The Haymaker – UFC Fight Night 114: 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 7:00pm EST from Mexico City. The card does not have many household names, but it does feature several close fights with potential for action and the headliner is an exciting Flyweight matchup between Brandon Moreno and Sergio Pettis. The big wildcard here is that the event is taking place at high altitude which greatly affects the cardio of the fighters and introduces a lot more variance than usual. The impact of the altitude is difficult to quantify in each case, but it will keep me from going too heavy on any one fighter. With 12 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: Brandon Moreno ($8,500) vs Sergio Pettis ($7,700)
Odds: Moreno (-170) Pettis (+150)
Odds to Finish: -150
Brandon Moreno has only fought three times in the UFC but is already headlining a Fight Night card in his home country. He has been on a roll since coming off The Ultimate Fighter show and has a lot of hype after upset wins over Louis Smolka and Dustin Ortiz. That should explain why he is a -170 favorite in a fight that is much closer than the betting line suggests. Sergio Pettis has also been on a 3-fight winning streak and shown steady improvement since his KO loss to Ryan Benoit. He was caught on the feet by Benoit but that was the fight that he really started to turn things around and show his true potential. Pettis is a Taekwondo-style, point-fighting champion who strikes at a high volume but has very little power. All 6 of his wins in the UFC have come via decision, so his upside is limited, but I believe that is factored into his price. Moreno is an aggressive striker with a versatile attack, but I give the edge to Pettis on the feet as the more technical striker. Pettis has made improvements in the wrestling game, as his footwork and distance management make him difficult to take down. He has some offensive wrestling but Moreno is dangerous and should have the advantage on the ground. It would make sense for him to keep this one standing, but Pettis has never had the best fight IQ. Moreno is good at creating scrambles and is always looking to take the back. With 10 of his 14 pro wins coming via submission, Moreno is a threat to end the fight every time it hits the ground.
Moreno has the best individual finish prop on the card at +125 and he is clearly the more dangerous combatant in this fight, both on the feet and on the ground. The grappling potential and finishing upside make him a very strong play in both formats for DFS. This fight is difficult to pick a winner, but Moreno is my preferred play in tournaments for his upside and multiple paths to victory. However, I do think that Pettis is a solid tournament play as well, since he has a good chance at picking up the win. If Pettis can stay disciplined and keep the fight standing, then I think he can pick Moreno apart in a five-round decision. He lacks the finishing upside of Moreno, but with five rounds to work with, Pettis can certainly accumulate enough strikes to pay off his salary in a win. Given how many of the other fights on this card are likely to go to decision, I like the idea of stacking this fight in cash games because of the potential for an extra two rounds to work with. As I mentioned above, I have a hard time picking a winner so stacking the fight is the safer approach.
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.
Jack Hermansson ($9,100)
Hermansson is primarily a boxer who is more of a volume puncher (5.17 SLpM) than a power puncher, despite coming off an early finish of Alex Nicholson last fight. He comes in as a -245 favorite over Bradley Scott in a fight that is likely going to be decided on the feet. Scott is also a striker with decent output, but he is slow and does not have great footwork. He doesn’t have very good head movement either, which makes him hittable and easy to counter. Hermansson has a good chin and his speed and volume make him an effective point fighter from the outside. This gives him a nice floor, but I am a little concerned that Scott’s pace will be detrimental to Hermansson’s ceiling, so I prefer him as relatively safe cash option. The fight is expected to go to a decision, so unless Hermansson can surprise with a finish, I think he will have a hard time paying off his salary in tournaments. He is also likely to be popular, so I will look to pivot some of the other options in his price range that have grappling upside such as Bravo, Rinaldi and Yahya.
Jose Quinonez ($8,200)
Quinonez is easily the best value on the card at only $8,200. He is a -255 favorite over Diego Rivas which makes him the second-biggest favorite on the card, yet he is priced just below the average. Rivas is a low-output striker with some power but hasn’t fought in a year and a half. He is very durable, but he has really struggled on the ground through his first two UFC fights. Quinonez used to be a wild brawler on the feet, but he has been making good improvements after training with top guys like Dominick Cruz, and is now more technical with better footwork. Quinonez has a major edge in the grappling game as he has landed 9 takedowns and 11 passes in 6.5 rounds in the UFC, while Rivas has given up 3 takedowns and 12 passes in only 4 rounds. The odds value alone makes Quinonez an obvious cash play, but the potential in the grappling game gives him a nice floor in the event of a loss, along with a ton of upside for the price. I expect him to be one of the highest-owned fighters but I will still have a lot of exposure to him in both formats for the value.
