The second of three straight nights of UFC action takes place on Friday with The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale in Las Vegas. If you didn't have any luck at UFC Fight Night 80, tonight is your chance to bounce back. Below are out studs, value plays and fighters to avoid when setting your line-up for tonight's event.
Tatsuya Kawajiri ($10,800)
Tatsuya Kawajiri is the biggest favorite on the card and has the highest salary, and I see him as the fighter most likely to score a win on tonight's card. He has an opponent coming in on short notice in Jason Knight, who, despite being 15-1, hasn't fought the level of competition that Kawajiri brings. Kawajiri is a finisher and has scored some good points during his UFC bouts. I expect him to get an early finish and he is my top play on the night.
Frankie Edgar ($9,900)
I normally pick fighters with five-figure salaries for the studs spot, but I love Frankie Edgar at his price. It is a closely matched fight against Chad Mendes with Mendes being a $9,500 salary, and he wouldn't be a bad play either. Where Edgar has the edge is he is going to land a lot of strikes, and that begins to add up over the course of 25 minutes. I fully expect the fight to go the distance, which gives you more scoring opportunities with significant strikes, which Edgar lands a lot of, and a decision win counts the same whether it is three rounds or five rounds. You can't go wrong with Edgar (or even Mendes) at their prices.
Joe Lauzon ($8,900)
Joe Lauzon has a tough fight against Evan Dunham and is the underdog despite having more wins inside the Octagon. Both men have been around for a long time and fought tough competition. Lauzon is a bonus hunter and an aggressive fighter who hunts for submissions. His bout with Dunham will likely hit the ground and allow Lauzon to go to work. With his salary and penchant for always searching for submissions, he makes a good value play due to being able to end a fight at any moment by submission.
Ryan Hall ($8,800)
Ryan Hall is a big underdog against Artem Lobov, and that is quite surprising to me. Hall has a slick grappling game and will be hunting for the submission finish. Lobov has an awful record in MMA, but he does have a huge experience edge. Hall doesn't have the resume that Lobov does, but I think he's a better fighter. With his ability to finish a fight at any moment by submission, Hall at his salary is an excellent play.
Ryan LaFlare ($10,700)
Ryan LaFlare has the second-highest salary of the fighters on the card. I do think he will defeat Mike Pierce. I do think it will go to a decision. Both men are takedown artists, and that will likely negate each other and turn into a boring, prodding match on the feet. LaFlare may score some decent points, but I don't see his salary justifying a spot on your roster. It's just too high, so I'm avoiding him.
Gabriel Gonzaga ($9,600)
Gabriel Gonzaga has been around the UFC for a long time as he makes his 21st appearance inside the Octagon. He has struggled mightily recently, having dropped three straight fights. In his 26 fights, he has only been to a decision twice. All of his wins are by stoppage, but eight of his ten losses are by knockout, including his last two. His chin doesn't seem to be able to hold up these days, and he has a big knockout artist across from him on Friday in Konstantin Erokhin. I see another knockout loss coming.
RYAN FREDERICK: Tatsuya Kawajiri ($10,800), Tony Ferguson ($10,300), Frankie Edgar ($9,900), Konstantin Erokhin ($9,800), Ryan Hall ($8,800)
I like Kawajiri to get a quick finish over Jason Knight. I see Edgar scoring a lot of points on his way to a decision win over Chad Mendes. Tony Ferguson is interesting to me as he scores a lot of points and I see him winning a decision over Edson Barboza and landing some takedowns and lots of strikes on his way. Erokhin has a lot of power and is fighting Gabriel Gonzaga, who no longer has a chin. Hall has way too low of a salary and I like him to get a submission win over Artem Lobov.
PAUL FONTAINE: Ryan LaFlare ($10,700), Tony Ferguson ($10,300), Joe Lauzon ($8,900), Ryan Hall ($8,800), Jason Knight ($8,600)
I like Ferguson a lot. He’s got massive power for the division and I feel like Barboza is way overmatched here. Lauzon is very underrated and all but one of his UFC wins has come by finish and I think he does it again Friday. I’m going with Hall as I think his opponent is a terrible fighter who managed to suck opponents into his game on the TUF show. Hall is too smart for that and will submit him quickly. LaFlare is unbeaten in UFC, except for a five round main event against Demian Maia. He has too many tools for Mike Pierce, coming off a 2 ½ yr layoff. Knight is my wildcard. I saw him fight on a Titan show earlier this year and was very impressed. He should be the more hungry fighter and I think Kawajiri is way past his prime.
PEACH MACHINE: Julian Erosa ($10,200), Frankie Edgar ($9,900), Edson Barboza ($9,100), Joe Lauzon ($8,900), Ryan Hall ($8,800)
I got a ton of cash left over! Can I put that in my IRA? Anyway, I like Edgar because he's made of IRON (Fe)! I think that sadly, he and Aldo will win and we will see the rematch of their first fight, with the exact same outcome. I'd love Edgar to win a title. I like Hall. Even though WE only found out one day ago that he's fighting, HE knew he was fighting for at least a month. I train with guys who train with him and I've heard he's a beast on the mat. Duh. Let's hope he doesn't decide to stand and trade. Barboza is always a tough out and I expect him to continue his winning ways into title contention. I'm taking Erosa because I hate Marcin Wrzosek. Seriously, I'll be in Vegas and if I bump into him, we may throw down. And in that match, I predict Wrzosek because I'm all talk. The real J-Lo and Dunham are both past their primes but I expect J-Lo to win the battle with his reach.
As you can see, we are all expecting Ryan Hall to score a big outcome. Enjoy the fights and good luck!