The Haymaker – UFC Fight Night 115: Picks and Analysis
Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC returns this week from a 3-week hiatus with a Fight Night card this Saturday morning (at 11:30am EST) from Rotterdam, Netherlands. Unfortunately, this card has been hit hard by the injury bug and there are very few high-level fights remaining aside from the main event between Heavyweights Alexander Volkov and Stefan Struve. The UFC was able to keep a full card, but the result of all the last-minute injuries is that there will be a total of 7 fighters making their promotional debuts on this card. This adds a high level of unpredictability and makes the card better suited for GPP play over cash games. With 12 fights to choose from, I will go over my favorite DFS targets in each format to help narrow down your options in both formats.
Main Event: Alexander Volkov ($8,400) vs Stefan Struve ($7,800)
Odds: Volkov (-120) Struve (+100)
Odds to Finish: -285
This is an interesting matchup between two Heavyweight giants that is very close on paper. Alexander Volkov is 6’7”, yet will come in as the shorter fighter by 4 inches, as Stefan Struve is a towering 6’11” and will have a 4-inch reach advantage. This is a rare occurrence for Volkov, as he has faced two smaller fighters in his previous UFC appearances, with decision victories over Tim Johnson and Roy Nelson. Volkov is not a power puncher, but he is accurate and strikes at a high volume. Volkov dominated Nelson in his latest fight, out-striking him 122-32 over the full 3 rounds. He won’t have the reach advantage that he is accustomed to against Struve, but he is still the more technical striker in this matchup. Struve has more power than Volkov, but his biggest advantage in this matchup lies in the ground game. Volkov looked alright against Johnson in his debut, but he has not had the best takedown defense dating back to his days in Bellator. Fortunately for him, Struve is not a great wrestler (due to his height), so he should be able to stuff takedown attempts in the middle of the Octagon. Struve’s best chance of getting the fight to the ground will be to land a knockdown, or grind Volkov out against the cage. Volkov is capable off his back, but Struve is the bigger fighter and is the more talented submission grappler.
With so many heavy favorites on the card, there is not much of a mid-range when it comes to DK pricing, so I like the idea of targeting it heavily in cash games, and moderate-to-high exposure in GPPs. The one concern I have about going all in on this fight in GPPs, is that these two big boys could tire out in the later rounds and we could see a lull in the action. As I mentioned at the beginning, this fight is pretty much a pick’em, so I think it’s a good strategy to have decent exposure to both sides in GPPs. I also prefer stacking it in cash games (as I often do unless the fight is lopsided) to lock up a win. I don’t expect it to end in the first round, so I think the chances of either fighter scoring a zero are pretty low. Stacking the main event also allows you to fit in the other 4 plays that I am most comfortable with in cash, as you will see in the optimal lineup included at the bottom of the article. If I am only playing one GPP lineup, I would most likely lean towards Volkov for the higher output. I think Struve will be slightly higher owned because of the name and price discount, although it should be close.
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.
Abdul-Kerim Edilov ($9,500)
Edilov is a highly-touted prospect out of Chechnya, from the same camp as Rashid Magomedov and recent UFC debutant Magomed Bibulatov. He is making his UFC debut against Bojan Mihajlovic and is the biggest favorite on the card at -720. Edilov is a known finisher, with 8 wins via KO/TKO and 7 wins via submission, and takes on one of the worst fighters in the division. Mihajlovic was crushed by Francis Ngannou early in his UFC debut and was finished by Joachim Christensen in his next fight (who himself has been finished in his 3 other UFC fights). Mihajlovic likes to bull forward swinging punches with his head down which should make it easy for Edilov to get the takedown and utilize his skilled submission game. Edilov has the best finish prop on the card at -400 and is -185 to win in the first round. He is the top play on the card in both formats and like every week, the only question is if you want to pay up for the highest-priced fighter in GPPs. According to the odds, Edilov is a strong bet for 100 points on DK, and there isn’t much of a price gap between the next closest fighters, so I will likely have a lot of him in my lineups.
Bryan Barbarena ($7,200)
Barbarena is a +235 underdog against Leon Edwards, but has typically thrived in similar spots. He has excellent cardio and fights at a high pace, which is a key trait to target in underdogs. Barbarena is not much of a finisher (despite TKO’ing Joe Proctor last fight), but he does strike at a high volume and puts pressure on his opponents. Edwards is primarily a striker, but is low-output on the feet and has found more success recently with his grappling game. Barbarena struggled to stop takedowns against top prospect, Colby Covington, but has been decent in that department in his other UFC fights. He is very durable and unlikely to be finished, so if he can keep the fight standing, I think he has a solid chance of earning a decision win by out-landing Edwards on the feet.
Other cash options: Michel Prazeres ($9,400), Zabit Magomedsharipov ($9,300), Francimar Barroso ($7,700)
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.
Sayir Bahadurzada ($8,300)
After all the fight cancellations, Bahadurzada is taking on short-notice replacement Rob Wilkinson in the co-main event. Bahadurzada has only fought once in the last 4 years due to injuries and illness, but he is a powerful striker with 11 career KO victories. Bahadurzada looked good against Brandon Thatch in his last fight after a 2.5-year layoff and is taking on a guy in Wilkinson, who is making his UFC debut and is travelling all the way from Australia to the Netherlands on short notice. Wilkinson is a tall and lanky wrestler with an aggressive style, but is not very technical. He has decent striking offense, but poor striking defense and doesn’t like to get hit. The betting line is close, as Bahadurzada is only a -140 favorite, but Bahadurzada has the 3rd-best finish prop on the card behind only Edilov and Magomedsharipov, yet is $1000 cheaper. With so few mid-priced options on this card, Bahadurzada will be a heavy target of mine in GPPs in the hopes that he can land the early KO. If you are playing multiple lineups, I like the idea of hedging with a couple shares of Wilkinson in case Bahadurzada looks rusty after the layoff. Bahadurzada does not have the best takedown defense, so Wilkinson may be able to land multiple takedowns and steal a decision win.
Andrew Holbrook ($8,800) vs Thibault Gouti ($7,400)
Odds: Holbrook (-175) Gouti (+155)
Odds to finish: -165
This is a fight that may go overlooked in GPPs because neither guy is any good – but that’s exactly why it’s a target of mine. Gouti is 0-3 in the UFC and has been finished in all 3 fights, while Holbrook is 2-2, with both of his losses coming via KO in under 30 seconds. Even Holbrook’s wins were questionable, as both were by split decision. Holbrook is a decent submission grappler, but he is not a great wrestler and struggles on the feet. He makes some questionable decisions in the Octagon, but he pressures his opponents and is often looking for the finish on the ground. Gouti is primarily a striker with fast hands, but also has a weak chin. He has decent takedown defense and stuffed several attempts from Olivier Aubin-Mercier, who is a much better wrestler than Holbrook. I think it’s worth having some exposure to both sides of this fight in GPPs because of the poor defense of each fighter, but I will be much heavier on Gouti because of the price. You will need some salary relief if you are going to fit in any of the 9k+ fighters, and Gouti is my favorite option in the low 7k range. I think he will be able to keep the fight standing where he should have the advantage, and I don’t expect him to be popular based on his record.