The Haymaker – UFC on FOX 24: Picks & Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC is back this weekend with another UFC on Fox card from Kansas City, MO. The card is headlined by one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, who is looking to tie Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive title defenses. The rest of the card is solid from top to bottom and I think it’s even better than last week’s PPV card. There are a lot of heavy favorites at the top of the pricing range, leaving very few live dogs, which will make for some difficult lineup decisions. With so many options available this week for DFS, I will go over my favorite targets in each format to help make these decisions a little easier.

Main Event: Demetrious Johnson ($9,800) vs Wilson Reis ($6,400)

Odds: Johnson (-840) Reis (+660)

Odds to finish: -125

Demetrious Johnson is a massive -840 favorite over challenger Wilson Reis in a battle for the Flyweight Championship. Despite running through most of the division with relative ease, Johnson will be motivated to tie Silva’s record with his 10th-consecutive title defense. Johnson is the heaviest favorite on the card, and the most expensive fighter at an alarming $9,800 salary, but he is elite in every area and routinely scores over 100 DK points each time out. Reis is a worthy adversary in the grappling department, as he has a strong takedown game and a black belt in BJJ, but he has yet to fight anyone of Johnson’s calibre. Reis is dangerous on the ground, but his biggest weakness is on the feet, as he is hittable early in fights and does not have great head movement. Johnson is not known for his power, but he is a much better striker, with excellent footwork and angles. If Johnson decides to keep this fight standing, it takes away a little from the scoring that can be had in the grappling game. Reis has been knocked down in 4 of his last 7 fights though, so even if Johnson cannot land the KO on the feet, he does have a chance to land multiple knockdowns, which are worth 10 points each.

The big question with this fight is deciding whether you want to pay the steep price tag for Johnson. Looking at his last 10 fights on DK, he has scored between 100 and 120 points 6 times, with a low of 94 points and a high of a ridiculous 173 points. A floor of 94 points is exceptional and makes Johnson a very strong cash game play. Given the quality of his opponent in this matchup, I think a repeat of the 173-point performance is a little out of the question, but a reasonable ceiling for Johnson would be somewhere in the 110- to 130-point range. Given the finishing potential of multiple fighters priced just below him, I think you would need him to hit this ceiling to be in the winning tournament lineup. I expect Mighty Mouse to be popular at lower stakes, as people tend to gravitate to the bigger names in the main event and equate salary to expected performance. In higher stakes however, where people are more price- and odds-sensitive, I think he will be lower owned, with fighters like Zak Cummings and Tom Duquesnoy priced below him with better finish odds. As a result, I will be underweight on him in lower stakes GPPs and overweight on him in higher stakes GPPs compared to the field.

While I don’t think he has a very good chance of winning the fight, Reis does have a decent chance of putting up a respectable score in relation to his salary, which is enough to use him as a punt option in either format. Johnson was taken down multiple times in his most recent fight against Tim Elliott, and his excellent scrambling ability allows for more opportunities for Reis to score points in the grappling game. A score of around 30 points in a decision loss would be enough to pay off Reis’s extremely low salary in cash games, and would allow you to fit multiple heavy favorites in your lineups. I’m not as excited to punt with him in tournaments, since you often need 6 wins to take down a GPP, but there are rare occurrences where it could work – specifically if the mid- and low-priced fighters do not put up big scores.

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.

On a card with a lot of heavy favorites, I typically like to avoid the lower pricing tiers and focus on more of a balanced lineup in cash games. However, on this card, there are not a lot of “safe” options in the mid- or low-pricing tier. This forces us to take on a bit more risk in cash games than usual. With the added risk, I will also lower the amount I have in cash games on this card.

Tom Duquesnoy ($9,300)

Tom Duquesnoy is a very highly-touted young prospect from France, making his UFC debut against the older Patrick Williams, who hasn’t fought in nearly 2 years due to injury. Duquesnoy was the Bantamweight Champion in BAMMA, and his hype precedes him as the betting line has jumped to an astronomical -840 in his favor. This ties him with Mighty Mouse as the largest favorite on the card, yet he comes at a $500 discount. Duquesnoy is an extremely well-rounded Muay Thai striker with a solid ground game. He is an athletic fighter, with lots of speed and power, and is also a known finisher, which is impressive for the 135lb division. Williams is a decent wrestler and has some power. He is a good athlete as well, but he comes out super aggressive and is not very technical on the feet. This makes him likely to get caught with a well-placed shot or eventually gas out. Duquesnoy has the best finish prop on the card at -240, and I think he gets the job done in the first or second round, once he weathers the early storm from Williams. The odds and finishing upside make Duquesnoy a solid option in both cash games and GPPs, and give you a great alternative should you choose not to pay up for Mighty Mouse.

