Welcome back this week after a very exciting UFC 239 in Las Vegas where we saw Ben Askren get knocked out with the flying knee, Jon Jones get truly tested by Santos and our big underdog Chance Rencountre come through! That’s two weeks in a row where we have nailed a big underdog that was low owned on DraftKings (Yes, I’m bragging ;). Once again, things won’t always go our way like that so we need to keep our expectations tempered. That being said, I think UFC Sacramento has a big edge in the fact that there are so many close Vegas lines. It should be a fun card and I’m pumped for Saturday so let’s get into it.
7.7K Benito Lopez vs 8.5K Vince Morales
This was originally supposed to be Martin Day fighting Benito Lopez and I planned on picking Day with a lot of conviction. Lopez is a team Alpha Male product but he does have gaping holes in his game. He is a solid striker but tries to get too flashy with jumping kicks and flying knees at times and leaves himself open to get hit. He has a questionable chin and his gas tank leaves more to be desired which are not things that you want to see in an upcoming prospect. He made his UFC debut in late 2017 and stole a decision from Albert Morales in a fight that I thought he lost. His most recent fight in February, Manny Bermudez made quick work of him and choked him out but I’m not putting too much stock into that as Bermudez is a legit prospect. With all that being said, I would have been very confident in Martin Day but Vince Morales I’m not so sure. Lopez does have legitimate power for this weight division and Morales seems content to sit at range and dance around the octagon mostly moving backwards which doesn’t bode well with the judges. If he does that against Lopez then I expect to see Lopez utilize his long legs and kicking ability. That being said, Morales did seem to make improvements between his loss to Yadong Song and his recent decision win against Aiemann Zahabi. Money is pouring in on him as well so others seem to be concerned with Lopez despite the 9-1 record. Morales opened as a (+185) underdog and the line has already moved to a pick em. Despite the concerns I have with Lopez, I’m going with the Golden Boy in what should be an action packed striking affair. The sub-8K price on DraftKings is too juicy for me to pass up on as I could see him scoring well in a win.
8K Livinha Souza vs 8.2K Brianna Van Buren
Souza, also known as the Brasilian Gangster is coming off a split decision win over Sarah Frota. She was able to take Frota down four times and nearly ended it with a submission. She is a black belt in BJJ and that is clearly her best path to victory in most fights as she does not land much volume on the feet. However, her opponent, Brianna Van Buren, holds a brown belt in BJJ and is only 4’11 and is an excellent wrestler so I expect it to be difficult for the taller Souza to take her down. Van Buren also trains at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and has ended three of her last five fights via submission. She is a smaller target but moves quickly and avoids damage well. She is very strong and will pick up opponents with ease before slamming them to the mat. She is also the better and more powerful striker, she is much stronger and I expect her to control the center of the octagon along with landing takedowns and controlling Souza on the mat. She opened at (+130) and quickly moved to (-125) and I expect it to move even further her direction before Saturday’s fight. Give me Brianna “The Bull” in this one and I feel very confident about it. At just 8.2K, I’ll be targeting her heavily in the mid-range.
8.7K Pingyuan Liu vs 7.5K Jonathan Martinez
Here is another fight that has already seen some significant line movement in favor of the underdog. Jonathan Martinez opened at (+205) and is already down to (+120). I think this one will come down to who executes their game plan best. Both fighters are solid grapplers but I would give a slight edge to Martinez in that department as he is the better defensive grappler and really good at reversing position. That being said, I would give Liu the advantage on the feet as the more powerful striker. Martinez likes to throw kicks at range but you don’t see too many of them actually do damage. Expect Liu to close the distance to neutralize the kicking advantage from Martinez and although he hasn’t landed many takedowns yet in the UFC, I think we see a few from him here. Martinez is willing to give up the takedown and pull guard to fight from his back and he is a threat in that position so Liu will have to be careful if it goes to the mat. Liu is a solid submission grappler as well and is coming into this fight on a nine fight win streak with seven of those fights ending before the bell prior to making his UFC debut. He has yet to get a finish in the UFC but I think it’s coming and it could very likely come against Martinez who doesn’t have the best chin on him. I don’t have a strong lean on this one but I think the most likely outcome is Liu by decision with the potential to knock out Martinez. He is a bit more pricey than I like but still a solid tournament option for the upside. Just know that it comes with a decent amount of risk.
