This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
Saturday's 12-fight slate is a bit off the beaten track for all but the most dedicated fans, but for dedicated gamblers and DFS players, cards like this represent opportunities to make money. While some may just look for name value or stick close to the favorites, we can find information on lesser-known fighters that will give us an edge. We will break down the entire card across five platforms, spotlighting big underdogs and big betting lines along the way.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Jessica Andrade ($8,900)
Andrade's move back to strawweight for her fight with Amanda Lemos can only be beneficial, as it will allow her to bully the opponent with power wrestling. Lemos is a powerful Thai striker, but the way she keeps her feet planted in the Octagon will allow Andrade to overwhelm her with aggression and should make takedowns more difficult to defend. Zhang Weili's quick counter-punch knockout of "Bate Estaca" as she charged the pocket may make some think twice, but the lack of footwork from Lemos should make that outcome difficult to replicate.
Alexandr Romanov ($9,600)
Tanner Boser withdrew from this bout early in the week due to injury, which means that Romanov will welcome Chase Sherman to his third stint in the UFC. Unfortunately for the "Vanilla Gorilla," this seems likely to be a short stay, as Romanov will march him behind the two black lines en route to notching takedowns. Sherman is a decent counter puncher with some power, but it's difficult to watch former middleweight Jake Collier effortlessly move from position to position on top of him and think that this bout will be much different. While $9,600 is a steep price, a decorated wrestler is the only one who has prevented "Kong" from scoring at least 110 DraftKings points, and Sherman is certainly not that.
Aori Qileng ($9,100)
I try to find something positive to say about most of the fighters who grace the cage, but there's not much to like about the game of Cameron Else. He will pressure forward and throw big shots, but a lack of head movement, athleticism, and takedown defense will make him vulnerable to most opponents. Qileng is no exception, as he will work the body, employ trunk movement and look to force a grappling game on his opponents. Qileng has been known to get drawn into wars, but I haven't seen enough sustained offense from Else to think that he will be able to put away a tough out like Qileng.
Claudio Puelles ($8,000)
Puelles has a skill set that seems tailor-made for DraftKings at this price, as he will use a range kicking game to cover distance before attempting to take the fight to the ground. The Brazilian fighter averages 2.5 takedowns per fight over his five contests and counts eight finishes among his 11 victories. Clay Guida is constantly in motion on the feet, but won't be able to match the athleticism of Puelles and will be vulnerable to submission attempts whenever he tries to initiate his own takedowns. All of this is to say that I don't see an area where Guida has a clear advantage, which could potentially mean a large point total for "El Nino."
Montana De La Rosa ($7,100)
"Robbery" is a word that gets thrown around a lot in MMA circles, but it seems like an apt way to describe the conclusion of Maycee Barber's fight with Miranda Maverick. Had she lost that fight, Barber would be facing a three-bout skid. While the record is all that matters in terms of wins and losses, it cannot hide the fact that Barber seems incredibly uncomfortable at range, or that she was controlled for long stretches of time on the ground in bouts against Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso. De La Rosa may not be a developed striker, but she is long for the division and has shown ferocity in her takedown game and ground and pound in recent fights. This is enough for me to pick her against a young fighter who may need a bit of retooling after joining the organization at just 19 years old.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Charles Jourdain – 2.05 X Multiplier
Jourdain has shown vulnerabilities in the grappling department, but his skills as a fast and powerful kickboxer make him hard to pass up at this multiplier, particularly since Lando Vannata has absorbed 4.77 strikes per minute in his UFC career. While he will have wrestling in his back pocket, Vannata averages just over one takedown per 15 minutes of Octagon time, which makes it difficult to trust that he will stick to a gameplan of trying to force the takedown.
Philipe Lins – 2.1X Multiplier
Lins works so slowly that it's often hard to pick him to score well, but that shouldn't be a problem against Marcin Prachnio, who walks into range with his chin up looking to land on his opponent. The Polish fighter was on the verge of being knocked out more than once before finding the kill shot against Ike Villanueva, and Lins will be perfectly happy to let Prachnio walk into a big right hand or two. While the athleticism of the 33-year-old could make for a few tense moments, I expect Lins to win this fight simply by being the one who will make fewer mistakes.
