We’re back again with the MMA DFS Playbook! UFC Fight Night 120 goes down in Norfolk, Virginia at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. This is a solid Fight Night with notable names littering the card. The headlining bout is a lightweight tilt between Anthony Pettis and Dustin Poirier. The card also features Matt Brown’s likely retirement fight against Diego Sanchez. We saw our outstanding run derailed a bit last week, with some incredible upsets taking place on a card likely to be event of the year. Let’s get back on track here, as I offer my take on the card, as well as who you should be targeting.
Main Card (FS1)
Anthony Pettis ($8,200) vs. Dustin Poirier ($8,000)
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In the headliner of the event, former lightweight champion takes on Dustin Poirier in a match-up that is sure to please MMA fans. Pettis has been on a bit slide since losing his belt to Rafael dos Anjos in 2015, losing 4 of his last 6 bouts. However, Pettis was victorious in his return to lightweight with a unanimous decision win over Jim Miller in July. He’ll take on Poirier, who has been extremely successful since his move to lightweight in 2015. Aside from a loss to Michael Johnson, where Poirier was far too aggressive, he hasn’t lost a bout at 155 lbs.
Both men are extremely well versed in the stand-up game, with Pettis possibly carrying a small advantage there. They each also possess sneaky good submission games, but I think that this one will play out mostly on the feet. This one is going to be competitive throughout, as both hold pretty equal statistics in striking accuracy and defense. Pettis defends well at 57%, and his accuracy is at 44%. Poirier also holds a defense rate at 57%, but is a touch more accurate with a 49% success rate. This is a bout that matchmakers put together for a reason, and I can’t imagine this one being a dud. Poirier has looked like an elite fighter since his move to lightweight, while Pettis has dropped his fair share of bouts bouncing between featherweight and lightweight. In a close, back-and-forth tilt, I see Poirier getting the better of the exchanges and landing much more powerful blows. He could find a stoppage late, but I think a decision win is more likely. I’m rolling with “The Diamond.”
Matt Brown ($9,400) vs. Diego Sanchez ($6,800)
In what could end up being his farewell fight, Matt Brown faces off against long-time UFC veteran and fan favorite, Diego Sanchez. At first glance, a record of 20-16 looks atrocious, and nowhere near UFC caliber, but that doesn’t tell the entire story of Matt “The Immortal” Brown. He fought much more talented fighters than himself early on in his career, but worked his tail off to earn a respectable run in the pinnacle organization of MMA. He’s lost 5 of his last 6, with most of those bouts coming against the elite of the division. Prior to the run of losses, Brown won 7 straight bouts with 6 finishes, coming within one bout of a title shot. He dropped a decision to Robbie Lawler in the title eliminator, but pushed the future champion in every minute of that fight. By all accounts, Diego Sanchez should also be looking toward retirement. The original TUF champion has competed within the UFC since 2005, exciting fans nearly every time he takes his place in the cage. He’s competed 26 times in The Octagon, and the end is surely near for “The Nightmare.”
As for the fight itself, Brown couldn’t have asked for a better match-up to send him riding into the sunset, if this is indeed it for him. Both men like to stand and trade in the pocket, and I’m sure both will be glad to do it again here. Brown strikes in incredibly accurate fashion, landing 53% of his significant strikes, while also defending them at 56%. His takedown defense is decent as well, at 62% and he may need to use it here if he gets the better of Sanchez standing. Diego has a good ground game, and could look for a takedown if the striking exchanges aren’t going his way. I think Brown does get the better of Sanchez, and should stay vertical long enough throughout the fight to take home a win. He’ll batter Sanchez late into the 3rd round, before he picks up a TKO victory.
Junior Albini ($8,900) vs. Andrei Arlovski ($7,300)
Up and coming heavyweight prospect Junior Albini looks for the biggest win of his career when he takes on former UFC heavyweight champion and long-time vet, Andrei Arlovski. Albini debuted with the UFC back in July, where he earned a 1st round KO victory over Tim Johnson. Albini looks like a very heavy-handed young heavyweight, and I’m anxious to see how he does against a man with so much experience. Arlovski’s glory days seem to be well behind him, as the Belarusian has lost 5 bouts in a row, being stopped in all but his latest, a bad loss to Marcin Tybura. Arlovski was thoroughly manhandled by Tybura, as he was beaten soundly in the stand-up as well as bullied on the mat. This is yet another fighter that could, and likely should walk away from the sport after this event.
