The Haymaker – UFC 213: Picks and Analysis

Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. UFC 213 is this Saturday night (6:30pm EST), live from Las Vegas, Nevada. Despite losing two high-profile fights from the card, UFC 213 remains strong on paper, as it features two closely contested title fights in the Women’s Bantamweight division and Middleweight division. There are a couple of heavy favorites up top, but the rest of the fights should be close, with several of them having the potential to end in a finish.

This style of card really lends itself to tournaments in DFS and using a multi-entry approach. With 12 fights to choose from on the card, I will go over my favorite DFS targets in each format to help narrow down your options.

EDITOR’S NOTE: AMANDA NUNES HAS BEEN SCRATCHED DUE TO UNDISCLOSED MEDICAL ISSUES

Main Event: Valentina Shevchenko ($8,200) vs Amanda Nunes ($8,000)

Odds: Shevchenko (-110) Nunes (-110)

Odds to finish: -240

This fight is a rematch from their encounter at UFC 196, last March, which Nunes won by decision. The first fight was a three-round matchup with Nunes dominating the first two rounds and Shevchenko taking over in the third. Nunes won the physical battle early as she landed the better strikes and forced Shevchenko to the mat once they tied up in the clinch. Nunes punished Shevchenko with ground-and-pound strikes before almost locking in a rear naked choke in the second round. To Shevchenko’s credit, she is very tough and managed to withstand that beating.

Nunes gassed in the third round and started shooting for sloppy takedown attempts while Shevchenko got stronger and won the round cleanly. If that had been a five-round fight, it really looked like Shevchenko would have been able to get a finish.

This time around it is a five-round fight for the title and many people are picking Shevchenko to get the win based on the results of the first matchup. I agree with that logic, but I still think that Nunes has more upside from a DFS perspective because of their paths to victory. Nunes is aggressive and dangerous early in fights and is the more likely of the two to score over 100 points in a victory.

Shevchenko is a counter striker who starts slow and is almost too patient early on. She only scored 27 points through three rounds in the first fight, so even if she did get a finish in the later rounds there’s no guarantee that she would score the 80-90+ points that you’ll likely need from her in tournaments. She is very durable though and has proven to have the cardio to go a full five rounds and that gives her an excellent chance to pick up the win if she survives the first couple rounds.

All-in-all, I think that makes Shevchenko the better play in cash games, but I’m currently leaning towards stacking the fight since there are not a lot of safe and affordable options on this card. In tournaments, I will have exposure to both sides because of how close the fight is, but I will be heavier on Nunes for her upside.

Co-Main Event: Robert Whittaker ($8,300) vs Yoel Romero ($7,900)

Odds: Whittaker (-130) Romero (+110)

Odds to finish: -325

This is the fight that I am most looking forward to as a fan. It is a five-round fight for the Interim Middleweight title featuring arguably the two best fighters in the division. Whittaker and Romero have been unstoppable lately as Whittaker has won 7 fights in a row and Romero has won 8 in a row.

Romero is the much older fighter at 40 years old, but he is such an athletic freak that it’s hard to tell just by looking at him. He is a former Olympic freestyle wrestler with explosive power in his hands which makes him very dangerous. 10 of his 12 victories have come via KO, and although he tends to fade in fights, several of those finishes have come in the third round.

The wrestling potential and fight-ending power give Romero a lot of upside, but he is not a very active striker and doesn’t attempt a lot of takedowns, so his floor isn’t great. Whittaker on the other hand, is a kick-boxer who also has a lot of power but strikes at a much higher volume. He has excellent footwork and elite takedown defense (91%) which helps him keep the fight standing.

Whittaker survived repeated takedown attempts from aggressive wrestlers in Jacare Souza and Derek Brunson in his last two fights before using his fluid striking and sharp counters to finish them off early. This seems like a similar matchup on paper and I will once again side with Whittaker as I think he has the necessary tools to defeat an opponent like Romero. I expect him to have the better cardio and have the advantage in the later rounds if there is not an early finish. I will have some shares of Romero in tournaments for his upside mentioned above, but I will be much heavier on Whittaker because of his output and finishing potential.

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.

Curtis Blaydes ($9,500)

Curtis Blaydes is by far the biggest favorite on the card at -800 over Daniel Omielanczuk in a matchup in the Heavyweight division. Blaydes is a powerful wrestler with great stamina and will come into this fight with a huge size advantage (4” height and 6” reach advantage) over Omielanczuk. His stand-up game is still developing, but Blaydes is incredibly tough and was able to withstand some heavy shots from Francis Ngannou in his UFC debut before the fight was called when his eye swelled shut.

Blaydes’s upside was on display in his next two fights, as he manhandled Cody East and Adam Milstead with repeated takedowns and vicious ground-and-pound elbows before finishing both in the second round. He has landed 15 total takedowns in less than 6 full rounds of UFC action and has scored 130 and 126 DK points in his two victories despite not having any first-round finishes. Omielanczuk is probably the better striker on the feet, but he has struggled to stop takedowns and is not very good off his back.

The durability and reach advantage of Blaydes, combined with his takedown and finishing potential, give him the safety and upside to be my top play in both formats.

