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MMA DFS Playbook – UFC On FOX: Johnson vs. Bader
Hey there fight fans! My name is Mike Galuszka, and thank you for taking the time to read my debut article. I’ll be your go to guy for UFC DFS for every fight card, and you can also catch some “live analysis” on fight nights via my Twitter feed at @MikeGaluszka.
The UFC makes its return this Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey after a rare weekend off. The hard-hitting Anthony “Rumble” Johnson takes on Ryan Bader in the headliner, with title hopes on the line. The co-main event of the evening pits longtime heavyweight veterans Josh Barnett against Ben Rothwell. Also making an appearance on the card is the young, budding super star, Sage Northcutt. Let’s dive right in with the picks. All values are according to the Draft Kings salary cap. Enjoy the fights!
Anthony Johnson ($10,900) vs. Ryan Bader ($8,500)
In my eyes, there are only two likely outcomes of this fight. The first being that Johnson blitzes Bader for a knockout in the first round, as he’s done in 10 of his 20 victories. The other scenario that I can see playing out is that Bader cruises with his wrestling to a five round decision win. Johnson has looked like a world beater since re-entering the UFC, laying waste to most opponents by KO. His one stumble came against Daniel Cormier, who used distance and superior wrestling to break Johnson in the third round of their title bout. Bader’s last loss came to Glover Teixeira in 2013, by way of KO. Glover is a fighter whose style is similar Johnson’s. However, Bader has since implemented a strategy to safely negate power punchers. The popular pick is Johnson by knockout, but I’m calling the upset, and picking Bader by decision. At $8,500 he is also a great value play.
Josh Barnett ($10,100) vs. Ben Rothwell ($9,300)
This fight should be interesting for the hardcore MMA fans, as both men have been in the game for quite some time. Barnett enters the fight coming off of a decision win over Roy Nelson, while Rothwell brings significant momentum into the bout with three straight dominant wins over stiff competition. I look for the superior ground game of Barnett to halt the recent ascension of Rothwell. Barnett will close the gap with punches before bringing the fight to the mat where he should be able to utilize his catch wrestling game to submit Rothwell in the second round.
Jimmie Rivera ($10,200) vs. Iuri Alcantara ($9,200)
Interesting move by the UFC positioning this fight on the main card, with bigger names on the preliminaries. Rivera, who has 2 fights under his belt in the UFC, gets a bump up in competition when he takes on the crafty veteran in Alcantara. Rivera is a talented young fighter, but I can’t help but wonder if he would be better suited at flyweight, standing at only 5’4″. Alcantara’s size advantage, as well as solid victories over Ricardo Lamas and Francisco Trinaldo, lead me to believe that he will outmatch Rivera, winning by TKO in the second round.
Sage Northcutt ($11,000) vs. Bryan Barberena ($8,400)
Northcutt gets his first major exposure to UFC fans, kicking off the main card on FOX against the short notice replacement Barberena. He has looked as good as advertised with two finishes in his first two fights with the UFC. Barberena comes into the bout 1-1 in his UFC tenure. Even with the short notice replacement, and jump up in weight to welterweight for one fight, I can’t see the hype train behind Sage being derailed. Look for Northcutt to open up with his flashy striking on the underdog, taking home a KO win in the first round.
Tarec Saffiedine ($10,600) vs. Jake Ellenberger ($8,800)
In the featured preliminary bout, Saffiedine makes his return after being inactive since a loss to Rory MacDonald in October of 2014. He faces off against Ellenberger who is in desperate need of a win, or could be given his walking papers. Unfortunately for Ellenberger, that’s the scenario I see playing out. He has been exposed by strikers in his last 4 losses, including setbacks to Robbie Lawler and Stephen Thompson by knockout, making Saffiedine a horrible match up for him. Saffiedine should be fresh coming into the fight, and will surely utilize his superior striking to pick apart Ellenberger, winning by knockout in the early rounds, and ending Ellenberger’s UFC tenure in the process.
