Duke’s UFC 256 Breakdown and Predictions!!!
UPDATES IN RED BELOW
This Week’s Bets
(Bovada) Virna Jandiroba +150 – 1 to in 1.5
(Bovada) Dos Santos v Gane – YES (Fight Completes 1 full round) -175 – 1 to win 0.57
(Bovada) Torres+ Gane + Figueiredo – 2 to win 1.75
(Pinnacle) Daniel Pineda wins Inside Distance (+139) – 1 to win 1.39
- December 12, 2020
- UFC APEX
- Las Vegas, NV
- Main Card: PPV 10:00pm
- Prelims: ESPN2/ESPN+ 8:00pm
- Early Prelims: ESPN+ 7:00pm
COVID! COVID! COVID!
This card will look completely different on fight night than it did just a week ago. We’ve had two fights completely removed from the card. Tecia Torres lost Angela Hill but has found a replacement fighter. Li Jianliang was supposed to fight Dwight Grant, but he was popped for COVID, and they are working to find a replacement fighter for him. By the time this is released, I’m not even sure we’ll know who the replacement is, so I’ll update the article once that’s finalized. But before we just get into this week’s card, which is still awesome and full of good fights, we’ll start with a quick review of the prior week.
The bets were a bit meh. I went 1-1 with the third bet being canceled. We ended up net +0.13u. Woo hoo. Obviously, it was a wonky card with 3 fights called off ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT. It was an unprecedented situation that we certainly tried to make the most of. It resulted in me withdrawing a ton of entries, a move I will probably live to regret, as you’ll see.
My best lineup was actually..the nuts. Of course, I tied with a few other (3) people who also duped this lineup, but even looking at the construction, it wasn’t completely out of left field.
Vettori was the favorite in a 5 round fight. Hill was a big favorite with an O/U of 1.5 rounds. Benitez was one of my core plays. I picked Quinonez but said I was taking more Smolka, as his upside was higher. Topuria was another of our studs. Collier was someone who simply was chucked in the pool after the fight cancelations. Again, not outrageous, but a couple of items to note:
We had 5 finishes inside the distance, including two 1st round and two 2nd round victories. We also had a 5 round main event winner and a value fighter throw a record number of strikes for a HW fight. This is what it takes to win GPPs, so when you are building lineups, keep these keys in mind.
- We need finishes.
- We likely need one fighter from the main event.
- We have to get the big score from a value fighter.
By the way, here was my worst lineup.
They all aren’t great, but for this card, I spread out my ownership for my 14 lineups as much as I could with only 8 fights to choose from. Collier and Topuria impressed me the most last Saturday. Obviously, Leavitt was TECHNICALLY the most dominant fighter and still doesn’t make the optimal. Check this out:
It says a lot about DK scoring that he only bagged 95.5 points for that performance, but it’s the game we play.
Onto UFC 256! We see a quick turnaround for Figueiredo and Moreno here in our main event. Each had convincing wins just a few weeks ago and stepped up to get one more paycheck before 2021. This is yet another big step up for Moreno, but one he deserves. There are absolute banger fights on this card. There are established names. Veterans. Promising prospects. KO artists. Submission artists. Please lord, just let this card stay exactly as it is until we start throwing punches Saturday night!
LET’S GET IT ON!
UFC 256 MAIN EVENT
Deiveson Figueiredo 124.5 ($9000) v Brandon Moreno 124.5 ($7200) TITLE FIGHT
This feels like too much too soon for Moreno. Figueiredo is the big favorite here and rightfully so as the champ. Will he be the bigger fighter on fight night?
I was a bit iffy with Moreno and Royval. I ended up landing on Royval to win before the fight and obviously ended up on the wrong side of that, but I think the analysis was pretty darn good. Royval had the striking advantage, and Royval was landing some big shots in the first round. Those big shots were causing Moreno to take the fight to the ground. He was fine in the scramble and controlled parts of that round, but even towards the end of the first, Royval was doing more damage. Then, the arm/shoulder injury happened, and the fight was stopped with 1 second left in the round. Are we 100% sure Moreno wins that fight if the injury doesn’t happen? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, you have to like Figuereido here.
