On Saturday night, two fantastic heavyweights (Junior dos Santos & Francis Ngannou) will step into the Octagon with a future heavyweight title shot hanging in the balance (barring a Jon Jones invasion, at least). Plus, the flyweight division, which was thought to be on life support, should see a challenger emerge from the battle between #1 ranked Jussier Formiga and #2 ranked Joseph Benavidez. All in all, we’re in for a potentially exciting card this Saturday and that should make for a fun MMA DFS slate, too.
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Francis Ngannou (-217) vs. Junior dos Santos (+190)
After back-to-back losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis, Francis Ngannou was looking like a cautionary tale of getting too much, too fast. Fast forward a year to this Saturday, where Ngannou comes into the cage off of a second TKO of Curtis Blaydes and a violent finish against the former heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez. dos Santos, meanwhile, has won three straight (Blagoy Ivanov, Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis) since his loss to Miocic in May 2017.
The betting line says Ngannou wins this fight two out of three times, and I think that makes some sense. It’s crazy to think about, but dos Santos has been fighting in the UFC since 2008 debut against Fabricio Werdum. He has a ton of mileage on his odometer, which should help him against Francis. He’ll need every bit of that experience to weather the early storm from Ngannou. In Ngannou’s last six victories, the fight has ended before the two minute mark of the fight. The two times he was in deep water ended poorly for him. It’s no secret that every second that goes by is a benefit for dos Santos.
With Ngannou at $8800 and dos Santos at just $7400, I expect a ton of exposure between both guys. The most likely scenario is that Francis shuts off dos Santos’ lights early in the fight. I’m not sure there’s a more powerful puncher anywhere on the planet, as evidenced by the soul removal he performed on Alistair Overeem. The alternative is that dos Santos simply overwhelms Ngannou from the start with technical boxing. I expect to have more Ngannou than dos Santos but I think this fight is closer than the line implies. The most interesting question after this fight will be ‘who does the winner fight next’? The Cormier/Miocic winner? Jon Jones? Fun times at the top of the heavyweight division.
Jussier Formiga (+143) vs. Joseph Benavidez (-150)
Since his WEC debut in 2008, Joseph Benavidez has five losses: two decisions to Dominick Cruz, a KO and decision loss to Demetrious Johnson and a split decision loss to Sergio Pettis. He basically churns through everyone, including his split decision victory against current Champ Henry Cejudo and might be the most underrated fighter in the history of the UFC. Benavidez already has a victory over Formiga from back in September 2013.
While Benavidez finished Formiga in that fight, I wouldn’t expect to see that again on Saturday. Benavidez has just one finish in the past five years, a TKO win over current #10 flyweight Alex Perez. What I expect to see is a calculated, low volume affair. This is a fantastic matchup for fight fans, but it’s not my favorite spot for DFS purposes. It’s a close fight, with a low expectation for a finish. That’s probably why Benavidez ($8400) and Formiga ($7800) are priced like they are. It’s tough to see the upside in their numbers. I’ll watch every single second of this fight on the edge of my seat. The talent level is at an elite level, but I see this as a stay-away from my main lineups.
The rest of the card is kind of hard to read. A lot of these guys are relatively unknown. Eryk Anders is the second most expensive fighter on the card, but he should have no issue putting short-notice replacement Vinicius Moreira away. Demian Maia should be able to pick up a relatively boring decision against Anthony Rocco Martin. Martin’s best chance at victory is generally in the grappling department, which is a tough sell against one of the best jiu jitsu artists to ever step foot in the Octagon.
The guy I really have my eye on is Roosevelt Roberts (and it’s not just because his birthday is the day before mine). Roberts is an undefeated prospect at 155 pounds and he’s facing his first true test in Vinc Pichel. I expect Roberts to dispatch Pichel and continue his climb in the lightweight division.
As we get closer to fight night, I’ll be updating this post with my cheatsheet for the card, so stay tuned and good luck!