The Haymaker – UFC 208: Picks and Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. This Saturday’s PPV card is taking place from Brooklyn, New York and is headlined by the inaugural title fight in the Women’s Featherweight division between Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie. The co-main event features an interesting matchup between the legend Anderson Silva and Derek Brunson. Unfortunately, we lost a fight after short-notice replacement Justin Willis was unable to make weight, so we are down to just 11 fights on this card. This makes an already tricky card that much more difficult from a DFS perspective as it will force heavier ownership on the top plays. Much like last week, there are a bunch of heavy favorites and only a few close fights, so the fighters in the lower pricing tier aren’t that appealing. This will make roster construction difficult as you will not be able to fit the heavier favorites in your lineup without having to punt a position or two. This is a fairly common occurrence in MMA, so I will go over how I like to handle situations like this in both cash games and GPPs.

Main Event: Germaine de Randamie ($8,200) vs Holly Holm ($8,000)

Odds: de Randamie (-130) Holm (+120)

Odds to finish: +100

The main event between Holm and de Randamie is the first ever fight in the Women’s Featherweight division and will be 5 rounds for the title. This is a very close fight to call and most experts I have heard from are heavily on one side or the other. Holm is coming off a poor performance against Valentina Shevchenko after losing her title to Miesha Tate, and is probably the reason why de Randamie opened as the favorite here. On the other side, de Randamie is coming off back-to-back KO victories, albeit against much weaker competition.

De Randamie is a Muay Thai kick-boxing champion like Shevchenko, but is much bigger and consequently slower. While Shevchenko is a counter striker, de Randamie likes to push forward and put pressure on her opponents. Her strategy is to get into the pocket and throw heavy shots or dominate from the clinch. Her size and aggressive style lead to a lot of early finishes but can cause her to gas out in the later rounds which would be an issue if this fight goes the distance. De Randamie will be looking to keep this one on the feet as she has no takedowns and a weak ground game that was evident in her loss against Amanda Nunes.

Holm has been in multiple 5-round fights and we have seen her excellent cardio on display in the later rounds. She doesn’t strike at a high volume, but Holm is much better as a counter puncher and had trouble when she was forced to be the aggressor against Shevchenko. Holm got tagged every time she tried to get in close, which caused her to sit back and be inactive for most of the fight. She had success against Ronda Rousey who was constantly moving forward and pushing the pace with a similar style to de Randamie. Holm also showed that she was capable of takedowns against Rousey, which could be an effective strategy against de Randamie.

From a DFS perspective, I don’t think this fight has as much upside as a typical 5-round fight so I will not play it as heavily as I normally would. I like Holm to win the fight as she is the faster fighter with better cardio and should have an advantage in the later rounds. This is a much better stylistic matchup for her as de Randamie’s aggressive approach will allow her to be a counter puncher here. Holm does not have a great finish prop and does not strike at a high enough rate to give her a great score in a decision. I like Holm better in cash games where her price and Vegas odds give her good value. I don’t mind stacking the fight in cash games due to the difficulty of creating lineups this week, but the floor is not as high as in previous main events. As far as tournaments go, I will probably have more shares of de Randamie, as she has the better chance at getting an early finish and I think she will be the lower owned fighter based on name value. Holm is still in play in tournaments, but I would only use her in more balanced lineups. The winner of this fight has a better chance of ending up in the winning GPP lineup if none of the big underdogs pull off an upset.

Co-Main Event: Derek Brunson ($8,300) vs Anderson Silva ($7,900)

Odds: Brunson (-140) Silva (+120)

Odds to finish: -205

This is another difficult fight to call that has the experts divided, but it has much more appeal for DFS than the main event. Anderson Silva is the big draw here, but he is older and a little slower now and is not the same fighter he was during his impressive winning streak. Silva has lost 4 of his last 5 fights with a no contest after testing positive for steroids. He has not won a fight since 2012. Silva can’t take a punch like he used to, but he still has that elusiveness and ability to counter that makes him so fun to watch. He’s not very active off his back but he is a BJJ black belt that can end the fight if his opponent makes a mistake.

