Daily Fantasy Knockout: UFC Gdansk DraftKings Picks
The UFC’s latest expedition to Poland lacks star power – and even a Pole in the main event – but the main event still kicks like a mule. Some are wondering if “Cowboy” Cerrone is cooked, undone by his seemingly unsustainable activity, war after war behind him, and the first two-fight skid of his career (read on for my take!). Opposite him stands undefeated British southpaw Darren Till, a confident up-and-comer with crushing power from his strong left side. Elsewhere, there are several intriguing fighters making their big-show debuts, and established Polish stars Marcin Held and Karolina Kowalkiewicz try to right their respective ships in forgiving matchups in front of the hometown crowd. The card may not wow casuals, but 12 solid scraps Saturday morning/afternoon on Fight Pass (think no miserable FS1 pacing keeping us up until the wee hours of the morning) make this appointment viewing for hardcore fans.
If you are new to playing fantasy MMA on DK, here are the scoring criteria. They changed a few months ago to try to balance out striking and grappling (lots of significant strikes used to be much more important), but DK over-compensated. Takedowns and passes are what we want to target now, in some cases even more than finishes. A note on terminology: “cash” games are 50/50s, double-ups, and head-to-heads where you only need to be in the top half to win, so you want to stay safe with your picks (high floor). Tournaments or “gpps” (guaranteed prize pools) are contests where you want to take more risks because you’re trying to have the very best lineup. Differentiating yourself from the pack is important.
Before we dive in, let me shamelessly plug my MMA DFS podcast, Daily Fantasy Knockout, which you can find on YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, etc. Shoutout to my co-host, Drew (@whodeany16) who helped with the analysis. If you’re not able to read through this entire breakdown (though I encourage you to!), give it a listen.
Let’s get to it.
Fight Pass Main Card
Welterweights Donald Cerrone vs. Darren Till
The Pick: Cerrone by 4th-round submission.
Cerrone has been on a slide, but he’s facing top-five, top-ten fighters have welterweight who have the combination punching, speed, aggression, and experience that Till lacks. Till is a powerful southpaw with a forceful left straight and left kick, but he throws too little. His best strike is his pull-counter cross, a la Conor McGregor. But he has a tendency of watching his work after landing a big shot rather than following up. His wrestling is pretty solid and he has nasty ground and pound, particularly his elbows. But Cerrone is a class above on the ground, can probably hit a takedown or two, and is a much more active and diverse striker. He should force Till into a more high-volume affair than is customary for the Englishman, which could make things dangerous for Cerrone. Many people may be off the Cowboy bandwagon, but his chin still held up well under heavy fire from Robbie Lawler. He still has all the same weaknesses he’s always had: he starts slow, doesn’t respond well to heavy pressure, and can be hurt to the body. But Till doesn’t figure to really test him in any of those areas. Cerrone should be able to outland Till on the feet and out-wrestle and out-position him on the mat. He’ll have to survive some big shots and it may take him a while to break Till down, but Cerrone should get a finish a little way past the midpoint of the fight.
Prices and Odds:
Cerrone: $8500 (-150, +145 Inside Distance Prop)
Till: $7700 (+130, +249 IDP)
I like Cerrone in all formats. He’s going to be popular, but I think he’s worth is for only 8.5k. Even if he takes a decision, he should be able to land enough volume to score close to 100 points. The five rounds in the main event always helps and makes it a fight to target. I’m not all that interested in Till other than as a hedge to my heavy Cerrone exposure. When Till wins decisions, it’s by stealing otherwise competitive rounds with big moments, like a knockdown or obviously rocking his opponent. A) I think Cerrone is going to throw so much more volume I don’t know if one big moment will be enough to steal back a round, and more importantly B) I don’t see him being able to rock/drop Cerrone in three of five rounds. This means Till likely needs a finish – probably early before Cerrone gets into a rhythm and starts breaking him down. The big left body kick has hurt Cerrone before, so it’s possible. I just don’t think it’s very likely. Cerrone has proven he’s not quite championship material, but he’s also repeatedly shown he can dominate guys who aren’t at that level either.
Since I see this fight going into the latter rounds, I don’t hate stacking this fight in cash; Till should score OK. His volume has traditionally been an issue, but Cerrone staying in his face will force him to strike more. But I might just go lower than Till and look for someone I think is more likely to win, like Lobov, Lansberg, or Wilson.
