This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
UFC 264 features 13 fights, with none bigger than the trilogy bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. We cover it all across five different platforms on this edition of the MMA Mashup, including a potentially sneaky underdog in a contest that pits two 0-2 fighters in the organization against each other. 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
Max Griffin ($8,700)
Griffin likes to box as his primary mode of attack, but we've seen "Pain" transition to a wrestling game when facing an opponent vulnerable to takedowns. That describes Carlos Condit in a nutshell, as the "Natural Born Killer" will come into the contest with just a 39 percent takedown defense rate. Griffin will need to be sharp on the ground due to Condit's tricky guard game, but the 35-year-old has yet to be submitted in his 25-fight professional career, which gives me confidence that he will be able to avoid the land mines and rack up points on the ground.
Michel Pereira ($8,900)
Given Pereira's (warranted) reputation of being an all-action, acrobatic striker, it may surprise some to learn that he has landed two takedowns in three of his five UFC fights. Niko Price has notched a solid 72 percent takedown defense rate in the Octagon, but strong fighters like Geoff Neal and Tim Means didn't have a problem taking Price to the canvas, and Pereira is one of the bigger fighters at welterweight. I expect him to use that size here, particularly since "The Hybrid" will be throwing every shot with fight-ending intentions.
Trevin Giles ($8,000)
Giles is a slick boxer who can't help but mix wrestling and grappling into every bout, whether it's in his best interest or not. That instinct should be beneficial here, as the tendency for Dricus Du Plessis to give ground in the cage should allow Giles to swarm and get his takedown game going. As the superior striker, Giles should be able to notch a few takedowns and garner some control time before putting a stamp on the bout while standing.
Yana Kunitskaya ($7,900)
Kunitskaya has a few things going for her in the matchup against Irene Aldana. Not only will she be a kickboxer against a boxer (a dynamic I've highlighted in this article series before), but she should be able to use her physicality to get takedowns and force clinch situations, as she did in her fight with Lina Lansberg. Aldana has done well to stay on her feet under threat in the past, but I think Kunitskaya's complement of weapons will combine to give her a nice score as the underdog here.
Plays to Consider on FanDuel
Brad Tavares ($20)
Tavares may be seen as someone with one foot out the door due to his recent inactivity, but the Hawaiian looked like his old self in a return fight with Antonio Carlos Junior, stuffing 11 of 12 takedowns en route to a decision victory. Not only will Omari Akhmedov shoot for takedowns, but the denial of those shots will work to deplete his gas tank, which should leave Tavares to do some appreciable damage after logging points for staying upright.
Jennifer Maia ($20)
Maia and Jessica Eye are both boxers, with Maia being appreciably faster and more technical. This will leave Eye with little choice but to turn to a wrestling game we've seen in spurts, which I think she will attempt to lean on heavily here. Maia may have what seems like a subpar takedown defense rate (53 percent), but it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of that damage was done by Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche, two incredibly strong fighters.
Stephen Thompson ($18)
Thompson has been in his share of boring, tactical fights, but that may have given prospective owners a false sense of just how dangerous he can be in the right matchup. We saw this in his fight with Vicente Luque, and now he has another come-forward power striker to deal with in Gilbert Burns. We have seen the Brazilian struggle with lengthy counter punchers before, and it should only take a few shots before Burns attempts to take the fight to the ground. The issue is that he will be pitting his 36 percent takedown accuracy rate against Thompson's robust 78 percent defense rate.
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
Zhalgas Zhumagulov OVER 2.0 Takedowns, Ilia Topuria UNDER 1.0 Takedowns.
One of these plays seems like a gimme, as there is no earthly reason why Topuria would want to take down a grappling guru like Ryan Hall, despite his comments about who would do better in leg lock positions. Zhumagulov may have a high bar to clear, but the Kazak fighter has been a tireless pursuer of takedowns in his UFC career, having shot 14 times in two fights. While his success rate isn't great (just 21 percent) Jerome Rivera has been taken down at will be the two fighters who have pursued that path, and I doubt Zhumagulov will want to stay on the feet with a rangy kicker like Rivera.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Hu Yaozong – 2.2x Multiplier
Yaozong versus Alen Amedovski is a difficult fight to pick, as it's a battle of two men who haven't looked very good in their respective UFC careers. This being the case, it seems strange that the gulf between the two is so wide. Yaozong may have been hurt badly by Rashad Coulter, but he got up and kept fighting, while Amedovski was knocked out almost instantly by John Phillips. This durability, along with his desire to use his size in the clinch, has me picking Yaozong, as he has the potential to simply outlast the opponent in this spot.
Dustin Poirier – 2.05 Multiplier
This fight is DFS gold no matter what site it's played on, as the relative skill level of each competitor leaves them reasonably priced in a fight that's incredibly likely to be high-paced before ending in a finish. So why am I picking Poirier? If the last fight is any indication, McGregor has literally had to learn a new phase of MMA (dealing with calf kicks) in six months. Even if I thought this was possible, we would still need to consider Conor's ever-present gas tank issues, as well as the fact that his fight schedule has included taking long breaks in action since his fight with Eddie Alvarez in 2016. Dustin should be the more battle-tested fighter here, while also having more weapons to bring to the battle. McGregor hurt "the Diamond" more than once before he turned the tide in the rematch, so it's hard to be tremendously confident either way, but I like Poirier to stay composed and do what he needs to in order to weather an early storm.
Tai Tuivasa -1.95 x Multiplier
In the past, I've flirted with the idea that, despite his size and athleticism, Greg Hardy isn't actually that big of a puncher for the heavyweight division. This seems to have been backed up by recent events, as Hardy landing multiple clean shots to the face of Marcin Tybura in his last fight didn't result in the Polish fighter looking anywhere close to danger. Add to this the fact that Hardy has proven to have one solid round of cardio, and it doesn't take much imagination to see this fight ending badly against someone who hits as hard as Tuivasa.
Bets to Consider
Sean O'Malley finishes Kris Moutinho in Round 1: (+120)
I feel that I know my readers well enough to share something in confidence: I don't really know what to do with this fight, other than to tell you that O'Malley is going to win. All the lines are so wide and salaries are so expensive that the best way to play this isn't all that obvious. So why have I settled on this play? Moutinho is a striker who will look to walk his opponents down but is so mechanical in his movements that I expect the fluid power striking of Sean O'Malley to absolutely light him on fire in early exchanges. This would be true even if he didn't possess four inches of advantage in both height and reach. Mouninho is a kicker and we've seen O'Malley have trouble with leg kicks in the past, but barring another injury, the writing seems to be on the wall here.