Brunson is very athletic and powerful with solid wrestling but has fallen in love with his striking in recent fights. He likes to rush his opponents with wild flurries to catch them off guard, but has a habit of leaving his chin way up in the air when he strikes. After an impressive streak of 4 straight first-round KO’s, it finally caught up with him as he was tagged by Robert Whittaker and finished in the first round of his most recent fight.

Both fighters have very reasonable paths to victory and the outcome depends largely on Brunson’s game plan in this one. If he opts to come out with the same bull rushing strategy against Silva that he’s used in recent fights, Silva is very likely to drop him with a well-placed counter punch. Brunson’s best approach in this one would be to utilize his wrestling and try to get Silva to the ground. He has vicious ground-and-pound and has a better chance of finishing him there. Both fighters have great finish props but Silva’s is slightly better despite being the underdog. Along with the ability to finish with a quick counter, Silva also has a chance to land something in the later rounds as Brunson has been known gas easily and has not been out of the first round in several fights.

From a DFS perspective, I think it makes sense to target both sides of this fight heavily in GPPs. It has the third-highest finish prop on the card and both fighters are priced below the average so the winner has a very strong chance of ending up in the winning lineup. Brunson is my favorite play in this fight as he is the more athletic fighter and I like him to get the win if he comes in with a good game plan and doesn’t repeat the mistakes from his previous fights. Silva is a great play as well, but I expect him to be much higher owned than Brunson due to name value and the fact that he was just KO’d in a main event last fight.

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.

When dealing with situations where there is not a lot of odds value in the lower pricing tiers, a couple strategies that I like to use are stacking a fight (usually the main event for the 5-round potential) or punting a position with a fighter that is likely to make it to a decision even if they don’t have a great chance of winning.

Wilson Reis ($9,600)

Wilson Reis is the most expensive fighter but he’s also the safest play on card (knock on wood). The line on Reis has gone all the way up to -700 over Ulka Sasaki, making him the biggest favorite as well. Reis is a top-level grappler who was supposed to challenge Demetrious Johnson for the Flyweight title before Johnson got injured. Reis is a pressure fighter with a stocky build and will be at a 6” height and reach disadvantage to Sasaki. Fortunately for him, Sasaki is also a grappler and has very little striking ability and power to take advantage of his longer frame. Taller fighters are much easier to take down when there is no threat of taking damage on the feet and the much stronger Reis should be able to land them at will here. As an experienced grappler himself, Sasaki might be able to survive on the ground for a while, but Reis is much more technical and should be able to score a lot of points with takedowns and advances before eventually locking in a submission.

Jarred Brooks ($8,100)

***UPDATE***

2:30PM – The fight between Jarred Brooks and Ian McCall was cancelled this afternoon after McCall was taken to hospital for an unspecified illness. Make sure you remove both fighters from your lineups. As a pivot in cash games, I don’t mind going down to Belal Muhammad who is mentioned below in the tournament section. He is a riskier play, but is an active fighter with decent win odds.

Jarred Brooks is making his UFC debut against veteran Ian McCall but is actually the favorite in this fight at -135 which gives him solid odds value. Brooks is taking the fight on short notice, but he has excellent cardio and had already been training for another fight so that shouldn’t be an issue here. Brooks is the younger and fresher fighter and is very aggressive, which makes him appealing for DFS. Brooks has a very strong wrestling background and is short and stocky like Reis. He will be the smaller fighter in this fighter but should have a speed advantage and is better on the feet than McCall.

McCall has a lot of question marks as he hasn’t fought in 2 years because of a string of unbelievable bad luck. He has had 5 fight cancellations since 2015 and 9 since 2013. His most recent opponents have pulled out of fights with injuries, illness and even bereavement. McCall has been around the UFC for a long time and has dealt with a number of injuries and there were rumors that he was nearing retirement. It’s hard to know what kind of shape he’ll be in, but McCall is fast and has solid wrestling and is capable of out-grappling guys when he is on top. He has also shown to be very hittable and hasn’t fared well against fighters that pressure him.

