UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje – 10.24.2020 – Staff Predictions, Picks, and DFS Analysis (FREE)

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Hello Daily Play Action! Welcome to our collaborative coverage of UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje. This pay-per-view card will be the last on our second stint in Fight Island Abu Dhabi. Keep in mind the start time for this one, earlier in the day as the whole world will be watching. Our analysis includes a pick for every bout from Anthony Marro, Nicholas Marro and GB. We also feature write-ups that will provide consideration for building lineups on both FanDuel and DraftKings.

When building your lineups here are a few things to consider. Pricing differs for most fighters making some better value on one site over the other. Scoring is important as well. On FanDuel a first-round finish scores 5x the points as a decision, where on DraftKings it scores 3x as many. Grappling is also scored drastically different as FanDuel awards points for takedown defense and submission attempts. DraftKings neglects those two stats and instead values advances (such as to half guard, to mount…) and reversals. Lastly, you will only want to take two fighters from the same fight if you think it goes into the late rounds and expect both to reach value.

As coverage continues, we will keep our Daily Play Action records up to date. Be sure to check out our reasoning though as records will not reflect confidence, we will be picking all fights regardless of if we are betting on them. If you are in search of a good website to tail any of our picks, I highly recommend using Bovada for their user-friendly format and awesome deposit bonuses!

Nick: 179-97-4    Anthony: 168-108-4    GB: 160-116-4

Fight odds are as listed from Bovada and last updated 7:30 PM EST 10-23-2020

Early Prelims- Start 11:00am EST

Joel Alvarez -175 (DK $9000, FD $18) vs Alexander Yakovlev +145 (DK $7200, FD $12)

  • Anthony: We wake up to a good lightweight scrap opening the card as Joel Alvarez will face Alexander Yakovlev. It is a bit concerning that Alvarez weighed-in nearly four pounds over the limit for this fight but he looked healthy. While I do believe that Yakovlev has superior wrestling to that of Alvarez, he will not be able to utilize it in this fight. Alvarez has very slick submissions and is more than likely going to be able to find a choke when this does hit the mat. Yakovlev is a former welterweight but seems to be undersized in this matchup and the botched weight cut does not make things any easier. I think you have to fade Yakovlev here as he is clearly the inferior striker and will not be able to rely on his takedowns when things start to get ugly. My guess is that we see Alvarez lock up a choke in the first or second round, making him a great play when building your lineups.  Joel Alvarez by Round One Submission
  • Nick: Joel Alvarez is extremely tall for a lightweight. He is decent on the feet, but his offensive grappling is his greatest weapon as a BJJ brown-belt with most of his wins coming via submission. Yakovlev is primarily a wrestler. His greatest strength is his grappling and ground game and he’s very likely going to want to take this fight to the mat. This is a close matchup and on the feet, I give the slight edge to Alvarez. He has shown dramatic improvement in his striking over his last few fights and his size and reach allow him to keep Yakovlev at range. Alvarez’s takedown defense leaves a lot to be desired, but he is very good off his back so Yakovlev could play right into his strengths. I see Alvarez pulling ahead on the feet early and once the fight hits the ground, Alvarez should be able to find a finish. Four of Yakovlev’s ten losses have come by sub. I am encouraged backing Alvarez here, as Yakovlev has never won a fight as an underdog. This certainly is not my most confident pick, but I’m siding with the favorite. I probably will not get to any Yakovlev for DFS purposes because even if he pulls off the upset, he’s unlikely to score very high. Joel Alvarez by Round Two Submission
  • GB: Interesting opening fight as these two lightweight towers square off. Alvarez is 2-1 since entering the UFC and on a 12-1 run while Yakovlev is currently back and forth with wins and losses. Alvarez uses his length to his advantage, as he is able to land kicks very well from distance while also creating a lot of space between himself and his opponent. Yakovlev is equally tall but doesn’t seem to be able to utilize his strengths as much. It seems to me that he is likely over the hill in his fighting career. It’s hard to account for Yakovlov’s record, as the pedigree of his opponents has been strong. However, I think his time in the UFC is ending. You are safe to pay up for Alvarez here as he should win well before the judge’s decision. Joel Alvarez by Round Two Submission

Miranda Maverick -380 (DK $9300, FD $20) vs Liana Jojua +290 (DK $6900, FD $9)

