The Haymaker – UFC 212: Picks and Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. UFC 212 is live this Saturday night (6:30pm EST) from Rio de Jenairo, Brazil. The card is not as strong on paper as last month’s PPV, but the main card still features several entertaining fights and is headlined by an epic battle between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway for the Featherweight title. Lineup construction is a little easier this week on DraftKings, with the highest priced fighter only at $9,200 and several enticing options in the mid-range for tournaments. Unlike last week’s card, the lower end of the pricing scale does not feature a lot of upside, so a balanced lineup construction is my preferred option for both cash games and GPPs. With 12 fights to choose from on the card, I will go over my favorite DFS targets in each format to help narrow down your options.

Main Event: Jose Aldo ($8,100) vs Max Holloway ($8,100)

Odds: Aldo (-150) Holloway (+130)
Odds to finish: +120

The main event of UFC 212 is a highly anticipated matchup between long-time division champion, Jose Aldo, and rising star, Max Holloway, for the vacated Featherweight title. Aldo had won 18 straight fights before losing the title to Conor McGregor, but bounced back with a decisive victory over Frankie Edgar last July at UFC 200. Holloway is the younger fighter by 5 years and has been on a roll lately himself, winning 10 straight fights and showing noticeable improvements along the way. Holloway is a high-volume striker with great footwork and switches up his stances to confuse opponents by changing attack angles. He is aggressive and fights at a high pace, yet can back it up with his excellent cardio. Aldo is a better boxer with plenty of power and employs signature leg kicks to immobilize his opponents. However, his best attribute is his defense, as he is hard to hit and even harder to take down. Aldo has one of the best takedown defenses in UFC history with a career rate of 92%. Holloway is not bad in that department either, with an 83% career takedown defense, so it is very likely that we see this fight play out on the feet for its entirety.

This fight is very close on paper and picking the winner is not easy, but Aldo has pulled away as a favorite in the betting line over the last few days and has excellent odds value in DFS for the price. Aldo should have the speed advantage in the first couple rounds and has shown the uncanny ability to win rounds on the scorecard so I give him the advantage in the early going. But he has tended to take rounds off in recent fights to conserve energy and I think that will cause trouble against someone like Holloway who is durable and can push the pace for a full 5 rounds. Holloway has also shown the ability to adapt to his opponents within fights and I like him to get stronger as the fight goes on. From a DFS perspective, the biggest issue between these two fighters is output. Holloway is much more active and strikes at a higher volume than Aldo which has been evident by looking at their recent game logs. Aldo only managed to land 80 significant strikes in a dominant 5-round win over Frankie Edgar in his last fight, while Holloway has been landing around 100 significant strikes over only 3 rounds in his most recent victories. Aldo might have the better chance of picking up the win in this fight, but unless he can stop Holloway early, Holloway should be the higher scoring fighter for DFS in a victory. I think both fighters are in play for tournaments, but Holloway is my preferred option for the higher upside. As far as cash games are concerned, this is such a close fight and it’s likely to be a 5-round striking battle so it’s a no-brainer stack for me at these price tags. Each fighter is priced below the average salary so stacking the fight helps eliminate the need for digging too far into the lower pricing tier 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. 4 wins are generally enough to cash in most double ups and 50/50s.

Claudia Gadelha ($9,000)

Gadelha is the heaviest favorite on the card at -330 over Karolina Kowalkiewicz and yet comes in at a very reasonable price tag of $9,000. There are other viable options for cash games in this price range but Gadelha has by far the best floor of any of them. Gadelha has high level grappling with a black belt in BJJ and a dominant takedown game from the clinch. She has recorded 26 takedowns in 5 UFC fights and no less than 4 in each of them (including 2 fights against current champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk). In the current DFS scoring environment, takedowns are very valuable and one of the top things I look for in cash games. Kowalkiewicz has decent takedown defense by the numbers (87%), but she has been taken down at least once in 3 out of her 4 UFC fights. Her stance is quite narrow and favors working out of the clinch, which are both areas that the stronger Gadelha will be able to take advantage of. Gadelha is a pressure fighter that likes to come out aggressive early in fights, but her biggest weakness is that this causes her to gas early. Kowalkiewicz on the other hand, is a traditionally slow starter, but has excellent cardio and gets stronger as the fight goes along. If this were a 5-round fight, I would be much more inclined to lean towards Kowalkiewicz as a play, but given that it’s only 3 rounds, I think it strongly favors Gadelha and will thus be highly exposed to her in both formats.

The high-volume striking style of Kowalkiewicz would often make her a very strong underdog play in cash games for near min-price; however, I have concerns that she will be on her back for significant portions of the first couple rounds of this fight and that takes away from her usually high floor. I wouldn’t fault you for punting with her in cash games at a price of only $7,200, but I will be staying away on this particular card.

