The Haymaker – UFC 206: Picks & Analysis
The Haymaker – UFC 206: Picks and Analysis
Hey fight fans, welcome back to another edition of The Haymaker. This Saturday’s card is taking place from my hometown of Toronto, Ontario and is headlined by a fight for the Featherweight interim-title between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis. DraftKings always brings out the big prize pools for the PPV cards so there is a lot of money to be made this weekend. With 12 fights on the card, there are a lot of options to choose from on DK, so I will narrow down the field to some of my favorite individual plays for each format.
Main Event: Max Holloway ($8,800) vs Anthony Pettis ($7,400)
Odds: Holloway (-245) Pettis (+205)
Odds to finish: -110
This fight was supposed to be for Conor McGregor’s vacated Featherweight belt but Pettis missed weight by 2 lbs. As a result, the fight will go on as scheduled, but only Holloway is eligible to become the new champ if he wins. The betting line was close when it opened, but it has really taken off in Holloway’s favor the past few days as he is now the second biggest favorite on the card.
Anthony Pettis has always had a lot of promise and has had some exciting performances against top competition in the past. He was a little small for 155, as guys started pressuring him and he did not handle fighting off his back foot well. He ended up moving back down to Featherweight and fought Charles Oliveira in August. Pettis did not look good in that fight as he was losing until he pulled off a guillotine choke in the third round. It looked like he ran out of gas and the weight cut probably had a lot to do with it, which does not bode well for this five-round fight. Pettis has a 3” reach advantage and is the stronger and more powerful striker, but he can be inactive at times. His submission game does not get as much attention as his striking, but he actually has more submission victories than TKOs. Pettis also has experience fighting on the big stage which could come into play here.
Max Holloway has been on a tear lately, having won 9 straight fights going into this one, and has looked better every time out. Holloway is the more active fighter and will use his aggression to pressure Pettis right from the start. He has great footwork and much better cardio, which should come into play in the championship rounds.
Pettis is very hard to put away, so Holloway by decision or late finish is the most likely outcome here. However, Holloway is a high output striker and could still put up a big score in a decision win. From a DFS perspective, this makes Holloway my top play on the card in both formats – especially when you take his price into consideration. He will be popular in tournaments, but there are plenty of other spots to differentiate your lineup. Pettis is always capable of landing something crazy and ending the fight so I think it makes sense to have a little exposure to him in tournaments if you are playing multiple lineups. In cash games, you can consider stacking Pettis with Holloway to get salary relief, since Pettis should have a decent floor here.
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.
Donald Cerrone ($9,300)
This one should be very entertaining to watch from a fan perspective as it has a great shot of being the fight of the night. Donald Cerrone is the biggest favorite on the card at -290 over Matt Brown and is the most expensive fighter on DK. Brown is getting older and has lost four out of his last five fights, while Cerrone has been on fire since moving up to Welterweight. Brown is known for being very tough and hard to put away, but his weakness versus body shots is well known. He was overwhelmed early by Jake Ellenberger in his last fight and was finished with a vicious body kick, marking the first time he has ever been TKO’d. Cerrone has also shown some weakness to the body, but claims that moving up in weight has helped him in that regard. In any event, Cerrone is the more well rounded fighter in this matchup and has multiple paths to victory here. Brown may not get KO’d easily, but he has lost several fights by submission and Cerrone has shown that he can finish guys on the ground as well.
Given his multiple paths to victory, I strongly favor Cerrone in this one. Cerrone has the best finish prop on the card so he has a lot of upside for tournaments, but he will also be highly owned as he is one of the biggest names on the card. I think he has a high floor and is a relatively safe bet to get the victory here so I love him in cash games. But using the most expensive fighter on the card does limit the number of unique lineup combinations, and with only 12 fights on the card that is something I am concerned with in tournaments.
