UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC Vegas 39
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 Vegas 39: Dern vs. Rodriguez, taking place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Alexandr Romanov ($23): It is difficult to pass up "King Kong" at the top of the salary pool. Romanov has squashed his way to a 3-0 UFC start, even with a controversial groin strike that ended his last fight early. Romanov is a -590 favorite on FanDuel Sportsbook (and -230 inside-the-distance) for good reason. Jared Vanderaa is a good volume striker at heavyweight (5.59 significant strikes landed per minute), but he failed to defend all three takedowns against Sergei Spivac and was finished in the second round. Romanov wrestles primarily (4.25 takedowns per match) to open up his powerful submission game. He is expected to take Vanderaa down and find a finish on Saturday.
Randy Brown ($19): Brown's 2.86 FanDuel points per minute (excluding bonuses) mark is not awe-inspiring, but this matchup is. Jared Gooden quickly knocked out Niklas Stolze (0-2 UFC), but Gooden has still struggled in his three-fight UFC stint. He is absorbing too much damage (7.55 sig. strikes absorbed per minute; worst on this card), and that led to decisive losses to the retiring Alan Jouban and Abu Nurmagomedov. Brown is a fringe-ranked UFC welterweight who is 3-1 with three finishes in his last four fights. The only setback was to fourth-ranked Vicente Luque. "Rudeboy" is just +120 to win this fight inside-the-distance, and his path to victory likely includes exploiting Gooden's -2.51 striking success rate at range.
Other High-Salaried Fighters
Chris Gutierrez ($21): Originally, this spot belonged to Phil Hawes ($22), who still should be a heavy favorite and solid DFS play against his new opponent. However, with minimal data in that spot, the more reliable place to turn would be Gutierrez. Gutierrez's +270 odds to win this fight inside the distance are truly his one drawback. He averages 4.30 significant strikes per minute on an insane 57% accuracy for a bantamweight, and his opponent's striking defense is poor. Felipe Colares enters this fight with just a 38% striking defense and a 38% takedown defense. Gutierrez should have plenty of openings striking or wrestling, and his floor is very high, as this fight has a 66.2% implied probability to go the entire distance.
Mackenzie Dern ($20): Saturday's closest moneyline fight on the card is actually its main event. Submission ace Mackenzie Dern is a -170 favorite to defeat Marina Rodriguez, but this fight feels much closer to a stylistic pick 'em. Dern likely closes the show if the fight ever hits the mat (2.3 submission attempts per match; tops on the card), and Marina Rodriguez has struggled to stay on her feet as is, ceding at least three minutes in control time each of her last three fights. Dern's 10% takedown efficiency is historically awful, but if she is able to secure even just one ground sequence through a slip, scramble, or by pulling guard, Dern's jiu-jitsu can handle the rest. She has definite round-one finishing upside to justify the lofty salary.
Sabina Mazo ($15): Mazo has a 64% implied probability to win her fight, yet she is just $15 on FanDuel. That would be a solid value pick on its own, but Mazo attempts punches at a slate-shattering rate, as well. Her 21.96 strikes attempted per minute at distance is a UFC record for any fighter with more than a single fight in their sample. She has used that to exceed 100 significant strikes in three of her five UFC bouts, and she has added 0.81 takedowns per match to that striking volume. Her +300 odds to finish Mariya Agapova are not strong, but especially factoring in the low salary, her personal volume in a decision win would still exceed the necessary value from this spot.
Charlie Ontiveros ($9): A -3.85 striking success rate and a neck injury were the two rewards that Ontiveros got for stepping up to 185 pounds to fight Kevin Holland in 2020. Ontiveros was set up to fail in his debut, but this matchup with Steve Garcia is a more winnable one. Garcia is -- fairly inexplicably -- a -325 favorite in this fight considering he was controlled for 14:02 of his 15-minute debut against Luis Pena. Garcia, at 6'0" tall, usually towers over lightweights, but Pena's 6'3" frame and size gave him issues, and Ontiveros is 6'2" himself. Ontiveros has fought professionally at 170 pounds, and Garcia regularly competes at 145 pounds. Meeting in the middle, the bet is there is some value on the underdog that should have a size advantage.
This card could reasonably have all 10 favorites win, so with no clear-cut options in the value tier, Ontiveros and Silvana Juarez ($11) are interesting process punts with small, unstable samples attached to their heavy favorites.