Daily Fantasy Knockout: UFC São Paulo DraftKings Picks

We break down all the fights from UFC Sao Paulo: Brunson vs. Machida and who to target in your DraftKings lineups.

Fight fans are blessed with a truly excellent card on free TV this weekend, one of the best to be put on FS1 in some time. The headliner sees former light heavyweight champion and middleweight title challenger Lyoto Machida make his return to the Octagon following a 28-month layoff. He’ll square up with Derek Brunson, a southpaw wrestler with devastating power in his left hand. Elsewhere, Demian Maia seeks to turn back up-and-comer Colby Covington from the top ten at welterweight. And several all-action fights with relevant names dot the card, like Rob Font hooking up with Pedro Munhoz, Jim Miller locking horns with Francisco Trinaldo, and Vicente Luque trading leather with Niko Price. It is a great card and a very nice appetizer for next week’s UFC 217.

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 YouTubeSoundcloud, 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.

FS1 Main Card

Middleweights Derek Brunson vs. Lyoto Machida

The Pick: Machida via decision.

Obviously, the X-Factor here is Machida’s age and layoff. He’s been out nearly two and a half years and took two bad knockouts in his fights before that to Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero. I think he did look slower in the Romero fight compared to his fights with Gegard Mousasi and Chris Weidman, but it also could have been Romero’s difficult style, power, and physicality. Brunson is reasonably well-rounded, coming up as a grinding wrestler, but he’s found legit KO power in his left hand that has garnered him his last five wins. The North Carolina native can kick a bit as well, mostly with round kicks to the legs and front kicks to the body. His biggest problem remains the fact that he juts his chin out and leads with his head as he charges forward behind his crushing overhands. Brunson rarely uses tight, combination boxing, instead going for the knockout with massive, looping shots. This leaves him open to be countered, but only interim champ Robert Whittaker has been able to do the trick, and that was after nearly an entire round of Brunson relentlessly charging him, chin forward. His style seems tailor-made for Machida’s classic bait-and-counter game, but will Machida still be physically capable of pulling it off? I think that he will, though it may take him some time to knock off the rust and find the range. Brunson might show him undue respect early, like he did against Anderson, rather than blitzing out of the gate like he does most opponents. And Machida’s more movement-based style should help prevent Brunson from lining up his big left. I don’t think Brunson is as physically imposing a wrestler/grappler as others who have given Machida trouble on the ground in the past, so I don’t see that as a very viable avenue to victory for Brunson. Assuming Machida hasn’t fallen off a cliff, he takes a decision or finds Brunson’s chin late in the fight for a TKO.

Prices and Odds: 

Machida: $7800 (-, +210 Inside Distance Prop)

Brunson: $8400 (+, -113 IDP)

The Play:

Both guys make solid plays in either format, I think. They’re priced in the mid-range, and Brunson in particular has a good shot at a finish. They have the potential to go five rounds, but with the higher weight classes, that might not translate into super high production. You just don’t get the output at middleweight and up that you do at welterweight and below. Still, it makes them better targets than if this was a three rounder. What the higher weight classes give you is obviously higher finish upside. Brunson certainly has that in spades, and Machida’s 2+ year layoff only helps. As I said in my breakdown, though, I could definitely see him running into a counter or Machida outpointing him with volume. I don’t think Brunson will be able to consistently take and hold Machida down, but he could wall and stall him on the fence. I won’t be all in on this in case it becomes slow-paced, similar to Brunson’s fight with Silva. I think it’s stackable in cash but not a must. Either guy could score low in a loss and the winner isn’t guaranteed to go off either.

Welterweights Demian Maia vs. Colby Covington

The Pick: Covington by decision.

My esteemed co-host and I disagree a bit on this one, but I will defer to him since he primarily did the research for this one. He, and many others, are high on Covington because of his youth, relentlessness, and wrestling ability that has seen him score very well in most of his fights. Covington should be able to dictate where the fight takes place, maintain top position if he wants to, and land big shots on an aging, slowing Maia who has a habit of gassing in fights he doesn’t control.

