covington will touch him repeatedly and I believe he will ultimately wear down Usman to get the win, but this is not the easiest fight to call. There is likely a full 25 minutes of action in this one and we should be near 100% on this fight. I want Colby in the 50-65% range and Usman in the 30-45% range. This fight is one of the rare occasions where stacking in tournaments could be prudent.
Max Holloway, -180, 8700 vs Alexander Volkanovski, +150, 7500
Fight is five rounds at 145 lbs and is +165 to end inside the distance. For the featherweight championship.
Max Holloway gets likely his stiffest featherweight test in quite some time as his last two opponents proved not remotely up to the task of dethroning the champ. It is difficult to gauge whether Alexander Volkanovski is ready for this level of fight as he’s only fought two high-level opponents at this juncture of his career. He was both hurt and out grappled by late-career Chad Mendes before cardio ultimately got the best of Mendes and Volkanovski rallied for the late second-round KO. Volkanovski showed great resilience in that fight. His next fight was against a version of Jose Aldo we were not accustomed to, and one that was passive and allowed Volkanovski to have his way throughout the decision win. More on Aldo later, but this pair of impressive wins for Volkanovski bring more questions than answers in terms of his readiness to fight Holloway. Max won’t have a cardio crash like Mendes and he won’t be passive like Aldo so this will require an even more massive step up than Volkanovski had in those previous two fights if he is to be competitive. Until those last two fights, Volkanovski did his best work as a grappler and if he is able to take Max down, it would be a prudent move but it is questionable whether he can get the fight to the floor and also whether he can keep it there. That said he strikes with sound volume and that is always a boon in five-round Max fights. Max’s last two title fights that went the distance had totals of 400 and 225 significant strikes landed and the pace of this fight tilts more towards that 400 figure than the 225. There is a massive floor for both fighters, similar to the other men’s title fight, and a real ceiling for the winner. I lean Max here and want the exposure tilted to him but Volkanovski is a live dog that could score soundly even in a loss. Holloway should be in the 45-60% range with Volkanovski in the 40-50% range. Another fight you could entertain stacking tournaments.
Over The Field
Matt Brown, -350, 9300 vs Ben Saunders, +270, 6900
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -425 to end inside the distance.
This could have been labeled the AARP championship. Matt Brown returns after a two-year absence to take a fight a month shy of his 39th birthday with 36-year-old Ben Saunders. This is a fight designed to get a fun finish, and both fighters are quite capable of being finished. Saunders’ chin is shot and Brown has the skill set to ease him another step closer to retirement while Saunders uses all of his limbs well and can attack the body, an area of concern for Brown. I don’t expect any grappling in this fight but if there is, Saunders has the better BJJ skill set but it is not likely to come into play. We have a fairly straightforward scenario here. Any finish for Saunders makes him a great bet for the optimal at this price while Brown’s pricing likely requires a finish in the very first round to make his way to the optimal. Around 15-20% on Saunders should be enough to stay over the field with 35-45% on Brown being plenty.
Chase Hooper, -120, 8300 vs Daniel Teymur, -110, 7900
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -175 to end inside the distance.
Chase Hooper is such an odd fighter to be placed on a PPV card, particularly one of this magnitude. He is a 20-year-old prospect that has a fairly strong grappling and submission game, but his striking is best described as sub par if we want to be complimentary. He truly gets his chin tested in every fight, and it has held up so far, but it is a near certainty he has to survive multiple big shots in the first round from Daniel Teymur. Teymur is a kickboxer that is notorious for questionable cardio but is dangerous in the first round. He has been submitted twice in the UFC after the first round and this is the path for Hooper, to outlast and survive the first stanza. This is a middling pricing fight that’s likely to produce a ceiling score and get to the optimal and not one to be without. I slightly lean towards Teymur getting the job done in the first round and want the exposure edge on that side. 30-40% on Teymur and 20-35% on Hooper.
Punahale Soriano, -110, 8200 vs Oskar Piechota, -120, 8000
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -195 to end inside the distance.
