The Haymaker – UFC 205: Picks and Analysis
The Haymaker – UFC 205: Picks and Analysis
Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. This is the card that everyone has been waiting for. The UFC is making its long-awaited debut in New York City and the company has spared no expense on the event. With three title fights headlining UFC 205, this is arguably the best card they have ever offered. The rest of the fights are no slouch either as several big names make an appearance as well as some exciting up-and-coming talent. DraftKings has also delivered for DFS fans, offering up massive GPP contests at every buy-in level. The three title fights should command the highest ownership, so I will begin by breaking those down and follow it up with some other format-specific plays that I will be using.
Conor McGregor ($8,600) vs Eddie Alvarez ($7,600)
Odds: McGregor (-155) Alvarez (+135)
Odds to Finish: -300
This fight is a champion vs champion battle between the flashy and outspoken Conor McGregor and the grinding veteran Eddie Alvarez. McGregor is aiming to become the first title holder in two weight classes at the same time as he challenges Alvarez for his Lightweight belt. As enjoyable as all the talk leading up to the bout has been, I am really looking forward to these two finally doing battle in the Octagon. McGregor is the faster, sharper striker who uses an unorthodox style to mix up looks and confuse his opponents. He has a ton of power in his left hand and is well known for his knockout ability. McGregor has a 5” reach advantage to add to the speed and should have a significant striking advantage early in this one. His weaknesses are his ground game and failing cardio late in fights which Alvarez will try to exploit.
Alvarez will aim to push the pace early and try to tire out McGregor by grinding him against the cage and getting him to the ground. Alvarez is coming off of a surprising knockout victory over former champ Raphael dos Anjos but is not typically known as a power puncher. He is very hittable but has shown incredible toughness in the past after getting knocked down but continuing to get back up. This is not a style he should be willing to test against the power of McGregor however, so his best bet will be to implement a wrestling based game plan.
This is a very close fight and I can see very reasonable paths to victory for both guys. From a DFS perspective, this is a fight that I will be very heavily exposed to in both formats despite the likely high ownership on both guys. McGregor will be the higher owned of the two but he has the best chance of scoring an early KO. Even if McGregor wins by decision, he has shown that he can put up a big score in a five round fight with his high output style (6.02 significant strikes landed per minute) and the ability to score knockdowns which are worth 10 DK points each. Alvarez is most likely to win by decision or to finish McGregor late and should still be able to pay off his cheap salary in either scenario. If he takes a decision it will most likely involve a few takedowns which are now more valuable under the new scoring system. I will be heavier on McGregor in tournaments for his finishing upside even though I think he will be over 50% owned, but I will also have some of Alvarez as he is $1000 cheaper and makes for a great leverage play. As far as cash games go, both fighters have a fairly low floor so I think that stacking the fight is a very viable strategy considering how close it is. If you decide to use just one I would probably go with McGregor since he is less likely to be finished early and should be able to land some strikes even if Alvarez takes him down a lot. He will also be very popular in cash games so if you are wrong then it won’t hurt you too badly.
Stephen Thompson ($8,800) vs Tyron Woodley ($7,400)
Odds: Thompson (-200) vs Woodley (+170)
Odds to Finish: -190
The challenger, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, actually comes into this one as a heavy favorite over the champion, Tyron Woodley. It’s not too surprising though if you’ve watched Wonderboy fight lately. He has won 7 straight fights in impressive fashion and clearly looks to be head and shoulders above the rest of the division. Wonderboy is a very fast and elusive kick boxer and is very good and controlling range inside of the Octagon. Woodley is primarily a wrestler and his best bet will be to try to get him to the ground, which is easier said than done. Wonderboy has shown excellent take down defense lately and is not easy to control. Woodley does have a ton of power in his hands as he displayed in his last fight, knocking out champion Robbie Lawler to win the title. However, Woodley only tends to throw one big punch at a time which will not be as effective against somebody like Wonderboy, who is so hard to hit.
Wonderboy is most likely to play it cautious in the early rounds in order to keep the distance and avoid the power shots from Woodley. Woodley has shown poor cardio in the past so Wonderboy has a greater chance the longer the fight goes. He should be able to pick Woodley apart with kicks at range and has a great chance of finishing in the later rounds with the second best finish prop on the card at +135, which is just behind McGregor. I think this makes Wonderboy a great tournament play, but I think he will be highly owned and the fact that it’s likely to be a later finish or even a decision win makes me want to have slightly less exposure to him than the field. That does make Wonderboy an excellent cash play though as he strikes at a high enough output to have a decent floor. I think it makes sense to have some exposure to Woodley in GPPs as a contrarian play and because of his fight ending power, even though I think it’s not highly likely to happen.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk ($9,300) vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz ($6,900)
Odds: Jedrzejczyk (-410) Kowalkiewicz (+330)
Odds to Finish: +155
This women’s Strawweight title fight is definitely the most fun fight to watch on the night. This should be a high octane stand-up battle as both women throw punches at an incredibly high rate and neither attempt any takedowns. Neither fighter has a lot of power so there’s a very good chance this could set a record for significant strikes landed in one fight. In her last two title defenses, Joanna has landed almost 400 total strikes, which is just crazy to think about. Karolina is no slouch either as she has been over 100 significant strikes landed in only a three round fight. Both fighters are undefeated but Karolina is definitely overmatched here. She squeaked out a split decision victory over Rose Namajunas in her last fight while Joanna went through a five round battle with Claudia Gadelha and actually got stronger as the fight went on. Both women are tough and have excellent gas tanks so this one is likely to go the distance. Given the incredibly high floor on both fighters I think that both make for elite cash plays with my favorite option being to stack the fight. Joanna is my favorite play in all formats with her massive upside and I will likely be all in for GPPs.
