UFC 226: Full Breakdown

Jamie Moyle $9,200 (-210) vs. Emily Whitmire $7,000 (+170)

Jamie Moyle is a decent wrestling fighter that has faced much stronger competition than Whitmire. Whitmire hasn’t faced anyone of particular note, with her best win coming unofficially on TUF. Whitmire has shown obvious holes in her anti-wrestling game before, a fact that should come into play early and often here. Regardless, Whitmire will likely be outmatched on in these striking game as well, unless she’s added significantly to her game since the last time we saw her.

My Prediction

Moyle via Unanimous Decision.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

Moyle is a solid play and solid bet. Whitmire’s best work seems to happen on the ground, but she will have a hard time getting a dominant position there. Moyle should have here way with this fight, and the only question for me is whether she has the TD or finishing upside to make her a solid play. I’m siding with Moyle being one of the better locks of the night—and the only thing making me second guess playing her in tournaments is the likely possibility of her being highly owned.

Lando Vannata $9,000 (-185) vs. Drakkar Klose $7,200 (+160)

This is an underrated fight between two very solid up and coming prospects in the lightweight division. Vannata seems incapable of putting on a boring fight. So far in his UFC career, all of his fights have been incredibly entertaining. Vannata first made his name dropping and giving Tony Ferguson one of his toughest fights, despite being a huge underdog. Vannata has stayed fighting very tough competition in the UFC—going a balanced 1-1-1 since that debut loss against Ferguson. Vannata is a very talented striker, closing distance consistently well with his unique dynamic striking. Vannata often comes out explosive and dangerous—almost to a fault. He can finish guys early or burn himself out and end up tired as the fight wears on. It’s been a consistent problem for him in fights that he doesn’t finish—with only one of his wins coming via decision, and a split decision at that.

Klose is a very different fighter in some ways but similar in others. Like Vannata, Klose is prone to pressuring—though he does his best work grinding opponents out in the clinch. Where Vannata gasses, Klose maintains a consistent draining pace well. Klose’s ability to press Vannata against the fence may be very important to the outcome of this fight. Additionally, while Klose is not a takedown artist per se, he is a solid wrestler and should look to bring this to the mat when given the opportunity.

My Prediction

Vannata via 1st Rd TKO.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

There really should be only a few ways this fight can go. One, Vannata lands the early finish he seems to be so close to all the time. That’s the side I’m putting most of my chips on. Vannata is a much better striker and Klose will press into Vannata’s dangerous range right away. Two, If Vannata can’t crack Klose, I see Klose pushing Vannata around the cage for the following two rounds and getting the decision. Or three, Vannata changes his game plan and paces himself over three rounds. That seems unlikely. Klose is not a bad play at all at given his price, but I’ll likely be fading him. Vannata has finishing upside, but it’s far from a guarantee given Klose has never been finished. Regardless, I’ll be playing a decent amount of him.

Dan Hooker $8,500 (-130) vs. Gilbert Burns $7,700 (+110)

Hooker really looks so much better at lightweight. At featherweight, where Hooker still went a respectable 3-3, he was definitely diminished. A tall rangy lightweight, Hooker is primarily a kick boxer with very dynamic powerful striking—particularly the more unique strikes, his elbows and knees. Hooker is generally either winning via finish, or losing the fight—though given his recent improvements I’d judge him more capable of a decision win. Defensively, he still has a tendency to press in a bit too much given his range, and leaves his right side poorly defended often enough that he can get cracked by a power puncher like Burns as he pressures. In the past, Hooker has struggled against strong grapplers, a bill that Gilbert Burns definitely fits. Burns is elite on the ground, with an elite BJJ background and an underrated wrestling game to get it there. Burns isn’t the most technical striker, but once inside he throws full power into nearly every strike as he is unafraid of being taken to the mat on the counter.

My Prediction

Burns via 3rd Rd Submission.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

This should be a very competitive fight, and is a hard one to pick—as is reflected by the close odds. Hooker has definitely looked like a force to be reckoned with at lightweight—with his lanky frame, durability, and fight finishing abilities making him a new dark horse for the UFC’s most stacked division. However, he has yet to face an elite grappler at lightweight—which Burns is. I’m inclined to go with the grappler in a situation such as this, where Hooker is not a complete elite takedown defender, and Burns—much like Hooker—is incredibly durable. Given his price and odds alone, Burns is in play. Considering his grappling upside, Burns is a very interesting play. It is hard for me to click the name opposite Hooker given the confidence I have in his long term career, but Burns will end up in a decent number of my lineups.