The big difference here is those big shots from Royval will be KO punches from Deiveson. The guy just hits differently. If anything, I’m worried about the big weight cut again from Deiveson. That’s a lot of weight to cut when you are that small. Cutting 13% of your body weight twice within a couple of weeks can’t be good for the nervous system and your overall health, but he and his coach seem rather confident they can get it done. If there is one thing Deiveson likes more than winning, it’s money. The guy is a showman and loves the flash, so my only hesitation is this feels a bit like a fight he thinks he can win easily and grab more money in 2020.
I have Figueiredo winning. I do think it will be a convincing win. AND STILLLLLL
OFFICIAL PICK: Deiveson Figueiredo
Tony Ferguson 155 ($8600) v Charles Oliveira 154.5 ($7600)
This is my main event. I’m jacked for the title fight, but these two are so damn good, so damn similar, and if this was the headliner, I’d still buy the PPV, and I don’t think a single person would complain.
El Cucuy is a legend. He was on a 12 fight win streak before the loss to Gaethje. I went back and watched that fight, and to be completely honest, that was Justin Gaethje’s peak. He didn’t put a foot wrong, a punch out of place, or gas himself out. We know Gaethje is tough as nails, but how about the beating Ferguson took for 5 straight rounds? Keep in mind, Justin stepped in late to replace Khabib. You want to talk about two completely different game plans and camps… Not only that, like a psycho, Tony Ferguson needlessly cut weight twice. There were so many curveballs before that fight, and the beating was so bad that it tarnished Tony’s greatness in many eyes.
His fighting style can only be described as pressure burst pipes. He’s constantly in your face and doesn’t give you a second to breathe. It’s strikes, elbows, feints, kicks. If it will make you uncomfortable, he’ll do it. He doesn’t wrestle much but can submit you off his back, as he’s done several times in his most recent fights.
Charles Oliveira is physically a twin of Ferguson: 5’10” and 155 pounds. Ferguson will have a 2.5-inch reach advantage, but Oliveira will hope to neutralize that with his wrestling and grappling ability. Ferguson has 9 submissions but will certainly look to keep this one standing, if possible. Oliveira has improved striking and has two KO/TKOs in the last 3 fights. He’s also been the more active fighter. The big difference here is the level of opponent. The win over Kevin Lee has vaulted him to this position, but Kevin Lee was at worst 1-1 heading into the third round when Oliveira locked up the Guillotine. He lost to Felder, Pettis, Lamas and Holloway. When he fights a big name, it hasn’t worked out too well. At 31, he could be on the rise, and I’m in a show-me mode with Oliveira. This will absolutely show me should he get the win here.
Already, these two have been going back and forth on social media. Tony has called out Oliveira for potentially missing weight and has threatened to not fight if he can’t do his job on the scale. Is that a mind game from Tony, or is Tony worried about something I’m not seeing? Oliveira has looked fantastic of late, but I think even a 90% Tony Ferguson gets it done here and puts Oliveira in his place. Let’s double-check the weigh-ins for BOTH of these fighters. If they make weight and both look good, then I’m perfectly fine with Tony.
OFFICIAL PICK: Tony Ferguson
Renato Moicano 155 ($7800) v Rafael Fiziev 155.5 ($8400)
Grappling v Striking. A tale as old as time.
Moicano looks a hell of a lot better at 155 than 145 and made ridiculously quick work of Hadzovic. I think the weight cut was simply getting too tough for Moicano at 145, and this is a much more natural weight for him to fight. I also couldn’t see a path into the top 10 at 145. He throws at a decent pace with 5.53 significant strikes per minute. My grade of Moicano is a bit incomplete just because we’ve seen so little of him at this higher weight. We know he’s been in with the best, but without a strong takedown game and with Fiziev’s TD defense, I’m curious how Moicano gets the win here.
