Duke’s UFC Fight Night Breakdown and Predictions for your DFS Lineups!!!
Dakota Bush 1 to win 1.7
Andrei Arlovski 1.1 to win 1
Bartosz Fabinski 1.15 to win 1
Juan Espino 1 to win 1.2
Jessica Penne 1 to win 2.4
WHEW! Big Mouth got grappled to death. Who would have guessed??? But Duke you bet on him. I know, man. I didn’t like it but mathematically the play added up so I had to fire. It’s the way it works everyone. We had a slight loss from a betting perspective this past UFC Fight Night but more than made up for it in DFS. This isn’t an ad; it’s just something you should know. SuperDraft is where almost 100% of my volume has moved. The contests are smaller. You aren’t going to win $100k. You are going to get overlay. You will be able to practice multi-entry at a low cost. There are so many advantages to playing over there that the games are just softer. Remember, you don’t get points for difficulty in DFS. If you are interested in playing, I drop my ownership percentages for my 150 build in the chat on elitefantasy.com every Saturday morning. This is post weigh-in and after the livestream. I very very rarely change anything after I post the ownerships, so if you want to ride with me, check it out.
Alright, so I had a decent week. Adam had an amazing week. 6-1 on his bets for +4.17 units. Honestly, I thought he was a bit unlucky to lose the Bahamondes fight as well for what would have been a clean sweep. He was very right on Mackenzie Dern and the same old mother flipping Mike Perry showed up and got his ass kicked. Other than that we were pretty much on the same page. Oh, big trees fall hard. I mentioned on the livestream that Danho was mathematically a bet I should have made but I wouldn’t. WHOOPS!! Always trust the math I guess.
This week we have 12 fights on the docket. This is our last card at the Apex before Dana packs up the carnival and heads to Jacksonville, FL for our first event LIVE and with a crowd in over a year. It should be a full house and I know tickets are sold out everywhere. To say I’m excited is an understatement. The atmosphere the fans create is second to none. We’ve literally heard the impact of every punch and kick. Every instruction from the corner. Even the fighters have reacted to the commentary. All of that is out the window and replaced by either the quiet hush of anticipation or the loudest of roars as the massive blow lands clean. Christ it’s going to be a good time. But for now…let’s head back to Vegas for one last card.
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum Event Info
April 17, 2021
UFC APEX, Las Vegas, NV
Note: Odds may change
This was originally supposed to be Whittaker v Paulo Costa. Frankly, that fight is a hell of a lot more interesting to me than this one but I don’t want to diminish the main event right off the jump. Let’s start here, I underestimated Whittaker in the Cannonier fight. Looking back, getting Whittaker at -125 should have been like taking candy from a baby but I overestimated the power of Cannonier and underestimated EVERYTHING about Whittaker. What I wrote then is true today.
Whittaker really turned a corner after his loss to Wonderboy and just ran through the division. He’s held the belt, lost the belt, and bounced back with a dominant win over Darren Till. He’s fought big guys, little guys, long guys. He’s turned them all away except for Izzy.
How does one write that and then pick the OTHER guy? Yeah, I don’t know either. Whittaker won the fight easily in my opinion. He was often first to the punch. He avoided the one massive shot to put him down and if Whittaker can avoid that big shot from Cannonier, I’m not overly worried about Gastelum. The gas tank is great for Whittaker. He can wrestle but doesn’t necessarily use it effectively. He has that championship pedigree and more experience in these championship rounds.
I really liked Gastelum…. a few years ago. He’s better than he’s shown or maybe I’m the sucker. Guess what? I keep going back to the well and it hasn’t worked out. I’m stuck on the performance against Adesanya. He looked damn good and gave Izzy everything he could handle. He was aggressive and dynamic. Since then he hasn’t really figured out what kind of fighter he wants to be. For one, he’s a smart guy and well versed in the sport. It’s almost to his disadvantage. You look at the Hermansson fight and he taps so quick. He understood he was in an awful spot and unlikely to escape and just tapped. I’m not asking the guy to suffer brain damage and fight to the last breath but give me an effort. He also tried to wrestle Hermansson, which made zero sense. He backed up that performance with 6 takedowns against Heinisch and maybe this is the kind of fighter he’s going to be at middleweight.
