This article is part of our The MMA Mashup series.
I'm old enough to remember when MMA fans could look forward to two UFC cards during a TUF fight week. Mercifully, there are only 12 bouts to cover on the lone slate. We will take a look at all of them across five platforms in this edition of The MMA Mashup, which includes a big plus-money prop bet. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Without any further ado, let's get to it.
Plays to Consider on DraftKings
Andre Petroski ($9,200)
It was an unceremonious stay at The Ultimate Fighter house for Michael Gillmore, who remained on as an alternate only to get taken down in the first minute of his fight with Gilbert Urbina. This resulted in a back take and a submission loss. His tape on the regional scene doesn't show much more promise, as Gilmore basically likes to work a leg kicking game and look for counter punches. This is unlikely to deter Petroski, who will wade forward with big punches and look for takedowns throughout the course of the bout.
Alessio Di Chirico ($8,900)
Few declines have been as sharp and precipitous as Abdul Razak Alhassan's. While there's no shame in losing to top prospects and heavy hitters, the stock of "Judo Thunder" reached an all-time low in a loss to Jacob Malkoun, who seemingly landed the same single-leg takedown every time the two would get in close quarters. Perhaps even more troubling is that Alhassan looked remarkably unpolished, winging big shots that his opponent could easily see coming. Di Chirico may be seen as a journeyman, but he is a strong wrestler in his own right and landed some impressive counter shots on a quick, athletic striker in Joaquin Buckley during their fight in January. I think the Italian fighter should be able to score his takedowns with relative ease while also being a sneaky threat on his feet.
Jamall Emmers ($8,300)
Emmers came up short in his UFC debut against Giga Chikadze but has impressed since then by seamlessly mixing a quick, power striking game with wrestling. Pat Sabatini's grappling pedigree did little to save him after he got tired in the third round against Tristan Connelly, and Emmers is the kind of offensive threat that won't allow him an easy path in the first two frames. It should also be noted that Emmers will go into this bout sporting a four-inch reach advantage, which should allow him to keep range and dictate where the fight takes place.
Brady Hiestand ($7,500)
Hiestand entered the TUF house as a grind-you-out submission grappler, and lived up to his reputation against Josh Rettinghouse, taking him to the floor and pounding him out in the first round. Things were a bit more complicated against Vincent Murdock, but it should be noted that an exhausted Hiestand was able to push through and secure top position to grab the decision victory. Ricky Turcios is an agile fighter with a nice kicking game, but I don't think he has quite enough offense to keep Hiestand off of him.
Darren Stewart ($7,400)
Stewart's light heavyweight debut against Eryk Anders didn't go as planned, but much of that has to do with the size and strength of the former collegiate athlete, as he was able to power his way to top position after a takedown from "The Dentist" in the third round. Stewart's wrestling should play much better against Dustin Jacoby, who was rag-dolled by Ion Cutelaba for an entire round before "The Hulk" gassed out. Stewart has shown himself to be a far better control grappler than Cutelaba, which makes me think that he will be able to take large chunks of time off the clock on the ground.
Plays to Consider on FanDuel
Daniel Rodriguez ($15)
Rodriguez has made his mark in the UFC with a powerful, crisp boxing game that sees him throw in combination and mix targets well. While his offense is certainly a big reason for his success, we shouldn't understate the importance of his takedown defense, which currently stands at a robust 83 percent. Kevin Lee has been anything but an efficient wrestler in the Octagon and tends to run out of steam if he can't get the fight where he wants it. Lee may have a decent jab, but it's unlikely that he will be able to outbox Rodriguez for 15 minutes.
Makhmud Muradov ($23)
Muradov's lack of aggression may be the only thing separating him from other top prospects. While he showcases a tremendously sharp boxing attack, Muradov has a tendency to let opponents hang around, which has resulted in third-round finishes in each of his last two fights. Gerald Meerschaert will always be dangerous on the ground, but after back-to-back one-punch knockouts, the Milwaukee native reacted poorly when defending punches against Bartosz Fabinski. It's unlikely that Muradov will try to take him down, which means Meerschaert will need to actively go for takedowns or risk being knocked out. I think Muradov will bank at least a couple of defended takedowns here before finding the chin of "GM3."
Plays to Consider on Prize Picks
JJ Aldrich UNDER 1.0 Takedowns and Wellington Turman OVER 1.0 Takedowns
Aldrich's four-takedown performance against Cortney Casey may cause some to balk at the under here, but the 29-year-old will come into this bout with a whopping eight-inch reach advantage. Vanessa Demopoulos got stung over and over again by hard right hands from Lupita Godinez, which is a scenario that Aldrich shouldn't have to work too hard to recreate.
Sam Alvey has been notoriously hard to take down in his career, but even with an 0-5-1 record in his last six fights, "Smilin" still tags his opponents hard with that awkward right cross. Turman showed us in his last fight with Bruno Silva that he doesn't exactly trust his hands at the moment, as he shot a remarkable 10 times in less than one round. The fact that he doesn't have to hold Alvey down works in our favor here, as Sam is known to be a competent scrambler.
Bets to Consider
Bryan Battle Wins via KO/TKO: (+400)
Battle was the underdog throughout season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter but used his power and physicality to notch two dominant wins en route to the middleweight finale this Saturday. Gilbert Urbina suffered a brutal knockout at the hands of Tresean Gore in the semifinal fight, but Gore is unable to compete due to injury, allowing Urbina the chance to take the title. The 25-year-old features a variety of striking techniques but leaves himself open after throwing strikes, which allowed him to be dropped once by Gore before the knockout blow. I believe Battle will be able to do something similar, perhaps after tiring him out with short strikes from the clinch.
Mana Martinez Wins via KO/TKO (-110)
It may not be as juicy as our previous play, but Martinez is a sniping counter puncher with incredible power, having won all eight of his professional fights by knockout. Guido Cannetti will get in his opponent's face and try to work a wrestling game, but he leaves himself unprotected in the pocket, which will likely result in a quick exit from the cage.
Plays to Consider on SuperDraft
Edson Barboza – 2.05x Multiplier
SuperDraft offers identical multipliers to the main event fighters this week, allowing prospective owners a chance to lock in a nice score on either side of the five-round contest. Barboza showed two important things in his fight with Shane Burgos: that his boxing is as sharp as ever, and that simply pressuring the veteran isn't enough to shut down his game. Giga Chikadze showed off his devastating kicks in his win over Cub Swanson, but I would need to see a more complete game from the Georgian before picking him to win a fight like this. I will be interested to see if he decides to use his wrestling, but Chikadze has gotten noticeably tired in bouts before, and I doubt he is conditioned to grapple for 25 minutes.