Preston Parsons – 2.25 X Multiplier
Another late replacement opponent allows us to take advantage of a juicy multiplier, despite the fact that Parsons vs. Evan Elder has been listed as a pick'em fight in most sportsbooks. While they have similar fighting styles, I think Parsons will have a big advantage as the wrestler who is physically stronger. It will be interesting to see who takes the center of the cage between these two pressure fighters, but Parsons looks to be the better counter puncher, as well as the more defensively responsible party.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Tyson Pedro OVER 0.5 Takedowns and Sergey Khandozhko UNDER 1.5 Takedowns
Pedro's career in the UFC has been marked by a desire to grapple, even when it isn't his best path to victory. He will be in luck against Ike Villanueva, who will stand flatfooted and throw big shots at his head for as long as the fight lasts. "Hurricane" has stuffed the only takedown attempt he has seen in the Octagon to date, but he's never faced someone as committed to grappling as Pedro figures to be. Having taken the last three years off after being brutally knocked out by Mauricio Rua makes me think that Pedro will want to spend as little time on the feet as possible here.
I have no doubt that Khandozhko will try to wrestle at some point, but a 16 percent accuracy rate against Rostem Akman doesn't bode well for his chances of scoring multiple takedowns against Dwight Grant, who will enter the cage with a 70 percent takedown defense rate in seven fights. I expect that Grant's athleticism, length, and hesitancy to engage will all work to keep him upright, as Khandozhko should have a hard time imposing his game on the bigger fighter.
Bets to Consider
Jordan Wright wins via KO/TKO/Submission or DQ (+350)
Wright has been knocked out more often than not in his UFC career, but he's also had big moments of success in some of those bouts. In his fight against Bruno Silva, for example, he landed stinging shots in the clinch before getting overzealous bought him another trip to the canvas. Marc-Andre Barriault is a strong guy but tends to win by wearing on his opponents and either being the fresher fighter at the final bell or getting a late finish. The lack of imminent danger should be a welcome change for Wright, who will be the far more athletic competitor. It should also be noted that Barriault looks to lean on his opponents to tire them out against the fence, which is where Wright does some of his best work. It may not feel comfortable, but the UFC may have found a style matchup that gives Wright more than a puncher's chance.
Dean Barry vs. Mike Jackson Goes the Distance: (+200)
Two weeks ago, I predicted the fight between Ian Garry and Darian Weeks would go to decision, arguing that we should take advantage of inflated "does not go the distance" lines from young fighters who have been knocking out less experienced competition. While Mike Jackson may not be an experienced fighter, he's never been finished via strikes during his career in combat sports, which includes four boxing matches, two MMA fights, and a Muay Thai fight. Barry is a back-foot karate fighter in the style of Stephen Thompson and tends to wait on his opponents in a similar fashion. Barry was an accomplished kickboxer in Ireland, but his last MMA fight came against an opponent who shot repeatedly from the opening bell and folded the second he was hit with a strike. Jackson has at least shown composure in a fight setting, which is enough for me to think this will be more of a touch-and-go fight than the odds indicate.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Manel Kape OVER 57.5 Strikes and Su Mudaerji OVER 43.5 Strikes
It's evident that MKF expects this fight to end in an early knockout, as both men average nearly 5.00 significant strikes per minute in the Octagon. While they are proficient knockout artists, neither Mudaerji nor Kape have ever been finished by strikes in their respective careers. Kape will be the more likely party to wrestle, and "The Tibetan Eagle" has been vulnerable to submissions, but with a takedown rate of 0.77 in his four UFC fights, I can't rely on Kape sticking to a wrestling attack. These totals are low enough that they could hit as long as the bout makes it to round three, which is a bet I am willing to take.