The Haymaker – UFC 216: Picks and Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. UFC 216 is this Saturday night (6:30pm EST), live from Las Vegas, Nevada. The card is headlined by what should be an entertaining matchup between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee for the Interim-Lightweight title, and features the rescheduled bout between Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Ray Borg for the Flyweight title. The fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks is off due to medical issues for Lentz, but luckily the card still has 12 fights remaining. Pricing is tighter this time around, but there are a few viable underdogs in play that make this card great for both cash games and tournaments. As always, I will go over my favorite DFS targets in each format to help narrow down your options.

Main Event: Tony Ferguson ($8,900) vs Kevin Lee ($7,300)

Odds: Ferguson (-250) Lee (+230) Odds to finish: -245 Tony Ferguson fights are always a blast to watch as they usually feature a ton of fast-paced action and a lot of violence. He has been on a roll lately, winning 9 straight fights, and is a sizable -250 favorite over Kevin Lee, who has been shooting up the rankings himself. Lee appears to be a bit overmatched in this fight, but he has shown a lot of improvement lately and will make a huge statement with an upset win in this fight. Lee is young and athletic with a very strong wrestling game. His striking is improving, but he will be at a disadvantage on the feet against Ferguson. Lee throws with a lot of power, but he’s not very accurate and that causes him to tire out later in fights. Ferguson is not as powerful of a striker, but he throws with a ton of volume and hurts his opponents on accumulation of strikes. Lee has been hurt before on the feet multiple times and even finished by Leo Santos, who is not known for his striking. Ferguson is much more durable and has a very strong chin. Lee’s best bet to win this fight is through his wrestling. Ferguson has been taken down before, but he has a strong submission game and uses a D’Arce choke to catch opponents trying to get him down. Ferguson is also dangerous off his back and is very active on the ground. Lee is great at taking the back but he will need to hurt Ferguson or hope for him to make a mistake to get the submission, which I don’t think is super likely. This is fight is a very strong target for DFS in both formats because of the pricing and high pace. With 5 rounds to work with, Ferguson is my favorite play on the card in both formats because of his volume and ability to finish. He also has excellent cardio which allows him to keep this pace for the entire 5 rounds and being the more durable fighter helps his floor. I think he can wear on Lee with volume and force him to make mistakes when he gets tired and eventually get the finish. Lee is also worth a look in GPPs for his price. If he wins it will likely be grappling based, which scores well on DK. For cash games, I think you can stack the fight, but it’s not necessary to use Lee because of the other viable options in the lower pricing tier.

Co-Main Event: Demetrious Johnson ($9,700) vs Ray Borg ($6,500)

Odds: Johnson (-1150) Borg (+950) Odds to finish: -180 This fight is rescheduled from UFC 215 after Borg had to pull out of the fight just days before due to illness. He has had several issues with weight cuts in the past but made weight easily this time and the fight is on as scheduled. It’s not looking good for him in this fight, however, as Johnson comes in as a massive -1150 favorite. Mighty Mouse has cleaned out the division and will be looking to break the record for more consecutive title defenses in UFC history. He is elite in every area and is great at adjusting to his opponents mid-fight. Grappling is his strongest area, but Johnson will have the biggest edge in this fight on the feet. Borg is an excellent wrestler and elite submission grappler but struggles if he can’t get takedowns. He is young and talented with a lot of potential for improvement, but I don’t see him pulling off the upset here as he will need to finish Johnson to beat him. From a DFS perspective, Johnson has the most upside on the card, but he is also the highest priced fighter at $9700, so he is hard to fit into lineups. He’s a great bet to score 100+ points as he averages 102 DK points per fight and has never been below 94 points. This makes him a lock for cash games, but question that always comes up for the highest-priced fighter is whether you pay up for them in tournaments. On this card I think you can pay up for Mighty Mouse because of the value options in the lower pricing tier. My approach will be to not start my lineups with him, but will plug him in whenever there is enough salary remaining.

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.

Magomed Bibulatov ($9,300)

Bibulatov opened as a -425 favorite over the veteran Jon Moraga, but the line immediately shot up to -600 within a couple of days. Bibulatov is part of a new wave of talented fighters out of Chechnya led by dictator Ramzan Kadyrov. Politics aside, these guys can fight. Bibulatov won his UFC debut over Jenel Lausa in dominant fashion back in April and was only hit with 10 significant strikes throughout the full 3 rounds. Bibulatov is known for his karate-style striking with lots of flashy spinning kicks, but he is also a strong grappler with good takedowns and submissions. Against Lausa, he landed 2 takedowns and 9 passes to go along with 51 significant strikes, which was good for 93 points on DraftKings. Moraga is a more experienced fighter and will be a much tougher test than Lausa. Moraga has a wrestling background but doesn’t use it against tougher competition and struggles at preventing takedowns. He is an opportunistic grappler who is capable of sneaking in a guillotine choke, so Bibulatov will need to be aware of that risk. Bibulatov should be able to take Moraga down at will, but should have the edge on the feet should he choose to keep the fight standing. On the feet, Moraga is very tentative and strikes at a low volume, while Bibulatov is really fast and hard to hit. Bibulatov is not expected to get the finish, so that does hurt his ceiling a bit, but his combined volume in the striking and grappling game give him a nice floor to go along with his excellent win odds.

