The Haymaker: UFC 204 – Picks and Analysis
The Haymaker: UFC 204 – Picks and Analysis
Welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. This week’s card is UFC 204 from Manchester, England. One interesting tidbit about Saturday’s card is that it will be taking place in prime time EST which means the main card does not kick off until 3am local time (!). I’m not sure if it will have a large impact on the fighters but it’s definitely worth noting.
DraftKings has finally tightened up their pricing and aligned the salaries with the current betting odds. This will make things a little more difficult to construct lineups that you feel comfortable about from top to bottom, but it is a nice contrast to what they were doing with the seemingly random pricing from the previous several contests. With the cancellation of next week’s Fight Night card from Manila, Philippines this will be the last card for a month, so let’s win some dough before the layoff.
Main Event: Michael Bisping ($9,100) vs Dan Henderson ($7,100)
Odds: Bisping (-230) Henderson (+190)
Odds to Finish: -300
The main event of UFC 204 is a rematch of their fight from UFC 100 between Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson. The fight was seven years ago but is still remembered as one of the biggest knockouts in UFC history as Henderson dropped Bisping with his signature H-bomb and followed it up with a nasty diving punch once Bisping was already out cold. While that is a lasting memory in many fans minds, a lot has changed since then for both guys. Bisping is riding an impressive four fight win streak that culminated in his upset of Luke Rockhold for the Middleweight championship. The 46 year old Henderson on the other hand only has three wins in his last nine fights and will likely be retiring after this one.
Bisping will be making his first title defense in front of the hometown crowd in Manchester and has an incredible record on home soil. He has also made great improvements since their last fight. In the first matchup between the two, Bisping made a huge strategical blunder by constantly circling towards Hendo’s powerful right hand and he paid for it dearly. Since then Bisping has really worked on his footwork and is much less predictable with his movement. He is also a high volume striker with elite cardio and will have a big advantage if the fight gets into the later rounds.
Henderson has understandably slowed down late in his career but he still packs the same power that he built his reputation on and is a threat to end the fight at any moment. The only problem is that as he has slowed, he has had a tougher time setting up his power shots. While Bisping is not known as the most powerful of punchers, the other issue that Hendo faces is that his once granite chin is now starting to go.
From a DFS perspective I think both guys make for solid tournament options even though they will be highly owned. Henderson is a low output fighter so his only chance of winning is to get the early KO. While Bisping has made great improvements in his movement, he is still very hittable so I think Hendo has a decent chance of that. Bisping on the other hand has multiple ways to win. If the fight goes to decision he will be the one getting his hand raised and with his high output should be able to put up a good score in a five round fight. With Hendo’s chin going, I also think Bisping has the upside to finish him in the early rounds by sheer accumulation of strikes. I think Henderson will be the higher owned of the two because of his bottom of the barrel price tag and general popularity so I will be heavier on Bisping in tournaments. As far as cash games go I think Bisping is the much safer play because of the potential outcomes mentioned above. I wouldn’t use Henderson as a one off play in cash because of his low output and limited methods of victory. However, I think he can be stacked with Bisping due to the lack of favorites at the lower pricing tier and the safety it provides in any outcome.
With the three biggest favorites getting upset last week it only took as little as two wins to reach the money in cash games. However, that was a rare scenario and I believe that going forward you will need a minimum of three wins and possibly four to cash with the new lineup structure. With the tighter pricing this week it will be impossible to construct cash game lineups without taking at least one underdog. One possible strategy when dealing with this issue is to stack a fight. This strategy worked like a charm last week while stacking the main event. Five round fights are typically the best option for stacking since they offer the upside of the early finish bonus plus the safety of the additional two rounds to rack up points.
Gegard Mousasi ($9,400)
Gegard Mousasi comes into this one as a -335 favorite over former champion Vitor Belfort ($6,800). In a striker vs striker matchup, Mousasi is the younger, more agile fighter. He is a precise volume striker and the more technically sound of the two. Belfort is known for his KO ability but he hasn’t looked the same since the TRT ban and his chin is going. While Belfort’s style does introduce some risk, Mousasi is one of the best defensive fighters in the game allowing only 1.18 strikes against per minute and a 69% striking defense. Both fighters are black belts in BJJ but Mousasi is the better of the two on the ground and should have decided advantage if it goes there. If the fight stays standing he should pick him apart on the feet with a slight reach advantage and a much better chin. With an ITD prop of -185, Mousasi has a great chance of getting an early stoppage which also makes him a great tournament option. The only downside is that this is the co-main event and both fighters should be popular.
