This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
Our eighth installment of fights at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada once again features closely-priced fights, some of which I don't feel will be quite so competitive. Quality dogs are a bit hard to come by on this slate in my opinion, but we will look at one fighter who will likely be overlooked due to taking the fight on short notice.
As I will continue to point out, as long as we are at The Apex, research suggests more finishes occur in smaller cages like the one the fighters will occupy on Saturday, which should encourage players to look at fights that may not otherwise be thought of as good targets for finishes. As always, fighters will be listed in order from most to least desirable among the given choices.
One final note before we begin: here's a refresher on the scoring. If you're looking for general strategy tips, I wrote a FanDuel 101 article prior to UFC Brasilia on March 14, though there have been a few minor scoring changes since then that I've noted below.
Moves Scoring (MVP 1.5X)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.9 PTS
Takedown (TD): +9 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): +4.5 PTS
Submission Attempt (SA): +7.5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +18 PTS
Moves Scoring (Standard)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.6 PTS
Takedown (TD): +6 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): 3
Submission Attempt (SA): 5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +12 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (MVP 1.5X)
1st Round Win (1stW): +150 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +112.5 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +75 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +52.5 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +37.5 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +30 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (Standard)
1st Round Win (1stW): +100 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +75 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +50 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +35 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +25 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +20 PTS
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Best Play: Aleksandar Rakic ($23)
Aleksandar Rakic recently suffered his first UFC loss in the form of a split decision against Volkan Oezdemir, but the Austrian's game is no less well-rounded and powerful than it was in December. Rakic can do a bit of everything in the Octagon and features a ferocious kickboxing game to go along with solid wrestling chops. He is also far more athletic than Anthony Smith, something I think will be one of the key factors in how this fight plays out. "Lionheart" is gritty and has a bit of power, but I expect the all-around game of Rakic would be too much to deal with for Smith in the best of times, so it can only hurt that the veteran recently took a pounding from Glover Teixeira that went on for far too long.
No matter what your opinion of the controversial finish in the first fight between Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba, it seems clear that Ankalaev hurt his opponent with at least one of those strikes in the first round. I expect him to do a similar thing here, as Ankalaev is far too technical of a boxer and has too many tools to be scared off by the pressuring brawl that Cutelaba tries to force on his opponents. He is also the better grappler of the two, which essentially means that he will be able to control this fight wherever it goes. Cutelaba's best chance here is as a big puncher, but we've never even really seen Ankalaev hurt in the Octagon. All this leads me to believe that we will get a definitive conclusion this time around.
Neil Magny was supposed to take on Geoff Neal in one of the more interesting mid-card fights of 2020, but Neal needed to pull from the card after suffering a sudden health scare, leaving Magny to take on fan-favorite Robbie Lawler. While we all love Lawler for his tendency to stand in the pocket and throw, I don't see him getting much traction in this fight, particularly since we have seen Magny look reinvigorated since his bout with Li Jingliang in March. He now features a stiff jab and a leg-kicking game to go along with his usual pressure and physicality. If this were the 2018 version of Magny, it may be a different fight. The way he has used his reach since his return, however, combined with the amount of damage Lawler has taken in recent fights tells me that he is likely going to be picked apart until a finish materializes.
There is no doubt that Polyana Viana and Emily Whitmire have both fallen on hard times of late. While this can be put forward to logically explain the fact that these two are only separated by a dollar, I think this is a uniquely bad matchup for Whitmire. Put simply, the two skilled grapplers she has faced in the UFC have submitted her after undeniably one-sided fights, wherein she landed seven and nine strikes, respectively. Viana's standup game is fairly shallow and mostly just includes range kicking, but even that should be enough here, as Whitmire swings wild without much power and leaves her body open with an upright stance. At a certain point, I think the aggression of Whitmire leads these two into a clinch situation. When that happens, I expect Viana to get her to the floor and do what she does best.