For me, Maia is such a tough out unless you can completely shut down his wrestling and refuse to engage in that space with him. A few years ago, he tried his hand at kickboxing more, but in his recent run, he has pressed his world-class BJJ advantage at every opportunity. His wrestling has also become highly effective at setting up his trademark back-takes. If you stuff his shots, he’ll either chain-wrestle, keep shooting until he’s successful, or pull half guard. This last method for getting the fight to the floor is his trickiest and how he was able to seal a round or two on Covington teammate Jorge Masvidal. If you try to land ground and pound on Maia for one moment rather than immediately disengaging, he will latch onto you and immediately look to sweep. My co-host Drew pointed out that Maia has only lost to wrestlers since dropping to welterweight, but I contend that other than Jake Shields (another elite submission grappler), they have used their wrestling solely to thwart Maia’s (think Rory MacDonald sprawling again and again and then jabbing to win two rounds, or Woodley stuffing shots over and over). Covington has thus far only sought to impose his own wrestling, which I think is a super risky move against Maia.

Prices and Odds: 

Maia: $8000 (+105, +400 Inside Distance Prop)

Covington: $8200 (-125, +400 IDP)

The Play:

This fight will be popular with all the wrestling and grappling we’re likely to see, so I will have exposure to both sides. But there are ways that this fight doesn’t score highly. Covington could eschew his usually relentless takedown game in deference to Maia and we get a slow-paced kickboxing battle. They might largely negate one another on the way to a low-scoring decision. Or one guy could score well by finishing the other early, likely with Maia taking Covington’s back and subbing him, or Covington pressuring and blitzing an aging Maia. But the most likely outcome I think is a back-and-forth wrestling/grappling battle where we soon see one person gain a definitive advantage and ride that to a stoppage or decision. Either Maia does Maia things and dominates Covington in that space like he does everyone else, or Covington is able to impose top position. I’ve seen a lot of people high on Covington – he’s younger, seemingly hungrier, has the superior wrestling credentials, and wants to use them. But betting on someone to outwrestle or out-grapple Demian Maia? That’s a tough sell for me. Both guys are worth targeting, but I might be underweight to the field. The fight is going to be very popular, I’m not confident in the winner, and there’s a chance it won’t score that well.

Bantamweights Pedro Munhoz vs. Rob Font

The Pick: Font by decision.

Munhoz is always dangerous. He packs power in nearly all his strikes and he a vice-like guillotine that has finished three UFC opponents. But Font looks like the better fighter and a tough matchup for Munhoz in some ways. They are both powerful strikers, but Font is more defensively responsible and has a seven-inch reach advantage. Munhoz tries to bully forward continuously but doesn’t always cut the cage off. He’s usually content to trade shots, confident his power and chin will be superior. But that means he eats a lot of shots he doesn’t have to. Font is probably the better wrestler and is unlikely to give up his neck for an easy guillotine, knowing Munhoz will be looking for it. Look for Font to take a clear-cut decision or put a battered Munhoz away late.

Prices and Odds: 

Munhoz: $7500 (+, +480 Inside Distance Prop)

Font: $8700 (-, +158 IDP)

The Play:

Munhoz is a very opportunistic finisher, so I’m surprised that his finish prop is so bad in a relatively close fight. I do think he’s worth targeting in that lower tier. But if you just go by the odds, Munhoz’s poor IDP puts me more on Font. I have a hard time seeing Munhoz taking a decision with how much damage he’s willing to absorb. I like Font more in gpps than in cash. I don’t know that he shoots a lot given Munhoz’s ridiculous guillotine, and a Munhoz finish would be terrible for a cash lineup with Font.

Lightweights Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jim Miller

The Pick: Trinaldo by decision.

This should be a fun action fight between two grizzled vets in a southpaw vs. southpaw matchup. Trinaldo was on a nice run before getting choked out by Kevin Lee. The Brazilian is well-rounded, with a black belt in kickboxing and a brown belt in BJJ. He doesn’t typically throw a ton of volume, but is dangerous with his big left hand and powerful kicks. He can wrestle a bit himself, but he’s had the most trouble when his opponent can take him down and control him on the mat. Miller has been around forever, but he’s only 34 to Massaranduba’s 39. He’s coming off two competitive decision losses to Anthony Pettis and Dustin Poirier, so it looks like Miller still has it despite the miles. Also skilled in every area, Miller is down to throw hands but is most effective when he can put his BJJ black belt credentials to use. To do so, he’ll need to take Trinaldo down, a difficult but not impossible task. Trinaldo is still strong and fast for pushing 40, so I think Miller has difficulty getting that part of his game going. Trinaldo takes a decision with bigger moments on the feet.

