This article is part of our The MMA Mashup series.
An abundance of wrestlers on this week's 12-fight slate have us leaning heavily on DraftKings selections for this installment of The Mashup, but we also take a look at plays across a variety of other formats. This includes getting a substantially better betting price on a knockout artist against a relative newcomer to the cage. One final note before we begin: all betting lines were taken from the William Hill online sportsbook.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Tony Gravely ($9,400)
Gravely has shown himself to be absolutely tireless in his pursuit of the takedown, averaging a robust 5.60 completed shots per 15 minutes in his first three UFC fights. Anthony Birchak loves to work his own wrestling game before hunting for a choke, but we saw in his fight with Geraldo de Freitas that the 29-year-old is not only incredibly strong but also able to scramble and defend himself against submission attempts. This should result in Birchak being pushed back against the fence and having to withstand a constant onslaught for as long as the bout lasts.
Gerald Meerschaert ($7,900)
Back-to-back one-punch knockouts have left Meerschaert with a grand total of two (!) DraftKings points combined in his last two fights, but I feel oddly comfortable going to "GM3" in this spot, as Bartosz Fabinski only knows how to fight in one way. If this were not the case, the Polish fighter would not have marched directly across the cage and tried to get a takedown on Andre Muniz, who is a high-level BJJ black belt. Meerschaert has finished a whopping 23 of his 31 wins by submission and has been able to use an ever-improving jab and kicking game to score points on the feet. There is always a chance that his chin is completely gone, but Fabinski hasn't finished anyone by strikes in nearly a decade, making it hard for me to believe he can get that done here.
Tracy Cortez ($9,200)
Cortez may be a decent fundamental boxer, but the 27-year-old has made her living in the UFC to this point through takedowns and top control, having secured at least 9:47 in dominant ground position in each of her two Octagon bouts. Justine Kish's movement and volume make her an intriguing dog play in some respects, but so much of her game relies on crashing the pocket with strikes that Cortez seems likely to get the fight she wants. It should also be noted that Kish isn't nearly as long or powerful as someone like Stephanie Egger, which should allow Cortez to land more than the 20 significant strikes she recorded in that fight.
Alexandr Romanov ($8,800)
Romanov and Juan Espino's games are so similar that it's difficult to say which one will come out on top here, as both men love to force a smothering, wrestling-heavy approach on their opponents. I find myself siding with Romanov in this spot for a few reasons, however, not the least of which is that Espino is 40 years old, and he did seem to be breathing a bit heavy at the end of his last bout with Jeff Hughes. By contrast, we saw Romanov seamlessly pass from position to position on the ground in his fight with Roque Martinez and have the cardio to continue the same strategy into Round 2. Whoever wins here figures to amass a tremendous amount of points, and I will take the younger fighter in a scrap where the gas tanks of both men are likely to be tested.
Dakota Bush (TBD)
It may seem odd to take a fighter coming in on such short notice, as Bush took this fight just two days ago in place of Natan Levy, but I think a lot of what the 26-year-old does can trouble Austin Hubbard. This begins with his pressure and wrestling game, which seems much more power-oriented than Hubbard's. The other major selling point for "Hairy" in this spot is the power shots he throws in combination. "Thud" got stung over and over again by Kyle Prepolec until he was able to take the fight to the ground and I'm not exactly sure what he will do if it turns out that is not an option here.
Alex Munoz ($7,500)
Munoz was only able to land one of eight takedown attempts against Nasrat Haqparast in his UFC debut, but Luis Pena has always seemed comfortable on his back in the Octagon, which may be why he has logged just a 45 percent takedown defense rate in his seven-fight UFC run. We saw "Violent Bob Ross" get backed up by heavy shots in his matchup with Matt Frevola, and Munoz should be able to similarly control the cage before level changing and getting the fight to the floor.
Plays to Consider on FanDuel
Zarah Fairn ($14)
Fairn isn't exactly the most technical fighter I've ever seen inside the cage, standing with her chin straight up in the air and firing off stiff, mechanical strikes. The 34-year-old at least has a jab, however, which is more than I can say for Josiane Nunes, who walks forward and looks to swarm her opponents with slow, looping shots. Nunes also has a takedown game (if we can call it that) which consists primarily of clinching up with the opponent and simply trying to force them to the ground. Fairn may have been taken down by Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer, but both women had to work to get her to the ground, which makes me think that Fairn should be able to collect points by staying on her feet in these exchanges.
Jeremy Stephens ($17)
The wrestling and BJJ acumen of Beneil Dariush may have disincentivized Drakkar Klose away from shooting a takedown, but the former MMA lab product has attempted to bring the fight to the floor at least six times in five of his seven UFC fights and holds a success rate of just 30 percent overall. This should allow Stephens and his solid 65 percent defense rate to stuff at least a few shots en route to marching Klose down and landing big punches, helping him rack up points while controlling where the action takes place.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Lupita Godinez OVER 50.5 significant strikes and Jessica Penne over 32.5 significant strikes.
Godinez looks like a fairly solid prospect in the strawweight division, as she uses a lot of forward pressure, punching combinations and agility to keep her opponents on the back foot. Penne may not be the most high-volume striker in the world, but a lot of the incredibly low totals in her career have come against the elite fighters of the division, and the former title challenger hasn't been very adept at securing takedowns (1.59 per 15 minutes). This should result in a bout contested primarily on the feet that will comfortably surpass the given totals.
Chase Sherman OVER 52.5 significant strikes and Andrei Arlovski OVER 32.5 significant strikes.
While it may be the case that Arlvoski makes his opponents fight at a slower pace, it's also true that Sherman is an incredibly active striker, landing 6.70 strikes per minute. Sherman has been one to get finished by strikes at the highest levels of MMA, but he's in the cage with the right guy for our purposes, as Arlovski hasn't stopped an opponent since Travis Browne in 2015, and has only been finished by strikes once in his last 10 bouts. A look at their respective Sherdog pages may tell you otherwise, but recent history has me confident that this fight will hear the final bell, which should see us notch our two overs.
Bets to Consider
Abdul Razak Alhassan wins by KO/TKO/DQ: -137
Jacob Malkoun's body work and wrestling may make him someone to take a look at in the future, but the way the five-fight MMA veteran was closed down and swarmed on by Phil Hawes made it seem as though he was fighting in quicksand. I expect a similar thing to happen here, as Alhassan tends to take the center of the Octagon even in fights he loses, and "Judo Thunder" is a bit tougher to take down than that 42 percent defense rate might suggest.
Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum goes to decision: -137
Unlike the bout between Sherman and Arlovski, in which we are relying on one fighter to make sure the bout sees the scorecards, here we have two very durable competitors, having amassed just five stoppage losses between them in 51 combined fights. What really plays in our favor here, though, is the way both men tend to work their way into fights and look to turn things on in later rounds. I think these two will have a technical kickboxing match for 25 minutes, and it would only help if Gastelum took the wrestling-based approach he did in his last fight against Ian Heinisch.