This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
The seventh installment of fights at the UFC Apex features a number of closely-priced fighters along with a few fights in which the only thing that looks guaranteed is a finish. This can make analyzing a bit difficult, but I've keyed in on a few major separation points that should make the difference.
Since we are still at the Apex, I will once again point out that research suggests more finishes occur in smaller cages like the one the fighters will occupy on August 22, 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.
Oh, Captain My Captain
Best Play: Mariya Agapova ($19)
Mariya Agapova absolutely destroyed Hannah Cifers in her UFC debut, and while she will be facing a natural flyweight this time around, I don't see things going much differently for Shana Dobson. We saw Dobson look completely unprepared when a big puncher in Priscila Cachoeira bore down on her and Agapove will bring the same kind of pressure with much greater technique. I wouldn't call Dobson a bad fighter, but she likes to work her way into fights behind her jab and she isn't likely to get the chance to do that here. It's not very difficult to see this fight ending in a finish as a result.
I almost put this fight in the "Fish nor Fowl" section despite the price discrepancy, as it features two spectacularly unreliable fighters capable of being knocked out at any time. Mike Rodriguez has a functional kickboxing game but always hangs around in the pocket for too long after landing strikes, which leaves him open to being walloped. The fact that Marcin Prachnio got knocked out by the 2018 version of Sam Alvey should give DFS players some clue of how reckless he is with his defense, as he literally walked at Alvey with his hands down before eating the kill shot. To be clear, the unbridled aggression of Prachnio could trap and overwhelm "Slow" Mike, but I just can't pick a fighter who has shown no fundamentals whatsoever. One of these fighters is going to sleep, though, so I'm going to pick the one who has shown me he looks like he has been in a fight before, accepting all the dangerous warts that come with that.
We move directly into another fight where the outcome is hard to determine, but I think Alonzo Menifield vs. Ovince Saint Preux belongs with the fight above, as in both cases, the winner is likely to put up a big score. It's so hard to figure out where OSP's head is at these days. He is obviously athletic and powerful enough to beat anyone on a given night but sort of aimlessly wandered around the cage in his fight against Ben Rothwell, despite having nearly every imaginable advantage. The former title challenger hurt Rothwell whenever he decided to strike, but those moments came few and far between, which is how Rothwell ended up taking the decision. By contrast, Menifield showed he had about a round of good cardio in him during his fight with Devin Clark. Menifield is quick, explosive, and powerful. He also appears to have made great strides in his takedown defense game. So why, in another matchup filled with boobytraps, am I going with Menifield? OSP has shown us in the past that he really doesn't handle pressure well (think Rothwell and Jimi Manuwa fights) and while he could theoretically wrestle Menifeld's energy away, it's not often that he's an active pursuer of takedowns. The last time we saw him stick to an active wrestling game was against Nikita Krylov. This resulted in him gassing out and getting finished. This fight will be wild while it lasts, but I have to take the fighter who has at least shown some direction in the cage.
Best Option: Daniel Rodriguez ($18)
Daniel Rodriguez has shown himself to be a more-than-capable boxer inside the Octagon. The 33-year-old features a nice, stiff jab, the ability to throw in combination and an opportunistic submission game. While he will be at a speed disadvantage against Takashi Sato , the former Pancrase standout really only has a powerful straight left to lean on. This should see him significantly outgunned by Rodriguez, who can also beat up Sato's lead leg with kicks. I think he's tough enough to avoid getting finished, but the combination work and the steady pressure game should be enough for Rodriguez to float to a convincing victory.
I had designs on picking Austin Hubbard when I first thought of his matchup against Joe Solecki. My reasoning was that Hubbard has faced tough wrestlers almost exclusively during his time in the UFC, and has held his own in every single bout. The problem is that all of those wrestlers got him to the mat multiple times, and Solecki is very good at controlling position when his opponents are on the ground. It must also be said that Solecki's standup game consists of not much else besides a strong overhand to get him into the clinch, but I just don't see Hubbard keeping Solecki off of him in the small cage. While I don't think this leads to a finish, rinse-and-repeat takedowns look to be in the offing.
Prices for Carlton Minus and Matthew Semelsberger haven't been added to the FanDuel player pool as of the publication of this article, but I'm sticking with Minus here, as he is a small-to-moderate favorite on most betting sites. Semelsberger's standup game doesn't appear to have many nuances in it. He comes forward and tries to land big shots to take his opponent out. I don't think simply throwing hammers will work against Minus due to his speed and defensive head movement. I expect Minus to pick Semelsberger off from range for most of this fight, though it may not be without a scary moment or two.
