Duke’s UFC Fight Island 7 Breakdown and Predictions!!!
UPDATES: Bets and MKF plays at the bottom
Not a ton to write home about. All fighters made weight. No one looked awful on the scale. Here are my picks in order of confidence: Ponzinibbio, Buckley, Todorovic, Emeev, Moras, Lingo, Imavov, Condit, Kattar, Tafa, Yanan!
Welcome back! Hopefully, everyone has had a great new year thus far and enjoyed the time off. I love to take this extended MMA break each year to focus on the 3 Rs:
The MMA season can be a grind. It’s different from a baseball or basketball grind. The fight cards are typically once a week. We see fighters once, twice, three times, or in Kevin Holland’s case, five times a year. They make improvements and changes in their game. New prospects are being added to the roster, and familiar names are being dropped. It’s all exciting and why we love the fight game, but at times, it can be exhausting, especially when we are all playing DFS and betting on several other sports. That is why I force myself to REST. When you stare at a screen all day, every day, for 355 days a year, the 10 days you don’t are important. It provides a RESET.
Reset doesn’t mean forget everything that’s happened in the past. History can be a great indicator of what is to come. Reset means bringing fresh eyes, ideas and thoughts to how we approach everything: from film study to writing style to betting patterns and sizes. It’s an evaluation of the entire process. The denial of the same old same old process and creativity and freshness of a new process REJUVENATES me and has me as jacked up as ever as the new season kicks off.
Behind the scenes, we’ve worked really hard as a staff to optimize time across all avenues of our business. I’ll be the first to admit that I had a little too much on my plate in the fall. That is no one’s fault but my own. With football now over and with the article now being released on THURSDAY, I have even more time to commit to film study, projections and selections. In short, I’m ready to crush it for everyone, and I’m fully rejuvenated.
There is one other major change we need to discuss: the new scoring system on DK. I’ll provide the CliffsNotes here, but if you want to read the full article, you can find it here.
Strikes, which are worth +0.2 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP).
Control Time, which is defined as time spent in the dominant position on the ground or in the clinch. Control time is worth +0.03 DKFP per second.
Quick Win Bonus, which is defined as a first-round win in 60 seconds or less. A quick win bonus is worth +25 DKFP.
In addition to the new scoring categories of strikes and control time, along with the quick win bonus, other changes have been made.
Significant Strikes have dropped from +0.5 DKFP to +0.2 DKFP. However, a Significant Strike will now count as both a Strike (0.2 DKFP) and a Significant Strike (0.2 DKFP), so a Significant Strike will be worth a total of 0.4 DKFP instead of 0.5 DKFP.
Advances have been removed. Under the old scoring system, advances earned a fighter +3.0 DKFP, but advances will no longer count towards a fighter’s score.
What are your overall impressions of the new scoring? For me, it does take a bit of the ambiguity out of the scoring. Unfortunately, we are still beholden to FightMetric and how they score fights, but now strikes are strikes. We are getting points every time a punch is landed, which is great. This rewards activity, and ultimately we like activity. The significant strikes losing 0.1 of a point seems….fine? I don’t hate the removal of advances because that seemed like guesswork and was hard to project, but we are yet to see how much of an impact control time will have. The rest of the scoring will remain the same.
A good follow on Twitter is @NumbersMMA. He put together a detailed spreadsheet showing last year’s scoring vs. the new scoring. It’s by no means a perfect set of data points, as there is quite a bit of information missing, but it is an interesting look at what could have been. Here is the doc.
The biggest movers from last year to this year were the fights that finished inside 60 seconds. Of the top 21 most improved scores, 14 were finished inside the first 60 seconds. The biggest scoring differential was a 48.34 net + difference for Kumara Usman in his fight with Jorge Masvidal. His 263 strikes and only 94 significant strikes being a portion of the difference, but the 998 seconds of control time helped, as well.
From his spreadsheet, we show 15 fighters with over 600 seconds of control time. On average, their score improved by 18.82 points.
There were seven fights where a fighter eclipsed 200 total strikes. Of those, three fighters’ scores were worse, but we also had the three highest positive changes of +48.3, +46.78 and +41.66 points. Each of those came with significant control time.
