UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 251
Combat sports are one of America's longest-standing active sports to wager on. This was evident throughout the late-1900s as boxing took the sports world by storm. From Muhammed Ali to Mike Tyson, several stars were born, and Americans around the country placed bets on who would win boxing matches. Nowadays, with boxing much smaller than it was throughout the 1900s, mixed martial arts has taken the lead as America's favorite combat sport.
By far, the largest and most successful MMA organization in North America is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly known as UFC. The UFC lays claim to the best mixed martial artists in the world and is showcased on both cable and pay-per-view events every month. As one of the first sports to return with compliance of social distancing, UFC daily fantasy is now live on FanDuel.
numberFire is always your best place to prepare for the upcoming UFC card. In addition to this helper, if you'd rather bet the fights outright on FanDuel Sportsbook, Barry Cohen has you covered with his betting guide for his favorite wagers on Saturday night's card. Jim Sannes also has an analytical preview of the card to get all the betting odds, stats, and info you need to round out your lineup.Jim and I also sat down on Wednesday for the latest UFC edition of The Heat Check Fantasy Podcast to dive even deeper into this UFC slate.
With those tools at our disposal, let's break down UFC 251 on "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi.
Kamaru Usman ($22): Usman has the finale of three title fights in UFC's "Fight Island" debut, and it is against a new opponent. With Gilbert Burns testing positive, UFC made the decision to deliver Jorge Masvidal a huge payday to take this fight. Any fighter, though, would have their hands full with "The Nigerian Nightmare." Usman's signature is his legendary cardio, and that has allowed him to put up video game numbers -- like 12 takedowns against Rafael Dos Anjos or 175 significant strikes in a knockout of number-two contender Colby Covington. Those are both fighters who have held a UFC title, and Masvidal has never beaten one of those. With that elite wrestling background and an improving striking game, Usman should be comfortable in either realm against Masvidal -- who has had to get ready on a week's notice -- with knockout power and great fantasy volume if he ends up not using it.
Amanda Ribas ($20): In the MVP spot, a -820 favorite would usually be far from a secondary option. Amanda Ribas, however, has a pedestrian -120 knockout or submission prop bet on FanDuel Sportsbook. And that makes plenty of sense for a 115-pound fighter who has never finished a UFC opponent or eclipsed 85 strikes in a UFC bout. The reason Ribas is a huge favorite? Her opponent is Paige VanZant, who presents little danger for the Brazilian. VanZant has lost three of her last five fights and is potentially out of the UFC with a loss against Ribas. VanZant's claim to fame is her submission skills, but at only 0.98 submission attempts per match, even that volume is not present often. Ribas is more skilled, and if she avoids danger, should easily secure a win bonus here.
Max Holloway ($16): Both Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski ($18) were home-run fantasy plays in their first bout last December. Volkanovski scored 157 significant strikes in the win, and Holloway put up 134 in defeat. Volkanovski used his one-inch reach advantage -- despite a five-inch height disparity -- to kick Holloway's legs out in the first three rounds. Holloway began checking them and won the final two rounds, but he still lost to "The Great One." Holloway's 91% takedown defense leads to most of his fights becoming a boxing match on the feet, and this one should be no different. A repeat of their December fight would be solid enough for fantasy. But Holloway being more aggressive checking kicks early may lead him to securing the win bonus, and he is also $2 cheaper than Volkanovski as "Blessed" looks to reclaim the featherweight title.
Jose Aldo ($14): The third title fight is between Aldo and Petr Yan ($19) at bantamweight, and many feel Aldo has no chance in this fight. And statistically, Yan holds every advantage at 5.65 significant strikes per minute with huge power, so there is plenty to love with the Russian -240 favorite. However, to me, what separates Aldo and makes him a very live underdog is the level of competition coming into this fight. Yan's last three wins have all come against fighters who have not seen a championship shot since 2016, while Aldo has stepped right into the toughest competition UFC has to offer, with his last three losses coming to both sides of the Volkanovski/Holloway bout and number-one bantamweight contender Marlon Moraes. While Aldo has never been a fantasy goldmine, he has five rounds to work here as the larger man with much tougher recent experience, and he should be in this fight until the bitter end.
Jessica Andrade ($13): Andrade is a part of one of two former title rematches, as she sees the second fight of her career against "Thug" Rose Namajunas ($17). It was an incredibly interesting fight in the first matchup. Namajunas landed 98% of her strikes to Andrade's head before the Brazilian turned to her wrestling, taking down Namajunas twice, and on the second one, she slammed her head against the canvas to win the UFC's strawweight title. The dichotomy for these two remains the same, as Namajunas will still have a technical advantage boxing, but the underdog Andrade has a gigantic path to victory with her wrestling. Andrade's great cardio lets her shoot for takedowns early and often (3.21 takedowns per match), and Namajunas offers very little resistance (46% takedown defense). Expect the Brazilian to turn this adjustment into a close decision in what should be a great fight.
Danny Henry ($11): Henry is incredibly cheap in FanDuel's player pool for a fighter with this many opportunities to finish the fight. Taking on Makwan Amirkhani, Henry will be the more seasoned and comfortable striker on the feet, posting 5.85 significant strikes per minutes in UFC, with Amirkhani only at 1.60 strikes per minute. Amirkhani is a wrestler, and he might have success exploiting "The Hatchet" Henry's spotty takedown defense (66%), but he best be careful doing so. He is a wild submission artist who tries for one often -- 2.70 submissions per match -- and that led to an upset over top-20 opponent "Mean" Hakeem Dawodu. That same fate could befell Amirkhani, who will try to physically control Henry on the ground despite being the smaller fighter in height and reach.
Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.UFC