Prices and Odds: 

Trinaldo: $8600 (-220, +280 Inside Distance Prop)

Miller: $7600 (+180, +475 IDP)

The Play:

I’m not all that interested in Trinaldo because I don’t think he wrestles much nor have a good shot at finishing. He’ll be a small exposure play in case he can drop or finish Miller. I’m more interested in the American because I think this line should be closer to even. But according to the actual odds and the other fighters in his price range, Miller doesn’t present great value. Price is just $100 more expensive and is only +105, while Munhoz is $100 cheaper than Miller and is +125 to Miller’s +180. But I like Miller and think he’s worth a look in cash and gpps for his price.

Middleweights Thiago Santos vs. Jack Hermansson

The Pick: Hermansson by 3rd-round TKO.

I want to side with Hermansson because I think he has the more complete game and better cardio, but Marreta is always dangerous. Santos is at his best at long range, and that’s also where Hermansson likes to strike a lot of the time. I think Hermansson can box more effectively, but he’ll need to be willing to step inside more often than is typical for him. Hermansson is definitely a better grappler, but their wrestling looks about even, so I’m not sure that he’ll be able to get the fight to the floor, especially early. Even if the fight isn’t easy for him, I expect Hermansson to gradually take over as Santos tires. The takedown will become easier to come by and Santos’ attacks will become less frequent. If Hermansson can survive the early portion of the fight and make Santos work – his movement and activity should succeed in doing so – he wears Santos out for a late g&p TKO or submission.

Prices and Odds: 

Santos: $7900 (+, +172 Inside Distance Prop)

Hermansson: $8300 (+, +127 IDP)

The Play:

This is a mid-range fight with a lot of finish upside, so it’s definitely worth targeting in tournaments. I’ll have exposure to both, leaning toward Hermansson. I don’t think you’d want to go near it in cash unless the line moves significantly. After opening as a slight favorite, the line has flipped to make Santos the underdog, but Hermansson isn’t a value yet. If money continues to come in on the Swede to make him a sizeable favorite, then you could consider him in cash.

Bantamweights John Lineker vs. Marlon Vera

The Pick: Lineker by 2nd-round knockout.

Lineker looks to rebound from a loss to title challenger TJ Dillashaw against Vera, who continues to surprise people, most recently submitting hot prospect Brian Kelleher. Lineker has fought long, tall strikers before and it hasn’t really been an issue for him. Lineker is a boulder of a man with long arms that generate crushing power, and his granite chin allows him to relentlessly walk forward while his opponents frantically backpedal. For a very nerdy reference, I just had the revelation that Lineker is basically the Pokemon Geodude, but with good pressure footwork. Vera is an opportunistic submission threat with a long kicking game. He is improving fight to fight, but this is a big ask for him. He hasn’t shown the wrestling that has so far been the key to stymieing Lineker, so the Brazilian should be able to walk through the kicks to bang on Vera with his cinder block fists. He finds Vera’s chin inside the first two rounds.

Prices and Odds: 

Lineker: $9400 (-550, -128 Inside Distance Prop)

Vera: $6800 (+425, +581 IDP)

The Play:

Lineker is the biggest favorite on the card and also has the best IDP, so he’s in play in all formats. I don’t think he’s a must-play in tournaments because he figures to be very popular and won’t wrestle, so those points are off the table. If he doesn’t get the finish until the second or third round, he might not pay off his price. I’ll have exposure to him but might try to focus on slightly cheaper guys. Vera might be worth a dart throw if you’re making a lot of lineups in case he can catch lightning in a bottle again, but I won’t be investing much at all in him.

FS2 Prelims

Welterweights Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price

The Pick: Luque by 1st-round KO.

