In just two short weeks, UFC 264 will be here, but before that momentous card arrives, fight fans will be treated to a great event, UFC Fight Night: Gane vs. Volkov. The show features a veritable cornucopia of established and budding talent, with the main event being the most important fight on the bout sheet and one that will likely determine a new contender for Francis Ngannou.
Of the numerous contests that have been matched so perfectly, there are a few standouts that warrant a closer look. Raoni Barcelos vs. Timur Valiev is the first that should be on everyone’s radar. How this fight not the co-main event is beyond me, but I digress. This fight features the red-hot Barcelos surging with five straight wins inside the octagon going up against a serious power wrestler in Timur Valiev. Renato Moicano vs. Jai Herbert pits Moicano’s well-rounded skillset against Herbert’s athleticism and power. One more to keep an eye on is Andre Fili vs. Daniel Pineda. Will Fili’s toughness be enough to weather the submission threat Pineda presents? Sean Shelby certainly earned his paycheck this week.
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.
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Raoni Barcelos, $8,800
Raoni Barcelos might be 34 years old, but he doesn’t have the same fight mileage similarly aged competitors in the sport tend to have. He arrived to MMA in his mid-twenties and has just 17 fights in nine years. He’s also a finishing machine, seeing 10 of his 16 wins come inside the distance. He is undefeated inside the octagon and has wins over legitimate competition. He’s just as adept on the ground as he is on the feet, possessing both power and a very good submission game.
Timur Valiev is certainly a dangerous foe with an outstanding wrestling base and the powerful frame to use it to maximum efficacy. Barcelos is a multidimensional, composed athlete with great fight IQ and the aggression to please legions of fans. Valiev tends to be a grinder, playing a very cautious first round or two then turning up the heat later down the stretch, hoping his stamina and durability outlasts his opponent’s. That’s a dangerous game to play and we saw it come back to bite him in the Trevin Jones fight. Barcelos is a much bigger threat considering the many tools at his disposal, all of which he uses extremely well.
Warlley Alves, $9,200
Warlley Alves ended up with a super late replacement this week, as his original opponent, Ramazan Emeev, had to withdraw (undisclosed reasons). Jeremiah Wells is a Renzo Gracie product hailing from Philadelphia. He’s been fighting exclusively on the regional circuit, but that doesn’t exclude him from a possible win over Alves, although it does seem unlikely. The differences in skill and experience levels are pretty stark, but we all know how common big upsets are, so this is where you have to make a judgement call on which factors matter most. For me, it’s always been strength of schedule.
Alves has been fighting and winning at a high level for years, holding wins over the likes of Colby Covington, Nordine Taleb, Alan Jouban, Sergio Moraes and most recently Mounir Lazzez. He’s also had his down moments with losses to Randy Brown, James Krause, Bryan Barberena and Kamaru Usman to illustrate the only four times he didn’t get his hand raised. He has his issues—mainly managing his energy—but for the most part, he’s held it together. Some feel he’s achieved his ceiling, and while that might be true, I do feel it’s above the level of this pairing. Wells can certainly win, but the likelihood of that happening here is pretty slim.
Alexander Volkov, $7,500
I can hardly believe that Volkov is the underdog here. I mean, the vast experience difference, the strength of schedule, the power differential—they all favor him. He has 41 fights under his belt and 22 are by knockout. Gane has eight fights total. His best win is over Jairzinho Rozenstruik, a fighter still very much green and custom-designed for a patient, tactical fighter to pick apart. Gane has shown all the hallmarks of a great fighter, but this is a big test against a skilled machine very much in his prime.
Alexander Volkov is a technical, strategic fighter with power, an underrated grappling game and the cardio to go the distance comfortably. His UFC run has seen him to a 7-2 record inside the octagon with recent wins over Walt Harris and Alistair Overeem, both TKOs. Gane, on the other hand, is also a composed, technical fighter, but his record up to Rozenstruik doesn’t hold up as well, with his biggest one being over a very faded, shopworn Junior Dos Santos. That is not to say Gane couldn’t get the win here. He absolutely can. However, the pricing being even this moderately spaced seems way off to me. This would be one of those $8,200/$8,000 splits if I were the one at the wheel.
Pricing: A STEAL!
Jai Herbert, $6,800
Jai Herbert is an absolute bargain here. It is impossible to look at his power and natural athleticism and not take a second or even third look. Yes, Renato Moicano is the more well-rounded of the two and has faced higher level competition, but if ever there were a prospect on the brink of discovery, it’s this guy. Even though he suffered a loss in his UFC debut, the plucky Brit demonstrated the power he became known for on the European circuit when he sat Francisco Trinaldo down with a hard straight right, then proceeded to almost submit him, then nearly drop him again in a wildly-paced second round. He would succumb to a huge left hand in the third round, but his performance was undeniable and is one of the rare times when pundits declare a fighter’s stock rose with a loss.
Moicano is a very talented, intelligent fighter who made the wise decision to move up a weight class when so many others tend to drop down when they don’t find success where they started. He also tends to have energy management issues. It’s not that he has bad cardio, it’s that he sometimes comes out like a house afire, overzealous in the hunt for a finish. We saw this in his last fight with Rafael Fiziev, where he was pretty spent from the wild pace he tried to maintain, the whole while taking body kicks, leg kicks and punishing shots to the body that ended up breaking him down enough for Fiziev to put him away at the 4-minute mark. Herbert is exactly the kind of power hitter that can trade with Renato and come out on the other side the victor.
Pricing: A STEAL!
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