Evan Dunham ($7,200)

Dunham is a +195 underdog against Beneil Dariush, but there are several aspects about this fight that make him a strong salary-saving option for cash games on DK. The two most important points are that this fight is expected to go the distance and Dunham is a very high-volume striker to go along with a strong wrestling game. Dunham has landed 100+ significant strikes in several 3 round fights and has even landed of 150 in two of those. He does not have much power, so most of his wins are by decision, but he is technically sound. Both guys have been relatively durable throughout their careers, outside of mutual KO losses to Edson Barboza. Dariush is a well-rounded fighter with a great submission game, but he is best known for his strong fight IQ. He has multiple submission wins under his belt, but Dunham is also a BJJ black belt with strong takedown defense so I think there’s a great chance this fight stays standing for most of it. Dariush is quicker than Dunham, but Dunham fights at a much higher pace and is more aggressive. If the fight goes to the judge’s scorecard, Dunham will have a decent chance at pulling off the upset, but even if he doesn’t get the win, he should score high enough to cover his salary in cash games. Dunham is also a quality tournament option, but Dariush often finds a way to win so I wouldn’t go too crazy with my exposure.

Other cash options: Brad Tavares ($8,300), Poliana Botelho ($7,800), Cody Stamann ($7,100)

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.

Walt Harris ($9,200)

Harris has won 3 of his last 4 fights and all 3 victories have come by way of early KO. He has a ton of power and often starts well, but doesn’t have the best gas tank. Harris is a low output striker but is very athletic and looks to be improving his technical game. He has his flaws as a Heavyweight, but is a sizable -320 favorite in this fight over a weaker opponent in Mark Godbeer. Godbeer is a low-level UFC Heavyweight kickboxer with a below average chin and terrible ground game. Harris unfortunately does not have the wrestling to take advantage of Godbeer’s weak grappling skills, but he does have a great chance of landing an early KO. Harris has the best finish prop on the card at -195 and the fight is not expected to make it out of the first round. Godbeer does not have much power but does strike at a higher volume than Harris. The biggest risk with Harris is that if he doesn’t land the early KO, he is likely to slow down and Godbeer could steal a decision win with more output. Harris is the stronger play for the first-round finishing upside, but Godbeer is worth a couple shots in large field GPPs as a punt option at only $7000.

Tom Duquesnoy ($9,100) vs Cody Stamann ($7,100)

Odds to Win: Duquesnoy (-150) Stamann (+140) Odds to Finish: +135 This is a close fight between two highly talented prospects that I am really looking forward to from a fan perspective as well as a DFS perspective. Duquesnoy is a Muay Thai striker with finishing ability while Stamann is a stocky wrestler with a lot of power in his takedowns. Duquesnoy came into the UFC with a lot more hype than Stamann, which is likely why he opened as a sizable -200 favorite. The line has since been bet down to a more reasonable number of -150, but the DK pricing still reflects the original odds. Right away, this gives Stamann a lot of odds value which puts him in play in cash games, but it will also likely make him the higher owned of the two fighters in GPPs. Stamann made his UFC debut on short notice at Featherweight and will be moving down to Bantamweight for this fight. He is short and muscular with powerful legs that help him drive through his double leg takedowns. Stamann also has decent boxing with a good counter left and throws everything in combos. He used his boxing and well-timed level changes to disguise his takedown attempts against Terrion Ware and took him down 8 times with ease throughout the fight. He wasn’t very active on the ground though and did let Ware get back to his feet several times. Duquesnoy was taken down a couple times by Patrick Williams in his debut, but he showed excellent ground defense and awareness and got back to his feet easily both times. Duquesnoy is fast and aggressive and is constantly moving forward the whole fight. He is a smooth technical striker but is very hittable and was even dropped briefly by Williams in that fight. His clinch game is strong and he throws a lot of dangerous knees and elbows in close range. From a DFS perspective, Stamann is a strong underdog play in both formats. Duquesnoy is very hittable and his constant pressure will give Stamann the opportunity to land the counter left and go for takedowns. Stamann should be the bigger fighter despite giving up 4” in reach, so that will give him the advantage in the wrestling department. Stamann is not a finisher but Duquesnoy’s strong scrambling ability could give Stamann the chance to rack up multiple takedowns throughout the fight, and that gives him upside. I am somewhat concerned about his ownership in GPPs though, but that should lower the ownership on Duquesnoy, who has more finishing upside in this fight. Duquesnoy is the better and more dangerous striker and has a solid +165 finish prop. He did a great job of forcing Williams to shoot for takedowns in his debut, and hit him with well timed knees and uppercuts, which eventually put him away. I think Duquesnoy can use a similar tactic in this fight to catch Stamann when he tries to get the fight down. Duquesnoy is a bit pricey, so he will likely need a finish to pay off his salary, but he makes for a strong leverage play against the ownership of Stamann.

Other GPP options: Lando Vannata ($8,800), Fabricio Werdum ($8,700), Matt Schnell ($8,200) – Med Exposure/Marco Beltran ($8,000) – Low Exposure