This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
A small cage and active fighters will combine for what projects to be quite a few finishes for the next event at the UFC Apex on Saturday. We will cover all the angles below, including cash locks, captain plays and the best dogs to take a shot at.
Since we are back 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 November 6, which should encourage players to look at fights that may not otherwise be thought of as good targets for finishes.
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
Julian Marquez ($23)
Abdul Razak Alhassan may have discovered the upper limits of his brawling style in his loss to Mounir Lazzez, but Lazzez appears to be a much more structured kickboxer than Khaos Williams, whose game mostly consists of trying to flurry with short counter shots before getting his opponent in some type of clinch situation. For all of Alhassan's struggles in the bout against Lazzez, it's worth remembering that there were long stretches of that fight where Alhassan was rapping shots around the guard of the Tunisian fighter, and I'm not convinced that Williams is as strong defensively. At the end of the day, Williams only has a few tricks up his sleeve. One of them worked against Alex Morono, but can he go back to the well against someone as fast and powerful as Alhassan? I very much doubt it.
Julian Marquez versus Saparbek Safarov is a great fight to target Saturday, as it's easy to imagine the winner cracking the optimal lineup. Part of the reason for this is how similar these men are in the cage and on paper. Both Marquez and Safarov have just one decision win apiece in 13 combined victories. They also both love coming forward and throwing big shots while trying to implement a wrestling game as part of their offensive attack. The big problem for Safarov is that, despite being a master of sport in combat sambo, he has been easily outgrappled in exchanges thus far, not only by BJJ wizard Rodolfo Vieira but also by the much less credentialed Tyson Pedro . This should be a knock-down-drag-out war on the feet, but I think the fight swings in Marquez's favor if and when he decides to take this to the ground.
Neither Don'Tale Mayes nor Roque Martinez have gotten off to flying starts in their UFC careers, but at least some of that is likely due to their schedules to this point. Martinez made his UFC debut against the powerhouse that is Alexander Romanov, while Mayes fought all-world prospect Ciryl Gane in his UFC debut. Both will get more forgiving matchups this time around, with Mayes being far more agile and varied in his attacks, while Martinez is simply a boxer who looks to corral opponents before knocking them out. Mayes hasn't shown himself as much of a takedown artist, but I think he will try to get the fight to the ground against Martinez, who showed poor takedown defense against not only "King Kong," but also in his fights with Rizin. Either way, the lack of a wrestling game combined with the lack of weapons on the feet should work against Martinez here, leading to Mayes' first Octagon win in three attempts.
Paul Felder volunteering to replace Islam Makhachev on short notice must feel like a gift from the heavens for Rafael dos Anjos, who has been tortured by strong, committed wrestlers in his last four losses. Felder hardly ever shoots for a takedown, let alone completes one, meaning this fight should allow RDA to employ his slick pressure-boxing game and leg kicks. It also means that Dos Anjos could try and work his own wrestling in order to get to his impressive BJJ game, but it's worth noting that Felder has never been submitted in his 22-fight career. Ultimately, I think Felder is a little too willing to cede ground to his opponent inside the cage, which should give RDA all the space he needs to let his hands go. We should also note that Felder came out of semi-retirement to take this fight, having last stepped in the Octagon against Dan Hooker in February. There is no doubt that this fight should be targeted on both sides, as both men will work fast and are eager to throw strikes, but the technical striking of RDA should win the day here.
Speaking of fast-working fighters, Sean Strickland and Brendan Allen are two men who get down to business quickly and put up high point totals as a result. While we don't have prices yet, the fight will likely be priced in the mid-range given the (-110) line on both sides, making the fight a veritable must-play on this slate. I noted in a previous writeup how Allen uses his striking to march across the cage and tie up his opponent, but we saw in his fight with Chris Daukaus how liable Allen is to get cracked if he is unable to get the fight to the ground. Strickland has a great sense of range and carries power in his hands, along with a BJJ blackbelt if the fight hits the ground. Allen will likely try to bring the same chaos he always does, but it just feels like Strickland is a bit too sharp and composed to end up falling prey to that kind of fight.
