This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Close fights are strewn throughout the UFC Vegas 50 fight card, which takes place Saturday at 4 p.m. EST. We'll cover everything on the 14-fight slate, including a debutante underdog and a large prop play involving one of the sport's hottest up-and-coming prospects. 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
Miranda Maverick ($9,400)
After being thoroughly outgrappled by Erin Blanchfield, Maverick will likely be thrilled to find an upright boxer across from her in Sabina Mazo. While her length and volume can make her a problem for any opponent, Mazo has shown herself to be susceptible to calf kicks in the past, which should work to immobilize her and allow Maverick to close the distance for takedowns. Mazo will come into this fight with a respectable takedown defense rate (68 percent) but has yet to face a committed grappler in the UFC. Maverick put up 99 DraftKings points in her only other grapple-heavy performance and should have a similarly strong floor with some upside here.
JJ Aldrich ($7,700)
Gillian Robertson has shown herself to be one of the most dynamic top-position grapplers in the division, but we have seen her wilt against physically strong wrestlers in the past, spending a combined 16:27 on her back in losses to Taila Santos and Miranda Maverick. Aldrich has leaned on her wrestling heavily of late and should be able to control the fight with her aggressive combination striking for as long as it stays on the feet.
Javid Basharat ($8,700)
Bashrat is an explosive fighter who likes to put maximum pressure on his opponents in hopes that he breaks them or forces them to grapple. Alternatively, he can employ a wrestling-heavy attack, using his positional awareness and ferocious ground-and-pound to dominate. Trevin Jones was able to find thrilling knockouts against Timur Valiev and Mario Bautista, but he's too willing to have the fight his opponent wants, and it's dangerous to allow a fighter as dynamic as Basharat to lead the dance.
Damon Jackson ($7,800)
Jackson's gas tank and wrestling ability will likely make him appealing as an underdog here, particularly against an opponent like Kamuela Kirk, who will look to stand at range and throw big, single shots. While he was taken down five times in his UFC debut against Makwan Amirkhani, it's important to note that Kirk is a capable grappler, who will likely do what he can to force scrambles on the ground. I expect Jackson to be a step ahead in those exchanges en route to taking over the fight with pressure and pace.
Azamat Murzakanov ($8,800)
Tafon Nchukwi executed a fantastic game plan against the tall and rangy Mike Rodriguez in September, blitzing the opponent with strikes before doing excellent work with knees and elbows in the clinch. While he looks to have made strides with both his quickness and head movement, I don't think it will be enough to defeat Murzakanov, who is light on his feet, has tremendous power and can wrestle with heavy top pressure. At just 5-foot-10, Murzakanov often needs to think about how to close down range but has done so without much issue thus far in his career, having finished eight of his 10 victories.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Kris Moutinho UNDER 12.5 Minutes of Fight Time and Dalcha Lungiambula OVER 12.5 Minutes of Fight Time
Muntinho may have a finish rate under 50 percent in his career, but Guido Cannetti has seen the final bell just three times in 14 professional fights. Both of these men fight at a blistering pace, and Mutinho showed little regard for defense in his UFC debut against Sean O'Malley. While each can wrestle if the situation calls for it, I think most of this fight will take place with the two swinging away while one has his back against the fence.
Lungiambula is a fast, powerful striker, but tends to throw one or two strikes at a time while hanging back and looking for counter shots. Cody Brundage won't be the only takedown artist in the cage, as we have seen "Champion" use his judo effectively in past fights. This should help Lungiambula keep himself upright when Brundage opts for the clinch. The lack of output, combined with the amount of jockeying for position that's likely to take place along the fence, should work to eat up the clock.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Karl Roberson – 1.95X Multiplier
Roberson has always had an issue with submission grapplers, but it looks as though the matchmakers did him a favor, as Khalil Rountree has never landed a takedown in his 11-fight UFC career. This should pave the way for Roberson to put his kickboxing chops on full display, which includes a sharp jab he can use to control range. Roberson has shown he is no slouch on the ground offensively, so don't be surprised if he looks for his own takedowns, as Rountree has defended shots at just a 50 percent rate. Rountree tends to slow down later in fights, meaning that "Baby K" has a clear path to victory if he can weather the early storm.
