The Haymaker – UFC 211: Picks and 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 211 this Saturday night from Dallas, TX. This is easily the best card of the year, headlined by two exciting title fights and featuring several other high profile fighters. The Cejudo/Pettis and Gordon/Quinones fights were cancelled late this week after Cejudo and Gordon had to pull out with a hand injury and food poisoning respectively, but luckily there are still 12 fights left on the card. There are two heavy favorites at the top of the pricing structure, but otherwise the fights are all fairly close, which puts a lot of the underdogs in play. This type of card typically lends itself better to a multi-lineup approach in DFS so I would avoid the large field GPPs unless you have the bankroll for this strategy. 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: Stipe Miocic ($8,500) vs Junior dos Santos ($7,700)
Odds: Miocic (-125) JDS (+115)
Odds to finish: -325
The Main Event of UFC 211 features a Heavyweight title fight between the champion, Stipe Miocic, and the challenger, Junior dos Santos. This fight is a rematch of their 2014 encounter, which JDS won via a close 5-round decision. Miocic has been on a tear since losing that fight, winning 4 in a row, while capturing the title and making several improvements along the way. JDS, on the other hand, has only fought twice since then, and hasn’t stepped inside the Octagon in over a year. He bounced back nicely with a win over Ben Rothwell last April after getting KO’d by Allistair Overeem in December of 2015.
Each fighter is strong on the feet, with both employing sound boxing technique. JDS is a little sharper with the striking while Miocic has the better footwork and works at a higher pace. Miocic likes to put pressure on his opponents, which is something that has given JDS trouble in the past, but opportunities will be there for JDS to land counter punches. Each fighter has their weaknesses on the feet as Miocic has been susceptible to left hooks, which are part of JDS’s repertoire, while JDS has been known to leave his hands down coming out of exchanges. Each fighter also carries a ton of power in their hands so it should come down to whose chin can hold up the longest. Miocic has only been KO’d once in his career and that was 5 years ago, but he has been hurt in recent fights despite pulling out the victory. JDS is known for his durability, but he routinely takes a lot of damage and has been KO’d in 2 of his last 4 fights. The extra time off should help aid his recovery, but I will side with the champ in this department. Miocic is a former NCAA wrestler and will likely try to implement that into his game plan, but JDS has strong defensive wrestling skills and an 80% takedown defense in the UFC. JDS also has a great guillotine choke and a black belt in BJJ which should help keep this fight standing for the first few rounds at least. In their first encounter, Miocic was only able to land one out of 18 takedown attempts on JDS.
This fight is very close on paper, as Miocic is only a slight favorite according to the Vegas line. With a solid finish prop of -325, and a potential 5 rounds to work with, this fight will be a heavy target of mine in tournaments, and I think it makes a lot of sense to have exposure to both sides. I may be a bit biased, as I am a big fan of Miocic, but I feel like the champ has made enough improvements to get the job done here and he is my pick to win the fight. For single entry GPPs, I am likely to go with Miocic, but given the sizable discount on JDS, I think it makes sense to split your exposure evenly for multi-entry scenarios. As far as cash games go, this fight could be over in an instant, so each fighter technically has a floor of 0 DK points. Given how close of a matchup this is, my suggestion would be to stack the fight in cash games or fade it altogether. When you consider the incredible scoring potential of the Co-Main Event, I am leaning towards stacking there and fading this one.
Co-Main Event: Joanna Jedrzejczyk ($8,800) vs Jessica Andrade ($7,400)
Odds: Jedrzejczyk (-178) Andrade (+167)
Odds to finish: +130
Before you read any further, please take a second and pull up the fight logs for each of these women on the DraftKings lineup page. See all those triple-digit scores? Yep, that’s all you need to know about targeting this fight. This is one of my favorite fights on the card from a pure fan perspective and by far my favorite fight from a DFS perspective. Jerdrzejczyk (who I will now refer to as JJ because it takes 10 minutes for me to spell her last name correctly) has absolutely dominated her competition over the past couple of years since she made the move to ATT (American Top Team) and has improved to a perfect 13-0 record in her pro career. She will face her toughest opponent to date, in Andrade, who has been very impressive in her 3 fights since moving down to the Women’s Strawweight division.
Both fighters have an incredibly high output striking game with each averaging well over 6 significant strikes landed per minute. JJ is the more technical striker and holds a 5” height and 3” reach advantage, while Andrade is more aggressive and powerful. JJ has excellent striking defense and should have the advantage while the fight is at a distance, whereas Andrade is more hittable and will sacrifice defense to get in close. Both are good in the clinch, but Andrade should be the stronger fighter and could use this position to get the fight to the ground. If the fight hits the ground, then Andrade will have the advantage as she has a solid grappling game and is a capable submission artist. JJ can be neutralized on the ground, but she is patient and is good at staying out of danger so I expect her to eventually get back to her feet. In her most recent fight against Claudia Gadelha, JJ survived being taken down during the first two rounds before absolutely dominating the final three on the feet. Andrade is a much better striker than Gadelha, which adds to the difficulty here, but she hasn’t shown the best gas tank and has never fought 5 rounds in her career. JJ on the other hand, has excellent cardio and is no stranger to 5-round fights. I expect her to have the advantage the longer the fight goes.