7.9K Darren Elkins vs 8.3K Ryan Hall
At this point in his career, there is just no way that I’m betting on Darren Elkins. He is 35 years old and has been through some wars in his UFC career. It appears that “The Damage” has taken too much damage and is clearly slowing down on the backend of his career. In his last fight against Ricardo Lamas, he basically was a walking punching bag and I have little reason to think that changes moving forward. This fight is currently a pick em which absolutely blows my mind. The only reason I think people are giving Elkins a chance here is because Ryan Hall isn’t interested in striking and doesn’t pack much power when he does despite having some decent kicking skills. Hall is only one year younger but has taken much less damage due to his fighting style and only eight professional bouts. They call him “The Wizard” for a reason. He is a black belt in BJJ and is very slick off his back. He has ended four of his last seven fights via Heel Hook and although Elkins is a brown belt, he’s no match for Hall on the mat. The only possible way that Elkins could win this is by being more active on the feet and not allowing this fight to take place on the mat. I expect the former to happen but I think eventually this fight is going to the ground and Elkins may even try to take it there himself. If he does, it’s to his own demise though. I’m calling the wizard via submission and hammering that line. I was shocked when pricing was released and Hall was this cheap so he’s my favorite target on the entire slate.
9K Julianna Pena vs 7.2K Nicco Montano
We have an interesting matchup here in the Women’s Bantamweight division. Both fighters are coming off a two and a half year layoff. Yep, you read that right. This fight is so tough to predict with such a long layoff because we don’t know how either fighter is going to look after such a long break. With that being said, Julianna Pena is clearly the more experienced fighter as she has more UFC experience and quality wins over Cat Zingano and Jessica Eye. She is a blue belt in BJJ while her opponent holds a purple belt. I don’t see either fighter having a significant grappling advantage. I expect Pena to control the center of the octagon and to clinch up and look for takedowns. Montano is a southpaw and is the more active striker but basically just has a one two punch and I don’t think that’s enough against the more experienced Pena here. Pena by decision is my official pick but do not have a strong lean because of the layoff. Either way, I don’t see this fight scoring well for DraftKings purposes and the 9K price on Pena is kind of absurd. However, 7.2K is easy to pay off if Montano wins so she would be my preferred play on DraftKings.
7.8K Andre Fili vs 8.4K Sheymon Moraes
We have yet another team Alpha Male fighter in Andre “Touchy” Fili fighting against Sheymon Moraes. Fili is coming off a decision win against Myles Jury back in February and his last six fights have all gone the distance. Moraes is coming off a decision loss to Sodiq Yusuff back in March where both fighters had their moments. Fili is definitely the more active striker as he likes to throw a lot of kicks from range but Moraes clearly holds the power advantage. That could be a problem for Fili as he has been chin checked several times in his last few fights. Fili opened as a (-145) favorite but has since moved to (+110). If this fight goes to decision and Vegas seems to think it will (-215) then I find it hard to see Fili winning rounds. Even if he has more volume, I expect Moraes to land the powerful shots and possibly even score a knockdown. Fili will likely land one or two takedowns but I don’t think that will steal him rounds where he eats big shots from Moraes. Give me Moraes by decision although this one could honestly go either way especially with a team Alpha Male fighter fighting in California ;) Overall the fight should be active enough for the winner to score well considering their prices.
9.4K Mike Rodriguez vs 6.8K John Allen
After many fights that are expected to end in a decision, this will certainly be a nice change of pace as Vegas has this currently (-315) not to go to decision. Rodriguez is a four to one favorite here and he has a great ITD line of (-180). His last five wins have come by knockout and I expect this fight to make number six. With that being said, Allen has yet to be knocked out and he does have some knockout wins to his record as well so he isn’t the worst underdog to target in hopes that he cracks Rodriguez clean. That’s not the outcome I’m expecting though as Rodriguez is the bigger and more powerful striker with a significant reach advantage. I’m going with Rodriguez in this one by TKO.
8.6K Marvin Vettori vs 7.6K Cezar Ferriera
Up next we have what should be a competitive fight at Middleweight as Marvin Vettori squares up against the third degree black belt, Cezar Ferriera. Vettori is coming off a really close split decision loss against Israel Adesanya in a fight that he thought he won. He has never been finished in his fighting career and is likely due to the fact that he is very strong and has a good chin along with an impressive grappling game as well. He is a brown belt in BJJ and should be able to avoid danger if this fight goes to the mat. That is likely what Ferriera will try to do but Vettori has good takedown defense as he defends at 73%. If Vettori can stuff takedowns then you have to favor him on the feet as the more active striker. Ferriera is coming off a uninamous decision loss against Ian Heinisch but does have quality wins over Jack Hermansson and Anthony Smith. I think the line is right with Vettori being a small favorite (-150) but this fight could go either way depending on who is more successful in executing their gameplan. Vettori by decision is my official pick.