Strawweights Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jodie Esquibel
The Pick: Kowalkiewicz by decision.
I think the UFC is giving Karolina a cake fight in her backyard to get her back on track here. I haven’t seen much of Esquibel or read much to make me think she has a chance. The Jackson-Wink product is tough and gritty, but lacks a dominant skill set or raw physicality to give Kowalkiewicz problems. Karolina has lost to two of the best three strawweights in the world, exposing some of her limitations. But she’s still fought and beaten much better competition and should have the advantage in almost every area. Karolina should storm here on her way to a UD.
Prices and Odds:
Kowalkiewicz: $9500 (-470, +255 Inside Distance Prop)
Esquibel: $6700 (+375, +975 IDP)
I’m not interested in Kowalkiewicz for her price here. She would need an early finish or tons of grappling points to pay off, and neither is likely. If I’m making ten lineups, I might have Karolina in 1-2 of them in case she absolutely bulldozes Esquibel. She’s going to be low-owned. I don’t think Esquibel has much of a chance to win, but she might not be a bad cash punt. If she goes the distance, she’ll score at least 20 points with a ceiling of 45 or so.
Light Heavyweights Jan Blachowicz vs. Devin Clark
The Pick: Clark by decision.
This fight should be shades of Blachowicz’s last bout against Patrick Cummins, and similarly close. Blachowicz’s Achilles heels so far in the UFC have been his takedown defense and lack of output on the feet. He’s a solid kickboxer and can hurt opponents, as he felled Ilir Latifi with a body kick, hurt Alexander Gustafsson and dropped Cummins multiple times. But he lost the latter two bouts because he couldn’t stay off his back or make up the difference when he was standing. The Pole is a capable grappler but is either too content or unable to get back up or sweep quickly. Instead, he looks to throw up a submission before eventually kicking away and standing back up. Clark is young and powerful, with a wrestling background, so he’ll test Blachowicz. His MMA wrestling still needs work, as he lands 2.5 takedowns per fight but succeeds only 42% of the time. His striking defense also needs serious polishing, as with most young fighters. Clark can cover distance very quickly and is getting better at stringing his punches together and using them to disguise his shot. But his head doesn’t move off centerline as he charges forward, making him a prime candidate for a back-stepping counter kill-shot. He has also shown chin issues in the past, getting KO’ed by a weird glancing punch from middleweight Alex Nicholson. Perhaps his move up to light heavyweight has aided him there. Clark is making strides from fight to fight. If he wins, it will be by grounding Blachowicz repeatedly, and that is exactly the Pole’s weakness. Blachowicz is the more technical, skilled fighter, but I can’t trust him to really put it on Clark when he has the chance. Conversely, I know Clark is going to come out and try to work takedowns. The Brown Bear takes a decision.
Prices and Odds:
Blachowicz: $7800 (+135, +345 Inside Distance Prop)
Clark: $8400 (-155, +321 IDP)
I don’t have much interest in Blachowicz because I don’t see him having a great shot at a finish and he won’t score highly without one. He’s low output and is probably going to be fighting off takedowns or playing guard for long stretches. I’ll have exposure to Clark because if he wins it will be through wrestling and grappling, and that’s where the points are.
Middleweights Jonathan Wilson vs. Oskar Piechota
The Pick: Piechota by 1st-round submission.
The Pole Piechota is in a favorable spot in his UFC debut. He has decent striking – although he’s still clunky at range – that he mostly uses to work into the clinch. He is really dangerous on the ground and if it goes there, I think he works over Wilson to a slick submission. Not to mention, Wilson just isn’t that great of a fighter. I’m a fan of his toughness, as he has taken big-time beatings from Henrique da Silva and Ion Cutelaba, who are both offensive forces. But he doesn’t have any standout skillset and his cardio is lacking (though, his poor showing in that regard could be due to how much damage he was taking). I am concerned with the size discrepancy facing Piechota, though. Wilson is the taller and bigger fighter, having fought as high as heavyweight before, and that could help him fend off the takedowns. If Wilson can keep it standing, he has the ability to land a big shot or two to put away the hometown boy.
