This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
We've already had a canceled fight but still have a stuffed 13-bout slate to break down for the last card of the year. Recommended fighters include one of the cheapest plays on the docket, as well as a conspicuously low-priced favorite. One final note before we begin: here's a refresher on the scoring.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Best Play: Geoff Neal ($19)
It's been a long (and scary) road back to the Octagon for Geoff Neal, who was sidelined for more than fourth months after bouts of sepsis and staphylococcal pneumonia, but the 30-year-old is now in a main event spot after a 5-0 start (four finishes) to his UFC career. We saw Stephen Thompson pick apart and nearly finish a ferocious pressure fighter in Vicente Luque, but Neal is extremely quick, a bit more calculated, and more willing to mix in a wrestling game when necessary. I think the speed, in particular, will play well here, but we also need to consider the smaller cage, which should work to hinder Thompson's step-back counter shots. It's hard to predict anyone getting "Wonderboy" out of a fight, but I think Neal has the tools and attributes to make this a high-scoring decision at worst, which would work well at his price.
The kind of fight we get out of Anthony Pettis these days seems to depend on his opponent. He was made uncomfortable by a fighter who wanted to wrestle in Diego Ferreira and couldn't handle the pressure put on him by Nate Diaz. Alex Morono did hit three takedowns on Rhys McKee but generally prefers to keep the fight standing while hanging back and throwing big counter shots. This is a dream scenario for Pettis, who will be the much faster party here. The former champion should be able to keep range with thudding body kicks, as well, controlling distance and creating angles to land shots. There is always a chance Morono goes to his wrestling again, but I will always trust Pettis to work off of his back, even if he was caught out in a weird spot against Ferreira.
Jimmy Flick and Cody Durden are both committed wrestlers in the Octagon, but while Durden may be slightly better at controlling position, I very much doubt that he will be able to keep up with the transitions and scrambles Flick will bring to this fight. Durden strikes me as a fighter who likes to take his time and work through positions, but he will get no cooperation from Flick in that department, as he will look to push a furious pace from the start. Either one of these fighters could potentially score well, as both men are dedicated finishers, but Durden has a submission loss on his record from the far less dangerous Ryan Hollis, which has to be a factor when one considers Flick's skill set.
We close out 2020 with two downright enigmatic fighters squaring off in Khaos Williams and Michel Pereira. In the case of Williams, we have a rather mediocre regional fighter who comes onto the big stage and notches two straight knockouts with vicious counter punches. With Pereira, we see a hulking athlete who is talented but often looks like he's more concerned with making highlight reels than winning fights. So, who gets the nod here? It can be argued that Pereira's last fight with Zelim Imadaev was the most composed and efficient performance we have seen thus far. While he still clowned around and attempted Showtime Kicks, he also used nice, long punches to connect on his opponent while firing off strong counter shots and even using some wrestling to help close the show. Williams seems to be using more sharp, straight punches himself these days, but the speed and size of Pereira are terrifying on their own. Williams will have an even bigger hill to climb if The Brazilian can sustain the technique we saw in September. It seems that Williams has survived thus far by surprising his opponents with quick, hard shots, but he won't be able to do that here and I doubt he has the kind of well-rounded game to go 15 minutes with a hurricane.
Rick Glenn : ($21) I can't help but think Carlton Minus is being a bit disrespected here, even if I am confident in a Rick Glenn victory. He may have been overwhelmed in his UFC debut, but Minus is still a slick, athletic boxer who uses length effectively. The big problem in his fight with Matthew Semelsberger was relentless forward pressure which negated Minus' reach and forced him to fight off the back foot. Very few fighters apply more consistent pressure than Rick Glenn , who will constantly be walking Minus down and isn't shy about eating shots to give a few back. It may not be the most complex style, but it should be effective for defeating Minus, who needs time to get into a rhythm and put his shots together. Karl Roberson has run into real trouble in the UFC trying to deal with better grapplers, but that shouldn't be an issue in his bout with Dalcha Lungiambula , who has a trip-takedown game but otherwise likes to explode into power shots in an attempt to take opponents out. The issue for him here - as it was in his fight with Magomed Ankalaev – will be a height discrepancy of five inches. To be clear, Roberson doesn't quite have the footwork of Ankalaev, but Dalcha will still have to work his way inside to land shots while dealing with the much more technical striker. Dalcha can knock anyone out if he connects, but I think Roberson will have advantages that athleticism alone won't be able to overcome.
Jose Aldo may have lost his first two fights at bantamweight, but the featherweight king gave a good account of himself against both Moraes and Petr Yan, arguably winning the former bout. While he may not be getting any younger, Aldo still has fast hands, works the body with precision, and even showed off more leg kicks than he had in years during his fight with Yan. Vera is a slick kickboxer in his own right but has always been a slow starter and I don't think he (or anyone) can survive allowing Aldo to get ahead in a three-round fight.
