We’re back again with the MMA DFS Playbook, this time for UFC 218. UFC 218 takes place at the brand new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. This is an excellent card on paper, with plenty of fights that should please the MMA fans. Headlining the card is a rematch for the featherweight strap, as Max Holloway defends his belt against Jose Aldo. In the co-main event, heavyweights Francis Ngannou and Alistair Overeem battle for a potential shot at Stipe Miocic. Let’s get to the picks, and let’s make some money.
Main Card (PPV)
Max Holloway ($9,300) vs. Jose Aldo ($6,900)
In the headliner, featherweight title holder Max Holloway looks to defend his title against Jose Aldo, in a rematch of their featherweight title unification bout from UFC 212. Holloway is in the midst of an incredible 11-fight win streak, following a loss to Conor McGregor in August 2013, and owns the most active victories in the featherweight division. Aldo gets another shot at the title following Frankie Edgar’s withdrawal due to injury, and will do so despite losing 2 of his last 3 bouts, including the most recent to Holloway.
Holloway does just about everything right, and is incredibly exciting to watch. He lands close to half of his significant strikes thrown, while also defending at a very high rate (66%). His ground game is just as amazing, as he lands 80% of his takedowns while defending at an 83% clip. Aldo has comparable stats, though most of his positive numbers have come within his earlier fights. There aren’t too many people out there giving Aldo a shot in this one, and that includes myself. Holloway absolutely dismantled Aldo in the first meeting, and the Brazilian is facing an even more difficult path to victory in the rematch. I believe Holloway is already the much more skilled fighter, and in addition, Aldo is taking this bout on relatively short notice. He’s had issues making weight throughout his entire UFC career, and with even less time to cut, his performance will surely be diminished. Max should dominate the entirety of the bout until he wants to end Aldo’s night, and I believe that comes via TKO in the 3rd round again.
Francis Ngannou ($9,100) vs. Alistair Overeem ($7,100)
An incredibly compelling heavyweight bout takes the co-main event slot, with rising super-star Francis Ngannou taking on Alistair Overeem. Ngannou is a perfect 5-0 since making his debut in the UFC, and has won every bout in terrifying fashion. He’s held most of his training in preparation for this bout at the UFC’s Performance Institute, obviously taking this test very seriously. The only knock on Ngannou to this point has been his level of competition, though a dominant victory over Overeem would quell those criticisms, and most likely lead to a title shot. Overeem has won 2 straight bouts over stiff competition in Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum, following his defeat against Stipe Miocic for the title. Overeem has won 6 of his past 7 bouts overall, and remains a tough out for any heavyweight in the world.
I’m extremely excited for this bout, and am looking forward to it much more than the main event, as I think we could witness the birth of the UFC’s next big star. Ngannou is a giant of a man, at 6’4” and all of 250 lbs. He’s an athletic heavyweight with ungodly power, as he recently just broke the recorded hardest punch world record. When he hits his opponents, they don’t last long, as his he’s totaled just 17 total strikes landed in his previous 3 bouts. This is all adding up to a rough night for Overeem, as his chin has become suspect after 4 devastating knockout losses in the last 4 years. He’s still a very decorated striker himself, having won the K-1 Grand Prix, as well as the Strikeforce heavyweight title, but a lengthy career with many stoppage losses are going to come full circle in this one. The pick here is Ngannou by brutal knockout, and it’ll come quickly in the 1st frame.
Henry Cejudo ($9,200) vs. Sergio Pettis ($7,000)
Henry Cejudo looks to take another step towards a rematch with Demetrious Johnson, as he takes on rising prospect Sergio Pettis, who looks to garner his biggest win of his young UFC career. Cejudo rebounded from a contentious split-decision loss to Joseph Benavidez with a thrilling knockout of the highly-ranked Wilson Reis at UFC 215 in September. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist could be well on his way to another title shot with a solid win over Pettis. Pettis seems to have finally found his footing in the UFC, as the 24-year-old has put together a nice 4-fight win streak, and is 7-2 within the UFC since debuting at 20 years old.