Fiziev has a 100% takedown defense. Even though he’s finished 75% of his wins inside the distance, as he’s gone up in competition, he’s perfectly fine fighting to the judges’ scorecards, which is always a worry. His striking is crisp and dynamic. If I’m not mistaken, he’s actually the striking coach at Tiger Muay Thai, which, of course, is home to Petr Yan and Alexander Volkanovski. Just a couple of champs…no big deal. We know he’ll come in fit, sharp and tested from camp. That short frame of his could help stuff the takedowns of Moicano and keep this fight standing. That is his path to victory here. He’s so patient and technical as a striker that he could easily finish this fight with a big shot, but he’s shown that he’s not willing to chase a finish, and all of a sudden, there goes the horn, and we are onto the next round.
The total is sitting at 2.5 with the fight going to a decision at -115. That seems like the most likely scenario, and if that’s the case, it’s either Moicano grinding it out on the ground for the victory or Fiziev winning a standing battle. I’ll take the little man.
OFFICIAL PICK: Rafael Fiziev
Kevin Holland 185 ($8200) v Jacare Souza 185.5 ($8000)
Holland looked very nervous in the faceoff with Jacare. He said, “it’s an honor to be here with you man” while cracking his knuckles. Holland was loose all week with the media and this was his first sign of anything other than supreme confidence. I’m sticking with the initial read but wanted to pass as much info along as I can.
Where is Holland’s fitness right now? I have him as the better fighter just flat out but coming off of Covid, do we really know where he’ll be in the second and third rounds here from a gas tank perspective? You have to think he wasn’t training immediately following his positive test. Holland has a 9-inch reach advantage and can literally pick opponents apart. The issue with Holland is that he tends to almost get bored in fights and find himself in silly positions that can hurt him.
Jacare is 0 for his last 8 takedowns. He’s been fighting studs at every level. He lost a split decision against Blachowicz. He lost a decision against Hermansson in a 5 round fight. The gas tank won’t be an issue here. With his lack of takedown ability, he’s tried to morph himself into more of a striker.
To me, I ask myself where I see this fight taking place. I believe Holland will be able to keep his distance and keep this thing standing. I believe Holland knows that if he gets into a ground war with Jacare, he’s going to potentially make this fight more competitive than he needs to be.
With the COVID factor, I don’t believe I’ll be betting this fight, but just in general, I love Holland in this spot. He’s been the more active fighter of late and will use that massive reach to pick him apart.
OFFICIAL PICK: Kevin Holland
Junior Dos Santos 246.5 ($7000) v Ciryl Gane 247.5 ($9200)
It’s important not to get sentimental in the fight game. I love JDS. He’s been a monster my entire adult life, but with 29 fights, the wear & tear is starting to show. He’s been starched in 3 straight, and perhaps this is the passing of the torch in the heavyweight division. Junior isn’t getting killed by donkeys. Ngannou is the scariest man on the planet. Blaydes is a wrestling monster that Junior successfully defended before getting popped. Rosentruik has ‘holy shit’ power in his hands. I believe JdS will be the slower fighter. If he wins, it’s a big punch early and gets Gane out of there early.
Is Gane getting too hyped up here? Most likely. Again, this is a line I don’t 100% agree with, even though he’s my winner in the fight. I’m seeing -470 for Gane in some shops, which is just complete disrespect for JdS. The fact is Gane has stopped everyone who’s stood in front of him, except for Tanner Boser, who we just watched dance until the final bell just to not get stopped against Arlovski. Gane is very light and quick on his feet for how big he is. He has extensive competitive fighting experience but has only recently converted over to MMA, hence the record. The massive kicks of Gane could be the difference, but the hip flexibility of Gane to unleash high kicks and even flying knees at his size does make him an exciting prospect. He nearly put Don’Tale Mayes out with that knee in the first round of their fight before submitting him in the second.
The total on this fight is sitting around 1.5 rounds with slight juice on the over. That should tell you everything you need to know. When the big guys step in, we expect an exciting finish, and I don’t believe either of these men want to be in there for the full 15. I love you Junior, but I’m going Gane.
