Finally! (Insert The Rock’s voice)
After three long weeks, the UFC is back with arguably the best card of the year to date, UFC 211! We look forward to 12 fights on the Saturday night slate, headlined by Stipe Miocic vs Junior dos Santos, where Miocic is looking to defend his belt for the second time against the last man to defeat him.
In the co-main, we have the UFC women’s straw-weight title fight between undefeated champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who’s looking to make her fifth title defense, against her toughest test yet, Jessica Andrade. Andrade, who’s been on a tear herself and won her last three fights, has earned her crack at the gold, and has many bettors rushing to snag a ticket at the window with her name on it. Will either title change hands Saturday night? Only time will tell! But before we find out, let’s get down on some MMA DFS research and get prepped to take down some tourneys! Grab a pen and some paper, go old school with me, and let’s build some lineups!
As always, here’s a quick recap on how to throw down some points with my tips and strategy to consider for MMA DFS.
Here’s my heat chart referenced above for this card:
Now, two key offensive metrics are strikes and takedowns. They get off on their opponents, watch your points rack up quick. Here's my Offensive Output Meter for UFC 211. With this chart, you can compare historical fighter averages in these two key metrics as I rank all fighters participating Saturday night.
I like to look at the O/Us for the card as well. Here are the matches that have odds at 1.5 rounds or less rather than 2.5 or more. Take a good look at Antigulov and Vick. Both guys are 4:1 favorites with very good odds at a finish in both of their fights.
Alright, let’s run through each fight. I’ll keep my thoughts short and sweet as best I can.
Editor's Note: Bolded names are Casey's projected winners.
Miocic ($8500) vs dos Santos ($7700)
This is the second meeting for this duo. Back in 2014, the two met for the first time and it was Miocic as the rising star/up and comer, looking to face dos Santos, who had just lost to Cain for the title. Many thought Miocic won the fight, and while it was definitely close, the judges saw it for dos Santos.
Watch 2014's fight!
In their first match, dos Santos was a -400 favorite. This time, the tides have turned. Miocic opened at -245 and has been brought down to -130 as I type. As you can see on the hot sheet breakdown, both love to swing. Miocic has produced 75% of his victories by way of Knock Out, and dos Santos' 67% KO-rate is pretty unbelievable as well. These guys will be looking to put each other to sleep before the final bell. For me, it's dos Santos at this DFS price and I’ll tell you why. Dos Santos will definitely take some shots, he’ll bleed, and he may look like Sloth from the Goonies by the time the match is over. However, he will just keep coming, and that's with the best striking skills in the heavyweight division. We’ve seen in his past matches, as his opponent wear down, dos Santos weather the storm and keep landing time after time. The challenge I have is that he swings for the fences, and then stops to watch at times how bad the inflicted damage looks. He needs to combo, combo, combo. The other challenge is his leg kicks, or lack thereof. Dos Santos has thrown like five leg kicks (literally) since 2011. What a great spot to add that to the arsenal to keep Miocic guessing. So I’ve mentioned my concerns with dos Santos but it doesn’t worry me too much. Why? Miocic has that fainting goat effect. I see a lot of Don Flamenco in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out in Miocic. He takes a jab or hook to the face and he stops for a flash. Almost every time.
Exhibit 1: Exhibit 1
Exhibit 2: Exhibit 2
Exhibit 3: Exhibit 3
Now here’s the ticket. Dos Santos has to put some shots together. Take one to give two. But he can’t let Miocic get off first, because Miocic’s output vs dos Santos’ will cause some issues. Overall, coming into the fight, dos Santos just seems the more mature fighter for Saturday, and I won’t say he has more weapons, but the ones he will bring will be enough to make goats faint. I love that 80%+ takedown defense as well. Watch the build up to the fight this week. I’ve seen dos Santos training and his team wrapping the cage with black tarp so no secrets or techniques can be seen by any. He’s in great shape. He’s hungry. Heck, his new baby boy is hungry. Can you say motivation? Miocic on the other hand is out buying sling shots, bee bee guns, and prank calling his wife. He’s also tweeting about hanging out with Mike Napoli and waiting up for the drop of Machine Gun Kelly’s new album at midnight. Who’s your money on?