There’s no secret as to what each fighter will want to do in this one. Cejudo is going to want to set up his wrestling game to grind Pettis out, while Pettis will look to stay vertical, to use his impressive striking game. Cejudo is also developing a fair striking game, and I think that’ll be the deciding factor in this one. Cejudo is going to stay competitive enough in the exchanges to be able to keep Pettis honest, which will set up opportunities for clean take down attempts. I think Cejudo gets his fair share of takedowns, and either submits Pettis, or grinds him out for 15 minutes, leading to a dominant decision win. Pettis will have his moments, but I don’t feel like he’s quite ready for a match-up of this magnitude yet. The pick is Cejudo.
Justin Gaethje ($8,700) vs. Eddie Alvarez ($7,500)
This is the bout I’m looking forward to the most, and I’m certain it’ll win Fight of the Night when all is said and done. Justin Gaethje puts his perfect 18-0 record on the line when he faces former Bellator and UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Gaethje makes his second appearance in the UFC, following his successful debut against Michael Johnson in one of the greatest fights I’ve ever seen. That victory followed a dominant run in WSOF, where he won the lightweight title, and defended it 5 times. He’ll look to buck the trend of fighters from lesser promotions faring poorly in their UFC runs. He’ll have to do it against tough competition in Eddie Alvarez, who looks to rebound from a title loss to Conor McGregor as well as a no contest against Dustin Poirier.
This bout is going to be absolute chaos, and I’m extremely interested to see how this plays out. If you still have yet to see Gaethje fight, be ready for action. Gaethje likes to come forward and throw heavy leather, coupled with thunderous leg kicks, while never wilting. He will have to pick his shots well here, as a careless strategy against a vet like Alvarez could get him knocked out. Gaethje himself has said on record that his style will more than likely lead to his demise against tough opponents. While that definitely could happen, I think Gaethje has enough to get by Alvarez. In Alvarez’s last few fights, I have noticed a vulnerability against a high-pressure attack, as McGregor and Poirier both put it on Alvarez with success. Well, Gaethje is going to bring it every second of this bout, so we will see just how Alvarez responds to constant pressure. I’m taking Gaethje here, despite a solid salary value with Alvarez. Gaethje wins by KO late in the 2nd round.
Tecia Torres ($8,600) vs. Michelle Waterson ($7,600)
Opening the main card on pay-per-view is a match-up between top 10 ranked strawweights as #5 Tecia Torres takes on #6 Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson. Torres has been a consistent winner since her debut with the UFC, winning 5 of 6 bouts, with the only loss coming by a razor-thin unanimous decision to current champion, Rose Namajunas. She earned a “Performance of the Night” bonus with her submission victory over Juliana Lima in July. Waterson looks to rebound from her own loss to Namajunas, which ended a nice run of victories over Paige VanZant and Angela Magana.
This is a big fight for both women, as a win gets either Torres or Waterson close to vying for a title. Torres will likely look to win this bout on the feet, as she strikes accurately with a 48% success rate, and also defends well at 72% significant strikes avoided. Her ground game isn’t great offensively, but she defends the takedown well at 69%. In her time with the UFC, Waterson has garnered excellent numbers that matter, including a high striking accuracy at 71%, as a takedown accuracy at an astounding 100%. This will be one of the more competitive bouts on the card, and with that in mind, I’m rolling with Waterson here. I think she has every capability of taking a decision here, and with a salary of $7,600, she provides great value to your lineups with some heavy favorites. The pick is Waterson by close decision.
Preliminary Card (FS1)
Paul Felder ($8,500) vs. Charles Oliveira ($7,700)
In the featured preliminary bout, exciting striker Paul Felder takes on replacement opponent Charles Oliveira at lightweight. Felder brings a 2-fight winning streak into this bout, with stoppage victories coming over Alessandro Ricci and Stevie Ray. He’s 4-1 in his last 5 appearances overall, and a win over Oliveira would do wonders for his stock. Oliveira gets the short-notice booking following an injury withdrawal from Al Iaquinta. He ended a 2-fight losing streak with his return to lightweight, submitting former Bellator lightweight champ Will Brooks with a guillotine choke.
