Adam Martin’s GPP Plays and Cash Game advice for UFC Vegas 27: Font vs. Garbrandt
We are back with another awesome MMA card this weekend with UFC Vegas 27. The world’s leading promotion heads back home to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, meaning it’s the small cage again, along with no crowd in attendance. We have 13 fights scheduled to take place on the card. There are some fantastic matchups in store so let’s go and get into them all now.
UFC Vegas 27 Card
Rob Font ($8300) vs. Cody Garbrandt ($7900)
The main event of UFC Vegas 27 sees Rob Font take on Cody Garbrandt in a potential No. 1 contender fight between two of the best bantamweights in the sport. Font is riding hot into this fight as he has won his last three fights in a row, including a brutal KO win over Marlon Moraes in his last fight. Ever since he joined the UFC in 2014, Font has been knocking people out in the Octagon. Out of his eight UFC wins, six have come by stoppage, which shows how much of a finisher he is. With KO power and improved wrestling, Font is a very tough out at 135lbs.
Garbrandt is the former UFC bantamweight champion, and he was a great bet for a long time as he won the first six fights of his UFC career. However, Garbrandt has really slipped in recent years as he’s lost three of his last four fights by knockout. His chin is a huge issue, and it’s why I can’t trust him anymore. I love the speed and the knockout power, but if Garbrandt can’t take a punch, then these types of fights against heavy hitters like Font will never go his way. He still has a puncher’s chance, but his chin is too frail for me to back anymore.
I have to go with Font here, and I think he does get the knockout, but I also recognize that Garbrandt has a puncher’s chance. From a fantasy point of view, this is a fight you will want to target this weekend as a knockout seems likely for the winning fighter. My lean is for Font to be the one to knock Garbrandt out, but there’s a reason that these price tags are so competitive.
Pick: Rob Font
Yan Xiaonan ($8600) vs. Carla Esparza ($7600)
The co-main event of UFC Vegas 27 sees Yan Xiaonan take on Carla Esparza. With Xiaonan ranked No. 3 in the women’s strawweight division and Esparza ranked No. 4, it seems likely that the winner of this fight will be next in line to fight women’s 115lbs champion Rose Namajunas.
Xiaonan joined the UFC in 2017, and she has since gone a perfect 6-0 in the Octagon, with an increasingly more difficult level of competition as she goes forward in her career. She has shown to be a very skilled striker on the feet, and for the most part, she has been able to defend the takedowns of her opponents. There is certainly the possibility that she could be the best women’s strawweight in the world, and she’ll likely get a title shot if she can beat Esparza.
You have to give Esparza a lot of credit. She was the first-ever UFC women’s strawweight champion, and seven years later, she is still winning fights in the Octagon. In fact, she is riding a four-fight win streak at the moment, with a notable win over Marina Rodriguez in her last outing. Esparza has elite wrestling, and that allows her to pin the majority of her opponents to the mat. If she can get Xiaonan down to the ground and hold her there, she can pull off the upset here.
Overall, my lean in this fight is towards Xiaonan. From what I’ve seen, she should have the takedown defense to keep this fight standing, and on the feet, her striking skills should be enough to get her the win. But Esparza does have that grinding wrestling style that makes her very difficult to beat at times, so I do think she’s a live dog with her grappling. My official pick is Xiaonan to win the decision, but there is certainly upset potential in this spot with Esparza.
Pick: Yan Xiaonan
Justin Tafa ($9000) vs. Jared Vanderaa ($7200)
In the heavyweight division, we have a battle of the men as Justin Tafa takes on Jared Vanderaa. Starting with Tafa, he’s just 1-2 in the UFC, but he has shown some potential, especially with his improving striking attack and massive KO power. This is a man who can turn your lights out with one punch. He is still rather limited in his overall MMA game, but anyone who dares to stand and trade with Tafa can get brutally knocked out with his one-punch power.
As for Vanderaa, he’s 0-1 in the UFC with a TKO loss to Sergey Spivak, but he did beat Harry Hunsucker by TKO on Dana White’s Contender Series to get this opportunity in the first place. Vanderaa is a huge heavyweight who, in this particular matchup, will be four inches taller and have six inches in reach. Those are definitely some advantages for Vanderaa, but I haven’t seen the striking from him to believe that he knows how to utilize his reach advantage properly.
This is a low-level heavyweight fight, so there is certainly the chance that Vanderaa can get the win in this one. But overall, I do lean a little bit towards Tafa. I think he’s the harder puncher and has the better chin, so I would lean towards him to probably knock Vanderaa out in this spot.
