WATCH: TOMMY TOE HOLD – TIPS, TARGETS AND FADES
On Friday, Dec. 30, the MMA world will be focusing its eyes on UFC 207 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event features the return of former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who will look to recapture UFC gold by dethroning the current champion, Amanda Nunes. Meanwhile, the men’s bantamweight title is also on the line, with reigning champ Dominick Cruz battling undefeated KO specialist Cody Garbrandt. Even with the loss of Cain Velasquez-Fabricio Werdum and Jessica Andrade-Maryna Moroz, this year-end PPV is still shaping up to be a great one.
With the UFC’s big 2016 finale just days away, it’s time now to scan this stacked card and break down some of the fighters who could come through with big-time, high-scoring performances that will do wonders for your DraftKings lineup(s).
Ronda Rousey ($8,400) vs. Amanda Nunes ($8,000)
Rousey’s story has been well-documented. She was once touted as the most dominant female athlete on the planet, but it all came to a thudding end when Holly Holm head kicked her at UFC 193. Rousey has largely been absent from the public spotlight, and will continue to be throughout fight week, so her mental state is really the biggest X-factor here. Meanwhile, Nunes became the newest UFC women’s 135-pound champion by thoroughly dismantling Miesha Tate at UFC 200, soundly outstriking her before ending the fight with a first-round rear-naked choke.
While the Holm loss will linger in the minds of fans, Rousey at $8,400 is a steal. Yes, she’s not a good striker and is defensively porous, but she’s also steamrolled nearly everyone else in the division with the same flaws that were present in the Holm fight. Nunes is a quality striker with big power, and she’s got strong trips to go along with a dangerous ground game. By no means is this an easy fight to predict, but I’m leaning towards Rousey to weather an early storm, take advantage of Nunes’ historically shaky cardio and win by armbar before Round 3.
Number of Note: 1. Nunes only has one submission loss in her career, which came via armbar in her pro debut in 2008. She’s going up against the woman who has won all but three of her 13 fights by armbar.
TJ Dillashaw ($8,800) vs. John Lineker ($7,400)
The former UFC bantamweight champion is eager to get his belt back after losing a narrow split decision to Dominick Cruz. Dillashaw recently outpointed Raphael Assuncao at UFC 200, avenging one of his three career defeats. His top performances inside the octagon were his two TKO wins over Renan Barao, the first of which was considered a huge upset, while the rematch closed the chapter on Barao’s bantamweight career. Lineker has won six in a row, including a somewhat controversial split decision over John Dodson. Known for his haymakers, body shots, and vicious KO power, Lineker wrecked Michael McDonald in July, which helped establish him as a major contender at 135.
Lineker hits like a truck and has a granite chin, but Dillashaw is far more technical and is a high-volume striker who cuts angles brilliantly, throws lovely combinations and has a dangerous head kick. You can’t discount Lineker’s chances based on his power alone, but I think we’ll see Dillashaw get a big win on Friday night. Let’s just hope Lineker makes weight this time.
Number of Note: 3. TJ Dillashaw has five knockout wins in the UFC, and three have involved a head kick (vs. Issei Tamura, Renan Barao, and Joe Soto).
Louis Smolka ($8,300) vs. Ray Borg ($7,900)
Smolka was shooting up the ranks of the 125-pound division with his impressive four-fight winning streak, but it all came crashing down for the Hawaiian in October, when he suffered stunning first-round guillotine choke loss to Brandon Moreno. He was due to fight Sergio Pettis that night, but ended up facing Moreno on short notice, and was on the wrong end of a stunning upset. Borg had a three-fight winning streak leading up to his February showdown with Justin Scoggins, but was dominated and lost a unanimous decision.
Their recent setbacks aside, this is a great fight between two up-and-coming guys in their early 20s. Smolka may not have great takedown defense, but he can most definitely scramble with a submission specialist like Borg, and has lethal ground-and-pound and a tireless workrate. We’ll see a strong bounce back performance by Smolka, who is just more well-rounded and athletic than Borg is.
Number of Note: 5. Smolka will have a five-inch height advantage, as well as a five-inch reach advantage over Borg.
Alex Garcia ($8,600) vs. Mike Pyle ($7,600)
Garcia has been somewhat of a disappointment in the UFC. The Tristar Gym talent won his first two fights inside the octagon, but then blew out his ACL and tore his meniscus in a decision loss to Neil Magny. A rather dull win over Mike Swick was followed by a TKO loss to Sean Strickland this past February. The 41-year-old Pyle has been competing in pro MMA since 1999 (!), but the signs are evident “Quicksand” is well past his best. He’s lost three out of his last four, including a brutal KO against Alberto Mina in July. Pyle’s last win was a February come-from-behind TKO over Sean Spencer, who’s no longer a UFC fighter.
While Garcia hasn’t quite panned out as a promising prospect, he’s still got the tools to put away Pyle. He’s got big KO power, which is bad news for the historically hittable Pyle, and he can also take things to the ground with his explosive set of takedowns. I’m going with “The Dominican Nightmare” to finish the shopworn Pyle.
Number of Note: 10. Alex Garcia has recorded a stoppage in 10 of his 13 wins, whereas Pyle has been finished in 10 of his 12 losses.
Alex Oliveira ($7,800) vs. Tim Means ($8,400)
Oliveira is 5-2 in the UFC, having bounced around between lightweight and welterweight. He certainly didn’t win any fans over by badly missing the lightweight limit vs. Will Brooks, then taunting Brooks after stopping him in the third round. “Cowboy” is back up to welterweight, where he’s won three of his UFC fights, including a July win over James Moontasri. Means had his own problems making 155, and made a permanent return to welterweight in 2013. He’s 6-2 since making his UFC return in 2014, with those defeats coming against Neil Magny and Matt Brown. Means’ last two outings have ended in knockout wins over Sabah Homasi and John Howard.
This is a tricky, close fight. Means is a fast-paced fighter who loves working in the clinch, and is the harder-hitting striker. However, Oliveira has a sneaky good uppercut and delivers hard knees and kicks of his own in close quarters. Neither fighter has an exceptional ground game, but Oliveira is definitely better on top than off of his back, and Means’ takedown defense isn’t a strong suit. I’m backing the Brazilian to prevail here, and at $7,800, I think he’s a good value play.
Number of Note: 83. Oliveira and Means have won a combined 42 pro fights, and 35 of them (13/16 for Oliveira and 22/26 for Means) have ended in a stoppage, which makes for a finishing rate of 83 percent.
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