What could end up being the biggest UFC event of the year comes to us on Saturday night, with UFC 202 on pay-per-view coming from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is headlined by the much-anticipated rematch between Nate Diaz and UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor, and they will do it again at 170 pounds. The lead-up to the fight in recent days has garnered a lot of attention, and fans are now ready for this fight.
Below are our studs, value plays and fighters to avoid when setting your fantasy line-ups for UFC 202 on Saturday.
Tim Means ($10,900)
Tim Means is one of the top plays on this weekend's UFC 202 card as he takes on Sabah Homasi in the main card opener. Means is a scrappy welterweight who tends to be an underrated fighter. He doesn't seem like he will ever fight for a title as he has been unable to beat top competition, but he hangs around the bottom of the top twenty in the rankings and has exciting fights against lesser competition.
He was originally scheduled to fight Sean Strickland, but he pulled out due to injury. Homasi is coming in on very short notice, and he actually fought earlier this month on a Titan FC card. With two fights in three weeks, Homasi is going to be in shape, but Means has the benefit of a full training camp. Means is also coming off of having a drug policy violation shortened, and he has claimed his innocence, so he will have a chip on his shoulder in looking to have an impressive showing. Means has scored 21 of his 25 wins by stoppage, including 17 by knockout. He has also won five of his last six fights, and he last three wins have come by stoppage. Homasi has been finished in four of his five losses, and the short notice does him no favors.
I expect an impressive showing from Means, and another stoppage for him. He's a safe bet for the top play on the card.
Cody Garbrandt ($10,300)
Cody Garbrandt is looking to get one step closer to a title shot as he looks to remain undefeated when he takes on Takeya Mizugaki on Saturday night. Garbrandt is 9-0 in his career and has scored eight of those wins by knockout. He has been super impressive in his career and his soaring stock and talent has made him the biggest betting favorite on the UFC 202 card.
Despite being the biggest favorite, Garbrandt has only the ninth-highest salary of all the fighters on the card, which is very unusual as the salaries are generally set by biggest betting favorites. Garbrandt's $10,300 salary makes him almost a must-play. Mizugaki is a tough and durable opponent, but he hasn't finished an opponent in almost five years, and Mizugaki's last two losses have seen him finished by Dominick Cruz and Aljamain Sterling. Cruz is a champion and Sterling is a rising prospect, much like Garbrandt. Garbrandt has a lot of speed and power in his striking, much quicker than Cruz.
This is tailor made for Garbrandt to get an impressive win, and I expect him to do so, and then to call out Cruz for a title fight. Garbrandt is great value at his salary, and a must-play in your lineup.
Nate Diaz ($9,200)
They are close in the betting odds, but Nate Diaz has a significantly lower salary than Conor McGregor, and that makes Diaz an excellent value play. We all know how the first fight between McGregor and Diaz went, and many are expecting much of the same in the rematch.
The big questions are how are the changes McGregor made going to benefit him to the point of being able to defeat the larger Diaz, and if the fact that Diaz got what he wanted, the money, makes him any less motivated for the rematch. Diaz is still going to be the larger man of the two, and he has the submission game that McGregor had no answer for in March. Diaz does get hit a lot, but he is very durable and has only been knocked out once in his career. Cardio is going to play a big factor, and we all know that Diaz can go five rounds, though he does get tired towards the latter stages of 25 minutes.
This is a tough match-up for McGregor, but a winnable fight for him if he can apply the needed changes to get past Diaz. The first fight has everyone convinced Diaz is going to be able to pull off the win a second time. His salary being at $9,200 is hard to look past and he has excellent value at that price.
Marvin Vettori ($8,800)
Marvin Vettori is making his UFC debut in the opening bout of the UFC 202 card when he takes on Alberto Uda. He comes into the UFC riding a five-fight win streak, and wins in ten of his last eleven fights. Of those ten career wins, nine have come by stoppage, with seven wins by submission and two by knockout. He is a young prospect at 22-years-old, but he is a power striker who has shown that he excels at finding submissions.
Uda is coming off the first loss of his career in his UFC debut. He was finished in the first round by Jake Collier in May, and he didn't show much in that fight. He is tall and lanky, and welterweight fits him better than middleweight. He is dangerous in the clinch with knees, but he doesn't have the distance striking that Vettori does. Vettori is a better fighter at this stage, and the reason he comes in with the much lower salary is the fact he has yet to have that UFC exposure.
Vettori is the betting favorite as he should be, and his very low salary makes him a prime value play candidate. I see him finishing Uda early, so he has excellent value.
FIGHTERS TO AVOID
Artem Lobov ($10,800)
Honestly, Artem Lobov has no business being on the UFC roster. He doesn't even have a winning record in his professional career, and he has suffered losses in both of his UFC bouts. He hasn't looked good in both fights either. He is saved by the fact he is Conor McGregor's teammate and they had the idea of doing fights between fighters on the teams from McGregor and Nate Diaz, as Lobov is taking on Diaz' teammate, Chris Avila, which marks the UFC debut of Avila.