Rhys McKee will carry significant height and reach advantages into his fight against Alex Morono, but as we saw in his Cage Warriors fight against Perry Godwin, these advantages don't always translate to an easy fight for McKee due to how tall he stands in the pocket and how open he leaves himself after firing a shot. McKee used his wrestling and grappling to stem the tide in that fight, but he will be facing a jiujitsu black belt in Morono, which may make him think twice about taking things to the ground. To be sure, Morono is liable to get cracked on the way in as well (see his last fight with Khaos Williams), but McKee's unchecked aggression plays too well against Morono's counter-punching style for me to see this fight any other way.
Best Option: Kay Hansen ($21)
Kay Hansen came away with a win in her UFC debut but seemed to have a hard time negotiating the speed and power of Jinh Yu Frey before ultimately finishing with a second-round submission. Cory McKenna tends to bring a lot of what Hansen does inside the cage in terms of wrestling and grappling, but is a bit more aggressive on the feet. I ultimately think that Hansen will be too strong for "The Hobbit" in ground situations, but it seems likely that McKenna is good enough on the ground to avoid being submitted, which would lead to a strong cash score due to volume takedowns, sub attempts and some striking mixed in.
Kanako Murata doesn't appear to have much of a striking game to speak of, but the upshot of that is the takedown attempts come fast and furious. Murata is agile in the cage, has solid entries, and is adept when it comes to passing into advantageous positions on the ground. All of this is problematic for Randa Markos, who comes into this fight having logged just a 58 percent takedown defense rate in her 15-fight career. Much like McKenna, I think Markos is skilled enough on the ground to avoid being submitted here, but I have my doubts that her improving – but still stiff – striking game will be enough to keep Murata at bay.
Ashley Yoder has a strong kicking game and some slick jiu-jitsu, but an overhand right was basically all it took for Livinha Souza to shut down Yoder's striking in their matchup, and Granger is a ferocious Muay Thai practitioner with good kicks of her own, as well as wicked elbows and knees from the clinch. She may see the final bell, but Yoder is very clearly outgunned on the feet, and Granger is unexpectedly slick off of her back, having won five of her seven pro fights by submission
Best Option: Antonio Arroyo ($15)
This might just be an outstanding bias of mine, but I've never bought Eryk Anders as a winning fighter at this level. He may be athletic and strong enough as a former college football player, but he frequently fails to find his range when striking, leaving him open to counter shots when things fall short. Perhaps realizing this, Anders has tried to work a wrestling game into his arsenal but has only managed to convert at a 34 percent rate, and we have seen evidence of this working to sap his gas tank. Antonio Arroyo has a devastating kicking game and will come into this matchup with a height advantage of two inches, meaning Anders will likely try to work his way inside once again. We have seen Arroyo have problems keeping his feet in the face of committed wrestlers, but I don't see this as a winning strategy for Anders, particularly since he is not a submission threat.
To be clear, whoever wins the matchup between Geraldo de Freitas and Tony Gravely is likely to score a lot of points, but I think de Freitas has a distinct edge, as five of Gravely's six losses have come via submission, including his UFC debut against Brett Johns. Gravely is a strong pressure boxer, but he needs to work his wrestling as a part of his game, which will likely put him in too many 50/50 scrambles against de Freitas for him to come out on top. The other factor to note is that de Freitas enters this bout with a two-inch height and three-inch reach advantage, which should help him keep distance and pick Gravely off in boxing range.
It's tough to know what to make of Louis Smolka. His re-entrance into the UFC in 2018 saw him use a bit more wrestling to compliment his scramble-and-sub style, but we saw him go back to his boxing shortly thereafter, which ultimately led to him being picked apart and submitted in his last fight against Casey Kenney. Jose Quinonez has been something of an underachiever in the UFC but keeps range well and is far more agile and athletic than Smolka on the feet, which should allow him to be a step ahead in the striking exchanges. While we haven't seen him play on the ground much since his submission victory against Leonardo Morales in 2014, I trust Quinonez to keep himself safe on the ground against Smolka until he is able to get this fight back in the realm where he wins it.