UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 261

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 most unique DFS sweats available, UFC daily fantasy is now live on FanDuel.

numberFire is always the best spot to get you ready for any UFC card. In addition to this helper, Brandon Gdula's betting guide breaks down where you should be placing your sharp dollars on Saturday's bouts. I also dove deeper into this slate on this week's UFC edition of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.

Without further delay, let's break down UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2, taking place at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL on Saturday.

MVP Considerations

Kamaru Usman ($23): With three five-round fights on the card for the third time in a year, trends are key to examine. Not only did the optimal MVP come from one of the five-round fights in both prior editions, but the next most optimal MVP also did, as well. With three championship-caliber fights with the best fighters and extra distance, that should come as no surprise. Although he was not the optimal MVP in his first appearance on a three-belt card, Kamaru Usman did not disappoint in his first battle with Jorge Masvidal, accruing 94 significant strikes and 5 takedowns in a clear decision win. Masvidal, as the "BMF" of the sport, has used some of his credibility to be granted a rematch with Usman on a full camp, but getting controlled for 16:38 of the 25 minutes by the champion does not lend much hope for Masvidal, even with additional time to work on his cardio.

Zhang Weili ($21): Narrowing down to just title challengers leaves the strawweight champion Weili Zhang a s the clear-cut second option in her second title defense. Zhang has battered all challengers on the way to a 5-0 record and this championship, but her numbers are even more impressive than just the collection of victories. Zhang's 6.38 significant strikes per minute and +1.95 striking success rate have asserted her dominance on the feet, and her 10 knockouts in 21 fights indicates a surprising amount of power at 115 pounds. Where Zhang may look to build on in this matchup with Rose Namajunas is her 1.26 takedowns per match, as Namajunas has struggled her entire career with just a 50% takedown defense rate. As an efficient option on the feet or the mat, she appears to be the slightly more technical mixed martial artist and is a -192 favorite to retain her belt Saturday.

Other High-Salaried Fighters

Jimmy Crute ($19): There are 10 non-title fights on the card, as well, and none have larger big-picture ramifications than Jimmy Crute's battle with Anthony Smith. Crute faces his toughest test after a 5-1 start in the UFC -- all wins by finish -- but this matchup appears to favor him. Crute's +2.05 striking success rate and 4.33 takedowns per match are indicative of his ability to explode offensively either striking or wrestling, and Smith is last amongst ranked heavyweights in both striking defense (42%) and takedown defense (51%). If Smith leaves openings for Crute, "The Brute" has shown he can capitalize, and he will look to do again with +105 odds to win this fight early by knockout or submission.

Danaa Batgerel ($18): On a card loaded with champions, Danaa Batgerel has the highest striking success rate (+3.05) of any fighter on the slate. That comes on the back of a 2.36:1 striking ratio in his UFC debut against Heili Alateng as well as a swift knockout of Guido Cannetti. Batgerel should have 15 minutes to build on his striking success against Kevin Natividad, who had trouble finding a smaller target with less reach in his UFC debut against Miles Johns to the tune of just a 24% striking accuracy. Combined with Batgerel's solid 57% personal striking defense, Natividad figures to have issues connecting again as "Storm" Batgerel looks to moving to a winning record inside the octagon.

Value Fighters

Jessica Andrade ($15): Unlike 94% of MMA fans at Tapology.com, I have a great deal of confidence in the competitiveness of Jessica Andrade this weekend as a +300 underdog for two reasons. The first is Andrade, who has been so excellent between 115 and 125 pounds in the UFC that she leads all fighters on this card in significant strikes per minute (6.38) and FanDuel points per minute excluding bonuses (5.21). Andrade's activity and experience at high levels of women's MMA may be a shock to Valentina "Bullet" Shevchenko, who has been relatively untested, closing roughly -1250 or higher on the moneyline in all of her fights since December 2018. Shevchenko has slowed down tremendously in terms of fantasy production, as well, averaging just 3.46 significant strikes per minute over her last five bouts. Andrade's athletic gifts and style should pose at least some danger to a champion who has not faced any danger recently.

Tristan Connelly ($10): After Tristan Connelly shocked -900 favorite Michel Pereira in his UFC debut at a weight class 25 pounds heavier than he weighed in at on Friday, the pressure is essentially off him in his first UFC appearance since September 2019. Opponent Patrick Sabatini is making his UFC debut, so without much useful data on that side, at least Connelly has some intrigue given his small sample. Connelly's +2.14 striking success rate and 57% striking defense show his patience defensively, and his 60% takedown defense is less of a concern given that Connelly was fighting a larger man at his organic weight class. On a card starved for value with so many high-level champions at big salaries, Connelly is worth a look as a high-floor option.

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.