UFC 234: Whittaker vs Gastelum
Saturday, February 9th, 2019 6:30 pm EST
The midrange this week is tricky. We have a lot of heavy favorites this week and some of the DK prices are suppressed as a result. I only see four UFC fights in which the underdog has a clear path to victory. But again, this is MMA so anything can happen!
The Main Event: Robert Whittaker $8.9K vs Kelvin Gastelum $7.3K
I expect this fight to be a technical chess match on the feet. In cash games, I really like this stack but wouldn’t be surprised if it scores on the lower side. I still think it’s worth playing to be safe and I’m not a huge fan of other low-priced fighters. If this fight goes the distance, I see Whittaker winning enough rounds to retain his title. Gastelum is a patient counter striker waiting with that big left hand ready to wobble his opponent. Whittaker doesn’t strike with the highest volume so those opportunities will be few and far between. Both guys are GPP viable as they have knockout ability. I expect Whittaker to use his kicking game from distance early and attack the lead right foot of Kelvin Gastelum.
The Co-Main Event: Anderson Silva $6.6K vs Israel Adesanya $9.6K
I just have no feel for what is going to happen here. Both guys are counter strikers so are they going to lead the dance or be patient as usual? Both guys have the idea they get the winner of the main event in a title match if they win this fight so does that make them more aggressive than usual? It’s only three rounds so you can’t just give rounds away, but I expect the first round will be uneventful with minimal striking. Adesanya can pay off his high price tag with a first or second round finish but he’ll need to be more aggressive than usual for that to happen. At 43 years old has Anderson Silva lost a step? Silva hasn’t fought in two years and that last performance versus Derek Brunson was difficult to break down. Silva pulled guard and spent some time on his back. It seems he started the rounds striking in an effort to gain a volume advantage then took the fight to the ground to slow it down. Silva is a cash punt at that price but don’t expect much return; more for salary savings. Adesanya should win but a three-round decision win is not going to pay off a $9.6K price tag.
Sneaky GPP Fight: Kai Kara-France $9K vs Raulian Paiva $7.2K
This fight is favored to go to decision, but it should be very high paced with lots of strikes. Paiva is an option as a cash punt and is also a GPP play here, he is my favorite play in this lower price range and can secure a win. He has a ground game and can use his BJJ to secure a submission. Paiva will also have a size advantage here. Kara-France put up a big DK score last fight with a lot of ground and pound. He is an option in cash and GPPs.
Sneaky GPP Fight: Jim Crute $8.3K vs Sam Alvey $7.9K
This is only a GPP option. Alvey is a counter puncher and his patience leads to low scoring fights on DraftKings if it goes to the scorecards. Crute may try to push the pace but may end up tiring himself out with clinch work instead. Alvey has one clear path to victory and that is landing his powerful left hand on a counter for a flash knockdown/knockout. Crute can earn a decision and it will be interesting to see where he has success as this fight unfolds.
Sneaky GPP Fight: Rani Yahya $8K vs Ricky Simon $8.2K
This should be a good fight! Ricky Simon pushes a pace. Unfortunately for him, that pace includes multiple takedowns and the groundwork of Yahya can get Simon finished. Yahya is a GPP play for me and can lock in a submission. That is his path to victory. Simon can win a decision here with his pace, volume striking, and clinch work. Simon is also in line for a late finish if Yahya gases which he has a tendency to do.
Top Tier Leans ($9.6K-$8.7K): All eight fighters in this price range are great options in GPPs. I don’t think I’ve ever considered all eight fighters in the top price range as strongly as I do for this card.
- Montana De La Rosa $8.8K -De La Rosa has the advantage everywhere. She fights behind her jab and has good boxing. She was a very accomplished wrestler in high school being named an All-American three times. Her last four wins have been via submission. She is only 23 years old and has fought the much better competition. I like her in cash and all GPP formats.
- Devonte Smith $8.6K – Smith will have a six-inch reach advantage in this fight and I expect this to be a striking match. Smith has tremendous speed and power with his strikes. Ma has a puncher’s chance on a counter punch, or he may try to wrestle but I don’t see him having a lot of success there. Smith is a play for cash or GPP.
- Shane Young $9.1K – Shane is going to push forward, crowd his opponent and strike. His pace and pressure are going to put him in a position to score very highly on DraftKings in a finish or decision. Shane Young is an option in cash and all GPP formats.
- Kyung Ho Kang $9.4K – Kang is a multi-entry GPP option for me. He has a chance to get a finish in the first or second round and that is what we’ll need at his price.
- Lando Vannata $9.3K – Vannata has the advantage everywhere. His biggest advantage is on the ground, so I hope he takes the fight there. I like Vannata in cash and GPPs.
- Jalin Turner $8.7K – Turner has a rare combination of power, speed, and height for his division. He is fighting Potter who is coming in on two weeks notice. The striking speed difference will be noticeable. Potter’s striking is slow and the only real threat he poses is to clinch up and drag Turner down so he can work his BJJ. Turner keeps this standing and he wins, probably via finish. I like Turner in all formats, both cash and GPP.
Mid-Tier Leans ($8.6K-$7.6K):
- Wuliji Buren $7.7K- Buren is in a great spot to win here and the game plan has already been executed vs Jonathan Martinez. Martinez made his UFC debut vs Soukhamthath and I expect this fight to play out the same way. Buren (like Soukhamthath) will have a size and strength advantage. I expect him to use that advantage to clinch up and wrestle, hopefully securing multiple takedowns along the way. Buren also threw some good strikes in his last fight versus Marlon Vera, which can hurt Martinez on the feet. Martinez could have success striking from distance.
Bottom Tier Leans ($7.5K-$6.6K): I mentioned three guys previously in my article and I don’t have anyone to add here. Stacking in cash is safe, so Gastelum is a decent play as a cash stack and GPP punt with knockout potential. If you want to go really cheap in cash, you can punt with Anderson Silva at $6.6K. My favorite GPP play at this range is Paiva, who is willing to strike, has a size advantage, and can handle himself on the ground.