Justin’s Pick: Diego Ferreira
Diego Ferreira isn’t the most known fighter on the card, and we may get him at lower ownership with significantly more well known fighters in his price range. He’s only $9.2K on DraftKings, even though he owns -485 odds to win this fight against Kyle Nelson. Ferreira has displayed surprising power in the UFC, recording his first two TKOs in his six UFC fights. He also has one win by submission and one by decision, recording a 4-2 record. His two losses are far from bad, though, as they came against Beneil Dariush and Dustin Poirier. While Ferreira has power in his hands, he’s a third degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Nelson is taking this fight on short notice, and he’s a well-rounded fighter. With that being said, this is a major step up in competition, and Nelson simply won’t be ready. Ferreira owns -140 odds to finish inside of distance, and he’s averaging 107 DK points per finish in the UFC.
Jason’s Reaction: Diego Ferreira is a very safe option with high upside. What more could a fantasy owner ask for?
Jason’s Pick: Thiago Santos
Thiago Santos moved up the weight class ladder from middleweight to light heavyweight back in September to challenge up-and-comer Eryk Anders. Surprisingly, he never looked better. The light heavyweight division looks like it will be Santos’s new home, as he squares off against Jimi Manuwa this Saturday. Manuwa is desperate for a win, after losing two consecutive contests to Volkan Oezdemir and Jan Blachowicz, but Santos is looking to make a name for himself in his new division. This is a very interesting fight, as far as rankings are concerned, and Santos is a hefty favorite via Vegas. Manuwa is a little bit hesitant on the feet, but he possesses insane knockout power. That said, Santos is quick with his hands and head movement, and he should be able to tire Manuwa out before finishing him. Santos did admit that he felt slower in his only fight at light heavyweight, but that he felt more power in his hands. This should be an explosive fight, and not only does Santos get the edge, he should be the more active fighter by a significant margin, as he will not be nearly as drained by the weight cut.
Justin’s Reaction: Santos has looked outstanding at 205 lbs, and I feel he wins this fight via (T)KO. He’s one of my favorite options on this slate.
Justin’s Pick: Gunnar Nelson
I was going to recommend Max Holloway here, but I don’t simply want to go with the opposite fighter as Jason. Instead, I’ll side with Gunnar Nelson, although it is tentative. Nelson is an elite submission specialist, as he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo Gracie. He’s also a black belt in Karate, giving him serviceable stand up defense. This fight will essentially play out one of two ways – standing with a large edge to Alex Oliveira or on the ground with a large edge to Nelson. Nelson’s stand up has plenty of holes, and while Oliveira enters this fight with heavy hands, I do favor Nelson’s ability to get this fight to the ground. Oliveira is generally willing to jump on potential submissions, but I simply don’t feel he’ll be able to submit Nelson. This could make the transition from a striking match to a grappling match a bit easier for Nelson, who has submitted his opponents in 10 or his last 11 victories.
Jason’s Reaction: I’m so glad you recommended Gunnar Nelson. He is one of my favorite options this Saturday.
Jason’s Pick: Brian Ortega
Max Holloway is on a 12-fight win streak. Brian Ortega has never lost in his 14-fight professional career. This is going to be one of the most exciting fights of the year. As far as fantasy MMA is concerned, Ortega gets the edge. He is slightly cheaper, and his game is finding finishes. Holloway looked absolutely drained and unhealthy after his last unsuccessful weight cut, and while that may not be an issue headed into this Saturday, it is still a concerning sign for the champion. If he loses this fight, it would not be surprising to see Holloway move up to lightweight. Ortega, on the other hand, did not experience weight cut issues, and his fight against Frankie Edgar showed that the submission specialist also has knockout power. He has various ways to finish this fight, and Holloway is going to have to keep him at bay for five rounds. Holloway, of course, could also finish the fight, but Ortega has a battle-tested chin, and it is highly unlikely that he can’t defend any submission attempt Holloway throws his way. In a toss up fight, favor the cheaper, healthier fighter with higher finishing potential.
Justin’s Reaction: I disagree on this end. I feel Holloway is the better DFS play. Ortega is a finisher, but he isn’t really an active fighter, while Holloway could see over 100 DK points in a decision. Furthermore, Holloway could end this fight, and he simply comes with significantly more upside than Ortega.
Justin’s Pick: Matthew Lopez
I’ll start this off by saying I don’t truly believe Matthew Lopez wins this fight, but the odds (and prices) should be a bit closer. Lopez has lost each of his last two fights via (T)KO, but those loses were against Raphael Assuncao and Alejandro Perez. His only other loss came against Rani Yahya in his UFC debut. He also owns two wins in the UFC with one coming by (T)KO. Brad Katona recently won The Ultimate Fighter, but he wasn’t forced to face Tyler Diamond, who was seen as the most likely candidate to win that season. While his wins were impressive, this will be a massive step up in competition. Lopez is a wrestler, who is a well-rounded fighter, as well. Katona has a major advantage in this fight because of his cardio, but Lopez’s recent cardio issues haven’t been a major problem throughout his career. If Lopez’s cardio doesn’t fail, he has a very real chance to win a decision for a low price tag because of his wrestling.
Jason’s Reaction: I love attacking young fighters that are taking a massive step up in competition. Lopez provides a means to that attack. I like it.
Jason’s Pick: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Joanna Jedrzejczyk lost twice in her professional career – both times to Rose Namajunas. The second fight was much closer to a toss up than the first, where Jedrzejczyk tapped out to strikes. Valentina Shevchenko has lost three times in her professional career, twice to Amanda Nunes and once to Liz Carmouche, the latter fight being prior to her UFC career. Shevchenko has finishing potential that Jedrzejczyk rarely encounters at strawweight. Moving up to fight at flyweight is going to be a huge challenge, especially when 10 pounds is almost 10 percent of a fighter’s body weight. That said, Jedrzejczyk is, quite frankly, being disrespected by Vegas. Her odds are horrendous for this fight, and because of that, she is very cheap on DraftKings. Jedrzejczyk is one of the best strikers in the world at any division, and she has the ability to out-point Shevchenko for five rounds. Neither fighter is going to tire, but Joanna could frustrate Shevchenko into making mistakes. She just has to maintain her range. This fight is going to be a lot closer than people are expecting, and Jedrzejczyk could be a champion in a second division come Sunday.
Justin’s Reaction: First off, I believe Jedrzejczyk has a real chance to win this fight. Second, she could hit value in a decision loss. I’m well aware that this fight could potentially end early, but JJ makes for one of the best fighters on this card for her price.