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UFC 269 DFS Breakdown (December 11): Model, Preview, Picks for Oliveira vs. Poirier, Nunes vs. Pena, More PPV Fights

One of the most-anticipated cards of the year is upon us, with two title fights and fan-favorites Sean O’Malley and Tai Tuivasa all taking the cage at UFC 269. Lineups lock at 6 p.m. ET.

We have built out a full player-projection model using the FantasyLabs Tools and Player Models to help put together some winning DFS lineups in UFC. You can use our optimizer to build optimal lineups using these projections.

The model, created by our own Sean Koerner, is based on 10,000 simulations of all the fights. He then pulled the DraftKings score from each fight to create floor, median and ceiling projections for every fighter. Here is how he defined each projection:

  • Floor: Fighter has an 80% chance of going over this score, 20% chance of going under
  • Median: Fighter has a 50% chance of going over this score, 50% chance of going under
  • Ceiling: Fighter has a 20% chance of going over this score, 80% chance of going under

These should give us a better sense as to which fighters we should target based upon the game type — maximizing ceiling in GPPs, for example.

You can check out the projections for every fighter on Saturday’s card below.

UFC DFS Model

The Easy Chalk

Amanda Nunes ($9,500)

Not much really needs to be said about Nunes, who’s reached a level of dominance that is almost boring at this point.

The UFC is fresh out of legitimate challenges for her, but Julianna Pena ($6,500) will give it the ol’ college try. Nunes has won her last 12 bouts, eight inside the distance. A further seven of those took place within the first round. Pena is a solid fighter but has stoppage losses to Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie in her last four bouts. Nunes has beaten both of those women twice.

Even in tournaments, it’s incredibly hard to get away from Nunes here. She’s around a -1000 betting favorite and -330 to win inside the distance. It’s hard to see a path to Nunes not being in the optimal lineup, other than tons of big performances by cheaper fighters on the night. Nunes had at least 100 DraftKings points in five straight bouts before her last fight — she only had 99. She belongs in all of your lineups on Saturday.

Dustin Poirier ($8,600)

As the other favored fighter in a five-round fight, it’s likely that Poirier will be somewhat popular here.

Our projections love him, as well, with his Pts/Sal mark tied with Nunes for the best on the slate. Poirier does fight an extremely fantasy-friendly style, with above average striking volume and knockdown rate. Unlike Nunes, though, the “Diamond” is less of a sure thing.

To start, betting lines have been gradually moving against him throughout the week. I saw him as heavy as -175 earlier in the week, but he’s only -140 on DraftKings as of Friday night at 5 p.m. ET. Our projections weight betting lines somewhat heavily, so further movement could impact where he ranks there. (While the infographic pictured above is static, you can access our models directly to check for updates.)

Poirier also has relatively lackluster takedown defense. Too often, he reaches for guillotines or accepts the transition to grappling. That’s worked out as of late thanks to his opponents. Dan Hooker and Conor McGregor aren’t known for their grappling chops. However, he was taken down nine times (on 11 attempts) by Khabib Nurmagomedov in their fight, before eventually being submitted.

Charles Oliveira ($7,600) is no Khabib, but he might just be the best grappler still active in the lightweight division. Poirier is the better striker, but he can’t afford a grappling match here.

Assuming ownership levels roughly follow projections, Oliveira is the better GPP play in this one. He could win a decision and still find his way to the optimal lineup, which is less likely for Poirier given his salary. For cash games though, playing both fighters together makes sense. The pace of this one should be good enough to insure either one great score, or two decent ones.

Sean O’Malley ($9,100)

O’Malley put up the fantasy performance of a lifetime in his last contest, landing roughly 4 million (230) significant strikes en route to a third-round standing TKO victory over UFC newcomer Kris Moutinho. This obviously skews his average stats a bit. However, he attempts more strikes per round than all but one male fighter on the card, which leads to big fantasy scores. (Female fighters generally strike at much higher volume, but with greatly diminished knockdown/knockout rates.)

This time, he has a much tougher test in No. 18-ranked Raulian Paiva ($7,100). Paiva fights with a similar high-volume approach, but with less power than “Suga.” O’Malley still has a 2 1/2-inch reach advantage in this one, so he should be able to get off his trademark distance strikes. Barring another 200+ strike performance though, O’Malley will probably need a knockout to pay off his price in this one. (With 14 fights on the card, merely getting “good” performances from the $9,000-plus fighters usually won’t win you much.) That’s a bigger ask this time, with Paiva’s only (T)KO loss coming by way of a cut.

At -350, O’Malley should win this one. However, that doesn’t always mean he’s a good fantasy play.

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The Upside Plays

Josh Emmett ($8,800)

Emmett averages an insane 0.45 knockdowns per round in his UFC career (the promotional average is just over 0.1). We sometimes see anomalies like that in fighters with a couple of UFC fights under their belt — Emmett has nine. He also strikes at an above-average rate, while mixing in about half a takedown per round. With five of his seven UFC wins producing at least 110 DraftKings points, he’s a solid play as a -165 favorite. Emmett isn’t one of the best values in terms of win equity per dollar, but if he does win, it’s likely to be with a big score.

The Value Play

Kai Kara-France ($7,500)

I’m all about Kara-France in this one as he welcomes Cody Garbrandt ($8,700) to the flyweight division. Garbrandt has lost four of his last five, with three of those by knockout. That’s a bad recipe against a dangerous striker like the City Kickboxing product Kara-France. Kara-France attempts more strikes per round than any other male fighter at 66. He also has a reach advantage despite being four inches shorter, which regular readers will recognize as one of my favorite situations to target.

