The second of three straight nights of UFC action is upon us. This time it is The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale in Las Vegas, headlined by UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk defending against her heated rival, Claudia Gadelha. It is another night for fantasy players to win some money. Below are our studs, value plays and fighters to avoid for Friday night’s event.
Will Brooks ($11,100)
Will Brooks is making his UFC debut on Friday night with a lot of hype surrounding him, and for good reason. He is the former Bellator Lightweight Champion, and he never lost that championship as he was stripped of the belt and released from the promotion after many public battles with the promotion. He just wanted to fight and defend the belt, but the promotion seemed to make that hard for him, almost like they didn’t want him as champion.
Brooks now finds himself where he wants to be in the UFC, and he is coming in looking to quickly earn his way to a title shot for UFC gold. He gets a tough first test in the form of Ross Pearson, and Brooks is actually a late replacement for the fight having just signed and being placed in the bout on June 15, though he has been preparing for a while. Brooks is 18-1 in his career and has a well-rounded attack complete with solid striking, good submissions and strong wrestling.
Pearson is a good match-up for him, but Brooks should be the solid favorite to get a win. I like his chances to win and to get a solid amount of points, and he is an excellent play on a very tight card.
Doo Ho Choi ($10,800)
Doo Ho Choi enters Friday night’s event with a 14-1 record and 12 straight wins, including two straight since signing with the UFC. He has scored first-round finishes over Juan Puig and Sam Sicilia, with them coming in a combined less than two minutes. Overall, he has scored eleven knockout wins in his career, with nine in the first round.
He is a super prospect at 145 pounds, but he is getting thrown right in there with a tough veteran in Thiago Tavares on Saturday night. Tavares has been fighting inside the Octagon since 2007 and has 17 fights, with ten wins on his record. He has also won three of his last four and is on the cusp of breaking into the top-15 of the featherweight rankings.
It is a tough test for Choi, but it’s a fight I see Choi having a lot of success in. Four of Tavares’ six losses have been by knockout, so he can be finished, and Choi is a power striker at 145 pounds. I have full confidence that Choi will be scoring an impressive win.
Cory Hendricks ($9,200)
Many viewers of this season of The Ultimate Fighter thought Cory Hendricks was one of the best male fighter on the cast, and he got a raw deal when his time in the competition was cut short due to a neck injury. Hendricks is still in the early stages of his career as he is just 3-0 in his young career, but all three wins have come by submission.
He has good skills but finds himself as the underdog when he takes on Josh Stansbury at Friday night’s event. Stansbury has won seven straight fights since losing the first two of his career, but he was eliminated from the competition by losing a fight to Khalil Rountree, who actually replaced Hendricks on the show.
With both men not in the finals, it is the perfect time to see who would’ve won the originally scheduled bout. Hendricks is the underdog but I like his chances with his submission skills. He is a good value play.
Cezar Ferreira ($9,000)
Cezar Ferreira is looking to score his second straight win on Friday night when he takes on Anthony Smith. It is Ferreira’s second fight since making the move back up to the middleweight division. It looks like it’s the right move for him as his most recent performance, a decision win over Oluwale Bamgbose, was the best he has looked in the UFC.
He didn’t get the finish, but is was a solid performance. He only has one finish inside the Octagon, but his skills are still very good. Smith is a tough opponent, and Ferreira has been knocked out in four of his five losses, but Smith can be finished as well. Smith is also the winner of eight straight fights, but Ferreira is the toughest opponent he has fought since before that win streak.
Smith has also been finished in all eleven of his losses, so the odds are very good. Someone is getting finished here, and Ferreira is a good underdog bet to score the win.
FIGHTERS TO AVOID
Joaquim Silva ($9,600)
Joaquim Silva enters Friday’s event with a perfect 8-0 record, and he fights another undefeated fighter in Andrew Holbrook. Silva has scored finishes in seven of his eight wins, but his lone decision win came in his only UFC bout last September.
He didn’t even look all that impressive, and he was lucky to get that decision. The fact that he is essentially in a pick ’em fight with Holbrook should not be overlooked. Holbrook is much more well-rounded and looked more impressive in his one UFC bout. Holbrook has also scored ten of his eleven wins by stoppage, with nine submission wins.
I like Holbrook to win and that makes Silva a risky play. I’m avoiding him.
Matheus Nicolau ($8,800)
Matheus Nicolau has just one loss in his 13 career fights, and he is coming off an impressive submission win in his UFC debut. He is just 23-years-old and is a solid prospect in the flyweight division. He is taking a huge step forward in taking on John Moraga on Friday night.
Moraga is a former title challenger and one of the top fighters at 125 pounds, and he is a very well-rounded fighter with strong striking, strong submissions and solid wrestling. Moraga brings violence into the cage, and that is hard to do in the flyweight division. Five of Moraga’s six UFC wins have come by stoppage.
Nicolau is a big underdog in this fight, for very good reason, and I don’t see him getting the win. In another card of close match-ups, he is one of the easier fighters on this card to avoid.
RYAN FREDERICK- Doo Ho Choi ($10,800), John Moraga ($10,600), Andrew Sanchez ($9,700), Claudia Gadelha ($9,500), Cezar Ferreira ($9,000)
I like Doo Ho Choi as one of my top plays and to get a stoppage win when he takes on Thiago Tavares. He has excellent knockout power. John Moraga is a strong favorite over Matheus Nicolau, and he has five stoppage wins in his six UFC wins. Andrew Sanchez is looking to win a six-figure contract, and he has looked impressive and is a good finisher. Cezar Ferreira is a solid underdog and has a lot of value, and I see him finishing Anthony Smith. Lastly, I’m going with Claudia Gadelha. I’m picking her to defeat Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and I think it goes the full 25 minutes, opening up more scoring chances.
PAUL FONTAINE- Jake Matthews ($9,900), Khalil Rountree ($9,700), Claudia Gadelha ($9,500), Cory Hendricks ($9,200), Amanda Cooper ($8,400)
Not a lot of analysis here as this card was only recently finalized with the last episode of TUF airing. I watched all the episodes and as such I’m picking three three fighters that impressed me the most over the season with Rountree, Hendricks and Cooper. They are all capable of finishes. Matthews has a lot of hype and despite a hiccup in his home country a few fights back, he should keep getting better. I’m picking Gadelha to score an upset and take the strawweight title. I think she won the first fight and this time, there will be no doubt as she gives Brazil another champion.
PEACH MACHINE- Will Brooks ($11,100), John Moraga ($10,600), Joanna Jedrzejczyk ($10,100), Thiago Tavares ($8,600), Anton Zafir ($8,500)
Champion is my real pick. I let the kid sitting next to me have my next one and he took Brooks. I love moraga so he’s another real pick. I had to take the other two clowns because I got greedy early.