OFFICIAL PICK: Ciryl Gane
Cub Swanson 145 ($7900) v Daniel Pineda 145.5 ($8300)
I did some more digging on elite athletes who’ve successfully recovered from ACL surgery and frankly, there aren’t many. None in combat sports. It’s not a particularly quick turnaround or rushed rehab that I’m worried about, it’s the fact that Cub’s body/knees/ligaments have taken so much damage that his injury looked like a ligament that was going to pop at some point and it just happened to be there. Add in Pineda’s finish rate and how sharp he looked last time out and I’m worried about Cub’s body giving out before his mind. I’m shifting my selection to Pineda, who I was already going to have more of for DFS.
If you guys like finish rates, Pineda is your guy. He has a 100% finish rate with 9 wins by (T)KO and 18 submissions. He’s bounced around a little bit and has some issues with the roids but is back in the UFC and perhaps someone to watch after he destroyed Herbert Burns as a +210 favorite. Burns was supposed to control the wrestling, grappling and BJJ, but Pineda was a monster on top. His ground and pound, his posture, his power were on full display. Remember, he took that fight on short notice and still showed a really good gas tank. He fought like a guy who appreciated the opportunity he was given. Having been with the UFC, been cut, and then bouncing around the different circles, you could tell he didn’t want to leave these bright lights any time soon.
We all know Cub at this point. It looked like he was on his way out of the fight game and heading into retirement when the UFC set him up to fight an undefeated Kron Gracie. His movement was great, especially early, and kept the fight standing. Obviously, he picked up the decision win here and landed 135 significant strikes while doing so. I mentioned that he kept the fight standing. I think that is the key here for Swanson. Can he keep this standing in the smaller cage at the Apex in Las Vegas? Swanson has been in there with the best of the best. He has the sharper striking, in my opinion. His cardio looked great against Gracie. BUT, that was over a year ago, he picked up a significant knee injury in a grappling match after the Gracie fight and this will be his first time-fighting in the smaller cage.
If Swanson sticks with his stick and move style, is it as effective in the smaller cage? Can he avoid the grappling of Pineda? Can he keep this fight standing? Can he get back up if it does go to the ground? These are all big question marks for the veteran Cub Swanson, but I’ll say this, the Vegas line seems way out of order. Maybe this fight is a pick ‘em but not heavily weighted towards Pineda. It initially opened at -110 for each and moved drastically towards Pineda. Keep in mind, the reason Pineda was booted from the UFC the first time was he was losing to guys called Antonio Carvalho, Diego Brandao and Robert Whiteford. Three of Cub Swanson’s last losses were Renato Moicano, Frankie Edgar and Brian Ortega.
I’m so torn here, and if I were a giant pussy, I’d tell you to just grab shares of both fighters because you can’t be wrong if you pick everyone. Cub Swanson hasn’t finished anyone in 6 years but has the gas tank and the experience to take this one to the judges’ scorecards. Pineda has about a 3-8 minute window to win this fight. If he can use that small cage and wrestle Swanson to the ground, perhaps he can get a finish, but I’m going with the wily veteran here who looks like he wants to end things on a high note.
OFFICIAL PICK: Daniel Pineda
Mackenzie Dern 115 ($8700) v Virna Jandiroba 115 ($7500)
Dern was the last fighter to weigh in and let me tell you, I was ready for a bloated, lazy Dern to tip the scales overweight. Nope. This is the absolute best she’s ever looked. I’ll talk about this more on the podcast. I’m sticking with Virna to win but I was very close to going all in Virna and I’m backing off that a touch.
Dern is the darling of a lot of MMA heads around the industry. She’s a jiu-jitsu specialist with a great BJJ background but doesn’t have any wrestling ability. It’s a bit Chase Hooper-ish in that aspect. Dern has been fortunate in that her opponents tend to simply fall into a ground war when they would have far more success against her in a stand-up battle. Not only that, the UFC has set her up for success at every step of her career. Let’s be honest, she’s fought nobody. Randa Markos – lost 4 of her last 5. Hannah Cifers – lost her last 4 and was finished in each of those. Amanda Cooper – lost 3 of her last 4. Ashley Yoder – lost 2 of her last 3 and 5 of her 8 fights in the UFC. The only fighter who might be a contender is Amand Ribas, who is 10-1 with 4 wins in the UFC and beat Dern by decision. Ribas kicked her ass. It was 30-27 on all three judges’ scorecards. Dern also has extreme issues making weight. She missed BY SEVEN FUCKING POUNDS for her fight against Amanda Cooper.
