UFC 264 is upon us with an exciting thirteen-fight card highlighted by a rubber match grudge match between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. They are 1-1 in their previous two bouts, and this one will break the tie. You’d have to think there won’t be any next ones after this one. Especially if McGregor fails again. He’s always popular, but his prowess as a top fighter is starting to come into question.
DraftKings offers a considerable payout million-dollar prize pool contest with $200K to first, so big money will be made on this card in DFS and betting alike. Let’s dig in.
The UFC 264 Fight Card (In Order of Appearance)
Alen Amedovski (-145) vs. Hu Yaozong (+120)
This is a somewhat underwhelming match, to be frank. This doesn’t mean it can’t be lucrative from a betting and DFS perspective. The Italian Amedovski is a slight favorite against the Chinese Yaozong. Some would say that this is about as low-level of a fight as we will generally see in UFC MMA. Yaozong’s back is against the wall as a barely established fighter with a 3-2 record, and he may need to win this one to stay kicking around at the UFC level.
Since opening, the line has moved a bit toward Yaozong, which could tell where the sharp money is heading. It has been a while since these guys have fought. This adds to the uncertainty of who these fighters are today and how they will match up.
Yaozong has a significant size advantage with a five to six-inch height differential and 20 pounds on his opponent. Despite being a slight underdog, I’m leaning on the side of Yaozong. To a degree, we know what we are getting from Amedovski and have seen some inadequate efforts of late. Yaozong is seven years younger and has had some time off to train at a solid camp in Tiger Muay Thai. I would expect improvement, and I think this is a live underdog to jump on.
He may be more likely to win by decision rather than finish. Still, regardless of the means of the outcome, I have a decent lean toward Yaozong. From a DFS perspective, if ownership seems to be heavy on Amedovski by mere virtue of him being a favorite, I’d go even more heavily toward Yaozong. Otherwise, I might spread a little more even between the two fighters if mass entering DFS tourneys.
Jerome Rivera (+270) vs. Zhalgas Zhamagulov (-360)
Next, we get a flyweight fight between Zhalgas Zhamagulov and Jerome Rivera. Zhamagulov is six years older, six inches shorter, and has a six-and-half inch reach disadvantage against Rivera. You’d think that would tell you a lot, yet the betting line would not corroborate this physical mismatch.
The fighters have similar pro records at 13-5-0 (Zhamagulov) and 10-5-0 (Rivera). Still, Zhamagulov has had significantly better results at the UFC level. Rivera is 0-3 in UFC fights. Though he is a promising fighter who we would expect to improve going forward, he may not be at the level of a Zhamagulov just yet in his pro MMA career.
I would still consider that Zhamagulov is currently the second-biggest favorite on the card. With the size and age mismatch and potential for Rivera to be an unknown commodity, we may want to consider Rivera as a live dog for DFS and betting.
Ultimately, Zhamagulov is likely the better fighter and winner of this match. Still, if looking to go against the field in DFS or find an inefficient line in betting, this is an excellent spot to err on this side of an unlikely but entirely possible Rivera win.
Brad Tavares (-165) vs. Omari Akhmedov (+135)
In this middleweight match, we get Brad Tavares out of Las Vegas, Nevada, against the Russian Omari “Wolverine” Akhmedov. Money has been moving toward Akhmedov, which has forced the opening line a good bit in his favor.
Unlike the previous two fights on the card, these two are all but evenly matched in height, weight, and age. They have very similar numbers in the striking department. Grappling may be where this match is decided, and both have solid takedown percentages and takedown defenses. Akhmedov may have the edge initially, but he does have a tendency to falter as fights develop.
I tend to think that Tavares gets the fight under control even if Akhmedov starts strong and outlasts him with his endurance and ability to stop takedowns. The line is close, and these fighters are very evenly matched. If DFS projected ownership sways heavily one way or another, perhaps go over on the under-owned side. For betting, it is close to a wash, with a slight lean toward Tavares. Still, I wouldn’t fault a contrarian for taking the money on the dog considering how close this fight looks and the sharp money coming in on Akhmedov.
Jessica Eye (+160) vs. Jennifer Maia (-200)
In this flyweight contest, we get Jessica Eye vs. Jennifer Maia. I can’t help but think this line may be inefficient due to Maia’s recent performance swaying perception of this matchup. It may be close to a wash, and I’d tend to consider the underdog in this one, although I do have a lean toward Maia not considering the line.