Best Play: Ricardo Lamas (TBD)
Ricardo Lamas may have lost three of his last four fights, but the quality of competition from those fighters is far greater than anything we've seen from Bill Algeo, who stands fairly square to his opponent and tries to rush forward with shots. Lamas hasn't exactly looked bad in his losses either, as he still features a powerful kicking game to go along with his wrestling. He will also have what appears to be a significant athleticism advantage over Algeo. At the end of the day, I just think Lamas has way too much depth in his game to lose to a fighter like Algeo. It must be said that Lamas has been getting clipped hard more and more of late, but that's not enough to swing me to Algeo, who should be at a deficit in most areas of the fight.
Sean Brady put on an absolute show in his UFC debut against Court McGee, and while he wasn't able to notch a victory as decisive against a tougher opponent in Ismail Naurdiev, there's still plenty of reason to be excited about the 12-0 fighter. Brady appears to have every tool at his disposal, from an aggressive kicking game to sharp, powerful counters, a nice jab, and an ability to wrestle. If there is a criticism to leveled at Brady it may be that he concedes space in The Octagon a bit too readily. I don't expect that to be too much of an issue against Christian Aguilera, though, as he throws hard and is aggressive, but has shown himself to be vulnerable to counter shots.
Alexa Grasso has her flaws, but above all else, she is a polished boxer who is good at picking her shots in the cage. Everything we have seen from Ji Yeon Kim to this point just reminds me of a lesser version of that. She will throw in combination and isn't easily scared out of the pocket but doesn't throw nearly as crisp as Grasso. She is also much slower and more mechanical when throwing her shots, which has me picking Grasso to simply pick "Fire Fist" apart over a three-round decision.
It may be odd to see Impa Kasanganay enter the UFC as a favorite, but the 26-year-old comes in with an unblemished 7-0 record, is incredibly athletic, and features a sharp, controlling wrestling game. Any time an undefeated fighter comes into the organization there can be a worry that they haven't seen enough cage time, but Kasanganay has more decisions than finishes in his career, making him a perfect cash play in this situation. There is no doubt that Maki Pitolo has improved since his upset loss to Callan Potter, but anyone who has wanted to take him down has been able to do so. Pitolo mixes his targets well and throws in combination, so he may have some success in this fight early. It will likely just be a matter of time, however, before the two hit the ground.
Best Option: Zak Cummings ($15)
Zak Cummings is the kind of fighter who is a bit hard to pin down, mostly because there simply isn't a lot of activity in his fights. One thing that we can say, however is that his losses in the Octagon have generally come against better athletes or people who can dominate him physically. Alessio Di Chirico is neither of these things and mainly just likes to throw big overhand rights while applying pressure. We have seen Cummings' counter game work well in recent fights, and I expect him to find his shots against Di Chirico in what may not be the most action-packed fight we've ever seen. Interestingly, Cummings is priced as a dog here and a decent-sized favorite on DraftKings, which could make him a pretty popular target in cash games.
Hannah Cifers seemed out of her depth against the much bigger and more fluid Mariya Agapova in a short-notice-fight in June, but she will be back fighting women her size for the matchup against Mallory Martin. Cifers is actually a fairly decent pocket boxer, featuring a nice jab and heavy counter shots when her opponent decides to stand and throw. Martin likes to flurry wildly in exchanges, which should give Cifers plenty of opportunities to hit her hard. While Martin's wrestling game is a bit of a concern, I expect Cifers to have a much easier time staying on her feet, as Martin doesn't have anywhere near the level of physicality as her previous opponent.
Perhaps it's just my distaste for the fighting style of Alex Caceres, but I really do like Austin Springer to get this done on short notice. In something of a bizarre twist of fate, this fight was made because Giga Chikadze had to be removed from the scheduled bout, and Springer picked up a submission win against Chikadze in his last fight on the Contender Series. That's not quite why I'm picking Springer here, as I feel his pressure game and leg kicks will be enough to fluster Caceres, who likes to have space to move around the cage. Beyond that, Caceres is so aimless in fights that's it's hard for me to trust him to use his height and length effectively.