Olivier Aubin-Mercier ($10,400) vs. Diego Ferreira ($9,000)
Aubin-Mercier takes on Ferreira in a fight that is definitely harder to call. Aubin-Mercier has won his last three bouts after losing in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter to Chad Laprise, albeit against lesser competition. Ferreira has looked less impressive, losing his last two fights, after starting 2-0 in his UFC career. However, his two losses have come against much stiffer competition than Aubin-Mercier, dropping bouts to Dustin Poirier and Beneil Dariush. With that in mind, I see Ferreira being too much for the untested Aubin-Mercier, imposing his will and taking a win via technical knockout in the first round.
Rafael Natal ($9,900) vs. Kevin Casey ($9,500)
As a self-professed grappling nerd, this fight has me excited. Though buried on the card, this fight could be exciting if it hits the mat. Both fighters bring extremely high level jiu jitsu into the bout. The difference maker in this fight will be Natal’s striking, which has improved in recent bouts, including a decision win over the ultra dangerous Uriah Hall. Unfortunately for Casey, he just doesn’t posses the stand-up chops to hang with Natal for very long, and Natal should be able to clip him. The pick is Natal by submission in round two after knocking Casey down, because I believe he will want to prove his jiu jitsu is superior.
Dustin Ortiz ($10,300) vs. Wilson Reis ($9,100)
This flyweight scrap features two veterans trying to climb the ladder into title contention. Ortiz is the pick here for me. His wrestling is too good, and his pressure should wear Reis down. Ortiz’s only defeat in his past four fights came against Joseph Benavidez via decision, and has beaten fighters on Reis’s caliber throughout his career, and should here. Reis just hasn’t fared well against the type of competition that Ortiz represents, and will more than likely get the boot from the UFC with a loss. Ortiz grinds Reis out for a sound decision victory.
Alexander Yakolev ($9,800) vs. George Sullivan ($9,600)
This fight features two men trying to turn a corner in their UFC careers. Yakolev lost his first two UFC bouts to tough competition in Demian Maia, and Nicholas Musoke, before rebounding against Gray Maynard. Sullivan on the other hand, opened his UFC tenure with two victories before losing to the scrappy Tim Means. He’s since rebounded with a victory over Dominic Waters. Yakolev’s loss to Musoke as well as the unimpressive win over a worn out Maynard leave me to believe that Sullivan should be able to impose his will against him. The pick is George Sullivan by unanimous decision.
Alex Caceres ($10,800) vs. Masio Fullen ($8,600)
Caceres, or “Bruce Leroy” to his fans, is in desperation mode in this fight against Fullen. After opening up on a run to begin his time in the UFC, Caceres has dropped his last three in a row. Fullen takes on Caceres after being quickly dispatched by the exciting prospect, Makwan Amirkhani by submission. With Caceres needing a win in the worst way, I can see him using a similar strategy that Amirkhani employed against Fullen, finishing him on the mat via submission in the third round. Also, how do you pick against a man who goes by the name “Bruce Leroy?”
Randy Brown ($10,500) vs. Matt Dwyer ($8,900)
This is a fight I am looking forward to. Prospect Randy Brown makes his UFC debut with a perfect record of 6-0, taking on Matt Dwyer. Brown is a fighter who I am excited to see transition to the big show after cutting his teeth in the long-standing promotion Ring of Combat. With six finishes in six fights, I see Brown excelling in his step up in competition against Dwyer. Dwyer has opened his UFC career with two losses in three bouts. The skill of Brown should be too tough a task for Dwyer to overcome, and I’m picking Brown via impressive TKO in the second frame.
Levan Makashvili ($10,700) vs. Damon Jackson ($8,700)
This is a battle of two prospects just getting their feet wet in the promotion. Makashvili is 1-1 thus far, but could easily be 2-0 with favorable judging in his last bout, a close defeat to Hacran Dias. Jackson has had a less smooth transition to the UFC, as he is 0-1 with a no contest in his second fight after originally losing via submission to Rony “Jason.” Makashvili has definitely looked like the stronger fighter out of the gate, and I firmly believe he’ll end Jackson’s run in the UFC by way of TKO in the first stanza.
Tony Martin ($10,000) vs. Felipe Olivieri ($9,400)
Somehow, the debuting Olivieri is the underdog in Draftkings’ eyes against Martin who has lost three of his first four fights in the UFC. Martin has proven to be prone to submissions, and I look for the Brazilian Olivieri to exploit that weakness and take an easy submission victory in the opening round to provide and exciting start to the card.