After a two-week break from UFC action, business picks up with the beginning of four straight weekends of fighting inside the Octagon. It kicks off on Saturday night in Sao Paulo, Brazil with UFC Fight Night 77. That also means it is time for fans who play in Draft Kings MMA to get really involved for the next few months with a strong amount of events. Let's get this party started with this weekend's event and take a look at some studs, some value fighters, and some fighters to avoid when setting your line-ups for Saturday's UFC Fight Night 77 event.
Glover Teixeira ($11,000)
Glover Teixeira will have the second-highest salary of any fighter on the UFC Fight Night 77 card, and with good reason as he comes into the event as a huge favorite according to the bettors. At 36, time is running out for Teixeira to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, but he is still a strong contender with big finishing power. 20 of his 23 wins have come by knockout or submission, and he is coming off a strong third-round submission over Ovince Saint-Preux in August. He fights an opponent in Patrick Cummins who has been finished in both of his losses, and both have come due to first-round knockouts. Teixeira packs the power to finish Cummins, and he has solid enough takedown defense that he should be able to negate Cummins' strength in the wrestling department. I like Teixeira to score a finish and net you a lot of points.
Thomas Almeida ($10,900)
Thomas Almeida is the definition of stud, and he is one of the brightest prospects in the sport, and this is another big chance for him to shine in the spotlight. He is a violent fighter and a nasty finisher. He has scored 19 of his 20 wins in his perfect career by stoppage, a whopping 95% finishing rate. He lands a high amount of strikes as well, and he has averaged 95.2 points in his two fights that have come during the Draft Kings era. Both of those fights were finishes, and Almeida lands over seven significant strikes per minute. Face it, he scores a lot of points. He has an opponent in Anthony Birchak who will stand-and-trade with him, but Birchak has been finished in the first round in both of his losses. Almeida poses the all-around skillset to give Birchak a lot of trouble, and I sense a big finish in this bout by Almeida.
Jimmie Rivera ($9,000)
Jimmie Rivera enters UFC Fight Night 77 riding an impressive 16-fight win streak and is coming off of two straight first-round finishes, including in his UFC debut against Marcus Brimage in July. He has a tough fight against Pedro Munhoz, but Munhoz is coming off a year-long suspension for a questionable drug test in his last bout. Rivera likely has the striking edge between the two, but Munhoz is tough to finish and has a durable chin. Rivera will want to keep this fight on the feet but keeping it upright against Munhoz will be tough. Luckily, Rivera has good takedown defense. Rivera is a solid play at the price tag he has, and he does have a chance for the upset win.
Fabio Maldonado ($8,300)
I'm going to start this off by saying I don't think Fabio Maldonado will win against Corey Anderson. Anderson has been knocked out in his career and Maldonado is a very hard hitter, so there is always the chance of a finish, and Maldonado has a great price tag. Maldonado connects on a lot of his strikes. He has landed the most significant strikes in light heavyweight history, and by a wide margin. You will get a lot of points from him if the fight stays on the feet. Anderson connects with a lot of strikes as well, and Anderson can take the fight down at will. Maldonado is going to connect a lot, and who knows, maybe one will sneak in and really hurt Anderson, who took the fight on short notice. His price tag is one worth exploring using.
Clay Guida ($10,200)
I'm staying away from Clay Guida on this fight card. He has a tough opponent in Thiago Tavares, and Guida is not much of a finisher these days. Yes, he generally puts on entertaining fights, but entertaining fights do not get you any extra points. Guida may score on some takedowns and grind the fight out, but not a lot of significant strikes will be landed. With this fight likely going the distance, there are some better options if you are looking to maximize your points potential. Even though I see Guida winning, it'll only be by decision, and I'm taking my risk on fighters I think will win by finish.
