Summer may be winding down but the action continues to heat up inside the Octagon. UFC 203 marks the promotion’s first ever trip to Cleveland, Ohio, and expectant fans are anxious to see hometown hero Stipe Miocic defend his heavyweight title against dangerous Dutch striker Alistair Overeem, who’s been nothing short of spectacular over his last 4 fights.
As we approach fight night in Cleveland, let’s take a look at some of the fighters on the card who could turn up with big performances and produce high scores for your DraftKings lineup(s).
Alistair Overeem ($9,600) vs. Stipe Miocic
Miocic went into enemy territory and silenced 40,000 Brazilians with his brutal counterpunch KO of Fabricio Werdum. Since a close loss to Junior dos Santos, Miocic has finished all 3 of his opponents during his winning streak, which has seen him crowned champion. Overeem has only failed to finish Roy Nelson during his 4-0 stretch, which includes a 2nd round TKO of dos Santos. He seems refocused and sharper than ever since moving to Greg Jackson’s gym in New Mexico.
This is a truly fantastic title fight. Miocic is durable, strong fundamentals, and has turned into a consistent fight finisher. That said, Overeem uses his kicks and knees a lot more than Miocic, he attacks the body well and has underrated ground-and-pound. This fight favors Miocic the longer it plays out, especially given Overeem’s history of fragility, but Overeem’s raw power and athleticism poses problems Miocic hasn’t faced since JDS. It’s a tight call, but Overeem’s the slightly better value pick.
Number of Note: 0. Neither Overeem (9 bouts) nor Miocic (11 bouts) has ever attempted (or at least been credited by FightMetric with) a submission in their respective UFC careers. That doesn’t figure to change on Saturday.
Fabricio Werdum ($10,700) vs. Travis Browne
Fabricio Werdum was supposed to be fighting Ben Rothwell in this weekend’s co-main event, but Rothwell withdrew due to injury, and in stepped Travis Browne. These two previously fought in April 2014, with Werdum winning a dominant unanimous decision. It’s the first time Werdum has fought since losing his title to Stipe Miocic, while Browne was wiped out by Cain Velasquez at UFC 200, slumping to 2-3.
Browne may have the physical advantages over Werdum, but as the first fight showed, Fabricio has vastly superior technical skills everywhere, not to mention better cardio. Werdum is a dangerous grappler, a vicious clinch striker and outside of the randomness of results that we see out of the heavyweight division, Werdum should make it 2-for-2 against a steadily regressing “Hapa” Browne.
Number of Note: 121. The number of significant strikes Werdum landed on Browne in their first fight, which lasted the full five rounds. It’s both the most significant strikes Werdum has ever landed in a single fight and the most significant strikes Browne has ever absorbed.
Mickey Gall ($11,400) vs. CM Punk
Here we are. After signing his UFC contract in December 2014, former WWE star CM Punk (real name: Phil Brooks) makes his official MMA debut. Opposite him is New Jersey’s Mickey Gall, coached by veteran UFC lightweight Jim Miller. Gall is 2-0 as an amateur, 3-0 as a professional, and is just 24 years old, 13 years younger than Punk. The UFC pegged Gall as CM Punk’s opponent since he was featured on Dana White’s “Lookin’ For a Fight” web series.
There’s no way around it. Mickey Gall is the far better athlete, has more experience training and actually competing in MMA, and Punk’s neither skilled enough nor remotely close to peak physical condition. Much like Randy Couture vs. James Toney, Gall is going to win by whatever he wants against Punk and almost certainly won’t need a 2nd round. Even at the steep $11,400 price, he’s a must-choose.
Number of Note: 3. Mickey Gall has won 3 fights by rear-naked choke. Both of his pro bouts (including his UFC debut vs. Mike Jackson) ended in an RNC, as did one of his amateur contests.
Joanne Calderwood ($9,500) vs. Jessica Andrade
The PPV main card kicks off in the women’s 115 lbs weight class. Jessica Andrade’s debut in the division was superb, as the Brazilian destroyed former title challenger Jessica Penne in just under 8 minutes. Calderwood also recently finished a former title challenger, as she took apart Valerie Letourneau and forced the 3rd round TKO stoppage in a special 125 lbs bout.
This has Fight of the Night written all over it. Andrade’s frame is much better suited for 115 than 135, and she throws at an insanely high clip. Her body punching is lethal and she thrives off of striking in close quarters. That said, Calderwood has the height and reach advantage and is by far the most technical striker Andrade has fought. The Scotswoman has a more diverse attack that could keep Andrade at bay, but keep in mind Joanne is a slow starter. I give the edge to Calderwood, whose high-volume attack could rack up a high score even without a finish.
Number of Note: 81. Calderwood averages 81 significant strikes landed in her 4 UFC fights, of which her 1st round loss to Maryna Moroz saw her land just 11. Her other 3 bouts (all wins) saw her connect on at least 90 sig. strikes.
Yancy Medeiros ($10,500) vs. Sean Spencer
Medeiros is moving up to 170 lbs following his thrilling UFC 198 loss to Francisco Trinaldo. Amazingly, he used to compete at light heavyweight. Spencer has dropped two in a row, including a 3rd round TKO to Mike Pyle in a fight he nearly finished in the 1st round. This is quite possibly a “loser leaves town” matchup given the recent records of both men.
Spencer has yet to finish a fight in the UFC, has been finished twice and just lacks any fight-changing power in his hands to trouble Medeiros. Combine that with Medeiros’ improved standup, physical strength and strong chokes, Yancy should get the win and likely send Spencer packing.
Number of Note: 0. Yancy Medeiros has never completed a takedown in his eight-fight UFC career. In fairness, he’s only attempted 2.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mookiealexander) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.