Prices and Odds:
Wilson: $7300 (+160, +308 Inside Distance Prop)
Piechota: $8900 (-185, -105 IDP)
I really like the upside of Oskar here, and I’ll have exposure to him. But so will the rest of the field, as he has the third-best IDP on the card and is known for wrestling/grappling. I like Wilson a bit too. He carries some odds value, priced more like a 2-1 or greater underdog (for reference, Lansberg is $100 more expensive but is +190). So the value and this being LHW where underdog knockouts aren’t uncommon make me want exposure to Wilson as well. I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull the trigger on Wilson in cash, despite the value, because his floor is very low. I’ll have exposure to both sides for sure.
Fight Pass Prelims
Lightweights Marcin Held vs. Nasrat Haqparast
The Pick: Held by decision.
Held went 11-3 in Bellator and came into the UFC with the expectation that he would at least be a top 20-25 lightweight, but poor gameplanning and bad luck have conspired against him. The Pole has infinitely more high-level experience than his debuting foe, which is exacerbated by the fact that Haqparast is coming in on short notice. He’s also been a can-crusher until his last two fights; his first six opponents had five wins between them, one of which was over Haqparast. The Iranian trains out of Kings MMA and has big power in his hands and in his wrestling. Held has never been knocked out, has janky but fairly effective striking, and has to have an advantage on the ground with his BJJ black belt. The Pole’s wrestling isn’t bad either. It’s really a shame Held is 0-3 in the UFC because that doesn’t reflect his skill at all. He engaged in a bad gameplan against Diego Sanchez, probably should have beaten Lauzon, and was dominating Hadzovic before shooting a telegraphed takedown and getting nuked with a knee. Haqparast is still a relative unknown, and his strong wrestling may be a roadblock to Held’s preference for the ground game. But Held should be able to do enough in all areas to outwork the debutante and take a decision.
Prices and Odds:
Held: $9400 (-440, -104 Inside Distance Prop)
Haqparast: $6800 (+350, +465 IDP)
I prefer Held as a play over Kowalkiewicz. He is $100 cheaper and much more likely to wrestle and grapple. He could also pull off a submission. He scored 90+ in his last fight despite only fighting for ten minutes and losing as he had a ton of takedowns and passes. So Held has big upside if he can replicate that. But if he’s forced to stand and trade, he won’t score nearly as well, even in a win. He’ll be a moderate exposure play for me. I don’t have much interest in Haqparast. Despite his awful record, Held doesn’t look done, and I don’t see a consistent path to victory for the newcomer.
Heavyweights Anthony Hamilton vs. Adam Wieczorek
The Pick: Hamilton by 2nd-round TKO.
So I hate to say it, but once again I’m going to favor Hamilton here. From a narrative perspective, I think Hamilton is going to come in with a chip on his shoulder after the egg he laid just a month ago in Pittsburgh. But the flipside is that Hamilton “retired” after losing to Spitz, so whether he’s been training and how he’s doing physically are big question marks. But he has a clear path to victory here. I don’t see this as a striking affair but as a dirty grappling battle. Hamilton can use his wrestling to control the fight, as Wieczorek has abysmal takedown defense. And Wiz isn’t going to enjoy the size advantage he’s used to over regional competition.
But this is Anthony Hamilton we are talking about here… He could easily find his way to the ground in an unfavorable position and get choked out or put to sleep on the feet.
Prices and Odds:
Hamilton: $7600 (+125, +185 Inside Distance Prop)
Wieczorek: $8600 (-145, -117 IDP)
I’m hoping the field fades Hamilton for the new guy and Hamilton actually fights smart and uses that wrestling background to control the fight. He’s thunderous from top position but hasn’t elected or been able to use that part of his game lately. Even if he can’t finish Wiezcorek, he will score well if he can claim top position consistently. Wieczorek has the second-best finish prop on the card, so that, coupled with Hamilton’s recent failings, will make him one of the most popular fighters on the card. Hamilton can definitely lose. But he might not. He has a path to victory and is likely going to go severely unowned. That gives you an opportunity to get a leg up on the field that fades Hamilton and is very heavy on Wieczorek. I’ll have exposure to both, but I have to lean toward Hamilton for the ownership and price.
Bantamweights Damian Stasiak vs. Brian Kelleher
The Pick: Stasiak by decision.
