The Haymaker – UFC 214: Picks & Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. UFC 214 is this Saturday night (6:30pm EST), live from Anaheim, California. The event is headlined by the highly-anticipated rematch between Jon Jones and Dan Cormier for the Light-Heavyweight title and features two other title fights that are each five rounds. Cris Cyborg stands out as by far the heaviest favorite on the card, but the rest of the fights should all be relatively closely contested. As usual with PPV cards, you can expect the big-name fighters on the main card to carry a lot of ownership, so it will be an important angle to exploit when building your tournament lineups. 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: Jon Jones ($8,900) vs Dan Cormier ($7,300)

Odds: Jones (-260) Cormier (+240)
Odds to finish: +130

After two-and-a-half years, the rematch is finally here between heated rivals, Jon Jones and Dan Cormier. This time around, the title holder has changed, but the hatred remains the same. The first matchup saw Jones earn a unanimous decision, winning the fight four rounds to one. DC started out strong on the feet, but Jones took over after throwing a sneaky eye poke. Jones managed to outperform DC in the key areas he was thought to have an edge: in the clinch, and in the wrestling department. Jones landed three takedowns and controlled rounds from top position, while DC had to work hard for his lone takedown which resulted in Jones popping right back up to his feet. Jones has a 12” reach advantage and much better cardio than DC, and that was very apparent in the first fight as well when DC gassed out midway through the fight. DC had the edge while striking at boxing range, but that was just about the only area where he found success. I don’t expect things to be much different in the rematch. DC looks to have come to the weigh-ins in better shape, so it’s likely his cardio will be better and perhaps he can keep things closer in the later rounds, but I don’t see many areas that he will outperform Jones. Jones has only fought once since their first matchup and did look rusty in his victory over OSP, so there is a chance he will be a bit rusty here as well, but I don’t expect it to take long to shake off in a fight of this magnitude.

I think this will be a closer fight than the first one, but I expect the same result. In the first fight, Jones showed he is better in the areas that DC is best at and his reach, cardio and durability are all intangibles that are difficult to overcome. From a DFS perspective, Jones has been one of the most consistent point producers throughout his UFC career and that makes him an elite cash option as a big favorite in this fight. He strikes at a high volume and has landed at least one takedown in every fight which gives him a very good floor. With the fight expected to go the distance I also think it makes a lot of sense to stack Cormier with Jones in cash games to get much needed salary relief. There are not a lot of safe options in the lower pricing tier and it will allow you to pay up for Cyborg as well. Plus, it gives you some safety if Cormier pulls off the upset. Tournament strategy is much more interesting. When looking at the results of the first fight, Jones landed 92 significant strikes and 3 takedowns for a total of 91 DK points with the victory. At a salary of $8900, this is about the threshold for making it in the winning GPP lineup, and a lot will depend on how the other fights go. With Woodley and Manuwa having 100-point upside, priced just below Jones, that might not be enough and it makes a tournament fade an interesting option. I expect Jones to be the highest-owned fighter on the card and since I think the fight will go to a decision, I will be mostly fading him (or severely underweight to the field) in large-field GPPs. In smaller tournaments, however, I think he’s a fine play because he is more consistent than both Woodley and Manuwa. If you think that Jones will earn a finish, then don’t let me talk you out of him. DC makes for an interesting contrarian option if you believe things will be different this time around. I will personally be more likely to keep my exposure to him to the larger GPPs.

