UFC Fight Night 135: Gaethje vs. Vick is a much-needed card. That three-week break from UFC was too long. For cash games, you are looking for 4 wins out of your 6 fighters. This is a stackable 5-round main event in cash. In GPPs, you are looking for 6 wins to have a chance to take home the big prize with an optimal lineup. Good luck making lineups this week. This analysis should help you put those 6 fighter lineups together.
Check out my UFC Fight Night 135 DraftKings video with @MikesMMAPicks & @CRG1010:
The Main Event: James Vick $8.6K vs Justin Gaethje $7.6K
I’m a math guy so let’s talk numbers real quick. James Vick is a -150 favorite and the ITD prop is -425. With this fight expected to be played out on the feet, why is Justin Gaethje +174 to win by KO/TKO when James Vick is +178? Gaethje is actually more likely to win by KO/TKO. It seems very clear how this fight will play out based on their previous fights.
James Vick likes to play on the outside ring of the octagon. He uses his long frame to keep distance and win rounds. Vick will have a 6-inch reach advantage and a 4-inch height advantage. He uses his left kicks almost as a probing jab but can also throw heavy kicks that do real damage.
He is also an opportunistic striker with his hands. Vick is 13-1 and in MMA, “styles make fights”, so I went back to Beneil Dariush vs. James Vick to see how Vick handled pressure in his face and the result was James Vick’s only loss via KO/TKO. Dariush did not let Vick use his distance advantage and made him fight in close range. To that end, Vick did use an uppercut to drop Joe Duffy at close range so adjustments are being made.
Justin Gaethje has lost two straight fights to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. Both fights went into the 3rd round so Gaethje is a great cash game value if you want to play him alone but I do like the stack in cash. Gaethje will pressure and will use his leg kicks to chop Vick down to size. All of Gaethje’s opponents make note of his power on those leg kicks.
In the 3rd round vs. Poirier, it was surprising to see Poirier have any success in round 4 with the way he hobbled over to his stool. Gaethje lands 8.6 significant strikes per minute so if this gets into the 3rd round he will hit a very nice floor win or lose. Gaethje also absorbs over 10 significant strikes per minute so Vick can score really well as long as he matches Gaethje’s pace.
The elephant in the room here is, will Justin Gaethje use his high-level wrestling? He hasn’t used it in previous fights but my gut instinct tells me he will push Vick up against the cage at times and drag him down, wear on him, and try to incorporate that into his attack.
Alvarez is a high-level wrestler so I didn’t expect to see Gaethje use wrestling there and Gaethje was killing Poirier with the leg kicks so if that was in the game plan he may have gotten away from that. With Vick playing on the outside of the octagon I think Gaethje can crowd him, get inside and work his wrestling a bit. I like Gaethje to win this fight but both guys are moderate GPP plays and a stack in cash seems obvious. The winner of this fight should hit the optimal lineup
GPP Fight: Bryan Barberena $9.5K vs Jake Ellenberger $6.7K
Barberena is a huge -490 favorite in this fight and it’s a pick em to finish within 1.5 rounds. Ellenberger has a lot of fights under his belt and they have caught up with him. He is 2-8 in his last 10 fights and 8 of his last 9 fights have finished. He doesn’t use many kicks but will fire that heavy right hand at Barberena until he gets dropped or Barberena drops him. Ellenberger has a legit puncher’s chance because of that right hand.
Barberena will need to finish in rounds 1 or 2 to pay off his price. Ideally, he finishes Ellenberger late in round 1 or late in round 2 after a knockdown, or two; add in some ground and pound to pay off that hefty $9.5K price. Ellenberger is a very low volume GPP play and Barberena is a moderate GPP play.
GPP Fight: Mickey Gall $9.2K vs George Sullivan $7K
This is a weird price for this fight if you watch MMA regularly. Mickey Gall has fought two cans, submitted Sage Northcutt before he was ready to fight at 170 pounds and lost to Randy Brown in which his striking looked terrible. Mickey Gall has a path to victory once this fight goes to the ground as he should submit Sullivan if it gets there. Sullivan is the better striker unless Mickey has made big improvements since that Randy Brown fight.
Sullivan is a low volume GPP play being he should have the advantage on the feet and 7 or 8 minutes in the gas tank. Gall can win via submission at any time but that price tag is going to be tough if he can’t land many significant strikes.
Sneaky GPP Fight: Luke Sanders $7.9K vs Rani Yahya $8.3K
This fight is favored to finish and is essentially a pick em. Luke Sanders is the better striker and has KO/TKO power. Yahya is a BJJ specialist and effortlessly moves from one sub attempt to the next once it hits the ground. Yahya will drive in early for that lead leg and try for that single leg takedown. Sanders is athletic and quick so he can stay away from those takedowns early and make Yahya strike with him.
Both guys are moderate GPP plays for me and I can see this hitting the optimal lineup. Great midrange fight and that grappler/striker stylistic matchup everyone likes to talk about. Sanders is prone to mistakes that cost him fights and Yahya is just the guy to capitalize on those mistakes.