Punahale Soriano is a DWCS alum making his UFC debut. He has a wrestling pedigree and really likes to press forward and wing bombs. His style is one that will create standing KOs but leaves himself open to be countered and could create KOs on the wrong side as well. I believe he will have problems at this level with higher-end counter strikers and strikers that string together combinations. It is difficult to surmise whether Oskar Piechota is at that level or not, but he very well could be. He has a head kick that is dangerous and enough in his punches to be dangerous. Don’t read too much into the consecutive submission losses leading into this fight. He is a black belt and simply was matched up with better black belts. That is not the case here and the wrestler Soriano would put himself in danger shooting takedowns in this matchup. I would say Soriano is the better and more dangerous striker and the more likely of the two for a KO. Piechota probably doesn’t have quite enough in the wrestling department to take the fight down and secure top position, but I do believe he will be a submission threat from both stuffing takedowns and sweeping from bottom. There is a ceiling to be had for both fighters and both are capable of a finish here. When considering the potential for nerves from a debuting fighter, I want dead even exposure on this one, in the range of 25-40% on each fighter.
Amanda Nunes, -290, 9200 vs Germaine de Randamie, +230, 7000
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -290 to end inside the distance. For the women’s bantamweight championship.
I’ve heard so many times this week that this line is too wide or that Germaine de Randamie is a better striker that I’m starting to wonder whether Amanda Nunes will be chalky or not, which is mild insanity. The female GOAT remains just that and has beaten every fighter that has been the champion at bantamweight or featherweight in UFC history. I suppose I see why many are giving the challenger with high-end Thai striking a chance, but I’m personally not ready to give her a real chance of winning. This fight is a rematch from six years in which Nunes got a first-round finish on the floor. Nunes will have a massive advantage in the grappling department, and while GdR has gotten better at denying takedowns on the fence, it likely just takes one to be all she wrote. Both fighters have some level of KO potential on the feet, I don’t really buy the power level for GdR being on par with Nunes. GdR has just one stoppage win in her UFC career outside of the Ladd stoppage fiasco. Nunes just has to be aware of counters and will otherwise be fully safe. Don’t be the one to overthink this one, heavy exposure advantage to Nunes. 40-60% on her and fade to 10% on GdR.
Marlon Moraes, -200, 9000 vs Jose Aldo, +165, 7200
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -170 to end inside the distance.
Man, whoever is giving career advice to Jose Aldo needs to stop. He was having a rough time making 145 and now decided to drop to 135 where it is questionable at best whether he will make weight. Additionally, there is a photo of Aldo making the rounds and his physique just looks terrible. He was passive and looked awful in his last fight against Volkanovski at 145 and I can’t fathom how dropping a weight class could bring any improvement. Marlon Moraes was riding three consecutive first-round finishes with a complete skill set and real power before losing when he got his title shot. I think the name of Jose Aldo is more than the fighter at this point, particularly at 135, and will likely be at both a power and quickness disadvantage here and could be finished at any point. I’ll leave room to be wrong on Aldo in the 10-20% range as the price is right, but Moraes is who you want here, in the 40-60% range.
Ian Heinisch, -145, 8400 vs Omari Akhmedov, +115, 7800
Fight is at 185 lbs and is +135 to end inside the distance.
Omari Akhmedov remains a two-trick pony. Overhand right that is almost just a prayer at this point in his career and then press forward for a takedown and control on top without doing a lot. Ian Heinisch on the other hand has more tools and has been very impressive on the floor to this point in his UFC career as he has fought two very high-end BJJ black belts and he could at least threaten from his back to make Akhmedov wonder if the takedowns are a good idea, despite having success in getting them. Heinisch will push a much higher striking pace on the feet and will have a cardio advantage here. I see this as a bounceback spot for Heinisch and believe he will get the win, but am unsure of scoring floor or ceiling. With this being the case, I want 20-30% Heinisch and fade to 10% on Akhmedov.
Petr Yan, -480, 9400 vs Urijah Faber, +355, 6800
Fight is at 135 lbs and is -155 to end inside the distance.
Urijah Faber returned in July and secured the shocking first-round KO and this is his encore. We assumed we wouldn’t get much from the 40-year-old, and that could still be the case, but he’s been a notoriously difficult fighter to finish for the duration of his career, and has been finished just once in the last decade. I believe him to have a real grappling advantage in this one if he’s able to get the fight to the floor and has a path to victory. Any secured takedown for Faber will be a huge moment of the fight. Petr Yan has the striking edge, and it’s possible and probable that Yan runs away with this one on the feet. The thing with Yan is by my view, he’s the least likely of the 9k+ fighters for the early finish and is the priciest of the group. Just 10-20% on each fighter here.
Geoff Neal, -250, 9100 vs Mike Perry, +200, 7100
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -180 to end inside the distance.
