This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
We remain on Fight Island following UFC 253 with an 11-fight card set to kick off Saturday at 7:30 PM EDT. To put it as kindly as possible, there are more than a few low-level fights on this card. This means the variance will be a bit higher than your normal slate, but we can use that to shove potentially unpopular fighters into our lineups where necessary. As always, fighters in this article will be listed in order from most to least desirable among the given choices.
One final note before we begin: here's a refresher on the scoring. If you're looking for general strategy tips, I wrote a FanDuel 101 article prior to UFC Brasilia on March 14, though there have been a few minor scoring changes since then that I've noted below.
Moves Scoring (MVP 1.5X)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.9 PTS
Takedown (TD): +9 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): +4.5 PTS
Submission Attempt (SA): +7.5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +18 PTS
Moves Scoring (Standard)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.6 PTS
Takedown (TD): +6 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): 3
Submission Attempt (SA): 5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +12 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (MVP 1.5X)
1st Round Win (1stW): +150 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +112.5 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +75 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +52.5 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +37.5 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +30 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (Standard)
1st Round Win (1stW): +100 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +75 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +50 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +35 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +25 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +20 PTS
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Best Play: Germaine de Randamie ($18)
Germaine de Randamie may not fight very often, but she showed in her last bout with Amanda Nunes that she is still a problem in the standup realm, rocking the champion more than once in that fight. The problem is that her takedown defense appears to have actually gotten slightly worse in recent years, as Nunes got her to the ground a whopping eight times in the five-round affair. Julianna Pena will come for takedowns with a more single-minded focus than Nunes, but it's also clear that she simply isn't a great wrestler, sporting just a 52 percent accuracy in six bouts. Every second this fight is in space will be a problem for Pena, and while even one takedown could start something of a snowball effect, I have to imagine that GDR's defense will improve just by virtue of the fact that she has nothing else to worry about here. If she can keep the fight in space, it's tough to imagine any other outcome than a stoppage victory by strikes.
We haven't seen Yorgan de Castro since a lackluster performance against Greg Hardy in May when he seemed to injure himself mid-fight. Before that, his thunderous counter hook sent Justin Tafa to the land of wind and ghosts. The latter is why I am eager to watch him step in the cage again. While you might not suspect it from his physique, De Castro is athletic for a big man, is a fundamentally sound kickboxer with power, and will wrestle when necessary. Carlos Felipe survived on the regional scene simply by being more physical than his opponents, but he won't have that advantage here. Moreover, he is a candidate to eat counters whenever he wings his wild overhand punches. If Philipe gets De Castro to the ground he may be in trouble, but his wrestling game seems to be more about size than technique, which is why it doesn't worry me all that much.
Dequan Townsend is an athletic guy who hits like a truck, but he's too tentative in the cage to put his skillset to use, as his hesitancy allows opponents to exploit his incredible lack of takedown defense (46 percent). Dusko Todorovic lives to make fights ugly, dragging opponents into the clinch and working elbows with other short shots while he looks to land takedowns. I expect him to tire Townsend out and get him to the ground before getting the finish. It must be said, however, that Todorovic's defense mainly consists of shelling up and backing into the cage, and if he gets clipped by a guy as strong as Townsend, the fight could change in an instant. Still, I am going to fall back on the idea that skills and game plans win fights, and Todorovic has a much better idea of what he wants to do inside the cage.
Best Option: Irene Aldana ($19)
Throughout her MMA career, Holly Holm has (generally) won fights in one of two ways: either by using her physicality (as she did in the Raquel Pennington rematch and the Megan Anderson fight) or by waiting on an overaggressive opponent and letting them walk into a counter (like Ronda Rousey and Bethe Correia did). When she doesn't get these kinds of fights, what we tend to see is Holm being far too tentative and falling well short of range when she throws strikes. I expect we will see something like that in this matchup with Irene Aldana, who is strong in the cage and able to keep range as a technical boxer. Aldana can pick Holm off with counters when she does try to wade in and otherwise should be able to keep her off balance with the jab for the majority of the fight. In short, Aldana will likely just outwork Holm in a decision victory.