Lastly, if we look at strictly fighters with zero control time but the most “strikes,” their score mostly went DOWN under the new scoring system. Granted, six of the top seven fighters with these specific fights LOST their respective fights.
In general, not a ton has changed. Look for dominant fighters. Per usual, DK has to find a way to score wrestlers and fighters who like to clinch, so control time is a significant change. This helps fighters who tend to rest or stall in dominant positions. For every minute they are in a dominant position, we get 1.8 DK points. In theory, if they are throwing some pop shots in during this time, they are racking up striking points, as well. You can see how it will add up fairly quickly.
FINALLY, the last update before we get to the breakdowns. We are leaving the APEX. The small cage has been fun and certainly led to exciting finish after exciting finish, but we are heading back to Fight Island for the next three cards. They are back to the larger 30’ cage vs. the 25’ cage at the APEX. It’s a touch more room for the runners to run and the sprawlers to avoid takedowns.
With that, let’s get to the action. The new normal is staying right on track. We’ve had fights changed and fights canceled. With the strict testing guidelines required to get to the island, we hope the roster is set, and come Saturday, every fighter listed below will be ready to go!
- January 16, 2021
- Etihad Arena
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Prelims: ESPN+ – 12:00pm
- Main Card: ABC/ESPN+ – 3:00pm
UFC FIGHT ISLAND 7 MAIN EVENT
Max Holloway -150 ($8900/$21) v Calvin Kattar +130 ($7300/$18)
What a fight. Let me be honest here….I’m a Calvin Kattar truther. I’ve been on him since the Fili fight and have loved seeing his progress. He has some of the slickest boxing in the promotion, let alone the division. He’s added some devastating leg kicks to the arsenal and improving takedown defense. In a fight where I see both guys standing and trading for every bit of 25 minutes, I don’t hate the price on Kattar.
In saying that, how can you not love Max here? Sure, he’s lost three of his last four, including back-to-back decisions to Volkanovski, but the guy has literally only fought title fights since he beat the ever living shit out of Brian Ortega back in 2018. Kattar’s first fight in the UFC was only a few months before this run started for Holloway. The experience edge lies with Holloway.
Max is only 29, but he’s been around forever and lately hasn’t been able to stop anyone. Poirier outlast him in a five-round fight. He beat Frankie Edgar but couldn’t put him away. Volk hasn’t been stopped in seven years, and Max had him wobbled on a few occasions. Still, no KO. These longer fights and sheer volume of punches might be taking a toll on the former champ. In saying that, he’s fourth all-time in significant strike differential at +654. He’s dishing out plenty of punishment himself.
Max is typically long and relatively big for the division. Watching the tape of his fights against Frankie Edgar and Volkanovski was almost comical. He won’t have that advantage here. Kattar is the same height and will take a 3” reach advantage into this fight. Holloway loves to keep his hands low and use his speed to land quick shots. That could be an issue against that sharp boxing of Kattar.
To me, Holloway looked as good as ever early against Volkanovski in the last fight. He dropped Volk several times in the first two rounds. The only issue is he slowed down. Volk won the fourth and fifth. I don’t know that Max was tired as much as the shots added up from Volk, and the punching speed, the movement slowed down for Max. I had him winning the fight and the belt, but the overarching point I can’t get out of my head is that Max is very much a Championship level fighter. Is Kattar?
I love what’s going on in Boston, and Kattar showed another level against a real fighter in Dan Ige last time out for his own five-round thriller. The emphasis for Calvin has been getting off to faster starts after he essentially ran out of time against Zabit. Zabit is really the only man to give him real trouble, and it was that awkward striking that took too long to adjust to that did Kattar in. The step-in elbow floored Jeremy Stephens, and there is just so much to love about his game. The fact that he grows in fights while Holloway can fade has my brain in a pretzel.
Can Max finish Kattar? I don’t think so.
Can Kattar finish Max? Maybe? Probably not.
So this goes five rounds, and one fighter fades, and the other comes on late…
It’s so hard to pick against Max, but I think the larger ring and gas tank helps the slick movement and striking of Kattar.
OFFICIAL PICK: Calvin Kattar
Carlos Condit -165 ($8700/$16) v Matt Brown +145 ($7500/$14)
What year is this? Two absolute studs from the year 2010! Seriously, it’s awesome to see them get a chance against one another instead of some up and coming stud to potentially pad a resume and send these legends out on a low note.
