Our fifth installment of the Fight Island series is hitting this Saturday with UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen, and the UFC has put together 13 great fights to fill the bout sheet with. Even late replacements like Makwan Amirkhani are top notch fill-ins that only add depth to the event. Rounding out some newer names and debuts from this very compelling show is the main event of Marlon Moraes vs. Cory Sandhagen, a surefire title eliminator.
To help you select your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups, we’ve put together some stats and facts that may help the process seem less daunting. Let’s have a look at those right now.
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Cory Sandhagen, $8,200
Cory Sandhagen is a long, rangy switch fighter who manages to incorporate some of the best takedowns and wrestling in the division. When you pair that with the volume he throws (6.95 strikes per minute), you’ve got a very efficient machine. Cory is also fairly defensively sound, absorbing only 4.08 shots per minute, no doubt due to his masterful counter-striking. When he uncorks that vicious left to the body, the ribs and liver get an absolute tenderizing. Let’s not forget the physical advantages Cory will have—five inches in height and three inches in reach. He’ll have his hands full with Marlon Moraes ($8,000), a potent counter-striker himself, but Sandhagen has an opportunity to get back in the win column, and I think he can get it done.
Impa Kasanganay, $8,900
Impa Kasanganay wowed MMA fans when he recently debuted against the tough Maki Pitolo, outclassing him in a three-round clinic. Impa is a Southpaw volume striker averaging around 5.58 strikes per minute while absorbing around 3.42 shots in that same time frame. He’s a very underrated grappler, too, averaging around 83% takedown accuracy, a good tool to carry into this fight with Joaquin Buckley ($7,300), who has been largely untested on the ground. Impa has fantastic stamina reserves and a super durable chin, which should come in handy against the heavy hands of Buckley. This is a great fight between two very game athletes.
Tony Kelley, $8,700
Tony Kelley will have his work cut out for him against Ali AlQaisi ($7,500), a gritty, no-nonsense fighter with capable wrestling and a solid gas tank. AlQaisi came out the loser in his fight with Irwin Rivera, but his performance was commendable. Kelley also lost his last fight but earned FOTN honors for his performance in that instant classic. Tony is a big volume striker fighting from the switch stance. He averages around 7.60 strikes per minute, but he absorbs that same amount of damage, a testament to his willingness to absorb punishment to give it. This is a tough but winnable fight for Kelley.
Marlon Moraes, $8,000
Marlon Moraes is a very dangerous, very powerful orthodox striker with the kind of kicks and knees that legends are built on. Not to mention he generates tremendous power in his punches. A great counter-striker, Moraes is an opportunist who makes the most of any opening to land punishing blows. With 10 knockouts on his record, Marlon possesses the hot hand and puts away competition with it regularly. And if that isn’t convincing enough to give him a second look, he is quite proficient on the ground as well, with six submissions gracing his excellent resume. “Magic” is an experienced fighter with a laundry list of high value names on his “has beaten” list, and while his last fight with Jose Aldo was controversial, he did get the win and he is headlining this card as a result of that win. Moraes has exhibited clear cardio issues on more than one occasion, so he also makes it into our gas guzzlers list.
Edson Barboza, $8,800
Edson Barboza has a lethal kicking game and powerful striking up top to match. An ultra aggressive orthodox fighter, Edson has built a reputation for himself around his fierce striking. He is, unfortunately, on a three-fight losing skid, but two of those contests were very controversial losses (Ige and Felder). Bearing that in mind, I’m approaching this from the standpoint that he is substantially better than his recent record would illustrate. Barboza has 12 knockouts to his credit, several via head kick or some combination of kicks and punches. Many wondered how he would fare at 145, but he hasn’t shown any issues so far, so we must assume he’s making the cut without much difficulty. All in all, this is a very winnable fight for Barboza if he keeps it standing. Amirkhani is a very underrated grappler, but his standup needs plenty of work—a gift that Barboza will likely make the most of.
Ben Rothwell, $8,500
Big Ben Rothwell has been knocking men out for ages—28 times, to be exact. Rothwell is a fairly busy orthodox striker, landing around 3.37 strikes per minute, but in that same time period, he absorbs 4.44 shots, showcasing very porous defense. Fortunately for him, Marcin Tybura ($7,700) is a much less talented striker, to the point of looking almost uncomfortable during exchanges. The Tybura of recent times looks to get the fight immediately to the canvas where he can grind. If Rothwell has prepared well, he’ll be able to withstand the pressure of that. He could also score a highlight reel KO. It’s not like he hasn’t done it before.
Makwan Amirkhani, $7,400
Makwan Amirkhani is a fantastic Southpaw wrestler fighting out of SBG Ireland (Conor McGregor’s gym). He’s got outstanding takedowns and very underrated grappling, which accounts for the 11 submission wins on his resume. “Mr. Finland” has been working on his striking, but he is neither active nor especially technical in that regard. He’s also not an especially powerful puncher, so he’ll really need to get this fight on the canvas in order to even the scales a bit. Amirkhani is a fantastic replacement for Sodiq Yusuff, but he’ll really need to pull out all the stops to get the win, because Barboza is not going to make it easy. Makwan has had stamina issues in the last few fights, so that places him squarely in our gas guzzlers category, as well.
Dricus Du Plessis, $8,400
Dricus Du Plessis is a former champion of a couple international organizations and has put together a respectable 14-2 record along the way. He is aggressive, explosive and is almost as gifted standing as he is in grappling exchanges (nine submission wins). His defense might not be where it needs to be at this current moment, but he’s young enough (26 years old) to work on that as he goes. Markus Perez ($7,800) is a good, middle-of-the-pack fighter, but doesn’t stand out, especially since he’s yet to string together consecutive wins inside the octagon. I think do think Perez has a chance at victory, but it is a slim one against this surging prospect.
Makwan Amirkhani, $7,400
Marlon Moraes, $8,000
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