DraftKings dream tream: UFC on ESPN 1

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 15: Francis Ngannou speaks with the media during a press conference for UFC Fight Night Ngannou vs. Velasquez at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix on February 15, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Another week means another DraftKings dream team, which means another chance to make money. Outside of the Robert WhittakerKelvin Gastelum fight being removed from the slate at the 11th hour, everything pretty much went according to plan. The favorites all scored big and Teruto Ishihara still has no ground game. Unfortunately, this week is a little trickier. Far more stacked card, but far more difficult to predict who will close the show early. Nonetheless, we are going to try and build on the momentum of UFC 234 this weekend at UFC on ESPN 1. Let’s get into the kitchen to see what the chef’s Sunday night special is.

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Treat Yourself

Kron Gracie – $9,300

Ok, I’ll admit it, this price tag is a little outrageous even for combat sports royalty like Kron Gracie. However, he’s fighting Alex Caceres. 500 record in the UFC, Alex Caceres. All sauce no substance Alex Caceres. Perhaps most importantly got submitted by Jason Knight, Alex Caceres. I’m not sure if the last name gave it away, but Kron Gracie is far more lethal on the mat than Knight. Sure there’s a world where ‘BruceLeeroy’ manages to avoid any and all takedowns for 15 minutes and outpoints Gracie on the feet en route to a decision.

That’s not this world though. Caceres is porous defensively in every phase of the grappling game. Much like the Demian Maia fight a few weeks back this fight is one Kron Gracie takedown away from being over and I have that happening before the final bell. Can’t go without Gracie on the dream team.

Oh and I don’t know if there are plans for this to happen, but if Kron Gracie comes out to the Gracie train this fight will be over inside a minute.

Cynthia Calvillo – $9,200

I’ve been seeing a lot of “experts” out there trying to talk up the value of Courtney Casey this week and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. She’s big, yes. Hits pretty hard, sure. No, Calvillo doesn’t have the most depth as a striker. But much like the Gracie fight, this fight shouldn’t be contested on the feet for more than a couple minutes. Casey’s wrestling defense is practically non-existent. Little Michelle Waterson was scoring in the grappling department against her. Calvillo is no Tatiana Suarez, but she can get this to the mat more reliably than Waterson. Throw in the fact that Calvillo is one of the better scramblers in the division and the outlook appears bleak for Casey.

Unless Calvillo is trying to prove something on the feet she’s going to be on a single leg roughly 30 seconds into each round. I trust her, like Gracie, to find the neck in transition at some point and prove herself worth the high price tag.

Manny Bermudez – $9,100

One of the all-time great nicknames “The Bermudez Triangle” draws Benito Lopez in a battle of unbeaten’s. Lopez is one of those Team Alpha Male anomalies in that grappling isn’t his fighting method of choice. So what we figure to have here is a striker vs grappler showdown. If you haven’t picked up on the trend of my thinking for this card already I’ll be going with the grappler again. Why? Lopez isn’t a striker in that he is a master of distance. He’s more a put your heels in the sand lets see who crumbles first, type of guy. Which just so happens to be exactly the type of guy who is vulnerable to getting taken down.

Once we get to the mat, as is the case with our other dream team members, Bermudez should have a clear advantage. I’m not sure if it’ll be a triangle, but I imagine Bermudez should be able to drag Lopez to the mat enough to give himself a chance to put this one away inside the distance.

Middle of the pack

Aljamain Sterling – $7,900

Full disclosure I’m quite nervous about this pick. On the one hand, this could be a fight with a lot of Sterling retreating and leg kicks. Also known as a DraftKings disaster. On the other, it could be a high pace striking affair with a sprinkling of Sterlings typical wrestling/scrambling game mixed in which is more what we are looking for. I think a lot of people are sleeping on Sterling in this fight in general so I don’t think he’s going to be that highly owned here. At $7,900 you don’t need the guy to pull out a first-round finish. A high output decision would serve just fine in a lot of cash games.

Again I share many of your nerves regarding the possibility of this fight being lethargic. I’ve trusted Sterling far too many times in a gambling sense to ignore that as a possibility. That said, some people just don’t learn. In this case, I’m one of those people. So I’m going to put faith in Sterling to spring an exciting upset here and return on his value.

Budget Buys

Francis Ngannou – $7,200

Oh, you better believe big Francis Ngannou is on my squad. At this price. Against this Cain Velasquez. That’s a bargain too good to pass up. I’ll be first in line to receive my dunce cap if the Cain Velasquez of 2010 steps out there and ragdolls Ngannou for five rounds. I will, promise. But after seeing how old Velasquez looked at open workouts there’s a very real possibility those knees are creaking after five minutes. Plus, one has to imagine Velasquez is going to utilize the very direct (albeit effective) bull rush strategy to enter takedowns. So Ngannou will have a couple chances to take Velasquez head off with one of those Overeem uppercuts.

Look 36 by no means is a dinosaur in the heavyweight division. If anything Velasquez is still a spring chicken. But he’s about 54 in surgery years. I ended up being wrong last week when I said Anderson Silva was going to come out shopworn. It’s only right I double down this week and elect to die on the “Cain Velasquez will look shot” hill. For better or worse. At the low cost of $7,200 that doesn’t seem like such a bad hill to die on.

Bryan Barberena – $6,800

Finally, Mr. Irrelevant, Bryan Barberena. Much like many of my last picks I fully expect the guy to lose. Yet, with the remaining budget, we are limited on options. So we must go with who has the best shot to turn the world upside down. Vicente Luque is the most expensive fighter in the field. Given such, you can rest assured all the sheep will be all over him. Naturally, I am not. This is exactly the type of fight a guy like Barberena wins and everyone has the same expression on their face as they did when the Sopranos finale wrapped up. It’s a fight that will be uneventful, grinding, and probably “boo-worthy” at times.

Or Barberena could get knocked out in three minutes as everyone expects him to and completely justify him being the cheapest fighter in the field.

What I’m staying away from

James Vick vs. Paul Felder is not getting an ounce of consideration from me from a DraftKings perspective. This has the James Vick jab and circle special written all over it. I would be shocked if the winner of this fight scored more than 60 points. For the price, DraftKings has these two at it’s not at all worth it. If you’re betting this fight straight up I’d feel comfortable taking the over if it was 2.9 rounds.

There you have it another DraftKings dream team in the books. Last weeks card was fun, especially when damn near the entire squad was icing fools in the first or second round, but I’m far more excited for this ESPN card Sunday. Enjoy beating the Sunday scaries away it’s sitting down and watching a seven-hour UFC production and we’ll see you here next week same time same place for the Czech Republic card lineup.

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