Unfortunately, Matt Brown is no longer immortal. His last win against anyone of relevance was in 2015 against Dirty Bird Tim Means. That scenario I mentioned above about giving one of these guys to a new stud just happened, and Matt Brown actually had Baeza in trouble in the first. However, there was a major speed discrepancy between the two, and it was after Brown was getting picked apart that he just unleashed his load on Baeza. He ate one clean shot from Baeza and went down in the first. A big left counter hook ended the fight in the second. His power is still there, but his body doesn’t move as fast as his brain on the defensive side of a fight. He was leaving his chin on a plate.
Condit was left for dead but looked awesome last time out. Long, rangy. When he can get someone to stand up with him, he can have success. Matt Brown should give him exactly what he’s asking for. Brown also really struggled with the low kicks from Baeza, something Condit should feature early.
I love Matt Brown, but Carlos has been fighting guys much better than him, and when Condit finally came back down to his level, he easily picked up the W. It’s been a while since Condit stopped anyone, but Brown has been stopped in his last four losses. He’s finished 28 of his 31 wins ITD.
Condit by late TKO
OFFICIAL PICK: Carlos Condit
Santiago Ponzinibbio -290 ($9300/$23) v Li Jingliang +245 ($6900/$9)
Ponzinibbio = Argentinian dagger. Interesting!
He’s been out for a while but should realistically get this done. The worry here is the layoff, having not fought since the fourth-round stoppage of Neil Magny. The absence is odd because you’d think he’d want to keep this rolling. He talked this week about how he thought he’d be fighting for the belt, and in 2019, he was fighting for his life. He can fight a bit dirty at times, but I don’t hate that. I like winners. He moves faster and hits harder than Lingliang. He has a great attitude coming into this fight, saying, “I’m going to knock this guy out. I’m going to injure this guy.” That wasn’t lost in translation. He’s looking for a big victory here.
Ponzinibbio has had at least one knockdown in each of his last four fights and control time in each. Against Mike Perry, he was caught a few times but simply moved to his wrestling to get the victory. That is part of what I love about his game; it’s adaptable. He’s a professional who knows how to win fights.
Li is not some bum. He has eight wins in the UFC, but against who? Zaleski Dos Santos is yet to establish himself in the promotion. Zawada is fighting on this card as an underdog. Abe was cut and has lost four straight. Ottow was beaten by Alex Morono in his last fight back in March of 19. Camacho is likely done. Nash has lost three straight. Honestly, his best win might have been against Dhiego Lima back in 2015, but Lima was cut after that fight and had to work his way back to the promotion. He has shown power, but he tends to defend with his chin, and that’s the issue here.
I give the stand up edge to Ponz. I give the ground game edge to Ponz. BJJ to Ponz. Li is just slightly worse at every aspect of this fight. If it weren’t for the long layoff, this would be an absolute no brainer. Ponzinibbio did get off to a bit of a slow start against Mike Perry and could face a touch of ring rust here. I would be shocked to see this fight get into the second or third round before Ponz wins by TKO or decision.
OFFICIAL PICK: Santiago Ponzinibbio
Joaquin Buckley -260 ($9400/$22) v Alessio Di Chirico +220 ($6800/$8)
All the talk is about Di Chirico’s chin, but Buckley is on a different level in terms of power. He can fight a patient style. He doesn’t rush in and try to murder his opponent, but he happens to have KO power in his hands. Buckley should have been a -2000 favorite against Jordan Wright, but at the end of the first, I was a bit nervous about our bet. Wright wasn’t exactly putting Buckley in bad positions, but Buckley was being so patient that the activity of Wright meant you could have arguably given him the first round. That can happen directly after a monster knockout.
The only way to describe Buckley’s destruction of Kasanganay was show-stopping. We saw it with Khaos Williams most recently; sometimes highlight real finishes are a fighter’s worst enemy. Patience is good until it becomes stagnation. Thankfully, it looked like Buckley got that out of his system in the first against Wright.
