UFC Fight Night: Cory Sandhagen vs. T.J. Dillashaw - MMA Betting & DFS Preview

A bantamweight bout featuring Cory Sandhagen vs. T.J. Dillashaw headlines this UFC event's main card
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UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw

#UFCVegas32 MMA Betting Preview

After the biggest highlight reel win of his career, the “Sandman” Cory Sandhagen is back, looking to solidify his shot at the title. Standing across from him will be a familiar face we haven’t seen in the Octagon in over two years, former champion TJ Dillashaw, who makes his long-awaited return since serving a two-year suspension after testing positive and confirming use of erythropoietin (EPO). Lots of questions will be answered after this one Saturday night, and before the main event kicks off, the card will build up with 11 other fantastic matchups, mainly built featuring some of the sport's exciting prospects. Buckle up!

EVENT DETAILS

  • DATE: SATURDAY 07/24/21
  • BROADCAST: ESPN
  • VENUE: UFC APEX
  • LOCATION: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • # of MATCHES: 12

MAIN CARD TAKES, PREDICTIONS & BETS

BANTAMWEIGHT (135 LBS): #2 CORY SANDHAGEN (14-2) VS. T.J. DILLASHAW (16-4)

Will the karma police swoop in on Saturday night? I’d like to say Dillashaw has served his time, and it's at the point we move forward from his highly publicized suspension for taking banned substances. A Sandhagen win over the former champ Saturday night should come with no asterisks, as Dillashaw, on PEDs or not, is one of the best, most elusive fighters the division has ever seen. After taking his lumps, Dillashaw will look to get back in the mix with a win, though the usual fight night jitters, coupled with a massive weight on his shoulders looking to prove he can hang with the best clean of any banned substances, will be in play. Let's say Dillashaw is free to take what he wants. Cory Sandhagen still causes problems for him. Sandhagen is coming off of back-to-back knockout wins over Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes, and at 7-1 in the UFC, his only loss comes via submission versus the current champion, Aljamain Sterling. I highly doubt we see Dillashaw get in position for a submission, and he hasn’t won via the method in almost 10 years, and that was against Vaughn Lee, a guy who has lost via sub in most of his losses. Dillashaw tends to frustrate his opponents with his awkward movement, though in this spot, as Sandhagen looks down on him with his almost six-inch height advantage coupled with three inches of reach, Dillashaw will be fending off shots from angles he hasn’t seen much in his career. Sandhagen is a volume striker, landing almost seven significant strikes per minute on average while absorbing about half. His size, speed, and ability to mix many shots from all angles should be enough to catch and overwhelm the former champ eventually. Plus, how can you back a guy with so many unknowns right now. Dillashaw has been away for over two years, and how effective will he truly be without the PEDs, now at 35 years young? Both fighters swing with intent and pack more power than most of the division. Don’t be surprised if this one doesn’t make the 25 minutes.

Prediction: Cory Sandhagen

WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT (135 LBS): #3 ASPEN LADD (9-1) VS. #9 MACY CHIASSON (7-1)

Ladd is back after a lengthy layoff due to a torn ACL and MCL. Following her absence, it looks like she has put in the due diligence, not rushing anything, which tells me she should be 100% ready to roll here against Chiasson. Chiasson will have some serious size advantage on the feet here, and that said, I fully expect Ladd to get this one down and control from the top as she has done in three of her four UFC victories. Chiasson has struggled when she gets on her back, and a great example of this was her fight against a very mediocre Lina Lansberg, where Lansberg controlled Chiasson for over 7 ½ of the last 10 minutes of their fight. Chiasson has a puncher’s chance early on with this reach advantage, but it usually takes her a few minutes to get going in a fight, and in this spot, that slow roll getting into a groove could prove costly.

Prediction: Aspen Ladd

BANTAMWEIGHT (135 LBS): #14 KYLER PHILLIPS (9-1) VS. RAULIAN PAIVA (20-3)

Kyler Phillips is one to watch. He’s won four straight now and has visibly improved his skills along the way. His cardio is on point now, and his striking is very unpredictable and with some serious speed. Raulian Paiva looks to keep things going himself and will be going for three straight after some tough luck losing to Rogerio Bontorin via a cut, and before that, losing a split decision to Kai Kara France. Paiva is very well-rounded and can adjust game plans mid-fight, which I could see him executing here to stay in this one against Phillips. Ultimately though, Phillips and his striking will be too much for Paiva.