I’d tend away from betting Maia unless this line moves toward Eye significantly. For DFS purposes, I’d play the ownership game and see who is getting more of a look from the field. If Maia is much higher owned, I will lean Eye. If it is close to even, I’d likely go with Maia. This is pretty evenly matched, and I wouldn’t take bad odds or heavy DFS ownership on Maia, yet I think she is more likely to win.
Ryan Hall (+185) vs. Ilia Topuria (-230)
This featherweight fight looks like it should be a doozy, with Ryan Hall out of Virginia going against the Spanish Ilia Topuria. Topuria is undefeated at the pro level and is 12 years Hall’s junior.
Hall has always been lithe on his feet, and his striking ability is better than some might give him credit for. He’s done a great job at limiting damage from his opponents. The only issue is that Topuria had been dominant across the board, and his ground-game is on-point.
With an intelligent game, Topuria should have a strong chance for a knockout or a win by decision if it goes the distance. Hall does have a decent chance at an upset as a very competent veteran fighter, yet I have to lean toward Topuria.
With the odds as they are, Hall wouldn’t be a lousy underdog bet or under-owned DFS pick depending on ownership. Still, I’m definitely leaning toward the younger and more spry Topuria on this one in a vacuum.
Dricus Du Plessis (-115) vs. Trevin Giles (-105)
The line is pretty even in this middleweight match between Dricus “Stillknocks” Du Plessis and Trevin “The Problem” Giles. Du Plessis has never finished a fight by decision, meaning that this one has an excellent chance to end excitingly.
The fighters on the surface would appear pretty evenly matched across the board, and Vegas would corroborate that. I would still say that Giles has the better chance at this one with his elite skills in the octagon. Although I am concerned about his hit-or-miss tendencies and possibly less than ideal fight IQ and endurance, I can’t help but lean his way.
Nothing would surprise me one bit, but a Giles win would be my slight lean. For DFS, I’d consider ownership more than anything else, considering how close this one looks. For betting, since the line is close to a wash, I lean Giles. I think that for DFS, this looks like a good fight to target in general since it has a high potential for an early knockout, considering how dangerous these fighters are.
Michel Pereira (-165) vs. Niko Price (+135)
This one will be a significant highlight of the card, pitting Michel “Demolidor” Pereira against Niko “The Hybrid” Price. Niko Price is known for his exciting style, and any fight he is involved in should make for must-see TV. The fans love both of these guys, and this one will be very entertaining.
Price is likely to land more blows than Pereira, but he’s also susceptible to getting hit at a high clip compared to most fighters. Considering how ballistic Price is with his striking volume, I think Pereira will have his work cut out for him in this one compared to past fights. Pereira has not been prone to knockouts, having had only one in his career, but Price could be just the guy to serve him his second.
I have to lean toward Pereira, all things considered. Price’s recklessness could quickly go awry and lead to a Pereira knockout, which would be especially good for DFS scoring. It could go either way and is relatively likely to end with someone unable to get up, possibly early, so this is an excellent fight to target for DFS tourneys. Projected ownership will go a long way in deciding my exposure to both fighters in DFS.
Carlos Condit (+155) vs. Max Griffin (-190)
This welterweight match features two American fighters in Carlos Condit, aka “The Natural Born Killer” and Max “Pain” Griffin. There hasn’t been a ton of line movement in this one.
Griffin has a high striking output and a positive significant strike differential. Condit does not have the strike production of Griffin but does boast a positive significant strike differential.
Condit has been easy to take down in past fights, and that might be where Griffin gains the advantage. Neither fighter has a significant advantage on their feet. Still, in looking at the numbers, Griffin has been far superior in the takedown department.
Assuming Griffin fights intelligently, he should be able to win by decision. I’ll go with Griffin all the way unless he doesn’t play for his advantage over Condit, which will most likely be through takedowns and outlasting Condit rather than knockout. This fight may not result in fantastic fireworks for DFS tourneys. Still, if playing one or the other, I’d lean Griffin, dependent to a degree on ownership. For betting, I’d trust Griffin, but as the line stands, it is more just “okay” than a smash bet.
Kris Moutinho (+550) vs. Sean O’Malley (-900)
This fight between Kris Moutinho and Sean O’Malley has the widest spread on the day, and for a good reason. It is easy to break down.