Di Chirico can fight a similar fight to what Wright was attempting early. He’s lost three in a row, so clearly, the UFC is telling him to put up or shut up while at the same time perhaps trying to prop up a potential franchise in Joaquin Buckley. Di Chirico went three rounds with Kevin Holland and landed a few decent right hands. He did a great job of fighting at distance and engaging in some clinch work just to get through the fight.
Everything I’m hearing is acting like Di Chirico has zero chance in this fight. Di Chirico does have some power in his hands and can land some elbows in close, but this matchup has a boxing promotion type of feel to it. They are building up their boy before putting him at the top of a card. It’s a quick rise to prominence, but this doesn’t seem like the spot where he gets knocked off his prospect pirch.
Buckley – later than the experts think…
OFFICIAL PICK: Joaquin Buckley
Dusko Todorovic -155 ($8500/$19) v Punahele Soriano +135 ($7700/$12)
SOMEONE’S O MUST GO. This is a show me fight.
Puna throws the left and starches you, and he’s at a good camp. Not a great grappler. Not a great wrestler. His cardio has some issues in the past, and he’s been out for over a year. He did get the decision win over Pickett, but early in the first, he was reaching with everything. Rights, lefts. Everything was a reach and thrown with power. He was also coming straight in with little-to-no feints and taking deep breaths in the first round. He’s certainly an exciting fighter but wasn’t getting a whole lot back from Pickett. What I like about Soriano is his ability to wrestle when he was getting really tired. He used his wrestling as a way to win rounds and regain his breath. It’s not ideal but it’s better than fading like some guys on the roster.
Lastly, wow the power in his KO of Piechota. Soriano was in trouble a few times, but he dropped Piechota several times with that big left and finally put him out.
Dusko has a chin and has big power himself. He does leave his chin in the air as he defends more with head movement than his arms/gloves. That is always a worry when fighting someone with big power like Soriano. Of his recent wins, that KO against Pereira back in 2018 is looking better every day. However, watching that tape back, either something fishy was going on, or Todorovic has MAJOR power in his hands. There wasn’t a massive clean shot that landed. It was a couple of pitter-patter shots that dropped Pereira before Dusko followed up with the big shots.
Dusko was 0-for-14 on takedowns against Ash but controlled Ash in the clinch for almost the entirety of the first round. To be fair, the takedowns were level changes in the clinch, not double legs from the middle of the ring. With the new scoring system, that’s just points points points. It can also frustrate the shit out of a fighter like Soriano that wants to bang leather at distance. He did show some wrestling and ground and pound against Townsend so you wonder what this kid can’t do.
I struggled with this pick, to be honest. If they fight 10 times, I think Dusko wins eight. Soriano has that big power, and all it takes is one of those lefts to land flush to put Dusko in a world of hurt. I’ll have a bit of both in DFS, but as for my pick, I’ll go with Dusko to pick up his second win on fight island.
OFFICIAL PICK: Dusko Todorovic
Phillip Hawes -130 ($8800/$18) v Nassourdine Imavov +110 ($7400/$14)
Does this fight get out of the first round? This is a great live betting opportunity, as I see all the value on Imavov coming back from a potential hot start from Hawes. Phil Hawes should have a big power and speed advantage. He was a junior college national champion wrestler but has been surprisingly unsuccessful with his wrestling in the octagon. By now, you guys should know that I laugh at the “deep waters” saying, but Hawes has shown that when the going gets tough, he’ll find a way out. When he’s fought real UFC level talent, he’s lost. He lost to Marquez after being way ahead in the first. He lost to Andrew Sanchez. He’s done a great job winning against guys who shouldn’t be here.
Imavov – from Dagestan, Russia and moved to MMA Factory in France. You might recognize a few names from that camp (Ciryl Gane and one Francis N’Gannou). As you can probably guess, he doesn’t want to wrestle. He wants to strike. He’s only 25 and still developing, so I can’t wait to see what he brings to the octagon in this fight. He had an impressive win over Jordan Williams in his UFC debut and is riding a six-fight win streak. Imavov was rocked a few times against Williams and immediately went for the shot.
Hawes gas tank and give a shit meter might be the issue I want to attack here. If it does get to the ground, Imavov is slick and can slip a submission. I know Hawes is dangerous, and surely he can finish this one in 10 seconds, but I have Imavov winning this one after the first as Hawes gets frustrated and looks for a way out.
