The Haymaker – UFC 210: Picks & Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC is finally back this weekend after a 2-week layoff with UFC 210 this Saturday night from Buffalo, NY. The card is headlined by the highly-anticipated rematch between Dan Cormier and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson for the UFC Light-Heavyweight title. Cormier almost missed weight this morning, but thanks to some shenanigans with the towel, we have our title fight. There was also some controversy surrounding the Calvillo/Gonzalez fight after weigh-ins, but that has been resolved and we still have 13 fights scheduled for the PPV. With so many options available this week for DFS, I will go over my favorite targets in each format to help make your lineup decisions a little easier.

Main Event: Anthony Johnson ($8,100) vs Daniel Cormier ($8,100)

Odds: Johnson (-120) Cormier (+100)

Odds to finish: -550

This fight is a rematch of the interim-title fight from UFC 187 that Cormier won by submission in the third round. Rumble rocked him early in the fight but seemed to gas after aggressively going for the finish. DC was able to survive the big shot and dominated the rest of the fight once Rumble gassed. DC had no trouble landing takedowns against a tired opponent and Rumble showed that he had no answer once he was on his back.

The game plans should be similar this time around, as Rumble will try to strike his way to an early finish, while DC will try to avoid the early flurry and wear on him with takedowns until he can lock in a submission. Rumble is arguably the most powerful striker in the UFC and has several first-round finishes on his resume. He showed that he could land on DC in that first fight, and while DC has never been KO’d before, I don’t think he can withstand many more power shots from Rumble. Rumble’s weaknesses are his poor cardio and inability to scramble once he gets on his back. DC is a world class wrestler and has shown excellent cardio in previous fights. He is a very underrated fighter and rarely gets the credit he deserves.

This fight has the highest finish prop on the card, and with very few finishes expected overall, it is one that I want to have heavy exposure to in GPPs. This fight is pretty much a coin flip as the odds suggest, but the Vegas line tells me all I need to know about where the ownership is going to be on this one. DC is the underdog despite winning the first encounter and being the reigning champion, so I expect Rumble to be the more popular fighter on DraftKings; especially at the lower stakes. With how close this fight is to call, I will have exposure to both sides in GPPs, but will be slightly heavier on Cormier because of the expected ownership difference. Rumble has the best chance of winning early, but DC can still put up a big score with a mid-round finish after landing multiple takedowns and passes. In cash games, I think it is too risky to just pick one fighter or the other since their floors are both pretty low, so I prefer to stack the fight or avoid it all together. My personal preference would be to stack it and lock in the upside of one of the few fights that have the potential for an early finish.

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.

Magomed Bibulatov ($9,500)

On a card full of wrestlers, there are a lot of fighters that fall into the bucket of strong cash plays while also having the upside to be strong GPP plays. Magomed Bibulatov is one such fighter as he is the biggest favorite on the card, despite making his UFC debut. Bibulatov is a highly-touted prospect with a 13-0 pro record and a lot of potential. I don’t usually recommend fighters making their UFC debuts as strong cash plays, but Bibulatov is highly regarded around the industry, and is taking on one of the weakest fighters in the division in Jenel Lausa, who only has one UFC fight under his belt. Lausa won his debut over another weak fighter in Yau Zhikui, with a less than impressive performance. Lausa’s only real advantage in this one is on the feet, as he is a decent boxer, but his inside-the-distance prop is the lowest on the whole card (Flyweight’s don’t pack a lot of power), so there is little worry that Bibulatov gets finished here. Bibulatov should have a massive grappling advantage over Lausa, as well as a noticeable speed advantage, so I like his ability to get this one to the ground. Bibulatov doesn’t have a great finish prop for his price, but he has a solid submission game so I think the finish is still in play with all the opportunities that he will be presented with. Even if he doesn’t finish, Bibulatov is a strong play in cash games for his high floor, as he should be able to rack up several takedowns and passes in a decision.

