The Haymaker – UFC Fight Night 105: Picks and Analysis
Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. This weekend we have a Sunday night card taking place in Halifax, Nova Scotia which is headlined by a Heavyweight fight between Derrick Lewis and Travis Browne. Unfortunately, we once again lost a fight on fight week, so we are down to just 11 fights on this card. There are a few heavy favorites, but almost all the underdogs have a reasonable shot at an upset, so you can expect ownership to be a little more spread out than on the two previous cards. With so many options available this week for DFS, I will go over my favorite targets in each format to help make your decisions a little easier.
Main Event: Derrick Lewis ($8,100) vs Travis Browne ($8,100)
Odds: Lewis (-115) Browne (-105)
Odds to finish: -485
As the odds and pricing suggest, this is pretty much a pick’em fight that has the potential to end in a hurry. Derrick Lewis is on the rise in the Heavyweight division and gets a lot of hype here after a 5-fight win streak, but Browne will be the best fighter he has faced yet. Lewis is an excellent striker with a ton of power in his hands. 9 out of his 10 UFC fights have ended in KO/TKO and he has come out on the right side of those finishes more often than not. His main weakness is his lack of takedown defense which became evident after being brought down 11 times in his most recent victories over Roy Nelson and Shamil Abdurakhimov. Lewis also tends to struggle against more athletic Heavyweights, which we saw in his losses to Shawn Jordan and Matt Mitrione.
Browne has lost 3 of his last 4 fights, but 2 of those were to elite Heavyweights in Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. Browne fits the mould of an athletic Heavyweight and has the much better cardio in this fight. He has proven that he can go 5 rounds, so he will have the advantage if he can take this one into the later rounds. Browne’s best approach in this fight would be to use a wrestling-based game plan similar to the one he used to defeat Brendon Schaub, instead of trying to stand and bang. But solid game plans have been his issue, as his camp and personal life are believed to be the cause of his poor showings recently. It was reported that Browne spent less time at his usual camp for this fight, and that coach Edmond Tarverdyan will not be cornering him. For those who don’t regularly follow MMA, Tarverdyan is widely regarded as one of the worst coaches in the game and is blamed for the terrible game plans of Browne and former star Ronda Rousey.
From a DFS perspective, I think this fight is better suited for GPPs than cash games given how close the fight is and how likely it is to finish inside the distance. Lewis has an individual finish prop of +113 and Browne’s is +157, which are both strong values. A KO is the only real path to victory for Lewis, and he has the best chance of ending the fight early. Browne has more paths to victory as he can win a decision by outpointing Lewis on the outside and landing a few takedowns, or he can finish the fight with ground-and-pound when Lewis gets tired. I think both sides of this fight are worth targeting somewhat evenly in GPPs, but I like Browne to pick up the win here. He is the more versatile and experienced fighter and has the tools to expose Lewis’ weaknesses if he comes in with a good game plan. As far as cash games go, I would probably avoid this fight unless you are thinking of stacking it. I don’t think it’s a guarantee to be high scoring if it gets into the later rounds and each fighter has a very low floor so I wouldn’t recommend that strategy unless you are having a hard time fitting in other salaries.
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.
Sara McMann ($9,300)
McMann is a -600 favorite over Gina Mazany, who is making her UFC debut on short notice. This makes her the heaviest favorite on the card and yet she is still reasonably priced compared to other favorites from previous weeks. This should be an easy fight for McMann who is an elite wrestler taking on a young and inexperienced fighter with a weakness against wrestling. McMann is coming off a strong performance against Alexis Davis whom she finished with a 2nd-round submission. Mazany is the more technical striker and should have the speed advantage, but I just don’t see any way that she can stop the relentless takedowns of McMann. McMann should be the stronger fighter and should be able to rack up multiple takedowns if she doesn’t land an early finish. The odds alone make McMann a strong cash play, but the takedowns give her a solid floor. I think you can use her in GPPs as well for the finish potential if you decide to pay up.
Randa Markos ($7,100)
With so much of the middle pricing tier containing fighters that have the potential to get finished, I find myself having to dig into the lower tier to fill out my cash game lineups. A lot of experts like Markos to get the win as a +225 underdog against Carla Esparza, but I am considering her as more of a punt option here. Both fighters are wrestlers by nature, but Esparza is by far the more decorated wrestler. I think a lot of people are looking at her poor showing against the champ, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but she is a very difficult matchup for anyone right now. Esparza is one dimensional with her wrestling and showed that she doesn’t like to engage in striking battles, so this one is very likely to go the distance. In fact, it has the worst finish prop on the card. Markos does not have great takedown defense, but she has been working on her striking and should have the strength advantage in this fight. This will help her keep the fight close and possibly even pull off an upset win. At near min price, I don’t mind punting with Markos in cash games to help pay up for the larger favorites.
Other cash options: Paul Felder ($9,500), Elias Theodorou ($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.
Aiemann Zahabi ($8,800)
Aiemann Zahabi is the brother of famed trainer Firas Zahabi, and is making his UFC debut at the age of 29. There is not a lot of tape on Aiemann, but there is a lot of hype on him after reports surfaced of him beating UFC quality guys in the gym. He is inexperienced, but in the limited tape that is available, he does not show a lot of flaws and most of his fights have been first round finishes. He is a well-rounded fighter with strong BJJ and striking, and also appears to have a high fight IQ. Zahabi is a -240 favorite over Reginaldo Vieira in what appears to be a set up fight for the newcomer. Vieira has solid jiu-jitsu, but he is the slower fighter and not as talented. He was finished by Marco Beltran last fight via rear naked choke. Zahabi is a bit of a question mark, but we at least know that Vieira is bad, so I think that makes him an excellent play in GPPs for his potential upside. He has the price and odds to be a cash play, but I think it’s hard to trust a fighter that we have not seen compete in the UFC.
Thiago Santos ($8,300) vs Jack Marshman ($7,900)
Odds: Santos (-175) Marshman (+165)
Odds to finish: -365
This fight has the second-highest finish prop on the card with a -215 chance of ending in the first round, which obviously makes it a very strong target in GPPs. Santos is coming off one of the biggest upset losses of the year against Eric Spicely and was KO’d by Gegard Mousasi the fight before. Santos has a strong standup game with very powerful kicks but has shown a weakness towards takedowns and the ground game in those two losses. Luckily for him, Marshman is a boxer who likes to stand and bang. Santos prefers to strike at range so that he can use his kicks, while Marshman will look to get inside and use his powerful hands. Marshman is the higher output striker, but Santos has better cardio and uses leg and body kicks to wear his opponents out. Each fighter has been KO’d multiple times in their pro career, so there is a great chance we see some fireworks here. I like targeting both sides of this fight heavily in GPPs since no fight other than the main event has similar finish potential. I slightly favor Marshman in this one as Santos is not a great puncher and has had trouble striking in tight. Marshman showed the ability to get in close on a much longer fighter in Magnus Cedenblad in his debut. The ownership on this fight is the tricky part for me. On the one hand, Marshman is the cheaper fighter and is coming off an impressive KO victory in his debut, while Santos disappointed many last time out. On the other hand, Santos is a sizable favorite and the more well-known fighter. If I had a better read on the expected ownership I would recommend going heavier on the lower owned fighter, but at this point I think it’s fine to just split it 50/50.