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UFC 252 Fight Card Picks: Top DraftKings DFS Fantasy MMA Targets, Values

Stephie Haynes gives her top picks and predictions for the UFC 252 DraftKings slate that takes place on Saturday, August 15.

On Saturday, August 15, the big boys are set to take center stage for the second week in a row. UFC 252 will host the final chapter of the trilogy between heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and former champ-champ Daniel Cormier. Supporting the fantastic headliner is a card filled with compelling fights that will see the next wave of contenders make their claim to the next rung on the ladder. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that make these athletes great values and what makes the higher priced ones stud-worthy for your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups.


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STUDS

Virna Jandiroba ($9,000)

Virna Jandiroba is a submission artist who has an absolutely lethal ground game. With a 15-1 record, 12 of those wins are via submission (7 in the first round). She’s a jiu-jitsu black belt with a penchant for chokes, be they of the rear-naked variety or arm triangle. Every so often, she throws in an armbar for good measure. She’s got an outstanding takedown game, averaging four per 15-minute fight and it goes without saying that she scrambles well.

Virna is an aggressive fighter with good striking, and against Felice Herrig ($7,200), who is willing to stand and trade in the pocket with quite porous defense—she absorbs nearly five strikes per minute—it will likely not be very difficult to soften Felice up before getting her on the canvas. Noteworthy: Herrig is coming into this fight with nearly two years of cage rust due to a torn ACL and subsequent surgery and recovery.

Merab Dvalishvili ($8,700)

Merab Dvalishvili is a powerhouse wrestler built like a brick house with insane strength and cardio. His takedown game is sensational, as he averages just under nine per fifteen-minute fight. Yes, you read that right, nearly nine takedowns a fight. He’s a defensively sound grappler with excellent sprawls and scrambles.

Dvalishvili is a product of the Serra-Longo fight team that’s produced champions and top contenders for years. He’s also an active, aggressive striker that seems to have evolved since his losses to Ricky Simon and Frankie Saenz, churning out four back-to-back victories since. John Dodson ($7,500) is no easy task for anyone at bantamweight, but Merab looks like he has the fighting world by the tail and may end up using “The Magician” as a stepping-stone on his way to contendership.

Herbert Burns ($8,900)

Herbert Burns (younger brother of welterweight contender Gilbert Burns) seems well on his way to following in his brother’s footsteps to fighting fame and glory. This aggressive grappling ace holds eight submission wins and has recently added a knockout to his resume. Herbert is still growing into his striking, willing to absorb more than he lands. With time and better competition to test himself against, his standup will likely improve.

Burns is very active with his takedowns, averaging 4.59 per fight, with 100% accuracy. Against Daniel Pineda ($7,300), who doesn’t have the best defense, and with the small cage to aid him, Burns should be able to get Daniel to the ground where he can work his grappling wizardry. Noteworthy: Pineda was flagged for having an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio in his system last year and had his PFL tournament victories overturned as a result.


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Sean O’Malley ($9,200)

Sean O’Malley has the hot hand and the attention of the entire MMA community. Ever since he burst onto the scene with a sensational knockout on the Contender Series back in 2017, he’s impressed casual fans and pundits alike. Sean has a hyper aggressive standup game where he averages close to seven strikes per minute and landing at nearly 60%. He has eight knockouts on his pristine 12-0 record, with seven of them coming in the first round. He’s also a quick starter, wasting no time getting in the pocket and firing off bombs.

Sean trains out of the MMA Lab in Arizona with a wealth of talented fighters and instructors that have fine tuned his natural athletic gifts. He’s quick and agile and is capable of going the distance with plenty of stamina reserves all the way to the end. He does have a submission win on his resume and that bit of experience will certainly be useful against BJJ black belt Marlon Vera ($7,000), who will not be an easy out.