This is an interesting clash of styles that is a throwback to the early days of the UFC. Felder is clearly the better striker, while Oliveira will undoubtedly have the advantage in the ground game. I think Felder’s striking game wins out here for a few reasons. Oliveira’s losses have come against fighters who will put it on him in the striking game, while avoiding the Brazilian’s submission attacks. Felder will clearly be obliged to test his chin, and he also defends the takedown well with a takedown defense rate of 63%. I see Felder avoiding anything Oliveira throws at him with the submission game, and picks him apart on the feet. The pick is Felder by decision.
Alex Oliveira ($8,900) vs. Yancy Medeiros ($7,300)
In a welterweight bout, Alex Oliveira takes on Yancy Medeiros with both men trying to take a big step forward in the rankings. Oliveira has been on a roll since his submission loss to Donald Cerrone in February 2016, winning 4 fights in dominant fashion, with a no contest against Tim Means being the only blemish. Stoppage victories over Ryan LeFlare, Tim Means, and Will Brooks highlight his UFC resume. Medeiros comes into this bout on a little roll of his own, as a move to welterweight has seen immediate success. Since moving up to 170 lbs., he’s won via stoppage over tough opponents in Sean Spencer and Erick Silva.
Though Oliveira and Medeiros don’t have the biggest names in the sport, this should be a decent fight with some heavy action. Oliveira is severely underrated, but has won some big fights over tough opponents. With a win over Medeiros we could see him in bigger fights in no time. Medeiros has also had a pretty successful run in his time with the promotion, but hasn’t won the match-ups with the bigger name opponents that would put him over with the general fans. I think “Cowboy” Oliveira takes this one with his striking, as Medeiros could struggle on the feet against the Brazilian. I look back to the fight with Francisco Trinaldo where Medeiros struggled with the constant pressure in the striking game, and I think Oliveira will employ a similar game plan. The pick is Oliveria by TKO in the 2nd round.
David Teymur ($8,400) vs. Drakkar Klose ($7,800)
This is a great match-up between 2 solid prospects with great striking, as David Teymur takes on Drakkar Klose in a bout at lightweight. Teymur has looked nothing short of spectacular so far in his young UFC career, winning all 3 of his bouts with the promotion, including a thrilling Fight of the Night victory over the ultra-popular Lando Vannata. Vannata was a heavy favorite going into that one, but Teymur consistently beat him to the punch, winning a clear-cut decision. Klose has been equally impressive, as he’s won both of his bouts in the UFC, including a great win over Marc Diakiese in July.
The UFC matchmakers did a great job with this match-up as they are giving both men a chance to take a step forward in their careers, without feeding these guys to the big dogs just yet. In addition, a win for either guy is a big win with how talented they each are. This is going to be very competitive, and it’s essentially a coin flip going into this one. I’m going to roll with Teymur in a close fight. His victory over Vannata left me very impressed, as he tore through a great fighter, so early in his career. I think he puts on another impressive performance, and wins the exchanges often enough to take home a decision.
Felice Herrig ($8,300) vs. Courtney Casey ($7,900)
Opening up the FS1 preliminary card is a compelling strawweight bout between #9 ranked Felice Herrig and #11 ranked Cortney Casey. Since being dominated by Paige VanZant back in April 2015, Herrig has proven her doubters wrong, winning 3-straight bouts over tough competition in Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, and Justine Kish. She is on track for high-profile bouts with a win over Casey. Casey will provide for a tough out, as she’s put together a fairly respectable UFC tenure, going 3-3 with wins over Randa Markos and Jessica Aguilar.
I’m interested to see if Herrig can put together yet another great performance, as I wrote her off following the loss to VanZant. While I can’t possibly pretend to know what went through her mind in that fight, it looked to me like she quit on herself. After not being able to put VanZant away early, Herrig looked defeated before round 2, before actually being defeated by unanimous decision. Since then, she’s looked rejuvenated, and her performances have shown it. The win over Grasso was particularly impressive for me, as it looked like Herrig was booked set up to Grasso to get over with the casual fans. Herrig dominated that fight and then won her next. Casey will have to put together the best performance of her career to beat Herrig, while I feel like Herrig doesn’t have to be perfect to defeat Casey. I think Herrig takes Casey down often enough to sway the judges in her favor over the allotted 15 minutes. The pick is Herrig by unanimous decision.