The Haymaker: UFC Fight Night 94: Poirier vs Johnson
Hey guys, welcome back to another edition of the Haymaker. Last week’s UFC 203 picks went great and I hope you were all able to make some money. This Saturday night we have a televised Fight Night card coming to you from Hidalgo, Texas. The prize pools are smaller this week for a non PPV card but that doesn’t mean we can’t profit. Much like last week’s card in which the favorites went an impressive 9-1, I don’t see too many great spots for the underdogs in this one. There are also the all too common DraftKings pricing errors to account for that will easily let us fit five favorites in the same lineup. As a result, I feel like this card lends itself better to cash game play rather than tournaments. However, being a heavy tournament player myself, I will try to uncover some ways to help us differentiate our lineups from the field.
The goal of this article will be to break down the fights with a focus on ownership and lineup construction. I will start by breaking down the main and co-main events and follow it up with some format specific picks from the remaining fights.
Main Event: Dustin Poirier ($10,400) vs Michael Johnson ($9,000)
Odds: Poirier (-165) Johnson (+145)
This should be an entertaining five-round fight between two southpaws who both like to put pressure on their opponents. Poirier is coming into this one on a roll having won his last three in impressive fashion. He recently jumped up to lightweight and the move looks to have done wonders for his career. Johnson on the other hand is on a two fight losing skid, although you can argue that he got robbed in the decision loss to Beneil Dariush. Poirier has shown excellent striking lately and is definitely the more powerful of the two. Johnson is more of a volume puncher that wins on an accumulation of punches rather than quick knockouts. Johnson has always been known for his speed but he seemed to slow down in the later rounds of his last fight against Nate Diaz. He appeared to have trouble with another fighter using his pressure game against him. The other area that I think Poirier will have the advantage is in the submission game. While most of his recent wins have come by KO/TKO, Poirier does have a number of victories by D’Arce choke under his belt.
In a five round fight with odds of -185 to finish inside the distance, I definitely like both fighters in tournaments. However, with the better punching power and more paths to victory, I will definitely be much heavier on Poirier. What Johnson has going for him as a tournament play is his low price and the fact that most of the ownership will be on Poirier. Plus with his high volume style he should be able to accumulate enough strikes in a decision victory to put himself in the winning lineup. As far as cash games go, this is normally the style of main event that I would like to stack, however with all of the value at the lower end of the player pool I would recommend avoiding that strategy. Instead I would prefer to use Poirier with four other favorites.
Co-Main Event: Derek Brunson ($10,000) vs Uriah Hall ($9,400)
Odds: Brunson (-200) Hall (+170)
Derek Brunson is another fighter who has had some good momentum lately winning six out of his last seven fights. Brunson is known for his dominant grappling skills but has also improved his striking lately with three straight first-round KO’s. He also has powerful ground and pound elbows which are his best bet to get a stoppage.
Uriah Hall always has the potential to knock his opponent out while the fight is standing, however, he has shown in his recent fights that he can be quite inactive at times. Brunson should dominate this one with takedowns but if he chooses to stand and fight, Hall has a great chance of catching him with something. Brunson still has the tendency to leave his chin exposed.
I think the most likely outcome is for Brunson to take this one by decision or late stoppage and he makes for a solid play in either format. However with his instant KO potential and better finish prop than Brunson, I think that Hall makes a for a decent tournament play.
Cash Game Plays
For cash games you want to seek out fighters with high floors. I generally look to get as many favorites as possible into my lineups as you need to get wins. 4 wins are generally enough to cash in most double ups and 50/50s.
Evan Dunham ($10,700)
Even Dunham has looked really good lately, especially in his last fight against Joe Lauzon. His striking was crisp and his footwork was excellent. Dunham is a grinder that is known for his strong ring IQ and now he gets to face a promotional newcomer on short notice in Rick Glenn ($8,700). Glenn is a career 145’er who is moving up a weight class for this one. He is a technical striker without much stopping power. As a -350 favorite, I expected Dunham to win this one easily.
Belal Muhammad ($10,200)
Thanks to DraftKings’ curious pricing algorithm, Muhammad is the second biggest favorite on the card at -440 but he is only priced slightly above average. Muhammad was impressive in a loss to Alan Jouban his last time out despite fasting for Ramadan during training. He is another fighter that likes to pressure his opponents with a high volume of technical strikes and is now taking on Augusto Montano ($9,200) who is tough but does not handle pressure well. Muhammad is the faster fighter and should be able to wear out Montano as the fight goes on. Even if he doesn’t finish, his high output style and reasonable price should be more than enough to use in cash games.
Joey Gomez ($8,900)
Another beneficiary of a DK pricing quirk, Joey Gomez is one of the cheapest fighters in the entire player pool despite being a -160 favorite over Jose Quinonez ($10,500). Gomez has only fought once in the UFC and it was against a difficult opponent in Rob Font on only eight days notice. He was finished in the second round but he showed some good things in that one. Gomez is a crisp, technical striker with the power to finish fights and should have a much better showing in this one after a full camp. Quinonez will likely try to get this one to the ground, but even if he succeeds, Gomez has shown the ability to scramble and get back to his feet quickly. Gomez has one of the highest inside the distance props at -150 which also makes him a great tournament play. I do expect him to be popular at that price though.
The key to tournaments is to select fighters with high upside. On DraftKings that means seeking out early finishes and fighters that land a high number of significant strikes. It’s fine to have some popular plays but it will usually take one or two low owned plays to win a tournament.
Antonio Carlos Junior ($9,900)
Antonio Carlos Junior is a -245 favorite against fellow Brazilian Leonardo Leleco and has the second highest finish prop on the card of -109. Carlos Junior is the bigger, stronger, more athletic fighter and has a clear advantage on the mat. He is a BJJ black belt and has an excellent chance of getting the early submission in this one. Carlos Junior disappointed in his last bout as a heavy favorite against the aging Dan Kelly after Kelly was able to frustrate him with a strong defensive game before finishing him late. Despite the poor finish, Carlos Junior was still able to dominate early and consistently put himself into a position to lock in a sub. I don’t think that Leleco will be able to defend the way Kelly did and I’m hoping that recency bias from that fight will help to keep his ownership down.
Alejandro Perez ($11,000) vs Albert Morales ($8,400)
This fight is pretty much a pick’em despite what the pricing suggests. Perez is only a -120 favorite and Vegas has this one with a -155 chance of finishing within the distance. Morales is an exciting prospect but he is raw and is making his UFC debut on short notice. He is aggressive with heavy hands and good combo punching but also has poor defense. He also has decent submissions from his guard and at his bottom of the barrel pricing he makes for a solid tournament punt.
Perez has had his ups and downs in the UFC but he is the more well-rounded fighter in this one. He moves well, has good kicks and decent boxing. He has also shown the ability to get early finishes which is what we need for tournaments. As only a slight favorite, Perez is overpriced, which should keep his ownership very low on a 12-fight card. With all the value on this card I don’t mind paying up in this spot in tournaments to get some lineup differentiation.