UFC Fight Night 95 DFS Playbook: Who to target & who to avoid

Here’s some advice for who to pick in your DraftKings lineup for Saturday’s UFC Fight 95 in Brasilia, Brazil, headlined by Cris Cyborg vs. Lina Lansberg on FOX Sports 1.

TOP TARGET: Cris Cyborg ($13,000)

Cyborg headlines her first UFC event when she takes on newcomer Lansberg in a 140-pound catchweight bout. This is one of the most obvious picks when it comes to daily fantasy, but Cyborg also commands the highest salary I can ever remember at $13,000.

She is the toughest female fighter in the world, the hardest hitting, and the most feared. She has won 17 straight (15 by KO) and had one overturned due to a drug test failure. She hasn’t gone the distance in almost eight years. The biggest hurdle for her has been the extremely tough weight cut, and really, 140 pounds isn’t where she should be fighting. As long as her energy isn’t completely drained from the cut, Lansberg is just a sacrifical lamb. Cyborg also has more time to rehydrate, which will be to her benefit.

Lansberg only has seven career MMA fights, but a lot of professional kickboxing experience. She has won six straight with four finished by stoppage. She is older than Cyborg, and she has a good skillset, but this is a tall order. It goes without saying, but Cyborg is clearly the favorite in this fight, and definitely the top target on this card.

Her salary is going to make it hard to put together a quality lineup as I expect a lot of favorites on this card to win. If you can fit her in, Cyborg is the top play.

VALUE TARGET: Rani Yahya ($9,300)

Yahya will be looking to score his fourth straight win when he takes on Michinori Tanaka in a prelim bout. Tanaka is looking to score his second straight win after getting a split decision over Joe Soto at January’s UFC 195. This will only be Tanaka’s second fight in a two-year span as he was out of action for over a year prior to the Soto fight due to a drug test failure.

Tanaka comes from the Team Alpha Male camp, and he has solid striking. Yahya is a hard-nosed veteran of the sport and has good all-around skills, but he excels in his grappling. Where he gets into trouble at times is his willingness to strike, and that will cost him against Tanaka. He should be looking to take Tanaka down and use his submission game. He has good scrambling, but he excels in top control constantly looking for chokes.

Yahya is actually the betting favorite in this fight, though Tanaka has the higher fantasy value. That makes Yahya a very solid value play at his salary. He may not outstrike or outwrestle Tanaka, but he should be able to get the better of him on the mat. Tanaka had a very close fight with Soto, a fight that he probably should have lost, and Yahya has been impressive lately. Also of note: 17 of Yahya’s 22 career wins have come by submission.

If this fight goes to the ground, Tanaka has some big work ahead of him. Yahya’s $9,300 salary is very interesting, and in a night where a lot of favorites will likely win, go with the hometown guy. Yahya is a solid play.

TARGET TO AVOID: Antonio Silva ($7,900)

This feels like an obvious pick, but Silva is definitely the fighter to most avoid on this card. You can make a very good case that he shouldn’t even be fighting at this stage of his career as he has taken way more punishment than you like to see a fighter take. Silva only has one win in his last seven fights and his losses have been bad. Silva has nine career losses: eight by knockout.

In losing five of his last seven, SIlva has been knocked out in the first round in all of those fights. He doesn’t have the chin to withstand the punishment anymore, not to mention he is a heavyweight where the hardest hitters lie. He also gets one of the hardest hitters in the division in Nelson. Nelson has been struggling lately as he is just 2-6 in his last eight fights. Unlike, Silva, Nelson has only been finished once during that streak.

Nelson has fallen in love with the right hand as he has become one-dimensional in the latter stages of his career. That right hand is vicious though and can knock out just about anyone when it lands. Silva would be best served at using good footwork and movement as Nelson is flat-footed, but Silva’s big chin is a target that Nelson is going to exploit. Silva is going to sleep when it lands, and he is just too slow at this stage of his career.

I don’t see Silva getting out of the first round without going to sleep, and if that happens, I hope that it will be the last time that it happens. Silva is the most avoidable target on this card, even more than Lansberg.

UNDERDOG TARGET: Gregor Gillespie ($9,000)

Gillespie is making his UFC debut in the opening bout of the show, so it is no surprise that he is an underdog as he takes on Glaico Franca. However, Gillespie is a great underdog target at his $9,000 salary. Gillespie enters the UFC with an undefeated professional record at 7-0 with six wins coming by knockout or submission. Gillespie is an NCAA Champion and four-time All-American in wrestling, and he trains with a great camp under the leadership of striking coach Mark Henry, who works with a lot of top UFC fighters.

Gillespie is like any fighter with a strong wrestling background, working on developing his striking but has superior wrestling to back him up if he gets into trouble. He also has solid submission skills. Gillespie has a tough test in Franca, who took the fight on short notice as an injury replacement for Joaquim Silva. Franca is a big lightweight with a lot of experience in his career, though he has just two appearances inside the Octagon.

