Here's some advice for who to pick in your DraftKings lineup for Saturday's UFC 204 event in Manchester, England, headlined by UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping defending against Dan Henderson on pay-per-view.
Top Target: Mirsad Bektic ($9,700)
Mirsad Bektic is one of the rising prospects in a deep featherweight division, and he looks to remain undefeated in his career when he takes on Russell Doane in the main card opener of UFC 204 on Saturday. Doane is actually the third different opponent that Bektic has been slated to fight, and he took the fight on just five days' notice as he looks to end his 3-fight win streak and end the undefeated mark of Bektic.
Bektic is stepping inside the Octagon for the first time since May 2015 as he has been out of action due to a torn ACL. Despite that, all of the factors leading into this fight have made Bektic the biggest betting favorite and the highest-salaried fighter on this card. Bektic has ten wins in his career, seven of which have come by stoppage. He trains with a top camp in the American Top Team camp in Florida, but his biggest key in the fight will have to be shaking off any ring rust that comes his way from being out of action for so long.
Doane has six losses in his career, three of which have seen him submitted. He's also moving up a weight class for this fight, and with the short notice and his recent struggles, it's hard to see him winning. It's all about whether Bektic looks to use his strong wrestling and solid striking to go for the finish, or to play it safe and just get his feel back for being inside the Octagon and to stretch out the fight.
Either way, I see Bektic winning this fight pretty easily, and I do think he will finish Doane. He is definitely the top play of this card.
Value Target: Jimi Manuwa ($7,800)
Jimi Manuwa is also coming off a long layoff as he returns to action for the first time since UFC 191 in September 2015 when he takes on Ovince Saint Preux in a light heavyweight bout between top-ten ranked fighters. Manuwa is looking to get back on the right track as he has lost two of his last three fights after starting his career with a 14-0 record. Saint Preux is looking to rebound from a loss to Jon Jones in April where he broke his arm late in the fight, but was able to go the full 25 minutes with Jones.
Saint Preux is looking to get back into the title picture, but he has a tough draw in the form of Manuwa. Saint Preux is an imposing 205-pound fighter, but Manuwa is also a solid light heavyweight. Manuwa has the power edge between the two, and he is very good in the clinch. Manuwa also mixes his strikes better than Saint Preux, and he pressures his opponents well. Saint Preux is a more relaxed fighter, and he has good wrestling and good submissions on the mat. He isn't as quick as Manuwa, and Manuwa's speed may be the key difference in the fight. Manuwa has good defensive wrestling, but he isn't particularly good on the mat. Saint Preux ending on top could lead to a lot of trouble for Manuwa.
This fight is a close one, and I like Manuwa to get the win. At his salary and being an underdog, he has very good value. He is well worth a look as a knockout win is definitely possible.
Target To Avoid: Vitor Belfort ($6,800)
It's amazing how far Vitor Belfort's stock has fallen in the last 18 months. In May 2015, he was challenging for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Less than one year ago, he knocked out the man challenging for that same championship in the main event of this card. Yet, Belfort finds himself as one of the biggest underdogs on the UFC 204 card with one of the lowest salaries. Belfort has definitely slowed down a lot, and he is coming off a completely dominant loss at the hands of Ronaldo Souza in May.
He is very much on the downswing, but he is still dangerous for the first round due to a powerful left hand. He has a tough match-up ahead of him in the form of Gegard Mousasi. Mousasi is a patient and technical fighter who has knockout ability as well. Mousasi also has a strong chin and good movement with his head and on his feet. Belfort comes out fast and is still technically skilled, so Mousasi will be needing to weather an early storm. Where Mousasi excels in the breakdown of this bout with Belfort is his crisp skill inside the clinch and his excellent grappling.
Belfort used to be a strong grappler, but the key words are used to be. He doesn't have much of a ground game anymore, and is very bad when he's found himself stuck on the bottom. I envision a scenario where Mousasi has to weather an early onslaught, but he takes Belfort down late in the first and finishes him with ground-and-pound. Belfort isn't the conditioning machine that Mousasi is, and he will fade.
I see Mousasi getting the finish inside the first two rounds, and inside the first is more likely. I can see a lot of people picking Belfort in their line-ups due to his low salary and the fact that he is still a dangerous fighter, but I don't think it is in anyones' best ineterests. Avoid Belfort on this card.