Best Option: Frankie Edgar ($18)
Some level of concern for Frankie Edgar after the beating he took from Chan Sung Jung in his last fight is understandable, but to be frank, I'm willing to sort of write that off as a fight no one actually expected him to win. By contrast, I think he'll have a lot of advantages in his bantamweight debut against Pedro Munhoz. Chief among these will be speed and footwork, as Edgar coming down in weight should have a strength advantage, while still being faster than the plodding Munhoz. Edgar will also clearly have the boxing advantage, though we will need to wait and see if he will use his wrestling against a fighter with such a renowned guillotine. I'm not too concerned about this, as Brett Johns was able to fend off multiple attempts from "The Punisher" and Frankie is a BJJ blackbelt who has never been submitted in 31 professional fights. What is much more of a threat is the power of Munhoz, as Edgar has been known to get hurt in fights and power through. This is particularly worrying since the "powering through" part hasn't been there of late. Is it possible for Munoz to pull Frankie into a big right hand? Sure. But I want to see how he carries his skills into a matchup where several things seem to break in his favor.
I think Amanda Lemos could be the next star in this division. While there are a few question marks around her after she accepted a USADA suspension in 2018, it doesn't seem like there is any questioning her skills. Lemos can lead and counter effectively, has a nice leg kicking game, and is a smooth wrestler/grappler. It must be pointed out that she was finished by Leslie Smith in her UFC debut, but Lemos was winning large portions of that fight before her cardio failed her, and Mizuki Inoue doesn't have anything close to Smith's physicality. To be sure, Inoue will pressure and be in Lemos' face, but I think her countering ability and footwork will help to stem the tide.
It didn't work out too well last week, but I'm going back to the least-expensive fighter on the slate as a viable option in Mark Striegl . Striegl is a powerful wrestler and grappler, who has won 14 of his 18 MMA bouts by submission. Timur Valiev likes to use his movement and speed to pick opponents off, but he should have trouble doing that in the small cage. We should also point out that Valiev appears to be at a strength disadvantage in a number of his fights, which leads to takedowns. I think the wrestler/grappler gets this done here, as I don't see one real standout skill in Valiev's game.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Ike Villanueva ($17) will now face Jordan Wright (TBD) after Jorge Gonzalez once again needed to be pulled from the fight. Wright is a slick karate stylist, but the last time we saw him fight in this cage on the Contender Series, the opponent didn't need to do much more than cut off his space to knock him out (that result was later overturned to a no-contest). Villanueva looked outmatched in his UFC debut at heavyweight, but he's a guy who will come forward and throw in combination. Add in the fact that Villanueva is other-worldly tough, and what emerges appears to be a fairly open window. Wright is a slick power striker who can do damage if he is able to stay at range, but I just wonder if he has made the necessary adjustments.
Dwight Grant ($17) is an athletic guy who throws incredibly hard as a counter striker, but he's so invested in waiting for his shot that it's tough to say how his fights will go. He is the owner of two sticky split decisions against Zak Ottow and Alan Jouban (a loss and a win, respectively) and was losing almost every second of his fight with Carlo Pedersoli before a telegraphed high kick led to a vicious knockout punch. Fortunately, Calen Born (TBD) will bring action, as he likes to trap his opponents up against the fence before unloading with big shots of his own. Any of Grant's fights can potentially turn into a staring contest, but I think he will be too fast with both his feet and hands, which should mean the big blow materializes at some point.
Timur Valiev will now face Trevin Jones (TBD) after Mark Striegl had to be puled from the bout. Jones is athletic with a hard kicking game, but it's clear that what he wants to do is get the fight to the mat in order to work his submissions. The problem is that he frequently will give up position to try to wrap a choke and he is far too accepting of takedowns. Unlike Striegl, I think Jones will allow Valliev to work his game on the feet. Things can certainly get interesting if the fight hits the mat, but I will take Valiev to win a not-so-exciting decision.
In a bit of an odd twist, both Calen Born and Takashi Sato have withdrawn from their respective bouts, leaving Daniel Rodriguez ($18) and Dwight Grant ($17) to fight each other. This is actually a fairly fun accidental matchup. How do they match up against each other? I think that Rodriguez is going to be able to keep a stiff jab in Grant's face for most of the night. While it is true that Rodriguez took some damage from Gabriel Green, it seems much of that was due to Green's desire to continually walk Rodriguez down, something Grant almost certainly will not do. Grant's athleticism and power make him live in every fight at his current level, but I think Rodriguez will be a bit too composed and technically sound to get caught here. It's important to note that It now becomes more difficult to use these fighters, as Grant fights at a very slow pace, but Rodriguez may force enough action to make up the difference.