This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
We've reached the home, stretch folks. The third UFC card in seven days is an absolute banger, with several intriguing fights, including the rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. I break down all 12 fights below and reintroduce the "Fish nor Fowl" section, as there are a couple of fights here I consider almost too close to call.
One final note before we begin: 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
Best Play: Ottman Azaitar ($20)
Ottman Azaitar has been an absolute whirlwind in his first two UFC fights, disposing of both Teemu Packalen and Khama Worthy in the first round. While there isn't much nuance in Azaitar's game, his pressure and power are undeniable. He has also been extremely aggressive in the clinch, which has led to both of his UFC finishes. Matt Frevola is a wrestler by trade but has shown himself to be far too hittable in his career as he wades into the pocket. Frevola is almost certainly the best wrestler Azaitar has faced, making him worth a play, but it's hard to trust a man who got dusted by Polo Reyes in a fight like this.
As sharp as he has looked in spots throughout his career, I would be lying if I said a pick for Conor McGregor in this spot is being made with 100 percent confidence. Not only is he coming back from yet another extended absence, but the way he made it a point to try to end his last two fights as quickly as possible indicates to me that even he has begun to see his gas tank as a problem. Still, Dustin Poirier was getting lit up by the long, straight punches of Dan Hooker during their contest, and McGregor comes into the rematch sporting his two-inch reach advantage. The other thing to note here is that FanDuel hasn't priced Dustin appropriately according to his (+250) odds, as he and Mcgregor are only separated by $3. This makes Dustin less appealing on the slate and encourages me to go for the man I see as the better striker.
I thought there was no way Marcin Prachnio would get another shot in the UFC after suffering his third consecutive first-round knockout loss to Mike Rodriguez in August. The Polish fighter looks like he has power and can fire a nice leg kick, but he has a habit of marching into the pocket with his hands down and didn't seem to know what to do when Rodriguez caught him in the Thai clinch at the end of their fight. He will face Khalil Rountree, an explosive athlete, and striker, who still views trying to knock his opponent out as the best takedown defense. Neither one of these fighters can be called trustworthy, but it's unlikely that Prachnio will try to wrestle, making the guy who has experienced a modicum of success in the UFC the obvious pick.
We have quite a few high-dollar selections among our captain plays, but Makhmud Muradov could be a nice differentiator at just $17. Muradov didn't look his best in a debut win over Alessio Di Chirico but really showed what he could do in his most recent bout against Trevor Smith, showcasing a slick, piston-like jab and an excellent command of range. Andrew Sanchez was able to knock out Wellington Turman by throwing the same combination repeatedly, but that will almost certainly not work against a boxer of Muradov's caliber. Sanchez does pose a threat as a credentialed wrestler, but the 32-year-old is 2-for-17 in takedown attempts over his last four fights, and Muradov has fended off the three attempts that have been made against him in the Octagon thus far.
Best Option: Amanda Ribas ($20)
Marina Rodriguez profiles as a solid Thai-style striker with a nice, aggressive guard, but I don't see her skill set playing very well against Amanda Ribas. Not only will she be the more agile, athletic fighter here, but Ribas should be able to get a lot of joy from her leg kicks, as Rodriguez tends to stand very heavy on her lead leg. While Rodriguez will have three inches of height on Ribas, the two command the same reach, and Ribas has plenty of power in her shots to compete in exchanges.
Those who just started watching MMA in the past couple of years probably don't have a favorable view of Brad Tavares as a fighter. After losing to Israel Adesanya, the veteran took an absolute shellacking from Edmen Shahbazyan, culminating in a first-round finish. Still, Tavares features excellent boxing and enters this contest with a 77 percent takedown defense rate. That last bit will be important against Antonio Carlos Junior, who primarily looks to get his opponents on the floor to work his submission game. The problem for "Shoeface" is that his striking basically consists of swinging big shots and pulling his head straight back as defense, which got him marked up in his loss to Uriah Hall. We should also note that Carlos Junior tends to slow down in fights, particularly when he has to shoot multiple takedown attempts. This all seems like good news for Tavares, who has never been submitted in 23 professional fights.
Movsar Evloev is excellent at pushing a pace while seamlessly mixing his wrestling game with his striking attack. Nik Lentz takes a similar approach to fighting, but his idea of pressure striking involves walking forward and not moving his head, which got him hit repeatedly by Arnold Allen's jab. Lentz's come-forward style and wrestling could make him a punt play at his price ($8), as we saw Mike Grundy get Evloev to the mat several times, but I see Evloev as the more skilled and athletic fighter overall, which should allow him to take home the victory.
Best Option: Nasrat Haqparast ($9)
It's a bit perplexing to see Haqparast as this big of an underdog against Arman Tsarukyan. While it's true that Haqparast is only one fight removed from a knockout loss to Drew Dober, Tsarukyan is much more of a grappler in the cage, and Haqparast will enter this contest sporting an 81 percent takedown defense rate in his six UFC fights. It's not as though Tsarukyan can't strike -he showed excellent combination punching against Davi Ramos - but I expect Haqparast to have much quicker hands here in addition to being the more dedicated pressure fighter. The 25-year-old can certainly be caught on the counter if he overextends himself, but as long as this stays on the feet, I like Haqparast to get his hand raised.
Amir Albazi looks like a very well-rounded MMA fighter. He has good boxing and footwork, can wrestle a bit, and has gotten eight of his 13 victories by submission. It's true that he eventually broke under the overwhelming pressure of Jose Torres outside the UFC, but Albazi bloodied his face with stiff jabs and right hands, and there are very few flyweights in the world who fight with the kind of pressure that Torres brings. That leads us to Zhalgas Zhumagulov, a fighter who certainly can wrestle and use pressure but tends to yield when his opponent takes the center of the cage. It's also notable that his shots generally come one at a time, which should give Albazi purchase as the busier fighter.
I'm cheating a little bit here (as I love to do) as Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood are listed at the same price, but Eye is marked as the slight dog in enough books that I feel like I can get away with this. At first glance, one might expect to pick Calderwood here as the more well-rounded mixed martial artist, but we saw Jennifer Maia light "Jojo" up with punching combinations as she stood in space with her head on the centerline. The fact that Eye is susceptible to takedowns (and not much of a submission threat) is certainly a concern, but I expect Eye to be the stronger fighter here, which should help her keep her feet.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Dan Hooker ($19) vs. Michael Chandler ($18) truly seems like a fight that can go either way to me. We have seen the former Bellator champion struggle with length and leg kicks before, but Hooker is a bit too accepting of pressure, which could allow Chander to swarm on the New Zealand-born fighter. The deciding factor here may be how well Hooker stuffs Chandler's takedown attempts. Hooker will enter the contest sporting a stout 79 percent defense rate, but it's safe to say he has never fought someone as credentialed as Chandler in this regard. Ultimately, I will give the slight edge to Hooker for the problems I mentioned above, but this fight could get very messy for Dan if he cannot discourage his opponent from coming forward.
Sara McMann ($16) and Julianna Pena ($13) want to do very similar things inside the cage. Both are incredibly low-volume strikers who want to get their hands on an opponent and take them down. If that were the end of the conversation, I'd have no problem picking McMann as the physically stronger fighter. My issue here is that Pena is an aggressive submission grappler, and McMann has a nasty habit of being submitted. I'm especially concerned about her loss to Marion Reneau, as she was able to get top position but did very little while Reneau was setting up the triangle choke that led to the end of the fight. I will give McMann the edge as the person I think will be in the dominant position most often, but those exchanges on the bottom will be far from comfortable for those who roster her.