Daily Fantasy Knockout: UFC Mexico DraftKings Picks
After the wild, high-profile event that was UFC 214, we get one more card before a near-month-long MMA layoff. Over the next few weeks, you can settle firmly into the Mayweather-McGregor news cycle without being distracted by “legitimate” or “non-circus” combat sports.
This card is headlined by an intriguing battle between exciting potential flyweight contenders in Sergio Pettis and Brandon Moreno. It should be fireworks. The rest of the card is filled with plenty of Mexican and Latin American fighters for the home crowd and a few legitimately exciting matchups. But beyond the main event, nothing here has immediate divisional relevance. That’s OK because it’s a very interesting card from a DraftKings perspective.
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.
Before we dive in, let me quickly say my MMA DFS podcast (Daily Fantasy Knockout, which you can find on YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, etc.) co-host was out of commission this week, so no pod. We’ll be back for UFC Rotterdam in a few weeks, and thank you for listening if you caught last weeks.
Let’s get to it.
FS1 Main Card
Flyweights Sergio Pettis vs. Brandon Moreno
Pettis the round-winner in this matchup, while Moreno is the finisher. The younger Pettis is a technical kickboxer who throws at a good clip and mixes up his strikes well. He has some pop in his hands but has yet to finish anyone in the UFC. All that volume means he eats a good amount of return fire, and he can sometimes get cracked hard getting too complacent. His offensive and defensive wrestling is solid, and he’s not a bad grappler either. But he can sometimes give up position or spend too much time on his back going for low percentage submissions. Moreno, meanwhile, is improving his striking but relies on dynamism rather than consistent volume. But on the mat is where he really shines as a nasty submission threat. But if he can’t hurt you or snatch something in a scramble, he’s not super reliable at winning rounds. I don’t see this being the fight where Moreno’s fight style comes back to bite him, though. Pettis isn’t dangerous enough to put Moreno in real danger, so the Mexican is free to seek out the finish. Pettis has been finished in each of his UFC losses, and across 25 minutes, he’ll give Moreno an opportunity. Moreno by third-round submission is the pick.
Prices and Odds:
Pettis: $7700 (+150, Inside Distance Prop: +436)
Moreno: $8500 (-170, IDP: +125)
Like most main events, this will be a popular fight but one worth targeting. It’s hard to beat the upside of a potential five rounds, especially in a high-paced flyweight fight like this. I like Pettis in cash because as long as he’s in the fight, he’ll be scoring with strikes and takedowns. He could score well even if he gets finished late. I like Moreno as well because, at worst, he should be around for five rounds. I actually prefer Pettis as a play in gpps either because if he wins, he’s going to score really well and be on the winning lineup. I’ll have exposure to Moreno as well, but he really needs a finish in the first half of the fight to pay off his price. He’s not going to be hitting takedowns or as many significant strikes as Pettis.
Strawweights Randa Markos vs. Alexa Grasso
Grasso had her ascent stymied by the resurgent Felice Herrig in her last outing. But she’s still a very good and improving fighter. Grasso is a smooth and technical striker who throws at a good clip. She’s also a dangerous submission grappler. Markos had a big win out-scrambling former champion Carla Esparza in her last fight. Markos is game and wings hard counters when the pocket closes, but she’s too low-output and doesn’t move her head enough. If she stays in Grasso’s face, she might have success because she hits hard. But she’ll be putting herself in danger to do that. You can’t get outstruck by Esparza and then hope to beat Grasso on the feet. The scrambles will be the interesting part of this fight. Markos will probably be the one to shoot, and she will probably be able to get her down. Grasso doesn’t mind going to the mat because she’s offensive there as well. I expect the ground battle to be mostly even and that could help Markos steal rounds if she’s in top position. But the stand up is not even. Grasso takes a decision.
Prices and Odds:
Markos: $7900 (+140, IDP: +505)
Grasso: $8300 (-160, IDP: +425)
This is a fight I’m not all that interested in. Grasso isn’t going to hit a ton of takedowns, which limits her upside. Markos could land a couple, but I don’t think she strikes much. There isn’t any value to be had here in terms of odds, so I’m not interested in a borderline coin-flip fight that isn’t likely to feature much grappling in cash. I’m more interested in Markos because she does have a little bit of wrestling potential and doesn’t need to score as well to pay off. I’m less interested in Grasso because she’d need to throw a ton of volume or really put on a grappling clinic when she gets shot on, and I don’t see Markos giving her opportunities to do either.