Curtis Millender $8,700 (-165) vs. Max Griffin $7,500 (+145)

Millender made a splash with his UFC debut, putting away veteran Thiago Alves with a vicious knee in the second. Millender has always had a lot of positive attributes—he has great range which he knows how to use very well, and some absolutely vicious head kicks and knees. The issue up until recently was Miillender’s patience, or rather, his over abundance of it. However, Millender has turned a corner and started turning off the lights on his opponents with regularity. Millender is also proficient on the ground, but likely won’t have to use it at all here.

Griffin upset Mike Perry last time out. Though I think that upset was more a matter of Griffin being underrated rather than Perry being completely hype. Griffin was the more technically sound striker in that fight, maintaining range well with his long reach and unique traditional martial arts base. He is at his best against pressure fighters, as he counters very well. When he uses more aggressive tactics, he has more varied success. At times, he bounces in and unleashes some very solid combinations, though his defense is notedly worse inside. Griffin has only been convincingly beaten once in the UFC, and that came against Colby Covington—who out grappled Griffin. Griffin will get the stand up fight he wants here.

My Prediction

Millender via Unanimous Decision.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

This is another tough fight to pick. The question for me is who will be more bothered by the relative lack of reach advantage in this fight. Both of these guys are rangy fighters, so neither will necessarily be able to lean on it as well as usual. Millender gets the nod given the extra range he has in his kicks, and what I see as a more efficient jab. Just as well, I think stylistically, Griffin will force Millender to revert to his more patient fighting ways—which lowers Millender’s fantasy value in my eyes. Griffin is a very underpriced fighter here, which makes him interesting to me—though I will likely be fading this fight from my lineups.

Raphael Assuncao $9,100 (-165) vs. Rob Font $7,100 (+145)

Perennial contender Raphael Assuncao has beaten many of the best fighters at 135lbs. A stocky, powerful counter striker—Assuncao’s ascension has only taken so long because of how low activity and—frankly boring—his fights often are. Assuncao needs game fighters who will push towards him— so he can launch the deceptively fast powerful strikes that have made his career. The long time it’s taken him to reach the top of the division may have dire consequences on his career—as being in one of the lower weight divisions, his age (35) will come into play very soon. It’s also worth noting that the scorecard SS have gotten closer and closer in his fights, albeit against largely strong competition. Assuncao’s greatest tool in the stand up game has to be his defense, as he is an expert at moving in and out of range—and avoiding aggressive combinations. He’s avoided a shocking 70% of strikes from his opponents, a key factor in his ability to slow fights down to the pace he enjoys fighting at. Assuncao looks the role of a wrestling fighter, but he is much better on the ground then getting it there.

Font does share some similarities with Assuncao, dodging strikes at a very similar clip—though he doesn’t hold quite the same competition sheet to Assuncao. Font is a fantastic pure boxer—the cornerstone of his stand up game. I’ll be interested to see how that works out against Assuncao—as Font does have the reach advantage, but is prone to getting his lead leg chopped at, which is one of Assuncao’s most well known weapons. Additionally, Font can be an aggressive fighter, which may play into Assuncao’s counter punching. Font also has an incredibly dangerous ground game, though I think he lacks the wrestling to bring a takedown defender like Assuncao to the ground very often. He has a better chance of Assuncao going for the takedown or clinch and catching him there.

My Prediction

Font via Split Decision.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

I think Assuncao does what he wants for the most part here, slowing the fight down to some extent, avoiding the mat and landing some slick counters. However, Font is a dangerous fighter—who I think will have one or two moments across three round that pushes him towards the decision W. Regardless, I don’t like Assuncao’s fantasy value, as his path to victory is likely by boring low volume decision. Font is playable based on his salary/odds alone, but I also give him some chance, though slim, of finishing this fight inside the distance. I’ll take a small amount of Font, but largely fade this fight given the difficulty in predicting a winner and the likely slow pace.

