MMA DFS Playbook – UFC 200

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How’s it going fight fans? We’re back for the biggest card of the year! UFC 200 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The card took a major hit with the withdrawal of Jon Jones due to a potential doping violation under the USADA testing procedures. As a result, Miesha Tate’s battle with Amanda Nunes has been bumped to the main event. I have to say, this was a tough one for me. I finished the breakdowns for the fights just as the Jones news was handed down, so you will see that fight included here. It’s always a let down when a big fight is canceled, but this one obviously hurts more, as this was the best card on paper that I’ve ever seen. As always with the UFC, the show must go on. There are still plenty of high quality fights, and more than enough opportunity for you to make some money on Draftkings. Though I hope there are no more hiccups before Saturday, always be on the lookout for any more withdrawals and adjust your lineups before the contests go live. Enjoy the fights!

 

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Jon Jones ($10,900) vs. Daniel Cormier ($8,500)

One of the biggest grudge matches in UFC history finally goes down when the light heavyweight belt is unified by Jon Jones taking on archrival Daniel Cormier. This will be the second edition of the heated rivalry, as Jones defeated Cormier in their first bout in January 2015. Jones was stripped of his title after that bout due to his lingering legal issues. He was scheduled to challenge Cormier in his return to the promotion this April, who had become champion in his absence, but Cormier was forced to withdraw with a knee injury. Jones remained on the UFC 197 main event, and soundly defeated Ovince St. Preux, winning the interim belt and setting up the rematch with Cormier. Jones has won an incredible 13 fights in a row since 2010, and would be undefeated in 16 UFC bouts if not for a fluke disqualification loss to Matt Hamill in 2009. At 28 years old, he’s already the greatest light heavyweight in the promotion’s history, and can further cement his legacy with a dominant win in the promotion’s biggest event to date. Jones was Cormier’s first and only loss to this point, in a bout that really didn’t live up to the hype. The fight couldn’t possibly live up to the emotional build up, and I believe this bout will be a better one for the fans. Jones is the complete package. He has great striking, wrestling, jiu jitsu, and is a legitimate professional athlete. Cormier is an elite level fighter, but just doesn’t posses the striking game that Jones has, nor the athleticism. For Cormier to come out on top, he’ll need to hold his own in the stand-up game, and will have to rely on his Olympic level wrestling to land more takedowns than he did in the first fight. Jones actually out wrestled Cormier at UFC 182, and if that happens again, Cormier is in for another long night. Despite his actions outside of the cage, Jones is still the pound-for-pound king of the sport, and that isn’t going to change at UFC 200. He’ll beat Cormier in the striking exchanges while avoiding his takedown attempts en route to a clear-cut unanimous decision victory.

 

UPDATE: Jones has been pulled from UFC 200, adjust your lineups accordingly. Anderson Silva has stepped in to replace Jones against Cormier. Draftkings has not, and may not update that match-up. For the record, I am picking Daniel Cormier to win that fight.

 

Miesha Tate ($10,700) vs. Amanda Nunes ($8,700)

Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes benefit from the withdrawal of Jon Jones by being shuffled into the headlining spot of one of the biggest cards in the UFC’s history. Tate has become a superstar since her dramatic 5th round submission of then champion, Holly Holm. Before the Holm victory, Tate soundly defeated 4 quality opponents in a row, following her title loss to Ronda Rousey. Amanda Nunes earned the opportunity of a lifetime by winning 3 straight fights, including solid wins over Sara McMann and Valentina Shevchenko. Nunes is a very worthy opponent for Tate, as she has a vicious striking game, as well as a black belt in jiu jitsu. She trains at American Top Team, so she will also be well coached going into this fight. If there’s a weak spot in her game, it is her conditioning. She has proven to fade if her fights hit the later rounds, which will be a nightmare for her if it happens against Tate. Tate has an excellent gas tank. If she can avoid big shots from Nunes early, she will be able to wear her down with her elite wrestling game in the late rounds. I believe she will execute that game plan. I’m taking Miesha Tate to win by late submission again, this time in the 4th round.