Belal Muhammad ($8,100)

Belal Muhammad is priced the same as his opponent, Jordan Mein, and yet is a -165 favorite, which gives him excellent odds value. Muhammad has been inconsistent in his 4 UFC fights, but he is a very active fighter, and output and odds value are important factors to focus on for cash games, especially on a card without a lot of safe options.

Muhammad strikes at a very high volume (4.76 SLpM) and mixes in leg kicks and wrestling to slow his opponent’s momentum. His biggest weakness is his striking defense, as he has been very hittable early in his career. Mein is only 27 years old, but is a veteran with over 10 years of fight experience. He briefly retired but returned in December after a 2-year layoff and appeared to be rusty in a decision loss to Emil Meek.

Mein is a kickboxer with the ability to finish fights, but he has struggled against pressure fighters like Muhammad and been weak against body kicks. Based on the styles of both fighters, I expect Muhammad to outwork Mein and earn the decision victory more often than not. His high-output style gives him a solid floor for cash games, and despite his weak defensive game, I am willing to take a shot on him at a very reasonable price. In GPPs, I expect Muhammad to be a popular play given his odds value. Mein should be the lowest owned play in the middle pricing tier and I don’t mind taking a few shots on him in large-field contests as a leverage play due to Muhammad’s inconsistency.

Other cash options: Chad Laprise ($9,300), Anthony Pettis ($8,900), Robert Whittaker ($8,300)

 

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.

Travis Browne ($8,600)

Browne has not looked great lately, losing 4 of his last 5 fights, but those losses were against some of the best fighters in the division and now faces a step down in competition against a 40-year-old Aleksei Oleinik. Browne is a -230 favorite and has the best finish prop on the card at -160. The fight itself is -180 to end in the first round which makes it a strong target in tournaments. Oleinik is an experienced submission specialist who is very aggressive early in fights. He has power in his hands but his striking is not very technical and he leaves openings that Browne can take advantage of with counters. Browne has much better footwork than Oleinik, who is slow and plodding on the feet, so Browne should be able to control the distance.

While the fight is at range, it will allow Browne to use his kick-heavy game plan that he found success with early in his last fight against Derrick Lewis. Browne also has vicious elbows that can cause damage if Oleinik is able to get into the clinch. Oleinik’s best path to victory will be to get the fight to the ground, but Browne has a very solid 83% takedown defense and has never been submitted before. Oleinik’s style gives him finishing upside, so I don’t mind him as a light GPP play, but I will be much heavier on Browne, as I think he has the tools to take advantage of the holes in Oleinik’s striking game. I don’t expect Browne to be too popular, as his recent results and other big names in the middle pricing tier should take some ownership off him despite the excellent finish prop.

Thiago Santos ($8,500) vs Gerald Meerschaert ($7,700)

Odds to Win: Santos (-145) Meerschaert (+125)

Odds to Finish: -485

This striker-vs-grappler matchup has the second-best finish prop on the card and I think both guys are worth targeting in tournaments. Santos is deadly on the feet and has multiple head-kick KO’s in the UFC, while Meerschaert is dangerous on the ground and has 19 career submission victories. Meerschaert has average striking and has never been KO’d in 34 fights, but he will be at a big disadvantage if the fight stays standing.

Santos does not strike a high volume, so he doesn’t have the best floor, but he does have a ton of power in his kicks and the longer he can hang out at range, the better chance he has of landing something damaging. Meerschaert doesn’t have great wrestling, but he has a knack for getting fights to the ground where he can use his versatile submission grappling. Santos does not have the best ground game so I like Meerschaert’s chances of earning a finish if he can get the fight there.

This is a tough fight to pick a winner, so I like having exposure to both sides for their finishing potential, but I slightly prefer Meerschaert as a play because of the price tag and lower expected ownership. If Santos doesn’t end the fight early, then I’m a bit concerned that he won’t be able to pay off his salary with his low-output style.

Trevin Giles ($9,000) vs James Bochnovic ($7,200)

Odds to Win: Giles (-310) Bochnovic (+255)

Odds to Finish: -265

This fight was one of two late additions to the card and features two unknown fighters making their UFC debuts. Giles is a finisher who is 9-0 with 5 submission victories and 3 KO victories. He is very aggressive and fights with a high-risk, high-reward style. Giles has power in his hands and mixes up his attacks well to go along with a relentless ground game, but he is sloppy and has been rocked and given up his back multiple times.

On the one hand, this shows just how durable he is, but on the other it provides Bochnovic with clear paths to victory. Bochnovic has a kick-boxing/muay thai background but has been getting most of his finishes on the ground with 7-straight submission wins. Bochnovic has some power and can take a shot so there is a good chance that this fight turns into a brawl which would be great for DFS scoring.

The best part about this match is that I do not believe either fighter will be very highly owned which makes this a sneaky target for GPPs. Giles is my preferred play because he is the better athlete and is faster with more upside, but I think Bochnovic is worth a shot as well because of all the openings that Giles gives up.

Other GPP options: Rob Font ($9,200), Alistair Overeem ($8,400), Jim Miller ($7,300)

Optimal Cash Game Plays:

  • Darrel Horcher ($9,200)
  • Erik Koch ($8,600)
  • Kevin Lee ($8,200)
  • Jared Gordon ($8,100)
  • Michael Chiesa ($8,000)
  • Justin Kish ($7,900)

Pivots:

  • For Gordon or Kish: Johnny Case ($7,800)