The Haymaker – UFC Fight Night 98: Picks and Analysis
The Haymaker – UFC Fight Night 98: Dos Anjos vs Ferguson
Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. The UFC returns this weekend after a three week layoff and provides us with a bit of an appetizer before next weekend’s blockbuster UFC 205 PPV. This Fight Night card is taking place in Mexico City and is headlined by what should be a very entertaining battle between Lightweights Rafael Dos Anjos and Tony Ferguson. Much like the main event, many of these fights are very close on the betting line with only a couple heavy favorites. Add to that the fact that Mexico City is at high altitude, which can cause guys to gas easier than usual, and that makes several of these fights difficult to predict. This style of card typically lends itself better to tournament play so I will definitely be having most of my action there. That shouldn’t stop us from finding a viable cash game strategy, however, so I will also break down some individual plays I like best for those.
Rafael Dos Anjos ($8,300) vs Tony Ferguson ($7,900)
Odds: RDA (-135) Ferguson (+125)
The main event is a 5 round fight between the former long time champ Rafael Dos Anjos and the always dangerous Tony Ferguson. RDA will be looking to redeem himself after losing his title to Eddie Alvarez. RDA has always had a good chin but after getting KO’d by Alvarez in that fight it brings it into question. RDA has gone the distance in a five round fight before and has been training at altitude in preparation for this fight. He is the more technical of the two fighters on the feet and is probably the better BJJ black belt on the ground. RDA is also the more experienced fighter and has faced the better competition in his career.
Ferguson on the other hand, prefers to push the pace and fight with reckless abandon. He still makes lots of mistakes but he’s so good that he’s been able to overcome them thus far. He loves to create chaos and take other fighters out of their comfort zone. It’s not likely that Ferguson will be able to keep up his aggressive style for the full five rounds so he will be looking for the early TKO or submission.
From a DFS perspective, Ferguson has the better shot of getting an early finish in this one but RDA is the more likely one to come away with the victory. Even in a decision victory, RDA should put up a solid score with five rounds to work with and should be able pay off his low salary. The winner of this fight is very likely to end up in the winning tournament lineup. As a result I will have exposure to both sides in tournaments but will likely be heavier on Ferguson because of the cheaper price and better chance at the early finish. Given the upside of each fighter and the fact that it could really go either way, I feel that best way to handle this fight in cash games is to stack it. You can lock in a victory and are able to save salary at the same time since both fighters are priced just below the average.
Cash Game Plays
For cash games you want to seek out fighters with high floors. This means selecting fighters that strike at a high output or score lots of takedowns. I generally look to get as many favorites as possible into my lineups as you need to get wins. 3-4 wins are generally enough to cash in most double ups and 50/50s.
Heavy Favorites – Enrique Barzola ($9,500) and Alexa Grasso ($9,300)
With so many close fights on this card it is difficult to find safety and these two fighters are the heaviest favorites by a large margin. Now I know that we have seen several massive upsets lately but Barzola and Grasso are the closest thing you will find to a sure thing on this card.
Barzola is a -525 favorite over Chris Avila and should dominate this one from start to finish. Avila is very raw and does not appear ready for the UFC. This was very evident in his last fight in which he got worked by the unimpressive Artem Lobov. Barzola is not a quick finisher, which is why I prefer him in cash over tournaments, but he should be able to score points with takedowns and earn a decision victory with ease.
Grasso making her UFC debut at home vs Heather Jo Clark, but is the second biggest favorite on the card at -525. Grasso is a high volume kick boxer with impressive speed and accuracy. She does not have a ton of power but should be able to rack up over 100 significant strikes against a very hittable opponent and earn the victory.
Punt Play – Diego Sanchez ($7,200)
Marcin Held is making his UFC debut against veteran Diego Sanchez. Held is the much younger and more talented fighter. Held is known as a submission grappler and will be looking to get this one to the ground right from the start of the fight. Sanchez, however, is very durable and has never been submitted in 37 career fights. Plus Sanchez has a proven gas tank and is difficult to take down, so I like his ability to get to decision. Held strikes at a very low rate so Sanchez might even be able steal a victory here. He doesn’t have the greatest upside since he is not a finisher but he should have a high enough floor that he won’t hurt your teams. But the greatest advantage to taking Sanchez is that he provides the necessary salary relief to fit one of if not both of Barzola and Grasso.
The key to tournaments is to select fighters with high upside. On DraftKings that means seeking out early finishes and fighters that land a high number of significant strikes. It’s fine to have some popular plays but it will usually take one or two low owned plays to win a tournament.
Max Griffin ($8,800)
Max Griffin is a slight favorite at -135 over Erick Montano but has one of the better chances of finishing early with an inside-the-distance prop of +141. Griffin is not a great grappler but he is the much better of the two on the feet and the more likely to do damage. He is a power puncher that was unable to put that on display the last time out against Colby Covington in a tough stylistic matchup. Covington is a much better fighter than Montano and I’m hoping that people will focus that result, keeping his ownership low.
Montano ($7,400) is a live dog in this one, but he does not have a ton of upside as his most likely path to victory is a scrappy, low output, decision win.
Polo Reyes ($8,900) vs Jason Novelli ($7,300)
“Marco” Polo Reyes has an all-offense style that creates a ton of finishing opportunities but also leaves him at risk defensively. A perfect example of this was his last fight against Dong-Hyung Kim which was a fight of the year candidate. He is an excellent GPP play since he is one of the few capable finishers on the card. He faces off against Jason Novelli who has a suspect chin and was knocked out by David Teymur in his last fight. However, Reyes is a weak defensive grappler and is not great at stopping takedowns.
Novelli is mainly a grappler and should have tried to take down Teymur in his last fight but instead he stayed standing and paid the price. His best bet in this fight is the same thing – take Reyes down and try to submit him. If he comes in with a better game plan then he has a chance of an upset, albeit a low one. He should be very low owned so I think he’s worth a shot in GPPs as a cheap contrarian play.
Sam Alvey ($9,100) vs Alex Nicholson ($7,100)
Sam Alvey is fighting for the fourth time in the last five months which is really quite impressive. Alvey has the highest finish prop on the card (-118 ITD) and has finished his last two fights quickly which should make him a popular choice in this one. He is a low volume counter puncher with a powerful right hand. He tends to either win by KO or lose which makes him the ideal tournament play (ownership aside).
Alex Nicholson strikes at a higher volume so if he can avoid the power right from Alvey, he has a reasonable chance of earning a victory here. He does leave his chin up way too much when striking though, and is susceptible to being tagged. He has a low floor, but is the third cheapest fighter on the card and has the best chance of victory in the bottom pricing tier. With the majority of the population on Alvey, I think that Nicholson should be lower owned which makes him a decent contrarian play in tournaments.