Sneaky GPP Fight: Deiveson Figueiredo $8.4K vs John Moraga $7.8K
This is a fight originally scheduled for the undercard that got moved up to the main card and rightly so. I really like this fight. John Moraga has been able to reinvent himself and rededicate himself to MMA and is working on a 3 fight winning streak. He has fought all the good guys in his career and at 34 years old is making a run in the division. He has a technical advantage on the feet in this fight.
Figueiredo is a wild man in the octagon. He is 14-0, only 2 of those 14 fights went to decision; he pushes a very high pace, putting lots of pressure on his opponent. He is not a technical striker but he wings big, wide punches which close distance and he is very strong in the clinch. He’ll look for the takedown in the clinch and work his submission game on the ground. My preferred play here is John Moraga but both guys are low volume GPP plays here when you build your mid-range lineups.
Top Tier Leans ($9.7k-$8.7k):
- Eryk Anders $9.7K- Anders should finish this fight and do it early. The only way to pay off $9.7K is a knockdown and 1st/2nd round finish with some ground/pound strikes. My concern with the price is Anders is very patient so that price scares me and also limits what you can do with the rest of your lineup. Low volume GPP play only for me but a very safe win. Tim Williams does not have the speed or head movement to avoid getting hit often.
- Drew Dober $8.9K- This fight has Dober by decision written all over it. Dober is a viable cash option and a low volume GPP play. He will be dropping down to 155 pounds after beating Frank Camacho at 170 pounds last time out. Dober is very strong with good movement. He has one punch KO power if he lands that left hand. Tuck is dangerous early in the fight but I expect him to gas midway through the 2nd round. He is a low volume GPP play since his last 3 wins have been by finish. Tuck has a path to victory if he can get Dober on the ground early and lock in a submission.
- Joanne Calderwood $8.8K- A deeper dive into the statistics after hearing @CRG1010 mention Calderwood on the podcast listed above made me think Calderwood is a cash game staple. Calderwood is excellent in a striking affair. She has scored over 100 points in both of her decision wins. I expect this fight to stay on the feet unless Calderwood wants it to go to the ground. Kalinda Faria is 0-2 in the UFC at 125 pounds against lesser competition. Cash gameplay and low volume GPP.
Mid Tier Leans ($8.5K-$7.7K):
- Angela Hill $8.5K- Angela Hill has the striking advantage and should be able to ride that to a 3 round decision win over Cortney Casey. Casey has skill and is a good athlete but she struggles to put her MMA game together and let her skill guide her. She finds ways to lose fights. Play Hill in cash if you need a win at her price.
- Markus Perez $8.2K vs Andrew Sanchez $8K– I really like this fight and see a path to victory for each guy. Andrew Sanchez should have the advantage early in this fight. His combination of striking and wrestling should win him rounds 1 and probably round 2. The issue is his gas tank. He has a tendency to get tired in round 2 and drops his hands. Perez can catch him in rounds 2 or 3 with his dynamic striking or get him to the ground to secure a submission. If this fight is 1-1 in rounds heading into round 3 I would live bet Markus Perez. This is a very good fight and priced in the midrange.
Lower Tier Leans ($7.6K-$6.5K):
- Andre Fili $7.5K- Fili can win a 3 round decision with a smart game plan here. Michael Johnson has 3 straight loses. His left-hand power can finish this fight at any time so Fili needs to stay clear of that and circle to Johnson’s right hand. Johnson is very heavy on his lead leg so Fili can attack that with leg kicks early and often. Fili needs to time Johnson’s attack and score that timely takedown to win rounds. Fili needs to strike and get out of the pocket, don’t exchange in the pocket with Michael Johnson; strike and move! I like Fili in cash games and with a few takedowns should pay off his price in a 3 round decision.
- Iuri Alcantara $7.2K- Alcantara has a path to victory. He has the ground advantage in this fight with Cory Sandhagen. At 38 years old I’m not sure how much Alcantara has left in the tank and we really don’t know how good Sandhagen is at this point. Sandhagen beat Austin Arnett who isn’t good at all. Sandhagen keeps a high striking pace and should be the bigger guy here. Sandhagen has fought his last 8 fights at 145 pounds so this drop to 135 pounds may allow him to balloon up a bit by fight night. Alcantara throws big/wild left hands, heavy leg kicks, and works his sub game on the ground. I think Sandhagen wins a decision on the fight but Alcantara could get the submission if he can find a way to the ground.
- James Krause $6.9K– This line is off, Alves should not be a -380 favorite. Alves is the bigger, stronger guy here and should win round 1 but then the question of his gas tank comes into play. Krause is moving up from 155 pounds so Alves can exhaust him in the clinch with his strength. Krause is a BJJ black belt so if he can get an exhausted Alves to the ground late in round 2 or in round 3 the submission win at his price would pay off nicely.
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