With UFC 205 just around the corner, a genuinely good installment of the UFC’s international series of fight cards is flying well beneath the radar. The TUF Latin America 3 finale goes down tomorrow night in Mexico City, and with it, one of the most pivotal fights at lightweight: Tony Ferguson vs. Rafael dos Anjos.
The winner of this contest will end up in either a title eliminator bout with the winner of next weekend’s Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson fight, or could possibly get the next crack at the belt. It all depends on performance, and this match-up has the perfect ingredients of a history-making battle for supremacy.
The rest of the card features plenty of fresh faces from the latest TUF Latin America season, as well as some veterans we’ve seen in entertaining performances over the years. Now, it’s time to lay out some brief analysis of the athletes I’ve chosen to upset the favorites; the ones that I think will become a points windfall for your fantasy teams.
Let’s get started:
Max Griffin $8,800 / Erick Montano $7,400
Make no mistake, we’re going to see these two taking risks and playing the opportunist. Why? Because there is a very real possibility that this will be a “loser leaves town” bout. Anytime jobs are on the line, we tend to get incredible performances. Let’s hope this one follows that trend.
Max Griffin is a decent striker with knockout power and a long reach. He was doing well against regional level talent, but stumbled mightily in his UFC debut against Colby Covington in a fight that was so lopsided, it was difficult to watch. He’s defensively porous and leaves himself open not only for well-placed punches, but for single and double legs, as well. He is a capable wrestler, but I still give the edge to Montano on the ground.
Erick Montano is a former TUF Latin America winner who has some impressive wins under his belt, including a submission over rising prospect, Marco “Polo” Reyes. He’s a clinch fighter with a good jab, and likely won’t be overwhelmed by Griffin’s size, as he’s a pretty big welterweight, also. He’s a durable fighter and is good on the ground. It’ll be close, but I see this one going to a decision in Montano’s favor.
Erick Montano via DEC
Joe Soto $8,500 / Marco Beltran $7,700
Joe Soto stepping in on less than a week’s notice, and at high altitude, is the very definition of risky business. He’s great on the ground, and his chain wrestling and grappling scrambles are excellent. He’s dangerous from the bottom, and quite honestly, if he had a full camp, or even half a camp, I’d pick him 10 times out of 10.
Beltran is a tough son-of-a-gun, willing to stand in the pocket and trade. He’s pretty durable, and has good-ish striking, although he doesn’t really carry much KO power. He does have the advantage of riding a 3-fight win streak, so his confidence is surging right now. Soto is just 1-3 in the UFC, and the seeds of anxiety have likely taken root with him, as a loss here could easily mean getting his walking papers.
My decision is based on Soto’s extreme lack of preparation for a fight at high altitude, and I think that factor will make all the difference here.
Marco Beltran via DEC
Rashid Magomedov $8,400 /Beneil Dariush $7,800
Rashid Magomedov is a dominant, Eastern Bloc fighter with excellent KO power, despite a somewhat low output. He uses his kicks very effectively to set up his punches, and is very, very hard to get to the ground, stuffing more than 80% of his opponents’ takedown attempts. He’s also on a 12-fight win streak, so his confidence level is almost assuredly through the roof.
Beneil Dariush is the spoiler here. He’s an absolute animal on the ground, and that’s really where his bread and butter lies. He takes good strikers to the ground and beats them there. He’s worked on his own striking, and with every outing, looks crisper, sharper and more technically sound.
He’s a slick, crafty opportunist, and has proven in the past that he has a keen nose for the slightest openings to capitalize on. He’s coming off a fantastic KO win over the very tough James Vick, and should be able to hold his own with Magomedov on the feet. If the bout sees any action on the canvas, Dariush will likely end up with a submission.
Beneil Dariush via SUB
Rafael dos Anjos $8,300 / Tony Ferguson $7,900
Rafael dos Anjos is a dangerous, powerful opponent with some of the most devastating ground and pound in the business. He works body shots effectively, especially in a sport that sees the majority of its athletes constantly headhunting for knockouts. He’s a beast on the ground, and his wrestling is very, very good.
Both men have spent considerable amounts of their respective training camps at high altitude locations, Ferguson at Big Bear and dos Anjos at Mammoth Lakes, both are defensively sound and both have excellent standup game.
Ferguson carries a 6-inch reach advantage, and he’s very effective with it, landing from distances that force his opponents to step inside the danger zone in order to get their own punches in. He’s got a durable chin, and has shown that he has a short window of recovery. In other words, when he gets staggered, it only takes a few seconds to get his bearings back. He manages to keep forward pressure and momentum a primary directive and he can detect injury with lightning fast timing, going for the KO immediately.
That quality, the finishing instinct, is not within every combatant. As a matter of fact, being able to sniff out a weakening or injured fighter is a finely tuned weapon in Ferguson’s arsenal, and one that has benefited him in his many tough battles. He’s excellent on the ground and uses his long limbs advantageously in grappling exchanges. His transitions are smooth and he scrambles well.
While dos Anjos is a great fighter, against Tony Ferguson, I think we’ll see the further unraveling of his already frayed seams (courtesy of Eddie Alvarez in his last bout). He’s also got a bit of external baggage happening with his decision to leave King’s MMA to start his own camp. All these factors lead me to my obvious winning choice: El Cucuy
Tony Ferguson via TKO
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.