Pick: Justin Tafa
Felicia Spencer ($8700) vs. Norma Dumont ($7500)
At women’s featherweight, Felicia Spencer takes on Norma Dumont, who filled in on short notice for the injured Danyelle Wolf. Spencer hasn’t fought since last June when she lost a lopsided decision to UFC women’s featherweight champion Amanda Nunes. She also lost to Cris Cyborg in 2019. But overall, she has a 2-2 record in the Octagon with two finishes against lower-ranked competition, so she has proven she’s just under the elite level in the division.
As for Dumont, she is really a mystery to me. She’s had two fights in the UFC, first getting knocked out by Megan Anderson but then dominating Ashlee Evans-Smith for a decision in her second fight. That fight was at 135lbs, and this fight is back at 145lbs after Dumont struggled to make weight in her last scheduled bout. From the tape that we do have on Dumont, she appears to be a strong grappler, but there just isn’t enough of a sample size to back her here.
I do think Dumont is a wild card in this spot because she looked fantastic in her last outing against Evans-Smith, but Spencer has proven herself to be a legitimate UFC featherweight, and she’s a former Invicta FC champion, as well. This should be a close fight, but ultimately, I think Spencer’s grappling skills should be enough for her to either win a decision or get a submission.
Pick: Felicia Spencer
David Dvorak ($8800) vs. Juancamilo Ronderos
Unfortunately, this flyweight bout between David Dvorak and Raulian Paiva will not take place as scheduled on Saturday night after Paiva suffered a tough weight cut and was hospitalized. My pick for this fight was going to be Paiva as an underdog, as I liked his length and reach in the contest. Unfortunately, he’s off the card, but thankfully, the UFC was able to get a short-notice replacement after Juancamilo Ronderos steps up on 24hrs notice.
Ronderos is 4-0 in MMA since making his professional debut in 2019. All four of his pro fights took place that year, and he won all four of them, including a split decision nod over former UFC fighter Eric Shelton the last time we saw him. He hasn’t fought since December 2019 and is taking this fight on very short notice, so this looks like a very tough spot for Ronderos.
I’m not convinced that Dvorak is going to be a champion in the UFC, but he’s definitely a solid flyweight with good striking skills and decent grappling. Although I did favor Paiva as a dog there, I think against Ronderos, Dvorak should be a huge favorite. All signs are pointing to him getting the win in this fight against an opponent who has less-than-ideal circumstances.
Credit to Ronderos for stepping up on short notice, but this is a tough matchup for him to make his UFC debut. Look for Dvorak to win this fight, although I still think his price is too high here.
Pick: David Dvorak
UPDATE: Dvorak vs. Paiva canceled after Paiva fell ill during his weight cut. Juancamilo Ronderos stepped up on less than 24hrs notice to take the fight. It’s worth noting that Ronderos missed weight at 128.5lbs, but given the short notice, he will get a pass for the weight miss.
Jack Hermansson ($8900) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan ($7300)
At middleweight, we have Jack Hermansson against Edmen Shahbazyan in a battle of top-15 middleweights. Hermansson has been one of the best in the world at 185lbs for several years now. He has great striking, awesome submissions, and really good cardio, making him a tough out for anyone in the division. Although Hermansson is coming off of a decision loss to Marvin Vettori, it was just last summer that we saw him submit Kelvin Gastelum in their fight.
As for Shahbazyan, he is coming off of the first loss of his career, a TKO defeat to Derek Brunson. It was a terrible performance by Shahbazyan, but he’s only 23 years old and can make the improvements necessary to bounce back. Prior to losing to Brunson, Shahbazyan had knocked out a number of his foes in the Octagon and was looking like a serious contender. The loss to Hermansson hurt his stock, but I’m not ready to write off “The Golden Boy” just yet.
I feel like this is one of the hardest fights on the entire card to call, and I’ve been going back-and-forth on it all week. Although, I can definitely see Hermansson utilizing his grappling and taking Shahbazyan down and beating him on the ground, I’m going to take a shot on the underdog Shahbazyan here. I think he can get the knockout, and I like the cheap price tag.
Pick: Edmen Shahbazyan
Bill Algeo ($8500) vs. Ricardo Ramos ($7700)
In the featherweight division, Bill Algeo takes on Ricardo Ramos. This fight was supposed to happen last month but was pushed back after Ramos was infected with COVID-19. Starting with Algeo, he has gone 1-1 so far in the UFC with a decision win over Spike Carlyle and a decision loss to Ricardo Lamas. Algeo has really good cardio, good striking, and decent wrestling, making him a well-rounded fighter. I also like how much volume he throws with his strikes.
Ramos is a bit of a wild card. At times, he has looked tremendous, such as when we saw him finish Aiemann Zahabi with a spinning back elbow or when he submitted Eduardo Garagorri in the first round. But he has also struggled badly in some of his fights, including his last outing against Lerone Murphy when he was knocked out with ground and pound. I have questions about the durability of Ramos, and I also feel like he’s a fighter who has questionable cardio.