Prediction: Kyler Phillips

FEATHERWEIGHT (145 LBS): DARREN ELKINS (25-9) VS. DARRICK MINNER (26-11)

The "Damage" is back, Darren Elkins, and this go-round, he takes on Darrick Minner, a guy who has only gone to a decision four times across 37 fights. Minner does have 11 losses on his record, and all come against decent grapplers, which just so happens to be similar to his opponent in this spot. Now Minner is fresh off a solid victory over Charles Rosa last February, though Rosa is more of a passive grappler in comparison to Elkins, who just simply walks forward for 15 minutes. With that style, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t see Elkins bleeding in a fight, and it typically comes into play in the eyes of the judges. Though with Minner’s lackluster takedown defense, I see Elkins finding some success with the grappling and quite possibly getting this one into a position for a finish.

Prediction: Darren Elkins

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT (125 LBS): #13 MIRANDA MAVERICK (9-2) VS. #14 MAYCEE BARBER (8-2)

Maycee “The Future” Barber might need to reevaluate her nickname with a loss Saturday night. She's dropped two straight and has a lot riding on this one, and not helping the cause will be that Miranda Maverick has looked amazing on this latest run she is on. Maverick has now won five straight, most recently a unanimous win over Gillian Robertson last March. Maverick will have the striking advantage on the feet in the sense of both volume and defense, though Barber packs some power. I expect Barber to turn this one into a scrap, and I believe whoever wins the takedowns should take this one. If Barber catches Maverick, I see Maverick having enough of a technical edge to get this one to the mat in her favor. Barber has owned the fights where she has the size advantage, which won't be the case against Maverick. I give the edge in volume and grappling to Maverick, and with her movement, we could see Barber swinging at air, just out of range again. Since moving up from 115lbs, Barber is now just 2-2.

Prediction: Miranda Maverick

WELTERWEIGHT (170 LBS): MICKEY GALL (6-3) VS. JORDAN WILLIAMS (9-4)

Williams is making the drop back down to 170 here and getting a decent name in Mickey Gall. We will have to monitor the weight cut and post-weigh-in scene as Williams avoided cutting weight in the past due to potential diabetes complications. Williams has a chin and typically wins the stand-up. Gall is all about the submissions. He's never won via KO and has five of his six wins coming by way of rear-naked choke. Gall is a tough dude and ran up a 4-0 record, but since has gone 2-3, alternating wins and losses, most recently losing to Mike Perry via a clear decision. Watch for Williams to bully Gall and put it on him standing. Gall will lose the volume war and eventually go for broke with takedown attempts, but I could even see Williams gaining top control, winning at least two rounds on his way to a decision.

Prediction: Jordan Williams

PRELIMS TAKES, PREDICTIONS & BETS

MIDDLEWEIGHT (185 LBS): PUNAHELE SORIANO (8-0) VS. BRENDAN ALLEN (16-4)

Both prospects are on the cusp of jumping into that top-15 ranking, and with a big win here, there's a definite conversation going into next week. Probably the toughest matchup to date for Soriano, who possesses some serious one-punch power, backed with a wrestling base that forces his opponents to stand. Allen has run up a seven-fight win streak before losing via TKO to Sean Strickland but quickly rebounded with a submission win over Karl Roberson inside of one round last April. Soriano has only gone past the first round once, so we haven't seen much as it relates to a gas tank from him. I'm not sure we will need to worry about it. Soriano is going to catch him.

Prediction: Punahele Soriano

MIDDLEWEIGHT (185 LBS): IAN HEINISCH (14-4) VS. NASSOURDINE IMAVOV (9-3)

Heinisch has had a tougher schedule up to this point, which gives him a clear experience advantage. With that, there should be a clear fight IQ coming into this one, where if he wants to win, he has to go for the takedowns and execute an aggressive grappling approach. Imavov has the better footwork and technique on the feet, and we should see a clear speed advantage that could come into play if this goes to the scorecards. You’d have to think Imavov heavily worked on his takedown defense and grappling overall after being taken down four times against Phil Hawes, ultimately costing him a majority decision. Decent underdog spot on this card because Imavov could surprise some folks.

