Welcome to the first entry in the building blocks series for UFC. I’m aiming to publish these for every PPV UFC event, so you have some guidance for the most prominent events the promotion has to offer! Besides the big guns, I’m going to focus on the lesser-known fighters, as researching the undercard fights usually takes more time. Let’s dive in!
When it comes to high-end choices, I’m always going to mention both main event fighters, as those fights are going 5 rounds instead of the usual 3, providing a lot more opportunity for the headliners of the event to score some points.
MAIN EVENT: Robert Whittaker (18.6M) & Israel Adesanya (18.7M)
The main event is somewhat of a coin-flip fight when it comes to the betting odds, so we get a slight value on Whittaker, who is priced 100K lower than the challenger. There are some question marks around both fighters. The champion Robert Whittaker is coming off multiple injuries, and he hasn’t fought since the summer of 2018. Some experts consider him a top-five pound for pound fighter, and I could make a case for Whittaker – who is riding a 9-fight win streak coming into this bout – being overlooked here. On the other side, Israel Adesanya is 17-0 in professional MMA and has a couple of big-name W’s under his belt. Still, he hasn’t faced anyone close to Whittaker’s level. In my opinion, Izzy didn’t look too good against Anderson Silva, and he was also in trouble after getting caught by a head kick against Kelvin Gastelum early in his last fight. I’m leaning towards the champ here, but if you plan on assembling multiple teams, I’d have at least one of these fighters in all my lineups. 25 minutes is a long time to score points.
Megan Anderson (18.2M)
Megan Anderson is a giant in the 145 lbs division, and the Australian gets a showcase fight here on home soil. Anderson was submitted in her last fight against a rear-naked choke specialist, but her current opponent, Zarah Fairn Dos Santos is a pure standup fighter. Santos has a couple of KO victories, but she isn’t a one-hit KO artist, and Anderson will have a considerable size and reach advantage. Santos provides the perfect matchup for Anderson, as she will come forward giving Anderson exactly the fight where she excels. The price is steep, especially for a lady fight (these generally have much higher variance), but I think Anderson is worth the asking price in this spot!
Tai Tuivasa (19.0M)
Tai Tuivasa is the best Australian fighter in the heavyweight division. Similarly to Megan Anderson, Tuivasa is getting an easy matchup here to get the Sydney product a victory. Tuivasa was knocked out by Junior Dos Santos in his last fight (somewhat derailing his hype train) and lost a decision to Blagoy Ivanov, who is playing a spoiler in this division, but he should roll here. Tuivasa’s opponent, Sergey Spivak is one of the lowest level fighters on the roster and is coming off a quick TKO loss against Walt Harris. I do not see anything in Spivak that should give Tuivasa trouble here, but this is heavyweight, so Tuivasa will probably get knocked out at least one out of 10 times. The other 9 times he will roll to a KO victory, making him close to a must-roster.
Jake Matthews (18.0M)
Another Australian getting set up to get a W here (are you sensing the trend?). Matthews is only 25 and has a couple of losses against the better fighters in this division, but also some decent wins against established fighters in Li Jingliang and Bojan Velickovic. His opponent, Rostem Akman is one of the most uninspiring fighters in this division. Matthews has no KO power, but he is averaging over 2 takedowns per 15 minutes, and he should be able to submit Akman here. If Matthews can dodge the unlikely KO, we are looking at multiple takedowns in a dominant victory by the way of decision or submission. In my opinion, Matthews is the safest pick among the highest tier fighters.
Dan Hooker (16.9M)
Dan Hooker is the only sizeable local favorite (although he is technically from New Zealand), who gets a tough fight. Al Iaquinta is no joke, but the 32 year old fighter turned car dealer turned fighter is coming off a clear decision loss against Donald Cerrone, and besides a lone KO victory over a washed Diego Sanchez and a decision victory over Kevin Lee (who technically beat himself by gassing) he hasn’t looked good during his 4-fight UFC tenure since coming out of retirement. Hooker has youth and the crowd his side, and he also possesses way more finishing power than his opponent. Neither of the youngster’s six last fights has gone to a decision, and Hooker went 5-1 during this stretch with the lone loss coming to Edson Barboza, one of the most dedicated standup specialists in the division. I’m expecting Hooker’s power to overwhelm Iaquinta as he cruises to a KO victory. Even at his price of 16.9M, Hooker is a must roster!
Justin Tafa (16.8M)
Justin Tafa is a very slight favorite in a low-level heavyweight fight. Tafa is only 3-0 in pro-MMA, but he has seven fights with Glory, the premiere kickboxing organization in the World. He is a little chubby but is pretty athletic overall, and he showed that he can chain some decent combos together. On the other side, Yorgan De Castro is heavily overweight, has no cardio and in my opinion he should not be on the UFC roster. There are some risks with these undercard heavyweight barn burners, but you have to lean towards Tafa in this spot as he has faced (and beat) way better standup strikers than De Castro.
Luke Jumeau (15.6M)
Jumeau is another local fighter, who is a slight underdog when it comes to the betting line. The New Zealand native is 2-1 in the UFC with his only loss coming by a close, 29-28 decision. Jumeau has a complete MMA game with good standup, decent wrestling, and a solid takedown defense. His opponent, Dhiego Lima was a running joke in the UFC just a few years back, as he was knocked out viciously three times in the span of little more than a year. The veteran has faced some beatable, low level opposition lately, but he still has lots of ugly losses on his record. In my opinion, Jumeau has a better standup game, and Lima won’t be able to take him down either. Jumeau was never knocked out before, and I’m expecting the takedown defense to hold up here as he cruises to a clear decision victory or a TKO finish. Jumeau should be extremely low-owned as he is an underdog against a well-known fighter, and I like his shot here.
Brad Riddell (16.6M)
Brad Riddel is a Tiger Muay Thai product facing Jamie Mullarkey, who is coming off back to back TKO/KO losses and hasn’t won a fight since 2015. The long layoff of Mullarkey and the well-documented chin problems make Riddell an instant target at the low, low price of 16.6M. Riddel has some decent wins on his record including a TKO victory over popular Chinese UFC fighter Kenan Song. Being a 100% standup fighter, a takedown could hurt Riddell here, but Mullarkey has shown the willingness to stand and bang. The risks are there as Mullarkey can always score a takedown, but the price is fair to include Riddell on your rosters.
Fade / Don’t play
Al Iaquinta (15.4M)
We really don’t know much about where Al Iaquinta stands currently. The UFC vet has one impressive victory since 2015 paired with a gimme victory and a couple of landslide losses. I might be slightly lower on him than the market, but we surely don’t know what to expect out of the Serra-Longo product at the age of 32, and he faces a dangerous up and comer in Hooker who is finishing fighters left and right. I don’t think this is the right time to buy low on the American gatekeeper.
Khalid Taha (17.3M)
Khalid Taha is the favorite in the curtain jerker, the first fight of the card. Taha faces Bruno Silva, a submission grappler coming from a decent gym. Taha has a size advantage, and he should win this bout if he can keep it standing, but the German was taken down quickly by Nad Narimani in his UFC debut, and I would not be surprised if Silva could get the takedown and eventually an upset victory.
Dhiego Lima (16.7M)
Dhiego Lima has terrible chin issues and should be avoided, especially at the current asking price. I see a submission being his only path to a victory, but Jumeau has the edge when it comes to strength, and the New Zealander also has a decent takedown defense. Lima is not worth drafting, even at his relatively modest price.
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