Can Kelvin Gastelum take Robert Whittaker down? I can’t see it but if this fight goes 5 rounds and Gastelum spams 15 takedown attempts, surely he lands a couple. How I’m reading it is that Whittaker stuffs the first several takedown attempts and Gastelum gets back to his striking roots. At that point, we have a stand-up battle. I love that Whittaker has been through the fire and that’s how I’m leaning at this point. The price is steep and this is a no bet for me but I’ll take Robert Whittaker to win.
OFFICIAL PICK: ROBERT WHITTAKER
LIL WAYNE. LIL PUMP. LIL HEATHEN.
One good rapper, one dude who won’t make my Spotify playlist, and one fighter I never bet on. That doesn’t mean I bet against Jeremy Stephens every time but I made some cash taking Kattar last time out! He’s somehow managed to both have a chin and also get knocked out with regularity. What I mean is he’s tough as nails and you have to knock him out to get him out of there. Stephens is a fighter without a home. At 145 he’s fought the best of the best and can’t get a win. He’s moving back up to 155 against Klose, and generally, I’d say someone coming off getting knocked out would not be wise to move up a weight class but Klose isn’t really a knockout artist…more on that later.
Stephens works the calf kick as well as anyone. That is an interesting weapon here as Klose could look to pounce on a single or double leg and get this to the ground. For as many good fighters as Stephens has fought, he’s been in mostly striking battles. Zabit took him down 3 times. Go way back to the Moicano fight to see a couple takedowns landed. Jeremy lost both of those fights.
Does Klose get enough respect for what power he does show us? I don’t think so. I have Darius as a sure-fire top 10 lightweight and pushing for a top 5 spot. Ferguson is fading fast. McGregor would rather be on a camel in Dubai. Hooker looked miles off the pace against Chandler. RDA? Prob not there just yet. I say all that to say, Klose had him hurt. That first minute of the second round was one of the more awesome 60 seconds of the last 18 months. Both guys were stunned and going for the finish.
I think the striking battle is far closer than many are saying. I think the wrestling is closer than some are indicating. I love this fight. It’s so balanced and even in my opinion and the line reflects that. Right now I’m picking the dog and he’s looking like a bet, although it is borderline. Stephens has so many fights under his belt and he’s been in the deep waters more times than Klose has stepped into the cage but Klose gets this one done over 3 rounds.
OFFICIAL PICK: DRAKKAR KLOSE
PLEASE RETIRE ARLOVSKIIIIII!!!! Why? Because he’s so good at being so boring and doing just enough to win fights. He’s likely not going to knock out Sherman. I doubt he submits him in this spot. Reminder, he’s coming in on relatively short notice after Parker Porter had to drop. I don’t love Chase Sherman but here is why I like Chase Sherman here.
Arlovski’s last fight against Aspinall was telling. He was getting absolutely killed before it was finished with a QUICK tap on the rear-naked choke by Aspinall. Arlovski beat the ground and looked up as if to say, do I want to do this anymore? Obviously, the answer is yes, and obviously, he’s good at his style of fighting but he’s mostly had success because people respect his name too much.
I loved what I saw from Sherman against Ike Villanueva. For one, he was working the legs. The big boys often forget or don’t have interest in that part of the game, but he was landing heavy shots and doing damage to the lower half of Ike. Two, he’s massive and in phenomenal shape. He’ll have at least 10 pounds on Arlovski when they step on the scale on Friday. Three, and most important, VOLUME. Either this guy is deaf or is too dumb to respect anyone. He’ll plow forward and throw hands. Could he walk right into an Arlovski counter? Sure but is there enough power there to drop Sherman? Nah, I don’t think so.