Welterweights Alan Jouban vs. Niko Price
Jouban is the quintessential action fighter, but he’s learned to fight a little bit smarter and more measured. The Louisianan is dynamic offensively with his left kick and combination boxing to go along with his brown belt in BJJ under Eddie Bravo. Price had a reputation is a wild man pre-UFC, but he’s been more measured in his UFC fights as well. He’s offensively potent and opportunistic with finishes. It took Price a round to get going against Morono, and that could cost him here. Jouban keeps a high pace and can do it for 15 minutes, but he does have a tendency to get tagged in firefights. He did fight a really smart against Perry and avoided getting KO’ed as he played the matador and put volume on Perry. I expect him to do something similar here. If Price elects to wrestle, I think Jouban’s defense and high-level grappling will prevent Price from gaining a foothold in that arena, making this a kickboxing match. Jouban’s crisper technique and volume win him a decision.
Prices and Odds:
Jouban: $8700 (-165, IDP: +165)
Price: $7500 (+145, IDP: +205)
Jouban is a little over-priced compared to his odds, but I think he’s worth it. He’s in a different class than Price’s first two UFC opponents. I would not be shocked to see him get a finish, but he also throws at a high enough clip to pay off in a decision. I like him in all formats. I could have a sprinkling of Price in gpps because Jouban’s chin has been checked in nearly all of his fights.
Featherweights Martin Bravo vs. Humberto Bandenay
Bandenay doesn’t look like a UFC caliber fighter yet. Granted, Bravo is coming off winning a season of TUF Latin America, generally not the deepest talent pool. Bandenay has been tearing up the Peruvian MMA scene, for what that’s worth. He looks for big single kicks or big flurries on the feet. Contrast that against Bravo’s constant pressure, output, and combinations. Bandenay’s wrestling and grappling don’t look like they’re there yet, either. Bravo can wrestle, so that’s another avenue to victory if his volume isn’t enough to overcome Bandenay’s big power shots. Bravo should win by finish in the first half of the fight.
Prices and Odds:
Bravo: $9200 (-330, IDP: +145)
Bandenay: $7000 (+270, IDP: +565)
Bravo is expensive and not an elite fighter who should command this kind of price tag yet. That’s going to steer me off of him in cash. I can’t invest that much of my salary on a guy like Bravo. But I’ll definitely have exposure to him in tournaments. His combination punching really impressed in his UFC debut against Puelles, but Puelles was doing very little in return. Bandenay is an all-offense wildcard. I expect Bravo to get the finish and pay off, but there are crazier things than punting with the dirt-cheap Bandenay in tournaments.
Middleweights Sam Alvey vs. Rashad Evans
Neither man had an inspiring performance last time out. Alvey’s leg got hurt right out of the gate against Leites, and the Brazilian picked away at him from long range with kicks. Alvey’s low-volume, counter-oriented style didn’t help him. Evans was largely outboxed by Dan Kelly when he couldn’t take him down. Evans might not be able to take Alvey down either, as Smile’n Sam has pretty great takedown defense. It’s hard to trust either man – Alvey for his abysmal output and Evans for advancing age and his own lack of output. I favor Alvey I suppose because Evans got hurt by Kelly a few times; I just can’t trust his chin at this point. And Alvey hits like a truck. Evans’ path to victory lies in either outpointing Alvey on the feet or out-wrestling him, and neither seems very likely to me. Alvey by decision is the pick.
Prices and Odds:
Alvey: $8400 (-135, IDP: +189)
Evans: $7800 (+115, IDP: +625)
I don’t want any part of this fight. Alvey needs to finish early to pay off. That could happen, but I’d rather let other people chase that potential outcome. Alvey has frustrated me enough times at this point that he’s just a permanent fade unless he gets a perfect matchup, and even then I’ll be thinking twice. I’m not really interested in Rashad either. If he looked to wrestle the whole time, he could score OK. But he’s going to need to do that to take Alvey down more than a couple of times, and I’m not convinced he does that. I think we’re more likely to see an awful boxing match with the occasional stuffed shot. Pass.
