Fight Study (5/7/22)
The lightweight title is available for the top-ranked contender, Justin Gaethje, but the champ, Charles Oliveira, will lose the belt no matter the outcome on Saturday in Phoenix. Oliveira missed weight by half a pound at Friday’s weigh-ins and missed again an hour later for his final attempt to make 155 lb. To be an official title fight, neither fighter is given the 0.5 lb. grace allowed for non-title fights. This means Oliveira will vacate the title, and cannot regain the title on Saturday. Gaethje will be given the belt if he wins, but if he does not, the lightweight title will be vacant. This should make for an interesting dynamic on Saturday. Oliveira is the current betting favorite, and he will be the more expensive DFS play as well. He can be rostered for $8,500 on DraftKings and $21 on Fanduel. Gaethje is available for $7,700 and $16 respectively. As the Main Event, this fight is scheduled for 5 rounds of MMA action, and current odds make it a -450 favorite to end inside the distance.
Gaethje has a professional record of 23-3 with 19 wins by KO/TKO, 1 win by submission, and 3 wins by decision. Over the past 4 years, he is 5-1 with his only loss coming via the former champ, Khabib Nurmagomedov. He is a tireless fighter who applies intense pressure constantly on his opponents. He mixes in low leg kicks with high-level boxing to wear his opponents down. He has a solid ground game but will be at a disadvantage there against Oliveira. On his feet, however, he figures to control this fight. It is imperative for him to keep this fight upright. If he is successful with that he should have a clear path to victory and to the lightweight title.
Oliveira is 32-8 with 1 no contest overall. He has 9 wins by KO/TKO, 20 wins by submission, and 3 wins by decision to his credit. He has not lost since 2017 and has won 10 straight coming into this fight. During his current win streak, he has a 90% finishing rate with 3 wins by KO/TKO and 6 submissions over that span. It is hard to determine how compromised he will be by his attempted weight cut for Friday’s weigh-ins. This will play a major role in determining his physical readiness for this fight. He had posted on social media that he had made weight for this fight, and was caught by surprise when he came in a half-pound heavy. He spent an hour trying to shed the last 8 ounces of weight but failed to do so. This will undoubtedly affect his performance on Saturday. Additionally, the psychological toll of having the title stripped from him will certainly play a factor. Oliveira must be on top of his game to defeat an opponent of Gaethje’s skill level.
When unpredictable variables come into play, I tend to lean toward the cheaper fighter in these situations. I expect Oliveira to be compromised both physically and mentally. Gaethje will be smelling the blood in the water. The title shot belongs to him alone, and he will go all out in pursuit of his first title. Oliveira is too good of a fighter to overlook, however, and if he is able to get this fight to the ground, he will be able to control this fight. However, as long as this fight remains upright, I will give Gaethje the edge here. Look for Oliveira to search for takedowns. Gaethje’s takedown defense is very good, and the ability of Oliveira to execute will make all the difference. Oliveira may be dealing with too much, however, to bring his best here. An upset is very possible.
I make this fight a very close one, and the disparity in salaries between these two fighters gives me every reason to prefer Gaethje in this matchup. Prior to the weigh-in, I would have been approaching this slate very differently, but given the compromises in play for Oliveira, I have changed my pick for this fight. I prefer Gaethje on both platforms and in all formats. Both fighters are worthy of exposure, but the tide has turned in Gaethje’s favor. I will be giving him heavier exposure. His below-average salary on DraftKings makes him a very good play there, but he has potential for good value on Fanduel as well. I would not sleep on Oliveira whose submission game makes him a threat if this fight goes to the ground, but his weight issues and the loss of the belt will keep him from reaching his full potential on Saturday.
That’s all for this edition of Fight Study. Good luck with your lineups! For more advice on DFS contests for MMA, click HERE.