The UFC heads to Boston for a special Sunday night edition of UFC Fight Night, with bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw defending his title against former bantamweight champ Dominic Cruz. Top heavyweights Matt Mitrione and Travis Browne will also do battle, and Paul Felder vs. Daron Cruickshank should be non-stop entertainment. Let’s check out card and get some insight for your DraftKings MMA lineups.
TJ Dillashaw ($10100) vs Dominic Cruz ($9300)
There’s no shortage of numbers to look at in this fight, but the one you will see over and over is 477: the number of days since Cruz’s last fight. But the last time Cruz came back from a long layoff, he needed just 61 seconds to KO Takeya Mizugaki, an impressive feat considering Cruz is not known for his power and Mizugaki has an iron chin. Cruz has won 11 straight fights and is the last man to beat flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson. All that said, Dillashaw will get the best of the striking battle and he has yet to be taken down in his career. He will land more strikes and do more damage with them, winning the rounds and retaining his title. Is a five-round decision win worth $10100? Not on a slate of 13 fights. T.J. wins, but he’s not a great DK play.
Pick: Dillashaw by decision
Anthony Pettis ($11000) vs Eddie Alvarez ($8400)
I could get into all the metrics here, or I can just say two words: Speed kills. Pettis has a reach advantage, better striking and more speed than Alvarez. He also has a chip on his shoulder from losing his title. Alvarez can score takedowns against Pettis, but that might not be the best idea. For all his highlight KOs, Pettis actually has one more win by submission than he does KOs. Alvarez has an amazing ability to get rocked but stay in fights. However, those add up and with the deadly speed and dynamic striking of Pettis, he won’t be able to do that here. Look for Pettis to end this before the final horn.
Pick: Pettis by KO/TKO
Travis Browne ($10200) vs Matt Mitrione ($9200)
I love watching Matt Mitrione fight. He’s light on his feet for a heavyweight and has big power. But I also realize that whenever he has taken a step up in competition, he’s been on the losing end. Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson are all examples of this. Mitrione’s speed and power can get him past the middle to bottom portion of the UFC heavyweight roster, but top-level killers like Browne are his kryptonite. This has first round KO written all over it, a big win at just $10200.
Pick: Browne by KO/TKO
Ross Pearson ($10300) vs Francisco Trinaldo ($9100)
First upset pick of the night. I think Pearson is a solid fighter, but an overrated one. Trinaldo has more than enough power to knock Pearson out, and certainly he is favored in the ground exchanges. Pearson is more than willing to stand and bang, as evidenced by his significant strikes landed and absorbed per minute stats. Look for Trinaldo and Pearson to get into a firefight, one that will end quickly.
Pick: Trinaldo by KO/TKO
Patrick Cote ($9600) vs Ben Saunders ($9800)
Saunders has been great since his return to the UFC, winning all three of his fights. The problem here is Cote is a really tough out. I expect Saunders to do enough to win, but Cote hasn’t been finished since being choked out by Alan Belcher in 2010. Saunders lands more with better accuracy than Cote, and he should win all the scrambles too. He just won’t finish Cote.
Pick: Saunders by decision
Ed Herman ($8900) vs Tim Boetsch ($10500)
This could be a fight where the winner keeps their job and the loser needs to start making some calls. Boetsch has lost two in a row and five of his last seven. Herman has lost three of his last five. Herman is coming off a KO loss to Brunson, and Boetsch has good power. The safest choice here is Boetsch winning by KO, as Herman is more than happy to engage in a brawl. But Herman is tricky on the ground and Boetsch can be submitted. If you run multiple lineups in GPP tourneys, throwing Herman in one is not a horrible idea. But overall I like Boetsch.
Pick: Boetsch by KO/TKO
Mehdi Baghdad ($9000) vs Chris Wade ($10400)
Baghdad steps up to take this fight on very short notice, and he’s stepping right into the lion’s den. Wade has been very impressive in his first three UFC fights, and he is a takedown machine, averaging over four per 15 minutes. He will get Baghdad to the ground. The only question is will he pound him out for the finish or get the sub. I’ll say Wade gets his first TKO.
Pick: Wade by KO/TKO
Maximo Blanco ($9900) vs Luke Sanders ($9500)
Sanders is another late replacement who is moving up a division to take this fight with Blanco. Normally those would both be red flags, but I’m a big fan of Sanders as a prospect, and at 10-0 he hasn’t given fans and prognosticators anything to dislike. He won the RFA title in 2014 with a vicious knee, then defended it over five rounds last May against Terrion Ware. I like Sanders in the upset here.
Pick: Sanders by KO/TKO
Paul Felder ($10700) vs Daron Cruickshank ($8700)
Felder and Cruickshank were happy to see 2015 end. Cruickshank was choked out twice and Felder lost his last two fights of the year. Unfortunately, only one of them will snap their losing streaks. Felder is a heavy favorite here, but I think Cruickshank will get back to being the dynamic striker that knocks people out with head kicks. It’s a risky play, but the type that can win you tournaments. I don’t believe Cruickshank will be highly owned, so if it comes through it will be huge.
Pick: Cruickshank by KO/TKO
Ilir Latifi ($10900) vs Sean O’Connell ($8500)
O’Connell has looked great in his last two fights, scoring two knockout wins, but Latifi is something out of this world. He has finishes in all three of his UFC wins, and that’s what DraftKings MMA players are looking for. While O’Connell has thwarted his last two opponents, neither is of the caliber of Latifi, who should end this in short order.
Pick: Latifi by KO/TKO
Charles Rosa ($10800) vs Augusto Mendes ($8600)
While Rosa should be the favorite, I don’t think the salaries are justified here. Mendes is a late replacement, but he’s also a world-class BJJ champion who is 5-0 as a pro MMA fighter, with all five being finishes. Rosa is slick on the ground, but he’d be foolish to go there with Mendes. His striking is decent, but he eats more significant strikes than he lands, which is never a good formula, and partly why he is just 1-2 in the UFC. I will mostly stay away from this one, but in GPP tourneys I will take a flyer on Mendes. The safe choice is Rosa by decision, but that won’t get you a lot of points, especially at that price point. Truly a buyer beware fight.
Pick: Rosa by decision
Rob Font ($10600) vs Joey Gomez ($8800)
Font turned heads in his UFC debut with a first-round KO of George Roop at UFC 175. He’ll hope the tables aren’t turned on him in welcoming Joey Gomez to the UFC. Gomez is 6-0 with six first-round knockouts. But Font has much more experience than Gomez, and he is capable on the ground, which is where he will take this fight if he can. It’s always difficult making a decisive decision on a bout where the two fighters have a combined one UFC fight, but look for Font to do enough to win the rounds and get the decision win.
Pick: Font by decision
Francimar Barroso ($10000) vs Elvis Mutapcic ($9400)
Mutapcic is a late replacement in this bout, and my guess is Barroso wan’t all that thrilled when he found out he was his new opponent. You might remember seeing Mutapcic in the WSOF, and he’s beaten UFC fighters Sam Alvey, Cesar Ferreira and Zak Cummings. Mutapcic has never been finished in his career, and that will remain the case. Barroso takes it but by the judges’ scorecards.
Pick: Barroso by decision