UFC 215: Underdog Picks

When the UFC touches down at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, it will mark the promotion’s first event in Edmonton, and only the second time in Alberta. The card will be headlined by a flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg, with the co-main event being led by another title fight, this time in the women’s bantamweight division. Amanda Nunes will be defending the title against her longtime rival, Valentina Shevchenko, in a rematch that has been postponed once already.

This card has been overlooked, largely in part due to fight cancellations and because the mighty UFC PR machine was all but consumed with heavily marketing the megafight between Mayweather and McGregor. That’s not to say there aren’t some really good matchups on the bout sheet, though (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Stephens and Gilbert Melendez).

As always, I have selected four fighters that I believe to have the potential to upset the favorites. These four underdogs could be the difference in having a winning DraftKings team. Let’s get started:

Rafael dos Anjos $8,600 / Neil Magny $7,600

USATSI_9778162_168381090_lowres

Rafael dos Anjos is a fantastic wrestler with underrated power in his excellent Muay Thai-styled stand-up game. He’s effective from the outside with powerful kicks, often with no set-up. Rafa is a durable, gritty athlete who does fine work from top position, landing very effective ground-and-pound. He was a big lightweight but now resides on the smallish side for welterweight, which may prove troublesome, especially against the long and lanky Neil Magny.

Magny has a resume filled with wins over some of the best names in the game, including Kelvin Gastelum, Hector Lombard and most recently, Johny Hendricks. Magny is well-versed both on the ground where he has three submission wins, and in the stand-up where he has six (T)KO wins. He is also durable and has a decent fight IQ. Many believed Magny would suffer on the ground when he faced a world champion judoka in Hector Lombard, but we all know how that fight went (Magny set a record for unanswered punches to an opponent).

It’s a tall order, but Magny has all the tools to send dos Anjos home without a win bonus.

Neil Magny via DEC


Jeremy Stephens $8,200 / Gilbert Melendez $8,000

USATSI_9398689_168381090_lowres

Jeremy Stephens is an aggressive striker who packs one heck of a big punch, and on occasion, a big kick. He’s battle-tested and fight fan approved but has been on a downward spiral over the last few years. As a matter of fact, he’s just 2-5 over the last three years, a truth that could be eating away at his confidence. While no slouch on the mat, his ground game is definitely not his strong suit, and against an outstanding grappler like Melendez, that could present serious issues in this fight.

Melendez is also on a rough run, going just 1-5 over the last four years. His level of competition is even with or even a little higher than Stephens’, but at this point in the game, the two are on close to an even playing field. The edge goes to Melendez because while great on the ground, he is also a very good striker and should be able to stand with Stephens without much issue.

I see this fight being mostly a stand-up affair for the first half, and a ground assault by Melendez in the latter half, with Gilbert getting the submission before the final bell.

Gilbert Melendez via SUB


Ilir Latifi $8,500 / Tyson Pedro $7,700

USATSI_9917363_168381090_lowres

Ilir Latifi, aka everyone’s favorite centaur, has a great wrestling base that is punctuated by fight-ending power. He’s more than competent wherever the fight goes; however, fighters willing to take the fight to him and constantly pressure him see victory (see Gegard Mousasi fight). He also is very susceptible to body shots, and against a beast like Pedro, it’s not a stretch to predict an upset here.

Tyson Pedro is an unbeaten Aussie with a massive 6’3” frame that is built to deliver punishment. The best part about him is that besides packing a big punch, he’s also excellent on the ground, giving him a two-fold advantage over his opponents thus far. I don’t see this fight making it to the final seconds.

Tyson Pedro via (T)KO


Gavin Tucker $8,400 / Rick Glenn $7,800

USATSI_9872467_168381090_lowres

Gavin Tucker is currently 10-0, with only two of his fights going the distance. His most recent fight saw him outwork and outclass the veteran Sam Sicilia, but that is his highest profile fight to date. While unbeaten, his competition has been on the regional level with the exception of Sicilia.

Rick Glenn is a tall, lanky featherweight and will carry a big five-inch height advantage over Tucker. While not particularly strong, he is a gritty worker and puts together effective combinations particularly well. He has more than double the experience Tucker does and has faced a higher level of competition than his opponent. The grind is where he thrives, and if he employs that strategy here, he may just find himself victorious.

This is a tough call, but I’m going to say Glenn grinds out the win.

Rick Glenn 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.