This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
Welcome back for the third installment of the MMA Mashup. This card is absolutely exploding at the seams with a total of 15 fights, which allowed us to really explore the various spaces and offer multiple plays for each slate listed. This includes a (+550) play that doesn't seem to be taking recent history into account. (One final note before we begin: all betting lines were taken from the various sportsbooks offered on the RotoWire Sports Betting section.)
Without further ado, let's get to it.
DraftKings Plays to Consider
Curtis Blaydes ($9,400)
That's a mighty big price to pay for Blaydes, but he earned all that and more in his last five-round fight against Alexander Volkov, notching (what would have been) 173 points on the strength of 14 takedowns and over 20 minutes(!) of control time. Derrick Lewis can knock anyone out at any time, but he has been taken down by every opponent who has tried, including those not known for their wrestling in the cage, such as Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi. Blaydes tends to tire in fights and "The Black Beast" carries his immense power into the later rounds, so an attritive knockout here is not out of the question. I find it incredibly hard to pick in that direction, though, as "Razor" should get the overwhelming majority of this fight exactly where he wants it.
Chris Daukaus ($8,600)
A favorite this cheap for a fight that will almost certainly finish early means that DraftKings players should have a lot of exposure to this one come Saturday. As much as I would love to see Aleksei Oleinik get his 60th win as he pushes towards the end of a fantastic MMA career, he just walks (or plods) into the line of fire too often when trying to get his takedowns. This has led to absolute annihilation at the hands of fighters like Walt Harris, Alistair Overeem and Lewis. The quick hands and power of Daukaus should make him another entry on that list, and while I would never build a lineup around the 60-second win bonus, I will say that it would not shock me in the slightest to see the 31-year-old pick up an extra 25 points here.
Jared Vanderaa ($7,100)
Sergey Spivak showcased a slick boxing game and some improved wrestling in his fight against Carlos Felipe. I expect him to have an even sharper boxing advantage in this fight, but we saw in Spivak's fight with Marcin Tybura that big, physical wrestlers can give him problems. Using his physicality and being committed to takedowns are the basics of what drives Jared Vanderaa's game, married with a good gas tank for someone his size. Spivak will likely land good shots as Vanderaa looks for slow counters in the opening minutes, but this is the kind of fight where I think size will win the day, and with it will come a plethora of points for takedowns and control time.
Phil Hawes ($8,200)
Hawes has rounded out his game in a stark way since his first Contender Series loss in 2016. While the wrestling is still there when he needs it, he has gotten very comfortable as a combination puncher who can pour on the pressure. Nassourdine Imavov is a slick striker who likes to bounce in and out of range but tends to leave his hands low, which got him cracked on more than one occasion in his fight with Jordan Williams. He has also shown susceptibility to double-leg takedowns on the regional scene, meaning Hawes should be able to ply both of his trades.
Bets to consider:
Andrei Arlovski vs. Tom Aspinall goes to decision (+140)
It may seem a bit scary to take middling dog odds when dealing with Aspinall, who has finished each of his nine wins, but Arlovski has a knack for slowing the pace of fights to a crawl, which limits the output of his opponents. It also needs to be said that Arlovski's chin has held up incredibly well for a man with so many miles in the cage, having been finished just once in his last six losses. While he doesn't wrestle much, we know the former heavyweight champion will take the fight to the ground if the situation calls for it, as we saw in his fight with Stefan Struve. Aspinall's last loss came at the hands of someone who relentlessly wrestled him, which could make this a viable strategy for Arlovski as he tries to stay safe.
Drakkar Klose by Decision (+125)
As I wrote (and we saw) last week in relation to Polyana Viana, it doesn't make much sense to play a fighter straight up when they generally win fights in a particular way. Klose has notched seven of his 11 victories by decision, with his last finish coming when he was a veteran of just four MMA fights. I expect Klose to be the much faster, cleaner striker in this spot, with enough scrambling ability to get out of sticky situations, should the fight hit the ground.
Danny Chavez via KO/TKO: (+280)
Chavez's best attributes include his fast hands and noticeable power, so why doesn't he have more than three KO/TKOs on his record? One reason might be that he is something of a pressuring counter fighter, always waiting for his opponent to throw before answering with a shot. Chavez may be rounding into form on this front, having finished three of his last four opponents. That could be bad news for Jared Gordon, who has been finished by KO/TKO in each of his last three losses and tends to welcome firefights, especially when he has trouble getting his wrestling game going.
