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UFC Fight Night 81 picks: 'Dillashaw vs Cruz' Kountermove fantasy preview, predictions

Will you risk $5,200 on Dominick Cruz?

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the forefront of the mixed martial arts (MMA) landscape this Sunday night (January 17, 2016) with UFC Fight Night 81: "Dillashaw vs. Cruz," live from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Considering a highly anticipated Bantamweight title fight will occur on free television -- thus saving you about $60 you would have spent on a pay-per-view (PPV) event -- why not up the ante by playing Fantasy MMA with Kountermove?

If you are not familiar with how Kountermove works, here is what you need to know:

In Kountermove you build a team of five fighters utilizing a "salary cap" of $25,000 in fantasy money to spend on drafting the team you expect to perform the best on fight night. If your team performs well enough, you will likely have a share of cash prizes in any number of Kountermove's games.

Points* are scored with finishes, significant strikes, knockdowns, takedowns, dominant positions, and submission attempts. The more dominant your fighters' performance is, the more points you're going to score. For a detailed breakdown of how the scoring works, click here.

*Fighter statistics are provided by FightMetric LLC, the UFC's official stats provider.

Below I break down the UFC Fight Night 81 card to help give you an edge in Kountermove this weekend. Here is why I am avoiding the main event fighters, my value pick, and my quick picks.

The Risk Of Picking TJ Dillashaw ($5,400) or Dominick Cruz ($5,200)

Fantasy MMA is all about minimizing risk, finding value, and picking fighters who are notorious for finishing fights.

In Kountermove, tons of players wind up overthinking who will win a closely contested main event, when in reality they can forgo picking both fighters altogether, and still wind up with a highly competitive team.

For evidence, look no further than UFC 195, featuring the outstanding main event pitting Robbie Lawler against Carlos Condit.

Prior to their war inside the Octagon, pundits and fans alike were split on who would leave the cage the victor, but most believed it would be a closely contested war.

In the end, Lawler walked away with the Welterweight title still strapped firmly around his waist, but actually scored 29 points less than his opponent.

With Condit's astronomical striking statistics -- the "Natural Born Killer" landed 176 significant strikes -- he still came out the victor in Fantasy MMA.

Considering just how close the UFC Bantamweight title fight between TJ Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz is on paper, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick one or the other.

With a $200 difference between them, that alone shouldn't dictate who you pick in Kountermove. However, the dozen or so red flags may have you questioning whether or not you should have either man on your team.

Dillashaw's incredible victories over Renan Barao have been a real wake-up call to MMA fans around the globe, but many have questioned his other notable wins other than his victories over the Brazilian.

Since joining the UFC, Dillashaw has beaten only one ranked opponent, and has losses against Raphael Assuncao and John Dodson.

As for Cruz, a slew of injuries has caused the former champ to sit on the sidelines, fighting merely once in the span of four years -- albeit was a 61 second knockout victory over Takeya Mizugaki.

Both men are wizards on the feet, with Dillashaw essentially emulating what Cruz made famous just a few years prior as UFC's first Bantamweight Champion.

In 20 career victories, Cruz has finished his opponents eight times. As for Dillashaw, the champ has nine finishes in 12 career victories.

Considering how difficult it is to pick who will win this fight, I recommend steering away from Dillashaw and Cruz this weekend with many viable alternatives stashed throughout the event.

However, If you are making several Kountermove teams and want to roll the dice, I'd say go with the more recent active fighter in Dillashaw at $5,400, and hope for a fantastic finish.

Value Pick: Chris Wade ($4,600)

There is a reason Chris Wade is unanimously considered to be one of the very best prospects in the sport of MMA today.

The well-rounded 28-year old dominated his opponents during his time under the Ring of Combat banner, fighting several talented prospects and becoming the Lightweight Champion before signing with UFC.

Since entering the Octagon, Wade has won three straight bouts, including a lightning quick submission win over Cain Carrizosa in his UFC debut.

Wade may not be a prolific finisher -- earning three finishes in 10 career wins -- but fighting UFC newcomer Mehdi Baghdad on short notice could spur another exciting finish for the Long Island native.

I expect Wade to come out looking to make a statement on Sunday, potentially picking up his first career technical knockout victory.

At $4,600, there is simply no better value at UFC Fight Night 81 than Chris Wade.

Quick Picks:

Anthony Pettis ($5,300): The former UFC Lightweight Champion has a ton of questions to answer come fight night, and I expect "Showtime" to provide a vintage performance in Boston. After getting thoroughly dominated and losing his title to Rafael Dos Anjos, Pettis once again fell victim to an injury that has kept him on the sidelines for just about 10 months. With the incredibly durable Eddie Alvarez standing across the cage from him Sunday, it will be interesting to see what tricks Pettis pulls out of his bag to accrue a finish.

Matt Mitrione ($4,500): There is always risk associated with picking a Heavyweight in Fantasy MMA, as truly any punch or kick could end a fight in an instant, and especially so when the opponent is Travis Browne. Simply put, both Mitrione and Browne are coming off finish losses in fights they both could have won, and I expect Mitrione to make the adjustments necessary to pull out the victory in Boston. Browne has proved to be incredibly dangerous, but Mitrione is no slouch on the feet either. Expect an exciting fight, and probably a wild finish.

Ben Saunders ($4,900): I had a difficult time choosing between Ben Saunders and Paul Felder here, but ultimately it is too difficult to pass up on "Killa B." The fan favorite will battle UFC veteran Patrick Cote on Sunday in what could very well be "Fight of the Night." Saunders has a penchant for making his opponents fight to his strengths, often earning him a nasty finish by night's end. While Cote hasn't tasted defeat via finish in over five years, I think Saunders gets the job done within 15 minutes.

Good luck picking!

For more information on UFC Fight Night 81, including the full fight card, results, news and more click here.

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