Co-Main Event: Tyron Woodley ($8,700) vs Demian Maia ($7,500)

Odds: Woodley (-210) Maia (+175)
Odds to finish: -350

This fight is your classic striker vs grappler matchup, and as always, the outcome should be determined by whether it hits the ground or stays standing. Maia is probably the best submission grappler in the UFC and will need to find a way to take Woodley down to win this fight. He has really worked on his wrestling in recent years and that has resulted in him taking his opponent down in 12-straight fights. He is very active on the ground and has 87 passes in 25 UFC fights, which gives him upside for DFS. Unfortunately for him, Woodley makes for a very difficult stylistic matchup. Woodley is an All-American collegiate wrestler with some of the best takedown defense in the UFC at 91%. He is very athletic with a ton of strength and power. Maia is very crafty and relentless with his chained takedown attempts, but I expect Woodley to make him pay for getting in close. Woodley has a devastating right hand that earned him the belt against Robbie Lawler a year ago this weekend. Maia is not great on the feet and does not possess the range-striking style that is necessary to defeat Woodley. Woodley’s biggest weakness is his cardio, but Maia’s is even worse, so there is no edge there either.

Neither fighter strikes at a high volume, so the floor is low for both guys and that makes me want to avoid this fight in cash games despite Woodley’s chances of victory. If this fight goes to decision, I don’t think Woodley can score high enough to pay off his salary. On the other side of that coin, both guys have the ability to finish the fight in the first round and that makes it a much stronger target in tournaments. As hard as I think it will be for Maia to get Woodley to the ground, he somehow always finds a way, and for that reason I don’t think you can count him out here. If he gets the fight to the ground with enough time on the clock I expect him to find a finish. Unfortunately, with Jones and Cyborg likely to be very popular options, I expect Maia to have higher ownership than he should for those odds, so it makes me hesitant to use too much of him. That makes me like Woodley even more in GPPs and I think he makes for a strong pivot from Jones for his first-round finish potential. I still expect him to have ownership because of the name value, but not nearly the amount that Jones will have.

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.

Cris Cyborg ($9,600)

Cyborg is a massive -1375 favorite over Tonya Evinger which actually makes her underpriced at $9600, relative to the other fighters. Cyborg is aptly named, as she is an absolute machine that destroys everyone in her path. Cyborg lost her first professional fight 12 years ago, and went on to win 17 straight, with 15 of those wins coming via KO/TKO. She is a natural Featherweight (145lbs) and this will be her first UFC appearance at this weight class. Difficult weight cuts to 135lbs have been her only question mark in the past. Her opponent, Evinger, is a natural Bantamweight competitor who is taking this fight after Cyborg’s original opponent, Megan Anderson, had to pull out due to personal reasons. Evinger is experienced and has a skilled ground game, but she is no match for Cyborg on the feet. Cyborg has a ton of power and used to be more of a brawler, but has become more refined technically in recent fights. The height and reach are similar, but Cyborg is much stronger and I see her easily being able to stuff Evinger’s takedown attempts, or dominate from top position should she find her way into Evinger’s guard. This is a five-round fight for the Women’s Featherweight title, but Vegas expects this one to end early, as Cyborg is -170 to win inside the first round. To her credit, Evinger is very tough so it wouldn’t surprise me to see her take this to the second or even third round, but either way, I expect Cyborg to stop her before the halfway point in the fight. Cyborg strikes at a very high rate (8.24 SLpM), so even if she doesn’t get the first-round finish, she should be a pretty safe bet to score over 100 points on DK. With that considered, she is pretty much a lock for me in cash games as no other fighter comes even close to having that floor. The biggest question is whether you want to pay up for her in tournaments. And this is where you need to factor in lineup construction and how you think the other fights are going to play out. It’s great if you can lock in 100 points for Cyborg, but if none of the cheap underdogs put up a good score, then it’s not likely Cyborg ends up being in the winning lineup, even if she scores 120 points. My personal strategy will probably end up being heavier on Cyborg and lighter on Jon Jones compared to the field, but particularly look to avoid playing them in the same lineup (in large-field GPPs) as I expect many people to be starting their lineups with those two. I think we’ll see Jones with the higher ownership, but Cyborg has the much higher ceiling in my opinion.

