The UFC returns to Sao Paolo, Brazil this weekend with a Fight Night card this Saturday evening (6:30pm EST lock). The card has seen several changes to the main event and is now headlined by an exciting matchup at Light Heavyweight between Thaigo Santos and Eryk Anders. It’s a difficult card to take a stand on fighters since most fights have a wide range of outcomes and all but two are expected to end inside the distance. It’s also a unique card in that we have 14 fights to choose from, so I expect ownership to be more spread out. 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
Thiago Santos ($8600)(-160) vs Eryk Anders ($7600)(+150) – The main event features a pair of heavy hitters who will be moving up to 205 for the first time. Anders is taking the fight on just 6 days notice, which is one of the reasons why Santos is a -160 favorite, but he is an elite athlete (former NCAA football player) and fought just last month. Santos is coming off a decision win, but 12 of his 15 UFC fights have ended inside the distance and this one is expected to as well, with a -610 finish prop (best on the card). He is known for his devastating kicking game while Anders carries a ton of power in his hands. Santos typically has success when his opponents stand at a distance because it lets him tee off with kicks but struggles when they get inside boxing range. His chin is a bit questionable and we saw him get KO’d by David Branch (a good boxer) just two fights ago.
Anders can close the distance in a hurry, but he often sits back and spends too much time at Santos’ preferred range, which is a concern for him here. He appears to be the more durable fighter but is yet to face anyone who hits as hard as Santos so I’m not sure how patient he can be in this matchup. If the fight doesn’t end early, the potential for 5 rounds favors Anders, who has the better cardio and tends to start off a bit slow.
This fight is a great target in both formats and I like the idea of stacking it in cash because of the upside. Each fighter is capable of an early KO, so it’s a bit too risky to go with just one of them in cash. In GPPs, I will have heavy exposure to both sides, but I slightly prefer Anders for the savings and because I believe his durability will be the difference.
Cash Game Plays
Livinha Souza ($9600)(-1100), Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos ($9500)(-850) – Given the wide range of outcomes for most of these fights, I prefer paying up for the safety of two of the massive favorites in cash games. Souza is the top option on the card in both formats for her incredible win odds and -210 finish prop. The former Invicta champion gets a cupcake matchup for her debut at home in Brazil against Alex Chambers. Chambers is a decent offensive wrestler but is 1-3 in the UFC and has been beat up in every fight. Even when she’s able to land takedowns, Chambers is easily reversed, and she’s been submitted in 2 of her losses. Souza is a high-level grappler and carries a bit of power on the feet. She should be the better fighter in every area and is a great bet to put up the highest score on the card.
Zaleski is the next best option in cash games as a -850 favorite. He is an experienced striker taking on newcomer, Luigi Vendramini, who is taking the fight on short notice. Vendramini is young and inexperienced, which makes him a bit of an unknown, but he’s faced some very low-level competition on the regional scene and this is a big step up for him. Zaleski lands at a high volume and has added some more dynamic kicking attacks recently, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a highlight-reel finish here.
Charles Oliveira is also an option as a big favorite, but I prefer paying up to Zaleski in cash if possible. Oliveira has the best finish prop on the card at -245, but he’s shown the tendency to quit later in fights if he can’t find the finish.
$7k Range – If you plan on paying up for two of the heavy favorites, then you’ll need to round out your lineup with two fighters from the 7k range. The two combos at the top of the list for me are Leites/Pedersoli (allows you to get Zaleski) and Henrique/Dunham (need to use C. Oliveira over Zaleski).
The first combo seems like the safer option since Leites ($7800)(-125) is now the favorite over Lombard and has the best chance to win of anyone in that range. Both fighters have fading durability as they get up there in age, but Leites will have a massive 7” reach advantage, which should help keep him out of harm’s way. His ceiling is a bit lacking though, since he’ll have a hard time getting Lombard to the ground early in the fight where he’s at his best.
Pedersoli ($6900)(+365) is a risk of getting finished early against the heavy-hitting Alex Oliveira, but he has the best offensive talent and output of anyone in the lower tier and could put up a decent score if he can extend the fight.
The second combo is a bit riskier but also offers more upside. Henrique ($7500)(+135) is moving down to 205 for the first time and the betting odds are moving in his favor against newcomer, Ryan Spann. Both are primarily grapplers who struggle on the feet, so this matchup has a wide range of outcomes. Spann will have a massive 7” reach advantage but has been very hit or miss and doesn’t have a great chin. Henrique isn’t reliable, but he represents an upside play with good odds value.
Dunham ($7300)(+175) is a bit risky as well but offers upside at his price tag for his incredible striking volume (5.46 SLpM). He was once known for his durability, but that is fading, and he has been vulnerable to body shots in recent fights. Trinaldo hits hard but isn’t much of a finisher so Dunham should have a decent chance of making it to a decision and landing more volume. The downside is that Dunham will have a hard time winning on the scorecards in Brazil unless it’s decisive.
I’m currently leaning towards going with the first combo in cash and going heavier on Henrique and Dunham in GPPs.
Carlos Oliveira ($9400)(-400) – As I mentioned above, Charles Oliveira has the best finish prop on the card and that makes him a strong target in GPPs. He’s a high-level submission grappler with improved wrestling and 18 of his 20 UFC fights have ended in a finish. The downside to Oliveira is that he often quits at the first sign of adversity and has been dropped or stopped in 4 of his last 6 fights. Luckily for him this is a favorable matchup against Giagos, who’s best skillset is his grappling, but has been submitted in 3 of his 6 losses.
Oliveira is likely to be one the highest-owned fighters in this tier along with Souza, so you can pivot to other fighters with upside like Zaleski and Alex Oliveira in some lineups if you’re looking to differentiate in large-field GPPs.
Mid Range – If you’re looking to build lineups around the middle pricing tier, then my preferred targets are the Barao/Ewell and Roberston/Silva fights.
Barao ($8500)(-155) has taken a lot of damage lately and seen a drop in performance in recent fights but he has some upside in this matchup if he still has anything left in the tank. Ewell ($7700)(+145) is a boxer who will have a 6” reach advantage but has poor takedown defense and has been submitted by lower-level grapplers on the regional scene. Barao is a BJJ black belt with several submission wins throughout his career and is a sneaky bet to finish if he can get the fight to the ground. He’s my preferred play in this matchup, but I will also have some exposure to Ewell in case Barao’s durability is that far gone.
The other matchup features two inexperienced grapplers, which has a very wide range of outcomes. Both fighters will be looking to get the fight to the ground which adds the potential for several grappling exchanges and possibly a submission. There’s also a chance that they will be evenly matched on the ground and limit each other’s upside. Neither are great on the feet, so obviously we are hoping for the first scenario when targeting this fight. My slight lean is towards Robertson ($8300)(-150) as the favorite with the better finish prop, but I will want exposure to Silva ($7900)(+140) as well at lower ownership.
Sam Alvey ($9200), Sergio Moraes ($9100), Fransisco Trinaldo ($8900) – Just wanted to touch on this tier quickly. They are all facing guys with durability issues, so an early finish is a possibility, but their output is so low that they are not likely to pay off these salaries without that early finish. Therefore, I will only have small amounts of each in GPPs. Alvey has the best finish prop of the bunch (-125) as he has the most power and is taking on the guy with the weakest chin (Nogueira), but he also has the least output and is the most expensive. Trinaldo has the worst finish prop of the trio (+180) but has the highest output and his fight is likely to have the highest pace.
Other GPP Options: Augusto Sakai ($8800), Ryan Spann ($8700), Chase Sherman ($7400)
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