THE HAYMAKER – UFC FIGHT NIGHT 117: PICKS & ANALYSIS

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC has a Fight Night card this Friday night (at 7:30pm EST) from Saitama, Japan. I sound like a broken record these days, but we are once again down to just 10 fights due to late injuries and weight-cutting issues. Mizuto Hirota had a bad weight cut and the UFC decided to pull him from the card on Thursday night, so his fight with Charles Rosa is off. Make sure to edit your lineups in case you had already made some with either fighter. The main event of the card was also affected when Mauricio “Shogun” Rua had to pull out of his matchup with OSP a week before the fight with a knee injury. He is replaced in the main event by former UFC fighter Yushin Okami. The late cancellations make lineup construction much more difficult in cash games, which is currently making me want to stick to tournament play on this card. However, I will still go over my favorite DFS targets in both formats should you prefer cash games.

MAIN EVENT: OVINCE SAINT PREUX ($9,500) VS YUSHIN OKAMI ($6,700)

Odds: OSP (-440) Okami (+390)
Odds to Finish: -240

Okami is a former UFC Middleweight (185 lbs) who has recently been fighting in WSOF at Welterweight (170 lbs), yet will be moving up two full weight classes to Light Heavyweight (205 lbs) for this fight on only one week’s notice. Okami is a veteran so I don’t expect the short notice to be as big of an impact as the step up in weight. OSP will have a 5” reach advantage and I expect him to be at least 20 lbs heavier on fight night. OSP has a diverse striking game with power to finish fights. He struggles with defensive wrestling, but the size advantage should really help him here against a grinder like Okami who wants to get the fight to the ground. OSP is a physical specimen but he has low ring IQ and has struggled to put it all together. He can finish guys quickly at his best, but he doesn’t always go for it, which could lead to a slow-paced fight.

OSP is not a high-output fighter, but does have a lot of finishing upside in this matchup. Okami is durable, but he was finished by David Branch in the fourth round of one of his recent fights, and Branch is not all that powerful. OSP has the second-best finish prop on the card at -185, but the fight is even money to make it to the third round. OSP is a very safe play in cash games if you decide to pay up, and I don’t mind pairing him with Okami as a punt option. Neither are very high output, so I don’t think it’s a must play, but cash lineups are hard to construct on this card. I do like OSP as a GPP option though, since I think he will be hard to pay up for, and that should lower his ownership. He has 100+ point upside with an early finish, but will have a hard time paying off his salary if it goes past the halfway point, so I recommend some exposure but not all in.

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.

DONG HYUN KIM ($9,100)

Dong Hyun Kim is really the only play I feel strongly about in cash games this week. He is taking on a washed up Takanori Gomi in what really should be his last fight in the UFC. Gomi has lost 4-straight fights by first-round finish and hasn’t made it past the halfway mark of the round in either fight. He has been dropped or taken down early in each of those fights and finished almost immediately once it hits the ground. Kim is an action fighter with poor striking defense, but he has shown that he can take a shot. He is a black belt in Judo and has landed 6 takedowns over his last two fights while being active on the ground. Kim is a -380 favorite over Gomi and has the best finish prop on the card at -255 (and -115 to win in the first round). This gives him a ton of safety and upside and makes him one of the top overall plays on the card in both formats. I do expect him to be the highest owned fighter on the card at over 60% so that’s something that you will have to factor into your GPP lineup construction. I will probably opt to match the field with my exposure, but some pivots you can mix in for GPPs at that price range would be Formiga (heavy), Gadelha (light), and Jumeau (light).