 

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Esther Lin – MMA Fighting

Mark Hunt ($10,400) vs. Brock Lesnar ($9,000)

Wow! It’s been a month since news broke that Brock Lesnar would be on the UFC 200 card, and I’m still in shock. The UFC had to jump through some serious hoops to put this together, but they actually got Brock Lesnar back. Opposing the MMA king of pay-per-view in the co-main event is the power punching, “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt. Lesnar captured the UFC’s heavyweight title in just his 4th professional fight when he TKO’d hall of famer Randy Couture in November 2008. He defended his title twice before dropping back to back bouts to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem, sending him into MMA retirement until now. His welcome back is a tough one, as Hunt is riding 2 straight KO’s into this bout. His Cinderella story continues, as he’ll be involved in one of the biggest MMA bouts in history at the biggest event to date, after almost never even fighting for the UFC. When his contract was acquired from Pride, he was offered a buyout of his contract. He’s a super star now, and is a favorite in this bout with Lesnar. The breakdown is simple for this one. Lesnar needs to be able to land big takedowns at will, and he needs to be able to hold Hunt down when the gets them. If he can do that, he should be able to pick his shots on the mat to land significant offense. He’s a brute, and his punches on the floor will pack enough power to end it if he’s given the opportunity. The problem for Lesnar is, I don’t believe he’ll get Hunt to the ground. Hunt will be prepared enough to avoid the takedown enough to keep the fight in his world. His right hand is a ticking time bomb in this one, and its only a matter of time before he cracks Lesnar. Lesnar will shoot a telegraphed takedown, Hunt will counter, and end his night with a massive uppercut. Hunt win by 1st round KO, presumably sending Lesnar back into retirement.

 

Frankie Edgar ($9,900) vs. Jose Aldo ($9,500)

This is a rematch that I’m ecstatic for. Frankie Edgar meets Jose Aldo for the second time, with both men aiming to capture the UFC’s interim featherweight championship. Edgar and Aldo squared off in 2013 at UFC 156, where Aldo defeated Edgar by a close unanimous decision. Both men are at a critical point in their careers for this fight. Edgar is on a 5-fight win streak, looking to join Randy Couture and BJ Penn as the UFC’s only multi-division champions. Aldo is looking to rebound from an astounding 13 second KO loss to champion Conor McGregor, where he was defeated for the first time in almost a decade. Though this is a rematch, both guys are completely different fighters than they were 3 years ago. Frankie Edgar has already been a world champion, but he seems to be getting even better, dominating the division’s best fighters since his loss to Aldo. I feel like this is a trap fight for Aldo. Through interviews and posts on his social media accounts, he has shown that he is obsessed with a rematch with Conor McGregor, which makes me question whether or not he is taking Edgar seriously. If he’s not taking a fighter of Edgar’s caliber seriously, he’ll be in for a long night. Another issue that concerns me with Aldo, is his health. The KO loss he suffered at the hands of McGregor was a brutal one, and though he has been inactive for close to 7 months, there’s no guarantee that his ability to take a shot will ever be the same. Chad Mendes experienced the same scenario, losing to McGregor by KO, then losing to Edgar in his next bout, also by KO. After a long career with 27 total fights, I’m betting his best days are behind him. Aldo will have his moments early on, especially with his kicks, but sooner or later I see an Edgar combination ending his night. The pick is Edgar by KO in round 3.

 

 

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Erik Verduzco – Las Vegas Review Journal

 

Cain Velasquez ($11,200) vs. Travis Browne ($8,200)

An important heavyweight bout opens up the main card as Cain Velasquez returns to the Octagon to face Travis Browne. After dealing with injuries yet again, this is the first time we’ll see Velasquez back since he lost his belt to Fabricio Werdum over a year ago in Mexico. Despite an amazingly impressive career to this point, Velasquez has only fought once in almost 3 years. When healthy, he is one of the most dominant fighters on the planet, with a style that will give any heavyweight on the roster issues. He’ll take on Travis Browne, who we last saw defeat Matt Mitrione in an ugly fight. Mitrione endured multiple eye pokes from Browne, who has faced a lot of criticism because of those actions in the fight. This is definitely a clash of styles, as Browne would like to use his length to keep Velasquez at bay, while Cain will look to be in Browne’s face from start to finish. Cain is a grinder, and has cardio second to none at heavyweight. His best bet will be to take Browne down and brutalize him with his nasty ground and pound. If Browne can keep his distance and pick Cain apart with well placed strikes, he’ll be in a good position to win. The question is, can he stop Cain’s takedowns? If you’re asking me, I’m betting he won’t. A healthy Cain gets back in the win column in this fight. The Arizona State alum will take Browne down at will, winning a unanimous decision.