Although Ramos has a chance to win this fight in the first round by stoppage, if he doesn’t get the finish, I see him tiring out as the fight goes on. I’m not sure if Algeo gets a late finish or not, but I at least expect him to take the decision in this spot. Cardio is one of the biggest weapons you can have in this game, and Algeo has it in spades, so look for him to get his hand raised.
Pick: Bill Algeo
Ben Rothwell ($9200) vs. Chris Barnett ($7000)
In the heavyweight division, we have Ben Rothwell taking on Chris Barnett. Rothwell was supposed to fight two other opponents, but Barnett eventually was signed to take the fight on short notice, and he will make his UFC debut here against Rothwell. Based on the short-notice nature of the fight, Barnett has been set as one of the biggest underdogs on the whole card.
Rothwell is 39 years old now, and he isn’t as good as he once was during his prime. But I still think he’s a quality heavyweight, and overall, I think he’s very underrated by most fans. Although he is coming off of a decision loss to Marcin Tybura, Rothwell had beaten Ovince Saint Preux and Stefan Struve before that, which shows that he still has some gas left in his tank. Rothwell has an iron chin, huge punching power, and submission skills, making him ultra dangerous.
Barnett wasn’t impressive to me when I watched his tape. I’ll give him credit for being a longtime veteran of the sport, and he even has a win over current UFC top-10 heavyweight Walt Harris from 2011. But I feel like Barnett is past his prime now, and he’s only in the UFC because he was willing to take this fight on short notice. He has some power and some cool spinning kicks, but Barnett has a weak chin, he’s short for the division at 5’9”, and he also looks out of shape.
Rothwell is one of the biggest favorites on this card, but it’s hard to disagree with that. Although Barnett is a heavyweight with power, Rothwell has an iron chin, and it seems hard to envision Barnett getting the knockout. The most likely scenario for this fight sees Rothwell either knocking Barnett out or outpointing him and winning a decision. Either way, Rothwell rolls.
Pick: Ben Rothwell
Claudio Silva ($8200) vs. Court McGee ($8000)
At welterweight, we have Claudio Silva taking on Court McGee. Silva has been one of the most underrated welterweights in the UFC since making his debut back in 2014. He even has a win over Leon Edwards, which looks great in hindsight. Although he’s 38, Silva still has tremendous submission skills, and if he can get McGee to the ground, he can definitely tap him out.
McGee is a former Ultimate Fighter winner, and he’s as tough as it gets. But he has lost five of his last six fights, and at age 36, he appears to be on a steep decline. McGee has always been known for his cardio and his durability, but in 2021, you need more skills than that to win fights. McGee can beat Silva, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him in the first round.
This is one of the closest fights on the card, according to the odds, but I have to lean towards Silva to get the win in this one. In a close fight like this, the one biggest edge that he does have is the superior ground game. Should Silva get McGee down to the ground, he will have a good chance to submit him. But if he gasses out, this could be a spot for McGee to get a late finish.
Pick: Claudio Silva
Bruno Silva ($9300) vs. Victor Rodriguez ($6900)
In the flyweight division, we have Bruno Silva against Victor Rodriguez. It’s worth noting that Silva is taking the fight on short notice for the injured Denys Bondar, but despite that, he’s a massive favorite to win this fight. Although I typically do fade fighters coming in on short notice, this looks like a tough matchup for Rodriguez, and I can see why Silva is so highly favored.
Although Silva went 0-2, 1 NC in his first three UFC fights, he showed improved striking skills in his last outing when he knocked out JP Buys. That was a very impressive performance by Silva over a highly-touted prospect, and it shows that he is still evolving his game. Training with former UFC champion Henry Cejudo certainly doesn’t hurt in helping Silva evolve his game.
As for Rodriguez, he has only fought once in the UFC, and he was knocked out by Adrian Yanez. He does have quite a few finishes on his resume, but they were against low-level competition. This fight against Silva looks like a step up in competition from most guys Rodriguez has been fighting, and this seems like it could be a difficult matchup for him.
Silva is due to get his hand raised here; the only question is can he finish the fight or not? I would lean towards yes based on the improved striking we saw his last time out. I also don’t trust Rodriguez’s chin and think Silva can probably tune him up and get him out of there. Silva is a big favorite, but the price seems justified, given he can finish this fight.
Pick: Bruno Silva
Joshua Culibao ($9100) vs. Nuerdanbieke Shayilan ($7100)
At featherweight, we have Joshua Culibao against Nuerdanbieke Shayilan, who is making his UFC debut. Culibao has fought twice in the Octagon so far, with mixed results. He was smashed by Jalin Turner in his promotional debut at 155lbs, but then he scored a draw against Charles Jourdain in his next outing at 145lbs. He said that he has quit his job and is now training full-time, and we saw the differences that made against Jourdain in a respectable performance.