Underdog Target: Dan Henderson ($7,100)
Dan Henderson is fighting for the last time in his illustrious career, and he couldn't ask for a better sendoff at 46-years-old. He is challenging Michael Bisping for the UFC Middleweight Championship in the main event of UFC 204. A UFC belt is the only major company championship Henderson has yet to hold, and he will be looking to create magic when he enters the Octagon for the final time. Henderson holds a vicious knockout win over Bisping in July 2009 at UFC 100, and Bisping is looking for revenge and to send Henderson into the sunset on a loss.
It could end up being a magical night for Henderson, and he actually has a very decent chance to win the fight. It wouldn't shock me at all and that is why he is my underdog target to watch. He has definitely slowed down in his skills, and his vaunted chin isn't what it used to be. Henderson still has that deadly right hand, and if it connects, Bisping's lights could go out once again. Bisping playing in the pocket with Henderson could be a deadly proposition, so Bisping will be looking to use his footwork to throw Henderson off balance.
Bisping is a much better fighter than he was in 2009, and Henderson has become slow and plodding and relying on his right hand in fights. Bisping is going to be mixing his strikes and looking to wear Henderson down early, and while he doesn't have a lot of power, Bisping can still rock the old chin of Henderson. Henderson is still dangerous, and that right hand is too big of a tool to look past. I don't expect him to win, but a knockout win wouldn't be surprising.
At his low salary and a need for some underdogs in your line-up, Henderson has as good of a chance as the rest of fighters in the same range. I would feel comfortable putting him on your roster.
Ryan Frederick: Mirsad Bektic ($9,700), Gegard Mousasi ($9,400), Mike Perry ($8,100), Jimi Manuwa ($7,800), Leonardo Santos ($7,600), Dan Henderson ($7,100)
I like Mirsad Bektic, Jimi Manuwa and Dan Henderson in my line-ups for the reasons I stated above, and I think Bektic gets the win while Manuwa and Henderson have solid chances. For the rest of my line-up, I have Gegard Mousasi. I have his opponent, Vitor Belfort, as the fighter to avoid, and I see Mousasi getting the win early. Two other guys in my line-up with no mentions above are Mike Perry and Leonardo Santos.
Perry has the same salary as his opponent, Danny Roberts, and when trying to pick between the two and among other fighters, I like Perry's chances. He has knockout power, and if he can land that right hand, it could be lights out for Roberts. I admit to be taking a chance on him. Santos is unbeaten in the UFC, and he is actually the underdog to Adriano Martins. I like Santos in this fight, and he has underrated punching power. At worst, his takedowns and ground control will be a lot for Martins to handle. I like Santos in that fight.
Paul Fontaine: Gegard Mousasi ($9,400), Michael Bisping ($9,100), Ovince Saint Preux ($8,400), Danny Roberts ($8,100), Leonardo Santos ($7,600), Damian Stasiak ($7,400)
As long as Mousasi is facing a non-juiced Vitor Belfort, he should handle him pretty easily as he generally does when he faced a guy ranked lower than himself. Michael Bisping is unbeaten in England and that won't change after Saturday night/Sunday morning. He'll either outpoint Hendo for five rounds or surprise him with a KO like he did with Luke Rockhold. Either way, lots of points. OSP should take out hometown boy Jimi Manuwa with ease.
Danny Roberts should beat Mike Perry but I'm a little worried about that one. I had exactly $8,100 left after my first five picks and it was one of these guys so I picked the native Brit. The Leonardo Santos vs Adriano Martins fight is buried on the Fight Pass show (although it could be moved up due to the late withdrawal of Ian Entwistle) and it's a sleeper of a great fight. I like Santos to extend his 10 fight unbeaten streak against the fellow Brazilian. Lastly, I'm going with Damian Stasiak to pull off the upset win over Davey Grant. This was another toss-up in my eyes and Stasiak seems more likely to score a win by finish so I went with him.
Peach Machine: Gegard Mousasi ($9,400), Albert Tumenov ($9,200), Ovince Saint Preux ($8,400), Danny Roberts ($8,100), Daniel Omielanczuk ($7,700), Dan Henderson ($7,100)
OSP looked good against Jones, and he's a University of Tennessee alumni and the Vols are on a roll! Mousasi has the unenviable task of putting Belfort out to pasture. I hope he literally severs his head from his spine. Danny Roberts is a tough fighter, and really, I'd favor Mike Perry in this, but I can't imagine Perry being OK after the hellacious war he was in a month ago with Hyun Gyu Lim. I really wanted to take Pickett instead of Omielanczuk but he would have put me 200 over, so I'm going with the potential KO option as Struve can be KO'd. Tumenov is just an awesome fighter. And my final pick is of course HENDO, because he's my favorite of all time.