 

Cat Zingano ($10,500) vs. Julianna  Pena ($8,900)

Cat Zingano finally makes her return to the octagon after her devastating submission loss to Ronda Rousey, as she faces surging contender Julianna Pena. Prior to the 14 second defeat, Zingano was on an absolute tear, defeating current champ Miesha Tate and number one contender Amanda Nunes by TKO. She’ll definitely have the advantage in the striking game over Pena, who prefers to grapple. Pena showed an impressive ground game in a unanimous decision victory over perennial contender Jessica Eye. She’ll need to use a similar game plan to beat Zingano. Her best bet would be to counter Zingano’s punches and kicks with takedowns, where she can utilize her impressive jiu jitsu skills. She’s also more fresh than Zingano, who has been out of competition since February 2015. This won’t be the prettiest fight, and whoever ultimately comes out on top, will have to put in serious work to do it. For me, Pena is peaking at the right time, and has the style to give Zingano problems, who will have to deal with ring rust. Pena will mix enough takedowns with submission attempts to win on the scorecards in a grinder of a fight. The pick is Pena by close unanimous decision.

 

Johnny Hendricks ($10,100) vs. Kelvin Gastelum ($9,300)

Former welterweight champion Johnny Hendricks looks to put his devastating TKO loss to Stephen Thompson behind him as he faces TUF 17 winner, Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum lost a razor-thin split-decision to Neil Magny in his last bout, and will look to rebound with a win over his toughest test to date. Hendricks was utterly dismantled by Thompson in February, succumbing to strikes in the first round of their bout. Hendricks will surely need a win here if he wants to ever become a major player in the title picture at 170 lbs. As far as excitement goes, this is the fight I’m least looking forward to. This is going to be a slow fight. Both men have highly suspect cardio, and could be breathing hard by round 2, leading to periods of inactivity. Hendricks has the power to end the fight with one shot, but hasn’t shown it in his most recent fights. Gastelum also has power in his strikes, but I really don’t believe he’d be wise to slug it out with Hendricks. I predict this turns into a wrestle-fest, at least on Hendricks’ end. Someone is going to tire out by the end of the fight, and my money is on Hendricks. Tough fight to call, but I’m calling a late submission win for Gastelum. He takes it in a dramatic round 3 finish.

 

T.J. Dillashaw ($11,100) vs. Raphael Assuncao ($8,300)

A main event level fight gets the preliminary treatment on this stacked card when former bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw rematches Raphael Assuncao. Dillashaw and Assuncao first fought back in October 2013 in Brazil, where Assuncao won a highly questionable split-decision. Dillashaw never looked back after the defeat, eventually winning the bantamweight belt and defended it twice while becoming a pound-for-pound staple in the UFC. He looks to earn another shot at the title, which he lost to Dominick Cruz in another fight where the scorecards were criticized. I thought he lost 3 of the 5 rounds to Cruz, and probably deserved an immediate rematch, but there’s no doubt he would like to avenge the loss to Assuncao. We last saw Assuncao way back in October 2014 when he beat Bryan Caraway in Canada. Nagging ankle injuries have kept him from capitalizing on the win over Dillashaw, as well as a 7-fight win streak. A second win over Dillashaw could and should lead to a title shot against Cruz. To me, this is a rough fight for Assuncao to take after almost 2 years on the shelf. Dillashaw has improved as much as a fighter could possibly improve since their last bout. After the first fight, he took up with coach Duane Ludwig, and has evolved into one of the best fighters on the planet as a result. His striking is elite, his wrestling is elite, his footwork is elite, and his conditioning is elite. Assuncao has elite level jiu jitsu, but barring a major gaffe by Dillashaw, he won’t be able to use it. It’s arguable that Dillashaw will be in a better position to submit Assuncao, as his former training partner Urijah Faber did in 2010. His wrestling, should he use it, will put him in a position to try to catch Assuncao. This fight all boils down to Dillashaw, and his ability to dictate where this fight goes. I predict he’ll avoid any takedowns from Assuncao, and will absolutely pick him apart with punches and kicks, all while using his top-notch footwork to nullify any offense from him. The pick is Dillashaw by 2nd round TKO.