If I’m getting dog money on a fighter I like against a 42-year-old, I’m generally going to head that way running. I’m not THAT confident here but I like the dog. Give me Sherman.
OFFICIAL PICK: CHASE SHERMAN
Are we doing this again? Abdul Razak Alhassan as a big favorite? Granted, I like Khaos against Razak. In fact, I was one of the only ones who liked Khaos against Alhassan. I’ll try not to hurt myself as I pat my own back. I learned my lesson against Lazzez and avoided a massive let down is more accurate. Now he’s making what I think is the appropriate move up to 185. He couldn’t make 170. He missed weight. He’s freaking massive. At 35, it’s not going to get any easier to make that weight cut so why fight it? Hopefully, this helps with some gas tank issues he’s displayed as well considering he won’t have as far to go with his weight cut. Unfortunately, he’s just not a very well-rounded fighter. He has shockingly big power but throws very little volume. Every strike is going for the kill. From a DK perspective that’s fun because the fight could be over in a matter of seconds. When he fights better fighters in the division, ones he’ll have to respect and perhaps grapple with, I wonder about his viability in the promotion. For Saturday, he should be just fine.
We didn’t learn a whole hell of a lot about Malkoun from the Hawes fight other than he’s tiny for the division and was put to sleep with one shot. That doesn’t bode well for this fight! Malkoun tried to use a ton of movement to avoid the power of Hawes but Hawes simply walked him down. The small cage is Razak’s friend in this instance. On tape, Malkoun has shown a stiff jab and uses a pawing technique to gauge distance. He’s a bit of a barroom brawler and will trade shots. I see a massive power discrepancy here which can only lead to one outcome.
OFFICIAL PICK: ABDUL RAZAK ALHASSAN
Why is Luis Pena the favorite here? Because he’s tall? Munoz has been taking money all week but people are starting to jump back on the Pena train. I really don’t get it. Frevola takes him down 4 times. Steve Garcia took him down. Freaking Matt Wiman took him down. Khama Worthy didn’t take him down and he still lost the damn fight. It seems like they are giving him winnable fights and hoping to see more progression and he’s just not showing it. He’s super long and massive for the division but that is really his only big attribute. His striking isn’t overly impressive. His grappling isn’t great. His wrestling is abysmal. So again, why is he the favorite?
I have Alexander Munoz winning this fight. He landed just the one takedown on Haqparast but showed a willingness to keep chasing the position. He didn’t give up on it. He’s relatively green in his pro MMA career but gave a good account of himself in his debut. He does tend to shoot for the takedown naked. I’d love to see his wrestling entries evolve and reach a different level. He also tends to keep his hands a little low but Pena’s tall body is just a bigger target for these takedowns. His chin held up against Nasrat and I see him having more success on the feet and mat against Pena.
OFFICIAL PICK: ALEXANDER MUNOZ
Cortez is….very marketable…
She’s 8-1 and spams takedowns like I pound beers on a Friday night. It’s a tale as old as time. She’s not the best striker in the world but mostly because she hasn’t had to be. I posted that picture for a very specific reason: her body. She looks a lot better at 125 than 135. You go back to some of her old tape and it doesn’t look like the same girl. What she could eventually struggle with is:
a) Someone with big power
She can walk into punches as she stands directly in front of her opponent.
b) Someone who can out muscle/out technique their way to making the fight a stand up battle.
My point? At 125 you are limiting the possibility for each.
Kish is strong for 125. I’ll give her that but she’s not overly talented. Felice Herrig outstruck her nearly 3 to 1 over 15 minutes while making Kish poop her pants.
Sorry, but I had to watch it, so you have to see it. Kish really tried to work the legs of Mazo early. She had success. She is a bulldog and a volume striker. That’s the issue here in that she has some moderate success against pure strikers but struggles in the grappling game.
I like Cortez to win the fight. I can’t bet this one unfortunately but would likely look towards the total anyway as opposed to paying Cortez’s price. Let’s see how each looks on the scale before we spend any scratch on this one.
