This article is part of our The MMA Mashup series.
This week's edition of The MMA Mashup focuses on daily fantasy games, as we look at some suspiciously low strike totals on Monkey Knife Fight and a $6,700 fighter on DraftKings who has made putting up performances of 100 points or more her specialty.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to consider on DraftKings
Kamaru Usman ($9,400)
The past is not always a reliable indicator of future results, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Usman scored a whopping 156 DraftKings points in the first fight between these two in July. Jorge Masvidal is coming into this bout with a full camp after taking their first fight on just six days' notice. This is a narrative that Masvidal and the UFC have seen fit to run with, but it's not clear to me that Usman's success had much to do with "Gamebread's" gas tank. The problem lies with his fighting style, as Masvidal is content to back himself up against the fence and try to pick his opponents off at range. This allowed Usman to get several takedowns in the first fight, and unless this dynamic has changed, I fail to see how more prep time will make that otherwise.
Pat Sabatini ($8,800)
This pick became very easy for me to make when I realized Sabatini reminds me of a better version of Tristan Connelly. Both fighters like to press forward and use wrestling as a means to find submissions. Still, Sabatini is a much better athlete and harder puncher, which should allow him to find a lot of joy against an opponent who will welcome a firefight. Sabatini also has nine submissions among his 13 professional wins, which should mean he will compete (if not best) the Canadian fighter on the ground.
Jimmy Crute ($8,900)
Most of Crute's UFC fights have ended quickly enough that it's hard to pin down the New Zealand natives' specific style, but against a quick and powerful striker in Michal Oleksiejczuk, Crute landed eight takedowns in under a round before finishing with a submission. Anthony Smith uses his long frame to execute a devastating kicking game and can wrestle a bit when necessary, but more often than not he is the one being brought to the mat. We can see this from his subpar takedown defense rate, which currently stands at 51 percent. This should provide Crute with a clear path to victory as long as he can get inside the range of Smith without getting cracked.
Brendan Allen ($8,400)
When he is at his best, Allen is perpetually moving forward, trying to get the fight to the ground to show off his impressive jujitsu skills. Allen was unsuccessful against boxer and BJJ black belt Sean Strickland in his last outing, but he should face no such ground difficulties from Karl Roberson, who is a powerful kickboxer but has had major issues staying on his feet in his UFC career (50 percent takedown defense rate). It is also worth noting that "Baby K" has been submitted in all three of his UFC losses.
Jessica Andrade (6,700)
Andrade figures to be (relatively) popular at this price, as I can't remember another sub-$7,000 fighter who has put up multiple triple-digit DraftKings scores. It's more than the salary that has me going in this direction, though, as we saw in her fight with Jennifer Maia that Valentina Shevchenko can be clinched rather easily because she tends to stand with her feet planted while in the pocket. There is no doubt that Andrade will need to walk through fire to get inside, but if she is a bit more careful than we saw in her fight with Zhang Weili, we will find out what happens when an opponent puts the pressure on "Bullet" for a change.
Plays to consider on SuperDraft
Alex Oliveira – 2.1x multiplier
Oliveira was able to control range well against Peter Sobotta in July. While the recent bout with newcomer Shavkat Rakhmonov didn't go his way, he still showcased the trademark strength and in-and-out movement that makes him a problem in the welterweight division. Randy Brown is a similarly athletic fighter but is extremely susceptible to leg kicks and tends to stick around in the pocket after landing strikes, which has gotten him caught in the past. At the end of the day, I see these two as somewhat evenly matched, but with "Cowboy" having a few more paths to victory.
Jeff Molina – 1.95x multiplier
Both Molina and Aori Qileng have flaws that could potentially see them take a loss, but Qileng absorbs too much damage on the feet, having shown himself to be far too willing to stand and trade. Molina is a sharp counter puncher with an aggressive wrestling game and should be able to find Qileng's chin as he wades into the pocket with his head on the centerline. He also has sharp jiujitsu, which could discourage Qileng from going for takedowns of his own.
Na Liang – 2.1x multiplier
Liang is seemingly on a mission to make fights as chaotic as possible, as her bouts almost always consist of ground fighting and scrambles until she can find a submission. This also means her fights are generally short, with 13 of her 17 career efforts ending in Round 1. It can be difficult to bank on a debuting fighter with limited tape, but I'm betting the tornado will be enough to swallow Ariane Carnelossi, who looks to pressure her opponents and open up with combinations. While she was a game opponent against a tough veteran in Angela Hill, Carnelosi is still fairly limited inside the cage, and I don't think she will have enough to keep up with someone like Liang.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Zhang Weili OVER 83.5 Significant Strikes and Rose Namajunas OVER 81.5 Significant Strikes.
These totals seem low to me, particularly since we saw both women exceed 100 significant strikes in their respective five-round fights. Weili entered the organization as someone who could muscle opponents to the ground and attempted five takedowns against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but no one has held Rose Namajunas in place for more than 50 seconds since her debut bout against Carla Esparza in 2014, and I expect that "Thug's" active guard and urgency will keep the majority of this fight where we need it to be.
Dwight Grant OVER 34.5 Significant Strikes and Stefan Sekulic OVER 24.5 Significant Strikes
Grant's reputation as a knockout artist combined with the slow pace at which he fights leaves us with these tantalizingly low totals. While some hesitation is warranted, I don't see Grant as the finishing threat in the UFC that he was on the regional scene, as two of his three career decisions have come in the organization. The other thing to note is that Grant started much faster in his loss to Daniel Rodriguez, and we don't need much activity in this bout to hit our mark. Sekulic will likely look to wrestle, which could depress significant strikes, but Grant's 78 percent takedown defense rate should help keep these two men on their feet.
Plays to Consider on FanDuel
Zhu Rong ($21)
Rong combines slick movement with piston-like power shots. He also possesses the ability to keep his balance and spread his base to defend takedowns along the fence, which is where Kazula Vargas makes the majority of his attempts. I expect Rong to change the course of the fight with a big shot at some point, but not before collecting some points for defending shots.
Uriah Hall ($15)
Chris Weidman had all kinds of trouble getting Omari Akhmedov to the ground during their fight in August, securing just five of 16 takedown attempts over 15 minutes. Uriah Hall has shown solid takedown defense in the UFC (69 percent), and we saw in his fight with Antonio Carlos Junior that he is capable of getting out from underneath a powerful BJJ practitioner. As he forces Weidman to shoot over and over again, Hall should exhaust the former middleweight champion's gas tank, leaving him to use a large speed, power, and technical striking gap to his advantage.
Danaa Batgerel ($18)
Batgerel's pressuring and counter striking style should hit exactly the right note on Kevin Natividad, who leaps into range to try and land strikes. While he wasn't able to show it due to the prowess of Miles Johns, Natividad is an aggressive wrestler in the cage, frequently chaining techniques together to get his opponent to the ground. He was taken down three times in his UFC debut by Heili Alateng, but Batgerel should have a significant strength advantage here, which may lead to at least a few stuffed attempts.