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MMA DFS Playbook – UFC 202
Let’s run it back! The UFC’s biggest star, Conor McGregor, gets another shot at the only man to defeat him in his UFC tenure, Nate Diaz. The rematch goes down Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena for UFC 202 in Las Vegas, Nevada. McGregor looks to get his impressive career back on track, and another loss to Diaz could prove to be catastrophic for McGregor, as well as the UFC. In the co-main event, Anthony Johnson takes on Glover Teixeira. Draftkings has plenty of spots available in their many head to head and tournament contests, so get your picks in and make some money! As always, be alert for last minute withdrawals and fighters missing weight. With the earlier weigh in policy, you’ve got plenty of time to make adjustments. On to the picks!
Conor McGregor ($10,400) vs. Nate Diaz ($9,200)
As exciting as the first bout between McGregor and Diaz was, I’m positive we’re in for a real treat here with the rematch. In the first fight McGregor looked like vintage McGregor, picking apart Diaz with power punches that would put many other fighters out cold. He followed up his dominant first round with the same attack in the first few minutes of the second round, trying to put Diaz out with one hard shot. Diaz took everything the featherweight champ had to offer, and eventually rocked him with a combination of his own, before dramatically submitting him with a rear-naked choke. McGregor has since been obsessed with a rematch, and he finally gets one on Saturday. The Vegas odds have McGregor as a slight favorite, but to me, this fight is dead even. Both fighters have upped the intensity of their fight camps, especially McGregor who has dropped six-figures on his camp for the Diaz fight. He brought in grappling ace Dillon Danis to help shore up his grappling disadvantage, and moved his training to Las Vegas early to properly acclimate. Diaz’s already elite level boxing looks even better, and he’s been sparring with one of the pound-for-pound best, Andre Ward. He also looks as though he’s packed on some muscle for the 170 lb. weigh class. For this fight, what it’s going to boil down to for me is the first round and first few minutes of the second round of the first fight. McGregor was absolutely destroying Diaz with a beautiful blend of speed and punching power. Throwing those bombs completely drained him though, and you could clearly see him exhaust himself, leaving opening after opening for Diaz to steal the fight from him. Diaz did not get lucky and there was no fluke about his victory. McGregor faltered and the better fighter won that night, but there is no denying that McGregor flat out exhausted himself. If he comes into this fight with the same mentality, it’s going to be a replay of the first result. After watching his training footage and getting insight into his preparation, I’m convinced that he’s going to go a different route. McGregor is one of the smartest fighters in the game, and he won’t make the same mistake. I don’t foresee a finish in this one, but McGregor will pick his shots, and pace himself for 5 rounds, knowing that his power wont necessarily translate to these heavier weight classes. Diaz will certainly have his moments in the fight, and could definitely leave the cage with his second victory over the Irish superstar. I’m sticking with the champ, and I truly believe he is still the superior fighter. The pick is McGregor by unanimous decision in what will likely be a “fight of the year” candidate.
Anthony Johnson ($10,700) vs. Glover Teixeira ($8,700)
Heavy-handed sluggers Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira throw down in the co-main event in a bout with title implications. A shot at Daniel Cormier’s light heavyweight title likely awaits the winner. We last saw “Rumble” Johnson in January when he obliterated Ryan Bader by knockout in the first round of their headlining bout. Including the Bader win, Johnson has won 2 straight since his loss to Cormier in a title fight. Teixeira is riding a 3-fight win streak coming into his bout with Johnson, and all 3 have been by stoppage, including his win over former champion Rashad Evans. Teixeira brutally knocked Evans out, setting up this exciting fight for the number 1 contender spot. Both men have built successful careers out of their punching power, and there’s no doubt that they’ll put it on display Saturday night. This one is pretty simple to dissect. Whoever can land a clean shot first, is likely to win the fight. To me, Johnson has been nearly unbeatable since his loss to Cormier, a bout in which he came close to winning early. The only real knock on “Rumble” is that he tends to quit on himself if he’s put in a bad spot. Cormier was able to put it on him pretty dominantly after scoring takedowns in their bout. Teixeira is a great fighter, but I just don’t see him on the same level as Johnson. They’ll trade early before Johnson lands a shot that puts Teixeira out. The pick is Johnson by knockout in the 1st round.