Paul Felder $7,400 (-155) vs. Mike Perry $8,800 (+135)

Felder steps in on short notice and moves up to Welterweight here. Felder’s been screwed twice in a row for high profile lightweight bouts—and it would be a real shame if he slips up here. Felder is a consummate well rounded fighter. He can hold his own against most top fighters, but hasn’t been seen as elite at any one thing in the octagon. Though, I think his ground and pound is now gaining a reputation for being particularly hellacious and fight ending. Felder will undoubtably be the more technically skilled fighter in this octagon. He should be a top ten fighter in the toughest division in the UFC. Perry on the other hand has failed to live up to his hype and natural talent. Perry is a pure power puncher, with 100% of his victories coming via TKO/KO. The knock on Perry has been his one dimensional game, and lack of adaptation at the highest level of the sport. Guys who fight well at range—guys like Felder—have gotten Perry’s number before. Now, I don’t think Perry’s reputation is entirely earned, he’s more technical than he looks and his pure boxing is impressive. If he could remember to return to his strong bobbing and weaving more often, and maybe not throw everything into every punch, Perry could start climbing the ladder at 170lbs consistently. He still hasn’t learned to do that.

Two other things are of note here. First, the grappling game. Perry has decent TDD, but I see him getting brought down at least once here. Felder has the better ground and pound game then anyone Perry has fought, so if Perry gets caught there with significant time in a round, I think it’s over. Also important here, is that Perry has made changes to his corner. Not to knock on Sam Alvey, but having your girlfriend in your corner is generally not a great strategy. Especially when the corner advice amounts to, “break his leg”. That’s one step away from “put him in a body bag”. That’s not corner advice, it’s corny movie dialogue. Maybe Perry enters this fight with an improved mind set and strategy, for the sake of his future career, I hope so.

My Prediction

Felder via Unanimous Decision.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

The question here is clearly how does Felder handle the size and power difference. Felder is a big lightweight—more a ‘tweener’ that could fight at 165lbs if such a division existed. Perry is an extra powerful Welterweight. No one will be too surprised if Felder, despite his toughness, gets KO’d here. Though this fight, for me, comes down to a battle of fight IQ’s. With Felder having a very high fight IQ and Perry making the same mistakes again and again. Until I see otherwise I can’t throw too much behind Perry. Fantasy wise, this has to be one of the more obvious plays on the board. We have a decent favorite being priced as a strong underdog—Felder is going to be chalky. And just as well, given that obvious play, I think Perry will draw decent contrarian ownership as well. For me, given how over owned I think this fight will be, the play is to fade this fight and hope we get a largely boring decision.

Paulo Costa $9,400 (-430) vs. Uriah Hall $6,800 (+345)

Paulo “I Swear I’m Not on Steroids” Costa has won his first three fights in entertaining finishing fashion, and become one of the more hyped prospects at middleweight. Looking back at those fights, his competition has been pretty far from impressive across that stretch—right up to fighting a severely diminished undersized Johnny Hendricks in his most recent contest. That’s not Costa’s fault, but it does give me pause in evaluating his performances thus far. Those performances have been largely dominating—with the focal point of each performance being his shocking athleticism and power. Costa bullies opponents against the fence, but is smart to maintain enough distance to still be outside of their range while he can still punish them. Costa has also shown a good tendency to mix up his attacks well—both in terms of striking type and target. With all that said, he has shown some holes early on. Costa can be dragged to the ground, and when pressing in Costa has had his chin up and open. Against a dangerous striker like Uriah Hall, that’s not a good strategy. When Costa first entered the UFC peripheral, TUF Brazil 3, he was more of a grappler. His time on that show ended when he lost before the semi-final round. There, his grappling and gas tank failed him, and he frankly looked very poor on the feet past the first round. He’s obviously greatly improved since then, but I don’t think it’s to the extent that we can pretend a similar fate can’t happen in this fight.

Uriah Hall has never quite lived up to his potential. The guy defines the fighter who everyones sees at the gym as being world champion material, but who has unfortunately never put it together consistently on the big stage. Hall is capable of defeating almost anyone. Hall is so explosive and dynamic in his striking, but unlike many fighters with that skill set, Hall has the patience to pick his spots with his more unexpected techniques. With space, Hall looks very elite. The more a fight can feel like sparring, the more it seems Hall is destined to not only win but finish his opponent. If his opponent can successfully pressure Hall and keep him on his heels, that’s another story. Hall does not handle pressure fighters well; Gastelum, Whitaker, Brunson—Hall is prone to getting beat down, and possibly finished when facing fighters who back him up. Costa definitely is a pressure fighter, and will look to do just that early and often to Hall.