Bantamweights Alejandro Perez vs. Andre Soukhamthath
This will be a close striking battle. Neither guy has much offensive wrestling ability, and both men are counter-oriented strikers. So this could wind up being a slower-paced fight. Both guys last fought Albert Morales, who is an aggressive pressure fighter. He gave Andre and Alejandro plenty of opportunities to counter and get off. In a slow-paced striking battle, it’s hard to predict the outcome. The momentum can swing with one big moment. I favor Soukhamthath a little bit because, while he starts slow, he gets stronger as the fight goes on. But Perez might move better and be faster. Morales was coming after him hard and Perez did a pretty good job pivoting as he backed up so as not to get cornered. Soukhamthath takes a close decision.
Prices and Odds:
Perez: $8100 (-125, IDP: +305)
Soukhamthath: $8100 (+105, IDP: +285)
There’s odds value on Perez, so if you want to look his way in cash for that reason, I won’t fault you. But this is a fight I’m not super into targeting because it will be a close striking battle without much wrestling. Their finish props also aren’t great, so I don’t see a ton of upside and would rather not bank on trying to pick the winner.
Middleweights Brad Scott vs. Jack Hermansson
Hermansson should take this one, but Brad Scott has yet to be finished in the UFC and had a close fight with top-ten middleweight Krzysztof Jotko. Both have a come-forward style and want to put hands on their opponents. But Hermansson moves much better and has faster hands. Both men can wrestle a bit, but their defense is better than their takedowns, so I expect this to stay standing for the most part. Hermansson’s superior defense and speed give him a decision or a stoppage later in the fight after the damage has started to pile up.
Prices and Odds:
Scott: $7100 (+215, IDP: +438)
Hermansson: $9100 (-255, IDP: +165)
I like Hermansson as a play in all formats but he’s not a must-target because he’s not likely to wrestle much. He’s got a pretty good IDP and has a high output. I don’t see much reason to target Scott other than as a contrarian game-theory play. “The Joker” will be popular coming off a two-minute destruction of Nicholson, so if you’re making a lot of lineups, throwing Scott in one or two in hopes he catches lightning with a knockout isn’t insane.
Flyweights Dustin Ortiz vs. Hector Sandoval
Ortiz has been a gatekeeper to the stars throughout his UFC career, and he’s still only 28 even though it feels like he’s been around forever. So is Sandoval dangerous enough to catch and finish Ortiz – like Moreno – or one of the elite to fend off the takedowns and outstrike or out-grapple Ortiz. I don’t think so. Ortiz is a come-forward grinder and a great scrambler. He’s not going to play guard or present a very high target on the feet like Schnell. His superior grappling carry him to a decision or late submission victory.
Prices and Odds:
Ortiz: $8800 (-220, IDP: +430)
Sandoval: $7400 (+180, IDP: +400)
I think this is a fight to target a bit on both sides. There should be a good amount of takedowns and scrambles, and I think Ortiz carries that pretty handily. But his IDP is terrible, so Sandoval is the cash punt I would look at. He should be able to hit a takedown and pass or two of his own and should have 15 minutes to work, which you can’t say with certainty for anyone else in the bottom tier.
Bantamweights Henry Briones vs. Rani Yahya
Yahya is a world champion grappler, but he’s also a black belt in Muay Thai. Briones, meanwhile, has been mainly a one-note boxer in the UFC, though he does have six submissions to his credit. I think Yahya, who might hold a hand-speed advantage, can hold his own on the feet. Neither man is afraid to string punches together, and both tend are vulnerable due to a lack of head movement. There will be more danger for Yahya in the kickboxing, as Briones hits harder. But Yahya isn’t an amazing wrestler, but he should be able to get the fight to the floor. Briones doesn’t have great takedown defense. The X-factor will be the gas tank of Yahya if Briones proves difficult to take down. The Brazilian gassed badly down the stretch vs. Soto when his takedown attempts were repeatedly stuffed, and this is in Mexico City. Yahya came out a little early, but Briones has been in the city for weeks. This comes down to the fact that I haven’t seen the takedown defense from Briones to feel he can fend off Yahya consistently. Yahya takes a decision or submission.
Prices and Odds:
Briones: $7300 (+175, IDP: +390)
Yahya: $8900 (-210, IDP: +174)
I think Yahya is another solid play in any format, and he has the finish upside that Ortiz doesn’t have. He’ll be shooting a lot because Briones is dangerous on the feet. The Brazilian can neutralize that threat by not messing around with the standup. He’s aging and looked bad down the stretch against Soto, especially when he kept getting stuffed and reversed. Briones isn’t worth investing a lot in, but again, a few shots on him if you’re making a lot of lineups.
