This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Bettors and DFS players may be tempted to sit out as we wait for UFC 282, but Saturday's card is packed with action fights from top to bottom, giving us the opportunity to score with underdogs and prop bets. We'll take a look at everything on the slate, including a former football player looking to get back on the right track, and a veteran wrestler who still has some life in him. Our betting line this week comes from William Hill and is accurate as to the post date of this article.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Rafael dos Anjos ($9,600)
This price is a bit prohibitive on such a large slate, but we've seen the former lightweight champion use his wrestling and cardio to run up the score in the past, notching 135 DraftKings points against Paul Felder before putting up a whopping 150 against Renato Moicano in March. Bryan Barberena's lack of takedown defense has plagued him throughout his career, as evidenced by the fact that he has been grounded 22(!) times in his last five fights. "Bam Bam" is notoriously hard to put away, which means that Dos Anjos should be able to accumulate strikes, takedowns, and ground control over the course of 15 minutes.
Francis Marshall ($8,800)
Marcelo Rojo's agility and body work might make him an enticing play if not for his lack of defense. "Pitbull" has notched just a 51 percent rate of defense against significant strikes, and was taken down three times in his loss to Kyler Phillips. Marshall doesn't look like much beyond your standard powerful wrestle-boxer, but that should be enough here, as he constantly looks to impose his will by pressuring forward and landing big shots.
Natan Levy ($8,900)
Genaro Valdez is too much of a glass cannon to ever pick him outright in this spot, but it's worth noting that Levy was having trouble with the pressure of Mike Breeden before he was able to get his grappling going. The Israeli fighter logged nine takedowns in that fight and should be able to ground and wear on his opponent here, leading to another big score. While the salary could end up netting players significant value, the first few minutes of the bout will likely produce some tense moments.
Jonathan Pearce ($9,500)
Pearce has come a long way since a quick knockout loss at the hands of Joe Lauzon in his UFC debut, mixing his boxing and wrestling seamlessly while showing excellent submission skills on the ground. Darren Elkins tends to win fights by outlasting his opponents, but I don't see that as an option against someone like Pearce, who has shown that he has the cardio to scramble on the ground for 15 minutes. "The Damage" has never been one to shy away from exchanges on the mat, but the frame and skill of Pearce make him worth a look in cash games at this price, with at least some upside due to the potential for rinse-and-repeat takedowns.
Marc Diakiese ($9,200)
Diakiese has deviated sharply from the powerful kickboxer we once knew, notching a stunning 19 takedowns in his last two fights. He has scored over 111 DraftKings points in each of those contests. This is the worst-case scenario for Michael Johnson, an athletic fighter with lightning-quick hands who has struggled with committed wrestlers in the past. There's evidence that "The Menace" is improving in this regard, as he has stuffed all seven attempts from opponents in his last two bouts, but "Bonecrusher" has the cardio and persistence to turn this into a grappling match for three rounds, and we haven't seen Johnson succeed against that kind of pressure very often.
Clay Guida ($7,500)
It may be hard to trust the veteran on most nights, but I'm betting he will be able to best the flat-footed Scott Holtzman on agility and pace alone. A wrestler himself, Holtzman has logged a 66 percent takedown defense rate and has been known to get tired late in fights. As he isn't much of a finisher, I don't see many paths for "Hot Sauce" to score well on the durable Guida, whereas Clay should be able to put up his share of points as the underdog across three rounds.
Kevin Holland ($8,400)
For a man who almost quit the sport (in part) due to his hatred of having to defend takedowns, Holland isn't shy about wrestling when it suits him. "The Trailblazer" took down the athletic and dynamic Charlie Ontiveros twice in order to slow him down, and brought the hard-hitting John Phillips to the mat five times when the two fought in 2018. Stephen Thompson was once lauded for his takedown defense, but after Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad grounded him a combined 10 times, it seems clear that a new book has been written on defeating "Wonderboy." Holland would be wise to stick by it.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Angela Hill – 2.1 X Multiplier
We've all seen Hill struggle with grapplers, but Emily Ducote doesn't use her wrestling enough for me to be worried about her BJJ black belt. Instead, the former Invicta Strawweight Champion will likely opt to have a kickboxing match, using her accuracy to sting "Overkill" with counter shots. It's also worth noting that Jessica Penne was able to tie Ducote up in a Muay Thai clinch on more than one occasion, which is where Hill does her best work.
Eryk Anders - 2.2 X Multiplier
It's becoming harder for me to trust Kyle Daukaus in the cage, and I think that's because there isn't one thing he does particularly well. He has good jujitsu, but is a poor wrestler and has allowed physically strong fighters like Phil Hawes to sit in top position without much fear of what he might do from the bottom. As a striker, he can be intimidated into ceding ground, and that's exactly where a physically strong power puncher like Anders excels. I expect Daukaus to fail on his takedown attempts against the bigger fighter, which should allow "Ya Boi" to land big strikes at range.
Istela Nunes – 2.2 X Multiplier
The athletic, slick-striking Nunes likely breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the name of her opponent, as she is less likely to have to deal with takedown attempts as she did against physically strong women like Sam Hughes and Ariane Carnelossi. Instead, she draws an opponent in Yazmin Jauregui who will allow her to keep range and spent most of her UFC debut fending off takedown attempts from Iasmin Lucindo. These are the kinds of shots I love taking, as it seems the scales have been tipped a bit too far based on a few bad matchups.
Roman Dolidze – 2.1 X Multiplier
Dolidze taking this fight on short notice may make it hard for some to get on board, but it's been a long time since Jack Hermansson beat an opponent he couldn't overpower. He'll have a hard time getting the better of Dolidze in this regard, as his power and grappling chops should make this fight difficult regardless of where it goes. While he may be able to at least keep up in scrambles, Hermansson should be outmatched in the kickboxing department, which makes this juicy multiplier well worth the shot.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Matheus Nicolau OVER 44.5 Significant Strikes and Amanda Ribas UNDER 60.5 SIgnificant Strikes
The fact that Nicolau has a takedown prop on this slate as well tells us that he is expected to wrestle here, but I have my doubts that he will want to scramble with Matt Schnell, who is the owner of three triangle choke submissions in the UFC. Instead, I expect the Brazilian fighter to use his agility and power to attempt to light "Danger" up on the feet. We know Schnell can take a lot of damage, which should ensure that he will stay in the fight long enough for his opponent to breeze past this total.
In sharp contrast to the fight above, I expect Ribas and Tracy Cortez to engage in quite a few grappling exchanges, leading to short shots thrown on the ground and in the clinch. Fights generally consist of at least one fighter trying to stay upright, but in this case, I think we see two athletes who will happily accept a fight on the ground, which will work to suppress totals.
Bets to Consider
Niko Price wins via KO/TKO (+180)
In a fight featuring two dedicated finishers, it's nice to see so much juice given to KO/TKO props. While either man could finish in this spot, Rowe's upright posture worries me against a puncher who swings as hard as "The Hybrid." He also tends to loop his shots, and Price is surprisingly technical, firing straight shots to the target. We also know that Price is legendarily tough, having been finished by strikes just three times in 18 professional fights.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Sergei Pavlovich OVER 34.5 Strikes and Tai Tuivasa OVER 24.5 Strikes
I wouldn't post a heavyweight under/over unless I thought there was some real value in it, and I think this bout may last a while. While both men are on knockout streaks, the fighters they have fought lately have all had durability issues, with the exception of the common opponent of Derrick Lewis. Still, I expect Tuivasa to start a bit slower after his war with Ciryl Gane in September, which should allow for the two men to have something of a feeling-out process.