OFFICIAL PICK: Nassourdine Imavov
Wu Yanan -110 ($8400/$19) v Joselyne Edwards -110 ($7800/$11)
Straight pick’em here. Frankly, what are we doing here? Is there some quota we need to hit? Everything you are about to read below is as educated of a guess as I can possibly provide. To say I know what’s going to happen here would be a lie. Wu was originally scheduled to fight Beth Correira, who only recently pulled out. In steps Edwards, who probably shouldn’t be at this level. But then, should Wu? Let’s dig in.
Wu doesn’t have much of a ground game, but she’s still just 24, and her game is evolving. She’s sponsored by the state. She committed herself full time to this sport. She’s a decent striker and very strong in the clinch. She picked up the armbar win over undefeated Mueller in what might have been the quickest tap in the history of the UFC. She’s looked more comfortable with every single fight in the octagon.
Joselyne Edwards thinks she’s A LOT better than she actually is. She fights with a swagger like she’s going to put every single girl in front of her to sleep. I don’t mind that at all, but then you have to back it up, homegirl. I watched her fight against Trisha Cicero and came away more confused than before I’d watched any film. Edwards was throwing punches with power, but they were miles away from the target and coming from her hips. She was constantly caught in the clinch and largely ineffective. She was really struggling to get off her back unless she was able to sweep her opponent. That was essentially her only escape.
Her most recent fight, I think, was in someone’s garage against an LP (little person). Give her credit, she finished the fight inside 30 seconds with a flurry of punches, knees and finally a kick to the midsection, but the level of competition should be considered a 0/10.
Wu ain’t great, but she’s not fighting in garages and has a UFC win under her belt.
OFFICIAL PICK: Wu Yanan
Carlos Felipe -190 ($8600/$20) v Justin Tafa +165 ($7600/$11)
Big boys with one very questionable gas tank. We’ve seen recently from the heavyweights that the guy who needs the stoppage has been getting absolutely murdered as we get beyond the first round.
Tafa showed zero ring IQ against De Castro. He was doing a decent job of keeping the fight greasy, pushing de Castro up against the fence and dirty boxing. Then he walks right into a right hand with his chin on a plate. He bounced back against Juan Adams, who’s a bit of a tomato can. Tafa landed a nice right hook over the left shoulder of Adams before unloading a big uppercut to drop Adams, but the stoppage felt a touch quick for my liking. Adams was hurt, for sure, but scrambling to tie up Tafa. Once again, we weren’t able to see what Tafa looks like later in a fight, so the gas tank is still in question. We do know he can carry power into the second round and will be dangerous.
Felipe has the gas tank. He can put out the volume. He also can grow into fights, which does make me a touch nervous, considering Tafa prefers to get his business done early. The one similar opponent is De Castro, and Felipe did get the W by unanimous decision. While he was technically outstruck by De Castro, Felipe landed the much more dangerous shots.
This is a fight I don’t have a ton of confidence in from a DK perspective. If Felipe wins, he likely keeps this at range and picks his spots to throw punches. If Tafa wins, he’s likely by KO. Surely, the play here is for the upside of Tafa, and thinking more about this fight, are we 100% positive Tafa doesn’t have the gas tank to get this done? As I said, he was doing fine to quite well against De Castro before he walked into that right hand. De Castro was able to land some shots on Felipe but admitted after the fact that he didn’t train hard enough. At the risk of hurting my “record,” I’m going to go with the upside here.
OFFICIAL PICK: Justin Tafa
Ramazan Emeev -260 ($9200/$20) v David Zawada +220 ($7000/$9)
Emeev fights boring but effective. It’s a lot of grinding, clinches, some striking. He’s just winning fights. He’ll clinch, take you down, control you, and then get back up and do it again. He will benefit quite a bit from the new DK rules, as quite a few of his “strikes” were from the ground and not considered significant under the old system. However, I don’t believe he has 100-point upside, which is what you are looking for from a $9200 fighter.
Zawada is going to have to show the volume and avoid the clinch. He did beat Khabib’s brother last time out. He dropped Li Jianliang. Perhaps a live dog? Zawada was easily taken down by Nurmagomedov but obviously ended up wrapping up a triangle to get the first-round submission. He does have a nice array of striking, but it’s a bit paint by numbers. It’s move the head and throw the 1-2. It can be timed and become a bit predictable.