I cannot believe this fight is on the prelims. Geoff Neal gets to display his crazy good striking in the biggest showcase of his career to date in this one. Mike Perry gets a lot of hype, and his fights often turn out fun, but he’s been anything but a finisher and is just a fun brawler at this point in his career. He will have some problems getting inside in this one as Neal’s hands are just incredibly sharp and Neal will have 4 inches of reach to keep him in the comfort zone. It would be surprising to see any grappling in this one and the toughness of Perry’s chin will likely get its biggest test to date. If Perry holds up, he could be the first one to truly test the Neal chin and isn’t totally out of play but it would be an unlikely occurrence. Neal is likely to get the win here, the question comes in the DK scoring output as he will need a finish in the first two rounds to be an optimal candidate. I want 25-40% on Neal and fade to 15% on Perry.
Brandon Moreno, +135, 7700 vs Kai Kara-France, -165, 8500
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +155 to end inside the distance.
This is very much a striker vs grappler matchup as Kai Kara-France will have a big advantage on the feet, particularly in boxing range. It will be paramount for Kara-France to keep off the floor and keep Brandon Moreno off his back or he’s in very large danger of being submitted. Moreno will also throw head kicks that are dangerous and he is a scrappy and live dog in this one, despite having a simply better striker across from him. Kara-France with a favorite price tag should avoid grappling at all costs and that means his output is likely and simply any decision points plus SS, which would make him absent from the optimal. Moreno is the higher ceiling fighter with the submission path but less likely to win. I want 20-30% Moreno and fade to 15% Kara-France.
Ketlen Vieira -170, 8800 vs Irene Aldana, +140, 7400
Fight is at 135 lbs and is +240 to end inside the distance.
This will be a better fight to watch than it will be for DFS purposes. Ketlen Vieira is still very much a fighter that needs to grapple to be at her best and his ability to get takedowns will be paramount for her in winning this fight. The range striking advantage will very much belong to Irene Aldana and she throws enough volume and is priced so that a decision win would not box her out of the optimal. Vieira at price would need a ground win in the first two rounds to even have a shot at the optimal. I want 10-20% Aldana and fade to 10% on Vieira.
Jessica Eye +145, 7600 vs Viviane Araujo, -175, 8600
Fight is at 125 lbs and is +180 to end inside the distance.
This is a close fight that likely won’t have a ton of scoring output for DK. Viviane Araujo is just slightly better everywhere for me, and I would expect her to win a decision. I believe her to be the one of these two that could potentially secure takedowns and I think she will win the striking exchanges on the feet, at least for the first half of the fight. Her cardio has questions, but if there is a scoring ceiling to be had in this fight, it belongs to her. This is Jessica Eye‘s first fight since the brutal head kick KO in her title shot fight and we have to wonder if there are any lingering effects there. Even with Eye’s chances of winning a decision, her scoring output is likely to be imperfect and would be dicey for the optimal despite being an underdog winner. Araujo is the one with a ceiling and I want her at 10-20% with Eye being fade to 10%.
**Update** With Eye having the big weight miss, focus is going to be a problem for her. She is going to dwell on it and it will eat her up for the next 30 hours. Aruajo gets bumped to 20-25% and Eye is a fade.
Cash and Single Entry
We are still certainly stacking the two men’s title fights, don’t see any way around it for cash. There is a bit of a change though with the weight miss for Eye. I think there is now a level of safety in Aruajo that doesn’t come with any of the fights below her and want her in cash. This leaves enough salary to get Moraes in against Dillashaw 2.0 aka Aldo.
For single entry we can’t stack both men’s fights, but we can stack one, and it is truly difficult to choose. I lean the welterweight fight as the grappling points are a good basis for a tiebreaker. This means taking a stand on Max. I think Teymur is a nice ceiling to attack as the next fighter in, leaving 8600 per on our last two slots. This leaves a choice on a 2 v 2 between Nunes/Piechota or Moraes/Puna and your lean in the kickoff fight should determine which direction you go. I slightly lean Piechota.
Picks and Bets
Picks With Personal Confidence Percentage
- Piechota 55%
- Aruajo 80%
- Kara-France 56%
- Teymur 60%
- Brown 85%
- Heinisch 65%
- Aldana 51%
- Neal 75%
- Yan 90%
- Moraes 85%
- Nunes 94%
- Holloway 69%
- Covington 61%
- Piechota/Soriano ITD -195
- Aruajo -175
- 2 way hedge – Teymur by KO +335 with Hooper by sub +185
- Heinisch -140
- Aldana +145
- Moraes -205
- Nunes -305
- Covington +150