The UFC makes its debut in Moscow, Russia this weekend with a Fight Night card this Saturday morning (10:30am EST lock). The card is headlined by a Heavyweight matchup between power puncher, Mark Hunt, and submission specialist, Aleksei Oleinik, and showcases several local fighters. This is a tricky card to navigate on DK because there are multiple fighters making their UFC debut, multiple fighters on short notice, and several lopsided matchups. There are not a lot of underdogs to feel confident in this weekend, so roster construction will be a bit of a challenge with only 12 fights to choose from. As usual, I will highlight my favorite plays in each format to help narrow down your decisions.
* Current betting odds and finish props can be found at BestFightOdds.com
Mark Hunt ($8600)(-150) vs Aleksei Oleinik ($7600)(+140) – The main event of the evening is a strong GPP target as both fighters often win via finish or lose. Both fighters are over 40 years old but Hunt still packs a ton of power in his hands while Oleinik’s submission skills remain sharp. The outcome of this fight will likely be determined by whether the fight takes place on the feet or on the ground. Hunt has improved his takedown defense throughout his career, yet still struggles against the top wrestlers in the division. Fortunately for him, Oleinik is not a very good wrestler and often has to resort to pulling his opponents down into his guard or relying on them to make a big mistake. If the fight does hit the ground, Oleinik will have a great chance to finish the fight, as Hunt is not great off his back and has been submitted in 6 of his 12 career losses. Oleinik will have a massive 8” reach advantage but he’s plodding on the feet and is a very sloppy striker. He leaves a lot of openings and Hunt should be able to take advantage if Oleinik stands with him for too long. Hunt isn’t as durable as he used to be and has been finished multiple times by strikes in recent years (usually in the later rounds due to sustained damage), but I still think he can take more damage than Oleinik.
On DK I think it makes a lot of sense to target this fight heavily in tournaments. It has the best finish prop on the entire card at -675 to end inside the distance, and -120 to end in the first round. Hunt is my preferred play in this matchup since I think Oleinik will have a hard time getting the fight to the ground. Oleinik is very aggressive and I expect him to close the distance early, leaving Hunt plenty of opportunity to knock him out. Hunt strikes at a low rate though, so he will be heavily dependent on a KO within the first 2-3 rounds to pay off his salary. With a -125 finish prop, I like his chances. If you’re playing multiple lineups, I would recommend having some exposure to Oleinik given his price and path to victory. If he pulls off the win, he will very likely end up on the winning lineup. If you are playing several lineups in large-field GPPs, you don’t have to go all-in on this fight since there will be some scenarios where Hunt finishes in the later rounds and fails to break 80 points. In that case he’s not likely to end up on the winning lineup at $8600.
In cash games, this is normally the type of fight that I would fade completely given the low floor on each fighter. However, on this card there are very few fighters below $8k that are even remotely safe, so I am considering using Oleinik because I would rather maximize my upside in this scenario if I am going to take on risk. He has the best win odds and finish prop below Arlovski so I think it makes sense unless you prefer to go with a more balanced roster construction.
Cash Game Plays
Petr Yan ($9600)(-825) – If I am paying up in cash games this weekend, Yan is the clear choice over other heavy favorites like Khabilov or Emeev. Not only is he the biggest favorite on the card, but he also has the best finish prop by a wide margin (-205) and fights at a much higher pace than the other two. His opponent, Jin Soo Son, is taking this fight on short notice and is somewhat of an unknown, but he has faced much lower-level competition on the Japanese regional scene and should be overmatched in this spot. Yan is well-rounded and can win fights on the feet or on the ground. He has solid offensive wrestling and BJJ, combined with very high-output striking, so he can score very well in a decision. This gives him an excellent floor to go along with the upside of an early finish. Yan also makes for a strong play in tournaments, however, given the lack of quality underdogs on this card I wouldn’t recommend starting your lineups with him, but I would pay up for him if you have the money leftover.
Merab Dvalishvili ($9200)(-500) vs Terrion Ware ($7000)(+435) – This fight is by far my favorite target in cash games given the very high floor of each fighter. Dvalishvili is one of the more reliable targets on the card with his incredibly high-paced wrestling game. He’s lost two close fights in the UFC but has landed a combined 17 takedowns against solid grapplers and scored 71 and 79 points in both decision losses. He gets a great stylistic matchup against Ware, who has struggled with his defensive grappling, giving up 13 combined takedowns in his three UFC losses. The only knock on Dvalishvili in this matchup is that he does not have much finishing upside according to Vegas, as this fight is the most likely to go to decision on the whole card (+185 finish prop). This is what makes Ware an appealing punt option in cash games and is the reason why I’m strongly considering stacking this fight. Despite struggling in the grappling department, Ware is very durable and has never been KO’d. He also strikes at a high volume of 5.18 SLpM and has put up 30, 44, and 56 points in three decision losses. I don’t think Ware will win this fight, but he has the best floor of any fighter in his price range.
