The Haymaker – UFC on Fox 25: Picks and Analysis
Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC has a free TV card this Saturday night (6:30pm EST) from Long Island, New York. The card is stacked with mid-level grapplers and is headlined by a Middleweight matchup between Kelvin Gastelum and local favorite, Chris Weidman. One big difference to note this week is that DraftKings salaries were released before the Vegas odds, so there are a few pricing discrepancies to take advantage of from a value perspective. With 13 fights to choose from, I will go over my favorite DFS targets in each format to help narrow down your options in both formats.
Main Event: Kelvin Gastelum ($8,400) vs Chris Weidman ($7,800)
Odds: Gastelum (-160) Weidman (+150)
Odds to Finish: -185
This fight is a matchup between two Middleweights going in opposite directions. Gastelum has looked impressive in two fights since moving up to Middleweight and his only two UFC losses in 11 fights have come by split decision. Weidman on the other hand, has been brutally KO’d in 3 straight fights leaving many to proclaim that he’s washed up. However, when looking closer at those recent fights, the level of competition is much different. Weidman lost to the division’s elite in Rockhold, Romero, and Mousasi, while Gastelum has been defeating aging veterans (actually washed up guys) like Hendricks, Kennedy and Belfort. This has certainly swayed public opinion and is likely the reason that Gastelum is as big a favorite as -160. In my opinion, this fight is much closer on paper and should be even money on the betting line.
Gastelum has been making a lot of improvements in his striking game recently and looks much more technical and quicker on the feet. He has a decent grappling game and good scrambling, but has struggled to stop takedowns against more accomplished wrestlers. Gastelum was always a big Welterweight and had a hard time making that weight cut, but looks much better overall now that he’s made the move to 185 lbs. Unfortunately, he is now undersized for the division and will be giving up a massive 5” in height and 7” of reach to Weidman, who is a large Middleweight. Weidman is an elite wrestler and is much better than Gastelum’s recent competition, but he has cardio issues and is not a great striker. He looked good early in his losses to Romero and Mousasi, but slowed down and was eventually caught with power shots in both fights.
This fight is a tough one for me to call so I am likely to have exposure to both sides in DFS. Weidman has the better wrestling and a massive size advantage so he has a good chance of controlling the fight early. If he wins, it’s likely by landing multiple takedowns and controlling the fight on the ground. Gastelum has the better striking game and much better cardio. He doesn’t have as much power as Romero, Rockhold, or Mousasi, but he’s finished both fights at 185 and Weidman may be returning too soon from his latest KO. If the fight gets to the later rounds, I think Gastelum has a good chance of putting Weidman away. Both scenarios should see the winner score high enough to pay off their reasonable salaries in GPPs so I will target both sides somewhat evenly. I expect Weidman to be the lower owned fighter based on recent results, so I would probably go with him if only playing one lineup. In cash games, I am not confident in picking a winner, so I think stacking the fight is a good option, although it is not necessary with all the value on the card.
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.
Jimmie Rivera ($8,300)
Rivera is a -210 favorite against Thomas Almeida in what should be a very exciting matchup between two fighters with a combined 42-2 record. I expected the betting line to be a lot closer, but it has really moved in Rivera’s favor since it opened, and I agree with that because I think he is the better all-around fighter. Rivera has good boxing with a little power to go along with world-class wrestling. He is a very fast starter and looks to have solved his previous cardio issues in recent fights. Almeida is a very talented fighter with a diverse striking arsenal, but he is a notoriously slow starter and is sloppy defensively. He is resilient, but has been dropped multiple times and even finished in his only loss to Cody Garbrandt. Almeida doesn’t have great takedown defense and I think that’s an area where Rivera can take advantage. Almeida is very dangerous and I think that makes him worth a shot in GPPs, but I am confident in Rivera’s overall game that I am comfortable using him in cash. I also like Rivera in GPPs because this should be a high-paced fight and he has a reasonable chance at earning a finish, but I do expect him to be popular because of his odds value.