John Castaneda wins by KO/TKO (+550)
I know what you are thinking, but this isn't just recency bias because of the way Sean O'Malley sent Eddie Wineland to the land of wind and ghosts in June. I am also thinking of Wineland's previous fight against Grigorii Popov, where the UFC veteran got rocked multiple times in Round 2 before finding his footing and ultimately securing the victory. Castenada is a heavy-handed pressure fighter who is much more agile and defensively responsible than Popov, and I do think we need to start asking questions anytime someone with as many fight miles as Wineland gets knocked out so badly.
FanDuel Plays to Consider:
Shana Dobson ($13)
Put simply, I don't know exactly know what kind of fighter Casey O'Neill is yet. The tape shows a reasonable pressure fighter who will look to wrestle and grapple, but I think her lack of strength will be evident in this division, particularly against someone like Dobson, who has shown knockout power in the past. I'm slating this for FanDuel because I think Dobson will be able to stuff quite a few takedowns on her road to victory here, which can be a sneaky slate breaker if all goes to plan.
Nate Landwehr ($16)
The fight between Landwehr and Julian Erosa promises to be an action fest, but the problem with playing a fight like this on DraftKings is that much of the work will likely happen at range, which doesn't leave much opportunity for non-significant strikes. Not only do we get a much higher return on these strikes on FanDuel (0.9 pts), but Landwehr can also use his 85 percent takedown defense rate to score some points, as Erosa tends to turn to a shoddy looking wrestling game when fights are not going his way.
Darrick Minner ($10)
Minner is the very definition of a fighter who comes to kill or be killed. Of his 36 fights, only three have seen the final bell. The method of choice for the 30-year-old is submission, with 22 of his 25 wins coming via tap out. As you might expect, this means that Minner will continue to attempt submissions in the Octagon until he gets one, already achieving a rate of 4.5 attempts per 15 minutes in his first two bouts. While it is true that Charles Rosa has never been submitted, he was put in an awful lot of tough spots by Bryce Mitchell, who was able to control him the majority of the fight. As we saw with Julian Marquez last week, these submission attempts can add up, particularly so at an underdog price.
Jamall Emmers ($20)
Emmers is a slick striker with a wrestling pedigree who has yet to be taken down inside the Octagon. While he shouldn't want to engage in any grappling with Chas Skelly, I feel that Skelly will quickly decide he wants this fight on the ground due to the speed, athleticism, and two-inch reach advantage of his opponent. Skelly has amassed just a 34 percent takedown accuracy rate in his 12 UFC fights, which should allow Emmers to accrue points from his volume striking as well as his defense.
Monkey Knife Fight Plays to Consider
Drako Rodriguez OVER 32.5 significant strikes and Aiemann Zahabi OVER 42.5 significant strikes.
There isn't that much tape readily available on Drako Rodriguez. What does exist is early in his career and shows the 24-year-old lurching for takedowns. Recent form, however, suggests something different. Drako looked quite comfortable on the feet in his Contender Series bout, only going for a takedown opportunistically after catching his opponent's leg. Zahabi features a solid 72 percent takedown defense rate in his three fights and while it's true that he has been taken down multiple times in two of his three bouts, I just don't see much here that tells me Drako will be committed to grounding this fight.
Ketlen Vieira UNDER 62.5 significant strikes and Yana Kunitskaya UNDER 53.5 significant strikes.
We have seen both these ladies turn in high-volume striking performances in the past, but I have my doubts that Vieira will want to have a kickboxing match with Kunitskaya here, and the 31-year-old hasn't shied away from a grappling opponent in the past. I expect a lot of blanket and clinch work in this one, which should keep us comfortably under the totals.
Rafael Alves OVER 38.5 significant strikes and Pat Sabatini OVER 33.5 significant strikes.
These totals are low enough to feel like a trap play, but I suppose I'll be the huckleberry, as I just don't see both fighters necessarily wanting to go to the ground here. We saw the explosive striking of Alves in his Contender Series appearance, and while he showcased his submission skills as well, it doesn't seem as though something like a jumping guillotine will work against Sabatini. Sabatini is the more prolific submission artist here, but his wrestling on the regional scene doesn't seem all that technical, which gives me the impression that Alves will be able to keep his feet long enough for both men to hit their respective totals.