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.
Frankie Edgar ($9,200)
Frankie Edgar is the second biggest favorite on the card at -340 over Jeremy Stephens. Edgar has shown that he can handle the rest of the division outside of the champion Jose Aldo, who has beaten him twice now. Edgar will have a noticeable speed advantage in this one as well as a wrestling advantage and should be able to use those tools to avoid the power shots from Stephens. He has also shown a lot of toughness in the past, so I like his ability to survive on the off chance that he does get rocked. Edgar has the ability to mix in takedowns and strikes which should give him a high floor, but he is not likely to finish Stephens and a decision victory is the most likely scenario. Given his limited upside compared to the other high priced fighters, I think that he makes for a better cash play than GPP play. His name value should also bring his ownership up among casual fans.
Katlyn Chookagian ($8,200)
Katlyn Chookagian is priced right around the average and is a -175 favorite over the veteran Liz Carmouche which gives her great odds value. Chookagian is an undefeated prospect with good footwork and good striking. She throws at a high volume but doesn’t land at a very high rate. Chookagian has only fought once in the UFC but looked much better than Carmouche did against mutual opponent Lauren Murphy. Carmouche has only fought twice in the last three years so she will have some ring rust to knock off here. Chookagian is the younger fighter and appears to have some potential. Fighting at home in New York, it looks like like the UFC is trying to boost her resume by serving up a veteran name like Carmouche. I expect her to get the win here but I’m not sure how high her ceiling is, given that Carmouche has proven to be very durable in the past. Given all that, I prefer using Chookagian in cash games for her cheap price and great chance at the win.
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. With the new DK scoring system you can also find a high ceiling with grapplers who score lots of takedowns and are active on the ground. It’s fine to have some popular plays but it will usually take one or two low owned plays to win a tournament.
Khabib Nurmagomedov ($9,000) vs Michael Johnson ($7,200)
Odds: Khabib (-310) Johnson (+255)
Odds to Finish: +100
This fight is an extreme version of your classic striker vs wrestler matchup. The Vegas odds are lopsided in favor of Khabib, but Johnson is very much a live dog in this one. It’s not an easy fight to call because it depends greatly on which fighter is going to be able to impose their style on the other. Khabib is an elite wrestler and is a popular choice with the fans, but he comes with his own question marks, which makes this one more of a GPP target for me rather than a cash play like the odds would suggest. Khabib is one of the most dominant offensive wrestlers ever in the UFC as he holds the record for most takedowns in a single fight with an astonishing 21(!). That alone would score over 100 points on DK, so you can see how high his ceiling is here. On the other hand, Khabib’s career has been plagued by injuries and this is only his second fight back after ACL surgery. He had an unimpressive showing in his return fight, needing 2 rounds to dispose of jobber Darrell Horcher. It’s hard to tell how he’ll look in this one and with limited action lately it makes it even harder to have heavy exposure to him in cash games.
Johnson on the other hand, is coming off of an early KO victory over Dustin Poirier in a fight that many expected him to lose. Johnson had seemed slower in his previous couple of fights and it was later revealed that he had to have rotator cuff surgery. The surgery seemed to fix things as he looked lightning fast against Poirier and back to his old self. Johnson has much better striking and power than Khabib so he should have the advantage if he can keep it on the feet. Johnson comes from a wrestling background but has shown that he can be taken down in the past. He does have excellent footwork though, which helps him manage the distance. If he can avoid the relentless takedown attempts from Khabib, then I think he has a great chance of finishing this fight within the distance. I will have exposure to both sides, but with heavy ownership expected on Khabib, that makes Johnson a great contrarian play in GPPs.
Chris Weidman ($8,500) vs Yoel Romero ($7,700)
Odds: Weidman (-175) Romero (+155)
Odds to Finish: -130
This fight is also a striker vs grappler matchup with its own question marks. Weidman is well rounded but is primarily a wrestler with good jiu-jitsu. He is fighting in front of the home crowd and comes into this fight with a 5” reach advantage over the older but more athletic Romero. Weidman is coming off neck surgery after losing his title to Luke Rockhold back in December of last year, so the big issue is what kind of shape he will be in. Romero also has his own issues as he is coming off a five month suspension from USADA for a banned substance. Romero is a dangerous striker that will be looking for the early KO, but gasses later in fights if he is not successful. Weidman has the massive cardio advantage so he should benefit if he can take this fight into the later rounds. If he can tire out Romero then he should have a great chance to take him down and possibly finish it late. Given the nature of the fight I will once again have exposure to both sides, but I will be heavier on Romero with his early finish potential.