From a DFS perspective, I will have 100% exposure to this fight in both formats. The floor and upside of each fighter is by far the best on the entire card. I highly recommend stacking this fight in cash games, as Vegas expects this fight to go the full 5 rounds and we’ve seen the incredible striking output from both sides. JJ is my pick to win the fight, as I think the reach advantage and better cardio will allow her to out-land Andrade in the championship rounds. But Andrade’s price tag is so cheap that she should be able to pay off her salary even in a loss, which is why I prefer the stack in cash games. JJ has the better finish prop of the two fighters, but the power and ground game of Andrade make her more likely to be the one to finish early, in my opinion. I expect JJ to be the higher owned fighter and stacking in cash games gives you more safety in this outcome. In tournaments, I once again want exposure to both sides as each fighter is under-priced for their upside, which almost guarantees that the winner will be in the winning lineup. I think both fighters will be popular in tournaments, so I will probably just be heavier on JJ, who I expect to win more often than not.
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.
Gadzhimurad Antigulov ($9,400)
With the Cejudo fight cancelled, Antigulov is now the heaviest favorite on the card at -430. With so many close fights on the card, I really like locking in either Antigulov or Vick in cash games for some safety. Neither are a lock to win by any means, but there are clear paths to victory for both. It’s a tough decision between the two, but I am slightly leaning towards Antigulov because I think Vick’s opponent is slightly more dangerous. Antigulov has only fought for one minute inside the UFC, so it seems a little silly for him to be the safest play, but he was very aggressive in his debut as he took de Lima down right away and locked in a submission for the early win. This style has also been very effective in his other pro fights, as he has multiple early submission victories. His opponent, Joachim Christensen, has looked only average in his two UFC fights, with a submission loss to Henrique da Silva in his debut, followed by a late KO victory over Bohan Milhovic in the next fight. Christensen will have a massive 4” height and 6” reach advantage which should give him the edge on the feet, but he does not have very good takedown defense and Antigulov is a strong wrestler. Christensen is a BJJ black belt, but he was submitted by da Silva (who is only a purple belt) in the second round. If Christensen can fend off the submission attempts of Antigulov, or keep him at a distance on the feet, then this one could potentially go to a decision, but I still expect Antigulov to grind out the win in that scenario and potentially land multiple takedowns in the process.
Yair Rodriguez ($7,600)
Yair Rodriguez is an exciting young prospect who has won all 6 of his fights in the UFC, including a dismantling of former great, BJ Penn, in his most recent fight. He is taking on another veteran in Frankie Edgar, who has been fighting at a high level for a long time, but can’t seem to beat the division’s elite. Edgar opened has a big favorite, but the betting line has gone heavily towards Yair over the past few weeks, to the point that it’s almost a pick’em now. The line may be slightly skewed by those that view this as another “passing of the torch” fight based on recency bias, but Yair presents an excellent price value nonetheless. At $1000 cheaper than Edgar, Yair is an absolute steal at this price. Edgar is a high-level wrestler with a solid striking game, but Yair is younger and faster with a 5” height and 3” reach advantage and his diverse kicking game and footwork allow him fight much longer than that. Yair doesn’t have great takedown defense, so he is at risk of ending up on his back, but his reach should help keep him at a distance. If Yair can keep this fight on the feet, then I think he has a great chance to earn a victory here. Edgar is not the most powerful striker, and does not have a great chance of finishing the fight according to Vegas. Edgar has never been KO’d before, but Yair is a dangerous striker and I think he also has the upside for a finish if he can catch him with something unorthodox.
Other cash options: James Vick ($9,500), Eddie Alvarez ($8,100), Jason Knight ($8,000)
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.
Jorge Masvidal ($8,400) vs Demian Maia ($7,800)
Odds: Masvidal (-125) Maia (+115)
Odds to finish: -130
This fight is your standard striker vs grappler matchup, with Masvidal having a major advantage on the feet and Maia being the more dangerous on the ground. Masvidal has looked great lately and is coming off a big KO win over Donald Cerrone. He is fighting with much more aggression and has shown an improved kicking game in recent fights. Masvidal is technically sound and has shown strong takedown defense and scrambling. Maia is an elite submission grappler has been able to take his opponent down in 11 straight fights. He also has registered 84 passes in 24 career UFC fights, which shows how active he is on the ground. He is not great on the feet and doesn’t have a great gas tank, but he is a threat to end the fight early if he can get by Masvidal’s defense. Both fighters have the upside for a finish so I like having exposure to both in tournaments. I expect Maia to be the higher owned fighter due to price and name value so I will likely have more of Masvidal in GPPs. It’s a close fight to call, but ultimately I think the increased aggression and better gas tank will pay dividends for Masvidal.
Chase Sherman ($8,300) vs Rashad Coulter ($7,900)
Odds: Sherman (-115) Coulter (+105)
Odds to finish: -400
This Heavyweight fight has the potential to be very ugly, but it also has the best chance of ending in a finish on the entire card. Both fighters are late replacements and neither is very good. Coulter is making his UFC debut on short notice, while Sherman is 0-2 so far in the UFC. In those two fights, Sherman showed that he was very hittable. His chin held up against Justin Ledet, who was undersized for the division, but he didn’t stand a chance against Walt Harris who KO’d him in the second round. He should be the bigger fighter against Coulter who is also undersized for the division and is taking this fight because he is from the area. Coulter has power in his hands and a decent chin, but is not particularly talented in the striking game. He has won 8 of his 9 professional bouts by way of KO, however, so I think he is worth taking a chance on against a hittable opponent. Both fighters come from a football background, so there is some athleticism, but Coulter has only been out of the first round twice in his career and I can see him gassing first when you factor in the adrenaline dump of fighters making their debut. I would give the edge to Sherman in the later rounds for this reason. This fight has some risk to it as both are low level, but they are relatively unknown so that should keep ownership down, making it more appealing in GPPs. I don’t have a particularly strong take on this one, but I am leaning towards Coulter based on what I have seen so far from Sherman, although I think that some exposure to both sides is warranted.