OFFICIAL PICK: TRACY CORTEZ
Alright, I need to separate my love for Romanov from this line. My first inclination? Hammer it. Romanov is a polar bear. True, he hasn’t fought the toughest competition and has only seen the start of the third round in 3 of his 13 fights. All wins, by the way. King Kong is 260 pounds of muscle. He has big power in his hands but he does a ton of his damage on the ground. He has Brock Lesnar type of shoulders and uses his heavy top game to wear down opponents and muscle submissions. Alright, Lesnar is a stretch but you get the point. He’s huge.
If there is a negative, De Lima did tag him early with two inside leg kicks that put a hurting on Romanov. His stand-up game is not his strength but simply what he does before they get to the ground. He doesn’t set up his shots and ends up eating some shots on the way in. To date, no one has been able to make him pay the ultimate price. For the third time in his career, he finished his opponent with a forearm choke. That’s how big and strong this dude is.
In steps El Guapo, Juan Espino. He’s undefeated in the UFC at 2-0 and beat Jeff Hughes who respectfully mirrors a Stay Puft marshmallow, not a UFC fighter. Espino’s movement is awkward and rigid. For a heavyweight, he moves a lot, but not intelligently in my opinion. It’s a lot of heavy steps and weird angles away, not into the pocket. Espino loves to work on the ground and can be a bit sloppy with his entries. Once it’s down though they are in the spider’s web. He hasn’t needed it, stopping 9 of his fights inside the first, but Espino does have pretty good cardio.
What I don’t love about Espino is his workload. He hadn’t fought since 2018 before his fight against Hughes. Again, respectfully, I didn’t learn anything about Espino in that fight. There is zero question he’s a junkyard dog on the ground. He has submission skills but can HE handle the power of someone like Alexandr Romanov? Neither of these guys is a stand-up wizard. Floyd Mayweather isn’t walking into the gym to spar with these giants. I have a feeling they’ll both want to get this to the ground and impose their will on one another. Espino is more technical and Romanov is more powerful. Typically technique beats power but when the power can choke UFC fighters out with their forearms I’m going lean in that direction.
OFFICIAL PICK: ALEXANDR ROMANOV
Well, it was supposed to be Hannah Goldy ready to catch these Jessica Penne hands. Uh uh. Lupita Godinez steps in after nothing but issues over the last month with Hannah Goldy. Goldy tested positive just days before the fight was supposed to take palace at UFC 260. It was the long-awaited return of Jessica Penne so what’s a few more weeks, right?
Jessica Penne’s last fight was against Danielle Taylor and she lost. The date of that fight? April 22, 2017. Why has she been out so long? She had a 20 month USADA ban. That’s right, baby! She’s a rule bender. It was initially a 4-year suspension but was reduced after it was discovered there were only trace amounts of the banned substances due to a tainted supplement. For what it’s worth, that was her second USADA suspension. At 38 years old, I wouldn’t put it past this old bird to go for the hat trick and juice herself up for one last run at this thing!!
So one, we don’t really know what we are going to get from Penne. She’s been out so long and was coming off a 3 fight losing streak as it was. Against Taylor, she had a massive height and reach advantage and still couldn’t get it done. Taylor would go on to lose her next two fights and get cut from the promotion. Penne is a striker but pretty stiff and lacks big power. She really struggled with timing against Taylor and she never really engaged with her grappling. If you go back to the Markos fight, Penne showed some decent throws and bjj on the ground. She had several submission attempts that didn’t come off but did open up Markos early and won the fight. If the fight wasn’t from 7 years ago I’d put more weight on the performance but it does open up a potential path to victory. For what it’s worth, I had Goldy winning their fight.
Lupita is ready for the big time. She’s coming off a big win over Vanessa Demopoulos. Yes, the former stripper turned badass Demopoulos. Lupita is built for business. Somewhat short but with broad shoulders and defined limbs. It took literally one punch to drop Demopoulos. She does leave herself a little exposed with her striking as she has so much confidence in her hands. They do damage with every strike. It’s something to see and I’m assuming she’ll finish this fight with the possibility of it ending inside the distance.