Jacare Souza ($9,500) vs Tim Boetsch ($6,700)

Odds: Souza (-550) Boetsch (+425)

Odds to finish: -450

This fight has the highest finish prop on the card with a -155 chance of ending in the first round, which obviously makes it a very strong target in GPPs. Souza is the heavy favorite in this one, as he is one of the top contenders for the Middleweight title and is only fighting someone like Boetsch to keep busy while the other contenders are occupied. Souza is a very well-rounded fighter with great striking and an elite ground game. He is one of the best submission grapplers in the world and will make quick work of Boetsch if he can get the fight to the ground. Boetsch has a Judo background which makes him difficult to take down, but once he’s on the ground he’s useless. Souza has a solid chin, which gives him the ability to survive a couple shots from Boetsch, but I would rather pay up for someone like Reis in cash games as a much safer play.

Boetsch is a power puncher that has won two fights in a row by first-round KO over much lower level competition. He is old and slow, but he can end the fight with one punch if he connects. This gives him some appeal in GPPs, but I think a lot of people will use Boetsch as a punt option to fit in the other high-priced studs, making his ownership higher than his odds suggest. I think Souza will be popular, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this causes his ownership to be lower than expected. This makes me want to be overweight on Souza and underweight on Boetsch in tournaments. Souza is difficult to fit into lineups without taking one of the heavy underdogs, so there is some merit to fading the fight if you think there won’t be any huge upsets.

Glover Teixeira ($8,700) vs Jared Cannonier ($7,500)

Odds: Teixeira (-215) Cannonier (+178)

Odds to finish: -375

Glover Teixeira is coming off a devastating KO loss to Anthony Johnson at UFC 202, which might scare some people off him in this fight, but Rumble is one of the baddest strikers out there and that was the first KO loss of his career. Teixeira took 6 months off to recover and now gets to fight a much weaker opponent in Jared Cannonier, who has been KO’d before as well. Teixeira has the better striking and the better chin, and has only lost to the best guys. He is aggressive and has good cardio so he will be able to keep up the pace if the fight gets into the later rounds. Teixeira has solid wrestling and is a BJJ black belt, which gives him a big advantage on the ground.

Cannonier only has 3 fights in his UFC career and is taking a big step up in competition a little too early in his development. He alternated first-round KO wins and losses in his first two fights and then beat Ion Cutelaba by decision in his last fight. He didn’t look particularly great in that fight until Cutelaba gassed out and his weak takedown defense was exploited as he was taken down 6 times. Cannonier is explosive though and has heavy hands, so he has a puncher’s chance here, and that gives him some appeal as an underdog play.

The more experienced Teixeira is my preferred play in GPPs though, and I will be much heavier on him considering his multiple paths to victory.

Randy Brown ($8,400) vs Belal Muhammad ($7,800)

Odds: Brown (-130) vs Muhammad (+120)

Odds to finish: +120

This is a sneaky fight to target in GPPs if you opt for a more balanced approach to roster construction. Both fighters are relatively unknown to the casual fan and the chances of finishing inside the distance are only +120 so I expect ownership to be much lower on this fight than any of the previously mentioned fights. Like Teixeira, Belal Muhammad is also coming off a brutal first-round KO loss, but he is making his return to the UFC after only taking 3 months off to recover. He is a tough fighter but he is very hittable and is taking this fight on short notice. Brown is not a power puncher, but if Muhammad is not fully recovered then it won’t take much to put him out again. Muhammad is a pretty tough guy, but he doesn’t move his head and is very hittable. Brown is the faster fighter and has a 4” height and 6” reach advantage, so he should be able to land at range and keep the distance. His weakness is in the grappling game and that’s where Muhammad should have an advantage. Muhammad is a solid wrestler and should be better on the ground.

I like the idea of targeting both sides of this fight in GPPs. Brown is not the most active fighter, but he has a decent chance of getting a finish if Muhammad isn’t fully recovered. If Muhammad can take the punches, then I like him as the more active fighter in this one. He doesn’t have a great finish prop, but he is aggressive and has a great gas tank so I think he can put up a good enough score in a decision to still end up in the winning lineup at his price.