Virna has fought Carla Esparza, Mallory Martin and Felice Herrig. WAYYYYY better competition than Dern. Sure, she lost to Carla but made both Martin and Herrig tap, and you know how tough Felice Herrig can be. The tough spot for Dern here is that Jandiroba is a hell of a BJJ artist, as well! She has 13 wins by submission and has a great top ground and pound game to boot. Neither of these women is going to cleanly knock each other out on the feet. In fact, this could be an awkward first 30-60 seconds of the fight, as they each try to figure out how to get this to the ground.
Dern is 0 for her last 7 takedowns in the UFC and only 1 for 12 in total. Virna is 7 for 14 and took a round of Carla Esparza. Perhaps, it’s my extreme disdain for Dern’s lack of professionalism that is clouding my judgment, but I have Virna with the edge here in too many areas to take Dern.
OFFICIAL PICK: Virna Jandiroba
Gavin Tucker 146 ($7700) v Billy Quarantillo 145.5 ($8500)
WHAT. A. FIGHT.
A couple of BJJ black belts here and high-level fighters. Gavin Tucker is more of a wrestler than a striker. He does struggle with taller fighters and sure enough, his only loss came against 6’ Rick Glenn. Glenn has some wins in the UFC, but he’s not exactly challenging for a belt any time soon.
Billy Quarantillo is a mile a minute fighter. He’s a well-rounded fighter who keeps a massive pace and will throw bombs if he gets on top. His average fight time of just 11:39 matches with his 73% finish rate. He’s tall and rangy for the division at 5’10” and will have a 4-inch reach advantage. I missed the boat with other responsibilities on getting down early on Quarantillo. He was basically a pick ‘em early in the week but has been bet all the way up to -150 and even -160 in some shops. I like him up to -200 here, so there is some slight value left in the line, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see it close somewhere around that number.
That might make it seem like I’m saying Tucker is a bum. He’s not. We just saw Justin Jaynes get his ass whooped by Benitez, but Tucker gave him everything he could handle as well before submitting him in the third. I do think Tucker has a future in the promotion, but this one could end inside the distance as Quarantillo simply overwhelms him with his pace.
OFFICIAL PICK: Billy Quarantillo
Tecia Torres 115.5 ($8900) v Sam Hughes 115.5 ($7300)
Alright I still like Torres. She’s been in with the best of the best and has given a good account of herself against women that would murder Sam Hughes. Per usual, Torres will be the shorter fighter but she’s a pitbull who will walk straight through her opponent. The only issue I have with Torres is that she doesn’t finish fights, even when she’s dominant. Against van Buren she won 30-27 on all 3 judges scorecars. Against Karate Hottie one judge scored it 30-27 with the other two 29-28 for another unanimous decision. Against Bec Rawlings all 3 judges scored it 30-27. And on and on I could go but the point is, outside of her submission win against Juliana Lima, we are seeing the judges scorecars.
Sam Hughes isn’t terrible. In fact, she should be undefeated if not for a crazy submission loss to Vanessa Demopoulos in a fight she was definitely winning. Perhaps it’s important to note that she never tapped. She went cleanout in a scary loss. The bounce-back win showed she was ready to roll and wasn’t scared stepping back into the fray. She has a nice counter, overhand right that lands consistently but lacks power. Decent low kicks. I don’t think she has much of a chance in this fight but would be very interested to see how does against some of the lower-level fighters in the division. She wrapped up a super tight guillotine after popping Dinelle Hindley repeated in the first. That choke literally put Hindley to sleep at the end of the first.
This is simply a massive jump in level here for Sam Hughes. i wouldn’t be shocked to se Torres win by decision again but no matter the method of victory, Torres wins here.