  • Anthony: Next up is a women’s flyweight bout between Miranda Maverick and Liana Jojua. This is the UFC debut for Maverick who has been a staple of Invicta FC for the past few years. She is a very good fighter relying primarily on her wrestling and striking. She is the rightful favorite in this fight against Jojua but I think the betting odds are way too wide. Jojua looked good in her last fight as she pulled Diana Belbita into her guard and won by first round armbar. I could easily see her doing the same thing here, especially as Maverick will likely go for takedowns at some point. The best plan for Maverick would be to just stick to her striking, but I think it will be difficult for her to phase wresting completely out of her game. Jojua will win once again by submission. She is being completely disrespected as the biggest underdog on the card. Liana Jojua by Round Two Submission
  • Nick: Liana Jojua is coming off an impressive upset victory against Diana Belbita. Her only real path to victory in that fight was to find a submission and Belbita gave it to her in the first round. Maverick isn’t very likely to make a similar mistake. She is making her debut here, but she’s a name that’s been building some hype for a while. She already has notable wins over Bellator veterans like DeAnna Bennett and Pearl Gonzalez. Maverick is a PhD outside of the cage and has a high-fight IQ inside of it. She is big for this division, with very powerful hips and more than enough grappling ability to avoid compromising positions. Maverick is the bigger, more aggressive and overall better fighter of the two in this match-up. As long as she avoids Jojua’s guard, she should roll to a victory here. Her price for DFS purposes makes her tough to roster, but I see her outscoring Jojua significantly. Miranda Maverick by Round Two Submission
  • GB: This should be a great fight to watch as Maverick is a wicked prospect who is looking to put her name on the UFC map. Jojua is fun to watch too as her short UFC career has introduced us to her excellent grappling game. Her striking leaves much to be desired, but again she has only been in the UFC for two fights and there is plenty of room to improve. Maverick had won the Invicta flyweight tournament and that paired with her success in combat sports makes me believe that she will be around for some time. Pricing is tough here as I struggle to pay that much for the UFC debutant. If Jojua can some how get Maverick to the ground it could be an upsetting start to her career, and it is not out of the realm of possibility. I am picking Maverick but won’t pay up for her at this price. Miranda Maverick by Decision

Preliminary Card- Starts 12:00pm EST

Da Un Jung -350 (DK $9400, FD $22) vs Sam Alvey +265 (DK $6800, FD $8)

  • Anthony: This light heavyweight bout features Da Un Jung stepping into the octagon to face the veteran Sam Alvey. It has been a while since Sam Alvey has done anything of note as he enters here on a four-fight losing streak. With the output and power of Jung he should have no problem disposing of Alvey in this one. I have noticed limited head movement out of Jung, but I do not think that Alvey is going to be the guy to catch him. The more likely path to victory for Alvey would be a submission but I trust Jung’s takedown defense to keep this one on the feet. A win by knockout is likely for Jung but Alvey can usually eat a few clean shots. On DraftKings it makes more sense to pay $200 less for Khabib than the $9400 price tag for Jung. You can plug Jung into some lineups to be contrarian, but I am limiting my exposure to him. Da Un Jung by Round Two KO
  • Nick: Sam Alvey looked surprisingly good his last time out against Ryan Spann. He lost a split decision, but as a +275 underdog he certainly had Spann backers sweating as he kept the fight close. Alvey is a tough dude that uses his awkwardness to his advantage. He throws a sneaky left hook that is tough to read, he has decent power and he’s well-rounded enough that he can usually hang no matter where the fight goes. He is definitely nearing the end of his career, but he is still a decent counter striker and he generally does a good job avoiding the types of mistakes we see out of less experienced fighters. Jung primarily likes to keep the fight on the feet. He has decent head movement and does a good job throwing feints to set up his shots. Jung showed a good chin in his fight against Khadris Ibragimov. He ate a lot of shots early in that one, but he did a good job avoiding too much damage and turning on the pressure as his opponent started to fade. I was a bit surprised by just how big Jung was at weigh-ins. He was visibly more muscular than Alvey and much taller. Alvey has a punchers chance here, but he doesn’t throw enough volume to really put pressure on Jung. Outside of that Hail Mary counter shot, I see Jung ending this inside the distance. He’s over-priced on DraftKings, but the clear pick to win here. Da Un Jung by Round Two KO
  • GB: Alvey seems to be the unfortunate gate keeper of this light heavyweight division, and it is a surprise to me that he hasn’t chosen to hang it up yet. Jung comes into this fight on a twelve-fight winning streak whereas Alvey is on a bad four loss skid. Jung has finished most of his win by knockout and I think Alvey will be another victim of Jung’s by the end of the night. Don’t over think this one, Alvey is well past his prime and hasn’t looked fight ready in what appears to be forever. Jung should take this with absolute ease. Da Un Jung by Round One KO