This looks like a fight where somebody has to go down. Both men are extremely offensively potent with improving, but incomplete, defense. I keep betting against Price, who still seems hittable and a bit wild, despite dispatching his last two foes in brutal fashion. I have to take his opponent once again here, as Luque’s boxing and ground game look tighter and just as powerful. And I’ve seen Price hurt by Alex Morono, someone not nearly as dangerous as Luque. But both men have proven the ability to wipe out an opponent quickly with just a few strikes, so I’m not certain Luque doesn’t become yet another seemingly improbable victim for Price. I’m pretty confident that this one ends inside the distance, though. I’ll say Luque by 1st-round knockout.

Prices and Odds: 

Luque: $8500 (-, +175 Inside Distance Prop)

Price: $7700 (+, +210 IDP)

The Play:

This is another mid-range priced fight that I think has a good chance to finish, so I will have exposure to both guys in tournaments. The line seems to be evening out, which gives Price some value. That makes him viable in cash lineups. For how cheap he is, it will be hard to stay off Price.

Middleweights Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Jack Marshman

The Pick: Carlos Junior by 1st-round submission.

This looks like a pretty cut-and-dried matchup and an easy win for ACJ. He’s an elite, world-class grappler who trains at ATT, one of the best camps in the world. Marshman is mainly a boxer with power in his hands but not much else beyond that. “Shoeface” (an A1 nickname, by the way) has had a frustrating habit of tripping over his own feet or gassing out, making me hesitant to ever say he’s a lock for a win. But he should be able to take Marshman down and make quick work of him on the mat.

Prices and Odds: 

ACJ: $9200 (-500, -140 Inside Distance Prop)

Marshman: $7000 (+400, +488 IDP)

The Play:

I like ACJ’s upside maybe even more than Lineker’s, so he’s a great gpp play for me. He’s a massive favorite with a very good IDP, so he’s of course in play for cash. But I think that Lineker is safer. His chin is outstanding, and Vera doesn’t have the skill set that usually gives him problems. Meanwhile, ACJ has that troubling habit of shooting himself in the foot and middleweight Marshman has a better “puncher’s chance” than Vera. They’re at a higher weight class and ACJ hasn’t always shown a great chin, getting KO’ed by Dan Kelly. But his wrestling/grappling means that he’ll likely score better than Lineker if they both finish in the first round, so I might prefer him in tournaments if you can’t fit them both. I don’t have much interest in Marshman as anything other than a dart throw in large-field tournaments.

Lightweights Hacran Dias vs. Jared Gordon

The Pick: Dias by decision.

Dias is coming off maybe the worst loss of his career against inconsistent action fighter Andre Fili. He did not look great physically in that bout, he missed weight, and he got dropped in the first round, but he still went the distance and had his moments. Now he moves up to lightweight, as does his opponent Jared Gordon. Gordon, meanwhile, made his debut in spectacular fashion, stopping fellow debutant Michel Quinones inside two rounds. Normally, Dias is very well-rounded and hard to consistently beat in any one area. It takes a world-class wrestler to hold him down, or a world-class striker to handle him on the feet. One of his weaknesses is a lack of volume. His SLpM stat is an abysmally low 2.07, but part of that is due to the fact that he rarely strikes on the ground, looking instead to control and pass. He’s been in several grappling-heavy fights, meaning there are many minutes when he’s not striking. So if forced to stand, he won’t score a ton, but it won’t be nothing. And he can score with his grappling. Gordon is much more active with his striking, but I don’t think he will be able to outwrestle the Brazilian. And that’s where Gordon really likes the fight. Dias might be washed, but regardless, this is a very big step up for Gordon. Dias traditionally only loses to the best fighters, and he’s usually very competitive. Fighting at home and not having to worry about the weight cut should refresh Dias, who can hang on the feet and should out-position Gordon on the mat for a decision win.

Prices and Odds: 

Gordon: $8400 (-165, +265 Inside Distance Prop)

Dias: $7800 (+145, +435 IDP)

The Play:

Despite being in the mid-range, this isn’t a bout I have a ton of interest in playing. Dias only tends to score well when he can get a lot of takedowns and passes, an unlikely – but not impossible – task here. And unless he’s shot, he won’t allow Gordon to wrack up the points either. That’s really what this comes down to for me – whether you think Dias has anything left in the tank. Maybe seeing how he looks on the scale will provide some clarity.