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VALUES

Vinc Pichel ($7,900)

Vinc Pichel will have his work cut out for him when he faces off against ultra-tough veteran Jim Miller ($8,300). This is really a coin toss matchup in every sense of the phrase. Where Miller will have the grappling edge, Pichel will have the power edge, especially since eight of his twelve wins are via knockout. Not to mention, Vinc will likely swarm with just as much volume as Jim will be swinging, and if the going gets tough up top, “From Hell” can take “A-10” down and work some ground-and-pound magic.

Many think Miller is the eldest of the two, but Pichel is actually a year older. The difference is in their fight schedules, though. Miller has 47 fights under his belt while Pichel only has 14. Any way you slice it, 47 fights is a lot of wear-and-tear on a 36-year-old body that also spent a few years hampered by Lyme Disease. In the end, this fight could favor either man, but one thing is certain, it’s going to be a great battle for the fans.

Junior dos Santos ($7,800)

Junior dos Santos still has meathooks that can put a violent end to any man’s night. He’s a little slower and has a more pronounced button on his chin as he’s gotten older, but he’s still aggressive and powerful. Against a still-green opponent like Jairzinho Rozenstruik ($8,400), Junior has tons of veteran savvy against top tier competition that will serve him well here. We must not forget that “Cigano” is also a BJJ black belt, despite the fact we don’t see his grappling much.

Rozenstruik has shown that his power isn’t everything, especially in light of the fact that he has gaping holes in his defense and could still use a little polish on his boxing. Dos Santos is the more active of the two and is more defensively sound on the ground, should “Bigi Boy” decide to change levels. I know that it’s risky to put JDS into consideration, but fortune supposedly favors the brave.

Marlon Vera ($7,000)

RED ALERT! Marlon Vera is a steal at this price! “Chito” is a tough out for anyone, especially a rising star who’s just cracked into the Top 15 recently. He’s a very gifted grappler and has eight submissions wins to his credit, most recently over Nohelin Hernandez a little over a year ago. He’s also a very active striker with five knockouts, three of them in his last six fights.

Vera is ridiculously tough and has never been finished, a fact that should be given a lot more credit than it has since this fight was announced. Yes, Sean O’Malley ($9,200) is a talented fighter with knockout power, but let’s talk turkey, he has yet to face the level of talent that Vera has. If John Lineker and Douglas Andrade couldn’t put Marlon away, there’s a very good chance that “Suga” won’t either.

Experience, resourcefulness and composure are the intangibles at play for Vera. When you combine them with good striking, excellent grappling and durability, you have the recipe for an upset.

Daniel Cormier ($8,000)

Daniel Cormier has all the tools required to win this fight: a sterling wrestling pedigree, one-shot knockout power, a previous win over his opponent, and the desire to go out on a win in his retirement fight. I’m sure I’m missing about 100 other points, but I believe I have the main ones covered.

In both fights with Stipe Miocic ($8,200), we didn’t see a whole lot of DC’s wrestling—none in the first fight and only one takedown off three attempts in the second. That’s something that Daniel has vowed to change Saturday night. In recent interviews, he’s discussed his plan to implement his stellar wrestling much more this time around. It won’t be a walk in the park, though, as Miocic is quite an accomplished wrestler himself. But with a smaller cage, I believe the advantage lies with Cormier.

The first fight saw Stipe finished inside the first with a dirty boxing combo that laid him out. Daniel landed 25 of 37 significant strikes at a 67% accuracy rate. In the second fight, his accuracy rate would increase to 68% with an astounding 181 of 263 significant strikes landed. In short, Daniel Cormier was going for broke all the way up to the point he was stopped. I don’t know if that kind of volume will be achieved in this fight, specifically if he plans to incorporate his wrestling more and leave his body unprotected less, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if these two titans went hell for leather again.

The lines are incredibly close on this contest with good reason—because it is either man’s fight to lose. Their skillsets are so evenly matched it’s nearly impossible not to waffle a tiny little bit on picking a winner. The most probable outcome one can say with conviction about Miocic vs. Cormier III is that it will likely end up being an instant classic.

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