Jedrzejczyk ($8800) vs Andrade ($7400)
Andrade is a real deal threat to snatching the title from Joanna Champ Saturday night. Since moving down to the 115 lb division, she’s been a killer. Yet she still typically comes in the smaller fighter. She now is tossing around chicks that weigh twenty pounds lighter than she once was doing, while controlling the fight in every round, unless she finds a finish. As you can see, her output rivals Joanna’s, which is something we haven’t seen, so get ready for some swinging! If you watch any of Andrade’s fights, she typically comes running in with body shots that are quickly followed by a swarm of hooks. A number of her opponents turtle up or get finished Mortal Kombat style. Something the champ does very well though is going to be key. If Joanna isn’t already on the offensive like most of the occasion, she is amazing with counter combos. When her opponents look to rush in, Joanna is teeing off rather than defending.
If there were any spot, this is where Joanna could get hurt and drop the strap, but it’s hard to go against the undefeated champ. She’s gone five rounds numerous times, while Andrade hasn’t. Joanna has also out landed her opponents by a large margin in every fight, including scoring between 170 and 220 strikes in each of her last three fights. Five round fight with this much output, look to roster one of these two!
** Andrade looked great at the morning weigh in while Joanna was the last to the scale out of all fighters with only 10 minutes to spare. Joanna had to weigh in with the towel and she looked pretty rough. Win or lose, I’d expect her to jump to the new 125 division next**
Masvidal ($8400) vs Maia ($7800)
This fight is the nuts. Damian Maia, who’s well overdue for a title shot, brings his LEGIT grappling, and puts it all on the line against the streaking stand up fighter in Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, is uber confident after just destroying Cowboy Cerrone and putting him in UFC timeout for a few. Maia on the other hand, has built up a six-fight winning streak against a bunch of big names, including Carlos Condit, whom he finished in under two minutes last August. Prior to that, Maia finished Matt Brown, who loves to stand as much as Masvidal, but eventually saw his fate like many others before him. Tap or nap. Masvidal is one of the toughest to take down, but I believe he eventually can get it to the mat. This line is exaggerated and Maia should be able to find an opportunity or two for a rear naked choke or otherwise score some points with his grappling to a decision win.
Rodriguez ($7600) vs Edgar ($8600)
The journey continues Saturday night for the build up of Yair Rodriguez. I had the pleasure of sitting front row as he was featured in the main event against Bruce Leeroy (Alex Caceres) a couple fights ago. That was his first test under the bright lights, main eventing a card and he almost blew it. He squeaked out a split decision which gave him a shot against the legendary BJ Penn. BJ already retired and entered the UFC HOF. He had no business coming back to fight. But he did, and it was horrible. Yair destroyed him badly. However, if we count all the guys that would have done the same that night, we would be here until that fainting goat wakes up. This match up will be technique vs “what was that?” Edgar is the blue print that many look to mimic, while Yair is the upgrade to Pettis’ kick off the cage, and brings some very flashy shots that can change things in a snap.
Edgar opened at -260 and has been bet down to -125 thanks to the cool kids. I’m really a fan of Yair and his potential, but how do you go against Frankie Edgar? A guy who’s never been finished after fighting the best of the best over 13 years. Edgar just finds ways to win.
**Edgar was the first of all fighters to the scale Friday morning and looked great. Yair weighed in with no issues and continues to look very confident heading into Saturday night**
Jotko ($8700) vs Branch ($7500)
Branch (grappler) coming back to the UFC after six years away. In that time, he went 12-1 and became a 2-division champ, against low-to-mid tier competition. For his welcome back party, he gets the winner of five straight, Krzyysztof Jotko. Jotko is a very talented striker and very aggressive. In his last fight, he was able to stuff seven of eight takedowns from jiu-jitsu champion Thales Leites, eventually winning in a unanimous decision. Even when the fight against Leites went to the mat, Jotko showed us some amazing transitions and sub defense. Now Branch himself is a Renzo Gracie black belt, and will look to do what Thales Leites couldn’t. From a DFS perspective, I’m not sure we see any finish from Jotko here, but he should out point him to a decision. Not one of my favorite fights to roster.