Prediction: Nassourdine Imavov

BANTAMWEIGHT (135 LBS): ADRIAN YANEZ (13-3) VS. RANDY COSTA (6-1)

Outside of the main event, this is probably the most anticipated fight on the card. Both guys are incredible prospects to keep your eye on, and the fact that one of them has to lose this weekend is super unfortunate. Costa dropped his UFC debut to Brandon Davis via submission but got right back on track, winning his next two via knockout inside of one round in both fights. He’s put together a 6-1 pro record, with all of his wins coming by first-round knockout. Yanez has impressed as of late, winning his first two UFC fights by KO. Overall, he sports a 13-3 record, with six wins in a row. Yanez is the more proven fighter to this point of the two fighter’s careers, but the power and aggressiveness Costa brings could cause some waves. Looking at the short sample of just six fights combined under the UFC banner, neither fighter has landed or been caught with a takedown as of yet. I don’t see the trend ending here as both have a preference of standing and striking, and you know we will get some fireworks here. Yanez is a phenomenal striker, though he did get touched up in his last fight against Lopez. Costa does take punches, and this will be the best striker he's faced. You can't look past the fact that Costa started his career against guys with records of 0-4, 0-0, 5-9, 0-1. His two UFC wins came against Boston Salmon (0-2 UFC) and Journey Newson (0-2-1 UFC). I’ll be surprised if this one makes the final bell. This fight could steal the show.

Prediction: Adrian Yanez

BANTAMWEIGHT (135 LBS): JULIO ARCE (16-4) VS. ANDRE EWELL (17-7)

Arce has been out of action since late 2019, when he lost a split decision to a very tough Hakeem Dawodu. This will be his first fight at 135, not only in the UFC but since 2016. In between that time, he's had 10 fights at 145, so it will be interesting to see how the cut fairs for him. Oddsmakers made him 2:1 favorite here facing an always tough Andre Ewell, who usually dwarfs his opponents, but not so much in this case. Ewell will still have a five-inch reach advantage in his favor, though Arce's above-average defense on the feet has him avoiding almost 70% of the shots coming his way. Ewell is a one-trick pony, usually sticking to his striking on the feet from the southpaw stance. Arce can mix it up a little more in there, and when opportunities arise, he'll go for the takedowns and score from the top. Although coming back from double elbow surgery, Arce is still the better, more well-rounded option.

Prediction: Julio Arce

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT (125 LBS): #13 SIJARA EUBANKS (6-6) VS. ELISE REED (4-0)

I never thought we’d see the day that Sijara Eubanks is the highest-priced fighter on a slate for daily fantasy. Well, that day has come. Here she faces the #1 women's lightweight prospect in the state of Virginia, undefeated Elise Reed. Although Eubanks is just 6-6, she has some respectable wins on her resume, including Roxanne Modafferi, Julia Avila, Sarah Moraes, and the next title challenger to Shevchenko’s belt, Lauren Murphy. Eubanks is a tough out and has never been finished. She hasn't been wiped out in any fight, and all of her losses hold 29-28 scorecards. Sijara is coming down in weight, so expect her to be the bigger fighter as well. Reed is a striker, has decent movement on the feet while mixing up some combos, with a solid amateur record, though just four pro scraps under her belt. Eubanks will probably close and smother Reed at some point, landing takedowns causing some issues for Reed in attempting to get this one back to the feet.

Prediction: Sijara Eubanks

WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT (115 LBS): DIANA BELBITA (13-6) VS. HANNAH GOLDY (5-1)

Lots of money is coming in on the 'dog, Belbita. The lines have almost flipped. Belbita is coming down a weight class and will be the much bigger fighter in there. She hasn't fared well since joining the UFC, dropping two straight against Meatball McCann and Liana Jojua. After losing her debut to Miranda Granger, Goldy will look to get back on track, following that up with a positive COVID-19 test, taking her out of her fight with Lookboonmee, and then withdrawing twice after against Jessica Penne. Belbita will look to use her size and walk down Goldy in this fight, though Goldy will cut angles and, if smart, will look to grapple. Belbita seems to be a fish out of water on the mat and struggles when on her back. Liana Jojua subbed her with ease in her last fight last July. I believe Goldy has recently put in some work and was scheduled for some submission grappling that could come into play here. Belbita has a padded record with four 0-0 opponents on her resume and six others with losing records.