Shavkat Rakhmonov -125 (DK $7700, FD $14) vs Alex Oliveira -105 (DK $8500, FD $16)

  • Anthony: I am very excited for this next fight at welterweight between Alex Oliveira and Shavkat Rakhmonov. Oliveira weighed in two pounds over the limit, but it is not a major issue as he stepped in on short notice to take this bout. As of late Cowboy has fought well but lacks the cardio he once did. He also has his hands full welcoming Rakhmonov to the UFC here. I anticipate that Rakhmonov shows off his striking in this fight and really pours the pressure on Oliveira. This is a dangerous fight for both guys, but I think Rakhmonov has the advantage no matter where it goes. His resume impresses me, and I believe he is ready for this step up in competition. I bet on him earlier in the week at +140, but the line has since shifted making him the favorite. He is severely underpriced on both sites and will wind up being very highly owned. Shavkat Rakhmonov by Round Two KO
  • Nick: Cowboy Oliveira is known as one of the more entertaining fighters in this division. He’s extremely active when he’s in the cage, very well-rounded and does an excellent job closing distance against a wide range of opponents. His hyper-aggressiveness sometimes puts him in bad positions, which could provide a window for Rakhmonov in this fight. Rakhmonov is making his UFC debut here, but he enters with an impressive resume. Currently undefeated, the 25-year old Sambo specialist already has notable victories including one over Jun Young Park. He has an impressive arsenal of submissions in his pocket and his striking looks a lot more developed than you’d normally see out a guy at his level. He has a strong judo base, effective sweep takedowns and looks sharp in the scramble as well. Oliviera tends to be the most effective in the first round. His cardio seems to fade at times, especially in his most recent fights. He also missed weight here which could further dampen the quality of his conditioning. Rakhmonov showed a serious chin in his fight against Faridun Odilov. He was rocked temporarily, but he survived to come back and score a knockout of his own. I feel like Rakhmonov’s chin and superior cardio should be enough to keep him upright until Oliveira starts to fade. Since he opened as an underdog, he’s priced extremely favorably on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Shavkat Rakhmonov by Decision
  • GB: Keep an eye on Shavkat Rakhmonov, I think this dude is going to be a problem in the welterweight division. He is currently entering the UFC undefeated with excellent striking abilities and an exceptional ground game. It will be interesting to see him face off against the veteran Oliverira, who has arguably fought against every skillset this division offers. Even at this stage of his career, Oliveira is still a tough out. He leans heavily on his striking abilities paired with his fluid movement on his feet to lure his opponents into his range. He is a fun fighter to watch as he tends to fight with no concept of risk. Give me all of the Shavkat in this one though. He comes in at a lower price despite now being the slight favorite. Shavkat Rakhmonov by Round Three KO

Casey Kenney -170 (DK $8700, FD $17) vs Nathaniel Wood +140 (DK $7500, FD $13)

  • Anthony: A sleeper for Fight of the Night is this 140-pound catchweight bout between Nathaniel Wood and Casey Kenney. It was just three weeks ago that Kenney put on an absolute clinic against Heili Alateng, beating him up like a heavy bag for fifteen minutes straight. This fight will be completely different as Wood is not the kind of fighter who will stand and trade with Kenney. It is going to be a very technical battle and one where Kenney is forced to grapple a lot more often. I am very high on Wood and really believe he can do everything just as well, if not better than Kenney. He was knocked out by John Dodson but excelled in each of his four other UFC fights. This will more than likely be a back and forth contest resulting in a close decision. I am going to side with Wood who is an excellent value play at these odds. It is a coinflip fight in my opinion and getting plus money is enough to sway me. The price on Kenney feels a bit inflated after his most recent performance.  Nathaniel Wood by Decision
  • Nick: This should be an extremely fun bout between two promising up-and-comers at bantamweight. Both of these guys are extremely aggressive in the cage and both are well rounded no matter where the fight goes. The winner will likely be facing a ranked opponent in their next bout. Kenney is coming off an impressive victory against Heili Alatang just a few weeks ago. He dominated all fifteen minutes of that fight and will look to carry that momentum into this bout. Kenney said in interviews he planned to fight back to back. Wood has crisp striking and he throws intelligent combinations. However, in doing so he often leaves himself open to counterstrikes and eats a lot of damage in exchanges. His conditioning is solid, and he should be able to match Kenney’s cardio here. Kenney relies heavily on his wrestling which could make things a lot tougher on Wood than he’s used to. His hip control seems to be as good as anyone’s in this division and I expect him to come in with a grappling heavy game plan here as Wood is most comfortable on the feet. The main reason I’m backing Kenney here is that he’s beaten the far more difficult competition. He has wins over Brandon Royval, Luis Smolka, Ray Borg and Manny Bermudez. Wood’s only real notable win came against Andre Ewell. I just feel Kenney is further along in his development. Wood should be considered a live dog here, but I expect he’s going to be outclassed no matter where this fight goes. Casey Kenney by Decision
  • GB: Man I love seeing Nate Wood as the underdog in this one. People should flock to Kenney, and rightfully so, as he has been a force in the UFC. He’s methodical and uses his stamina to tire out his opponent with his pressure and movement while not holding back on his striking volume. Wood however can be extremely resourceful and works beautifully from the mat, which I think could be his advantage against Kenney. If this gets to the ground, I think Wood can negate a lot of Kenney’s strengths and find a way to deliver. Wood’s price is lower on both sites making him a play I am targeting. I still think he has the momentum and skillset to finish Kenney here. Nathaniel Wood by Decision