Eryk Anders ($7,400)
Eryk Anders is making his UFC debut on short notice against the veteran, Rafael Natal, yet is a -125 favorite, which gives him excellent odds value. Anders is a former college football player and is an incredible athlete. He is not the most technical striker or wrestler, but he is very powerful and uses the brute force approach in both areas. Natal is the more experienced fighter, but has been KO’d multiple times, including his most recent loss to Tim Boetsch at UFC 205. Natal has the advantage in the grappling game and will likely try to get this fight to the ground, but I can see him struggling to get takedowns against the stronger and more athletic Anders. Anders is probably best used as a GPP play because of his finishing upside and lack of experience, but I will also use him in cash games because he is a favorite at a very cheap price tag.
Other cash options: Jeremy Kennedy ($9,100), Shane Burgos ($8,700), Chris Wade ($8,600)
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.
Shane Burgos ($8,700) vs Godofredo Pepey ($7,500)
Odds: Burgos (-390) Pepey (+320)
Odds to Finish: -350
Burgos is another beneficiary of the early pricing, as he is the heaviest favorite on the card, yet is priced at a very reasonable $8,700. His opponent, Pepey, is an “all-offense, no-defense” type of fighter, who has several first round finishes (subs and flying knees) and several first round losses (mostly KO/TKO) on his record. Pepey is a very flashy striker and has a sneaky submission game, but he is very hittable and easy to finish. Burgos is the more technical and higher-volume striker with a lot of power. He has won both of his UFC fights, including a third-round finish of Charles Rosa, who is tough and hard to finish. Burgos has the best finish prop on the whole card at -165, and his chances of an early KO make him a strong GPP option. I do expect Burgos to be one of the highest-owned fighters on the whole card, however, so I don’t mind taking a couple shots on Pepey as a leverage play in GPPs. Burgos’s takedown defense hasn’t really been tested and Pepey may be able to sneak in a quick submission if Burgos makes a mistake.
Chase Sherman ($8,900) vs Damian Grabowski ($7,300)
Odds: Sherman (-255) Grabowski (+215)
Odds to finish: -350
Neither of these Heavyweights is very talented, but there’s a good chance that Grabowski is the worst in the division. He is submission grappler who has yet to put those skills to use in the UFC, as he has been KO’d 2:14 and 0:14 into the first round of both his fights. Sherman is not very good either, as he has no head movement and is very hittable on the feet, but it’s clear that he has the much better chin. Sherman strikes at a high volume and has very powerful leg kicks, so I like his chances of getting a KO against a guy who folds easy if the fight stays standing. Sherman has the second-best finish prop on the card, which is sure to make him a popular option in GPPs, but I will still have exposure to him for the 100-point upside. I think there’s a good chance that Grabowski comes in as the lowest-owned fighter on the card, so I don’t mind taking a flyer on him. We haven’t seen what Sherman’s ground game looks like, so if Grabowski can avoid getting finished immediately for a change, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was able to get the fight to the ground and lock in a submission.
Gian Villante ($8,100) vs Patrick Cummins ($8,100)
Odds: Villante (-165) Cummins (+145)
Odds to finish: -140
The betting line for this fight opened up dead even, but has since swung heavily in Villante’s favor. Villante is brawler with most of his wins and losses coming by way of KO. Cummins is a strong wrestler, but he gets hit a ton and takes a lot of damage. He has a weak chin and has been KO’d in three of his last five fights. Villante has more finishing potential and has the much better win odds at the same price tag, which makes him a strong value play in GPPs. However, he does have poor ring IQ and is not very reliable, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Cummins controlled this fight with his wrestling. Cummins has upside in the grappling game and I expect him to be lower owned because of the betting odds. I will have exposure to both sides in GPPs as a result.
Other GPP options: Brian Kelleher ($9,200), Dennis Bermudez ($8,700), Eryk Anders ($7,400)