This is as close to an easy win and most likely early knockout as you will see on this card based on all criteria. I need not waste words on it: O’Malley all the way.
For DFS, this may be one of the best plays of the day considering the high potential for an early knockout, high ownership aside. For betting, the line is kind of ridiculous, but it could be close to free money. Might as well just take the win, pad your bankroll, and move on. You could also look at some props for a first or second-round O’Malley knockout if seeking better action on this fight.
Yana Kunitskaya (+100) vs. Irene Aldana (-120)
Here we have a Bantamweight fight between Yana Kunitskaya, hailing from Russia, and Irene Aldana of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. The odds on this one are pretty much a wash.
In digging deeper, Aldana has a higher striking volume, while Kunitskaya has a higher striking accuracy by a significant margin. In grappling, their stats are reasonably close.
Kunitskaya’s wins have been against better competition, and this is the tie-breaker for me in what appears to be a very close match at first glance.
I am concerned that Kunitskaya could be knocked out based on both fighter’s histories, but ultimately I am going Kunitskaya. For DFS, Aldana could hold more appeal due to the possibility of the knockout mentioned above, especially if ownership is low. I don’t know that this is a spot where I have a strong DFS interest, for better or worse. If looking for close to even-money action on this one, I’m standing behind Kunitskaya. I wouldn’t mind a knockout prop on Aldana if going off-the-board.
Tai Tuivasa (-140) vs. Greg Hardy (+115)
Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa vs. Greg “The Prince of War” Hardy is the next fight on the slate. The Australian Tuivasa has a bit of a height and reach disadvantage but is the younger fighter of the two. Sharp money has moved toward Hardy.
In terms of striking stats, both are high-volume; in particular Hardy. For grappling, the two fighters combined have one takedown at the UFC level among them. I wouldn’t expect much in that department, and this should be a match decided on its feet.
Ultimately, Hardy is a slight live dog here. He has had endurance issues for sure, which would be my main concern. Still overall, looking at the skillsets and stats of the two fighters, I would give him the win, most likely by decision.
Since I tend to see this fight ending by decision, it may not be an excellent fight for DFS scoring. If I did choose to roster either fighter, I’d go mostly by ownership. For betting, I do think Hardy is a good bet as a minor dog.
Stephen Thompson (-165) vs. Gilbert Burns (+135)
The welterweight matchup between 38-year-old Stephen Thompson and fellow 30-something Gilbert Burns has seen sharp money coming in on Thompson for significant line movement.
Thompson will have a notable advantage with his superior striking stats. Grappling may nonetheless decide the fight, as Thompson does not take anyone down. He does, in contrast, sport an excellent takedown defense, as only two fighters have ever done him the dishonor.
Since Burns’s main advantage would be outside of the striking realm, and Thompson is so tricky to take down, I don’t think that Burns has much of an edge here. Since he isn’t going to excel in striking and a takedown is so unlikely, I’m not sure where his path to success exists in this matchup.
Despite the less than ideal odds, I just don’t see taking Burns here unless strictly trying to play the underdog or play against the field in DFS. I will say that if Burns were to win, it is pretty likely to be via knockout, so it wouldn’t be the worst idea to take a flyer on him in DFS or try a knockout prop with favorable odds. I also think that a Thompson win is likely to occur via knockout, so this could be an excellent fight to target for DFS tourneys in general.
Dustin Poirier (-125) vs. Conor McGregor (+105)
The main attraction is the grudge match between Dustin Poirier and MMA darling Conor McGregor. It seems that Poirier has gained a slight advantage based on the odds. This is more than likely due to his last showing against McGregor, where Poirier knocked him out for the first time in McGregor’s illustrious MMA career.
While the field may overvalue Poirier due to recency bias, McGregor is not McGregor for no reason. I tend to believe he will make essential adjustments for this fight against Poirier. I would not count him out; quite the contrary, in fact. McGregor takes care of business here.
Based on their last fight and Poirier’s tendency to absorb many significant strikes, I think that a McGregor knockout is highly likely here, considering McGregor’s strength. For MMA DFS and betting alike, I’m going McGregor. Depending on ownership in DFS and line movement in betting, I could see the argument for Poirier, but as it stands now, not so much.
This looks like another exciting UFC card with huge DFS prize pools and big money to be made in the betting market. Let’s get it going!