The Haymaker – UFC Fight Night 116: Picks and Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC has a Fight Night card this Saturday night (at 8pm EST) from Pittsburg, PA. Unfortunately, the UFC has been hit hard by the injury bug lately and we are down to just 10 fights on this card after Thiago Alves and Felipe Arantes pulled out just a few days before the event. The UFC was able to replace Alves and luckily the main event between Luke Rockhold and David Branch is still on, but only having 10 fights makes it very difficult to come up with a unique lineup for DraftKings. This lowers our edge slightly, so I will decrease my action on this card, but there are still some good spots to take advantage of. As usual, I will go over my favorite DFS targets in each format to help narrow down your options in both formats.

Main Event: Luke Rockhold ($9,300) vs David Branch ($6,900)

Odds: Rockhold (-525) Branch (+450)
Odds to Finish: -240

Luke Rockhold is fighting for the first time in 15 months since losing the Middleweight title to Michael Bisping in a big upset. Bisping is not known for his power but he was able to catch Rockhold with his hands down and KO’d him early in the first round. Rockhold was a heavy favorite but was far too cocky going into that fight and was dealing with a serious knee injury. He’s taken plenty of time off and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back here against David Branch. Branch is a former WSOF champion with a good all-around wrestling game and a black belt in BJJ. He’s not very aggressive on the feet but he is a strong defensive fighter and that allows him to hang around in fights. This is a big step up in competition for Branch though, as Rockhold is arguably a top-3 fighter in the division and this is seen as a tune-up fight for him before he gets back into facing title contenders. Rockhold is a versatile striker with powerful kicks and is also a high level BJJ black belt. He should have a slight grappling advantage over Branch but I don’t expect him to dominate there. This is Rockhold’s fight to lose, but the big question marks are how his chin will respond after being KO’d and if he will have any ring rust after the layoff.

From a DK perspective, I think Rockhold makes for a decent play in both formats. He’s a heavy favorite in a 5-round fight and has earned several finishes throughout his UFC career. The downside is his salary and the presence of other talented fighters in his price range. Rockhold is favored to finish inside the distance, but as I mentioned above, Branch has a strong defensive game and Rockhold may be hesitant early coming off the KO loss, so there’s a good chance this one gets to the later rounds. This makes Branch a solid play in cash games at his very cheap price tag as he can still put up some points in a loss with a couple takedowns and a few strikes. Branch is a low volume striker though, so his ceiling is a bit capped if he can’t land an early KO. He has some power in his hands but hasn’t earned a first or second round KO in almost 10 years so I don’t think it’s a very likely outcome. I don’t think he is a great tournament play without much upside, but this is a tricky card with only 10 fights, so it’s entirely possible he can still end up in the winning lineup in a loss.

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.

Kamaru Usman ($9,200)

Usman is the heaviest favorite on the card at -750 over Sergio Moraes, yet is only the third-highest priced fighter. He is an elite wrestler and a cardio machine, which lets him fight at a high pace for the full 3 rounds. Usman can dominate in the grappling game if he chooses, having landed 20 takedowns through his 5 UFC fights. He has also used his high-volume striking game in recent fights against opponents with strong ground games. Moraes is an elite BJJ black belt and is really only dangerous on the ground, so it’s likely that Usman will want to keep this fight standing. Moraes is a low-output striker who throws big shots but no combos so Usman has a great chance to be ahead on the scorecards if this fight goes to a decision. Usman is not much of a finisher, but his pace and output gives him a very high floor, so I love him in cash games. I do expect him to be the highest-owned fighter in the $9k+ range so I prefer options like Gillespie, Rockhold, and Ledet in GPPs because of Usman’s low finish prop and lowered takedown expectation.

