The Haymaker – UFC Fight Night 109: Picks and Analysis
Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC has a Fight Night card this Sunday morning (10:00am EST lock) from Stockholm, Sweden. The main event of the evening is an interesting Light-Heavyweight matchup between local favorite, Alexander Gustafsson, and Glover Teixeira, who are both looking to earn the number one contender spot for the title. There is not a lot of value on the rest of the card as there are several heavy favorites at -200 or greater, making lineup construction somewhat tricky this week. With the tougher pricing structure, I will go over my favorite DFS targets in each format to help make these decisions a little easier.
Main Event: Alexander Gustafsson ($9,200) vs Glover Teixeira ($7,000)
Odds: Gustafsson (-330) Teixeira (+270)
Odds to finish: -175
Both fighters are coming off bounce-back victories against lower-level competition after suffering difficult losses to the division’s elite. Gustafsson is coming off a mediocre performance against Jan Blachowicz after competitive losses to Jon Jones and Dan Cormier and seems motivated to put up a strong showing in front of the home crowd. Teixeira was brutally KO’d early against Rumble Johnson but rebounded with a dominant win via the grappling game over newcomer Jared Cannonier in his most recent fight. Gustafsson should be the better fighter in most areas, but the fight is closer than the betting line and pricing suggest. Gustafsson is the taller and longer fighter and strikes with a higher output which gives him the advantage at range. He has great uppercuts and knees as well once the distance has been closed. The loss to Rumble was the first time Teixeira had been finished in the UFC, but he has been rocked several times in recent fights and could be nearing the end of the line. Teixeira is flat-footed and plodding on the feet, but he does still have a lot of power, which makes him dangerous in this fight. Teixeira has a solid ground game and has dominated pure strikers with takedowns, but he has struggled to prevent takedowns against better wrestlers such as Jon Jones and Phil Davis. Gustafsson is the stronger wrestler in this matchup and should be able to win the takedown battle. He has an impressive 86% takedown defense which has stood up to tests from the elite wrestlers like Cormier and Jones.
Gustafsson was not impressive against Blachowicz, but his performances against Jones and Cormier show just how good he can be. At this point in their careers, Gustafsson is my clear choice to win this fight and I think he makes for a solid play in both formats due to his high-output style. Teixeira’s power makes him worth a look in some tournament lineups, especially for his price, as he is one of the few fighters in that range with the ability to get a quick finish. However, I expect that if Gustafsson can avoid getting caught early, he should be able to dominate the longer the fight goes, as he has the much better cardio. I think Gustafsson can wear him out with strikes and takedowns and get a stoppage in the mid-to-late rounds.
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.
Pedro Munhoz ($9,500)
On a card with several heavy favorites, Pedro Munhoz leads the way as a massive -850 favorite over Damian Stasiak in a grappler vs grappler matchup. Stasiak will have the advantage in the wrestling department, but should be outclassed almost everywhere else. Munhoz is a BJJ black belt and has an excellent guillotine choke, which should help neutralize Stasiak’s natural game plan of taking the fight to the ground. Stasiak has won two straight fights with his wrestling, but was almost caught in multiple submission attempts in his debut fight against Yaotzin Meza, who is not on the same level as Munhoz. If the fight stays on the feet, Munhoz should have the advantage, as he strikes at a high output and has shown a lot of improvement in that area in recent fights. Stasiak has the worst finish prop on the whole card so Munhoz presents one of the safest options for cash games. His high output style and ability to finish the fight on the feet or on the ground also give him the upside to use for tournaments, but with 5 fighters with finish potential priced just below him, I will not have as much exposure there as I will in cash games.
Peter Sobotta ($7,800)
I typically do not go to the lower pricing tier in cash games unless stacking, and this card does not have as many mid-priced fighters as usual, so this value range is quite limited. Peter Sobotta is one of the few strong underdog values from a betting perspective, as he is close to even money against Ben Saunders and yet is priced at $600 cheaper. Sobotta is unlikely to get a finish against the durable Saunders, but he should have the advantage in the grappling department. Both are BJJ black belts, but Saunders is not as talented in that area as Sobotta and tends to fight off his back too much. Saunders does not have the best takedown defense, and Sobotta has a nice transition game from top position, so I think Sobotta has the potential to rack up a decent amount of points in the grappling game. Saunders will have the edge on the feet, but Sobotta has also shown a lot of improvement in his striking lately so I like his ability to stick around long enough to get the fight to the ground. Saunders has a slight chance at landing a KO on the feet, but he has not shown as much power and killer instinct lately, so I think the risk of Sobotta taking a 0 is relatively low.
Other cash options: Nordine Taleb ($9,400), Jack Hermansson ($8,300), Trevor Smith ($7,300)
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.
Abdul Razak Alhassan ($9,100)
Alhassan is a known finisher, with a 7-0 pro record, and all wins coming by early KO. He steam-rolled through Charlie Ward in under a minute in his UFC debut and now comes into his second fight against Omari Akhmedov as a -265 favorite. Akhmedov will be a tougher test for Alhassan, but he does have his weaknesses on the feet. Akhmedov has decent striking but does not have much head movement and tends to leave his hands down at times. He is relatively durable, but has been finished late in 2 of his last 3 fights against less powerful strikers, so Alhassan’s chances of an early finish are strong. Alhassan has one of the best inside-the-distance props on the card at -165, and the fight is -170 to end in the first round. Alhassan is very athletic and has a black belt in Judo, but there are still a lot of question marks about a fighter who has yet to go past the first round. His ground game is yet to be tested and his cardio is also an unknown. For these reasons, I prefer to keep my exposure to Alhassan to GPPs only.
With his upside at a price tag of $9,100, Alhassan presents one of the best values in the higher-pricing tier. I will have a lot of exposure to him in lower-buy-in tournaments, where people are less price-sensitive in general. The main concern I have about him in higher stakes, is his high expected ownership. I expect him to be one of the most popular fighters in these contests, so with the question marks I mentioned above, I think it makes sense to look at pivots such as Taleb (lowest owned), Cirkunov (most upside), Gustafsson (best floor), or Till (cheapest), in this price range.
Reza Madadi ($7,500)
Madadi is a +160 underdog as a short-notice replacement against Joaquim Silva in a striker vs grappler matchup. Most people see fighters on short notice as an easy target, but Madadi has a lot more experience than Silva and will have the advantage of fighting at home, while Silva will be travelling all the way from Brazil for the fight. Silva is coming off a quick KO win over Andrew Holbrook and should have the advantage on the feet in this fight, but Madadi has never been finished before so Silva’s upside is somewhat limited. Madadi will also have the grappling advantage and should be able to land takedowns and passes if he can survive on the feet. Madadi does not have a lot of finishing upside, but not a lot of fighters in this range do, so I prefer to look for active fighters in the grappling game that can score well enough to pay off their salary in a decision win. Trevor Smith is another viable underdog option in this price range for similar reasons, but given the line movement and chatter throughout the week, I expect him to be the more popular play in tournaments.