The Haymaker – UFC Fight Night 110: Picks and Analysis
Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC has a Fight Night card this Saturday night (7pm EST lock) from Auckland, New Zealand. The main event of the evening is a battle between two big boys at Heavyweight in Derrick Lewis and local favorite, Mark Hunt. There are a lot of unknowns on this card as several fighters will either be making their UFC debuts, or returning after long layoffs. With so much uncertainty on this card, I will have a higher ratio of GPP action to cash games than usual, as winners will be difficult to predict. Cash games can still be profitable, but it will be important to focus on styles of fighters rather than just win odds. As usual, I will go over my favorite DFS targets in each format to help make your lineup decisions a little easier.
Main Event: Derrick Lewis ($8,200) vs Mark Hunt ($8,000)
Odds: Lewis (-135) Hunt (+125)
Odds to finish: -675 (-115 in first round)
Heavyweight fights are often great targets for GPPs and this one is no different. Both Lewis and Hunt are power punchers with heavy hands and someone is likely to get knocked out here. The fight is very close on paper and Heavyweight fights are high variance in general, as it often depends on who can land the big shot first, and whose chin can hold up best. Lewis has really climbed in the Heavyweight rankings recently, on the heels of a 6-fight winning streak within the division, and is coming off a 2nd-round KO win over Travis Browne. He has fast hands and surprising high kicks for a man of his size. 10 of his 11 fights in the UFC have ended in KO, with 8 of those coming in the first two rounds. Lewis has done a great job at avoiding strikes on the feet (only 1.23 significant strikes allowed per minute) and will be at a massive 5” height and 7” reach advantage in this fight. His chin is relatively untested, and has only been hit by 4 distance head strikes (generally power shots) in his UFC career. Hunt on the other hand, has a reputation for having a great chin, which makes him hard to finish early, but his durability has been fading lately as the aging veteran has been finished in 4 of his last 9 fights overall. He still has a ton of power in his hands and will put Lewis’s chin to the test if he can close the distance and get inside range to unleash his devastating hooks and uppercuts. Both fighters have struggled to defend takedowns, and it would not surprise me to see Lewis attempt to get Hunt to the ground at some point throughout the fight and work his heavy ground-and-pound game, as he is the more athletic of the two fighters.
This fight is the most likely to end in a finish on the whole card, according to Vegas, and is -115 to end inside the first round. With the fight being close to even money on the betting line, I think it makes sense to have exposure to both sides in GPPs, but I will be heavier on Lewis because he is the younger and more athletic fighter, and I feel that the massive reach advantage will be too much for Hunt to overcome. Neither fighter has great cardio, so I do worry about a slower pace affecting scoring if this fight goes past the 2nd round. As a result, I will have decent exposure to this fight in GPPs, but will be hesitant to go all in. I also think this is a good reason to avoid the fight in cash games, as neither fighter has a very high floor.
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.
Alexander Volkanovski ($9,300)
Volkanovski is a much hyped Australian prospect who won his UFC debut over Yusuke Kasuya in dominant fashion back in November. Volkanovski is a former rugby player who is short and stalky, but very strong. He is well-rounded on the feet and on the ground and is a solid wrestler. He has a lot of power in his hands and is very aggressive, yet has shown no cardio issues to date. Volkanovski is the most expensive fighter on the card, but he is also the heaviest favorite by a large margin at -470 over Mizuto Hirota. Hirota is coming off an upset victory over an unmotivated Cole Miller in which he displayed improved grappling skills; however, he has shown a weakness at defending takedowns against better wrestlers in the past. Volkanovski should have the advantage in almost every area in this fight, with his wrestling skills and power giving him tremendous upside and safety. The potential to land multiple takedowns in a decision or earn a quick KO victory make him an excellent DFS play in both formats if you can afford him.
