UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 281
The Ultimate Fighting Championship holds no short of a dozen mixed martial arts bouts nearly every weekend with no real offseason. As one of the most unique sweats available, UFC daily fantasy is live on FanDuel.
The strategy behind this fantasy sport is intriguing. Given that two fighters face off against each other, and some fights end in seconds, choosing which side to back is crucial, and there is a wide range of outcomes. However, getting the winning fighter isn't all that matters. They've also got to land enough strikes, takedowns, or submission attempts to score points!
numberFire is always the best spot to prepare you for any UFC card. If you would rather bet on the fights, our betting guide is excellent for finding value on Saturday's card. I also dove deeper into this weekend's slate on The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
Let's break down UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira, taking place at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday.
We talk about gems in daily fantasy. How about an actual diamond?
"The Diamond" Dustin Poirier ($20) is in a great spot this weekend for fantasy points. He's a -230 favorite in a fight that's -330 to not see the full distance. I actually would sooner bet that his fight with Michael Chandler ($10) does go all 15 minutes, but it should be a high-paced war where Poirier (5.61 significant strikes landed per minute) pours punches onto Chandler's suspect 45% striking defense.
Behind him, I might be a bit bold in bringing Carlos Ulberg ($17) into the MVP tier as just a -132 favorite, but I just can't see him losing this fight -- or really struggling. Ulberg's +4.96 striking success rate is second-best on this card, and opponent Nicolae Negumereanu -- even coming off a dominant win -- holds the worst rate (-1.90) on the card.
Of course, Erin Blanchfield ($22) is in play as the largest favorite on the card by a mile. It's really just a question of how well she'll score on FanDuel given her dominant wrestling (3.99 takedowns per 15 minutes) should pummel Molly McCann's 46% takedown defense.
She's likely to pile up a few takedowns in a dominant decision win, but she'd need a finish to pay off such a lofty salary. She's a high-floor, cash-game type of MVP.
Other High-Salaried Fighters
We'll learn a lot about Andre Petroski ($22) on Saturday. It just won't be in an MVP slot for me.
On paper, Petroski should dominate this fight. His +2.02 striking success rate dwarfs that of Wellington Turman (-1.08). However, Turman's 85% takedown defense could prove to be a bit of an issue for Petroski's grappling-heavy style. Still, Turman was taken down twice easily in his last fight, so if Petroski's grappling is real, he likely can convert.
That same dynamic is in front of Montel Jackson ($19). Jackson's plowed through most UFC foes with a 78% takedown accuracy, and his only setbacks have come ceding multiple takedowns to other wrestlers. Julio Arce's 0.42 takedowns per 15 won't exactly threaten that, but Arce's 94% takedown defense is still solid. Jackson has been so powerful (3.22% knockdown rate) that he's tough to fade in DFS.
Losing four of his last five fights, Dan Hooker ($18) might not be super popular. However, he's fought four former or soon-to-be title challengers in that time. He's taking a massive step back in competition to grappler Claudio Puelles. Puelles' 46% striking defense is worrisome against the powerful, lanky "Hangman."
Ottman Azaitar ($17) might be the best flex play on the slate. He's even MVP worthy. Matt Frevola's 59% striking defense is very good, but few lightweights have put out the insane striking prowess Azaitar has in UFC. He's top three on this card of champions in significant strikes landed per minute (8.43), striking defense (67%), and striking success rate (+6.67).
Of course, there's a name missing. I have no interest -- again -- in the snail-paced Israel Adesanya, who has cracked 90 FanDuel points just once in his last six fights. I'd sooner look to the powerful challenger Alex Pereira ($16), who is third on the card in significant strikes per minute (6.29). I think he takes the belt.
The mid-range is loaded this week, including Renato Moicano ($16) in a high-paced lightweight fight with Brad Riddell. Moicano's grappling (1.73 takedowns per 15) could be the deciding factor in it.
Oh, there's also one more name I'm missing -- Weili Zhang.
Zhang is the highest-salaried fighter this week, but I hate this matchup for her. The last time we saw her in a title fight, she ceded a pair of takedowns in the final two rounds and ceded seven minutes of control to Rose Namajunas. Her last knockout was great, but we haven't seen her address those issues. Top-control wrestler Carla Esparza ($14) can do the same thing if she hasn't improved.
Other than Chandler and Esparza, there are three value fighters I'd identify as solid win picks that can actually pay off their salary on FanDuel.
Ryan Spann ($9) is the first -- and favorite. Spann profiles to be in a wild clash with Dominick Reyes in a fight -400 to be stopped early. Both are powerful strikers with sub-50% striking defenses, but beyond Spann's higher knockdown rate, he also has some of the best jiu-jitsu (1.80 submission attempts per 15) in the division. Even hurt, Spann could sneak out a choke if Reyes isn't careful.
I'm also preferring Frankie Edgar ($9) in his retirement fight with Chris Gutierrez. The moneyline in that fight is odd to me when Edgar's last fight was a competitive one with Chito Vera. His 69% career striking defense has always been the gold standard for distance management in UFC. This is Gutierrez's first ranked battle. I don't think it's a ceremonial sending of Edgar to pasture here.
Michael Trizano ($11) is the least inspiring of the trio, but it's hard to pass on an underdog -- in a striking match -- with advantages over SeungWoo Choi in both striking accuracy (52%) and striking defense ($11).