Arlovski is obviously still heavy handed, and possesses crafty enough boxing to make things interesting for Albini, who may or may not be ready for such a high-profile opponent. The problem for Arlovski is he’s logged so many miles that it’s been catching up with him lately in a big way. His chin has been tested by the heaviest handed fighters in the sport, and those KO losses have likely taken its final toll on the former champ. While Albini is still a relative unknown, I saw enough in his first bout to be comfortable picking him to find Arlovski’s suspect chin. I think the KO blow comes swiftly, and I hope Arlovski leaves before he suffers potentially irreparable damage. The pick is Albini by KO in the 1st round.
Cezar Ferreira ($9,100) vs. Nate Marquardt ($7,100)
Cezar Ferreira and Nate Marquardt both look to get back on track when they battle each other in a middleweight tilt. Ferreira had a 3-fight winning streak snapped when he dropped a unanimous decision verdict to Elias Theodorou back in February. The TUF Brazil winner has yet to put together a sustained run to put him over the top in the middleweight division, but definitely has the talent to do so. He squares off with Marquardt who has been a household name to UFC fans for years. The American debuted with the UFC way back at the original Ultimate Fight Night in 2005. He’s fallen on hard times lately, and as I’ve stated numerous times in this article already, he could and probably should be walking away from the sport very soon. He’s lost 8 of his last 11 bouts, and has another tough match-up here with Ferreira.
This is going to be an ugly bout for Marquardt. I’ve been a big fan of his dating back to his early UFC days, but father time waits on no fighter. Ferreira is far from elite at this point, but he’s a nightmare of a match-up for Marquardt. The Brazilian throws heavy leather, and Marquardt’s chin has been susceptible to the KO for years now. This one won’t take long, as Ferreira find’s Marquardt’s chin in the 1st frame. The pick is Ferreira by brutal KO.
Raphael Assuncao ($9,300) vs. Matthew Lopez ($6,900)
#4 ranked bantamweight Raphael Assuncao faces Matthew Lopez in a catchweight affair, as Lopez missed the 135-lb. requirement. Assuncao has quietly been one of the most consistent fighters on the entire UFC roster, winning 9 of his last 10 bouts, dropping only a unanimous decision to current champion, T.J. Dillashaw. The Brazilian owns a win over the champion, and surely could challenge him again with a few more victories. Lopez has won back-to-back bouts following a loss in his debut. His latest was an impressive one, as he knocked Johnny Eduardo out at UFC 212.
This will be a tough fight for Lopez to come away victorious. He’s a very talented wrestler, with an accuracy of 87% with his takedowns, but does he want to grapple with a guy as talented as Assuncao? The Brazilian has 10 submissions in 25 victories, and is a highly decorated black belt. That could lead to a stand-up bout between 2 fighters not normally inclined to duke it out on the feet. I think this bout doesn’t do much for the fans, but the long-time UFC vet should pick up a victory here. I think Assuncao’s grappling neutralizes any takedown attempts from Lopez, and the Brazilian wins an ugly one. The pick is Assuncao by decision.
Joe Lauzon ($8,100) vs. Clay Guida ($8,100)
An exciting bout kicks off the main card on FS1 as long-time veterans Joe Lauzon and Clay Guida square off for the first time. I’m truly surprised that this bout hasn’t occurred earlier, as both guys have made the UFC their home for quite some time. Since a win by doctor’s stoppage over Michael Chiesa in 2014, Lauzon has alternated wins and losses in his last 6 bouts. “The Human Bonus Machine” could pick up yet another performance bonus, as the Massachusetts native has won a record 15 bonuses in his tenure with the UFC. Guida has been a mainstay with the UFC since his debut back in 2006, but has definitely seen better days, as he’s lost 6 of his last 10 bouts. However, he won his most recent bout over Erik Koch, in a return to the lightweight division.
I think it’s entirely possible that this bout earns fight of the night, as both guys’ styles make for a truly wonderful match-up. I think this will be a back and forth tilt, giving fans a fun fight between 2 guys who have been fan favorites for years. I think Guida eventually lands a takedown, but it’ll work to Lauzon’s advantage. Lauzon excels in scrambles when he hunts for submissions, and I think he does it again here. Guida is prone to getting reckless with his grappling, and that’s deadly against a finisher like Lauzon. I’m taking Lauzon by submission in the 2nd round.
Preliminary Card (FS1)
John Dodson ($8,300) vs. Marlon Moraes ($7,900)
In the marquee preliminary bout of the evening, John Dodson fights former WSOF bantamweight title holder Marlon Moraes. Dodson, the TUF Season 14 winner, has been moderately successful since his return to bantamweight in 2016, going 2-1. At flyweight, Dodson was undefeated against every opponent not named Demetrious Johnson. 2 title losses to “Mighty Mouse” chased Dodson back up to 135 lbs., where he’ll look to defeat the former WSOF champ. Moraes looked to be tested after destroying his inferior competition in WSOF. Moraes found out quickly how deep the UFC talent runs, as he was defeated in his debut by Raphael Assuncao.
