Welcome to the ‘Battle of the Bales’ fantasy MMA breakdown. This article offers UFC DraftKings picks for the upcoming UFC on ESPN+ 21 card this Saturday. Justin will offer a recommendation, followed by Jason’s response. DFS Karma readers can probably guess what happens next. Jason will offer a recommendation, followed by Justin’s response.
UFC DraftKings Picks – UFC on ESPN+ 21 – High Priced
Justin’s Pick: Zelim Imadaev
Zelim Imadaev lost a majority decision against Max Griffin in his UFC debut. Prior to that, he owned an 8-0 record with eight (T)KOs. Imadaev ended five of those eight fights in the first round. He’s a powerful striker, who flashed an impressive spinning back elbow knockout a few fights ago.
Imadaev gets a matchup against Danny Roberts this week. He was a high-end prospect early in his career, but owns a 5-4 record in the UFC. Since October 2016, Roberts has been knocked out by Mike Perry, Nordine Taleb, and Michel Pereira. The most recent knockout came in May of this year.
Imadaev possesses tremendous power, while Roberts owns a questionable chin. While Roberts was once a solid prospect, he doesn’t boast any overly impressive victories in the UFC. Often times fighters struggle in their UFC debuts, and that may have happened to Imadaev. With -120 odds to finish this fight inside the distance, I expect Imadaev to walk away with his first UFC knockout.
Jason’s Reaction: Imadaev is the play this weekend.
Jason’s Pick: Abubakar Nurmagomedov
Abubakar Nurmagomedov is the brother of the greatest UFC fighter in the history of the sport. That must be a tough pill to swallow. Justin is in a similar boat, as he is the brother of the greatest UFC analyst in the history of the sport. Either way, both brothers are pretty good at their jobs.
Nurmagomedov started freestyle wrestling in primary school, and he is currently an International Master of Sport in Combat Sambo. In 2014, he won a bronze medal at the Combat Sambo World Championships. His grappling is not at the level of Khabib (no one is), but it will be enough to ground David Zawada.
Zawada enters this fight with a record of 0-2 in the UFC. He lost via body kick against Jingliang Li and via split decision against Danny Roberts. The UFC will likely hand-pick opponents for Nurmagomedov for the foreseeable future, until a hype starts to build around his name. His upside is great in tournaments due to his ability to find multiple takedowns. Khabib’s brother, as he will always be known, is a -310 betting favorite with +335 odds to win inside the distance.
Justin’s Reaction: This is a great play. I have no problems with Nurmagomedov this weekend.
UFC DraftKings Picks – UFC on ESPN+ 21 – Mid Priced
Justin’s Pick: Khadis Ibragimov
Khadis Ibragimov was a massive favorite in his UFC debut, but lost via Guillotine Choke to Da Un Jung. As mentioned above, some fighters tend to get caught in their octagon debut. That knockout takes nothing away from the versatile Russian fighter. He owns two knockouts, three submissions, and two decisions, boasting an 8-1 record.
Ibragimov gets an elite matchup against Ed Herman, who is coming off of a knockout win against Patrick Cummins. Herman hasn’t strung together consecutive wins since 2012, though. He was finished in 9 of his 14 professional fights, including 6 times by submission.
Ibragimov should have the advantage regardless of where this fight takes place. Herman certainly has a puncher’s chance, but I don’t fully expect Ibragimov to stand and trade with him. The latter should utilize his grappling, and expose Herman once again. He’s a mid-priced fighter that is likely to walk away with another finish.
Jason’s Reaction: I completely agree. Ibragimov is a great option this Saturday.
Jason’s Pick: Roman Kopylov
This is a fight that fantasy owners are going to need exposure to. Roman Kopylov is making his UFC debut after his fight against Krzystof Jotko was canceled. Karl Roberson has plenty of upside in tournaments, and he is worth his price tag for his knockout potential. However, Kopylov has the superior striking.
Additionally, Kopylov is trained in Combat Sambo, and if he needs it, he can fall back on his wrestling. Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see Kopylov develop into one of the UFC’s better middleweights. His striking is very crisp, his wrestling is solid, and he’s young.
Kopylov is currently a -110 betting equal with +185 odds to finish inside the distance. Roberson’s kickboxing might frustrate Kopylov early, but he should be able to find takedowns or evade and strike inside the pocket. His price tag is slightly higher than that of Roberson, as well, which means he could be under-owned in tournaments.
Justin’s Reaction: I agree with this analysis. Strong thinking here.
UFC DraftKings Picks – UFC on ESPN+ 21 – Low Priced
Justin’s Pick: Greg Hardy
Greg Hardy is not a good fighter, but he comes with plenty of athleticism and power. Hardy boasts a 5-1 professional record, losing only by disqualification. His sixth win was overturned because he used an inhaler during the fight. While that seems obviously illegal, Hardy got the “OK” to use it. This is a completely separate issue, though. He’s an extremely green fighter, who has a puncher’s chance in this matchup.
Alexander Volkov has found plenty of success in the UFC, recording a 4-1 record thus far. His only loss came to Derrick Lewis with only 11 seconds left in the fight. He was handily winning that contest before the knockout. With that being said, it was a brutal knockout, and it will be interesting to see if Volkov can come back from that.
Hardy is outmatched in every facet of this fight. For his price tag, though, he’s a solid tournament dart. He has one-punch knockout power and will get three rounds to work. I don’t truly expect him to win this fight, but his upside is undeniable, and that’s what fantasy owners need in tournaments.
Jason’s Reaction: How does one convey a facepalm in words? Whatever that is, I just did it.
Jason’s Pick: Anthony Martin
After a loss to Olivier Aubin-Mercier in late 2017, Anthony “Rocco” Martin went on a four-fight winning streak, defeating Keita Nakamura, Ryan LaFlare, Jake Matthews, and Sergio Moraes. Most recently, he lost a majority decision to Demian Maia. His most relevant victory for this weekend’s matchup is his win over Matthews.
Ramazan Emeev is an International Master of Sports in Combat Sambo. He started training freestyling wrestling at the age of six under Ali Iskhakov. Martin might struggle against Emeev’s takedowns, but he fended off Matthews, and he almost won a decision against Maia. His elite conditioning and awkward movement makes him difficult to grasp when shooting. If Emeev keeps this fight standing, he will be in trouble.
Martin is currently a +105 betting underdog with +430 odds to finish inside the distance. He has a realistic chance to impress the judges in this fight, but do consider, Russia is not known for being fair when judging fights. It is possible that Martin wins on most fan’s scorecards, but fails to sway the Russian judges. Either way, his low price tag is worth the gamble in tournaments on DraftKings.
Justin’s Reaction: Martin was going to be my original cheap option, so I do like this.