Davey Grant ($8,800)
Davey Grant is a -185 favorite over Damian Stasiak ($7,400) and has the advantage of fighting in his home country. Grant is huge for the weight class and should have a big size advantage vs the smaller Stasiak who is moving up in weight for this one. In Stasiak’s UFC debut vs Yaotzin Meza he showed that he can be dominated by better grapplers. Both guys have solid submission games but Grant is the stronger wrestler who will pressure and get takedowns which score a large amount of points. Combine that with the fact that Stasiak only has a +400 inside the distance prop and that makes Grant a high floor play on DK.
PPV cards always attract the casual fans which makes the bigger name fighters and any fights on the main card more popular. As a result, a big edge can be had over the majority of the field by targeting high upside fighters on the undercard.
Rob Font ($9,300) vs Ian Entwistle ($6,900)
Odds: Font (-325) Entwistle (+265)
Odds to Finish: -550
All 12 of Ian Entwistle’s fights have ended in the first round which makes this a fantastic one to target in tournaments. Entwistle is a leg lock specialist who lives and dies by the submission. He is persistent in his attempts to finish via leg lock and seemingly has no backup plan. The leg lock is a high risk, high reward maneuver that requires both hands to lock in leaving you very exposed in the process and his last two fights are perfect examples of this. He was able to tap out Anthony Birchak a minute into the first round and then in his next fight he got his face punched in by Alejandro Perez after repeatedly trying for the submission.
Rob Font is very fast on his feet and will be hard to take down. He has excellent footwork and kick boxing skills and carries a massive 7” reach advantage which should help him keep the fight at striking distance. He should be able to hit and frustrate Entwistle, forcing sloppy takedowns where he will be able to capitalize.
With the biggest finish prop on the card (-195), Font will be a heavy target of mine in tournaments. However, as you move up to the larger buy in tournaments Font’s ownership should be pretty high so keep that in mind when constructing your lineups. I will also have some exposure to Entwistle given everything I mentioned above regarding his high variance style. I think he will go very low owned compared to other fighters in his price range like Henderson and Belfort.
**UPDATE: Ian Entwistle has reportedly pulled out of the fight due to illness. The fight has been cancelled. I like Albert Tumenov ($9,200) as a pivot to Rob Font in tournaments. He is a killer on the feet and should go lower owned than similarly priced fighters like Mousasi and Bisping. I don’t love many fighters in the lower pricing tier aside from the likely highly owned Dan Henderson, but Leonardo Santos ($7,600) is cheap and worth a flyer in tournaments as the underdog. He is very aggressive and dangerous early in fights which gives him a reasonably high upside.
Marc Diakiese ($9,000)
Marc Diakiese is a hard hitting British newcomer that was scheduled to fight Reza Madadi but now gets Lukasz Sajewski on short notice. Diakiese is making his UFC debut yet comes into this one as a -210 favorite. He is pretty talented and looks to be making quick improvements to both his offensive and defensive game. He is an explosive fighter and should have a massive athletic advantage over Sajewski. Diakiese has shown flashy striking with frequent spinning kicks and is coming off back to back first round KO victories. He has decent wrestling but will want to keep the fight standing against Sajewski who is known for his grappling skills and general scrambling ability. Diakiese’s high variance style makes him an excellent target for tournaments, especially when you take into consideration that he is a relative unknown and is priced near other popular fighters such as Bisping and Mousasi. He should carry very low ownership.
Danny Roberts ($8,100) vs Mike Perry ($8,100)
Odds: Roberts (-130) Perry (+110)
Odds to Finish: -425
Expect fireworks in this one as both guys are talented strikers that have shown the ability to finish fights. Mike Perry is coming off an impressive first round KO of Hyun Gyu Lim in his UFC debut, yet all that people are talking about is his scumbag behavior outside of the cage. As unlikable as he may be, it is important to leave your bias out of the equation when evaluating the fights themselves. Perry is very dangerous inside the Octagon as evidenced by his 100% finish rate in eight career fights. While he does have a ton of power, his striking lacks versatility.
Roberts on the other hand, is a very technical striker who comes from a boxing background. Roberts also has solid submission skills and can be dangerous from his back if he gets knocked down. He had some particularly unimpressive moments in his last fight against wrestler Dominique Steele. While he did show a great chin, he also showed that he is hittable as he walked into big shots on more than one occasion.
With more ways to win I have to give the edge to Roberts in this one, but given the nature of the fight I will have exposure to both sides in tournaments. I think Perry has the better chance of the two to get the first round KO, but if it gets past the first round I expect Roberts to have the edge.