Kelleher is still a bit of an unknown, as both of his UFC fights have ended in less than half a round. He has a nasty guillotine, as we saw against Alcantara, but his wrestling didn’t look all that impressive against Vera. He couldn’t complete the takedown, and Vera stuffing the shot and locking up a kimura grip is what led to the armbar finish. Stasiak is a brown belt in BJJ and is coming off a fight against noted guillotine expert Pedro Munhoz, so I don’t see Kelleher having that same success again. The Pole is also a black belt in karate. He’s a bit stilted and lacks head movement, but he has decent hands and an array of spinning attacks, particularly the back kick. Kelleher, meanwhile, throws lots of right hooks and leg kicks. Stasiak is unspectacular but very solid everywhere, so I have to favor him until we see more from Kelleher. Stasiak’s lack of output and Kelleher’s speed may help him win rounds if Stasiak can’t catch a kick and put Kelleher on his back. Close fight but I take the Pole by decision.
Prices and Odds:
Stasiak: $7900 (-105, +314 Inside Distance Prop)
Kelleher: $8300 (-115, +339 IDP)
There is slight odds value on Stasiak, who is $400 cheaper than his opponent but is basically in a pick ’em matchup. I think this is a good fight to target because I see lots of scrambles and a high work rate. I’ll favor Stasiak, but Kelleher deserves to be considered as well. He probably has better physical tools and has a good shot at winning if he stays off his back and doesn’t get subbed.
Middleweights Sam Alvey vs. Ramazan Emeev
The Pick: Emeev by decision.
I’m not overly impressed with Emeev. He’s a really good sambo fighter and can finish the fight on the ground, but doesn’t offer much else. And given Alvey’s takedown defense, I think it’ll be tough to get there. Emeev has eaten shots on the feet before, and I think Alvey can find success there. “Smile’n Sam” isn’t a world-class fighter; his weaknesses are well-documented at this point. He is counter-oriented to the point of crippling inactivity, and he doesn’t offer much else than his counter right hook and straight left. He’s also on record saying he has a huge weight cut ahead of him from filling in on short notice. Emeev could wear on Alvey and grind this fight out the longer it goes, or he could eat a massive counter on the way in and kiss the canvas. Toss up for me, but I’ll favor Emeev because of Alvey’s lack of prep.
Prices and Odds:
Alvey: $8000 (+150, +321 Inside Distance Prop)
Emeev: $8200 (-160, +258 IDP)
So Alvey missed weight, but I’m not sure how much that actually affects the narrative of this fight. Both men are going to do what they do, especially Alvey, who always has the same gameplan, more or less. I guess we can expect him to fade faster. But he could still sleep Emeev with the right shot before he wears down too much. There is odds value on Emeev now, as the line moved his way more after Alvey missed weight. So I think he’s a decent play in any format. He doesn’t need to score a ton for his price, and his path to victory is grappling (always a plus). Alvey is worth looks in gpps too because of his power and Emeev’s relatively poor striking defense. But I just can’t invest heavily in Alvey, even on a full camp.
Featherweights Artem Lobov vs. Andre Fili
The Pick: Fili by decision.
Fili has a massive nine-inch reach advantage, so he should use that, along with his movement, to frustrate and pick apart Lobov. But Fili doesn’t always fight smart, and he welcomes a brawl in the pocket. Pocket boxing probably favors Lobov slightly, though Fili can throw hands too. Lobov has shown more of a propensity for leg kicks recently, so that will help him score points when the fight is at longer range. Fili’s kicks are a little more intrinsic part of his game. Neither guy wrestles much – Fili’s takedown average is 2.3/fight but that’s skewed by two fights where he landed 5 and 3. Otherwise, he’s never landed more than one. Lobov is pretty stationary, looking to either counter or edge his way into range and then throw. Fili’s higher output, reach, speed, and movement should give him the advantage on the feet. Neither guy has great defense or moves his head well, so both men will probably take it on the chin throughout. But both guys have solid chins, so I see this going the distance and Fili continuing his win-loss-win-loss pattern in the UFC.
Prices and Odds:
Lobov: $7500 (+160, +418 Inside Distance Prop)
Fili: $8700 (-170, +405 IDP)
I see Lobov being more popular because he’s coming off the better showing, despite both guys losing their last outings. The Russian transplant has made considerable strides of late and didn’t get completely waxed by Swanson, as most expected. Fili, meanwhile, got beat up pretty good as a heavy favorite by a promotional newcomer. I’ll be on Fili because of the matchup and his likely low ownership. Lobov is in play as well because Fili is open to be countered and often shoots himself in the foot.
Welterweights Salim Touahri vs. Warlley Alves
The Pick: Alves by first-round submission.