Tai Tuivasa -120 (DK $7900, FD $15) vs Stefan Struve -110 (DK $8300, FD $17)

  • Anthony: The featured prelim tonight is a strange heavyweight matchup between Tai Tuivasa and Stefan Struve. Tuivasa was an undefeated prospect not too long ago but enter this bout on a three-fight losing streak. This does feel like a get right spot for him though as Struve is a very easy opponent to knockout. At this stage of his career, nobody in the division can really fear Stefan Struve and I believe this is going to be his last fight. He is seven feet tall but does not use his size advantage well in the octagon. He has above average grappling, but it is unlikely that Tuivasa will expose his back to Struve at any point in this one. We will likely see Tuivasa walk down Struve and pick his shots in search of a finish. He also throws leg kicks that can slow down Struve and likely discourage many takedown attempts. It is impossible for me to trust the chin of Struve to hold up for a five-minute round so there is no way I am backing him here. With the submission he becomes a good DFS pick, but I believe Struve’s price is not justifiable. Tuivasa is the pretty clear winner in my opinion. Tai Tuivasa by Round One KO
  • Nick: Struve once knocked out Stipe Miocic, but he’s certainly a shell of who he was when that fight took place over eight years ago. He’s had his lights turned off multiple times since then, including his last fight against Ben Rothwell. He found himself on the wrong end of multiple cup shots. If those low blows don’t happen, Struve was very likely to have been given the victory on the scorecards as he was ahead in the fight at that time. He is still fairly young for a heavyweight at 32 years-old, but with all his experience the chin is extremely difficult to trust. Tuivasa hasn’t fought in over a year, but I feel there’s a chance that will benefit him in this spot. During his time off he switched camps to AKA, where he’s been able to benefit learning from veterans like Daniel Cormier. He’s only been training there for three months, but there’s no doubt he’s probably picked up a lot of knowledge in that short period of time. Tuivasa has decent takedown defense, decent speed and like many other heavyweights, knockout power. There is a good chance this ends up as the worst fight on the card. These are low level guys and there is a decent chance they gas, turning this ugly quick. Struve has solid BJJ for a heavyweight. He beat De Lima by arm triangle choke in his last victory, the same method by which Tuivasa lost his last fight against Sergey Spivak. This is one of the closer fights on the card and it wouldn’t shock me if Tuivasa pulled off win. However, I’m siding with Struve as his strengths match-up well with Tuivasa’s weaknesses. Stefan Struve by Round Two Submission
  • GB: This should be a tough one to gauge as Tuivasa cannot fight grapplers to save his life, however, he is facing a very hittable Struve. Generally, it’s a hard pass for me to own any shares of Tuivasa but this is a juicy looking spot for him to win by knockout. Struve is a submission artist and has a high reach advantage here, but Tuivasa has an obvious strength advantage. This will end with Struve getting a submission or being knocked out; and I am going with the former. Pricing for this one dictates the same strategy, lock in whoever you trust more to get that early win. Stefan Struve by Round One Submission

Main Card- Starts 2:00pm EST

Magomed Ankalaev -310 (DK $8900, FD $19) vs Ion Cutelaba +240 (DK $7300, FD $9)