My Prediction

Costa via 1st Rd TKO.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

Look, I don’t care about my prediction, the odds on this fight are moronic. I don’t care if Costa does put away Hall in the first, the odds are still stupid. Costa is completely unproven—I swear, it’s as if people were betting on a bodybuilding competition here. Is Costa physically impressive and powerful? Yes. Does his style cause problems for Hall? As mentioned above, yes. However, he’s faced no one. And Hall, for all of his problems, has only taken convincing losses (non split decisions) to top competition. Costa is an obvious play, but for fantasy purposes give me Hall all day. He is exactly the kind of semi ‘punt play’ that I like. If the scenario that is somewhat more likely, Hall gets KO’d early, happens—so be it. But, the hype does not warrant Costa being the biggest favorite on this card.

Gokhan Saki $8,400 (-135) vs. Khalil Rountree Jr. $7,800 (+115)

This fight is a pretty simple one to break down. Saki is one of the most accomplished kick boxers in history, and one of the best pure strikers in the entire UFC, despite the fact that he has only one fight under his belt. The knock on Saki is that he is past his prime, he may be prone to gas in MMA, and he lacks grappling. Rountree, up to this point, has been a similar fighter to Saki—though he lacks the obvious pedigree. Rountree has really impressed me.. in the first round. Rountree is loose, relaxed, and incredibly explosive. He can finish anyone, including Saki, inside the first round. Especially an aged Saki, who needed the full five minutes of the first round to put away Henrique da Silva. However, even more so than Saki, Rountree can gas. Last time out he was heavily favored to win—but when his striking didn’t put away his opponent, he was already spent. The interesting thing will be whether Rountree chooses to forgo his usual strategy and attempt to grapple Saki. Does he have the skill base and gas tank to keep Saki on the ground and win it? Possibly, but it’s not something I would bet on.

My Prediction

Saki via 1st Rd TKO.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

This fight has to end inside the distance. I’ll be legitimately shocked if it goes past the second round. I won’t be shocked if Rountree comes away with the victory. He is so powerful and so quick, I think Rountree—given time—can become a serious force at 205lbs. As it stands, I simply can’t pick him in what will essentially be a kickboxing match against one of the greatest of all time in Gokhan Saki. Gokhan Saki deserves to be chalk and will be part of my core. Though, I wouldn’t call you stupid for playing hedge with Rountree given multiple lineups.

Michael Chiesa $8,600 (-160) vs. Anthony Pettis $7,600 (+140)

Chiesa is a unique fighter in the lightweight top 10. 7-3 in the UFC, Chiesa has had a successful career thus far, and generally can only be beaten by very high level fighters—generally. Cheese has grown a lot as a fighter over the last several years. While he remains first and foremost a ground fighter—with suffocating ground pressure and striking to set up some of the best back control and RNC in the UFC—Cheese has also done a lot to improve his stand up game. Cheese is a rangy lightweight, with a 75’’ reach, and he has a good constantly prodding jab. That jab has allowed him to slow the pace of fights, which seems to be important to his success. When better strikers get inside on him—or put him against the fence—Chiesa is in trouble. Pettis is very similar in that way, he doesn’t handle pressure well. Unlike Chiesa, Pettis is truly elite in his striking once he has space. He is incredibly dynamic and athletic, and given Chiesa’s striking tendency, should have plenty of opportunity to show that off here. Pettis is also very strong on the ground, and of particular interest here, he does a great job of escaping pressure and control like Chiesa’s.

My Prediction

Pettis via 3rd Rd TKO.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

Much has been made of Pettis’ recent career, but those losses he’s taken have been against the elite of the roster. While the mental fatigue may certainly have built up, and Pettis’s mental strength has been a point of contention recently, I have faith that he can turn it around here. Chiesa is the best at one thing, RNC’s, but Pettis is great at defending them. Pettis has a weakness for pressuring strikers, Chiesa won’t do that. Chiesa has been finished in all of his losses, Pettis has finished most of his wins. I like the value on Pettis, but won’t make him part of my core. Chiesa has a lot of upside, but I’ll be taking the strategic fade here.