Bantamweights Jose Alberto Quinonez vs. Diego Rivas
The Pick: Quinonez by second-round submission.
Rivas is an OK athlete and reasonably well-rounded, but he’s not great anywhere. He can wrestle a bit but has a very difficult time holding position or getting much done when he does have a dominant position. He can throw hands but doesn’t have great defense or throw enough volume to consistently win there. Quinonez should be better and more dangerous everywhere. His own defense can lapse, but it would take a really big shot from Rivas (like his flying knee KO of Lahat out of nowhere) to turn the tide. Quinonez has been hurt in past fights when he gets too reckless, but he shouldn’t have much of a problem boxing up Rivas and outworking him on the floor. Quinonez by second-round submission is the pick.
Prices and Odds:
Quinonez: $8200 (-255, IDP: +154)
Rivas: $8000 (+215, IDP: +449)
Well, Quinonez is going to be popular. One look at his odds and his price, and you can see there’s a ton of value on him. And if that wasn’t enough, I’m not sure Rivas is a UFC caliber fighter. He looked terrible on TUF, had a competitive fight with another non-UFC talent, and was getting owned by Lahat before hitting the flying knee that sent the Israeli packing from the organization. Quinonez has some holes, particularly on defense, but Rivas isn’t the guy to expose him. Quinonez is in play in all formats. With how popular he’ll be, having a few shares of Rivas for game-theory purposes makes sense if you’re making a lot of lineups. If Rivas can pull it out, those LUs will leapfrog a ton of competitors.
Fight Pass Prelims
Flyweights Joseph Morales vs. Roberto Sanchez
The Pick: Morales by decision.
This should be a very grappling-heavy affair. The mat is where both guys excel and neither is especially comfortable on the feet, but Morales is better there. I think Morales might be the better wrestler – he does come from TAM after all – but Sanchez is the one who relentlessly pursues the takedown. Morales is more likely to accept the fight wherever it is or try to mix it up on the feet. Both guys are probably best from their backs, which makes this interesting. Sanchez is more likely to go for takedowns and therefore get on top. But he doesn’t do much to pass unless he can snatch the back in transition. Both men have very active guards and are good scramblers, but I give the edge to Morales, who seems more capable of finding and creating openings for himself. He’ll have to be careful of Sanchez’s armbar, though. Tough one to call, but I go with Morales by decision.
Prices and Odds:
Morales: $8100 (+110, IDP: +230)
Sanchez: $8100 (-130, IDP: +188)
This is a fight to target on both sides for the grappling upside. There’s a little bit of value on Sanchez. And as stated above, he’s more likely to be the one who shoots. So his path to victory is potentially more high-scoring, making him the better play. You should have exposure to both sides, but my lean is Sanchez.
Lightweights Alvaro Herrera vs. Jordan Rinaldi
The Pick: Rinaldi by second-round submission.
Neither of these guys looks great, frankly. Herrera showed some improvement since his time on TUF Latin America, but that’s not saying much. He’s been out of action for a year, so he might have improved still more. He’s dropping down to lightweight to take on Rinaldi. Herrera is a knockout threat who can grapple a little bit, while Rinaldi is at his best grappling. Rinaldi is hittable and will have to be careful of the hard-hitting Mexican’s hands. Rinaldi isn’t an awesome wrestler, but Herrera’s takedown defense has shown itself to be pretty abysmal. Once it hits the mat, this quickly becomes Rinaldi’s fight, especially if he’s on top. Rinaldi by second-round submission is the pick.
Prices and Odds:
Herrera: $7200 (+190, IDP: +375)
Rinaldi: $9000 (-230, IDP: +199)
Rinaldi’s wrestling and grappling put him in play, of course. I’m not sold on his overall skillset or whether he has what it takes to stick around the UFC, but his upside here is undeniable. I wouldn’t go all-in on him (a practice you should avoid on any but the very best fighters), but he’s an interesting pivot off Bravo and Hermansson, who are primarily strikers. Rinaldi could very well be the highest scorer of the three. But Yahya is right below him and has a slightly better IDP, if slightly worse odds to win. I think Hermansson is the safest, with Bravo (first-round finish with lots of strikes and maybe a takedown) and Rinaldi (early finish with lots of grappling) having the highest upside.