The Haymaker – UFC 207: Picks and Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. UFC 207 kicks off at 7:30pm EST tonight from Vegas and marks the return of Ronda Rousey to the Octagon. DraftKings always brings out the big prize pools for the PPV cards so there is a lot of money to be made tonight. Unfortunately, Cain Velasquez had to back out of his fight due to a back injury so there are only 10 fights on the card. This will result in a lot of ties in the large field tournaments so you will need to leave some money on the table if you want to have a unique lineup. Luckily there is a lot of value on this card and the pricing is a little forgiving so lineup construction should be easier this time. There will be little room for error with only 10 fights to choose from, so I will narrow down the field to some of my favorite individual plays for each format.

Main Event: Ronda Rousey ($8,400) vs Amanda Nunes ($8,000)

Odds: Rousey (-155) Nunes (+145)

Odds to finish: -1300

This is Rousey’s first fight since her devastating loss at the hands of Holly Holm 13 months ago. She was destroying everybody in the division and seemed to get a little complacent, so the loss was a rude awakening for her. It didn’t look like she went into that fight in the best shape and it showed as she was picked apart by Holm’s striking. Rousey has mostly been off the grid since then, refusing to talk to media, so there are a lot of question marks surrounding where she’s at mentally and how she’s been training. One thing we do know, however, is that she looked fantastic at the weigh-ins so we can put the rumors of her being overweight and out of shape to rest. Rousey is a top athlete and should have the cardio advantage in this fight.

The Women’s Bantamweight division has been very volatile since Rousey was dethroned as champion. The title has changed hands twice since Holm won the belt, with Amanda Nunes destroying Meisha Tate in the first round to become the latest champion in the division. Nunes is an excellent striker with power in her hands and will have the advantage over Rousey in that department. Nunes will use her striking to keep the distance from Rousey and to punish her when she tries to get inside and take her down. Her biggest weakness is her cardio, as she gassed out in her earlier loss to Cat Zingano as well as in her win over Valentina Schevchenko. Nunes made quick work of Tate in her latest fight, so we were unable to see if she had made any improvements to her gas tank. Her best bet in this one will be to end it early and avoid going into the later rounds.

This fight is scheduled for five rounds, but Vegas expects this one to end early, with a -1300 chance to finish inside the distance. It also has a -215 chance of ending in the first round which makes it an ideal target for tournaments. If Rousey can get inside on Nunes and get her to the ground without taking too much damage, then she should be able to lock in her patented arm bar and end the fight quickly. However, if she tries to rush through Nunes’ strikes like she did with Holm, then she will get dropped again and likely finished. With such a close fight and so many question marks surrounding Rousey, I think it makes a lot of sense to have exposure to both sides in this fight in tournaments. Both fighters are very cheap so I think whoever wins this fight will be in the winning tournament lineup. As such, I will have 100% exposure to this fight and likely split it 50/50. If you are only entering one lineup in a large field GPP, then I would probably side with the champ, Nunes, since Rousey is the more popular fighter and is much more likely to carry the higher ownership.

Cash game strategy is simple for this one. I would either stack the fight to lock in the 100 points or avoid it completely. There is too much uncertainty to feel confident in either side and both fighters have an incredibly low floor with such high odds to end early. The option you choose should depend on how confident you feel about the rest of your lineup. If you think you can pick six other winners then I would probably fade the fight in cash games.

Cash Game Plays

For cash games, you want to seek out fighters with high floors. This means selecting fighters that strike at a high output or score lots of takedowns. I generally look to get as many favorites as possible into my lineups as you need to get wins. 3-4 wins are generally enough to cash in most double ups and 50/50s.

Dominick Cruz ($8,700)

Dominick Cruz is one of my top plays on the whole card. He is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and is taking on a very one-dimensional fighter in Cody Garbrandt. Garbrandt has a powerful right hand and is coming off KO victories over Almeida and Mizugaki. Unlike Cruz though, these fighters just stand in front of you and are very hittable. Cruz’s trademark is his excellent footwork and movement. He has an unorthodox style that involves a lot of switching of stances and feints and he is very hard to hit. Cruz is very unpredictable and has excellent level changes, which he combines with great setups for his takedowns. Cruz doesn’t have a lot of power so he is likely to win by decision here, but he can still put up a big score in a five-round fight. At -200, Cruz is the biggest favorite on the card and I love using him in both formats. Garbrandt has the power to end the fight with one punch, but he has a shorter reach than the versatile TJ Dillishaw who had a very hard time hitting Cruz in their fight.

Neil Magny ($8,200)

The line for this fight opened close to even, but after Johny Hendricks missed weight yet again, Neil Magny is all the way up to a -155 favorite. Hendricks looked like a shell of a human being at the media scrum and has had some tough weight cuts lately. This has really impacted his performance in the last few fights as he has looked sluggish and ran out of gas easily. Magny is a well-rounded fighter and has a massive 6” height and 11” reach advantage in this matchup. He should be able to keep the distance and jab Hendricks to death throughout the fight. Magny is unlikely to get an early finish, which is why I prefer him in cash games over GPPs, but he does have a decent shot at getting a late stoppage after an accumulation of damage. I expect Magny to score around 70-90 points in a decision victory, which is reasonable for his price.

Tournament Plays

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. With the new DK scoring system you can also find a high ceiling with grapplers who score lots of takedowns and are active on the ground. It’s fine to have some popular plays but it will usually take one or two low owned plays to win a tournament.

Brandon Thatch ($9,000)

Brandon Thatch is taking on the relatively unknown Niko Price who is making his UFC debut on short notice. Price is 8-0 on the regional scene and most of those victories have come against gas cans. This fight will be a big step up in competition for him. Based on limited tape, Price looks like an aggressive brawler who is not very technical and leaves himself open to being countered. Thatch has lost three straight fights by submission, but he matches up very well against brawlers. He is a striker himself and has a lot of talent, but lacks in the cardio department and fades later in fights. Thatch opened as a heavy favorite but the line has gone down to just -140 so I don’t think a lot of people will be on him in tournaments, especially considering his recent record. This fight has a -390 finish prop, which is second on the entire card, so I want to have a lot of exposure to it. Thatch makes for a nice GPP pivot from the other high priced fighters who are sure to be popular.

Ray Borg ($7,900)

Ray Borg is taking on Louis Smolka in a grappler vs grappler matchup that should be very DFS friendly under the new DK scoring format. Borg is an excellent wrestler and an elite submission grappler that has the best chance of getting a finish in this fight. He is athletic and powerful, and should be the much stronger fighter in this matchup. Smolka has a 5” height and reach advantage that will help him keep the distance, but will also make him more susceptible to takedowns. He is coming off an upset loss to Brandon Moreno after getting caught with a guillotine choke due to his sloppy ground work. Smolka has had his back taken in several of his fights and if he lets that happen here, Borg will finish him off quickly. The biggest issue/risk with Borg is that he missed weight by 3.5lbs so I’m not sure how that will impact him. If he realized he wasn’t close and stopped trying to cut early, then that may help his heavier grappling style. Given the risk however, I think he is better served as a tournament play.