I’m on Alves here. I think he does a good job of using his footwork to limit the only avenue Touahri has to victory, which is his boxing. Alves has looked good in spurts versus Usman and Barberena – good fighters – but his gas tank failed him. I think both guys have questionable tanks, so the longer it goes the more I’m worried. If it gets to the ground, Alves should have his way with him and finish it.
Prices and Odds:
Alves: $9200 (-310, -150 Inside Distance Prop)
Touahri: $7000 (+230, +415 IDP)
This is a tall task for Touahri, filling in on just a few days’ notice. Alves has disappointed relative to the hype he had after guillotining Colby Covington and Nordine Taleb. He has an obvious inability to manage his gas tank, dumping it all in search of an early finish. But he has fought and beaten far better competition and has the benefit of a full camp. Alves will be extremely popular, but I don’t see how you can avoid him in this spot. I won’t go “all in” because he too has a tendency to trip over himself, but I’ll have a good amount of exposure. It would be a precipitous fall for him to lose to someone like Touahri. But the newcomer may be worth a dart throw if he can find Alves’ chin, especially after the Brazilian tires.
Women’s Bantamweights Lina Lansberg vs. Aspen Ladd
The Pick: Lansberg by decision.
This is an interesting fight for the prospect Ladd. She’s probably a natural flyweight and Lansberg has fought at featherweight, so Ladd will likely be giving up size. That could make things rough for her, as she’s at her best when she can drag the fight to the mat and work from top position. Lansberg’s Muay Thai background gives her a lot of experience and strength in the clinch, which will make it difficult for Ladd to get her down. Lansberg also has a distinct striking advantage at range, where she throws long, straight punches and an array of kicks. Ladd, meanwhile, is still pretty stiff on the feet. But she throws tons of output, consisting mostly of straight punches. She’s only 22, so we can expect big leaps from fight to fight, but this looks like an uphill battle for her. An extra factor for Ladd might be her cardio, as Lansberg faded badly down the stretch in a fight she was otherwise winning. I favor Lansberg to take a decision.
Prices and Odds:
Lansberg: $7400 (+230, +610 Inside Distance Prop)
Ladd: $8800 (-250, +265 IDP)
It seems Vegas disagrees with me here, likely due to Ladd’s undefeated record, output, advantage on the floor, and youth. And the line continues to move in her favor. If the oddsmakers are right and Ladd wins, she’ll score well behind volume takedowns mixed in. She’s gaining odds value, which should make her safer in cash. Conversely, Lansberg has negative odds value, especially in comparison to others around her price like Lobov and Wilson. As previously mentioned, I really don’t hate the matchup for Lansberg and could definitely see her winning. She’s a risky play, especially considering the odds, but she will be very low-owned because of that. I like her as a tournament punt for that reason.
Featherweights Felipe Arantes vs. Josh Emmett
The Pick: Emmett by decision.
I have to side with Emmet here. He’s dropping back down to featherweight after suffering his first loss to Desmond Green. Meanwhile, Arantes is moving back up from bantamweight, so Emmett should have a demonstrable size advantage. I break it down in two ways. First, he’s going to have the wrestling advantage against a fighter in Arantes who’s shown in the past that he can be taken down. Secondly, I look at the striking and could see Arantes picking him apart at range with his kick-heavy attack. But it’s not Emmet’s style to sit back like that. He’s going to push through that range and look for the KO. I don’t think I see a finish here, but rather a scramble-heavy scrap where Emmett’s wrestling and strength advantages give him the edge. He takes it via decision.
Prices and Odds:
Arantes: $7100 (+260, +600 Inside Distance Prop)
Emmett: $9100 (-320, +205 IDP)
I’ll have some exposure to Emmett because he could really show out in this spot, but I think I prefer the others around him. Held should be able to dominate if he gets the fight to the floor; same with Piechota. Alves and Piechota both have a much higher chance to finish early, while Emmett’s finish prop is more in line with Ladd and Kowalkiewicz. I like Emmett more than Karolina and think he is more likely to win than Ladd, but everyone else makes a better play in my mind. That, along with Emmett’s recent loss, should make him one of the lowest owned in the top tier, so he’s a contrarian play to differentiate yourself. Arantes’ IDP is terrible, so I’m not sure how much he’s worth targeting. He has a dangerous guard, but Emmett should be able to weather it.