Renato Moicano ($8,200)

Moicano is a -150 favorite over Brian Ortega in a battle of undefeated prospects in the Featherweight division. Each fighter is 3-0 in the UFC, with Moicano winning his last couple of fights by split decision against tough competition, while Ortega has finished all three fights, but against weaker opponents. The biggest difference is that Ortega was arguably losing all three of those fights before finding a late finish in each. Both fighters are black belts in BJJ, with Ortega being particularly dangerous off his back. His striking has been improving, but he is very hittable and has been rocked multiple times by low level strikers. Moicano is much more technical on the feet and seems to have the much better fight IQ and that is where I think his edge lies in this fight. Moicano has a clear path to victory if he keeps the fight standing and uses his 3” reach advantage to pick Ortega apart. He does not have much power, so I think a finish is unlikely, but he does strike at a high volume and is more accurate than Ortega. This style limits his upside in DFS, but at only $8200, his win odds make him a strong play for cash games. I’ll have a little of him in tournaments as a last man in or in lineups where I’m looking to attack the middle range and avoid the big underdogs. Ortega is worth a look in larger field GPPs because if he wins, it’s likely to be by submission.

Other cash options: Alexandra Albu ($8,300), Jason Knight ($8,100), Renan Barao ($7,800)

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.

Robbie Lawler ($8,500) vs Donald Cerrone ($7,700)

Odds: Lawler (-160) Cerrone (+140)
Odds to Finish: -155

This fight is considered by many to be the people’s main event, as Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone will finally do battle after multiple postponements. Lawler has a reputation for being in wars inside the Octagon, while Cerrone is all action with many of his fights ending in spectacular finishes. Each guy is coming off momentum ending KO losses and will be looking to get back on track here as well as put on a show for the fans. Lawler is perhaps the biggest question mark in this fight as he has taken a year off after suffering his first KO loss at the hands of current champion Tyron Woodley. He has always been known for his incredible durability, but the multiple wars finally caught up to him in that fight. It’s likely that the time off was more than enough to get fully recovered and return to his old self, but you never know how the chin will react after suffering that first KO. Lawler also switched camps and got a new striking coach in that year off so it’s another factor that’s difficult to account for. Lawler had always used a strategy of sitting back early and letting his opponents throw their best shots before figuring them out and turning up the pressure later in fights. This resulted in him taking more damage than necessary and leaving the outcome up in the air on several occasions. Cerrone is the type of fighter that does well when he is the aggressor, but he has struggled against opponents that put the pressure on him (his last fight against Jorge Masvidal is the perfect example). Lawler’s new striking coach, Henry Hooft, has a reputation for having his fighters put the pressure on their opponents, so my guess is that we see a more aggressive Lawler from the start. Cerrone has also struggled against southpaws like Lawler, and his biggest weakness is shots to the body. Lawler also has powerful body kicks, although he doesn’t throw them very often. Cerrone’s biggest edge will be in the kicking game and especially from range. Lawler has struggled to defend against kicks in the past and a well-timed head kick will be Cerrone’s best chance at ending the fight. Cerrone is also the more active striker, so if Lawler doesn’t put the pressure on him early or find a finish, then Cerrone has a good chance to earn a decision victory with more volume.

Lawler is my pick to win the fight because of his durability, but I will have exposure to both sides in tournaments since it is likely to be a brawl with very little defense. He is not the most active striker and only has three rounds to work with this time, but I think there’s a good chance he can find a finish within the distance. Cerrone makes for a solid play at his price since there are not many underdogs with his upside, but I do think he will be the highest owned fighter under $8000 and that turns me off him a little in larger field contests.