Lobov has a ridiculously high salary at $10,800, which is the fourth-highest on the card, and that doesn't make sense at all. I've scratched my head at a lot of the salaries of the fighters on this card in putting my line-up together, and this one stands out as the absolute worst salary on the card. Lobov is a bad fighter who makes a lot of mistakes, but his experience may actually help him against Avila, who has just seven fights in his career. I don't expect Lobov to get a finish, and there are much better options for your line-up.
I highly recommend avoiding Lobov at his salary.
Cortney Casey ($9,800) & Randa Markos ($9,600)
I'm doing a combination for this one as I'm really suggesting avoiding this fight in general. Both women are looking to score their second straight wins, and both are coming in on shorter notice after fighting recently. Markos won a decision over Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger in mid-June, and Casey is coming off a finish of Cristina Stanciu in mid-July.
I think Markos is the better fighter of the two, and she showed much improvement in her June win. Casey was the one who scored the finish, and she put together some solid striking, but Markos is one of the more durable women in the strawweight division. Markos has a style that doesn't bode well for Casey as she is a good wrestler and has some tricky striking. Casey throws with a lot of volume, but she doesn't defend against the striking as well, and she isn't much of a counterstriker. Markos has the better wrestling of the two, though Casey is better on the mat with submissions.
It's really a close fight on paper, but I do expect Markos to get the win. However, I expect it to go the distance, and not a lot of points fantasy wise to be scored. At their almost equal salaries, I'd recommend avoiding this fight, and both fighters, as there are much better options on the card.
RYAN FREDERICK- Hyun Gyu Lim ($11,100), Tim Means ($10,900), Cody Garbrandt ($10,300), Marvin Vettori ($8,800), Glover Teixeira ($8,700)
Cody Garbrandt and Marvin Vettori are absolute steals at their salaries. Garbrandt is going to fight for a championship one day, and Takeya Mizugaki is actually a step back for him after fighting Thomas Almeida in his last bout. It screams like Garbrandt is a fighter that was turned down by other potential opponents, but Mizugaki is a game fighter. I expect Garbrandt to finish him. Vettori is making his UFC debut, but Alberto Uda is extremely beatable. Vettori is a finisher and I expect him to finish Uda. Hyun Gyu Lim is returning after a long layoff, but he is a big welterweight who likes to knock out opponents. He is getting a short notice opponent in Mike Perry, who, while undefeated, is very vulnerable to getting hit. Lim should finish him early. Tim Means also fights a short notice opponent, and he has become a vicious finisher in recent bouts. I see him making quick work of Sabah Homasi.
Glover Teixeira is my last pick for my roster, and he presents an interesting choice. Anthony Johnson is a monster, but a beatable monster. If Teixeira can weather the vicious early onslaught of Johnson, he has a style that can beat him as Teixeira can wrestle and submit opponents. Johnson gets in trouble after a round, and he can be taken down and submitted. That fight being three rounds makes Johnson more dangerous, but this is a winnable fight for Teixeira, and with spending big on three fighters, I like Teixeira's chances at his low salary.
PAUL FONTAINE- Tim Means ($10,900), Cody Garbrandt ($10,300), Nate Diaz ($9,200), Marvin Vettori ($8,800) and Glover Teixeira ($8,700)
Means is one of the most underrated guys at 170 in my opinion and he's facing a guy who is making his debut on short notice and just fought a couple weeks ago on a Titan show. Homasi might be a lower-level UFC calibre fighter but he isn't in Means' league. Garbrandt is going to wax Mizugaki in quick fashion, like he usually does. This guy is the one guy in UFC right now who I think has breakthrough star potential and with an impressive win her over a tough vet he could be in line for a shot at Dominick Cruz.
Diaz submitted Conor on a short camp in March and I see no reason why he doesn't beat him pretty handily. I'm very surprised that he's the underdog. Marvin Vettori should be able to finish Alberto Uda. Even though this is his UFC debut, he submitted UFC vet Igor Araujo in the first round in his last bout. I like Glover Teixeira to score a late submission win over Rumble Johnson. Teixeira is very tough to put away and I feel like Rumble will punch himself out in the first round and be vulnerable later in the fight.
PEACH MACHINE- Artem Lobov ($10,800), Cody Garbrandt ($10,300), Donald Cerrone ($10,000), Nate Diaz ($9,200), Glover Teixeira ($8,700)
Nate is the man. I expect him to continue to screw up McGregor's big plans. Glover is tougher than Johnson. I think he puts Rumble down. Cerrone vs Story is going to be awesome! I like Cerrone's reach to give him the edge. Mizugaki is being fed to Garbrandt, and I think Cody has himself a nice meal, and gets the duke. Artem Lobov is 0-2 in the UFC. He's beatable, but I think he's being gifted a win here for doing them a favor by fighting Ryan Hall.
THIS is going to be an awesome show. I'm inking up my #6 stamp. We've got 9 shows in a row here. I challenge someone to use my picks all 9 times in a row. PM me on the board if you're interested.