The Haymaker – UFC 209: Picks & Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. This weekend is UFC 209 from Las Vegas, featuring the highly-anticipated rematch between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and the Champion Tyron Woodley for the belt. I sound like a broken record these days, but we have once again lost a fight the day before the event, so we are down to just 11 fights on the card. Many of the hardcore fans were most excited for the matchup between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson for the interim Lightweight belt, but unfortunately Khabib had to pull out after being taken to the hospital due to a difficult weight cut. The fight would have been the top target for DFS scoring, but luckily there are a lot of close fights on this card and a lot of live dogs, so we still have plenty of viable options for our lineups. With so many options available this week for DFS, I will go over my favorite targets in each format to help make your decisions a little easier.

Main Event: Stephen Thompson ($8,400) vs Tyron Woodley ($7,800)

Odds: Thompson (-160) Woodley (+140)

Odds to finish: -125

This fight is a rematch of the title fight from UFC 205 that ended in an unfortunate draw. Both fighters were a little tentative over the first couple rounds of that fight, as they were trying to figure each other out, but things really picked up in the last couple rounds. Woodley dropped Wonderboy twice in the 4th round with his powerful right hand, and looked like the finish was well within his grasp, but Wonderboy showed incredible resilience by being able to withstand several shots after the initial knockdown and battled his way out of a deep guillotine choke to end the round on top. Woodley gassed himself out trying to get the finish which allowed Wonderboy to pick him apart in the last round, leading to the draw.

Fast forward 4 months to the rematch and Woodley is once again the underdog, albeit by a smaller margin this time. He surprisingly has the worse finish prop as well, despite nearly finishing Wonderboy in that first fight. I understand Wonderboy being the favorite this time, as he looked to be in control of the first fight for 3 of the 5 rounds, outside of a couple costly mistakes in the 1st and 4th rounds. What we saw from Woodley in that first fight is more of what we already knew – he has a ton of power in his right hand, but only throws one shot at a time, and has a tendency of backing himself into the cage and trying to counter. Woodley has a strong wrestling background, but we have rarely seen him put it to use in the UFC. He has only landed 5 takedowns in 10 career fights, and only landed one in the first fight as a counter to a kick that he caught. I think he has a better chance to win this time if he throws the lead leg kick more and utilizes his wrestling.

Wonderboy did get dropped and nearly finished in that first fight, but what is most promising for this fight is that he showed he can take Woodley’s best shot and keep going. Wonderboy controlled the Octagon for the whole fight which allowed him to attack at range and pick his spots. He started out a little slow but looked to be taking control of the fight once he figured out Woodley’s timing. Wonderboy’s elusiveness was also very evident in the first fight aside from his slip-up in the 4th round. He showed that he has the better movement and the better gas tank.

Despite some very exciting moments, the first fight between these two was low scoring from a DFS perspective. Woodley scored 48 DK points while Wonderboy only scored 22. Even with a win bonus, neither of these fighters would have ended up on the winning GPP lineup. Considering the incredibly high ownership on this fight, that is enough to keep me from going all in on this fight in tournaments. The co-main event would have been much more appealing for DFS scoring, but now that it’s cancelled, I think we can have a little more exposure to this one. One thing working in its favor is that the output from both fighters really started to pick up in the 2nd half of the fight after the initial feeling out process was over. Aside from a couple possible game plan tweaks, I think we’ll see more action from the start of this fight, which should be beneficial for DFS. I think the rematch favors Wonderboy, as he has already seen everything that Woodley has to offer, and his unorthodox karate-style kickboxing allows him to show infinite looks that are much harder to game plan for. I like Wonderboy to get the win, and I will have more exposure to him in both formats. A decision victory is most likely, but Wonderboy is still capable of catching Woodley with a kick and ending the fight early. Vegas thinks Wonderboy is more likely to get the finish, but I think Woodley has the better chance of winning early, as we saw his power on display in the first fight. I think that upside makes Woodley a solid GPP play as well.

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.

Mirsad Bektic ($9,600)

Bektic is the highest priced fighter on the card, but his win odds have been steadily climbing all the way to -800 over Darren Elkins. This makes his odds value exceed his already steep price. Bektic is a young and very talented grappler who has been improving his striking game lately. He is way more athletic than Elkins and has more power. Elkins is a solid grinder and could make this a difficult fight, but he is overmatched here. He is very durable, so I don’t think that Bektic is likely to get the early finish, but he has a high output style which gives him an excellent floor if it does go to decision. As the biggest favorite on a card full of close fights, I like locking Bektic into my cash game lineups for safety. There is a lot of value in the lower pricing tier so fitting his salary in shouldn’t be an issue.

