The Octagon makes a stop for the first time in The Netherlands for a fight card on Mothers’ Day as UFC Fight Night 87 rolls into Rotterdam, airing on FOX Sports 1 as an afternoon event in the United States. Headlining the event is a heavyweight bout as Alistair Overeem puts his three-fight win streak on the line against former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski. Below are our studs, value plays and fighters to avoid when setting your line-ups for Sunday’s event.
Magnus Cedenblad ($10,600)
Magnus Cedenblad hasn’t fought since October 2014 yet he remains one of our top plays on this slate of fighters for UFC Fight Night 87 on Sunday. He has won three straight fights, and eleven of his thirteen professional wins have come by stoppage. He is a huge middleweight and has some real good talent. He is a solid grappler, and that is the area his opponent, Garreth McLellan, has some trouble. McLellan has a tendency of getting taken down, and with a bigger opponent in Cedenblad who has excellent grappling, it is going to be hard for McLellan to avoid getting taken down. Cedenblad should be looking to utilize his size and grappling advantages, and a finish early should be in line. He has good hands, but a submission early seems more likely. Cedenblad is an excellent pick to start your roster off with.
Alistair Overeem ($10,300)
I am honestly surprised that Alistair Overeem is coming as cheap as he is for his main event bout against Andrei Arlovski. Overeem has won three straight and has looked excellent in doing so, and his last win over Junior Dos Santos was arguably his most impressive inside the Octagon, making Dos Santos look like a finished fighter, which is amazing considering how impressive Dos Santos looked in his last fight a month ago. He also faces an opponent known for a glass jaw in Arlovski, who is coming off being knocked out in 54 seconds in his last fight against Stipe Miocic. Yes, Overeem has suffered nine knockout losses of his own, but his style should be able to keep Arlovski from getting on the inside. Arlovski did look like a rejuvenated fighter up until his smashing at the hands of Miocic, and I expect to see more of that Arlovski than the one who had an impressive win streak leading into the Miocic bout. Overeem’s salary makes him an easy play for your roster, and I expect him to be widely owned.
Chris Wade ($9,000)
Chris Wade is an interesting play for a $9,000 salary. He is undefeated inside the Octagon, but he takes on his stiffest test to date when he meets Rustam Khabliov on Saturday night. Khabilov is an injury replacement, but he had a good amount of notice for the bout and likely got as close to a full training camp as you can get. Khabilov hasn’t looked the same in his most recent fights, and while he got the win over Norman Parke in his last fight, he didn’t look overly impressive, and Wade is a sneaky rising prospect. Wade has good wrestling and some solid submissions, and he may overpower Khabilov to the mat. Khabliov had shown some great throws and takedowns, but that has seemingly gone out the window lately. I’m not sure if he regressed or if the having to stay overseas to train due to visa issues have hurt him, but he just hasn’t looked the same. Wade is a sneaky play to score a lot of takedowns and grind out a decision win.
Gunnar Nelson ($8,900)
Gunnar Nelson is going to be the most debated fighter on the card at his $8,900 salary. It’s hard to predict what is going to happen when he takes on Albert Tumenov on Sunday. Tumenov has shown to be an explosive striker so Nelson will be looking to take it to the mat. If Nelson can get the fight down, Tumenov is going to be in a lot of trouble on the ground. Nelson is still world class on the mat, but he did get embarassed by Demian Maia in his last fight. He needs a big rebound if he is ever going to be in the title picture at 170 pounds, and Tumenov is a beast with a five-fight win streak and has explosive finishes. Nelson has yet to be finished, and he could grind the fight out for three rounds and find a submission on the mat. He has good value if he can turn the fight with Tumenov into his kind of fight. It may be a challenge, but I see Nelson having some very good value.
