THREE CRUCIAL MIDDLE TIER MATCHUPS
Last week we looked at fighters falling under $8k in salary. This week we will take a look at fights in the middle of the salary range. All fighters in these three fights are between $7,800 and $8,400 in salary. These are the closest fights of the card and falling on the right side of these fights can be the difference between cashing a lineup and eating the buy-in. On a card with some very significant favorites, these closely handicapped fights are crucial to lineup construction.
Edmen Shahbazyan is 8-0 and has seven wins by TKO in his eight professional fights. All seven of these fights were won in the first round. Charles Byrd has a professional record of 10-5. In his last five fights, not one made it to the third round. In those fights, he has one victory by TKO and three wins by submission. This fight has the makings of a quick fight with a finishing bonus to the victor. Byrd is averages over 25 points less FPPF, however, the sample size for both fighters is small. Shahbazyan has only one UFC fight and Byrd has two to date.
Caveman’s advice: With a small sample size in UFC competition, it is difficult to give either fighter much preference over the other. This fight, however, has the makings of a high scoring fight for the winner. Current odds say the fight will not go the distance and I agree. Play this fight heavy in MME contests. I like Shahbazyan better for cash plays but in MME contests, I would give this fight 70-80% exposure with a 60/40 in favor of Shahbazyan due to his history of first round KO’s.
(As of the time of this writing, Edmen Shahbazyan is -143 with the oddsmakers and has a projected score of 60.09 on Fantasy Cruncher. Charles Byrd is +116 with the oddsmakers and has a projected score of 50.42 with Fantasy Cruncher.)
In his two UFC fights so far, Johnny Walker has spent a grand total of 2:12 in the octagon. He KO’d Rountree in under two minutes back in November and finished off Justin Ledet in fifteen seconds last month. Misha Cirkunov would like to avoid striking with Walker who stands three inches taller at 6’6″. If he can bring Walker down with his head intact, he has submission potential with eight of his fourteen wins coming by submission. Misha does have two losses by KO/TKO in his last three fights, both coming in the first round.
Caveman’s advice: At $8,400, Walker is a bargain. He has potential to score big averaging over 100 fantasy points in his two UFC fights to date. Use this fight quite a bit. At the prices of both fighters, there is good value. Give this fight 80-90% exposure with an 80/20 split in favor of Walker. Cirkunov’s submission game should earn him some MME consideration but Walker is the only fighter worth cash game play here.
(At the time of this writing, Johnny Walker is -152 with the oddsmakers and has a projected score of 62.88 on Fantasy Cruncher. Misha Cirkunov is +125 with the oddsmakers and has a projected score of 50.87 on Fantasy Cruncher.)
In her professional debut, Weili Zhang lost to Mengo Bo by decision back in 2013. Since then, she’s been on what you might call a heater. She has won eighteen in a row, finishing sixteen of those fights before decision. She doesn’t have weaknesses and Tecia Torres looks to be overmatched in this fight, despite having a respectable 10-3 professional record. Torres is coming off of two straight losses by decision. Overall, in Tecia’s ten wins, nine came by decision. with one win coming by submission. At 5’1″, Torres gives up three inches in height to Zhang.
Caveman’s advice: I’m advocating to look past the odds on this one. I can’t understand why this line is as close as it is. Zhang is a true title contender in the strawweight division. At $8,300 Zhang is the best value on Saturday. I anticipate high scoring by Zhang and a good candidate to finish inside the distance despite a betting line to the contrary. Torres is a scrappy fighter but at best a decision hopeful. She has little to no potential for a finish against Zhang. I would give Zhang a great deal of exposure, as high as 70%. Torres doesn’t have the scoring potential to be worth anything in MME or cash plays.
(At the time of this writing, Weili Zhang is -136 with the oddsmakers and has a projected score of 63.94 on Fantasy Cruncher. Tecia Torres is +111 with the oddsmakers and has a projected score of 56.51 on Fantasy Cruncher.)