OFFICIAL PICK: Tecia Torres
Serghei Spivac ($8800) v Jared Vanderaa ($7400) OFF- COVID
These are big mo fos in a fight that could end early. These two both have a 90.91% finish rate in their wins. The Polar Bear (Spivac) is more country strong than super physically imposing. He’s in great physical condition for the division but will look like the smaller man next to Vanderaa, who is just big all over.
Spivac is a striker and a wrestler. His gas tank is on the high end of the division, and he’s shown a lot of patience in fights in the UFC. He looks calm, cool and collected in there. He has a stiff jab and a decent right hand. His third round against Felipe was one of the more dominant rounds I’ve seen in the UFC that didn’t end in a finish. Patience can look like indifference at times, which can hurt Spivac in the judges’ eyes. Tybura took him down with ease in their match, and obviously, Spivac lost that fight by decision. I hated his game off his back. He essentially just tried to limit damage in full guard. He wasn’t attacking from the bottom. He wasn’t looking for submissions. He was taken down in every round of that fight and finished on his back in every round.
Vanderaa fights backing up quite a bit. With Spivac not really being one to push the pace, you have to wonder what gives. Keep in mind, it was Vanderaa who called for this fight, specifically naming Spivac. Vanderaa will stand in front of you and throw those big leg kicks but likes to clinch more than I care for. His big body could easily keep Spivac on his back, as I talked about. The fight would get there by Vanderaa throwing those plodding strikes, getting Spivac in the clinch, and ripping Spivac to the ground. This isn’t going to be a feint, slick right hand, followed by a double leg or anything.
The top game of Vanderaa has me a touch nervous. Spivac has been sparring with Francis Ngannou, so I don’t know Vaneraa will show him any power Spivac hasn’t already seen. Overall, Spivac is the more well-rounded fighter with more experience inside the octagon. There is a very clear path to victory here for Vanderaa, but I think Spivac is too smart and too fit to let the fight get to that place.
OFFICIAL PICK: Serghei Spivac
Li Jingliang v TBD NO OPPONENT FOUND
This was originally supposed to be Dwight Grant, but he’s tested positive for COVID, so he’s off the card. They are supposed to find him a replacement opponent, and if they do, I’ll throw the breakdown in here…
OFFICIAL PICK: -NA-
Chase Hooper 145.5 ($9300) v Peter Barrett 145.5 ($6900)
Hooper is strictly a grappler and BJJ fighter. Very long and skinny for the division. He’s not a striker… like at all. That long frame with long arms means very lean muscle. There isn’t a ton of muscle flying behind those fists, but it’s the perfect build for a submission artist. That is half of his problem. How does he get his opponent into situations for the submission? His wrestling is average to below average. We know he can’t really drop an opponent with his stand up to then grab a back and lock up a choke. Typically, the match just ends up on the floor, OR more likely, he takes some punches in the standup battle, ends up on his back, and then goes to work from there if his opponent will engage. That is not what I want out of my -400 fighter. He has shown decent ground and pound in the past, and we should note how young Chase Hooper is. At 21 with 11 professional contests, he’ll continue to develop for years to come.
Peter Barrett is a striker who struggles with wrestling and grappling. We know styles make fights, and this one will be very interesting to see who wins this stylistic battle. We know Barrett is tough as nails. He took a spinning back kick straight to the jaw from Zalal and survived to fight in the second round. In the second round, Zalal got the back and flattened him out. Once again, he worked his way out of it and survived. Zalal does have 5 pro submission wins under his belt; they were all on the regional scene against goobers, so I would say Hooper has the edge in the BJJ department.
Hooper is the big favorite and has looked very very good at times. He’s also just eaten shots and kept coming forward. He looked so limited against Alex Caceras when he couldn’t get the fight to the ground and lost all 3 rounds. Can Barrett follow that game plan? Barrett has been submitted twice in his last 6 fights and almost went out against Zelal. That is Hooper’s path to victory and how I see this one ending. I won’t be betting this fight, but I have Hooper winning.
OFFICIAL PICK: Chase Hooper
UFC 256 DFS
UFC 256 Cheat Sheet will be posted on Friday… DON’T MISS IT!