We made it! The final card of the year is this Saturday when UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Neal takes center stage at the APEX Center in Las Vegas. The event features an ultra-stacked bout sheet which could easily serve as a pay-per-view, but lucky us, we get it on ESPN for a song. At the top of the show in the headliner is a fantastic scrap featuring Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal, a replacement for the Chimaev-Edwards bout that would have occupied that spot. The rest of the bout sheet features a who’s who of battle-tested veterans and some brand new faces making their promotional debut.
We’ve prepared a guide for players to use as a reference point when making their DraftKings fantasy lineups. Let’s take a look at the facts and figures that make our selected athletes stand out.
DraftKings users can enter to win big prizes in Saturday’s fantasy MMA $200K Finishing Fights contest, which pays out a guaranteed $200,000, including $50K to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $200K Finishing Fights [$50K to 1st].
Geoff Neal, $8,400
Geoff Neal has had a tremendous run in the UFC, filled with sensational finishes. This year has been a tough one, though. Over the summer, he ended up in the hospital with sepsis that was accompanied by congestive heart failure. Things were pretty dicey for a while and he even ended up on a brief run of dialysis. Now, fully recovered and raring to get back on the contender’s path he was surely on before his illness, he is headlining his very first UFC card. “Handz of Steel” has a wonderful standup game—the focal point of his overall game—and makes the most of his diverse skill set. Neal is a pressure fighter who averages around 6.04 strikes per minute while only absorbing 3.57, indicating good defense. He’s a composed, measured striker with excellent technique and real power (eight knockouts to date). His high kicks are lethal and often find their mark—just ask Mike Perry. He’ll be facing the ever-crafty Stephen Thompson ($7,800), also a great kicker with a solid technical skill set. A win over Thompson would be quite the feather in his cap, but one can never count “Wonderboy” out.
Rob Font, $7,200
Rob Font is in the prime position of possibly making the leap into title contention with a win over Marlon Moraes ($9,000). Font is a volume striker fighting from the orthodox stance. Well-rounded and technically proficient in the standup, he also possesses power, with seven knockout wins to back up that statement. Rob averages 5.11 strikes per minute while absorbing around 3.89 in that same 60-second time frame. It’s not sterling defense, but it’s respectable. He dictates a frenetic pace and has the endless reserves of cardio to sustain it. He’ll be facing “Magic” Marlon Moraes, a very dangerous striker with head kicks that can separate men from their consciousness in an instant. Marlon has started exhibiting some alarming signs of struggle lately and could easily find himself on the wrong end of an upset. He also hasn’t figured out a solution to his leaky gas tank. Will the stars of the cosmos be in perfect alignment for Font, or will they find Marlon more deserving of their shine? We’ll find out on Saturday.
Jose Aldo, $8,600
Jose Aldo has been fighting for eons. Millenia. Okay, maybe not quite that long, but when you consider that he’s been fighting for 16+ years and just turned 34 a little over three months ago, those descriptors tend to not look quite so fantastic. Aldo has some of the most feared standup in the sport, and with good reason—he’s stopped 17 opponents via knockout. His kicks—both high and low—are devastating. His boxing is good and while he’s definitely slowing down, he’s still quite potent on the feet. His opponent, Marlon Vera ($7600), is a hungry, durable fighter with excellent striking and grappling. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have hesitated a moment in picking Aldo to win, but Vera has improved leaps and bounds and is a very live dog in this bout for a reason.
Anthony Pettis, $9,200
Anthony Pettis is another guy with a long, extensive run in the sport—14 years in January. The former Wheaties box poster boy and owner of the “Showtime kick” has started to show Father Time’s indelible fingerprint, but like Jose Aldo, he’s still got some pep in his step, and certainly in his hands (see last year’s crushing knockout of main event star Stephen Thompson). Anthony has 11 wins by knockout, thanks to good, technical boxing and the power he’s able to generate. His kicks are the center of an outstanding striking game that’s flourished under the watchful eye of Duke Roufus. It’s unlikely that he ever sniffs title contention again, but in this fight with Alex Morono ($7,000)—who possesses wild, undisciplined standup—he should be able to get the victory. Historically, Pettis only loses to top tier talent, but one never knows when a breakout performance is going to happen, and Morono isn’t a scrub by any means. Additionally, Pettis is a very underrated grappler, so if this fight hits the ground, he’s more than comfortable there, even off his back, where he’s snagged several triangles. This is another great bit of matchmaking that should provide loads of fun.
Jimmy Flick, $8,700
Jimmy Flick is a hot prospect debuting in the flyweight division. The 30-year-old Oklahoman has been putting in work on the regional scene for a little over a decade, amassing a 15-5 record along the way. What makes Flick special is his ground game. Of those 15 wins, 13 of them are by submission. He doesn’t waste time standing and banging either. He didn’t fall in love with his hands as so many grapplers do. He works from the jump to get the fight to the ground where the advantage favors his style. He’s a very aggressive submission hunter, averaging 2.26 takedowns per 15-minute fight and attempts around 7.9 submissions per 15 minutes. He is a durable fighter with stamina reserves that allow for finishes in the latter rounds of his fights. His opponent, Cody Durden ($7,500), is a strong wrestler and a step above the competition Flick normally faces. This is a very well-matched fight against two exciting prospects. It’s bound to be entertaining considering both men will be looking to get the fight to the ground.
Marlon Vera, $7,600
Marlon Vera has been a treat to watch over the course of his UFC run. Ever evolving and improving, his skill set is as diverse as it gets. Along with striking prowess that has seen its way to six knockouts, he has an incredible ground game with real submission chops—to the tune of eight submission wins. He’s an aggressive, forward moving machine, and that aggression translates on the ground, as well. “Chito” averages .86 takedowns per 15-minute fight and 1.2 submission attempts in that same time frame. He’s quick in the scrambles and has excellent cardio and durability. Jose Aldo is a formidable opponent, though, and strength for strength, could end up being the perfect foil to Vera’s quest for bantamweight gold. The real question in this contest is how Aldo recovered, both mentally and physically, from the absolute thrashing that Petr Yan put on him this past July, marking his third-straight loss. Win or lose, this fight should deliver plenty of glorious sanctioned violence for fans.
Greg Hardy, $8,500
Greg Hardy has proven in past fights that his stamina is fleeting when he’s taken into deep water. The fight with Alex Volkov was a prime example of this. His fight is with Marcin Tybura ($7,700), who could end up going 4-0 in 2020 with a win over Hardy. Tybura’s got slightly better cardio and an ugly clinch game that can tire out even the most robust gas tank.
Marlon Moraes, $9,000
Marlon Moraes has historically found himself gassed when he presses the pace and can’t find a finish. His last three performances have been an eye-opener for many, and now, for the first time in nine years, we’ve witnessed him being finished. His opponent, Rob Font, sets a high pace, has endless reserves of stamina, and has knockout ability—a dangerous combination for someone that’s looked less potent of late.
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