  • Anthony: The main card opens with a light heavyweight rematch between Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba. This fight is finally taking place after numerous cancellations over the past several months. In their first bout, Ankalaev landed several shots early and Cutelaba attempted the ol’ rope-a-dope while returning strikes of his own. Unfortunately, he was a bit too convincing and the referee put a stop to the contest under the assumption Cutelaba was badly hurt. My prediction for tonight is more of the same. Ankalaev is the far superior fighter. While Cutelaba certainly could land an early knockout, he gasses far too easily and does not have the defensive wrestling to win outside of the first five minutes. I think we see a clinic by Ankalaev in this one where he beats Cutelaba even more convincingly than the first time. He is worth the price on both FanDuel and DraftKings if you can afford him. Magomed Ankalaev by Round One KO
  • Nick: There is a lot of hype behind this rematch after a controversial stoppage gave Anakalev the victory back in February. Cutelaba is going to come out firing again here, but when it comes to technical ability Ankalaev has him beat pretty much anywhere. As long as Anakalev can weather an early striking storm from Cutelaba, I expect him to Win most striking exchanges. Cutelaba has knockout power, but Ankaleav is too advanced technically to give him the opening he needs. Ankaleav has ridiculously powerful head kicks, extremely diverse striking ability and intelligent footwork. Another major advantage for Ankalaev will be his grappling. If Cutelaba does catch him, Ankalaev should be able to drag him to the mat and control position. The favorite just has too many paths to victory here. Cutelaba has serious takedown ability as a lifelong Greco Roman wrestler, but I can’t see him controlling position or winning scrambles against Ankalaev. Cutelaba has decent cardio, but he’s sometimes so aggressive that he gasses himself out. There’s definitely a clash of styles here as Cutelaba is hyper aggressive and Ankalaev is a lot more careful and reserved in his approach. I am siding with the more cerebral and measured approach of the Russian. Magomed Ankalaev by Round Two KO
  • GB: We should be in for a treat in this rematch as both of these dudes can bang. Ankalaev had gotten the upper hand in their initial bout, beating Cutelaba with a first-round finish. Cutelaba is a fairly one-dimensional fighter who heavily relies on his hands and elbows to box. Ankalaev is a similar fighter in strengths but is also strong with his kicks and grappling. The easiest way to take away Cutelaba’s power is by attacking his legs. This is what Ankalaevs game plan will be as chasing another early finish seems unlikely. Both have relevance in lineups as they are dangerous strikers, however, Ankalaev has the clear skillset advantage and for that, he offers more upside for his salary. Magomed Ankalaev by Round Two KO

Lauren Murphy -210 (DK $8800, FD $19) vs Liliya Shakirova +170 (DK $7400, FD $11)

  • Anthony: Next on the card is a women’s flyweight bout between Liliya Shakirova and Lauren Murphy. Shakirova is stepping in as a short notice replacement for Cynthia Cavillo, making this a much easier fight for Murphy than what she had been anticipating. She is a staple of the flyweight division and will likely have no problem handling this step down in competition. Murphy does not do anything particularly well, but she is very tough and has developed the skills necessary to beat top fifteen opponents. Shakirova has very good grappling but I do not think she finds a lot of success with that here against such a seasoned veteran. I am confident that we see a third round in this one and Murphy will be the fresher fighter at that point. If she is unable to find herself a finish, I think she wins a rather lopsided decision tonight. I fear that Shakirova can pour on more volume from the outside, but am confident she will not hit hard enough to put away the veteran. Lauren Murphy by Decision
  • Nick: Lauren Muphy was slated to face Cynthia Cavillo here, but Cavillio was forced to pull out. In her place, the UFC is giving a shot to newcomer Liliya Shakirova. Shakirova is a lot stronger than she looks. She has solid wrestling and while her striking leaves a lot to be desired, there are certainly worst female strikers on this roster. Muphy’s greatest strength has always been her toughness. She has no real standout skill, but she’s solid pretty much everywhere and her sheer grit and determination often carries her to victory. Shakirova’s one real path to victory will be her grappling here. She has a solid base and a nice variety of takedowns in her arsenal. This issue for her here though is that Murphy was training to face-off with Cavillo, one of the best wrestlers in the entire division. This is a serious stepdown in competition for her here so while she may not have a clear path to success, I fully expect her to do enough to beat the newcomer. Lauren Murphy by Decision
  • GB: Not an overly hot matchup when it comes to DFS purposes, however, this should be an interesting fight to watch. Murphy seems to fountain of youth because even at the age of 36 she is still a dominant fighter in this division. She strikes well and can work from the ground which makes it hard to really find a weakness in her game. Shakirova comes into this bout on short notice, so she is going to be unprepared and had to cut weight on top of that. She’s arguably the more powerful striker of the two but I can’t get past the potential ill-preparedness. Neither are fantasy plays for me, as Murphy price is too high to warrant a ton of shares outside of a GPP dart. Lauren Murphy by Decision

