Saturday night, the UFC’s second offering of the year kicks off in Denver, Colorado. It marks the 23rd big Fox show and features an amazing bout sheet that’s been flying quite a bit under the radar. Everything from the opening bout to the main event seems to have been born of the fury of Ares himself, a near perfect card in its matchmaking.
As always, there are plenty of contests here that are rife with the possibility for an upset. My job is to select the ones I feel have the most potential to toss the proverbial applecart on its side. Here are my final four underdog picks that have, what I believe to be, the greatest potential to net your fantasy teams some serious pointage.
Sam Alvey $9,000 / Nate Marquardt $7,200
Sam Alvey has incredible knockout power to go along with his amazing smile. However, he has a tendency to strictly fight defensively, perfectly willing to let his entire game rely on countering. I wouldn’t exactly call it lackadaisical, but he can come off as unmotivated, for lack of a better term.
Marquardt still has ridiculous power and is the epitome of a crafty veteran, working his way into the clinch and landing haymakers up the middle, over the top and from basically any direction. He’s an opportunist with a lot of experience in sniffing out openings to land those big bombs. His aggressive style will be the game changer here, provided he can avoid getting clipped on a chin that has been slowly eroding over the last few years.
Nate Marquardt via (T)KO
Jason Knight $8,500 / Alex Caceres $7,700
Jason Knight is a red hot prospect with a great submission game and a seriously active guard. His standup is not particularly impressive, but his grit and conditioning serve to balance that out a bit. He’s come a long way since his UFC debut and has plenty of potential for further growth.
Alex Caceres has a highly underrated ground game and his standup has been improving steadily. Even though he’s coming off a loss to newest wunderkind Yair Rodriguez, he took that fight to a very competitive split decision. Forrest Gump said it best about that famous box of chocolates, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” The same could be said of Alex Caceres, since he’s a bit of a mixed bag. This matchup is a custom fit for him, though, as he’s done well against competitors with skill sets similar to Knight’s.
Alex Caceres via DEC
Donald Cerrone $8,900 / Jorge Masvidal $7,300
Donald Cerrone has looked absolutely phenomenal at 170, already finding himself in the Top 10 after just four fights at welterweight. He has excellent combinations, mixes it up well with kicks, executes level changes with ease and has a great ground game. He also has a very well-known Achilles heel— his susceptibility to crumbling after body shots. Against a guy like Masvidal, who completely dismantled Jake Ellenberger with kicks and punches to the body, that weakness could be his undoing.
Masvidal is as tough as nails with an exceptional standup game. He’s a skilled boxer with great combinations and technique. He too is underrated on the ground and he’s been working on his wrestling, a point of concern for him since Donald dared to insinuate that he, not Jorge, was the better wrestler in this contest. With his ability to pinpoint vulnerabilities in his opponents, I think Masvidal takes this one via cobra-like strikes to the body from either his lethal back picks or left hooks.
Jorge Masvidal via (T)KO
Valentina Shevchenko $8,400 / Julianna Pena $7,800
Valentina Shevchenko is compact, brick house. She’d probably run through a 125-pound division were the UFC inclined to institute one, but until that happens, we get her at 135, where she’s been a dominant force. She dismantled Holly Holm with an excellent defensive game plan, forcing the former champ to engage in a haphazard, reckless fight. Holly was determined to rush in constantly, only to be blasted with counters by Valentina at every turn. Against Pena, though, the game changes considerably.
Pena is a bigger girl, well suited for the 135-pound division. She uses her size beautifully, often overcoming her opponents, muscling them to the ground and overpowering them with effective ground-and-pound. She’s aggressive, almost to a fault, but it works for her, especially since she’s grown so much in her overall skillset. She scrambles well, and bullies her way into top position with relative ease. From there, vicious elbows and punches follow to do the real heavy lifting.
This fight is very tough to call. I went back and forth 10 times before finally deciding that Pena has the better opportunity to win. I think she channels her aggression and gets the fight to the ground where continuous pressure nets her the victory. I doubt it will be a finish, but a win is a win, right?
Julianna Pena via DEC
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is crooklyn949) 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.