This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
After wading through a torn and tattered card last week, the slate for the June 20th show at the UFC Apex remains (largely) intact. This means more tape and data on fighters, which should result in more predictable outcomes. I am eyeing more dogs, in particular, this week, including a battle-tested veteran who mysteriously resides at the very bottom of the slate.
As I will continue to point out, as long as we are at The Apex, research suggests more finishes occur in smaller cages like the one the fighters will occupy on June 13th, which should encourage players to look at fights that may not otherwise be thought of as good targets for finishes. As always, fighters will be listed in order from most to least desirable among the given choices.
One final note before we begin: here's a refresher on the scoring. If you're looking for general strategy tips, I wrote a FanDuel 101 article prior to UFC Brasilia on March 14, though there have been a few minor scoring changes since then that I've noted below.
Moves Scoring (MVP 1.5X)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.9 PTS
Takedown (TD): +9 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): +4.5 PTS
Submission Attempt (SA): +7.5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +18 PTS
Moves Scoring (Standard)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.6 PTS
Takedown (TD): +6 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): 3
Submission Attempt (SA): 5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +12 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (MVP 1.5X)
1st Round Win (1stW): +150 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +112.5 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +75 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +52.5 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +37.5 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +30 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (Standard)
1st Round Win (1stW): +100 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +75 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +50 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +35 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +25 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +20 PTS
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Oh, Captain my Captain
Best Play: Curtis Blaydes ($23)
I always feel a little guilty about putting the top price on the slate as a "best play" but much like Amanda Nunes a few weeks ago, I don't really see how we can avoid it here. Curtis Blaydes has been an absolute powerhouse during his time in the UFC, averaging more than 6.5 takedowns per 15 minutes of cage time while having only lost to Francis Ngannou (twice) inside the organization. He has also notched 10 of his 13 MMA victories by KO/TKO. The size and strength of Blaydes as a wrestler will likely spell doom for Alexander Volkov, who has a deceptively high takedown defense rate (76 percent) but has fought very few committed or talented wrestlers. This, combined with the fact that Volkov hasn't shown himself to be a finisher except by accumulation, makes me confident in thinking Blaydes will be able to get to him and work his wrestling game.
Roosevelt Roberts is another fighter on a quick turnaround, having submitted Brok Weaver just three weeks ago. He will face his toughest test by far in veteran Jim Miller, but I don't have many concerns about Roberts passing the test. It's true that Roberts can be backed up against the fence, but Miller is generally very happy to let his opponent lead. One might also point out that Miller tends to lie in wait and throw big counter shots, but Roberts has shown excellent defense so far and will enter this fight with a two-inch reach and six (!) inch height advantage. So, what does this mean for how the bout will play out? I expect Roberts to back Miller up with strikes before dragging him down against the cage and grabbing a submission. People may doubt that owing to Miller's status as a blackbelt, but Roosevelt just looks like the much smoother, quicker grappler here, and I think the length advantage will pay big dividends.
Josh Emmett has at least one knockdown in each of his last five fights. Four of those have ended in KO/TKO finishes. I'm sure some will look at Emmett's lack of volume and balk at him as a choice for captain, but Shane Burgos should take care of that for us, as his in-your-face pressure striking offers little opportunity to have a slow-paced fight. Burgos has a good jab and is fantastic at mixing up his targets, but it's difficult to watch him get floored from a counter left hook by Kurt Holobaugh and conclude that a faster, more powerful Emmett won't be able to do the same thing. The lack of overall defense from Burgos combined with the skill of Emmett makes a knockout here pretty likely, in my opinion.
Best Play: Belal Muhammad ($18)
Belal Muhammad really seems to have hit his stride after a counter hook at the hands of Vicente Luque left him lying on the canvas. The Rufus Sport product has won six of his last seven fights since that lesson, combining relentless cardio with a functional kickboxing game and seamless wrestling integration. Lyman Good is a strong counterpuncher in his own right, and while there is a worry that Good can catch him coming in the way Luque did, I've learned not to focus on narrow paths of victory, opting instead to aim for the fairway. The only real issue here is that volume and pace hasn't led to many finishes for Muhammad to this point, which puts him squarely in the "cash" section for me.
Bobby Green has had a few less-than-satisfying decision losses of late, which can be chalked up to the fact that his inactivity borders on frustrating. Green is an athletic kickboxer with good shot selection, as well as an underrated wrestling and grappling base, but far too often he opts to play a counter-heavy game that sees him admiring his work instead of capitalizing on moments. That should work just fine for this matchup, however, as Clay Guida will likely try to blitz Green with his usual unrelenting style. Green has great trunk movement and general defense, which should mean the countering game will be there in full force. I also expect the aforementioned wrestling base to be enough to thwart Guida's offensive takedown game.