Shayilan is making his UFC debut here, and he’s a bit of a mystery as there isn’t a ton of tape on him out there. From what I did see, he has a pretty good ground game, but the truth is, the opponents he has fought were absolutely terrible. It’s hard to get a really good gauge of where Shayilan is, but based on what I saw, this is not someone who looks like he belongs in the UFC.
Culibao has the edge in power, and he also has UFC experience, not to mention he’s the taller and longer fighter in this matchup. Shaylian is a bit of a wild card as he could perform better than he did on tape, but until we see him actually fight in the UFC, I can’t back this guy. I’m going with Culibao here, and considering the power we’ve seen from him, a stoppage seems possible.
Pick: Joshua Culibao
Damir Hadzovic ($8400) vs. Yancy Medeiros ($7800)
In the lightweight division, we have Damir Hadzovic against Yancy Medeiros. With Hadzovic coming off of two straight losses and Medeiros losing his last four fights, there is a good chance that the loser of this fight is released, so this is a must-win fight for both men. It’s worth noting that Medeiros is taking the fight on short notice as he is filling in for the injured Nikolas Motta.
Starting with Hadzovic, he honestly hasn’t been all that impressive in the UFC. Since joining the promotion in 2016, Hadzovic is just 3-4 overall in the promotion. However, two of those three wins have come by stoppage, so the 34-year-old Bosnian does have some power. However, his defensive grappling has been a real issue and has led to him losing his last two fights.
Medeiros has been in the UFC since the fall of Strikeforce in 2013, and he has put on some amazing fights over the years. But all those wars come with a toll, and Medeiros has taken a ton of damage. Even though at 33 years old, he’s technically the younger fighter in this matchup, based on actual fight years, Medeiros is far older than the 33-year-old that he is on paper.
Stylistically, this should be a competitive fight between two men who prefer to stand and trade, but I have to fade Medeiros in this spot. He has taken so much damage in his career, and I just feel like his chin won’t hold up against the power of Hadzovic. Either Hadzovic gets the TKO, or he wins a decision, but I like him to beat Medeiros and send him packing from the UFC.
Pick: Damir Hadzovic
Damir Ismagulov ($9500) vs. Rafael Alves ($6700)
The opening bout of the UFC Vegas 27 preliminary card sees Damir Ismagulov make his return to the Octagon against Rafael Alves. There are a few important things to point out here before I break down the fighters. Ismagulov hasn’t fought since August 2019, so he will be coming into this fight off of a long layoff. Alves, meanwhile, is fighting at 155lbs after failing to make weight for his UFC debut at 145lbs after dealing with personal tragedy the morning of the weigh-ins.
Ismagulov is definitely one of the best prospects in the UFC lightweight division. He’s won 17 straight fights and is a perfect 3-0 in the UFC, with a notable win over Thiago Moises. Ismagulov is a well-rounded fighter who is good everywhere. The one flaw with him is that he doesn’t seem to be much of a finisher. But he is highly skilled and should beat most of the division’s fighters.
Alves is riding into this contest on a five-fight win streak, including a nasty submission win on Dana White’s Contender Series last fall. Alves is pretty dangerous both on the feet and the mat, and I was surprised by how talented he was when I watched his fights back. That being said, I’m still not sold on him fighting at lightweight, especially against someone like Ismagulov.
All signs point to Ismagulov winning this fight, likely by decision. I do think that Ismagulov is a bit pricey here, but for cash games, this is someone to consider as he has a great chance of winning. Alves should only be looked at in GPPs if you have no salary left and need someone to fill the last spot on your roster. He has a puncher’s chance here, but this is a tough matchup.
Pick: Damir Ismaguulov
MVPs: Bruno Silva ($9300), Ben Rothwell ($9200), Joshua Culibao ($9100)
Live Dogs: Cody Garbrandt ($7900), Carla Esparza ($7600), Edmen Shahbazyan ($7300)
Avoid: Yan Xiaonan ($8600), Court McGee ($8000), Victor Rodriguez ($6900)
Cash Advice: For cash, I really like all three of Silva, Rothwell, and Culibao as I see all three of them winning their fights by stoppage.
GPP Advice: For GPPs, you have to have either one of Font or Garbrandt in nearly every lineup you build as a finish seems likely, and it’s a five-round fight, which means more opportunities to rack up points. I also envision finishes in both of the heavyweight fights, meaning big points.
Damir Hadzovic 1.25 to win 1
Bill Algeo 1.2 to win 1
Rob Font 1.1 to win 1
Claudio Silva 1 to win 1.03
Edmen Shahbazyan 1 to win 1.35
Parlay: Ben Rothwell/Bruno Silva/Josh Culibao 1 to win 1.3
For more on UFC Vegas 27, check out Duke’s MMA Breakdown!