Jamie Moyle ($7,900)

Moyle is a +135 underdog against Viviane Pereira in a striker vs grappler matchup. Each fighter has only made one appearance in the UFC with Moyle defeating Kailin Curran, while Pereira upset Valerie Letourneau in a close contest. Pereira didn’t show me anything particularly impressive in her win over Letourneau, although she did overcome a distinct size advantage in that fight. Moyle on the other hand, was very active, and landed a lot of strikes and takedowns in her victory. The output is something that is very appealing for cash games, especially at an underdog price. Neither fighter is expected to earn a finish in this fight, as it has the second-worst finish prop on the whole card, so I like Moyle’s ability to at least make it to a decision. The potential for multiple takedowns over a full 15 minutes gives her a good enough floor to use in cash games, along with the potential to earn the victory as the more active fighter.

Other cash options: Iuri Alcantara ($9,100), Antonio Carlos Junior ($8,900), Raphael Assuncao ($7,500)

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.

Paulo Borrachinha ($9,200)

Borrachinha is a -275 favorite over Oluwale Bamgbose and has the best finish prop on the card at -190. The fight itself is -250 to end in the first round, which makes it a great target for upside in GPPs. Borrachinha is the highest priced fighter on the card, but comes at a nice discount this week as the top-priced fighter is usually in the $9,500-$9,600 range. Borrachinha had a stint on The Ultimate Fighter, showing off his grappling game, before refining his striking game on the regional scene. He had an impressive win in his UFC debut back in March against Garreth McLellan, knocking him out in just over a minute. Borrachinha has won all 9 of his fights by first-round TKO/KO or submission, while Bamgbose had never been past the first round until his most recent loss to Cezar Ferreira. Bamgbose is an explosive striker with a lot of power as well, but he is very aggressive and leaves himself open to counters when he rushes in trying to take out his opponent. He has flashy and unorthodox strikes, but he is not very technical and tends to telegraph his attacks. Borrachinha appears more composed and makes much better use of feints than Bamgbose. He should also have the advantage in the grappling game should he need it, as Bamgbose has given up takedowns too easily in his first few UFC appearances. I will have a lot of exposure to Borrachinha in tournaments, due to the defensive shortcomings of Bamgbose, but I think it is also smart to have a couple shares of Bamgbose if you’re running out multiple lineups, for the fight-ending power that he possesses.

Vitor Belfort ($8,400) vs Nate Marquardt ($7,800)

Odds to Win: Belfort (-160) Marquardt (+140)
Odds to Finish: -590 (-210 under 1.5 rounds)

This Middleweight fight is the definition of “GPP only”. Both fighters have had long UFC careers and have taken so much damage that their chins are completely shot. They have each built reputations as devastating finishers themselves, but have been put to sleep more often than not in recent years. Belfort has been KO’d early in 4 of his last 5 fights and will be making his last UFC appearance in front of his home crowd in this one. Marquardt has not fared much better himself, being KO’d early in 4 of his last 9 fights overall. It’s very likely that we see one of these fighters go to sleep early as Vegas has given this fight a -210 chance to end within the first round. Both fighters are counter punchers with a lot of power in their hands and deadly head kicks thrown in combinations. Technical analysis is difficult for this fight since either fighter could go down to the first shot, but Belfort is more aggressive and seems to have the more killer instinct so I favor him in the early going. Marquardt has the grappling advantage with solid wrestling and a black belt in BJJ, so I would favor him if the fight goes past the first round. Marquardt has seldom used his wrestling advantage in recent fights though, and has typically struggled with southpaws throughout his career which makes me lean towards Belfort if I had to pick a winner. For DFS however, I think it makes sense to have exposure to both sides in tournaments, since a finish should put them in the winning lineup at these prices. I expect Belfort to be the higher owned fighter as he is the bigger name and this is his retirement fight at home in Brazil, so I am currently leaning towards having heavier exposure to Marquardt for the price discount and lower ownership.

Yancy Medeiros ($8,200) vs Erick Silva ($8,000)

Odds to Win: Medeiros (-140) Silva (+120)
Odds to Finish: -195

I think that this fight is a sneaky one to target as a pivot to the main event in tournaments. Both fighters are in a similar price range to the main event, but it comes with a much better finish prop. Erick Silva has been a finish-or-be-finished type of fighter for most of his UFC career and targeting his fights has been quite profitable for DFS. Silva is one of the most dangerous first-round fighters in the UFC, but the main issue with him is that if he doesn’t win early, he often tires and loses. He is capable on the feet, but doesn’t have the best chin and was knocked down twice in his most recent win over Luan Chagas. Silva’s best skillset is his submission grappling game, but he does not have the best takedown game to get the fight to the ground in the first place. Medeiros looked very impressive after making the move up to Welterweight last fight, with an impressive second-round TKO victory over Sean Spencer. Medeiros is a high-volume, karate-style striker with unorthodox attack angles and a solid submission game. He does not have great striking defense, however, as he is very hittable, but he has shown to be very durable. Silva will be the bigger and stronger fighter in this one, but Medeiros should have the advantage in the cardio department. It’s a close fight to call, but I am leaning towards Medeiros in this one, has he has the better chin and better cardio and strikes at a higher volume, but I think it’s a good idea to have some exposure to both sides of this one in tournaments.

Other GPP options: Luan Chagas ($8,800), Matthew Lopez ($8,600), Karolina Kowalkiewicz ($7,200)