Using our projections for UFN 146: Lewis vs. dos Santos, I have put together a MMA DFS cheatsheet for tonight’s event. These guys will be the core of my lineups on DraftKings.
Louis Smolka is at the top of my priority list, but I’m keeping my eye on the line for this fight. Smolka is just a slight favorite, but I think he’s in a much better spot than the Vegas line implies. Smolka made his return to the UFC, and to the bantamweight division, in November against Su Mudaerji, where he won by submission in the second round. I realize that Smolka dropped four fights in a row a few years ago, but only one ended in a finish (Brandon Moreno), with the others being decisions against Ray Borg (who KO’d Schnell), Tim Elliott and Matheus Nicolau. Meanwhile, in his most recent fight, Schnell won a split decision against Naoki Inoue that half of the media thought he lost. Schnell has been knocked out in both of his UFC losses, and I think he could be in line for a third. Smolka is just too seasoned for Schnell, so I’ll happily grab him at an average price point.
Here’s the deal. I like Junior dos Santos. He’s clearly a superior fighter to Derrick Lewis. However, dos Santos has the highest salary on the card, while Lewis has the lowest. That alone should be a gigantic red flag to everyone. There’s not a heavyweight on the planet that Lewis can’t put to sleep. We’ve seen him take a beating. We know his weakness is grappling, which is something the JDS rarely does. Starting at the Mark Hunt fight (5/25/13), dos Santos has a grand total of two takedowns across 8 fights. If he’s going to try to take Lewis down, he’s probably going to eat something on the way in. That’s scary. The prices here should be much closer. I’ll take Lewis all day.
Grant Dawson and Julian Erosa both came through Dane White’s Contender Series, but only Dawson has a projectable future. Dawson sat out for all of 2018 in attempt to clear his name from a USADA failure for the M3 long-term metabolite, which was eventually dropped by USADA. The metabolite has been seen in other fighters, specifically Jon Jones. Now, a year+ later, he’s looking to make his mark in the Octagon. Most of my lean here is based on the fight line, and the fact that Dawson trains out of Glory MMA, while Erosa trains at Yakima MMA. This is a fight to get Dawson a victory, and I expect him to do it in style.
Try not to judge Yana Kunitskaya on her performance against Cyborg. Every woman not named Amanda Nunes takes that same beating. Judge her based on her fight against Lina Lansberg, where she beat the breaks off her over 15 minutes, landing 72 significant strikes and 5 takedowns. Don’t get me wrong, I like Marion Reneau, but she’s 41 years old. That’s 12 years older than Kunitskaya. This is a scary fight for Reneau. Honestly, I could see it being her last one. Yana should have no problems touching her up. I’m not sure she gets a finish, but she should be able to rack up a bundle of significant strikes.
The Dirty Bird is back! Means currently has the third best odds to win on the entire card. Niko Price was knocked out in his most recent fight against Abdul Razak Alhassan in just 43 seconds. His other UFC loss came to Vicente Luque in October of 2017, which honestly looks better and better as time passes. Volume is everything here. Means landed 129 significant strikes in his split decision loss to Sergio Moraes in February of last year. He landed 91 in his November 2017 split decision loss against Belal Muhammad. Both of those guys are better than Niko Price and they couldn’t take out Means. I’m not entirely sure what Price can do. Means can get him early, but I think the more likely scenario is a 15-minute beating. Means has landed 4.78 significant strikes per minute in the UFC. Price has absorbed 4.04. Price has only landed 28% of his takedowns. That looks like a recipe for a disaster for Niko, and a recipe for success for my lineups.
My final core play is Beneil Dariush. This one is easy. In his UFC career, Dariush has been a more accurate striker. He’s also been significantly more difficult to hit (2.6 strikes absorbed per minute compared to 4.2), and he has 80% takedown defense. That more than enough to stop a guy who attempts just one takedown per fight. Dariush is significantly more experienced on the ground, with a black belt from Romulo Barral (who received his black belt from Vinny Magalhaes), while Dober has been finished by submission twice in the UFC (Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Efrain Escudero). This might end up being a boring decision, but I feel very comfortable in Dariush picking up the nod. I just don’t think Dober has enough paths to victory.