Welterweights Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Max Griffin

The Pick: dos Santos by decision.

I’m a fan of Zaleski dos Santos and his aggressive, high-volume style. Griffin has shown power in his hands and a willingness to throw down, but the pace that Zaleski pushes will be tough for him to match. And the Brazilian also has a very good chin, making a Griffin knockout somewhat unlikely. Unfortunately for Griffin, I think that’s about his only path to victory here. Zaleski has shown off some solid submission skills, but he’s not much of a wrestler. Griffin got completely worked by Covington in his debut, so that’s not his forte either. If Zaleski can get the fight to the mat, I think he would have a good shot at tapping the American, but I don’t see that as very likely.

Prices and Odds: 

Zaleski: $9000 (-220, +222 Inside Distance Prop)

Griffin: $7200 (+180, +435 IDP)

The Play:

I think Zaleski is a decent play in cash, but you may just want to pay up for the greater upside and safety of Lineker or ACJ. Dos Santos will probably need a finish to pay off his price, and his finish prop doesn’t compare to much of the rest of the upper tier. Griffin might have some value in cash, as he’s very cheap at 7.2k and only a +180 dog. I prefer Figueirdo for the wrestling/grappling upside, though.

Fight Pass Prelims

Flyweights Deiveson Figueirdo vs. Jarred Brooks

The Pick: Figueirdo by decision.

Figueirdo was a wild man on the regional scene, but he looked a bit more composed in his UFC debut. Both men like to wrestle and work from top position to threaten with submissions or smash guys into the mat. And they both throw heaters on the feet. Brooks used a lot of lateral movement and feints against longer striker Eric Shelton in his debut and was able to use his wrestling to secure the win. I think the fight will be very scrambly with a lot of back and forth action. I think Brooks is capable of fighting smarter, keeping Figueirdo frustrated with his lateral movement, and getting the upper hand in the wrestling battle. He takes a close decision.

Prices and Odds: 

Figueirdo: $7300 (+145, +344 Inside Distance Prop)

Brooks: $8900 (-165, +500 IDP)

The Play:

I really like Figueirdo as a cash punt. Brooks’ finish prop is not strong, so the Brazilian should be able to hang around for all three rounds, at worst. And even if Brooks has a grappling advantage, taking and holding a guy down at flyweight is extremely hard, so I expect to see a lot of scrambles. That equates to lots of chances for points for Figueirdo, even if he can’t pull out the victory. He also has some odds value, coming in as the fourth cheapest fighter but being only the sixth biggest dog by Vegas. He ‘s worth a look in gpps as well because if he can pull off the win, he will score more than well enough to pay off his price. Brooks is not a bad tournament play because of his wrestling/grappling. He’s not as safe as those in the highest tier, but with a win, he should also be able to pay off.

Heavyweights Christian Colombo vs. Marcelo Golm

The Pick: Golm by 2nd-round TKO.

The newcomer Golm is 5-0 as a professional so far in his career, and he looks to be a decent prospect. He has solid wrestling and very aggressive, powerful ground and pound. The biggest question mark with him comes from his competition, which has been abysmal. He’s been crushing nothing but tomato cans, as his opponents have a collective record of 2-10. So Colombo, despite being a bad heavyweight by UFC standards, is still a significant jump for Golm. To be fair, the Brazilian is getting these guys out of there in short order, but it’s basically impossible to determine how good he really is until he faces some decent opposition. Colombo is glacially slow, but big, strong, and tough. I’ll pick Golm to again work his wrestling and g&p, but if he gets stuffed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run out of ideas and fall apart.

Prices and Odds: 

Colombo: $7400 (+185, +251 Inside Distance Prop)

Golm: $8800 (-225, -121 IDP)

The Play:

This is heavyweight, so it’s a fight to target right off the bat. Golm’s wrestling, finish prop, and not-too-steep price tag make him a great tournament play. Colombo is worth a few shots as well, as he figures to test Golm. Be careful of going all in on this (or any heavyweight) fight because there’s always a decent chance that it turns into a slow, dreadful dance that lasts all 15 minutes and scores awfully.

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IPAs, brunch, and punch-face. Husband, teacher, MMA writer and analyst. Half of @DailyFantasyKO podcast

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