Alex Volkov ($8,100)

Volkov is not a play that I typically like to make in cash games, as I usually avoid Heavyweight fights, but given the alternatives in his price range, I think you can make a case for him in this spot. Sure, you could look to the Namajunas/Waterson fight, as each fighter has a lower risk of being finished, but that fight is the closest one on the card and it will be difficult to pick the winner. Instead, I like taking the -150 win odds of Volkov against Roy Nelson at the same price. Volkov has a massive 7” height and 8” reach advantage over Nelson, and will use it to stay on the outside and attack from a distance with stiff jabs and kicks. Nelson is known for having a great chin, so Volkov is not likely to get the finish here, but he has a great chance at a decision win if he can avoid getting caught. Nelson has some slight appeal as a GPP play in this matchup, because if he can get inside range, he can land a KO shot or take the taller fighter down. Nelson is slow and plodding on the feet though, so I think it’s more likely that Volkov will be able to keep him at a distance and earn the victory.

Other cash options: Tim Elliott ($9,000), Andrew Sanchez ($8,900), Robert Whittaker ($7,500)

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.

Jacare Souza ($8,700) vs Robert Whittaker ($7,500)

Odds: Souza (-170) Whittaker (+155)

Odds to finish: -245

This is a fight that I will be targeting heavily on both sides in GPPs. It has the 2nd-best finish prop on the card, and both fighters are reasonably priced. Whittaker is coming of a first-round KO victory over Derek Brunson and has won 6 fights in a row overall, while Jacare has only lost once in his UFC career, and that was by a questionable split decision against Yoel Romero. Jacare is known as one of the best fighters in the division, and one of the best submission grapplers of all time. He is not a high-volume striker, but he is capable on the feet and packs a lot of power. Jacare is great at backing his opponents into the cage and doing damage from the clinch before taking them to the ground.

Whittaker is the much younger and more athletic fighter. He is quicker on the feet and throws at a high volume, but also packs power in his hands and is a strong counter puncher. What gives him his best chance for the upset though, is his very impressive 93% takedown defense, which will be tested early and often in this fight. If Whittaker can keep this fight standing, then I like his chances of earning the KO victory, but if Jacare can get him to the ground then it will be over quickly.

Whittaker makes for a strong play in both formats because of his price. There are not a lot of high-upside options in his price range, so I will be taking quite a few shots on him in tournaments. In cash games, he carries a lot of risk because of Jacare’s ability to finish fights quickly, but his takedown defense is strong enough that I think he can keep the fight standing long enough to give him a chance. He also strikes at a high enough volume to pay off his cheap salary if this one goes to a decision. Based lack of solid options in his price range and the movement of the betting line, I suspect Whittaker will be a popular play in DFS. Despite being the bigger name, I think this will take some ownership off Jacare, as people will use Whittaker to afford some of the higher priced favorites on the card. This in turn makes Jacare a stronger GPP play than his odds suggest, as he will be harder to fit into lineups.

Devin Clark ($8,300) vs Jake Collier ($7,900)

Odds: Clark (-140) Collier (+130)

Odds to finish: -230

This fight is just behind the Jacare/Whittaker fight as the third-most likely to finish inside the distance. Each fighter is likely to go lower owned as well, considering they are priced right around the co-main event of Namajunas and Waterson, who will be much more popular. Each fighter has defensive weaknesses, as Collier has been a finish-or-be-finished type of fighter in his UFC career, while Clark showed a weak chin in his UFC debut. Clark dominated the early going of his debut fight against Alex Nicholson, but got caught once with an awkward shot and was put to sleep. He looked to take damage a little better in his win over Josh Stansbury, but the chin remains a question mark. Clark is the more athletic fighter in this matchup, and should have the size and strength advantage over Collier. He is the better wrestler, but will be in danger if this one stays standing. Collier has been KO’d twice in 4 UFC fights, but also won his most recent fight over Alberto Uda via second-round KO. Collier prefers to strike and uses his wrestling mainly to keep the fight standing. He strikes at a high volume and likes to mix in variations of kicks at distance.

This fight is close to call but I like having exposure to both sides in GPPs due to the upside and low ownership. Collier would be my preferred play because of the savings, but I will probably spread my ownership out equally between both.

Other GPP options: Zak Cummings ($9,400), Tom Duquesnoy ($9,300), Renato Moicano ($7,600)