Prediction: Hannah Goldy

BET RECAP

  • Sandhagen/Dillashaw OVER 1.5 rds -187
  • Darren Elkins +135
  • Jordan Williams -170
  • Puna Soriano -110 (consider via TKO/KO or ITD +163)

PARLAY

  • Phillips/Eubanks -133

FULL CARD PREDICTIONS

  • CORY SANDHAGEN defeats T.J. DILLASHAW
  • ASPEN LADD defeats MACY CHIASSON
  • KYLER PHILLIPS defeats RAULIAN PAIVA
  • DARREN ELKINS defeats DARRICK MINNER
  • MIRANDA MAVERICK defeats MAYCEE BARBER
  • JORDAN WILLIAMS defeats MICKEY GALL
  • PUNAHELE SORIANO defeats BRENDAN ALLEN
  • NASSOURDINE IMAVOV defeats IAN HEINISCH
  • ADRIAN YANEZ defeats RANDY COSTA
  • JULIO ARCE defeats ANDRE EWELL
  • SIJARA EUBANKS defeats ELISE REED
  • HANNAH GOLDY defeats DIANA BELBITA

UFC PREDICTION BET SUMMARY

  • 2021 predictions: 155-107-5 (59%)
  • 2021 wagers: 81-72-2 (53%)

Overall record on SI

  • Predictions: 536-306-16 (64%)
  • Wagers: 291-159-8 (65%)

DFS PLAYS & STRATEGIES

  • Choose active fighters. Coupling an active fighter on his/her way to a unanimous decision will give you key points for your team. Just like any other DFS traditional sport, you want the active, offensive player that scores. Key metrics here are SLpM and TD AVG/15min.
  • Play the heavyweights. The approximate overall finish rate in the UFC is 54%. Most weight divisions range from 40%-60%, while the heavyweights push a 75% finish rate. You will receive bonus points for finishes inside the distance.
  • Try always to include the main event or title fights. Five-round fights mean more time to rack up points if you pick the right fighter. In some cases, even if you have the loser, the points can be more than a three-round winner.
  • Don't get excited and rush a pick based on stats; consider sample size. Some fighters have limited fights compared to their opponents when looking at metrics. Stats could be exaggerated. Do your research. Watch for spots with debuting fighters as well. Always check the records of the opponents they faced on their way to the UFC. Always pull fight tape as well. You’d be surprised at what you will find.
  • Review methods of victory. I supply the finish rates within this article, and as you dive in, you can compare method of victory to method of loss for the matchups. For example, you can find matchups where Fighter A has a high % of submission victories matched up with Fighter B, with a high % of submission losses.

As mentioned in the tip sheet above, here’s my MMA DFS Heat Chart for UFC Vegas 32. As you can see, the chart is ranked based on fight finish odds. Fight finishes are where the points are in MMA DFS. Take a glance at the stack, and we will break down the individual matchups below.

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Two key offensive metrics are strikes and takedowns. They get off on their opponents; watch your points rack up quickly. Here's my Offensive Output Meter for the card. With this chart, you can compare historical fighter averages in these two key metrics as I rank all fighters participating Saturday.

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Below is the differential for strikes landed vs. strikes absorbed per minute.

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Here is the takedown average per 15 minutes, along with the opponent's takedown defense percentage.

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UFC DFS RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Fighters that typically press the action, land takedowns, and high finish rates matched up against those that get finished, roster. (see my charts above)
  • Fights projected to NOT go to a decision
    • Sandhagen/Dillashaw -280
    • Elkins/Minner -115
    • Williams/Gall -175
    • Allen/Soriano -260
    • Yanez/Costa -230
  • For the main event, both are in play. I prefer Sandhagen and think he has a legit shot at a finish, plus volume. Dillashaw price does have some value if you play multi.
  • Top-tier fighters to build around include: Phillips, Yanez
  • Mid-tier fighter considerations are: Sandhagen, Williams
  • Live 'dogs that could score: Soriano, Elkins, Imavov

Good luck, everyone. I hope to see some of you cashing after Saturday night! Follow me on Twitter @Y2CASEY

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