Phil Hawes -240 (DK $9100, FD $19) vs Jacob Malkoun +190 (DK $7100, FD $10)

  • Anthony: It is a shock to see this middleweight bout this far up the card, but regardless Phil Hawes against Jacob Malkoun should be a fun one. It is tough to predict what we will see in this fight but it more than likely will be a short, one sided affair. Hawes has won four straight fights by stoppage and he could very easily knockout Malkoun here. He has a lot of power behind his strikes and can hit as hard as a lot of ranked fighters at middleweight. On the feet this fight is all Phil Hawes but on the mat the advantage is with Malkoun. He is a credentialed grappler and I think if he gets a hold of Hawes early, a submission win is more than likely. I will be betting the under in this fight and taking Hawes with minor confidence. Both are excellent options when building DFS lineups as they are likely to score extremely well in a win. Phil Hawes by Round One KO
  • Nick: Malkoun is a BJJ purple-belt and one of the main training partners of Robert Whittaker. There’s not much film on him at all as he’s only 4-0, but he appears to be well-rounded. His striking is a bit awkward, but he has good head movement and he seems efficient when he throws. We haven’t seen him lean on it much in the cage yet, but his offensive grappling is likely his greatest strength. Malkoun was the 2019 ADCC Asia trials winner and a 2019 Pan Pacific gold medalist in jiu-jitsu. Hawes is a power puncher that has the ability to end a fight in an instant. He’s a physical specimen for sure, but his cardio has to be in question here. He lost his only fight that ever went the distance, gassing hard against Andrew Sanchez on The Ultimate Fighter in 2016. There’s been a lot of talk about Hawes being the more experienced fighter in this one, but that is a tough narrative to get behind since most of his fights haven’t made it out of the first round. We’ve already seen what Malkoun looks like on the back end of fifteen minutes and with questions surrounding Hawes’ cardio, I think he could be in trouble here if we see a second round. My confidence level is low here, but I’ll side with the underdog in a matchup between two guys we know very little about. I just can’t justify paying a massive price for a guy like Hawes that really hasn’t shown anything against quality competition. I see Malkoun weathering the early storm and ultimately taking this fight over in the later rounds. Jacob Malkoun by Round Three Submission
  • GB: Both fighters are making their UFC debut, and its odd that we almost have no information on Jacob Malkoun. He has been in four professional fights in his career and it seems strange that he is on the main card with his resume. None of Hawes’ professional fights made it past the second round, and it is no trouble to tell why. His reach paired with his striking ability makes him a deadly opponent. I have not seen enough of Malkoun to trust him here. Hawes is priced very high and it worries me to pay up for him with the uncertainty of Malkoun. However, from the tape that I have seen its not hard to justify his price tag. Phil Hawes by Round Two KO

Alexander Volkov -175 (DK $8600, FD $17) vs Walt Harris +145 (DK $7600, FD $15)

