UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: Fight Night 5/22/21
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 primer, 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 Fight Night: Font vs. Garbrandt, taking place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Rob Font ($18): A tricky 13-fight card awaits, and it is headlined by both Font and Cody Garbrandt ($20). Garbrandt, as the division's former champion, is the draw, but Font is the -120 favorite, and it appears to be for good reason. Garbrandt's boxing fundamentals have been so-so since he lost the belt back in 2017, and despite a needed win over Raphael Assuncao, those concerns are certainly still present. Garbrandt averages just 3.35 significant strikes per minute historically at a poor 37% accuracy, which could spell danger against Font, who has a better mark in both categories (5.21 significant strikes per minute on 42% accuracy). Garbrandt has not displayed a consistent wrestling attack in the UFC thus far (0.84 takedowns per match), and without it to take advantage of Font's 48% takedown defense, it is entirely possible Font is one step ahead of the former champion in the striking department, and Font comes at a discount in salary.
Jack Hermansson ($20): The rest of the top options on Saturday's slate have plenty of upside but very little floor in most spots. There is no better remedy to that than using Hermansson, who has a whopping 58-minute sample inside the octagon since the start of 2019 -- and he has also performed well inside of it. Hermansson's +1.57 striking success rate is fourth-best on Saturday's card, and with plenty of experience in middleweight's top 10, he could once again take advantage of the lesser experienced Edmen Shahbazyan. Against another veteran, Derek Brunson, in his last fight, Shahbazyan struggled to a -4.81 striking success rate and allowed four takedowns in a knockout loss. Those defensive woes could prove to be problematic against Hermansson's skill in addition to his three-inch reach advantage. The line on this fight is respecting Shahbazyan's potential growth between fights at just 23 years old, but conventional wisdom says "The Joker" may be too much too soon for Shahbazyan in this bout.
Other High-Salaried Fighters
Justin Tafa ($20): Both Tafa and Ben Rothwell ($20) are heavyweights facing poor defensive opponents, and that means both are going to attempt to go out and secure a performance bonus with an impressive display. Tafa takes the slight nod over Rothwell for me because, analytically, Tafa has been an excellent fighter in the UFC regardless of size -- even more so when factoring in he is a heavyweight. Tafa's 5.33 significant strikes per minute are fourth-best on the entire card, and that has come at an elite 59% accuracy -- best on this card -- with a +0.73 striking success rate. Tafa's lone UFC win came against the defensively-challenged Juan Adams, and that makes his prospects to take advantage of Jared Vanderaa's similar issues intriguing. Vanderaa has worse marks than Adams in both strikes absorbed per minute (5.19) and striking defense (33%). Although Tafa will have to navigate a five-inch reach advantage to secure a knockout, the skill discrepancy leaves "Bad Man" with -115 odds to do so.
Yan Xiaonan ($17): There is no debating that Xiaonan's 6.42 significant strikes per minute and card-best 2.79 striking success rate are excellent for both fantasy and MMA success, but the question becomes whether or not Carla "Cookie Monster" Esparza can gobble up all of the fantasy value in this fight. In Esparza's 12 career fights, her pinnacle of FanDuel scoring would have been exactly 80 FanDuel points against Maryna Moroz in 2017, which is barely passable for the $14 salary she carries into this weekend against much stronger competition. Esparza's inactive, top-pressure game limits the ceiling of both fighters, but Xiaonan's 75% takedown defense stood well in her last fight against a power wrestler in Claudia Gadelha, stuffing 8 of 10 attempts. If Xiaonan can avoid multiple takedowns in this fight, she will be in a tremendous position to score on Esparza's 53% striking defense -- which is even worse in the context of her style -- but she must do exactly that to avoid being drowned like several before her.
Yancy Medeiros ($13): Falling from the top of the mountain in UFC can be a depressing process, but Medeiros appears to finally be in a position to rebuild himself after being overmatched in three straight knockout losses by -- at the time -- three top-20 UFC lightweights. Medeiros is a fine fantasy striker at 4.05 significant strikes per minute but does have a card-worst 35% accuracy that comes from his switch-heavy style with intentional empty combinations. This card is fairly starved for value, which makes the veteran an interesting play given his volume -- as well as his 80% finishing rate -- against Damir Hadzovic. Hadzovic has no wins against UFC opponents who have a win themselves and has posted exactly a 0.00 striking success rate across seven fights. Medeiros has almost never wrestled in the UFC, at just 0.12 takedowns per match, but Saturday's bout is as solid an opportunity as he will get in a must win against Hadzovic's poor 39% takedown defense.
Victor Rodriguez ($9): On a card like this with so many underdogs in really difficult positions, Victor Rodriguez needs to get at least a mention given this is not a high-level fight with a significant sample on either side. Rodriguez's lone UFC appearance was a call to face the undefeated Adrian Yanez on 11 days at a higher weight class, and it went about as well as one could have guessed. Opponent Bruno Silva knows the feeling, with three straight UFC losses (one overturned due to a substance violation) before bashing newcomer JP Buys in March. The interesting caveat in this fight is Rodriguez -- fairly painlessly -- cut to flyweight at 125 pounds for the first time ever, and his size and power might be a significant game-changer at flyweight with all five of his career wins at bantamweight already by knockout to capture the Alaska Fight League bantamweight belt. There are plenty of decorated, accomplished favorites to avoid using Bruno Silva -- despite his card-best -135 inside-the-distance odds -- in a fight where just about anything appears to be on the table.
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.