On Saturday, the UFC will once again bring the show back to the APEX Center with UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs: Moises. The card, while light on name value, is a sturdy affair that bears all the hallmarks of an under-the-radar hit. Lots of prospect matchups are peppered throughout the bout sheet with just a couple contests that have ranked contenders paired off. Cards like this tend to shake out the high level prospects that we’ll see in the contender’s realm—I’m looking at you Amanda Lemos and Montserrat Conejo—making them necessary viewing for those wanting to stay up on the sport.
Miesha Tate makes her return after a five-year hiatus and she’ll have a real test in front of her with Marion Reneau. Reneau might be 44 years old and on a four-fight losing skid, but she had her moments in all of those bouts and can still prove troublesome for Tate’s return to action.
Jeremy Stephens takes on Poland’s Mateusz Gamrot, a well-rounded fighter who’s looking to make a name for himself off the 16-year veteran. Just a few years ago, I would have given Stephens the decided edge in this bout, but given his recent run of bad luck, one has to question if the inevitable decline that all fighters face has finally set in. It will be a litmus test for both men that will determine where they rank in the pecking order.
At the top of the card, Thiago Moises takes on the ultra-tough Islam Makhachev, the man many hail as the next Khabib Nurmagomedov, and with good reason. The 29-year-old Dagestani has trained with Nurmagomedov for years, and their wrestle-heavy styles are very similar. Moises will certainly have his work cut out for him.
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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Islam Makhachev, $9,400
Islam Makhachev is a ridiculously strong wrestler with an outstanding takedown game and relentless pressure. Those that compare him to Khabib are correct in their assessments, as the two have an almost identical style. The way he buzz-sawed through Drew Dober was mighty impressive and remember, Dober was on a pretty good run before that. His opponent, Thiago Moises, is a very competent submission artist who’s on a three-fight win streak. Moises is a good fighter, of that there is no doubt, but he can be outworked as both Damir Ismagulov and Beneil Dariush proved in their contests with him. And while he has three knockouts on his record, he doesn’t have one-punch stopping power, but Islam does. It’s not something either man routinely shows off, but there is a difference in their stopping ability. When it comes down to the nitty gritty, Makhachev is the better, stronger athlete with a style made to dismantle men like Moises.
Daniel Rodriguez, $8,800
Daniel Rodriguez didn’t show enough on the Contender Series to win a contract, but he wowed everyone from fans to UFC brass when he came in as a late replacement opponent for Tim Means last year and lit him up on the feet from Jump Street. By the second round, Means was in desperation mode and ended up getting napped via standing guillotine. Daniel is technical with his striking and methodical, sometimes a bit grindy, but the ends definitely justify the means. He’s got a cannon for a left and it’s been largely responsible for putting seven men away. He faces a late-replacement newcomer in Preston Parsons, a Titan FC and Combat Night veteran with 11 fights under his belt. Parsons has nine wins and all nine are submissions. He’s quite adept with armbars and rear-naked chokes of which he holds four apiece. Considering his finish rate and his powerful grappling game, Rodriguez might want to keep this one upright where his power advantage can see him through to the win.
Pricing: Could be closer
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Marion Reneau, $8,000
Marion Reneau might be 44 and she is on a losing streak, but bearing that in mind, she’s faced some very tough women in those fights and had plenty of moments against each of them, with none able to finish her. She managed to take a round off every woman except Cat Zingano, and most importantly, she gave Raquel Pennington a run for the money. Why is that important, you ask? Pennington was the last person to beat Miesha Tate, and she put quite a whipping on her. Both women are sturdy, well-rounded fighters, but Miesha seemed like she was struggling there at the end of her run, and maybe that was because her heart wasn’t in it at the time. Having been away from the sport for five years could end up being a boon to her game, as she hasn’t taken the wear-and-tear she normally would have, or it could end up being detrimental to her chances at victory by way of cage rust. For some, that is a very real factor. We’ll have to see if it is for Miesha. My money is on a very close fight, possibly going to a split, but with Reneau taking the W.
Billy Quarantillo, $7,700
Billy Quarantillo debuted in the UFC after a sensational TKO of Kamuela Kirk on the Contender Series put him on the roster officially. He quickly reeled off three straight wins before running into Gavin Tucker. Quarantillo has an aggressive, forward moving style that sees him going hell for leather right out of the gate. When you start off at a pace like that and meet up with someone that can maintain that same pace and overpower you, you end up with a lopsided defeat on your record. Billy Q faces a super tough opponent in Gabriel Benitez, a crafty brawler with tremendous power and great cardio. Quarantillo is no gas guzzler, but he blew his wad early against Tucker, no doubt in an attempt to get the danger nullified quickly. “Moggly” will give him no quarter either, but Quarantillo has gifts of his own, particularly his volume approach and power. He’s also a capable grappler, as is Benitez. This is probably the best bang for the excitement buck on the card and my early pick for fight of the night. I’m giving it to Quarantillo, but it’s not a super confident pick. It’s very much a coin-toss fight.
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