  • Anthony: Next on the card is a heavyweight tilt between Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris. This fight is going to be very competitive and I am excited to see how Harris approaches it. He is usually a very fast starter, trying to get a jump on his opponents to end the fight early. However, rushing to close distance against a guy as big as Volkov is never a good idea. I anticipate that if Harris is unable to connect, Volkov will pick him apart at range and really do damage in the clinch. This fight is also a step down in competition for Volkov after going a grueling five rounds with Curtis Blaydes. He will no longer have to worry about defending the takedown and I anticipate he really opens up his striking here, particularly with more kicks. Keep in mind though Volkov is much more of a volume striker than a power striker. Harris has poor cardio and could lose by technical knockout, but I think a decision win for Volkov is a lot more likely. Alexander Volkov by Decision
  • Nick: This should be a fun match-up between two quality heavyweight strikers. Harris is the more powerful of the two, but Volkov is more technical both offensively and defensively.  At a high-level, this is essentially a matchup of precision against power. Volkov was manhandled by wrestler Curtis Blaydes in his last fight. However, I expect he shouldn’t have to deal with that in this match-up though, as Harris is averaging only .32 takedown attempts per fight. Harris appears to of had a good camp, but he’s coming off a tough knockout loss to Alistair Overeem. While he definitely has a puncher’s chance here, I have trouble backing Harris as his resume inside the Top 10 has been lackluster. Volkov comes into this fight nearly twenty pounds heavier than he did last time. While this normally might be cause for some concern, his body fat percentage seems as low as it ever has. This tells me that this new weight is good weight, and it’s more than likely going to make Volkov even strong moving forward. Harris will come out firing here, but Volkov is too sharp to fall into his trap. I see him picking apart Harris at range. Harris is DFS viable given his upside, but I have trouble seeing him pulling off the victory here. Alexander Volkov by Decision
  • GB: I would have enjoyed this fight a few years ago, so I am going to try to enjoy it now. I genuinely feel for Walt Harris, but after watching his return against Overeem you can see that he was not mentally there for that fight. His emotions got the best of him, he came out swinging fast and hard and eventually tired himself out. He has phenomenal power, but outside of that he doesn’t bring much to this fight. On the other side we have Volkov who posses some of the best striking abilities in the division. He has the perfect combination of power, speed, volume and poise. We noticed in his last fight with Blaydes that his biggest disadvantage is his takedown defense, but luckily for him Walt Harris will not wrestle. There’s merit to playing Harris if you think he can get the knockout, but all signs point Volkov as he should be able to hit value based on his output. Alexander Volkov by Round Two KO

Jared Cannonier -115 (DK $8200, FD $17) vs Robert Whittaker -115 (DK $8000, FD $15)

  • Anthony: The co-main event this evening is one of the most exciting fights of the entire year as Robert Whittaker will take on Jared Cannonier in a middleweight title eliminator. Cannonier will be next in line to challenge Israel Adesanya if he can walk out of the octagon with a victory tonight. Since moving down to 185 pounds he has looked incredible, currently on a three-fight win streak all by knockout. He is a very powerful guy, likely boasting the heaviest hands of any fighter Whittaker has faced. He will enjoy that strength advantage in this fight both while striking and while wrestling. However, Whittaker is the much more technical striker and far more agile. He moves incredibly quickly and does very well striking while moving backwards. The key to victory for Cannonier is finding a way to pressure Whittaker as efficiently as possible. I think that in clinch and wrestling situations Cannonier will be able to impose his will, he just needs to avoid striking at range. Cannonier has the power to knockout Whittaker but I think he gets it done on the scorecards tonight. If this were a five round fight my pick would likely be The Reaper, but in just three rounds I believe that Cannonier will be able to apply pressure and match Whittaker’s output. Splitting your exposures is likely the best choice on DraftKings and FanDuel. Jared Cannonier by Decision
  • Nick: Robert Whittaker is a former Champion at 185 pounds and Cannonier finally seems to have finally found a home in this Division. Both fighters are primarily strikers, and both guys are more than happy to stand in the pocket and swing. Whittaker is also an outstanding defensive wrestler and one of the tougher guys to take down in the division. He has strong offensive grappling ability, but it’s very rare that we see him rely or lean on it at all. If Cannonier takes the first round, we could see Whittaker shooting more often here. This would likely be to his advantage as Cannonier is far and away most comfortable on his feet. Cannonier’s greatest strength is his powerful striking. As a former heavyweight, he has serious power at 185 and if he can find a shot to land, he’s capable of putting Whittaker to sleep. As powerful as Cannonier is, Whittaker’s striking is far more technical. He’s very cerebral defensively and does an excellent job circling away from his opponents, staying on the offensive even when he’s backing up. Whittaker can be a slow starter at times, but I expect we see a different version of him here in a three-round fight. I also like that Whittaker has been leaning on his leg kicks a lot lately. This will be a valuable weapon for him here as a means to keep Cannonier at a distance. It wouldn’t shock me if Cannonier rushed in and found the knockout shot or if he caught Whittaker while countering. However, I am siding with precision over power once again. Robert Whittaker by Decision
  • GB: Whittaker’s rise to greatness was something special to watch, and it was good seeing him come back in winning style against Till. He has made his name with his elusive style of fighting. He’s patient, methodical and barrages his opponents in short spurts to avoid any interior damage. He will need to rely a bit more on his countering ability here as Cannonier has a four-inch reach advantage and boasts arguably the hardest hands in the middleweight division. The reach advantage for Cannonier could pose as an issue for Whittaker’s blitz style, and if he can catch Robert coming out of the clinch it could be game over. As they are both priced almost equally, you have to give the advantage to Cannonier too as I cannot see Whittaker finishing the fight inside the distance. When picking fights we need finish potential, and Cannonier has it in bunches. However, I still think the more technical Whittaker gets the job done. Robert Whittaker by Decision