Tim Elliott ($8,700) vs Ben Nguyen ($7,500)
Odds: Elliott (-210) Nguyen (+190)
Elliott is expected to be a popular play in DFS after setting a record last fight with 176 DK points in a win over Louis Smolka. Elliott landed an impressive 12 takedowns and 14 advances in that fight, which accounted for 102 points alone, and that’s not even factoring in strikes or the win bonus. Add that to the fact that Nguyen was beat down by the same Louis Smolka two fights ago and you can expect to see Elliott as the highest owned fighter on the card. While there are several examples of MMA math being wrong, the high expected ownership is not enough to make me want to fade Elliott in either format, as he should have a massive wrestling advantage over Nguyen, and DK scoring is skewed way too far in the direction of grapplers these days. On the other hand, I do have some interest in Nguyen as well for DFS, as he should have the advantage on the feet in this fight. Elliott has an unorthodox striking style and is not that powerful, while Nguyen is much more technical and strikes at a higher volume. Nguyen bounced back nicely from the Smolka loss, with a decisive victory over Geane Herrera in which he landed over 100 significant strikes. I am much heavier on Elliott in both formats for the grappling upside, but he is not a known finisher and this fight is expected to go to decision where we could see a lot of output from both sides. With so many risky options in the lower pricing tier, I like the idea of stacking both sides of this fight in cash games. I also strongly favor stacking this fight over the main event (which is more typical for DFS since it is 5 rounds instead of 3), since the combined total for this fight is likely to be well over 100 points, whereas the main is no guarantee to break 100 if it goes past the 2nd round.
As I mentioned above, I will have a lot of exposure to Elliott in GPPs as well despite the high expected ownership, but I think that Nguyen is also worth a few shots in GPPs as a leverage play for his price, as it would not shock me if he earned a win on the feet.
Other cash options: Zak Ottow ($9,100), JJ Aldrich ($8,600), Ross Pearson ($7,900)
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.
Ion Cutelaba ($8,900)
Cutelaba has fought some tough competition in his 3 UFC fights with mixed results. After getting submitted late by Misha Cirkunov in his debut, Cutelaba bounced back with a win over Jonathan Wilson using his high-volume striking game, and put his strong wrestling on display in his next fight, landing 6 takedowns in a close decision loss to Jared Cannonier. Cutelaba comes into this matchup with Henrique da Silva as a -280 favorite and has the best inside-the-distance prop on the whole card at -120. Silva showed some potential in his first couple UFC fights, with finishes over Wilson and Joachim Christensen, but really showed his flaws in his last two losses to Paul Craig and Jordan Johnson. Both fighters have an “all-offense, no-defense” type of style, but Cutelaba at least looks to have made steady improvements in his game, while Silva appears to have regressed. Both guys strike at a high volume and are very hittable on the feet, but Cutelaba looks to be the more durable of the two, as he has been able to handle some big shots, while Silva has been rocked multiple times. Cutelaba is the better athlete and will have the advantage in the wrestling game, as Silva has really struggled to stop takedowns and only has a 25% takedown defense in the UFC. The matchup against a weak defensive fighter gives Cutelaba a lot of upside, and I don’t expect him to be too highly owned either, being priced between Derek Brunson and Tim Elliott, which makes him a solid play in GPPs.
Vinc Pichel ($7,800)
Vinc Pichel is coming off a long 3-year hiatus due to injuries, which makes him a big question mark, as it will be difficult to tell how he will look compared to his last appearance in the UFC. Before the injuries, Pichel was a very aggressive kick-boxer who earned a lot of early KO wins prior to entering the UFC. In his two most recent UFC fights, he showed off another impressive element of his game, landing 8 takedowns and 8 advances in back-to-back fights. He is taking on a gritty fighter in Damien Brown in his return to the Octagon and the betting line is now almost even between the two. This gives Pichel excellent odds value, coming in at $600 cheaper than Brown. Brown is a willing opponent and I expect a back-and-forth affair with lots of potential for DFS scoring. Pichel is a risky play due to the injuries and long layoff, but if he fights with the same level of aggression as the last time we saw him, the output and potential to get a win make him a strong tournament play for the price. I think you can also make an argument for using Pichel in cash games, due to the volume and odds value, if you can handle the risk.
Thibault Gouti ($7,400)
Gouti has not had a very impressive start to his UFC career, losing all three contests and getting finished in each of them, but he makes for an interesting punt option in GPPs, taking on another poor defensive fighter in Dong Hyun Kim. Kim is an action fighter, but he is more of a brawler with weak striking defense, while Gouti has fast hands and is the more technical striker. Kim has been finished late in two of his three UFC fights, but appears to be the more durable fighter, as he has been able to withstand much more damage than Gouti. The betting odds suggest this is a much closer fight than the salaries dictate, as Vegas have this fight as even money. I favor Kim to get the win in this fight because of his durability, but with a savings of $1400 I think that Gouti is worth some shots in tournaments for the odds value alone.