AJ Fletcher – 2.35 X Multiplier
Something doesn't sit right with Matthew Semelsberger being such a large favorite. While he is an impressive finisher, the combined record of the 29-year-old's opponents in the UFC is just 2-6. Meanwhile, Fletcher has shown good power and a decent wrestling base en route to a 9-0 start to his MMA career. Neither competitor worries too much about defense, which makes it hard to be confident about the outcome, but I will generally take the substantial multiplier in spots like this, particularly when said fighter seems a bit more well-rounded.
Bets to Consider
Sodiq Yusuff via KO/TKO/DQ (+200)
With all due respect to Alex Caceres, the fighters he has beaten during his five-fight winning streak have largely been submission specialists and those light on UFC experience. While a finish of Seungwoo Choi is impressive, it must be noted that "Sting" hurt Caceres multiple times in that fight before he was able to find the back of his opponent and sink in the rear-naked choke. The instinct to skirt around the outside of the Octagon with his hands down won't do "Bruce Leeroy" any favors against Yusuff, who likes to suffocate his opponents with pressure and land big shots. Yusuff was taken down multiple times by Arnold Allen, but "Super" has never lost by submission, and Caceres is more likely to opportunistically find a choke than employ a consistent wrestling attack.
Alex Pereira via KO/TKO/DQ (-125)
An inside-the-distance prop of (-700) all but ensures the fight between Pereira and Bruno Silva doesn't see the final bell. The question we have to ask ourselves is "who lands the deciding blow?" We have seen Silva get wild and reckless when pressuring opponents, which nearly got him knocked out by Jordan Wright before Wright succumbed to his own defensive liabilities. Pereira is an expert at keeping range and landing counter shots, which puts Silva at a large disadvantage. "Blindado" has said he has no plans to wrestle his opponent, and even if that's just idle talk, there's no telling what heavy grappling would do to the gas tank of Silva, who has slowed down in fights before.
Terrance McKinney via submission (+500)
I had no intention of recommending this prop before seeing the line, but if betting is chiefly about finding value, it seems only logical to take a shot here. Drew Dober has been submitted in four of his last five losses, and he has been taken down 11 times in his last three fights. McKinney's wildness was the reason he found himself in the initial scramble against Fares Ziam, but he will look for his own takedowns, and now has logged seven of his 12 professional MMA wins by submission. It would be mildly shocking if McKinney playing the bull in the china shop doesn't catch up with him sooner rather than later, but he is facing a fighter who has displayed a real weakness against grapplers in the past, which is more than enough reason to give a long look to this line.
Yadong Song via KO/TKO/DQ (+100)
This play almost seems too straightforward. Moraes has been on a long downward spiral since his days as a title contender, having lost each of his last four fights by KO/TKO. Yadong hasn't exactly been a knockout artist in his UFC career but has shown excellent timing on counters and the ability to change the complexion of a fight with one strike. Among other things, Moraes has developed a bad habit of running out of gas after the first round, and Yadong is too precise and powerful to let a tired opponent in front of him off the hook. Moraes looks to be in trouble unless he can finish the fight early, and the 24-year-old has been finished by strikes just once in his 26-fight career.
Plays to Consider on Monkey Knife Fight
Magomed Ankalaev UNDER 96.5 Strikes and Thiago Santos OVER 55.5 Strikes
Ankalaev has put on some noteworthy performances in the Octagon, but it's become clear that he fights to the pace of his opposition, saying after his fight with Volkan Oezdemir that his opponent's hesitancy to engage was the reason for a lack of action after the first round. Santos has fought with an abundance of caution after returning from knee surgery, but regularly surpasses this line in three-round fights, and should be able to put in more than enough volume if this fight doesn't end quickly. While he only put up 48 strikes in the five-round bout with Johnny Walker, I attribute that to the range and height of the 29-year-old more than anything else.