Abel Trujillo ($9,600)
Abel Trujillo fights Gleison Tibau in the featured preliminary bout, and Tibau holds the record for most takedowns in UFC history. Trujillo holds the distinction of being the fighter who was taken down the most in a UFC fight. Trujillo is a very hard striker, but he fades fast, and if he can't get the finish in the first round, the second and third rounds become trouble for him. Tibau is a very durable opponent and is a big grinder. He will probably grind Trujillo to defeat. Trujillo may get lucky with an early knockdown, and he could potentially finish Tibau, but I am avoiding putting Trujillo on my team.
RYAN FREDERICK- Glover Teixeira ($11,000), Thomas Almeida ($10,900), Johnny Case ($10,600), Dan Henderson ($8,600), Fabio Maldonado ($8,300)
I like Glover Teixeira and Thomas Almeida to score big finish wins in their fights for the reasons stated above. I'm taking the chance with Fabio Maldonado based on his price tag, striking output, and the chance he could find an opening and score a finish on Corey Anderson. I like Johnny Case as well as he has shown solid finishing ability. His opponent, Yan Cabral, is coming off a long layoff and is a very tough opponent, but Case is a finisher. The biggest test for Case will be avoiding being on his back as Cabral has very good takedowns. The last fighter on my team is Dan Henderson. He still has that power in his right hand as he showed off against Tim Boetsch. He has a solid underdog price tag which allows for some bigger salaries. If the Vitor Belfort who fought Chris Weidman shows up against Henderson, I predict a tough night for Belfort. I'm going with Henderson to land that big right hand and finish Belfort.
PAUL FONTAINE- Thomas Almeida ($10,900), Johnny Case ($10,600), Alex Oliveira ($10,500), Gilbert Burns ($9,400), Dan Henderson ($8,600)
I'm taking Dan Henderson for value. I really think that the Hendo/Belfort matchup is a tossup but it's going to be quick regardless. Henderson retains more of his power at 185 and I'm hoping for another quick KO from him. Gilbert Burns is unbeaten in his pro career and has submitted each of his last two UFC opponents. This fight is likely to go the ground at some point with Magomedov having a solid wrestling base and that's where Burns should take over and secure a sub. Thomas Almeida is also unbeaten, at 20-0, and has finished all but one of his pro opponents including early knockouts in each of his last two UFC fights. Both of Birchak's career losses have been by submission, making him a prime candidate to be finished here. Johnny Case is on an 11 fight win streak in which he's finished 8 of his opponents. Despite being 6 years younger, he's also got a significant experience edge over his opponent Yan Cabral. My last pick is the Brazilian Cowboy Alex Oliveira. His fight with Piotr Hallman should be an exciting slugfest with a lot of strikes thrown. All but 2 of his career wins have been finishes, including a first round submission of KJ Noons. In his lone UFC loss he was dominating Gilbert Burns before being caught in a 3rd round submission.
PEACH MACHINE- Glover Teixeira ($11,000), Thomas Almeida ($10,900), Viscardi Andrade ($9,500), Gilbert Burns ($9,400), Dan Henderson ($8,600)
I'm taking Hendo because I think Vitor has lost his chin and confidence since being humbled by Weidman, and Hendo just needs to connect once. Dan has been off TRT longer than Vitor so he's used to fighting without the sauce. Hendo isn't going to let Belfort repeat what happened in their last match. I really like Teixeira, as he handled OSP really well last time out, and I'm expecting much the same fight against Cummins. Plus, Teixeira's entrance music is terrifying. Almeida is someone to keep an eye on in the bantamweight division, and I expect him to have a dominating performance. He's a big favorite and fighting in his home country. I expect a submission from Burns, and I'm not expecting many finishes on this card. Andrade is my sleeper pick. He hasn't fought in 20 months but I think he'll be motivated to come out and have a strong showing against the Russian in his home country.
LAST EVENT'S RESULTS
For our teams at the last event, UFC Fight Night 76, none of the three of us had much success, and none of us cashed in the basic $3 entry fee game on Draft Kings. Ryan had the most points for the second straight time, scoring 217.50 points with his line-up. Paul scored 163.50 points and Peach scored 153 points with their line-ups. We are all hoping for much better success this weekend.