Khabib Nurmagomedov -325 (DK $9200, FD $24) vs Justin Gaethje +250 (DK $7000, FD $18)

  • Anthony: To close the card is the event we have all been looking forward to, Khabib Nurmagomedov defending his lightweight belt against interim champion Justin Gaethje. This is one of the biggest fights in UFC history and you are going to want to tune in to see if Khabib can stay undefeated against his toughest opponent yet. It is hard to deny that Gaethje is a lethal fighter, with just two of his wins coming by decision. He is going to try and beat Khabib with his striking, but we have yet to see anybody survive the grappling attack of the champion. Before Gathje is able to put together combinations and hurt Khabib, he will need to defend numerous takedowns. While Gathje is an excellent wrestler I still highly doubt he will be able to stay off his back enough here. Nobody in the UFC has better top control than Khabib and I believe his relentless pressure will keep this fight on the mat. He is excellent at chaining together his wrestling attacks and it is tough to imagine tonight is any different than usual for him. Closing the distance will be a huge factor in Gathje’s approach too, but at boxing range it becomes even more difficult to defend a double leg from Khabib. I respect the power of Gaethje but am very confident that we hear And Still at the end of the night. I am happy betting on Khabib here even at these odds, and think he is the first priority when building your DFS lineups. Tonight is the night that he becomes the number one pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Khabib Nurmagomedov by Round Three Submission
  • Nick: Anytime either of these guys fight, it’s must-see TV. Khabib is one of the greatest to ever do it under the UFC banner, and Gaethje kill-or-be-killed style has landed him Fight of the Night or Performance of the Night bonuses in all seven of his bouts in the UFC. Gaethje had a lot of success utilizing leg kicks in his fight against Tony Ferguson. This is a good way for him to try to keep Khabib at a distance here, but by compromising his base to get on the offensive could leave him open to takedowns. Khabib is as good of a grappler as there has ever been Lightweight. Khabib completely dismantled Dustin Porier and Connor McGregor in his last two fights. Gaethje is a better wrestler than either of them, but it’s tough to expect him to fair much better as we’ve never really seen him succeed wrestling at this level. In multiple interviews, Gaethje has been quoted saying that he doesn’t like to wrestle because it tires him. Gaethje has solid takedown defense, but Khabib’s relentlessness is something he’s never had to deal with before. Even if he stuffs him once or twice, he’s going to end up grounded. Whether he likes it or not, Gaethje is going to have to wrestle a lot in this one. He may find success early, but I’m not sure how long he’ll be able to keep it up. This is Khabib’s first fight since the passing of his father. There are some people out there that think this could affect him negatively here, but I think it’s much more likely that we see him thrive in a tribute performance. The one major plus for Gaethje here is his coach/camp. Training under Trevor Wittman out of Elevation Fight Team, he’s going to come into this fight with as prepared and with as good of a game-plan as humanly possible. He definitely has a punchers chance, and if he can outlast Khabib, there’s a chance he could take over late. However, Numagomedov is one of the best to ever do it. At 28-0, I just can’t bet against Khabib until he shows more vulnerability. I expect him to pressure Gaethje with his grappling until he ultimately finds his neck. His striking is good enough that he should be able to hang on the feet long enough to take this fight to the ground. Khabib Nurmagomedov by Round Three Submission
  • GB: What a fantastic main event for us! We have arguably one of the most dominant fighters to grace the octagon in Khabib who averages five takedowns per fight over his last twelve. He thrives from the clinch and on the mat so there is no reason to think that he doesn’t come out with the same game-plan in this bout. He will get Gaethje to the ground; it’s just a matter of how long he can keep him there. Gaethje is on another planet lately when it comes to his performances. He has mowed through the best in the world at lightweight. His hands are fast and powerful and if he connects its game over. The biggest factor in this for me is whether Gaethje can wrestle, or stuff the takedowns entirely. If he is able to negate what makes Khabib dominant, we could see a massive upset here. From a pricing standpoint, you have to go with your gut on who wins, as there is no sneaky price grab. I like the interim champ. Justin Gaethje by Round Two KO

*Anthony, Nick and GB play on both FanDuel and DraftKings, and although they express their opinions, they may also implement other plays and strategies without notice