Donald Cerrone ($10,000) vs. Rick Story ($9,400)
“Cowboy” Cerrone makes his 32nd WEC/UFC appearance when he continues his recent welterweight run, facing off against the surging Rick Story. Cerrone is coming off of a dominant win over Patrick Cote, where he became the first fighter to finish Cote. Since moving to welterweight, “Cowboy” has looked phenomenal, and could be a few fights from challenging for the welterweight title, something that seemed insane just a year ago. Story returned from an almost 2 year injury layoff to dismantle former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine, dominating him for 3 rounds en route to a unanimous decision win. This is a throwback to the early UFC days with a true clash of styles. Cerrone is going to look to use his crisp striking chops, while Story is going to want to turn this into an ugly fight. He’d be well suited to take Cerrone down, avoid his underrated submissions, and grind away with strong ground and pound. Story will need to smother Cerrone for 3 rounds, and stay out of boxing range where Cerrone will enjoy a major advantage. Helping Story is Cerrone’s propensity to struggle somewhat against southpaw fighters. Story usually stands southpaw, and should try to use his underrated striking game to set up his grappling game. Cerrone is not the easiest man to take down, and should the fight stay on the feet, he’ll more than likely win the majority of the exchanges. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here, I won’t pick against “Cowboy.” My pick is Cerrone by unanimous decision. He’ll avoid Story’s takedowns enough to pick him apart on the feet.
Hyun Gyu Lim ($11,100) vs. Mike Perry ($8,300)
Korean star Hyun Gyu Lim takes on short-notice replacement Mike Perry, who is debuting with the promotion. Lim hasn’t been seen in the cage since his TKO loss to Neil Magny. After 2 extremely impressive KO victories in his first 2 bouts with the promotion, Lim has fallen on hard times as of late, losing 2 of 3 fights including the Magny defeat. He looks for a fresh start against the newcomer Perry, who makes his debut after going undefeated in 6 fights in smaller regional shows. The 24-year old has won every fight by KO or TKO, and should provide the fans with a very exciting fight against Lim. Lim also loves to stand and bang, so this fight should end in a KO victory regardless of who wins. I like Perry’s potential in the long run, however I think he’s in a little bit over his head for his debut. I’m taking Lim here based on experience, as well as being able to have a full camp in preparation for this bout. This is a pick that I’m not all in on though, so play this contest at your risk. The pick is Lim by TKO in the 2nd round, but Perry could be a very sneaky good pick for tournament lineups, and could provide incredible value to your salary cap.
Tim Means ($10,900) vs. Sabah Homasi ($8,500)
Tim “The Dirty Bird” returns from his USADA to take on the debuting Sabah Homasi, who replaced original Means opponent Sean Strickland. Prior to his suspension for tainted supplements, Means knocked out John Howard in December, winning his 5th fight in his last 6 bouts overall. Since his return to welterweight, Means has looked ultra impressive, only dropping 2 bouts in his last 9. Homasi makes his debut after defeating longtime MMA veteran and pioneer, Jorge Patino. The American Top Team representative gets a stiff test in taking on Means in a short notice bout. This bout should be exciting while it lasts, as both fighters employ a style that appeals to the fans. Props to Homasi for stepping up here, but he’s in for a long night. Means is too tough of a fighter to only have 2 weeks to prepare for. In addition Homasi has proven to be prone to being finished, evidenced by his 4 losses by finish against much lesser competition than Means. Means wins this fight with his skill, preparation, and UFC experience. He’ll catch Homasi early and finish the fight with follow up strikes. I’m picking Means via TKO in the 2nd frame.
Cody Garbrandt ($10,300) vs. Takeya Mizugaki ($9,100)
Rising bantamweight star Cody Garbrandt looks to keep his momentum going against longtime veteran Takeya Mizugaki. Garbrandt last saw action in a main event bout against Thomas Almeida at a Fight Night event in May. He dismantled Almeida, the favorite, in the first round by knockout, easily his most impressive victory to date. Mizugaki also was victorious in his previous outing, a decision win over George Roop in Japan almost a year ago. What looks like a mismatch on paper will more than likely also be a mismatch in the cage come Saturday night, as this is absolutely Garbrandt’s fight to lose. He is a guy the UFC will be trying to build around, as he’s young and ridiculously talented. Mizugaki is definitely a decent fighter, however he’s surely outmatched in this one. Garbrandt will use his superior athleticism, incredible boxing, and killer instinct to finish fights to win this bout dominantly. A finish comes early for Garbrandt, who will box circles around Mizugaki. The pick is Cody Garbrandt by knockout in round 1, and he’s also my stone cold lock of the night.
Elizabeth Phillips ($10,200) vs. Raquel Pennington ($9,200)
Elizabeth Phillips takes on The Ultimate Fighter 18 veteran Raquel Pennington in a bantamweight tilt. Phillips has not competed since July of last year, when she defeated Jessamyn Duke by decision. That victory snapped a 2-fight losing streak to open her UFC career. Raquel Pennington returns after beating former title challenger, Bethe Correia in April. Pennington has won 3 of her last 4 bouts, with the only defeat coming against Holly Holm in a bout that many thought should have gone Pennington’s way. Draftkings has Phillips has the favorite, and I think this is a bout that players can take advantage of the salary cap. Phillips has been anything but impressive in her UFC career to this point, with her only victory coming against Duke who currently sits with a 3-5 overall record. Pennington meanwhile, has had a few bouts now where she looks like she firmly belongs in the bantamweight top 10 rankings. I thought she beat Holm, and she definitely held her own in that bout. She looked incredible in submission wins over Jessica Andrade in their rematch, and Ashlee Evans-Smith. Her bulldog choke victory over Evans-Smith was impressive, as she dramatically choked her unconscious with the rarely used submission. Vegas also has Pennington as an almost 3-1 favorite, so the salary values truly make no sense to me. Let’s take advantage of it here. Pennington is the superior talent, and she will prove so Saturday night. I like Pennington to bully Phillips around and smother her with her strong top game. The pick is “Rocky” by submission in round 2. Taking her at $9,200 gives you the opportunity to load up on some of the heavy favorites.