Poirier ($8100) vs Alvarez ($8100)
Eddie Alvarez looks to rebound after getting smeared by Conor McGregor at UFC 205. Since coming to the UFC, Alvarez has gone 3-2, has knocked off both Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez by decision, and TKO’d Rafael dos Anjos to win the title that Conor eventually took. Alvarez has been a top tier lightweight his entire career and will bring his striking and grappling game Saturday night, attempting to keep Poirier off balance. Poirier has won five of his last six, and the fight that has me leaning Alvarez here, is Poirier's last outing against Jim Miller. Although he took a majority decision, Miller exposed Poirier in a sense by chopping him down with kicks, to the point he couldn’t walk. The standup should be close, and I see both taking damage, with the edge on the ground going to Alvarez. While Poirier will do what he can to keep it standing, Alvarez should be able to take advantage of that 68% takedown defense at some point and control the fight. We’ve seen as well that Poirier does not like to be hit, and if Alvarez can get inside the reach (HE MUST CONTROL THE DISTANCE), there’s a chance we see a possible TKO.
Exhibit A: Not controlling the distance.
Exhibit B: Controlling the distance
Knight ($8000) vs Skelly ($8200)
Chess match. Both will look to get to the mat and submit each other. Skelly’s experience should give him the edge against the hillbilly Jason Knight.
Vick ($9500) vs Reyes ($6700)
Vick begged for a shot on this card, and here he is getting a shot to fight in his home state. The crowd will be heavy on Vick, and coupling that with his four inch height and five inch reach advantage, I see Reyes eventually getting frustrated. Reyes has the striking advantage, but this will be different, as we’ve see Vick cause some issues, controlling the distance time after time. Vick’s submission game, coupled with the fact that Reyes has lost twice in the same fashion sticks out to me here. Vick just choked out Abel Trujillo in February to earn the shot on this card, and I believe Abel is a tougher test than Reyes. Hometown guy for me, but to roster, I’ll have to pay up for it.
Casey ($8100) vs Aguilar ($8100)
Cortney Casey continues to show improvement fight after fight. Though she’s coming off a decision loss to Gadelha (who will forever be No. 2 to Jedrzejczyk), Casey looked great while finishing both Randa Markos and Cristina Stanciu in 2016. Aguilar, also coming off a loss to Gadelha, looks to rebound from not only defeat, but a torn ACL. How much will the layoff affect her? Always tough to have that in the back of your mind.
Sherman ($8300) vs Coulter ($7900)
Single father, Rashad “Daywalker” Coulter, who just lost his day job in February, will have the hometown crowd behind him looking to sway the judges. Both guys are horrible, yet we need to probably pick one as it has the highest odds on the card to end in a finish. The strength of schedule is filled with guys with records like 3-16, 4-3, 4-5, and such. Both have won via KO in 100% of their victories combined. It comes down to who will make the first mistake. Given the fact that Coulter has never lost via KO, and Sherman has twice (including his last fight against Walt Harris), I’ll probably take a stab at the hometown guy.
Barzola ($7200) vs Benitez ($9000)
Two former TUF contestants, Barzola won his tournament and was crowned champ of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2. Benitez looks to be the popular pick in this match up though, while also opening as the -165 favorite. Benitez has the slight edge in striking while Barzola will look to get things on the mat. Could be some value in Barzola as he’s never been finished, but not my favorite fight to roster.
Antigulov ($9400) vs Christensen ($6800)
Gadzhimurad Antigulov, the Dagestani prospect, looked amazing in his last outing, making short work of the much larger Marcos Rogerio de Lima. Antigulov landed a single leg quickly, and at about a minute of the first round, de Lima was done via guillotine choke. Watch for the sambo specialist to take Christensen down just as quick, and eventually smother him winning via finish again. This will be 14 victories in a row if Antigulov can do his thing.
There you go! Plenty of sneaky plays (title challengers, hometown guys, underdogs) that you can fit in your roster even with taking the two most expensive guys on the card. Thanks for reading and hit me up on Twitter @Y2casey or holler on the premium boards with any questions!