There isn't much mystery to the game of Gillian Robertson. The 25-year-old wants to bring the fight to the ground as quickly as possible and look to work her submission game. This has led to tremendously high scores in her wins, as well as some disappointingly low ones in her losses. So why is she a cash option and not a captain play? I think Cortney Casey is good enough on the ground to stay out of danger, but I don't expect her to be able to stay on her feet, nor do I think she's powerful enough to change the course of the fight with her striking. It remains possible that Robertson gets the quick sub here, but I see a lot of takedowns and mat returns in this one, which means a fairly high-scoring, three-round decision.
Best Option: Josh Emmett ($15)
Well, at least you know I wasn't joking when I said I liked underdogs on this card. Emmett gets the double-dip as a "best-play" here, so let's move on to some other options.
Marc-Andre Barriault has dropped three consecutive fights in the UFC, but I like him quite a bit in this matchup against Oskar Piechota. Barriault has a very gritty style inside the cage, wearing on his opponents in the clinch and throwing big single shots in space. This seems like the exact strategy to beat someone like Piechota, who has gotten noticeably tired in fights against Gerald Meerschaert and Rodolfo Vieira. While it's true that he was taken down multiple times in two of his three UFC fights, these were against a strong wrestler in Andrew Sanchez and a fluid kickboxer that made him uncomfortable in Jun Yong Park. Piechota is neither of those things, so I don't expect him to have the same level of success.
Marion Reneau likely got into MMA a bit too late to have sustained success, but she's still a crafty boxer and Muay Thai stylist, with a nice BJJ game to boot. By contrast, Raquel Pennington is a slow counter fighter who will occasionally blitz in the pocket, but doesn't really throw much in the way of combinations. I don't mean to undersell her, as she can find her shots as well, but I see Reneau as the better fighter everywhere, making this a fairly easy play for me.
Lauren Murphy is a fighter who often gets overlooked in DFS circles (for good reason), but I think she has found a forgiving matchup here in Roxanne Modafferi. Modafferi pushes the pace with a janky boxing game that left her open to a tremendous number of counters in her fight with Jennifer Maia. It's true that Murphy doesn't hit quite as hard as Maia, but I expect her to sting Roxy often enough that she will be able to keep her at bay. The last piece of the puzzle is that Roxy doesn't have much success when she can't get her wrestling game going, and Murphy has only been taken down by physically strong opponents or tremendously accomplished wrestlers.
I have to say I was amazed to see Tecia Torres as this big of a dog against relative newcomer Brianna Van Buren. Van Buren's all-action pressure style worked well in her debut against Livinha Souza, but Torres is a quick fighter who can cut angles and fire counters, making it hard to see how that style plays in this matchup. Torres may be on a four-fight losing streak, but it needs to be said that three of those fights were against current or former champions. She will also have a height and strength advantage in this matchup for the first time in years, which should produce favorable results.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Because we can never get to a fight night unscathed, Max Rohskopf ($16) will step in as a late replacement fight for Austin Hubbard ($14). Rohskopf is an accomplished wrestler and BJJ purple belt who has appeared in numerous grappling competitions, including the Eddie Bravo Invitational. Hubbard has been dealing with takedowns and submission attempts for most of his UFC career, and while he always seems to get back to his feet, the frequency with which he gets taken to the ground is troubling for a matchup like this. What we need to remember here, though, is Rohskopf is a 5-0 fighter who has been out of the first round only once and fights at a chaotic pace. It's mostly this fact that has me picking Hubbard, as I expect he will be able to keep himself safe and pick his opponent off at range in the later rounds. I would invest in both sides of this one, however, as I see this binary (submission or KO) playing out most of the time.
Matt Frevola had to be pulled from the card after one of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19, but the UFC wasted no time finding a replacement, as Justin Jaynes ($11) will now take on Frank Camacho ($16). I was pleasantly surprised to see the UFC get a fighter the caliber of Jaynes on such short notice. The Xtreme Couture product is 15-4 in professional MMA, has won nine of his last 10 bouts (four-fight win streak) and has never been finished. This is all well and good, but how does he actually look inside the cage? Jaynes is your typical wrestle-boxer: he lunges into the pocket with powerful overhands and looks for his opportunities to get the fight to the floor. Frevola had some wrestling, as well, but Jaynes looks to be an immeasurably superior control grappler to "The Steamrolla," and mixes in a submission game with devastating ground and pound. To be sure, Jaynes can get clipped on the feet, which makes him vulnerable to the power and fluidity of a guy like Camacho, but Camacho just reacted so poorly in grappling situations with Beneil Dariush that I find myself actually picking Jaynes here, two-days notice and all.