This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
Our final installment of fights at the UFC Apex before we set sail for Fight Island looks to be a variance-heavy card, with the majority of fights slated to finish inside the distance. This could mean an edge for players who are able to correctly identify ownership trends and take shots in the other direction where appropriate.
As I will continue to point out, as long as we are at The Apex, research suggests more finishes occur in smaller cages like the one the fighters will occupy on June 13th, which should encourage players to look at fights that may not otherwise be thought of as good targets for finishes. As always, fighters will be listed in order from most to least desirable among the given choices.
One final note before we begin: here's a refresher on the scoring. If you're looking for general strategy tips, I wrote a FanDuel 101 article prior to UFC Brasilia on March 14, though there have been a few minor scoring changes since then that I've noted below.
Moves Scoring (MVP 1.5X)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.9 PTS
Takedown (TD): +9 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): +4.5 PTS
Submission Attempt (SA): +7.5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +18 PTS
Moves Scoring (Standard)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.6 PTS
Takedown (TD): +6 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): 3
Submission Attempt (SA): 5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +12 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (MVP 1.5X)
1st Round Win (1stW): +150 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +112.5 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +75 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +52.5 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +37.5 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +30 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (Standard)
1st Round Win (1stW): +100 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +75 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +50 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +35 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +25 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +20 PTS
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Oh Captain, my Captain
Best Play: Sean Woodson ($18)
Sean Woodson was a strong cash option when his opponent was Kyle Nelson. While there may be a bit more danger in a fight with someone like Julian Erosa, the probability of a finish increases exponentially, hence his shove into the "best play" spot at captain. That may seem a bit contradictory, but Erosa will have the height and length to at least compete with Woodson physically (though he will still be at a four-inch reach disadvantage). It must also be noted that Erosa tends to have moments of success in the majority of his fights. Ultimately, though, he telegraphs wide, looping punches, and carries his hands far too low. This should give Woodson free rein to pump his stinging jab and tee off with counter shots in combination. The cherry on this sundae is that Erosa has been finished by strikes in three of his last four losses, making me quite comfortable banking on the relative newcomer here.
Dan Hooker is a talented fighter who has earned his right to compete at the highest level, but I just see too many liabilities for him to survive against someone who hits as hard as Dustin Poirier. Hooker has a nice jab and can hit a clean counter shot, but like so many other fighters who rely primarily on trunk and head movement, he becomes more hittable as the fight goes on. We saw this on full display in the championship rounds against Paul Felder when he was essentially reduced to panic wrestling in order to keep "The Irish Dragon" off of him. Not only does Poirier have some of the best power in the division, as previously mentioned, but his pressure game and ability to throw combos should have Hooker in a world of trouble as the fight progresses. It's not hard to see a late-round finish from "The Diamond" as a result.
Mike Perry hasn't gotten the spectacular finishes we are accustomed to seeing in his recent wins. Some of that might have to do with a more measured approach, but the point should also be made that his schedule over the past two years has been made up of fighters most are lucky to beat, let alone finish. Initially little more than a fun, action fighter, Perry has done a great job creating angles for his strikes and using his speed in recent bouts. UFC commentators raved about how much improvement Mickey Gall showed on the feet in his fight against Salim Touahri, but I saw a fighter who lunged into shots with his chin up, sometimes actually running at his opponent while throwing shots. Gall's game will forever be jiu-jitsu based, but he's a poor takedown artist (38 percent accuracy rate) and shouldn't have the strength advantage to simply hang all over Perry and tire him out.
Best Option: Youssef Zalal ($12)
Youssef Zalal is the best play based on the rules of the article series (by which I must abide), but his inclusion as a big dog is almost certainly a pricing error by FanDuel. He is listed as the small favorite in every online sportsbook I looked at, and DraftKings has this fight more appropriately priced at $8,000/$8,200, respectively. I mention this to caution that, while I do think he wins, his ownership percentage will likely be astronomical based on what's known colloquially as "line value." This means it may not be a bad idea to sprinkle in a few shares of the opponent or fade Zalal in some spots. As for the fight itself, Zalal is about as well-rounded a prospect as we have seen in a while. He combines great athleticism and footwork with a solid jab, combination punching, and an ability to seamlessly mix in his wrestling game. Jordan Griffin is also athletic but has a scrambly and dangerous ground game that constantly sees him in bad positions in service of attempting submissions. However, he is long, skilled grappler and thrives in chaos, meaning this could be a low-owned favorite to take a shot at given these prices.
