This article is part of our The MMA Mashup series.
I hope everyone is ready to talk about takedowns because Saturday's 12-fight main card is filled to the brim with wrestlers and grapplers. We'll discuss them all across five platforms, including an unnecessarily wide underdog and a former title contender looking to thwart the comeback of an icon. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Luana Pinheiro ($9,300)
Winging big hooks with your chin up in the air to force a clinch likely won't take one far in the UFC, but it should see Pinheiro through her fight against Sam Hughes. While Hughes is a decent boxer who is big for the weight class, she has been taken down at will in each of her two fights inside the Octagon. This includes her bout against Muay Thai specialist Loma Lookboonmee, who controlled "Sampage" for a whopping 7:34 during their fight in May. Pinheiro should be able to use her Judo to replicate that success, making her a strong cash play to open up the card.
Rafa Garcia ($7,700)
Natan Levy swings big at the start of every bout, which is why it may surprise some that he doesn't have a single KO/TKO among his six professional wins. Instead, the Israeli fighter aims to work his way into grappling exchanges, confident that he will be able to best his opponent on the mat. Much the same can be said for Garcia, who has just one stoppage by strikes on his record, despite a tight, powerful boxing game. I expect Garcia to be a little better everywhere, and while he did gas out terribly in his fight with Chris Gruetzemacher, "The Turn" has gone five rounds in his career, which gives me confidence that he will not repeat that mistake.
Pat Sabatini ($8,700)
Sabatini's UFC debut was a control grappler's delight, as he achieved 10:58 of top position time on Tristan Connelly while securing just one takedown. The 31-year-old showed off his submission skills in his next bout with Jamall Emmers, as a devastating heel hook ended things after he was hurt early. While he can sometimes be a bit careless with his takedown attempts, Sabatini throws hammers at his opponent on the feet, which should work to scare Tucker Lutz out of exchanges and make him hesitant to find his own offense. When this goes to the ground, I expect the BJJ black belt in Sabatini to get the better of his opponent by combining technique with what appears to be a strength advantage.
Sean Brady ($8,900)
Opponents looking for a flaw in Brady's game have largely come up empty in four attempts, as the 28-year-old has shown fast hands, power, and an ability to grapple that has led to two of the four submission finishes in his career. Michael Chiesa took the welterweight division by storm as a jiu-jitsu fighter who can use his physicality, but as we saw in his bout with Vicente Luque, his offense-first style on the ground leaves him open to getting choked. Chiesa may get some love as the veteran underdog, but I see Brady extending his winning streak to 15 in fine style, as I don't think "Maverick" will be able to compete with the relative newcomer anywhere.
Kyung Ho Kang ($8,200)
Rani Yahya has long been feared when the fight hits the ground, but we saw in his bout with Ricky Simon that his greatest strength lies in being a top-position grappler. Kang should be able to use his size and physicality to take the Brazilian fighter to the floor and wear him down, leaving him open to being hurt by Kang's big strikes. The cleverness of Yahya on the mat may produce a tense moment or two, but he needs to win this fight in one specific area in a specific time frame. I don't think Kang will allow for either of these conditions.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Ketlen Vieira UNDER 2.5 Takedowns and Taila Santos OVER 2.5 Takedowns
Vieira generally uses her size to get the fight to the floor, but the sizeable striking advantage she should have over Miesha Tate makes me think she will use her frame to keep upright against an opponent whose only path to victory is to wrestle and grapple. While it wouldn't surprise me if Vieira mixed in an attempt or two, I don't see her spending much time trying to take this fight where her opponent has a level playing field.
Santos has leaned on her wrestling hard of late, scoring five takedowns in two of her last three fights. The Brazilian fighter could probably hold her own in a Muay Thai striking battle, but Joanne Wood has been taken down by every strong wrestler she has faced. Santos will likely look to establish position early, and is good enough on the ground that she shouldn't succumb to "Jo-Jo's" active guard.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Loma Lookboonmee – 2.1x Multiplier
Lookboonme is known as a quick and powerful Thai striker but showed a strong trip takedown game in her last fight against Sam Hughes. Lupita Godinez will look to force clinch situations whenever possible, but has struggled to get opponents to the floor in the past, and will need to be wary of Loma's plum clinch whenever the two enter a grappling exchange. While "Loopy" has been tireless in the pursuit of the takedown in her UFC career, Lookboonme should be able to stay on her and score points at multiple ranges.
Aori Qileng - 2.1x Multiplier
If the only thing prospective owners remember about Qileng's debut is that he lost to Jeff Molina, they are forgetting about the smothering pressure fighter who carries power in his hands and relentlessly looks for takedowns. Cody Durden is an aggressive wrestler in his own right, but I expect Qileng to control the cage and be the stronger fighter, which should help keep him upright. This will allow him to land big shots and get his own takedowns while staying a step ahead in grappling exchanges.
Bets to Consider
Adrian Yanez defeats Davey Grant via KO/TKO/DQ (-110)
Some may look at this play and think I've fallen victim to recency bias. Yanez has finished all three of his UFC opponents with strikes, but Davey Grant has never been knocked out in his career, which may encourage prospective bettors to pass on a prop that makes them pay juice. While it's true that Grant has proven durable, he is no stranger to adversity, as he was dropped hard by Martin Day and Jonathan Martinez before coming back to KO both opponents. The main issue here is that Grant's awkward striking style tends to result in an exposed chin, and Yanez has been an absolute sniper with straight, powerful punches. Unless "Dangerous" sticks to his wrestling for the better part of fifteen minutes, I expect Yanez to light him up in exchanges, which should lead to the first KO loss of his 18-fight career.
Yilan Sha defeats Sean Soriano (+230)
I don't expect either of these fighters to challenge for a title anytime soon, but this line seems far too wide. Sean Soriano is in his second tour of duty with the UFC, having never won a fight in four attempts. It is also worth noting that submissions account for five of his seven career losses. While Sha isn't the most dedicated submission artist, he has forced a tap in two of his last three wins and will come out looking to push the pace and put his opponent on his back. Soriano's hand speed may give Sha problems early on, but if he is able to close the distance, it isn't difficult to imagine history repeating itself.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Terrance McKinney UNDER 61.5 Significant Strikes and Fares Ziam UNDER 46.5 Significant Strikes
McKinney fights with such reckless abandon that it's hard not to predict an early finish, but that's not the only thing I see here to potentially keep totals down. We must also recognize that Ziam is an incredibly low-volume striker (2.1 significant strikes per minute) and McKinney will attempt to bring fights to the ground. All of this together provides us a few different paths for our under to come through, and I would rather play multiple-choice than only have one possible answer.