FIGHTERS TO AVOID
Yan Cabral ($10,200)
Yan Cabral has a decently high salary on Sunday’s event, but he is an easy pass for me. He is just 2-2 in his UFC career and hasn’t been overly impressive in his bouts. He has one finish in the two wins, but that was over Naoyuki Kotani, who was 0-5 inside the Octagon. He has a tough match-up against Reza Madadi, a fighter who is very tough to finish, and one that has a good shot at scoring an upset win. Madadi lost his last bout to Norman Parke, but it was his first fight in two-and-a-half years, and the ring rust was certainly evident. Madadi has a very good chance in finishing Cabral, but this looks to be a fight that will go the distance. I don’t expect much from either man, and I actually think Madadi picks up the victory. It makes Cabral an easy fighter for me to avoid.
Ulka Sasaki ($9,100)
Ulka Sasaki is the other fighter on my avoid list. He is coming into his bout against Willie Gates as a late replacement for the now-retired Paddy Holohan and enters the fight on a two-fight losing skid. He is in a must-win situation if he intends on having a UFC future, but Gates is a tough foe to go against, especially when he has a full camp. Gates is just 1-2 in his UFC tenure, like Sasaki, but both of his losses came in short-notice situations. When he had a full camp, he won in 96 seconds. Sasaki’s last two losses have come by finish, and Gates is a finisher himself. Sasaki is an easy fighter to avoid, even though his low salary is tempting if you are looking for cheap options.
RYAN FREDERICK- Magnus Cedenblad ($10,600), Alistair Overeem ($10,300), Nikita Krylov ($10,100), Willie Gates ($9,600), Chris Wade ($9,000)
I have Magnus Cedenblad and Alistair Overeem as my top plays for this week, and thus they will be on my roster this week. I love Cedenblad’s chances against an overmatched Garreth McLellan and Cedenblad’s grappling will be the big difference. Overeem is on a roll and has looked good-to-great in his three-fight win streak. Andrei Arlovski has a real suspect chin, and against a heavy kickboxer like Overeem, it is looking good for Overeem to get an early win. I like Nikita Krylov against Francimar Barroso. Barroso does just enough to win fights by decision, but he hasn’t been overly impressive, and Krylov has against lesser competition. I like Krylov to win by submission. Willie Gates gets a short-notice opponent who has been finished in his last two, and Gates is impressive with a full camp. I’m taking a chance on him. I’m also taking a chance on Chris Wade. I think he wins and he is cheap and of great value. Takedowns and significant strikes will lead him to the win.
PAUL FONTAINE- Karolina Kowalkiewicz ($11,200), Alistair Overeem ($10,300), Nikita Krylov ($10,100), Willie Gates ($9,600), Garreth McLellan ($8,800)
“Reem” is fighting in his home country and is on the verge of a title shot. He’s my lock of the week. A must for any DK team and at a reasonable salary. Nikita Krylov has the best nickname in MMA, “Al Capone” and his last 5 wins have been first round finishes. KK is unbeaten and that shouldn’t change against TUF 20 alumnus Heather Clark. The women on that show have not faired well in UFC competition for the most part against fighters that weren’t on the show. I expect KK to get her UFC finish here as the biggest favorite on the card. Garreth McLellan is a darkhorse for sure but when he wins, he finishes. Magnus Cedenblad was finished by Francis Carmont. ’nuff said. I’m going with Willie Gates for my last pick. KO power in the flyweight division is rare but Gates has it. Yuta Sasaki has been finished in two straight fights and Willie is going to make it three on Sunday morning.
PEACH MACHINE- Kyoji Horiguchi ($10,700), Albert Tumenov ($10,500), Yan Cabral ($10,200), Anna Elmose ($9,400), Chris Wade ($9,000)
I will always take Kyoji. He will be a champion someday and I’ll always put him on my team. He’ll get the finish, or a ton of points. Tumenov has a really tough opponent across the cage but he’s game as hell and maybe he saw the blueprint for beating Nelson. Wade is as tough as Khabilov. I’m sure Wade is there to lose, but I don’t think he cares what UFC has planned. Nor should he. Yan Cabral is going against Madadi who I’ve never liked. Elmose is a newcomer but looks tough and de Randamie has been out of action for a while. I like the upset here. I’m not as confident in these picks as I’ve been in the last couple but as usual, my advice is to never play it safe.