Valerie Letourneau ($8,400)
Valerie Letourneau is a sizable -175 favorite against Viviane Pereira who is making her UFC debut on short notice. Pereira is 12-0 but has fought exclusively in Brazil and this is a big step up for her in competition. Pereira did beat the girl that Letourneau was supposed to fight, but she is the much smaller fighter here at a 7” height disadvantage. I don’t love Letourneau’s game, but she has a lot of experience and has fought the best competition in the division. She is the slower fighter here, but is very tough and she should be able to use her large height and reach advantage to keep the distance and outpoint Pereira to a decision victory. She is much stronger than Pereira and is better on the ground if the fight ends up there. Letourneau does not have much finishing upside, but should win and has excellent odds value at her price, making her better cash than GPP play.
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.
Dooho Choi ($8,900)
Dooho Choi is a -230 favorite over Cub Swanson and has the second highest finish prop on the card which automatically makes him appealing in GPPs. Choi is a solid up and coming prospect who has finished each of his first three UFC fights in the first round. He is a technical striker with great accuracy and is the much faster fighter in this matchup. Choi is smart on the ground and has good scrambling ability if he ends up on his back. The risk in this fight comes from the fact that he has an average fight time of only 1.5 minutes so we haven’t seen what he’s like deeper in fights. He has also not fought any solid, ranked guys, so this will be a step up in competition for him. With that said, Swanson has the experience advantage, but he is much older and is on the decline in his career. He is a BJJ black belt and has the edge in the grappling department, but he does have a questionable chin and Choi is the type of fighter who will test it. Swanson has a path to victory on the ground, but Choi is the stronger play here with a great chance to end the fight with an early KO.
Jordan Mein ($9,000) vs Emil Meek ($7,200)
Odds: Mein (-155) Meek (+135)
Odds to finish: -290
This fight has a ton of upside for an early finish and will be a heavy target of mine in GPPs as both fighters will likely go lower owned than they should be. Emil Meek is making is UFC debut after coming over from Venator and is a relative unknown to the casual fan. He was supposed to make his debut back in September but was flagged in drug testing for an undisclosed substance (steroids), so it had to be put on hold. Meek is a very aggressive striker and will take the fight to Mein right from the start. He is a finish-or-be-finished style of fighter as he has several first round KO victories and has been KO’d twice himself.
Jordan Mein is only 27 years old, but he is very experienced and already has 39 pro fights on his resume. All those fights likely burnt him out so he took some time off and hasn’t fought in almost two years. Mein has a boxing background and is the more technical fighter. He should have the striking advantage and has a great chance to get an early finish here. The biggest question mark in this one is if he will be able to shake off the ring rust after the long layoff.
I will be targeting both sides of this fight in GPPs considering Meek’s style of pushing the action early. Meek is a strong play for his price, considering his upside and how close the fight is to call. Mein should go low owned because he is priced right around Holloway, Cerrone and Choi, so that makes me want to have heavier exposure to him, as Mein is the better fighter if he is on his game.
Misha Cirkunov ($8,100) vs Nikita Krylov ($8,100)
Odds: Cirkunov (-120) Krylov (+100)
Odds to finish: -300
This is a fight between two of the strongest prospects at Light Heavyweight and is another one to target on both sides in GPPs, as it is the closest fight on the card according to Vegas and has the best odds of finishing inside the distance. Nikita Krylov is a very talented striker who is all offense and no defense. He hasn’t gone to decision once in his 25 pro fights. Krylov comes into this fight on a five-fight win streak and has a lot of early finishes to his name. He has a lot of potential but also has a lot of holes in his game. Krylov is a very high output striker but does not have the best takedown defense (43%).
Misha Cirkunov is a strong grappler and is well versed in wrestling, judo and BJJ. He is a very smart fighter and has shown improved striking as well as a great gas tank. Cirkunov is bigger and should be the stronger fighter in this matchup. He will have a huge advantage if he can get this fight to the ground as he has excellent submission skills and powerful ground-and-pound.
I plan to play this fight close to even in GPPs since both fighters have a great chance at finishing, but will have slightly more exposure to Cirkunov as I think he has fewer holes in his game. The better gas tank should also help him the longer the fight goes.