This is a pretty compelling bout for both guys, but I’m particularly interested to see how Moraes responds to his first loss in 6 years. I think the Brazilian is surely talented enough to be in the UFC, but his level of competition in WSOF was terrible compared to even average fighters within the UFC. Moraes is skilled in multiple facets, including muy thai and jiu-jitsu. I think he’s in for more trouble here though, as Dodson could easily be a belt holder, if not for previously sharing a division with one of the greatest fighters of all time. The deciding factor for me will be the speed that Dodson possesses. He’s the fastest fighter I’ve ever seen, and I’m not certain Moraes will be ready for what he can do. I don’t think Dodson finds a finish, but he’ll impose his will over 3 rounds, continually beating Moraes to the punch, while avoiding any ground attacks. Dodson lights Moraes up for a clear-cut unanimous decision win.
Sage Northcutt ($8,500) vs. Michel Quinones ($7,700)
“Super” Sage Northcutt looks to right the ship on a once highly hyped career as he takes on Michael Quinones in a return to lightweight for Northcutt. The 21-year-old super prospect has lost 2 of his last 3 bouts following 2 stoppage victories to start his UFC tenure. He was soundly beaten in his most recent bout against Mickey Gall, in a battle of popular prospects. He gets a favorable match-up against Quinones, who was utterly destroyed in his UFC debut back in June. He was out-struck by a wide margin of 67-17, and was also taken down 4 times before succumbing to punches in the 2nd round.
This is a bout that Northcutt needs to win if he’s going to find any kind of long-term success inside the UFC. While it’s hard to assess potential longevity in a 21-year-old, Quinones is not the type of fighter you want our “next big thing” to lose to. I think Northcutt is talented enough to this point, particularly with is stand-up, to take home a victory over Quinones. The striking deficiency was on display in his last outing, and if nothing else, Northcutt can definitely strike. Dropping back down to 155 lbs. should also benefit Northcutt, as he won’t have to carry around so much muscle, benefitting his cardio, which has lacked in his bouts at welterweight. Northcutt picks Quinones apart before stopping him late in the 2nd round. The pick is Northcutt by TKO.
Angela Hill ($9,000) vs. Nina Ansaroff ($7,200)
In a women’s strawweight bout, Angela Hill battles Nina Ansaroff, with both women looking to keep momentum on their side. Hill got her first UFC victory in almost 3 years when she defeated Ashley Yoder in July. The TUF vet earned valuable experience in Invicta FC before earning another run in the UFC earlier this year. Ansaroff, who is probably most notable for being the girlfriend of women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, picked up her first win with the UFC in January, finishing Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger with a rear-naked-choke.
This should be a fun bout to watch, as both women like to stand and bang. Hill is 16-0 as a professional kickboxer, while Ansaroff is a 3rd-degree black belt in taekwondo. Both women are more talented than what their records stand at, as Hill was thrown to the wolves quickly into her UFC career, as was Ansaroff. This is the perfect bout for both women to take the next step in their careers as competitors. While Hill is a prohibitive favorite, I am going to roll with Ansaroff here. She’s just as capable of a striker, and probably possesses more power than Hill. Her $7,200 price tag also leaves me with way too much value to ignore, as this is a pretty even bout in my eyes. Even with a loss, Ansaroff will score enough points to keep you in the money. I think she wins anyway. Without the threat of a takedown, I think Ansaroff throws caution to the wind and tees off on Hill. I’m taking Ansaroff by unanimous decision.
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
Sean Strickland ($8,700) vs. Court McGee ($7,500)
Sean Strickland fights TUF 11 winner Court McGee in a welterweight bout with both guys desperate for a win. Strickland saw his 3-fight winning streak snapped by Kamaru Usman in his latest bout, and is 5-2 overall in his time with the UFC. McGee has struggled to find sustained success since winning the 11th season of TUF, and has dropped 3 of his last 5 bouts. The Utah native is always a tough out, and should provide a stern test for Strickland.
Strickland is a solid, if not spectacular fighter. He’s proven to belong in the UFC, I just don’t see him becoming a problem for anyone within the top half of the welterweight rankings. While Court McGee isn’t ultra-impressive in his own right, he’s proven to be a high-quality fighter when he’s on point. He has lost a lot of his high-profile bouts, but has beaten guys that are much better than Strickland, which leaves me puzzled as to why there is such a wide gap in pricing for this one. McGee owns a victory over current interim middleweight champ, Robert Whittaker, and can put together solid performances, especially following losses. I think he rebounds from his previous outing, and upsets Strickland in a back-and-forth unanimous decision.