9.1K Karl Roberson vs 7.1K Wellington Turman
This is going to be an exciting fight with Vegas expecting a finish as the line is (-195) not to go to decision. Roberson is currently a (-225) favorite here but he only opened at (-155) so it seems that people are willing to bet on the experience of Roberson over Turman who is making his UFC debut. I’m not sold that Roberson is all that talented though and the price above 9K is not somewhere I’m looking to invest in a small favorite. Additionally, his only two losses are by submission which happens to be Turman’s specialty as he owns seven wins via submission and has never been finished in his fighting career. Roberson has the better ITD line at (+125) but Turman has a good ITD line of (+280) for his price. Give me Turman by submission in this one. This pick is less about me thinking Turman is some world class fighter and more about me thinking Roberson is just simply not that good and too overpriced here.
7.4K Josh Emmett vs 8.8K Mirsad Bektic
I spent probably too much time looking at this matchup and I really don’t have a strong lean. Both fighters have similar styles and it’s tough to say that one fighter has a clear advantage over the other in any area. Neither fighter is aggressive with their striking and both have legitimate power but Bektic sets up his strikes better. He is coming off a split decision win over Ricardo Lamas and Emmett is coming off the round three knockout of Michael Johnson in a fight that he was clearly losing before catching Johnson with a heavy right hand. Emmett typically is not a strong play on DraftKings and even with the cheap price he won’t be a heavy target of mine because he could score 65 in a win. That makes my preferred play Bektic on DraftKings as I think he could score decent in a win with the potential to end it early with his power. This should be a close fight though and if both fighters aren’t willing to engage then it could be 15 minutes of dancing around which is not what we’re looking for so I plan on limiting exposure in this one.
6.9K Urijah Faber vs 9.3K Ricky Simon
Urijah Faber is back! He recently confirmed on the Ariel Helwani show that he is keeping his nickname “The California Kid” despite being 40 years old. He also talked about how beneficial the layoff was for his body and how he feels better than ever to be fighting again. That is all great don’t get me wrong. However, father time spares no man and we have a long history of fighters declining as they get older. The positive for Faber is that he is still an excellent submission grappler as he holds a brown belt in BJJ. His opponent, Ricky Simon is only a blue belt but pretty much has the advantage everywhere else in this fight along with being the younger and presumably quicker fighter. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s not the worst play if you want to take shots on Faber here if you want to bank on the fact that Simon hasn’t been tested much talent-wise and the price on Faber is tempting. The fight is (-245) to go to decision so he could put up 30 points in a loss which isn’t a bad floor. That being said, I likely will not be investing too much in Faber here although as a fan, I hope he wins. My official pick is Simon by decision but he better win rounds in a convincing manner with Faber fighting in his home state.
7.3K Germaine De Randamie vs 8.9K Aspen Ladd
I’m going to get my disclaimer out of the way first in that I am a big time #TeamAspen guy here. De Randamie is the number one contender currently in this division but that’s about to change. Aspen Ladd is the new wave and an incredible talent. She is currently undefeated and owns two knockout wins of her three UFC fights against Tonya Evinger and Lina Lansberg. In her most recent fight, she showed off an impressive ground game against Eubanks and solidified the fact that her cardio is on another level (could be due to the fact that she hikes 13 miles every day with her dogs). She will keep pushing forward with a relentless pace throughout the fight. With her pace and the potential for 25 minutes, I love the price and she will be one of my heaviest exposures for the card. You could play De Randamie as a punt in hopes that she scores well with the extra time but she isn’t super aggressive and there are other strong underdogs on this card meaning you shouldn’t need to save salary. Aspen by knockout and (+100) ITD will be one of the best bets on the card.
My DraftKings core:
Brianna Van Buren
My favorite bets:
Ladd ITD (+100)
Hall ITD (+165)
Buren by decision (+145)
Turman ITD (+280) *submission prop not posted yet
As always, I will post any Vegas line updates or changes in anyting on Twitter @JonKelly22 so feel free to follow me there. Also, if you enjoy reading this, do me a favor and click the thumbs up on this post! Best of luck to everyone playing and enjoy UFC Sacramento!