This is a great PPV card that features two title fights (both five rounds) and some very competitive and high-level fighters looking to vault themselves up the rankings. This is likely the best card so far this year and will possibly be the best UFC card of the entire year, so make sure you check it out if you can. And as always, if you’re looking to play fantasy MMA make sure you check out both Kountermove and DraftKings. My previews always target fighters for use on both sights and both carry lots of great fantasy MMA action.
Outside of the main event there’s a lot of overwhelming favourites on this card and picking and choosing the best underdogs to use will be key. You don’t need to target stoppage victories from all your underdogs, but you should try to identify one or two who can get his or her fight to the judges and possibly win a decision. Underdogs who win (by any means) will be massive for fantasy given the fantasy pricing on this card. Additionally, you will have to be picky about what favourites you use and will want to target those who have the best chances of scoring a quick TKO or stoppage. There’s no sense in paying up for a big ticket fighter unless they produce, and to win a big gpp you’ll need every last point you can get. I’ve therefore tried to identify the fighters (favourites and underdogs) with the most plumb matchups who will have the best shot at getting you some big points.
Anthony Johnson (+120) v Daniel Cormier (-121)
This was supposed to be Anthony Johnson v Jon Jones (the former light heavyweight champion) but Jones’ cocaine issues and recent hit and run arrest have left him suspended from the UFC. I must say, I am kind of shocked how both the fantasy sites and Vegas have this fight. Cormier is actually the betting favorite in this one and the more highly-priced fighter on DraftKings and Kountermove… and I can’t figure out why. Johnson has essentially decimated the Light Heavyweight division in the past year or so. He badly beat-up and TKO’d Alexander Gustafsson, the fighter everyone seemed to think had the best chance of beating Jon Jones, and now gets Cormier, whom Jones beat pretty decisively (and while using cocaine apparently). And he’s still the underdog? I actually thought Johnson had about a 50/50 shot of beating Jones and seeing him as the underdog in this fight makes me think it is almost too good to be true. Vegas is not usually wrong but unless they know about an injury I don’t I see Johnson crushing this fight and becoming the next Light Heavyweight champion of the world. At his discounted price, Anthony Johnson is by far and away the best option on this card for me.
Islam Makhachev (-320)
Makhachev is my number one option to get a quick finish amoung the favourites this week. On top of being a former lightweight champion of M-1 he’s also just a fantastic athlete who has looked great both as a striker and in the grappling game. His opponent is Chris Kuntz who will also be making his UFC debut but with much less fanfare. I see Makhachev as the better fighter in every area of this matchup and view this fight as his to lose. This is the epitome of a company trying to promote one of their hotter prospects by lobbing them a softball in their first at bat, take advantage for fantasy this weekend as Makhachev is affordable on Kountermove and DraftKings.
Uriah Hall is always one second away from landing a KO, that is how fast and good a striker he is. Hall looked great in his last fight which he finished without barely breaking a sweat. Hall is facing a veteran fighter in Natal whom he severely outclasses from a striking standpoint. If Natal can limit Hall’s movement he could grind out a decision, but I don’t see that happening very often. All Hall needs is one or two good combo’s and this fight is essentially over. I like the potential for Hall to land the early victory and score some big fantasy points, he’s pricy but fit him in where you can.
Dodson is going to be carrying a huge advantage in the striking department in this fight and is, by default, going to have a high chance of landing an early round win. Dodson’s been off for a year rehabbing from a knee injury so I suppose there is some concern he is a bit rusty, but before his layoff Dodson was seen as one of best strikers in his division. I don’t think Makovsky offers a serious threat in this fight and even if he can get the fight to the ground, I doubt he’ll be able to keep it there for three rounds. I think Dodson’s a great pick for fantasy this week.
Whenever there’s a heavyweight fight with two decent strikers involved you need to consider targeting both sides for fantasy, and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this weekend. Browne is the heavy favourite in this fight and quite frankly I think his opponent (Arlovski) offers more value. But the truth is that Browne likely has the better chance of landing the win here. Browne is a big, is pretty light on his feet and carries some serious power. He’s transformed himself into a more all-around fighter recently and even though he excels at stand-up, he’s good in the clinch as well. All Browne needs to win this fight is to land one big power shot, and he’s more than capable of doing so. Even though I could see him losing I do think Browne has an equally as good shot at landing a first round KO (as he does at being upset), so make sure you get some exposure to him in your DFS lineups.
Weidman’s price kind of stinks this week for fantasy purposes, but I couldn’t finish my write up without mentioning him. Weidman is the Middleweight champion who will be taking on the great Vitor Belfort. Weidman is simply one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world right now and after smashing through Anderson Silva twice it’s hard to see him having too much trouble with Belfort. Belfort’s been on a roll of late and he does have the striking ability to end a fight, but Weidman has proved he can take a shot form the best already. He’s just too dominant in every area of this fight that outside of a complete misstep you should see a decisive victory here. For fantasy purpose I will try to get some Weidman exposure even if his price is a tad expensive.
In terms of potential underdog winners this weekend I think targeting the woman’s straw-weight division is a good idea. Since the division is relatively new the fighters are still setting a pecking order, so to speak, and I think that makes Ansaroff a good play this week. Ansaroff really seems like a good all-around fighter who does carry good power for her size. Even though her opponent is a highly-touted prospect, Ansaroff should likely not be as big an underdog as she is and I see this as a very even match that could go either way. I really like Ansaroff’s value for fantasy purposes as she is just as likely as her opponent to score a victory, but comes in at a much lessor price.
I mentioned Travis Browne above and now here is my case for his opponent. Arlovski has been around MMA for a while and recently has climbed back into the heavyweight title picture. Arlovski is at a size disadvantage in this fight but will also carry a speed and striking advantage: he’s an active striker who still carries enough power to land the KO (as he did in his last fight). Arlovski’s looked very good in his last few fights and his opponent, Browne, may be higher ranked but is nowhere near unbeatable. I see this as a close match and for Arlovski’s price I think he’s one of the best value plays this week because if he wins, it will likely come before the final bell.
I like the setup and the fantasy price-tag on Josh Burkman this weekend. Burkman looked solid in his last fight against Hector Lombard. Even though he may not carry the upside of some of the other underdogs on the card (in terms of fantasy potential) I think Burkman should outwork Kim on the feet and be able to score a decision victory. Given Kim’s recent aggressive style there even exists the possibility he leaves himself open to getting finished early (again). I really like Burkman at his price and think he makes for a good play considering the amount of heavy favourites on this card.