I wanted to pick Maurice Greene so badly in this spot, yet there was something in his game that I couldn't ignore in the matchup against Gian Villante, and I finally stopped trying to talk myself out of the position. We will see if that was the right decision. I have been calling for Villante to move to heavyweight since before his fight with Michal Oleksiejczuk, as it just seemed to me the depth of skill and speed of the fighters at light heavyweight was too much for him. Ironically, Greene is an athletic heavyweight in his own right, but he gets incredibly tired after about a round and a half, and gets cracked by counter shots even in fights he appears to have well in hand. This is essentially Villante's entire game, as he pressures, waits for his opponent to throw, and counters with hooks and uppercuts. To be sure, Greene should have an advantage at the opening bell but the longer this fight goes, the worse it's likely to get, and Villante has shown himself to be incredibly durable overall.
Khama Worthy shocked the world with his knockout win over Devonte Smith in August, and while some might consider that a fluke, I beg to differ. Worthy is lightning quick inside the cage, can put combinations together and has a nice counter game. More importantly than this, though, is the fact that I find Luis Pena's game fairly underwhelming. He's a very good grappler, but other than that I've never quite understood the hype. He gets backed up rather easily, gets hit too much, and doesn't wrestle nearly enough to make said grappling a consistent threat. I think the speed of Worthy could be enough to fluster Pena here, and he is workable enough on the feet that I feel another upset is in the offing.
Best Option: Brendan Allen ($18)
Brendan Allen embraces the chaos as much as any fighter on the roster, but what separates him from someone like Jordan Griffin is that he is a relentless pressure fighter with a very good clinch takedown game. Kyle Daukaus has a similar style, though I expect Allen to have a strength and standup advantage. Neither are the cleanest of control grapplers, but I think the stronger man should have the upper hand in holding position. All but one of Allen's wins have ended in a finish, so why is he not a captain play? Much like Cortney Casey last week, I think Daukaus is good enough on the ground to avoid being subbed, which means a lot of takedowns and strikes thrown from Allen.
Kay Hansen doesn't have much of a standup game. Instead, she faithfully peruses takedowns at every point of the fight. What makes Hanson more interesting than a run-of-the-mill takedown spammer is her wrestling game is actually very well developed. She can turn the corner, chain techniques together and doesn't get discouraged after an unsuccessful attempt or two. Jinh Yu Frey has some physicality to her game but tends to sit back and is far too accepting of the clinch for me to like her in this matchup.
Tanner Boser is an anomaly at heavyweight, having finished just 10 of his 17 wins. While this isn't great news for DFS, he is still an athletic guy for his size and uses good footwork to keep out of trouble. I expect his movement to help him against Philipe Lins, who is powerful and fast in his own right but is too much of a counter fighter. I see him being outworked in a decision victory for Boser.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Takashi Sato ($16) will now face newcomer Jason Witt ($10) after Ramiz Brahimaj was pulled due to one of his cornermen testing positive for COVID-19. Witt is another veteran of the cage (17-5-0), who will enter this bout on a four-fight winning streak. "The Vanilla Gorilla" (yes, there is another) has a nice pressure boxing game that sees him mix his targets, throw with power, and look to set up his wrestling. The problem is that he likes to stay on the outside of the pocket and dart in, which should leave him open for the precise and heavy counter shots of someone like Sato. Sato should also be quicker than Witt by a decent margin, which may allow him to stay out of danger. However, we know that Sato will hang back and let his opponent take control, so is it possible that Witt simply outworks him over fifteen minutes? I think so. But we must address the obvious point that Witt has taken this fight with just one day of notice. Maybe this means he will look to overwhelm Sato early in order to save his gas tank, but that strategy would be incredibly dangerous against such a sniper. Ultimately, I have to pick Sato here, as we have seen Witt dropped hard by counters before. It must be said, though, that If Witt can lead the dance and mix in his wrestling we could be looking at a short-notice upset once again.