Mike Perry ($8,500)

Mike Perry was supposed to take on Thiago Alves but Alves pulled out of the fight this week leaving newcomer Alex Reyes to take his place on just 3 days notice. Since Alves pulled out of the fight after salaries were released, DK replaced Alves with Reyes at the same $7700 price tag. Perry moved to a -450 favorite vs Reyes and remains at the same price on DK, which gives him excellent odds value. Reyes is a former King of the Cage champion with a 13-2 record and 11 first round finishes. He fought just 3 weeks ago after a 2-year layoff, but the biggest issue is that he has fought his whole career at Lightweight and will be moving up to Welterweight for this fight on short notice. He is a grappling-based fighter, but doesn’t have the best wrestling technique and hasn’t faced anyone of Perry’s calibre before. Perry is an aggressive striker with a lot of power and has 3 KO wins in 4 UFC fights. He is very athletic and is hard to take down unless you can tire him out at the end of fights. Perry tends to leave his hands down and is very hittable, but he has shown a great chin against some heavy hitters throughout his UFC career. I expect Perry to keep this fight standing and eventually pick Reyes apart on the feet. I don’t normally target guys like Perry in cash games, but he is underpriced and unlikely to get finished so I feel like he is a safe option in this spot and has tons of upside as well. I do expect Perry to be the highest-owned fighter on the card in GPPs (likely to push 70% ownership with only 10 fights), but I have a hard time fading him at this price because of his upside.

Other cash options: Gregor Gillespie ($9,400), Gilbert Burns ($8,300), Tony Martin ($7,800)

 

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.

Gregor Gillespie ($9,400)

Gillespie is a -450 favorite over Jason Gonzalez and is the highest-priced fighter on the card. He is priced just above other popular options in Rockhold and Usman at slightly lower odds and that should result in lower ownership. However, Gillespie has just as much upside as Rockhold and Usman, if not more, so he makes for an excellent GPP option at the top end. Gillespie is an Olympic-level wrestler who is very active and capable of putting up huge scores in the grappling game. He landed 5 takedowns and 8 advances over Glaico Franca in his UFC debut and showed off his surprising power with an early KO win over Andrew Holbrook in his next fight. Gonzalez is primarily a submission grappler and is aggressive on the feet. He is 5” taller than Gillespie and will have a reach advantage, but his height and aggression have made him very easy to take down. He got KO’d by Drew Dober early in his UFC debut and was dominated on the ground by JC Cottrell early in his next fight before finding a submission. I’m not confident that Gillespie will be able to pull off another early KO victory in this fight, but I do expect him to take down Gonzalez at will as he is a much better wrestler than Cottrell. With DK scoring being so heavily weighted towards grappling, I think Gillespie has a great chance to put up the highest score on the card if he can avoid the submission attempts from Gonzalez. Given the reduced number of fights on the card, I also don’t mind taking a shot or two on Gonzalez in GPPs as a punt option if you are playing multiple lineups. I don’t expect him to win, but he is aggressive and will have a reach advantage on the feet so I think he has a bit more upside than Branch, Moraes or Anyanwu.

Hector Lombard ($8,100) vs Anthony Smith ($8,100)

Odds: Lombard (+120) Smith (-130)
Odds to finish: -325

This fight has the second-best finish prop on the card and both fighters are very reasonably priced at $8100 so that makes it a great target in GPPs. Lombard is strong wrestler with a lot of power in his hands but is getting up there in age and likely needs a win here to keep his UFC career alive. He is very athletic and fast but has no gas tank and routinely fades after an early burst. Lombard has lost 3 fights in a row and his chin seems to be going as well. He started very strong in his losses to Neil Magny and Dan Henderson and nearly finished those fights early before gassing out hard and getting KO’d in the later rounds. Lombard lost his next fight against Johny Hendricks and didn’t look great, but his wrestling was solid and was able to pace himself better in the decision loss. Smith on the other hand, is coming off back-to-back KO wins against lower level competition. He’s more of a volume striker, but will have a substantial 7” height and 5” reach advantage over Lombard. Smith has good distance striking but is hittable and has also been finished multiple times throughout his career. He has the better ground game but his takedown defense is poor and Lombard should be able to take him down early if he chooses. Money has come in on Smith over the last few days and he is now a -130 favorite, but this fight is still tough to call. Both guys are capable of knocking the other guy out, with Lombard having the edge early and Smith having the edge in the later rounds. Lombard will have the wrestling advantage while Smith will have the cardio and reach advantage. If I was only playing one lineup I would probably go with Lombard because I expect him to be lower owned and is the most likely to get the early KO, combined with some takedown upside. He is hard to trust though, so I will most likely just split my lineups between the two and have somewhat equal shares.

Other GPP options: Justin Ledet ($9,100), Anthony Hamilton ($8,800)/Mark Spitz ($7,400) (Low Exposure), Uriah Hall ($7,300)

Optimal Cash Game Plays