We couldn't ascertain much from Drako Rodriguez 's quick Contender Series win over Leomana Martinez, but further tape reveals a fighter who can do a bit of everything in the cage. Long, straight punches, forward pressure, and the ability to wrestle and grapple make Rodriguez an interesting addition to the organization. This skill set should be more than enough to deal with Aiemann Zahabi , a once-touted prospect who looks a bit too tentative in the cage. Zahabi thrives when his opponent allows him to take the lead, but that certainly won't be the case with Martinez, who should look to set a pace and dictate early.
The price of Sijara Eubanks seems a bit off to me in this spot. She may be coming off a loss in a short-notice fight against Ketlen Vieria, but Eubanks has shown the ability to mix her boxing and wrestling, as well as the ability to carry her cardio late in fights. Pannie Kianzad is a slick boxer who is always on the balls of her feet, but her lack of power could be an issue here, particularly since she tends to get hit after throwing combinations in the pocket. The last thing to note is we have seen Kianzad get overwhelmed by physical fighters in the past, and while Eubanks doesn't quite have the frame of Macy Chiasson, she should still be the bigger, stronger fighter here.
Until he can get his weight under control and move down to welterweight, Deron Winn will be at massive physical disadvantages. The bout against Antonio Arroyo (which is being held at a catchweight of 198 lbs.) is no exception, as he will enter the cage with an astounding nine-inch height advantage over Winn. The rub here is we have seen Arroyo struggle with takedowns in the past, but he is also a better submission grappler than Winn, which could put him on an island with his skill set. Winn will always fire big shots on the feet, but Arroyo should be able to use his kicking game to keep the AKA fighter at range. We should also point out that Winn has never been able to control anyone on the ground, which could lead to him exhausting himself if he does get the fight to the floor, as he did in his fight with Darren Stewart. The bottom line is that unless Winn shows us a new wrinkle or two here, I don't see how he wins this fight. Arroyo's advantages are technical as well as physical.
Best Option: Rob Font ($11)
Rob Font could struggle in the opening minutes of his fight with Marlon Moraes as a boxer who stands heavy on his lead leg, but I expect the pressure and pace of Font in the small cage will provide the Brazilian fighter with only so much room to move. While the leg kicks of Moraes are more than a passing concern, we have seen Moraes flag after Round 1 in three consecutive fights, which is a dangerous flaw to have when someone as active as Font is standing across the cage. Font has shown his toughness before (the John Lineker fight) and that ability to endure should pay dividends in a matchup like this.
Greg Hardy has made strides during his time in the Octagon, including developing a decent jab and learning how to extend his cardio later in fights, but he has yet to face a committed wrestler. That moniker doesn't always describe Marcin Tybura, but the Polish fighter has shown that he can stick to a wrestling game when he needs to in fights against Maxim Grishin and Stefan Struve. It also needs to be said that he looked more durable in his fight against Ben Rothwell than he had in some time. Hardy remains as powerful and athletic as ever, but he will need to show his greatest evolution as a fighter to win here. This isn't something I can bank on when we are talking about someone with seven professional fights.
Gillian Robertson has been a single-minded destroyer thus far in the UFC with her takedowns and effortless BJJ top game, but I'm a bit leery picking her in a fight where she will be on the wrong side of the physicality advantage. Particularly when it comes to a fighter like Taila Santos, who owns an 83 percent takedown defense rate in three UFC fights. Robertson is always a live DFS play thanks to her groundwork and finish rate, but if she can't get Santos to the mat, I expect the 27-year-old to use her five-inch reach advantage to light Robertson up on the feet.
Tafon Nchukwi carries undeniable power but tends to lumber toward his opponents and isn't especially good at cutting off the cage, which may not say much for his staying power in the organization at this point in his young career. Jamie Pickett needed three bites at the apple to get his Contender Series contract, but what we saw in those fights is a decent, athletic out-fighter who will wrestle when the situation calls for it. Notably, Nchukwi seems to have a sustainable gas tank for a big man, but I think Pickett has a bit too much craft to simply be beaten by power and some straight punches.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
What a difference a matchup makes. I wasn't very high on Carlton Minus (TBD) in his bout with Rick Glenn, but along with replacement Christos Giagos (TBD) comes a much more forgiving style. While Glenn would look to replicate (or exceed) the pressure applied by Matthew Semelsberger, Giagos is a natural counter fighter who is perfectly willing to let the opponent take the center of the cage. This should allow Minus to use his reach advantage and slick striking. Giagos can also be a dedicated wrestler, but this has absolutely exhausted him in the past and Minus looks to be a decent scrambler from bottom. Minus is still hittable and Giagos can crack, but I will take the relative newcomer to pick apart and frustrate the veteran here.