Jimi Manuwa ($8,800) vs Volkan Oezdemir ($7,400)

Odds to Win: Manuwa (-180) Oezdemir (+160)
Odds to Finish: -425

Aside from the Cyborg fight, this one is the most likely to end in a finish on the whole card and that makes it a strong target in tournaments. Manuwa is a sizable favorite in this matchup as he is the more proven fighter in terms of experience. Manuwa is 6-2 in the UFC with his only losses coming at the hands of the division’s elite in Alexander Gustafsson and Rumble Johnson. Oezdemir is not given a lot of credit by the public, as he is already the 5th-ranked fighter in the division after just two victories. He was a massive underdog in both of those fights, winning a split decision over OSP and landing a “fluky” KO early against Misha Cirkunov. Manuwa is primarily a counter striker and will have the speed and power advantage in this fight. He does not strike at a high volume, but he is very accurate and 5 of his 6 victories have come via KO. Oezdemir has a little power, but he is more of a pressure fighter who strikes at a higher volume yet is not as technical as Manuwa. The Cirkunov fight was too short to really take anything out of, but Oezdemir looked a little sloppy in the OSP fight and I think Manuwa will be able to take advantage of him with his crisp striking. I think there’s a decent chance that Manuwa knocks him out early and that makes him a great pivot to Jones in GPPs at lower ownership. However, given his lower output, I don’t think he pays off his salary if the fight goes to a decision so my exposure will be somewhat limited. Despite liking Manuwa to win the fight a high percentage of the time, I find myself using a fair amount of Oezdemir in GPPs. He has defied the odds in his first couple of fights and it wouldn’t shock me to see him pull off the upset here. If Oezdemir can avoid getting finished then I think his pressure and high volume striking give him a decent chance to steal a win if the fight goes to decision. I prefer him over other big names in the same range like Maia and Cormier because I think he has a better chance of picking up the win and expect him to have lower ownership.

Jason Knight ($8,100) vs Ricardo Lamas ($8,100)

Odds to Win: Knight (-120) Lamas (+100)
Odds to Finish: +120

I’m really looking forward to watching this fight as I expect it to be right up there with Lawler/Cerrone as a candidate for Fight of the Night. Knight is an action fighter who really pushes the pace and that’s a style that tends to produce a lot of points in DFS. He has a lot of momentum on his side with four-straight wins and has seemingly improved with every fight. It is a little surprising to me though that he comes into this fight as a slight favorite, as he just cracked the division’s top 15, while Lamas is the more experienced veteran and comes in ranked 3rd. Lamas has alternated wins and losses recently, but he is very well-rounded and has only lost to the division’s elite. Knight is fearless and very tough (they call him “Hick Diaz” lol) which leads him to sacrifice defense for offense and that could be a problem against a guy like Lamas who is very opportunistic. Knight is an excellent submission grappler and his striking has looked better every fight. He has good combos and likes to get in the pocket and throw, but he is also very hittable. Knight is higher output but Lamas hits harder and has heavier kicks, and I’m not sure if Knight will be able to shrug those off as easily as he has against the lesser strikers he’s faced. Lamas is also very tough, but he tends to go into retreat mode if he gets hit or hurt early and that could take away from his offensive upside. Lamas has the edge in the wrestling department and things could get interesting if he decides to take Knight down. Both guys are BJJ black belts and I don’t know who I would give the edge to on the ground. Knight is very dangerous off his back, preferring rubber guard, and Lamas has excellent top control and ground-and-pound. Lamas has never been submitted, but did give up his back multiple times to Charles Oliveira in his most recent fight before narrowly escaping, so I can see both guys giving up opportunities.

Just by looking at the betting line and finish prop and you can see that this fight has the widest range of outcomes on the whole card. This makes it somewhat difficult to set exposures for DFS, but I do think it will be high scoring with sneaky potential for a finish so I recommend having some of both guys in tournaments. I’m a fan of Knight, but I give the edge to Lamas in this one because of the experience factor and Knight’s willingness to throw caution to the wind. If using one of these guys in cash games, I prefer Knight because of his higher output, but I like Lamas more in GPPs because I expect Knight to be higher owned based on recent hype and the way the money line has moved.

Other GPP options: Andre Fili ($9,200), Drew Dober ($9,000), Jarred Brooks ($8,600)

Optimal Cash Game Plays