Cash Game Lock: Marlon Vera ($9,500)
Marlon Vera’s replacement opponent is newcomer Nohelin Hernandez. Vera was originally scheduled to square off against Sean O’Malley, which is a much more interesting matchup than this one. Hernandez, prior to accepting the fight against Vera, was scheduled to meet up with Anthony Birchak at LFA 72. Despite his success outside of the UFC, he is stepping into a fight against a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, who just recently defeated the likes of Wuliji Buren, Guido Cannetti and Frankie Saenz. This fight could go either way for Vera, but whether it ends in knockout or submission, it will very likely be in the first round. In his last three wins, Vera has an average of 107.3 fantasy points scored per fight. He is a high-velocity striker with grappling skills to boot and based on recent performance history, he is likely to outscore Jon Jones on DraftKings. That makes him this weekend’s cash game lock.
Tournament Lock: Ben Askren ($8,700)
This fight has recency bias written all over the Vegas money line. Ben Askren picked up a victory over Robbie Lawler in the first round back at UFC 235, but not before almost getting knocked out. Jorge Masvidal, on the other hand, looked incredibly impressive against Darren Till, knocking him out in the second round. Prior to that, however, he lost to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia, who secured four takedowns against the 34-year-old boxer. Askren’s takedown offense is far superior to that of Maia. Masvidal did wrestle in high school, but Askren was a two-time NCAA Division I Collegiate National Champion before moving onto the Olympics. Perhaps it isn’t what the fans want to see, but Askren is going to avoid Masvidal’s early onslaught, ground him, and either find a submission or win a decision. Askren’s upside comes with his finishing ability, as well as his advances and potential for multiple takedowns. The more Masvidal returns to his feet, the higher chance that Askren loses, but also the higher chance that he scores a lot of fantasy points. He has a great tournament ceiling, especially considering his ownership percentage should be low based on the herd’s love of Masvidal.
Highest Upside: Luke Rockhold ($8,400)
Earlier in the week, Luke Rockhold was all the way down to a -139 favorite to pick up the victory in this Saturday’s bout against Jan Blachowicz. As far as skill sets are concerned, both fighters are highly acclaimed. Blachowicz has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Joe Moreira, and Rockhold has the same, but under both Leandro Vieira and Dave Camarillo. Rockhold is the better striker, and if Rockhold had been fighting at light heavyweight for the last 10 years, he would be a sizeable favorite. Oddly enough, however, his size should not be of concern. Rockhold is 6-foot-3-inches tall, and he regularly struggled to make the middleweight limit. His chin should see an improvement, as he will not have to deplete his body to make weight, and while he won’t have a significant size advantage, he also will not have a significant size disadvantage. Since 2003, on DraftKings, he has scored over 90 fantasy points in all of his wins. His price tag is very reasonable, and on a price-per-dollar basis, he has the highest upside of any fighter on the UFC 239 card. Blachowicz is a great fighter, but in this matchup, Rockhold screams, “Anything you can do, I can do better!”
Vegas Odds Value: Edmen Shahbazyan ($9,400)
Is it even possible for a fighter with a price tag as high as Edmen Shahbazyan’s to offer good odds value? Well, apparently it is. Since opening, the line has moved from -380 to -621. On some reputable betting sites, it is currently as wide as -650 in favor of the 21-year-old middleweight. After a disappointing split decision victory over Darren Stewart, Shahbazyan went on to easily dispatch of Charles Byrd with devastating elbows and punches in the very first round. Jack Marshman, on the other hand, narrowly avoided a three-fight losing skid, picking up a split decision victory over John Phillips in his last contest. Shahbazyan is very likely on another level, and Marshman will pick up his third loss in four fights this Saturday. All that said, Shahbazyan is slightly cheaper than both Marlon Vera and Jon Jones, but according to Vegas, he is slightly more likely to win than Vera, and quickly approaching Jones’ -690 line. Yes, Vera and Jones will likely outscore Shahbazyan, but he may become the most trustworthy of all fighters this weekend.
Low-Priced Flier: Diego Sanchez ($7,000)
Diego Sanchez is not only a great low-priced flier on DraftKings this weekend, but he has a very serious chance to win this fight outright. In his last two fights, Sanchez looked very impressive against both Craig White and Mickey Gall. He finished Gall in the second round. His opponent, Michael Chiesa, lost to both Kevin Lee and Anthony Pettis prior to defeating an over-the-hump Carlos Condit. The level of competition that Chiesa has faced recently is far superior to that of Sanchez, but his victories are over fighters like Beneil Dariush, Jim Miller, and Mitch Clarke. Most importantly, Chiesa’s paths to victory are thwarted by Sanchez’s style and credentials. Chiesa is a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under James Weed, and he has a solid wrestling foundation. His striking is not better than Sanchez’s, so he will look to take this fight to the mat, which is where he is most comfortable. Sanchez, however, is a black belt in gaidojutsu under Greg Jackson and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Roberto Tussa. He is dangerous anywhere on the mat, and Chiesa has shown an ability to get caught in submissions. Sanchez, after his divorce, is finally taking fighting seriously again, and the MMA world should start taking him seriously again … At least, for the time being. His age will be a problem sooner rather than later.