Luke Sanders ($7,600)

Sanders is a -125 favorite over Iuri Alcantara but is priced as though he were a sizable underdog. This gives him excellent odds value, which makes me like him for cash games right off the bat. This is only the 2nd UFC fight for Sanders, but he is a well-rounded fighter with decent striking and is talented on the ground. He should also have the speed advantage over the older Alcantara, which should help him avoid takedowns and outpoint him on the feet. Alcantara is way more experienced and has fought better competition, but he is also very inconsistent and has had trouble with this type of high-output wrestler in the past. Alcantara is coming off an amazing performance against Brad Pickett and does have finishing ability, so there is a bit of risk here, but I don’t think an early finish is likely and I like the price discount enough on Sanders to take a chance on him. Sanders is very active and should have high enough output to pay off his low salary in most outcomes, plus he has a great chance at picking up the win bonus.

Other cash options: Lando Vannata ($9,300), Rashad Evans ($9,000), Cynthia Calvillo ($8,100)

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.

One of my favorite strategies for PPV cards is to target fights on the undercard with a high probability of finishing. These fights always go under-owned as the casual player knows the names of the big guys fighting on the main card and only targets those fights. This is especially true at lower stakes, where players are less concerned with finish odds and pay more attention to price and win odds.

Tyson Pedro ($8,200) vs Paul Craig ($8,000)

Odds: Pedro (-145) Craig (+125)

Odds to finish: -390

I will have a lot of exposure to this fight in GPPs, as it has the highest finish prop on the entire card and both fighters are priced cheap enough that the winner is very likely to end up in the winning lineup. Both guys won their UFC debuts in similar fashion. Pedro was rocked early by Khalil Rountree in his debut, but powered through it and locked in a rear-naked choke for a first-round submission. Craig made his debut on short notice against Henrique da Silva and tapped him out with an arm bar in the second round after getting hurt early.

Craig is a talented submission grappler and should have the more technical striking game. He does not have much power though, and is not a great wrestler. He has a habit of getting hurt easily, but has done a great job of battling through it. Pedro is a strong wrestler and what he lacks in striking technique, he makes up for in power. He is the more well-rounded fighter and is more likely to end up on top if the fight goes to the ground. I will play this fight close to even in GPPs, but Pedro has the better finish prop and money has been coming in on his side throughout the week, so I will be slightly heavier on him.

Mark Godbeer ($8,700) vs Daniel Spitz ($7,500)

Odds: Godbeer (-150) Spitz (+130)

Odds to finish: -365

This is another fight that I will have a lot of exposure to in GPPs due to the high finish prop and low expected ownership. I think that most casual players will be targeting the high profile Heavyweight fight between Allistair Overeem and Mark Hunt and this one will go overlooked as it features two relatively unknown guys. Godbeer and Spitz are also lower level fighters, and lower level fighters make a lot of mistakes, which lead to finishes.

Mark Godbeer is a British kickboxer with 9 career KO victories but is coming off an unimpressive UFC debut. Godbeer was tapped out in the first round of that fight against Justin Ledet, who is primarily a boxer. Ledet was also the smaller fighter and was moving up a weight class for that fight. Godbeer has defeated low level competition and does not appear to be UFC-caliber, but he gets a favorable matchup here against Daniel Spitz, who is making his UFC debut on short notice. Spitz is an inexperienced fighter with only 5 pro fights under his belt, so there is very limited footage of his previous fights. He is a former college football player and a big guy at 6’6”. He is athletic and could be able to land takedowns against Godbeer who has shown a weakness in that area. Spitz will be outmatched on the feet, but he has 3 first-round submission victories in 5 fights, so there is a path to victory if he can get it to the ground.

Godbeer has the best inside-the-distance prop on the whole card and has a great chance of getting an early KO victory, so I will have a lot of exposure to him in GPPs, but underdogs in Heavyweight fights often go under-owned in general, so I think it is important to have some exposure to Spitz as well.

Other GPP options: Marcin Tybura ($8,800), Albert Morales ($8,500), Mark Hunt ($7,900), David Teymur ($6,900)