Can this baby go over 2.5 rounds? Zawada is durable, and Emeev loves a decision win. That’s how I see this one going.
Emeev by decision
OFFICIAL PICK: Ramazan Emeev
Sarah Moras -220 ($9100/$20) v Vanessa Melo +180 ($7100/$8)
Can you take Sarah Moras at -220? Whew, I’m not sure I can. At least she’s been around. She has a bunch of losses, but it’s against women Melo could only dream of beating. She had an impressive stoppage by elbows against Jojua, and it looked like maybe she had found something before being shoved right back in the depths of the division by Sijara Eubanks. Sarah will have to rely on her wrestling and her grappling. She’ll need to outwork Melo in this fight. While she isn’t overly skilled in the octagon, she’s found a way to stay competitive against fighters much better than Melo, and she’s scrappy.
Melo is 0-3 in the UFC. I’m guessing this would be her last fight should she lose here. Melo is quite poor on the ground. Karol Rosa absolutely murdered her the last time out to the tune of 120 significant strikes, had two takedowns and a unanimous decision by 30-26, 30-26 and somehow 29-27 scores from the judges. Her loss against Tracy Cortez was 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 on the judges’ scorecards. Cortez landed 155 total strikes with two takedowns. Any guesses what happened in her loss to Aldana? 30-26, 30-26, 30-26. Granted, Aldana is a beast, but once again it was unanimous with 127 total strikes landed.
Moras can hang with bad fighters, and I’d put Melo in that category. The issue is I can’t pay -230 on someone who can HANG with bad fighters and not destroy them. To Melo’s credit, she wasn’t finished in any of these fights, but she hasn’t sniffed a victory in the promotion. For Moras, she’ll need to get this to the ground ASAP. Not that Melo is some great striker, but if these two stay standing, throwing pillows at each other for 15 minutes, I might jump off the nearest bridge. I’m not excited about it, but you have to take Moras here.
OFFICIAL PICK: Sarah Moras
Austin Lingo -220 ($9000/$20) v Jacob Kilburn +180 ($7200/$10)
These guys want to kill each other. Not in a personal way, that’s just how they fight, and it’s an awesome way to kick off the night.
Lingo was given a tough spot against Yusef Zalal in his UFC debut. It’s been nearly a year since that fight. Fighting out of Fortis, he’ll surely be testing himself every day and improving. He’s only 26. He has five first-round wins and has five stoppages in his seven wins. Zalal had a big speed advantage, but Lingo did a great job of cutting off the ring and making the ring small. It was constant pressure in spite of getting punched in the face and taken down repeatedly. I liked the tenacity but wished the skill level was there to match. Everything starts with his left hook, which shows some power.
Kilburn had to fight Billy Q in his UFC debut. Billy Q really dominated Kilburn, whereas Lingo hung with Zelal a bit more. Billy Q isn’t an overly strong and dominant guy, but Kilburn had no answers on the ground. He’s a tough kid, for sure, because he ate 139 strikes and survived several submission attempts. But as for discernible skills in the octagon, I saw none. Moffett dominated Kilburn on the ground in the Contender Series.
How long will this last? I’m sure Lingo will want to stand and bang, but Kilburn is so bad off his back and likes to throw a spinning back fist when he feels like he’s in trouble, which naturally leads to an easy takedown. I don’t hate Lingo by submission here.
OFFICIAL PICK: Austin Lingo
This Week’s Bets
(DK) Moras + Ponzinibbio @ -110 – 1.1 to win 1
(DK) Austin Lingo to win by any KO, Submission or DQ (+135) 1 to win 1.35
(DK) Nassourdine Imavov (+108) – 1 to win 1.08
(DK) Todorovic + Buckley + Ponzinibbio + Emeev (+304) – 0.5 to win 1.51
MKF – SS = Significant Strikes. This is relatively new so we are getting our feet wet.
Imavov O42.5 SS/Hawes U40.5 SS – 1 to win 2
Ponzinibbio U64.5 SS/Jingliang O36.5 SS – 1 to win 2
UFC Fight Night Cheat Sheet will be posted on Friday… DON’T MISS IT!