Cynthia Calvillo ($9,100)

It appears that Inflategate part 2 (aka “the Inbreastigation”) is officially closed and this fight will go on as scheduled. Calvillo’s opponent, Pearl Gonzalez, was eventually deemed fit to compete after the NY State Athletic Commission initially banned her from fighting due to having breast implants. Now that the fight is back on, we can talk about the fight itself, which I expect to be very entertaining as both fighters are active and fight at a high pace. Gonzalez is making her UFC debut, while Calvillo is coming off an upset victory over Amanda Cooper in her debut at UFC 209 just last month. Calvillo dominated that fight and got it to the ground quickly, before locking in a rear-naked choke for the first-round submission victory. It was such an impressive performance that the UFC decided to make this the third fight on the main card, just before the main and co-main events. Calvillo is very tough and is a strong wrestler training with a high-level team in AlphaMale. Gonzalez is a similar style of fighter, with a BJJ background, but is not as good of a wrestler or scrambler as Calvillo. I expect this fight to be very high output, with Calvillo getting the better of the grappling exchanges. She should be able to land multiple takedowns, which gives her the floor necessary to use in cash games. As a -275 favorite, I like her chances of getting the win, and perhaps even finishing the fight via submission. I think she makes for a solid play in both formats.

Irene Aldana ($7,500)

Aldana is only a +125 underdog against Katlyn Chookagian, which makes her way underpriced compared to her odds. Aldana is a high-volume striker who lost her UFC debut to Leslie Smith via decision after each fighter landed over 100 significant strikes. Chookagian is another fighter who likes to keep it on the feet, so there is a decent chance we see another striking battle here. Chookagian is more technically sound, but is not very high output and does not have much power. Aldana a great chance of making it to a decision and perhaps landing enough strikes to steal the fight. Even if she loses the fight, she should be able to put up enough points to make her a worthwhile punt in cash games.

Other cash options: Kamaru Usman ($9,200), Gregor Gillespie ($8,600), Gegard Mousasi ($8,300)

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.

Jan Blachowicz ($8,200) vs Patrick Cummins ($8,000)

Odds: Blachowicz (-110) Cummins (-110)

Odds to finish: -140

This fight is a great one to target on both sides in tournaments. Cummins has a weak chin and has been KO’d in 3 of his last 4 fights, so Blachowicz has immediate appeal as a fighter with first-round finish potential. He’s not the most powerful fighter, but he does have decent striking and a well-timed shot could end the fight. Blachowicz also has poor takedown defense, which plays into the strength of Cummins. Cummins is an excellent wrestler with the ability to land several takedowns and passes in this fight. He is not a sexy pick for GPPs, but he is cheap and could score highly in the grappling game in a decision, which makes him a great value. Plus, he’s not likely to be popular considering his recent results and other big name fighters in his price range. I will have exposure to both fighters in GPPs, but I think that Cummins is the sneakier play at his expected ownership.

Gregor Gillespie ($8,600)

Keeping with the theme of wrestlers, Gillespie makes for a strong play in both formats due to his high takedown upside. Gillespie is not great on the feet, but he is an Olympic-level wrestler, and put up a huge score against Glaico Franca in his UFC debut, with 5 takedowns landed and 8 advances. He is a very active wrestler which gives him both a great floor and great upside. Gillespie is a -245 favorite over Andrew Holbrook, who is 2-1 in the UFC with a couple of split decision victories. Holbrook is a better submission grappler who constantly gives up position on the ground to go for the finish, so there is a bit of risk here, which is why I slightly prefer Gillespie as a GPP play than a cash play.

Charles Oliveira ($7,200)

Oliveira is a highly skilled submission grappler who is moving up to Lightweight to take on Will Brooks, a former Bellator champion. Brooks is a -200 favorite and has a 1-1 record in the UFC. He had an unimpressive victory over Ross Pearson in his debut, and was injured early in his loss to an overweight Alex Oliveira, so it’s tough to know what to expect from him here. Brooks is a wrestler with decent striking ability and will have a size advantage in this fight. Normally this is a recipe for landing multiple takedowns, but I think that might be off the table facing a submission threat like Oliveira. I think it’s likely that Brooks gets the win, but he is not a known finisher and without the takedown upside I don’t think he will be able to pay off his salary. Instead, I am much more interested in Oliveira in GPPs for his price and the fact that the finish props of both fighters are close, despite the massive price discrepancy. I won’t have a ton of exposure to Oliveira because of the win odds, but I think he has the most upside of any fighter in the sub 8k range, so he’s worth a shot in lineups to help you fit in some of the other high priced fighters.

Other GPP options:

Myles Jury ($9,400), Cynthia Calvillo ($9,100), Irene Aldana ($7,500)