Other cash options: Martin Bravo ($9,200), Alexa Grasso ($8,300), Alejandro Perez ($8,100), Hector Sandoval ($7,400)
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.
Jordan Rinaldi ($9,000)
Rinaldi is a -230 favorite over Alvaro Herrera in a matchup between two guys who haven’t fought in over a year. Rinaldi lost his UFC debut to Abel Trujillo on short notice, but he was competitive and looked good on the ground. He has solid wrestling and transitions very well from striking to grappling. He is especially good at taking the back once he gets his opponents to the ground. Herrera is your prototypical brawler who has struggled against more technical grapplers like Rinaldi. He was taken down repeatedly by Vincente Luque in his last fight and gave up several advances on the ground before finally getting submitted. Herrera is big and slow but he’s durable and has power. He will be moving down from 170 lbs to 155 lbs for this fight and will likely have the size advantage here. Herrera has a shot at an early KO, but if Rinaldi can avoid getting finished then I think he can easily control this fight on the ground and rack up the grappling points with a potential for a submission. I expect him to be the lowest owned fighter in this pricing tier and he makes for a nice pivot to the other popular fighters like Hermansson in tournaments.
Alan Jouban ($8,700) vs Niko Price ($7,500)
Odds: Jouban (-165) Price (+145)
Odds to finish: -205
This bout between two Welterweight strikers has the best finish prop on the card at -205. It’s likely to be a popular target, but on a card with very few expected finishes, I want to have a shot at the 90-point first-round-finish bonus. There are only three fights on the whole card above the 155lb weight class, and the two Middleweight fights feature strikers who prefer to avoid damage and outpoint their opponents from range. Both guys in this contest prefer to push the action and have a tendency to get into fire fights. Price is a known finisher with a 10-0 record (technically 9-0 with a no contest after testing positive for marijuana) with 7 wins by KO/TKO and 2 by submission. He is an aggressive brawler but he is not very technical on the feet and leaves openings to be countered. Price didn’t look great in his last fight against Alex Morono as he was easily countered and dropped twice, but he showed his toughness and survived before landing a KO shot at the end of the second round. He is not as experienced as Jouban, but to his credit, Price is 2-0 in the UFC and has yet to get in a full camp as both fights have been on short notice. Jouban is coming off a loss to Gunnar Nelson in which he was finished early in the second round, but prior to that, he had one of his strongest performances in a win over the dangerous Mike Perry. Jouban is the better technical striker and has faced much tougher competition than Price has. His biggest weakness is his striking defense and he has been rocked in almost every fight, although he often survives and gets stronger as the fight goes on. But Jouban outclassed Perry on the feet while avoiding damage and I think he can find success here by employing a similar game plan. I like Jouban to win the fight as I think his technical advantages and experience will be enough to get the job done against an unpolished Price. He is my preferred play in tournaments, however, I think that Price is also in play because of the killer instinct that he has displayed, combined with Jouban’s shaky chin.
Roberto Sanchez ($8,100) vs Joseph Morales ($8,100)
Odds: Sanchez (-130) Morales (+110)
Odds to finish: -160
This matchup features two relatively unknown fighters making their UFC debut with good potential for DFS scoring and it is likely to be much lower owned than the other $8100 fight. Sanchez is the undefeated Flyweight champion out of LFA while Morales is known for being mentored by Urijah Faber since he was a kid. This is a close fight on paper as both fighters are grappling-based, but they are young and inexperienced so you can expect them to still have holes in their games. Sanchez does not have great wrestling but he is dangerous off his back and most of his wins have come by submission. Neither fighter has great takedown defense, but Morales appears to be well-rounded and is better on the feet with good footwork and boxing. I give Morales the slight edge in this fight and I like him to pick up the win if he can avoid getting caught with a submission. He is my preferred play for tournaments as the underdog, which should result in lower ownership, but I think that some exposure to both sides is a smart play since both have upside in the grappling game and the fight could go either way.
Other GPP options: Martin Bravo ($9,200), Rani Yahya ($8,900), Dustin Ortiz ($8,800)/Hector Sandoval ($7,400)
Optimal Cash Game Plays
Martin Bravo ($9,200)
Jack Hermansson ($9,100)
Brandon Moreno ($8,500)
Alexa Grasso ($8,300)
Jose Quinonez ($8,200)
Sergio Pettis ($7,700)
Hector Sandoval ($7,400)