One of the hardest hitters in the game will look to get back into title contention, when Anthony “Rumble” Johnson takes on Ryan “Darth” Bader in the main event of UFC on FOX 18. Plus, wunderkind Sage Northcutt is back, and MMA pioneer Josh Barnett takes on Big Ben Rothwell. Let’s break it down.
Anthony Johnson ($10900) vs Ryan Bader ($8500)
Johnson has insane power, and Bader is going to feel it. Gas tank is a concern for Johnson, but he did go the distance and win against Phil Davis, who is an awkward matchup for anyone. Bader is more conventional, and I just don’t see making it through the fight without getting floored by Johnson. It might not be round one, but Johnson will end this with one punch.
Pick: Johnson by KO/TKO
Ben Rothwell ($9300) vs Josh Barnett ($10100)
Barnett is entering his 20th year of fighting MMA, and Rothwell his 16th. They have combined for almost 70 wins. This should be an amazing fight to watch, but for DraftKings players it seems like staying away is the best option. It’s doubtful that either fighter will be able to finish, and this seems destined to go to a decision. Both fighters are extremely durable with excellent chins. Barnett has the advantage on the ground, but Rothwell has improved greatly in this area. I look for Barnett, who threw an astounding 276 strikes against Roy Nelson, to be the busier fighter and in turn take the rounds en route to a decision win.
Pick: Barnett by decision
Iuri Alcantara ($9200) vs Jimmie Rivera ($10200)
Upset time. Rivera has made the rounds: Bellator, Ring of Combat, WSOF, and now the UFC, where he has won his first two fights. But he’s yet to fight someone the caliber of Alcantara, a pro since 2003 who has beaten Ric Lamas and gone to war with Urijah Faber. Alcantara will have both height and reach advantages on Rivera, and I think he will be frustrate Rivera. Alcantara has plenty of power, and Rivera will feel it as he tries to work his way inside. I see Alcantara wearing Rivera down to the point of desperation, at which point Alcantara will knock him out.
Pick: Alcantara by KO/TKO
Sage Northcutt ($11000) vs Bryan Barberena ($8400)
There are two ways of looking at this. The first is Northcutt will dominate and be worth the $11k price tag. But you can also anticipate that he will be highly-owned, especially when there are a lot of names on this card that are unfamiliar to casual fans. The second is to consider that ownership percentage and go contrarian, in which you take Barberena for just $8400, in which case you’ll be anticipating an upset. If you run multiple lineups in GPP tourneys, throwing Barberena in one or two is definitely worth it. So while my official prediction is Northcutt by submission, I wouldn’t count Barberena completely out.
Pick: Northcutt by submission
Jake Ellenberger ($8800) vs Tarec Saffiedine ($10600)
It seems clear that time has caught up to Jake Ellenberger. A fantastic wrestler who developed power in his hands, he’s lost four of his last five, with his lone victory coming against Josh Koscheck, who hasn’t won since 2012. Meanwhile, Saffiedine may be the best fighter the casual fan doesn’t know. It’s doubtful that Ellenberger will be able to get Saffiedine to the ground, as the “Sponge” boasts a 85% success rate defending takedowns. Saffiedine holds edges in speed and striking, and he will end up finishing Ellenberger with a vicious barrage of punches, maybe as early as round one.
Pick: Saffiedine by KO/TKO
Olivier Aubin-Mercier ($10400) vs Diego Ferreira ($9000)
Aubin-Mercier is a dominant wrestler who gets better each time we see him. He’s riding a three-fight win streak, and averages nearly four takedowns per 15 minutes. His striking is raw though, and I doubt we will see him finish Ferreira, who recently went the distance with Beneil Dariush. Look for Aubin-Mercier to win the rounds with his grappling, and in turn get the decision from the judges.
Pick: Aubin-Mercier by decision
Rafael Natal ($9900) vs Kevin Casey ($9500)
I’ll go back to what I wrote about Casey for UFC Fight Night 80: he seems to gas in every fight. He has a world-class ground game, but he isn’t submitting Rafael Natal. Look for Natal to break Casey’s will in the second or third and finish him with strikes. Cardio is king.
Pick: Natal by KO/TKO
Wilson Reis ($9100) vs Dustin Ortiz ($10300)
The flyweight division has the lowest finish percentage of all the weight classes, and in turn I tend to stay away from these fights unless I see a clear-cut finish. I don’t see that here, although I believe that Ortiz will dictate the pace of this fight, as well as where it takes place. Reis hasn’t been finished since 2011, and Ortiz doesn’t feature tremendous power. Ortiz will be the busier striker, winning the rounds and taking the decision.
Pick: Ortiz by decision
Alexander Yakovlev ($9800) vs George Sullivan ($9600)
Yakovlev is durable, but a low volume striker. His last two wins have been against Gray Maynard and Paul Daley, but he’s just 1-2 in the UFC. This is a bad matchup for him, as Sullivan likes to move and throw in volume. This one seems destined to go to the scorecards, where Sullivan will take it based on winning the striking game. Is that worth $9600? Probably not.
Pick: Sullivan by decision
Masio Fullen ($8600) vs Alex Caceres ($10800)
Alex Caceres, aka Bruce Leeroy, has lost three straight, but he gets a decent matchup in Masio Fullen. Caceres should have enough guile and skill to win this with his striking, but a submission win isn’t out of the question either. Still, Caceres has lost three straight, including a KO loss in just :21 in his last fight. Yes, the matchup favors him, but I’m simply not willing to part with over 20% of my salary cap on him, especially when the risk clearly outweighs the reward.
Pick: Caceres by decision
Randy Brown ($10500) vs Matt Dwyer ($8900)
My eyes popped open when I saw the salaries for this fight. Brown has one decent win under his belt, against veteran welterweight Ben Brewer. The other five wins came against journeymen and fighters with losing records. Although Dwyer is just 1-2 in the UFC, he’s just 26 and someone I still consider a decent prospect. He recently went the distance with the dynamic Alan Jouban, and he also has good power, as evidenced by his amazing Superman-punch KO win over William Macario. I’ll call for the upset here, with Dwyer rudely welcoming the “Rude Boy” to the UFC by knocking him flat.
Pick: Dwyer by KO/TKO
Damon Jackson ($8700) vs Levan Makashvili ($10700)
People have been waiting to see a breakout performance from Makashvili, and this should be the fight. Jackson would be 0-2 in the UFC, but his last fight was ruled a no-contest after Rony Jason failed a post-fight drug test. Jackson would love to get Makashvili to the ground, but that is unlikely to happen. On the feet, Makashvili clearly has the advantage, and he should be able to put away Jackson sooner than later.
Pick: Makashvili by KO/TKO
Tony Martin ($10000) vs Felipe Olivieri ($9400)
Olivieri hasn’t had a fight go to a decision since 2009. That means you want to play this fight. Now for the hard part: picking the winner. Although Olivieri has big power and Martin has lost three of his last four, I still see Martin as being able to work this to the ground, where he’ll use his considerable ground skills to spoil the Olivieri’s UFC debut.
Pick: Martin by submission