KEITA NAKAMURA ($7,700)

I was originally planning to use Hirota ($7,400) in this spot for cash games before he was pulled, but I don’t mind moving up to Keita Nakamura after the news. I don’t love any of the fighters in the $7k range for cash, but Nakamura is only a slight underdog at +115 vs Alex Morono, and the fight is expected to go to a decision. Nakamura is primarily a submission grappler with average wrestling. He can land takedowns and looks to pass, but is not very active with his striking on the ground. Morono is a BJJ black belt so I don’t expect Nakamura to pull off a submission, but he might be able to win a few rounds and score some points in the grappling game. Morono’s takedown defense is largely untested in the UFC but if the fight stays standing, Nakamura has proven to be quite durable throughout his career. I like Morono as a cash play as well for his high volume striking, but I will side with Nakamura and his $800 savings on a difficult card for cash games. I could also be talked into Dy or Andrade for cash games, but they have some issues as well. Dy is taking on the inconsistent Ishihara, but Dy isn’t very good and faces the risk of an early KO loss. Andrade is a very high-volume striker at a great price, but Gadelha is the best wrestler in the division and could neutralize her on the ground for most of the fight.

OTHER CASH OPTIONS: JUSSIER FORMIGA ($9,200), ROLANDO DY ($7,500), JESSICA ANDRADE ($7,200)

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.

GOKHAN SAKI ($8,600) VS HENRIQUE DA SILVA ($7,600)

Odds: Saki (-170) Silva (+160)
Odds to finish: -675

This fight has the best finish prop on the card and is -140 to finish inside the first round which makes it a very strong target for GPPs. Gokhan Saki is a well-known kick-boxer from Glory, and aside from a brief foray early in his career, is essentially making his pro-MMA debut here. Saki is a very explosive and technical striker with amazing hand speed and powerful kicks. He sets up his shots well and everything he throws are in combos. Saki will be the smaller fighter in this matchup, but he has made a living fighting much larger men in his kick-boxing career. However, Saki hasn’t fought at all in 2.5 years and the biggest question mark will be if he can keep the fight standing. Silva is a Muay-Thai striker who prefers to stand and trade, but he is coming off a quick KO loss to Ion Cutelaba and will certainly be outmatched on the feet in this one. Silva has a purple-belt in BJJ and should have a massive advantage on the ground, but he has shown almost no offensive wrestling game in the UFC and has only got opponents down via the clinch. This fight is pretty clear cut on paper, in that Saki should be able to land a KO if it stays on the feet and Silva should be able to find a submission if it hits the ground. I will likely have 100% of this fight in GPPs and I think it makes sense to have exposure to both sides. I don’t know if Saki will be able to keep the fight standing, but Silva has shown a willingness to strike and not much of a wrestling game so I am leaning towards the kick-boxer somewhere in the 2:1 ratio.

HYUN GYU LIM ($8,400) VS DAICHI ABE ($7,800)

Odds: Lim (-120) Abe (+100)
Odds to finish: -465

This fight is a striker vs striker matchup that is also likely to end early. Hyun Gyu Lim hasn’t fought in over a year since getting KO’d by a debuting Mike Perry. He comes into this fight as a slight favorite over Daichie Abe, who is making his UFC debut, but has fought 4 times since Lim last stepped into the Octagon. Both guys are high-volume strikers with a lot of power, but are both very hittable. Lim has 3 KO victories in the UFC but has been KO’d himself in 2 consecutive fights and didn’t look very good against Perry. Abe is a Judo black belt with a kick-boxing background. He is short but throws bombs and everything is in combos. He has been dropped in a bunch of his fights, but his chin has held up and he has come back to win. Lim will be the much bigger fighter in this matchup, with a 4” height and 6” reach advantage. I would like to favor him for that reason, but Abe is the same size as Perry, who just knocked Lim out. It’s a close fight to call, but I am leaning towards Abe for the better chin and cheaper price tag. I can see Lim using his size to rock him early, but if he doesn’t finish him, I expect Abe to eventually get inside and land the KO. I think both sides are great targets in GPPs, but I will be heavier on Abe in this one.

OTHER GPP OPTIONS: JUSSIER FORMIGA ($9,200), LUKE JUMEAU ($8,900), TERUTO ISHIHARA ($8,700)/ROLANDO DY ($7,500) (LOW EXPOSURE)