Penne is a tough fighter and has only been finished by Andrade (fighting for the title) and Joanna. That’s an understandable list. The absence is the killer for me. We are 4 years removed from her last fight. I’ll take the younger, more aggressive fighter here. She can carry her pace and power into the third if need be.
OFFICIAL PICK: LUPITA GODINEZ
Are you surprised by this line? You shouldn’t be. Meerschaert has zero chin left on that 33-year-old face. We often talk about actual age vs cage age. Meerschaert is 45 fights into his pro career and he’s been finished 11 times, including back-to-back 1st round Ks to Chimaev (nbd) and Heinisch (oof).
Fabinski is coming off a submission loss to Muniz but just a few months removed from a win against the beast that is Darren Stewart. Not only did he win, but he also dominated Stewart for parts of the fight. The Butcher came into the fight as a heavy underdog and left a new man. What I love about Fabinski is that he has no delusions about the type of fighter he is. He will wrap you up in the clinch literally the second after you touch his glove to start the fight. Down and dirty is how he prefers the fight.
The interesting piece of this fight is that both of these guys are comfortable in the clinch and Meerschaert likely has the advantage in the ground game assuming it doesn’t end up there after a big right hand from Fabinski. We haven’t seen him in the octagon since September of 2020 when Chimaev put him to sleep with 1 punch just 17 seconds into the first round. It was a brutal right hand but one I was little surprised to see fold up the picnic table and shut down the night. Against Heinisch….stop me if you’ve heard this….one big right hand put Meerschaert down and the ground and pound finished the job.
It’s been six years since Fabinski stopped someone inside the distance. His last 2 losses were via Submission, where Meerschaert excels. Conversely, Meerschaert is 7 years removed from his last DECISION win. Anything is possible with two wild cards like this. Fabinski seems to have more power whereas Meerschaert seems to have the edge on the ground. There is 100% a chance that Gerald’s chin is just dust but Fabinski seems so inept with BJJ that I think Meerschaert finishes this cat inside the distance as a dog.
OFFICIAL PICK: GERALD MEERSCHAERT
Bush comes in on very short notice here as Natan Levy had to pull out with an injury. Like many young fighters looking to break into the UFC, you don’t really care how or when you get the call to fight…you go.
The story for me is Austin Hubbard. He’s had quite the run of tough opponents in the UFC and finally gets a new guy cutting his teeth. Hubbard debuts against Davi Ramos who just has a laundry list of BJJ championships…
Then he gets Mark O Madsen after beating Prepolec. He’s one of the best wrestlers in the division. Max Rohskoph was a D1 wrestler. Last but not least he gets Joe Solecki who we just saw beat the pants off Jim Miller and had almost 2 full rounds of control time. Can the guy just get a stand-up battle already? Well, not yet apparently!
Hubbard is a pressure fighter in a great gym. He really should be more highly regarded than he is. The cardio just wears his opponents down and one of the things we saw against all of these wrestlers is the willingness to keep getting up. So many times we see fighters, good fighters, just get frustrated and accept the position. That’s not Hubbard and I love that about him.
Bush fights with a similar style to all of these guys but he’s not Natan Levy and definitely isn’t Davi Ramos or Mark O Madsen. Bush does have some power in his hands and looks very relaxed in the cage. He starts most fights with some calf kicks before moving to the clinch. He’s young and hungry but I’m worried about him if this fight does to a decision, as Vegas seems to think it will. That pressure from Hubbard could be too much over 15 minutes and that’s why I’m leaning in that direction.