Francis Ngannou $9,300 (-370) vs. Derrick Lewis $6,900 (+310)

The Francis Ngannou hype train was derailed by heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic—who showed the massive hole in Ngannou’s wrestling game and severe gas tank problems. Ngannou’s striking is so dangerous, that even if he doesn’t work hard on improving those qualities, he can stay in the upper range of the heavyweight division for a long time to come. Thankfully for Ngannou, Lewis is not likely to go for the takedown. And Ngannou’s preternatural strength is likely enough to shrug it off if Lewis does attempt to bring things to the mat anyway. Lewis is more well-rounded than Ngannou, but also has very impressive power and explosiveness. He is unbelievably quick given his body composition. Lewis will have the advantage in the wrestling/ground game, though I think he’ll need to get by first round Ngannou to have any chance of putting the fight there. Additionally, to Lewis’s detriment, is the fact that he too has a tendency to gas. Unlike Ngannou, he seems to have a better ability to find moments late where he can explode again—3 of his finishes have come from the third round or later.

My Prediction

Ngannou via 1st Rd TKO.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

The longer this fight goes on, the more of a chance Lewis has at winning. While they both gas, Ngannou’s muscularity, punching technique and style also lends itself even more to gassing out early, and I think the only reason he made it the full five against Miocic, was the fact that Miocic himself looked less than fully recovered for much of the fight. As it stands, I’ve seen Lewis too willing to trade shots with other heavyweights, a gamble I just don’t think anyone can take against Ngannou. Ngannou will be pretty chalky, and I’ll likely eat that chalk.

Stipe Miocic $8,900 (-230) vs. Daniel Cormier $7,300 (+210)

Stipe Miocic has made a solid case for being the GOAT heavyweight. I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to crown him that, but he certainly has to be in the conversation. A Golden Gloves boxer and Division I wrestler, Miocic is a complete fighter. His technically strong boxing and natural athletic ability have made him one of the most dangerous strikers at the UFC’s biggest division, and when faced with equally punishing strikers, he always has his takedown ability to lean on. Most recently he shut down Francis Ngannou, but not before he had to survive what was a very precarious first round. Cormier represents a very unique and new problem for Miocic. Against powerful inside boxers before, Miocic could lean on his wrestling, he can’t do that here.

Cormier—while billed as the smaller fighter—will only be so in terms of height. Cormier is no doubt the superior wrestler here, and with any questions as to his ability to maintain his elite wrestling ability at heavyweight, I would point people to his olympic wrestling career. Cormier’s struggle will be getting inside without getting caught. The power is different at heavyweight and Miocic’s rangy down the barrel striking is some of the most dangerous stuff you’ll see above 205lbs. However, when it comes to pure MMA technical ability, i’d have to give the nod to guys like Gustaffson or Jon Jones over Miocic when it comes to MMA striking. Cormier has lost to Jones twice, true, but he was very competitive last time out and he beat Gustafson in the boxing game.

My Prediction

Cormier via 4th Rd Submission.

Confidence and Fantasy Value

This is yet another tough fight to pick and I understand Miocic being the 2 to 1 favorite. However, assuming Cormier enters without being significantly diminished from the last time we saw him, I give him a slightly better chance at getting the win. As far as early finishes go, Miocic gets a slight edge from me. Cormier recently had the lights turned out for the first time, and when that happens we all know its easier the next time. Just as well, Miocic does not have an iron chin either, and has been rocked or knocked down across many of his recent victories. I feel much of the odds are a representation of the size difference here. Cormier is significantly shorter, and Miocic has a naturally very large and filled out frame. However, I think that’s an overrated aspect here. Will it have some effect? Yes, but not enough to where it will eliminate Cormier’s skill advantages. Fantasy wise, both are solid plays. Miocic, as mentioned, has the early finish upside. Cormier has the takedown upside. Though, while I do think he’ll be successful there, I don’t expect those takedowns to rack up to a very significant amount. I do think there may be some degree of grappling upside in the sense that Cormier will get significant periods of ground control past the midpoint of the fight, where his ground and pound will start to shine through and he’ll either nab the finish as I expect, or rack up FP on the way to a decision. I’m putting most of my chips on Cormier here, but accept all invitations for people to call me stupid for doing so. I’ve under estimated Miocic before, it won’t be too surprising if I’ve done it again.

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