UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC Vegas 37
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. If you would rather bet the fights, our betting guide is a great place to find value on Saturday's card. In addition to this primer, I also dove deeper into the slate on this week's UFC edition of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
Without further delay, let's break down UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Spann, taking place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Arman Tsarukyan ($23): While this card will not catch a lot of casual eyes for the headliner, this is a tremendous card for daily fantasy. There are not only several significant favorites, but most of them historically score well in terms of fantasy points. Tsarukyan is the highest-salaried fighter in the pool behind the security of being a -850 moneyline favorite, and he is well worth that in his matchup. Christos Giagos is not a bad match for Tsarukyan given the troubles Tsarukyan has had trying to find a fight on his own level, but it is still an inferior one. Tsarukyan averages 3.50 takedowns per match after a 10-takedown battering of Matt Frevola, and Giagos' 50% takedown defense does not inspire the ability for him to keep this standing. Even standing, Tsarukyan has a +1.92 striking success rate, which means that Giagos appears to have very few paths to win this fight outside of a miraculous submission of the black belt.
Montel Jackson ($22): Jackson is a successful UFC bantamweight with a 5-2 record, and his peripherals are outstanding, as well. Jackson has a card-best +2.27 striking success rate, and he also averages 4.15 takedowns per match. Jackson pops scoring in any category and across several fights in his sample, which makes his matchup with JP Buys borderline incredulous. Buys has only one official UFC appearance, and he struggled badly in it. Buys was knocked down three times in a knockout loss to Bruno Silva -- who holds nowhere close to the resume Jackson does. Buys' wife, Cheyanne, was critical of fighter pay after her last fight, and that may be why her husband was given no favors with such a difficult matchup. Jackson is appropriately a -590 favorite to defeat the newcomer, and it could be ugly. Because of Jackson's upside, I would rank him ahead of Tsarukyan for MVP.
Other High-Salaried Fighters
Ion Cutelaba ($19): If Cutelaba had a higher fight IQ, he might be unstoppable. Cutelaba's poor decision-making twice got him finished by Magomed Ankalaev, and he turned a convincing win to a draw by using too much energy early against Dustin Jacoby. Still, everything about his peripherals suggests he's going to start winning plenty of fights. His 3.88 FanDuel points per minute (excluding bonuses) is fourth on this card, but "The Hulk" is 205 pounds with elite knockout power. Cutelaba will likely want to fall back on his 5.03 significant strikes per minute against Devin Clark. Clark is a wrestler with just a 48% striking defense, and he has just 2 knockdowns in 11 career UFC fights. That is the tame matchup Cutelaba needs after being punished severely for mistakes against one-shot power, and he is +105 to deliver his own knockout in this bout.
Tony Gravely ($19): This week's volume leader is Gravely, who averages 5.05 FanDuel points per minute (excluding bonuses). Gravely is another high-volume bantamweight who has ragdolled opponents in UFC thus far with his wrestling; he has piled up 6.11 takedowns per match in three UFC-affiliated appearances. Gravely is -210 to defeat Nate Maness, and he will likely go under the radar despite his volume due to only a 32.3% implied probability to finish his fight early. The matchup is not ideal, as Maness has stuffed 15 of 17 takedown attempts he has faced in UFC, but Maness has also never faced close to the 54% takedown efficiency Gravely has displayed. Still, Gravely is coming off a knockout in his last fight and has a +0.90 striking success rate overall. That may mean oddsmakers are selling his standing in this fight a bit short.
Pannie Kianzad ($13): Kianzad is a poor fantasy favorite to roster but an excellent value play when given the opportunity. Kianzad has gone to a decision in all four of her UFC wins, but she has also posted 92 significant strikes in all of those fights. That capped ceiling is not ideal, but the floor and significant volume are actually welcome with a fighter who is not as likely to win outright. Kianzad's 5.71 significant strikes per minute at an impressive 49% accuracy are leaps and bounds ahead of opponent Raquel Pennington, who has posted just 3.62 significant strikes per minute at a 48% accuracy. Kianzad's kickboxing background means she is limited in all but that dimension of MMA, but if her 78% takedown defense continues to hold well, said limitations are not particularly relevant. The dynamic in this fight is likely Pennington -- the favorite -- trying to grapple Kianzad against the cage, and therefore the fantasy ceiling in this fight falls if Pennington finds success. The best strategy for tournaments is that Kianzad wins out at her lower salary and delivers her consistent marks.
Antonio Arroyo ($11): Arroyo is likely the last rung of a solid outright win bet unless one feels inclined to take swipes at newcomer Brandon Jenkins ($9) on just four days notice. Arroyo has had a nightmare start to his UFC career on the back of one debilitating weakness -- his 32% takedown defense. At just 0.60 takedowns per match and a terrible 16% takedown efficiency, Joaquin Buckley is unlikely to be able to exploit Arroyo's weakness in this matchup. Therefore, this striking match is actually between the active middleweight with the highest striking accuracy with (Arroyo at 70%) versus the guy with lowest mark (Buckley at 38%). Given that maximum possible disparity in efficiency, deploying Arroyo at likely minimal popularity -- Buckley is +100 to score a knockout -- seems like an endeavor worth trying.