On Saturday, the UFC returns to the APEX Center for UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Waterson. The original headliner was supposed to be TJ Dillashaw vs. Cory Sandhagen, but a pretty bad cut sustained during sparring practice forced Dillashaw to withdraw from the event, thus Michelle Waterson vs. Marina Rodriguez was created to replace that bout. The co-main event also had an overhaul recently when Diego Sanchez was released from his contract after failing to acknowledge he was mentally and physically able to compete. Alex Morono steps in to meet longtime veteran Donald Cerrone—a much better contest than the original, I might add.
The rest of the bout sheet is a nice mix of lower and mid-tier talent with the occasional contender-builder thrown in to balance everything out. Gregor Gillespie vs. Diego Ferreira and Neil Magny vs. Geoff Neal both fit the bill for this category. All in all, and even with the impromptu changes, the event is a solid one, and should provide plenty of competitive action for fans around the globe.
We’ve selected four fighters from the event that will illustrate why they are worthy of their lofty or budget-conscious price tags in an effort to help you select your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Let’s get started.
Marina Rodriguez, $9,200
Marina Rodriguez will end up with a decided physical advantage when she takes center octagon to face Jackson-Wink’s Michelle Waterson. With a three-inch height and reach advantage, Marina also possesses legitimate knockout power, a trait Waterson is not known for. Michelle does have her weapons, with the biggest one being her wrestling. The former atomweight champion is known for her takedowns and durability, having defeated the likes of Paige VanZant, Cortney Casey, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and most recently, Angela Hill (also on this card). Those tools of the trade will be put to the test against Rodriguez, who has a much better striking game and the ability to bully Waterson. The Brazilian does need serious work on her takedown defense, but I think her power will see her through to the victory. It should be noted that Waterson has historically been overwhelmed by much larger fighters. Also, this contest will be taking place at the 125-pound flyweight limit due to the late notice of the bout.
Pricing: Should be closer
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Geoff Neal, $9,000
Geoff Neal finally saw his first UFC defeat against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson last December when the South Carolina native put on a masterful performance, sniping at range and countering the normally aggressive Fortis MMA product easily. Neal looks to bounce back here and he’s got an excellent opportunity to do so against Neil Magny. Magny had his three-fight win streak snapped when Michael Chiesa mapped out the clearest blueprint to defeating him—beating him in the clinch before he can start finding his range. A good wrestling base also saw Chiesa overwhelm him on the mat, too. Geoff Neal has the striking and defensive wrestling to negate Magny’s best tools, not to mention a propensity for knockouts, be they from ferocious head kicks or punches, and he’s seen his way to eight knockout victories. The fight is a close one, as are literally all the bouts on this card, but I can see more ways to victory for Neal than for Magny.
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Alex Morono, $7,800
Alex Morono stepped in on a week’s notice to replace Diego Sanchez in this fight. It’s rare that we get replacements that are better than the originally scheduled fight, but here we are, looking at a much more competitive offering than the original. Cerrone has started looking increasingly more shopworn in the last couple years, taking a string of losses, three of them brutal finishes, but perhaps most telling was his majority draw with Niko Price, a fight that should have seen his skill set shine, but Price was able to staunch the flow of “Cowboy’s” attack with solid bodywork and being more consistent at range. Morono is a wild card here, much like Price was before him, but despite not possessing the natural athleticism that so many of his peers enjoy, he’s managed to put up some really good performances. With Cerrone looking less and less potent, I’m inclined to believe that another upset is more likely than not, even if Donald has the more polished overall game. All the wear and tear of 16 years in the fight game has finally started to add up, and I’m no longer confident in his ability to keep the young wolves at bay.
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Diego Ferreira, $7,300
Diego Ferreira had looked sensational in his six-fight run, but a tough split-decision loss against Beneil Dariush should not have him this much an underdog against a guy that has serious defensive gaps in his game. As a matter of fact, Ferreira has lost to just two men, Beneil Dariush and Dustin Poirier, and there’s certainly no shame in those losses. The way he’s picked apart opponents over the course of a fight and his ability to starch a collar with that heat-seeking missile of a right or snatch a submission makes him a multi-dimensional threat to anyone in the division. Gillespie, a world-class wrestler, finally tasted his first defeat when Kevin Lee launched a headkick that would’ve put Godzilla on the canvas. He’s been away for 18 months, plenty of time to chase away any lingering mental demons that would rob him of confidence (or so we hope), but has he been able to effectively prepare for such a dynamic striker? And let’s not forget that Diego has an excellent ground game of his own, replete with seven submission wins. Gillespie certainly has a chance, especially if he matches Ferreira’s aggression, but I’m more inclined to think Ferreira overwhelms him early on.
Pricing: Should be closer
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