Franca dropped his most recent bout against the tough James Vick, a fight where the pressure brought by Vick was too much for Franca. Gillespie would be best served going for takedowns in close range as Franca is the more gifted striker, but Gillespie has the wrestling background to control this fight on the mat. Gillespie is a finisher, but Franca has only been finished once in his career.

Gillespie is the underdog, but I really like his chances in this fight. He is a very good underdog target on this card.

SURPRISE TARGET: Gilbert Burns ($9,800)

Burns is still one of the brightest prospects in the UFC’s lightweight division as he looks to score his second straight win when he takes on fellow Brazilian Michel Prazeres in the final prelim bout of the card. Burns started his career with a perfect 11-0 record before suffering his first loss last November. He bounced back with a first-round submission win over Lukasz Sajewski in July. Burns talked about how much the loss affected him, and he is committed to get back to his winning ways.

Burns is one of the most-gifted submission fighters in the sport, and he has scored eight of his twelve wins by submission, but has also scored three by knockout. Prazeres has won two straight fights against low-level competition, and he gets a tough opponent in Burns. Prazeres is a thick lightweight with a lot of power, but he also carries a lot of muscle on his frame, and it affects him late in his conditioning. Burns will look to take advantage of that, and he has really solid striking skills.

Prazeres is tough from the top on the mat, but he doesn’t have the overall submission game that Burns does. A late thing to keep in mind is that Prazeres missed weight, so that is another plus advantage for Burns. I expect Burns to negate Prazeres’ main attack, and I don’t think Prazeres’ cardio will be able to keep up the pace. I’m looking at Burns scoring a late submission as he is too good on the ground, and he’ll be able to beat Prazeres on the feet.

Burns should be a surprise in the sense that I expect a finish in this fight.

OUR LINEUPS —

RYAN FREDERICK: Roy Nelson ($11,500), Thiago Santos ($11,400), Rani Yahya ($9,300), Gregor Gillespie ($9,000), Luan Chagas ($8,800)

I’m not taking Cyborg in my lineup. I want to, but her salary makes it hard, and while I think she gets a quick finish, I also think Nelson and Santos get first-round finishes. I like the combo of them over just Cyborg when it comes to trying to maximize my points. Silva doesn’t have a chin, and Nelson has that big right hand which I think will put Silva to go to sleep.

Santos has a favorable match-up against Eric Spicely, and Santos’ only loss in his last five fights has come to Gegard Mousasi. I like Santos to bounce back in a major way against an overmatched Spicely. Yahya is a surprise underdog, but he performs well, and Tanaka is a beatable opponent. With two major salaries in my lineup, I have to take chances, and I like Yahya.

My last fighter is Luan Chagas. He takes on Erick Silva, who has had a disappointing UFC career. I’m honestly not too confident in Chagas’ chances, but Silva has been proven beatable. I like Chagas’ chances better than any other fighter at similar salaries.

PAUL FONTAINE: Cris Cyborg ($13,000), Michel Prazeres ($9,600), Rani Yahya ($9,300), Jussier Formiga ($9,200), Mike De La Torre ($8,900)

If I could figure out a way to pick five fighters and somehow get Cyborg on my team, I was gonna do it. And best of all, I think everyone on my team has a better than even chance of winning. Cyborg is going to score a first round finish; we all know it. If not for a decision loss to the very tough Kevin Lee, Michel Prazeres would be on a five fight win streak. I think he will grind out an upset win over Burns. Yahya will have an experience advantage, a likely size advantage, and home field advantage when he takes on Tanaka. That all adds up to a win in my book. 

Jussier Formiga is on the short list of top flyweights in the world and I’m surprised that he comes at a lower salary than his opponent here. He’s a steal at this price for me. My last pick is Mike De La Torre, a world class jiu-jitsu guy. His last time in Brazil he spoiled it for the hometown boy with a first round KO and I’m looking for a repeat performance here. 

PEACH MACHINE: Roy Nelson ($11,500), Dustin Ortiz ($10,200), Paul Felder ($9,700), Rani Yahya ($9,300), Mike de la Torre ($8,900)

Last week was bad for everyone, but I’m confident that I can rebound successfully and get in the money tonight. Nelson is an expensive pick but I’m taking him because you’re guaranteed a KO, and Cyborg is too expensive. I like Mike de la Torre over Pepe. I’ve never been impressed by Pepe and his hair makes me mad.

Paul Felder has been facing the top of the heap, as has Trinaldo, but I like Felder here to sneak out an upset win. Dustin Ortiz is tough and I usually take him when he’s on a card. Yahya has been successful recently and I expect that to continue. Play this lineup!

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