This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
Saturday's 11-fight card may be a bit light on star power, but there are still plenty of intriguing matchups for us to cover in this edition of The MMA Mashup. This includes a late-replacement underdog who just may have the style to overcome a brawling fan favorite.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Islam Makhachev ($9,400)
Thiago Moises put on a career-best performance in his last fight against Alexander Hernandez, showcasing sharp boxing combinations and nice command of range. The issue is that Makhachev is a phenomenally strong and technical grappler, having logged seven takedowns and over 20 minutes of combined control time in his last three fights. Moises was taken to the mat four times and held down for 13:32 (!) during his fight against Beneil Dariush in 2018, which should give prospective owners a good indication of how many points Makhachev can potentially score in this five-round main event.
Rodrigo Nascimento ($9,000)
Nascimento suffered the first loss of his career against Chris Daukaus in October, but remains a decent wrestler and a sharp submission threat. There were questions surrounding the strength of Alan Baudot's 8-1 record before he stepped into the cage against Tom Aspinall, and those questions proved to be legitimate, as the French fighter did little more than flail around with spinning attacks before being taken down and finished. Baudot is agile for a heavyweight but has shown almost no competency against high-level fighters, making Nascimento a candidate to notch a few takedowns before locking up a submission.
Rodolfo Vieira ($8,700)
Much was made of Viera's submission loss to Anthony Hernandez in February, and while it was mildly shocking to see such a BJJ master tap out, it seems to be widely forgotten that the 31-year-old had "Fluffy" in a deep arm-triangle choke before gassing out. While that has to remain a concern moving forward, Dustin Stoltzfus has a tendency to back himself up against the cage, making it hard for him to avoid clinch situations. Vieira should be the much stronger man here and wrestles quite well for a BJJ practitioner.
Francisco Figueiredo ($8,700)
Malcolm Gordon responds so poorly to getting hit by strikes that it wouldn't be surprising to see Figueiredo get a quick knockout here, but if he doesn't he should be able to get "X" to the ground multiple times, as he has shown a tendency to accept takedowns in order to work his jiujitsu game. Though he has shown skills on the ground at the regional level, Gordon was submitted in short order by Amir Albazi, and Figueiredo has notched the majority of his victories by tap out.
Plays to Consider on FanDuel
Amanda Lemos ($22)
No one was expecting much from Montserrat Ruiz as an undersized fighter who relies almost exclusively on head-and-arm throw takedowns, but fellow newcomer Cheyanne Buys had no answer for the technique, allowing Ruiz to put up a nice score as a large underdog. I see little chance that this kind of throw will pay dividends against lemos, who is a BJJ blackbelt, as well as a physical presence in the cage. Ruiz will likely look to force clinch situations once again, giving Lemos an opportunity to rack up points by staying on her feet.
Marion Reneau ($15)
A 50 percent defense rate generally wouldn't qualify as good enough to roster someone to target the "takedowns defended" scoring metric, but Miesha Tate has never been an efficient takedown artist (31 percent accuracy) and is returning to the cage after an absence of nearly five years. Tate will almost certainly get tagged for as long as she stays at range with "The Belizean Bruiser," which should result in her taking quite a few desperation shots.
Jeremy Stephens ($12)
It may seem odd to pick a fighter who is winless in his last five trips to the Octagon, but Stephens carved out pockets of success in all of those appearances by constantly pressuring and throwing big shots at his opponents. Mateusz Gamrot appears to have only one method to take the fight to the ground (the low single-leg) and "Lil Heathen" hasn't spent more than 2:50 on his back in the cage since his bout with Frankie Edgar in 2016. Stephens' 65 percent takedown defense rate doesn't quite do justice to how hard it has been to take him down in recent years, and Gamrot landed just five of 16 shots during his UFC debut in October.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Gabriel Benitez UNDER 67.5 Significant Strikes and Billy Quarantillo UNDER 93.5 Significant Strikes
A quick look at their respective resumes shows us that each fighter has only hit the projected total once in their UFC careers. This being the case, I can only assume the elevated numbers on both sides are the result of Quarantillo's 7.00 significant strikes landed per minute. While this would ordinarily signal action on the feet, it should be pointed out that Benitez is the best striker the 32-year-old has faced in the Octagon. This should result in Quarantillo leaning on his wrestling a bit more, which would depress the numbers enough to allow us to comfortably make the play.
Miles Johns UNDER 59.5 Significant Strikes and Anderson dos Santos OVER 43.6 Significant Strikes
We have seen countless examples of two grapplers getting in the cage and deciding to have a kickboxing match, and this fight should be no exception. Johns' output is low enough that I still find his total to be a bit too high in this spot, while Dos Santos has been much more of a combination puncher when he has opted to keep the fight on the feet.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Preston Parsons – 2.35 x Multiplier
Parsons is coming into this bout with Daniel Rodriguez on about a week's notice, but his physicality and ability to take his opponents apart in the clinch during his time on the regional scene really stood out to me. We know that Rodriguez is no stranger to wars inside the Octagon, but we've also seen him lose a fight to Nicolas Dalby by allowing him to control the center of the cage. I think Parsons will be able to march Rodriguez down and overwhelm him in close quarters.
Sergey Morozov – 2.2 x Multiplier
There is no questioning the power of Khalid Taha, but we've seen the 29-year-old spend a bit too much time waiting on his opponents in striking exchanges. I think Morozov will be able to capitalize and fill the space with volume while mixing in the leg kicks Taha had such an issue with in his fight against Raoni Barcelos.