Charles Jourdain is a fluid technical kickboxer with power, but we saw him get a little flustered against a lanky opponent who was able to put the pressure back on him in Andre Fili, resulting in his second loss in three fights. While Josh Culibao will have a reach advantage, he's far too willing to be pressured up against the fence, which should allow for Jourdain to work his magic in space. Having said all that, though, I find this line to be a bit too wide. We know that Jourdain has been utterly unable to stop a takedown in his UFC career, sporting a 10 percent (!) rate in his three fights. This is concerning, as Culibao appeared to look for single-leg takedowns throughout his fight with Jalin Turner. He also seems to be a decent boxer in the pocket. I am still picking Jourdain because I think his aggressive kickboxing will overwhelm Culibao, but I don't think the Australian is dead in the water here.
After much thought, I've decided that Cameron Else reminds me of Alex Gorgees. If you don't remember that name, don't be embarrassed (I had to look it up, myself). Gorgees was a young, brash kid fighting out of Australia whose game on the feet mainly consisted of walking his opponents down with his hands low and trying to land hard single shots. He lasted just one fight after being dominated by Damir Ismagulov. Else is much the same kind of fighter, as he looks to almost intimidate his opponent until they make some kind of mistake upon which he can capitalize. He shouldn't get these opportunities against Kyler Phillips, who is athletic, features a good jab and is sharp on the counter. He can also wrestle a bit and possesses excellent anti-clinch defense. Else seems tough, so I won't count on him getting finished here, but I've seen nothing in his fights that suggests he can handle this jump in competition.
Best Option: Heili Alateng ($12)
I have to say, I really like Heili Alateng in this spot. Casey Kenney is a wrestler/grappler by trade, and while we did see him exchange shots with Louis Smolka for the duration of their fight, he will get very little joy taking that route against someone like Alateng, who is athletic, powerful, and lightning-quick with his attacks. If Casey tries to take the fight to the ground, he will be facing a wrestler with an extremely strong base, as evidenced by the 100 percent takedown defense rate he has shown through his first two UFC fights. I simply don't see many avenues for Kenney here. His rudimentary boxing will be no match for Alateng's piston-like counters and straight shots, and I have serious doubts that he will be able to control the Chinese fighter if he does happen to ground him. I can see a very specific scenario in which Kenney is forced to strike after a few failed takedown attempts, and winds up on the wrong end of a counter combination from his opponent, resulting in a stoppage loss.
Nassourdine Imavov is very calm and flowy in the cage. I think he works best as a pressure counter fighter, but he can also lead with combinations and has some real power in his right hand. Jordan Williams took an awful lot of punishment from a rather stiff looking BJJ fighter on the feet before finally finding his chin, and Imavov is much more elusive in the cage while being plenty powerful. I think Williams' pressuring style will just result in him getting walked onto counters, meaning this fight could end in a finish.
There's no other way to say this: Carlos Condit has lost five fights in a row dating back to 2016. Still, he doesn't look like Tyron Woodley or (to pick a more extreme example) present-day B.J. Penn inside the cage. Condit is not afraid to move forward with combinations ending in kicks and was highly competitive in both the Alex Oliveira and Michael Chiesa fights. The difference here is that Court McGee has been a remarkably poor wrestler in his UFC career, finishing attempts at just a 21 percent rate in 16 fights. This likely means that McGee will have to try to box in the pocket with the taller kickboxer, which doesn't bode well for the Utah native. It may seem hard to pick Condit to win any fight in 2020, but I think this is the most forgiving matchup he's had in years and should be one in which he is able to look like something approaching the Natural Born Killer we once knew.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Jessin Ayari ($16) and Luigi Vendramini ($16) are both upright kickboxers who haven't fought inside the cage since 2018. While Vendramini is more likely to push forward and look for takedowns off of his striking, Ayari is content to sit back and look for heavy counters. It's a close fight in which either man's game could prove effective, but I'll take the more active man in Vendramini to get this done. Specifically, I'm thinking about the leg kicks Vendramini throws, as Stevie Ray blew apart Ayari's legs with kicks in their fight. I think this will really allow the Italian to get his offense going.
It's a pleasure to watch Loma Lookboonmee ($15) execute her Muay Thai kickboxing inside the cage, but as a former atomweight, she's just too small for the division. This will be the case yet again against Jinh Yu Frey ($14), who showed a bit of pop in her punches and accurate counter shots in her fight versus Kay Hansen. Lookboonmee is at her best when she can work off the counter, but the pressure brought by these bigger fighters seems to be forcing her to lead, which opened her up to be cracked with big shots against Angela Hill. I expect a similar result here, but I always trust Lookboonmee to bring a competitive scrap.