The Octagon returns to Newark, New Jersey on Saturday night for UFC On FOX 18. The event is headlined by a five-round light heavyweight bout between Anthony Johnson and Ryan Bader. Below are our studs, value plays and fighters to avoid for UFC On FOX 18 to help you fill out your line-ups for your daily fantasy games.
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Sage Northcutt ($11,000)
Sage Northcutt has the highest salary of all 26 fighters on the card, and for good reason. He enters Saturday night with a perfect 7-0 record, with all wins by finish, and five in the first round. He fights a short-notice replacement, and is up a weight class due to the late switch, meaning no need to cut as much weight. He should be plenty fresh, which is good coming six weeks after his most recent fight. He has a real opponent in this bout in Bryan Barberena, who is 10-3 and has won seven of his last eight fights. This is Northcutt’s biggest test, but he has passed them all so far, and Barberena is taking the fight on short notice after starting preparations to fight in a month. If Northcutt is as good as he has been, he should get a finish here.
Randy Brown ($10,500)
Randy Brown is coming into his UFC debut with a little bit of fame after being featured on the first episode of Dana White’s “Looking For A Fight” television show. He has a perfect 6-0 record in less than two years as a professional fighter, and all six wins have come by stoppage. He is a very solid prospect, but he may be in the UFC just a little quick, but that is to be expected within the next several months. He gets a lower-level opponent in Matt Dwyer, who is tough but is just 1-2 inside the Octagon. Brown is a good bet to score some solid points and get a finish, and he is one of our top plays on an action-packed card.
Jake Ellenberger ($8,800)
There is zero question that Jake Ellenberger is struggling in the Octagon. He has just one win in his last five fights, and that was over a past his prime Josh Koscheck. Worst of all, Ellenberger has been finished in his last three losses. It’s a skid like that which makes Ellenberger an underdog on Saturday against Tarec Saffiedine. Saffiedine hasn’t fought since October 2014, and big injury issues have limited him to just two fights in the last three years. Ring rust could be a pivotal factor for Saffiedine, but Ellenberger’s chin, or perhaps lack of, could be a major factor as well. If you’re looking to spend up and need a cheap option, Ellenberger has good value at his salary.
Ryan Bader ($8,500)
It is crazy to think that Ryan Bader has the second lowest salary of the fighters on the card even though he has a five-fight win streak. He is getting greatly undervalued, especially considering he is in a five-round bout, which gives him more of an edge when it comes to scoring points with the extra ten minutes. He has a tough opponent in Anthony Johnson, who has knockout power. Johnson also tends to crumble when he is pressured by a wrestler, and Bader has a style to grind the fight out. Bader can also find submissions if there are openings, and Johnson leaves himself open a lot if he is being dominated on the mat. Bader is definitely worth looking at with his salary, and he has a good chance at scoring the upset.
FIGHTERS TO AVOID
Olivier Aubin-Mercier ($10,400)
Let’s start this off by saying that odds are pretty good that Olivier Aubin-Mercier walks away with a win. He is fighting a short notice opponent, has looked good in winning three straight, and is a solid prospect. Here is why I would avoid him. I see the fight going like his last bout, a win over Tony Sims. He won by a decision and scored six takedowns, all getting solid points. However, he landed just three significant strikes in that fight, good for 1.5 points. There are a lot better options with a similar salary. I don’t see him finishing Ferreira, but a grinding win is likely here. Being the case, I’m avoiding him on my rosters.
Kevin Casey ($9,500)
Kevin Casey has a middle of the road salary for Saturday night, and he is unbeaten since returning to the UFC. Granted, two of his three fights have been no contests- one, which was a win that was overturned after a failed drug test, and his most recent fight ended in a no contest after just 11 seconds after he was poked in the eyes. That happened just six weeks ago, and it remains to be seen if there will be any lingering damage. He has a tough opponent in Rafael Natal who is climbing up the middleweight rankings. Casey has a tough matchup, is coming back from tough circumstances, and is unlikely to finish Natal, even if he may get a win. I suggest avoiding him in your lineups.
RYAN FREDERICK- Sage Northcutt ($11,000), Randy Brown ($10,500), Josh Barnett ($10,100), Rafael Natal ($9,900), Ryan Bader ($8,500)
I like Sage Northcutt to continue his undefeated streak and score a finish against a late replacement. Bryan Barberena will be tough but Northcutt really is a skilled fighter. It’ll get tougher from here for sure. I see Randy Brown getting a finish in his UFC debut. He has a good skillset and is a good prospect. Josh Barnett is another pick as I have him winning over Ben Rothwell, and I think a submission win is a good bet as he should be able to take Rothwell down. Rafael Natal is a pick I had to think about. I have him winning, but I don’t know if it’ll be by decision or a finish. I think he has a good shot at submitting Kevin Casey, but not overly confident he will finish him. I just see him as the best option with what I had left. Lastly, I’m going with Ryan Bader. His salary helped pick some higher-priced fighters, and I think if he can push a grinding fight, he has a good shot at submitting Anthony Johnson, or at worst, getting a decision win, and the extra ten minutes would add to the point totals.
PAUL FONTAINE- Sage Northcutt ($11,000), Olivier Aubin-Mercier ($10,400), Dustin Ortiz ($10,300), Felipe Olivieri ($9,400), Jake Ellenberger ($8,800)
Sage Northcutt is going to finish Bryan Barbarena. Everyone watching this show knows this and he’s a no-brainer for the team. Fighting at 170 could be to his advantage as he should have more power at that weight and his frame can certainly sustain it. Barbarena is taking the biggest fight of his life on short notice here and it should be a quick win for Zach Morris 2.0. Aubin-Mercier has been constantly improving since losing to Chad Laprise in his official UFC debut by split decision at the TUF Nations finale. He should grind out a late submission or possibly a dominant decision win here as he continues his rise up the lightweight rankings. Ortiz is one of the few flyweights with KO power and I like him to finish Wilson Reis. Ortiz’ only two UFC losses were to Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga and Reis isn’t in the class of either of those two. Ellenberger-Saffiedine is interesting. Ellenberger has been the more active fighter recently but he’s also on a slide. Saffiedine hasn’t fought in 15 months since suffering a KO loss to Rory McDonald. I like Ellenberger to rebound with a KO but I am going on a bit of a limb here as you sometimes have to do to get everyone in under the $50,000 cap. My last pick is someone making his UFC debut in Felipe Oliveri. He’s a finisher, having ran up 4 first round KO’s in his last 5 fights. His opponent Tony Martin has been finished in two of his 3 UFC losses. Oliveri scores another quick win here and probably sends Martin packing from UFC.
PEACH MACHINE- Anthony Johnson ($10,900), Alex Caceres ($10,800), Jimmie Rivera ($10,200), Jake Ellenberger ($8,800), Bryan Barberena ($8,400)
I like Johnson to KO Bader. As in, I’d love it. Bader has been such a disappointment. That said, I could see him exposing Rumble if he can make this a grinder. I don’t think he will though… Barbarena is tough and I was thoroughly unimpressed by Northcutt’s most recent outing… Bruce Leroy Caceres should be able to handle the guy on Sherdog who doesn’t have a profile pic. He has to, as he’s lost 3 in a row and needs a win badly here… I really like Jimmie Rivera. He’s on a 16 fight win streak, and Alcantara is not that good… I’m taking Ellenberger because I’m low on cash and don’t really like anyone else I can afford.