Artem Lobov ($10,800) vs. Chris Avila ($8,600)
Interesting match-up here as Conor McGregor teammate Artem Lobov takes on Nate Diaz teammate Chris Avila. Lobov has lost his last 2 fights under the UFC banner, while Avila makes his debut for the promotion. Lobov is not hard to break down. He’s a wild fighter with many holes in his game, evidenced by his 11-12-1 record. Despite this, he does provide fans with exciting fights until he eventually gasses, which I’m sure is why the promotion is giving him another bout. If nothing else, he’s got the experience edge on Avila, even if he’s lost more fights that Avila has even competed in. Like Diaz, Avila has a good boxing background. He’s short on experience, but should provide Lobov with a competitive fight. I’ve seen Lobov enough to never be confident in picking him. He may clip Avila early, but if Avila can weather the storm, he should be able to take over in the later rounds when Lobov undoubtedly tires from throwing winging punches at will. This is another bout that I’m not extremely confident in, but at the extreme value offered by taking Avila in tournaments, I’m taking him to beat the wild Lobov. Avila wins by unanimous decision.
Cortney Casey ($9,800) vs. Randa Markos ($9,600)
Cortney Casey and The Ultimate Fighter 20 veteran Randa Markos square off in a strawweight bout where both women need a victory to stay relevant. Markos has alternated between losses and wins beginning with her official UFC debut against castmate Jessica Penne. Meanwhile, Cortney Casey dropped her first 2 UFC bouts before grabbing a much needed win against Cristina Stanciu just a month ago. In what shapes up to be one of the more even match-ups on the card, I look for Randa Markos to impose her wrestling game on Casey. Markos looks like the more polished fighter of the 2 to this point, and I think she’ll take an uneventful unanimous decision from Casey. Markos is the pick.
Neil Magny ($10,500) vs. Lorenz Larkin ($8,900)
The Fight Pass headliner will be a good one, as Neil Magny takes on Lorenz Larkin in a bout that both men desperately need to win for very different reasons. Magny has won 10 of his last 11 fights, including 3 straight, and could be very close to knocking on the door of a title shot. He showed his incredible durability in his last fight against Hector Lombard after almost being finished by punches in the first round. Magny rallied incredibly in the 2nd frame, dismantling Lombard with brutal ground and pound, and then finished him early in the 3rd round. Larkin is on a different path currently, having lost 4 of his last 7 bouts, but has won 3 of his last 4. He won a split-decision over Jorge Masvidal by the slightest of margins back in May, but did not look impressive in doing so. He needs a victory here to stay relevant in a promotion with a rapidly growing roster. Larkin would be well-suited to keep the fight on the feet by keeping Magny within striking range while avoiding any takedowns. Magny has a decent striking game himself, but Larkin is most definitely the more polished striker. Magny should use his striking to set up takedowns, and should not settle for a striking war with Larkin. If he can land the takedown at will, the fight will be his to win. I predict Larkin to take it to Magny in the first round before Magny again turns the tide in the later rounds, rallying for a close victory. I’m taking Magny by split-decision.
Colby Covington ($11,300) vs. Max Griffin ($8,100)
Elite wrestler Colby Covington takes on hard hitting Max Griffin in a bout featuring welterweight prospects. Barring a mistake on Covington’s part, he should have the fight in the bag. Griffin is the harder puncher, but Covington’s wrestling game should lead to a pretty one-sided affair. My pick is Covington by unanimous decision, after taking Griffin down at will.
Alberto “Uda” ($10,600) vs. Marvin Vettori ($8,800)
Middleweights Alberto “Uda” and Marvin Vettori open the card on Saturday. This is a true clash of styles as Uda will look to stand and bang, where as Vettori will surely look to try to implement his submission game. Tough fight to call, but I like Uda’s chances to avoid the submission, and end Vettori’s night by KO. The pick is Uda by KO in the 2nd round.
Tournament Lineup I’m Using:
Tim Means ($10,900)
Anthony Johnson ($10,700)
Cody Garbrandt ($10,300)
Raquel Pennington ($9,200)
Chris Avila ($8,600)