 

 

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Esther Lin – MMA Fighting

 

Sage Northcutt ($11,300) vs. Enrique Marin ($8,100)

Sage Northcutt makes his return after having his hype train derailed by Bryan “Dad Bod” Barberena. Opposing Northcutt will be Enrique Marin, who dropped his debut with the UFC against Erick Montano last November. Northcutt will have his work cut out for him again, as Marin has a slick ground game and a record littered with submission wins. Northcutt has handled by Barberena on the mat, so for his sake, I hope he worked on his jiu jitsu game during camp for this bout. He’ll most definitely have to use his crafty striking skills to keep Marin from taking him to the mat. I’m not ready to give up on Northcutt just yet, and I see him rebounding in this one. Northcutt lands a head kick in round 2, finishing Marin off with follow up punches, allowing the hype train to resume.

 

Diego Sanchez ($9,700) vs. Joe Lauzon ($9,700)

In the Fight Pass headliner, fan favorites Diego Sanchez and Joe Lauzon square off in what could be an early candidate for fight of the night. With a combined 13 Fight of the Night bonuses between them, both fighters have made a living from putting on exciting performances. Sanchez impressed me in his last bout with Jim Miller, a fighter not unlike Lauzon stylistically. Sanchez likes to get wild during his fights, winging power punches with virtually no defense. Against Miller, he fought with his usual aggression, but didn’t fight recklessly. He picked his shots, and mixed in nice takedowns to keep Miller off of his game and won a unanimous decision. Lauzon has lost 2 of his last 3 bouts, including his most recent fight against Even Dunham, where he was defeated on the scorecards. Lauzon has not fared well against fighters that can handle him on the feet, while avoiding his jiu jitsu game. I predict a fair amount of wild exchanges will occur, especially with the weight of wanting to perform well at such an important event for the fans. Sanchez will find a home for his power punches, clipping Lauzon and finishing him by TKO in round 3.

 

Gegard Mousasi ($10,300) vs. Thiago Santos ($8,400)

Originally scheduled to fight Derek Brunson, Gegard Mousasi now faces Thiago Santos in a battle at middleweight. The well-traveled Mousasi has won 3 of his last 4 bouts in the UFC, including his most recent fight against Thales Leites. Thiago Santos steps up on short notice after Brunson was forced to withdraw with an injury. Santos has been on a roll, winning his last 4 fights, with 3 of those coming by knockout. Mousasi has been largely unimpressive since moving over to the UFC’s ranks in 2013. He has won fights that he should win, but has dropped bouts against fighters that could put him in the title picture at 185 lbs. Thiago Santos has been incredibly impressive as of late, especially in his last bout where he dispatched veteran Nate Marquardt by 1st round KO. This is a big fight for both men in different ways. Mousasi needs a win to stay relative in the big show, and Santos would like a signature win to put him within range of the middleweight top 10. I can’t see this bout taking place anywhere else but on the feet, where both men excel. I feel like Santos will be too quick and too powerful for Mousasi to handle. Mousasi also fights with a demeanor that suggests that he would rather be doing anything else but fighting. It won’t be long before Santos lands a big shot, possibly one of his devastating headkicks on Mousasi in a striking exchange, where he’ll finish him off with follow up punches. I’m taking the upset here, Santos wins by TKO in the 2nd frame.

 

Jim Miller ($10,800) vs. Takanori Gomi ($8,600)

Is this card stacked or what? A fight worthy of a slot on any pay-per-view main card opens up the Fight Pass portion of the card when Jim Miller locks horns with Takanori Gomi. If this match-up doesn’t get you excited for this ridiculous card, I don’t know what will. With a combined 60 wins and 35 finishes, expect some fireworks to start this event off right. Miller has lost 4 of his last 5 bouts, including a decision loss to Diego Sanchez in March. Gomi comes into the bout a loser in 3 of his last 4 fights, dropping his last bout a year ago to Joe Lauzon. Both men need a win desperately, and that usually leads to an exciting fight. Miller tends to fight with a calculated approach, picking his shots wisely, and blending his good striking skills with one of the most underrated jiu jitsu games in the sport. Throughout his long, glorious career, Gomi has shown he has no issues going for broke to get a spectacular victory. He also has a nice ground game, but will wing punches out of no where in a wild fashion. The fight will have its fair share of crazy exchanges, but I feel sooner or later, Miller will use his crisp striking to win the majority of them, while also taking Gomi down a few times and attempting submissions. I’m picking Miller to win by unanimous decision in an exciting bout.

 

My Lineup:

Mark Hunt ($10,400)

Juliana Pena ($8,900)

TJ Dillashaw ($11,100)

Diego Sanchez ($9,700)

Thiago Santos ($8,400)

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