OFFICIAL PICK: AUSTIN HUBBARD
What the heck did Zarah Fairn do to deserve this run of fights? She joins the UFC with a little fanfare but nothing crazy. She’s immediately handed Megan Anderson, by far the better and bigger fighter. Boom, first-round sub. Then she gets Felicia Spencer in a semi-co-main event type of scenario. What?? This is a 37-year-old, nearly .500 fighter. Either she’s agreed to be a sacrificial lamb or the matchmakers hate her. Physically she is tall for the division and will have a 6” height advantage over her opponent and uses her length well. She doesn’t simply stand in the pocket either. She’ll circle off to one side or the other with strikes for cover to escape the rush. She was landing against Spencer at distance before Felicia smartly closed the distance and pushed the fight up against the fence. That is where the lack of strength and technique really showed themselves. Fairn off her back isn’t dangerous and it was just a matter of time before Felicia finished it.
Josiane Nunes has been knocking women out for fun. She joins the UFC on a 6 fight win streak with her only loss in her young pro MMA career to Taila Santos back in 2013. She’s 10 years younger than Zarah and by far the better prospect. The southpaw is short at just 5’2” but packs a hell of a lot of power into the small frame. She fights a little too square for my liking but it’s been effective to date. She doesn’t like to grapple either and this should be a striker’s delight.
I didn’t love what I saw on film from Nunes. Against Dione Barbosa, she was extremely gun shy to start and easily taken down. It was basically 5 minutes of control by Barbosa with Nunes looking clueless as to how to get off her back. She essentially tried to spam half-assed kimura attempts to reverse the position. In the second she tried to jump on a guillotine as Barbos shot for the takedown. It failed and again she ended up on her back. It was only a mistake by Barbosa that allowed Nunes to end up in her half guard where she started pouring on some damage.
Honestly, I think Fairn could get the better of the early striking battle. Nunes is hittable and tends to turtle instead of moving her head, but I don’t know that Fairn has enough power to finish the fight at which point Nunes will barrel forward and launch a big left hook at her head. She could and should mix in that inside leg kick to Fairn’s lead leg and chop the giant down. This could be a really fun fight but I’m going with Nunes to win here. This is a big test for Fairn as Nunes is FARRRR closer to her skill range than her last two opponents. If this were a 3-minute fight, I’d be on Fairn. It’s not and I’m not.
OFFICIAL PICK: JOSIANE NUNES
If you’re curious how this fight might flow, you only have to go back to Birchak’s last fight against Gustavo Lopez. Gravely should have a massive grappling advantage but Birchak has some sharp, straight striking that did find a home a few times. Birchak has heavy low kicks and like most 135ers is pretty quick. He has a habit of dropping his head off to the right when he throws his jab. Lopez quickly picked up on this and tagged Birchak with a check left hook on multiple occasions and did some damage. Birchak was rocked on several occasions but showed a decent enough chin to fight through the fray. He was a bit of a fish out of water on the ground. The submission was the less brutal alternative to the ground and pound Lopez was landing. It looked like a way out for Birchak, who has two really rough fights on his hands in his return to the promotion.
Gravely is my boy. Is he a bit overhyped? Maybe. I think the de Freitas win will look better with time. The Brett Johns loss was a super close fight that ended with Gravely getting submitted. Gravely did take him down 5 times in the loss and will certainly look to use his wrestling here as well. Gravely has super-fast hands and big power in his left hook. He uses his striking to set up his wrestling and should be able to have his way with Birchak. What I like about Gravely is that he doesn’t take a ton of punishment. Go back to his fight with Ray Rodriguez. Gravely was winning the stand-up battle and pressuring forward but Rodriguez landed one lean shot right around 3 minutes and Gravely said F this and took him straight down. I like that in my big favorites.
At $9400, we are going to likely need a finish inside the distance or a number of takedowns nearing double digits. Honestly, either is possible, and that is why I’m strongly considering Gravely for cash games this week.
OFFICIAL PICK: TONY GRAVELY
Birchak +260 (borderline)
Penne +235 (borderline)
Fabinski -130 (borderline)
UFC Fight Night Cheat Sheet will be posted on Friday… DON’T MISS IT!