Other Cash Game Plays: Jordan Johnson ($8700), Jan Blachowicz ($8000), Andrei Arlovski ($7900), Kajan Johnson ($6700)(pure punt option)
Mairbek Taisumov ($8900)(-475), Aleksei Kunchenko ($9000)(-475), Magomed Ankalaev ($9100)(-400) – Given the number of lopsided matchups on this card, the upper pricing tier presents several appealing options for GPPs. If you can’t pay all the way up to Yan, the 8900-9100 range offers multiple fighters with strong finishing upside. Each of Taisumov, Kunchenko, and Ankalaev have finish props greater than -120.
Taisumov is the most reliable option of the three since we’ve seen him fight 7 times in the UFC and we know what we’re getting out of him. He is an absolute killer and has won 5-straight fights via KO, scoring over 90 points in each of them. The downside to Taisumov is that he doesn’t have the best volume and is taking on a decent defensive fighter in Desmond Green, who has never been finished. He’s also likely to be the highest owned in this range because of his name value. Taisumov makes for a better play in smaller-field GPPs and is a candidate to fade in larger-field contests.
Kunchenko is the biggest unknown in this range. He’s making his UFC debut over fading veteran, Thiago Alves, but is highly regarded in Russian MMA as the Welterweight champion out of the M-1 promotion. There’s not a lot of recent tape on Kunchenko, but he’s a 34-year-old fighter with an undefeated 18-0 record and a well-rounded style. He’s a technical Muay-Thai striker with good wrestling and excellent cardio. He also has a high fight IQ and is strong defensively, although he hasn’t faced much adversity in the cage. Alves doesn’t have the best grappling defense and has been KO’d twice over his last four fights so Kunchenko has multiple paths to victory.
Ankalaev faces the most risk against a wild and aggressive finisher in Marcin Prachnio, but he also has the most upside in this range because of the nature of this matchup. Prachnio constantly moves forward looking to throw power shots but appears to have terrible fight IQ and leaves himself very open defensively. He was KO’d early by Sam Alvey using this style in his UFC debut – a fighter who’s notoriously easy to gameplan against. Ankalaev is a finisher himself, with explosive striking and heavy ground-and-pound. He also has a Sambo-wrestling background and has much better footwork than Prachnio. Ankalaev dominated Paul Craig in his UFC debut, but blew it late in the fight, getting submitted with 1 second left. He disappointed a lot of people in that fight, which should leave him lower owned than this matchup dictates.
Nikita Krylov ($8200)(-125) vs Jan Blachowicz ($8000)(+115) – With very few appealing underdogs on the card, the mid-range makes a lot of sense to target in GPPs. The co-main event between Krylov and Blachowicz should be a close matchup and it’s my favorite fight to target in this range. Krylov returns to the UFC after a 4-fight hiatus with his finish-or-be-finished style, as none of his 29 pro fights have gone to decision. Krylov is a skilled offensive fighter with a good mix of KO and submission wins on his resume, but he takes a lot of risks and leaves holes defensively. He fights at a high pace (6.55 SLpM) and appears to have good cardio to back it up, although he’s only been to the third round once. This is an interesting stylistic clash as Blachowicz is incredibly durable and often goes to decision. He’s a decent striker with great body kicks but doesn’t have the output or power in his hands that Krylov does. Blachowicz does have a bit of offensive wrestling though so he should put up a decent score for the price in a decision. He represents the slightly safer option in this matchup while Krylov has more upside. I’ve been going back and forth on the winner all week and will likely just end up having equal amounts of each in GPPs.
Khalid Murtazaliev ($8400)(-160) – Murtazaliev is taking this fight on one-week’s notice and will be the smaller fighter against CB Dollaway, but he’s in play for an early KO because of Dollaway’s weak chin. Murtazaliev has a solid ground game but will likely have to find success on the feet because of Dollaway’s high-level wrestling background. His output on the feet isn’t great, so his upside depends on the finish but Murtazaliev comes in with a 11 KO wins and a -105 finish prop.
Cheap GPP Options With Upside (Low Exposure Plays): Adam Yandiev ($7500), Thiago Alves ($7200), Marcin Prachnio ($7100)
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