Garbrandt is the favorite here and has a decided wrestling edge. However, he’s been somewhat reluctant to use it in his UFC career, attempting a subpar one takedown per round. Kara-France also has defended 88% of the takedowns he’s faced in the UFC to date.

Kara-France is a +120 dog here, but that’s down from +135 earlier in the week. Smart money is on his side to win this one. It’s also likely that if he does win, it’s through a knockout — or a high volume of strikes at a minimum. Though at only $7,500, almost any victory should propel him into the optimal lineup.

The Contrarian Approach

Derrick Minner ($7,300 DraftKings)

Minner is a +170 favorite in this one and doesn’t project particularly well. He’s taking on the ever-frustrating Ryan Hall ($8,900) on Saturday. There’s effectively two outcomes in Hall fights: 1) Hall flops around on his back, before entangling one of your legs and catching you in a heel hook. 2) Hall gets knocked out  while attempting to flop around on his back.

We saw option number two in Hall’s last fight, against Ilia Topuria. Topuria is a better fighter than Minner, but all Minner needs to do here is follow the game plan (avoidance!) that Topuria laid out. This feels like a situation where once the groundwork is laid, subsequent fighters will be able to walk the same path fairly easily. Minner isn’t a cash game play, but deserves some exposure in GPP lineups.

Whatever you do though, make sure you watch this fight. It’s like being transported back to 1993 except Royce Gracie is a skinny white guy instead.

The Swing Fight

Tai Tuivasa ($8,300) & Augusto Sakai ($7,900)

We always want to target the big boys for their upside, but especially so in this case.

Sakai and Tuivasa have combined for only four takedown attempts in 13 UFC fights — this one is getting decided on the feet. Betting markets have this one as a pick’em across the board. That makes Sakai the slightly better value on paper, but I prefer Tuivasa here.

Sakai has been knocked out in both of his last two fights, while Tuivasa is on a three-fight win (and knockout) streak, all of which were decided in Round 1. Besides, it’s way more fun rooting for the guy who’s going to drink a beer out of his shoe if he wins.

Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above: Amanda Nunes

One of the most-anticipated cards of the year is upon us, with two title fights and fan-favorites Sean O’Malley and Tai Tuivasa all taking the cage at UFC 269. Lineups lock at 6 p.m. ET.

We have built out a full player-projection model using the FantasyLabs Tools and Player Models to help put together some winning DFS lineups in UFC. You can use our optimizer to build optimal lineups using these projections.

The model, created by our own Sean Koerner, is based on 10,000 simulations of all the fights. He then pulled the DraftKings score from each fight to create floor, median and ceiling projections for every fighter. Here is how he defined each projection:

  • Floor: Fighter has an 80% chance of going over this score, 20% chance of going under
  • Median: Fighter has a 50% chance of going over this score, 50% chance of going under
  • Ceiling: Fighter has a 20% chance of going over this score, 80% chance of going under

These should give us a better sense as to which fighters we should target based upon the game type — maximizing ceiling in GPPs, for example.

You can check out the projections for every fighter on Saturday’s card below.

UFC DFS Model

The Easy Chalk

Amanda Nunes ($9,500)

Not much really needs to be said about Nunes, who’s reached a level of dominance that is almost boring at this point.

The UFC is fresh out of legitimate challenges for her, but Julianna Pena ($6,500) will give it the ol’ college try. Nunes has won her last 12 bouts, eight inside the distance. A further seven of those took place within the first round. Pena is a solid fighter but has stoppage losses to Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie in her last four bouts. Nunes has beaten both of those women twice.

Even in tournaments, it’s incredibly hard to get away from Nunes here. She’s around a -1000 betting favorite and -330 to win inside the distance. It’s hard to see a path to Nunes not being in the optimal lineup, other than tons of big performances by cheaper fighters on the night. Nunes had at least 100 DraftKings points in five straight bouts before her last fight — she only had 99. She belongs in all of your lineups on Saturday.

Dustin Poirier ($8,600)

As the other favored fighter in a five-round fight, it’s likely that Poirier will be somewhat popular here.

Our projections love him, as well, with his Pts/Sal mark tied with Nunes for the best on the slate. Poirier does fight an extremely fantasy-friendly style, with above average striking volume and knockdown rate. Unlike Nunes, though, the “Diamond” is less of a sure thing.

To start, betting lines have been gradually moving against him throughout the week. I saw him as heavy as -175 earlier in the week, but he’s only -140 on DraftKings as of Friday night at 5 p.m. ET. Our projections weight betting lines somewhat heavily, so further movement could impact where he ranks there. (While the infographic pictured above is static, you can access our models directly to check for updates.)

Poirier also has relatively lackluster takedown defense. Too often, he reaches for guillotines or accepts the transition to grappling. That’s worked out as of late thanks to his opponents. Dan Hooker and Conor McGregor aren’t known for their grappling chops. However, he was taken down nine times (on 11 attempts) by Khabib Nurmagomedov in their fight, before eventually being submitted.

Charles Oliveira ($7,600) is no Khabib, but he might just be the best grappler still active in the lightweight division. Poirier is the better striker, but he can’t afford a grappling match here.

Assuming ownership levels roughly follow projections, Oliveira is the better GPP play in this one. He could win a decision and still find his way to the optimal lineup, which is less likely for Poirier given his salary. For cash games though, playing both fighters together makes sense. The pace of this one should be good enough to insure either one great score, or two decent ones.

Sean O’Malley ($9,100)

O’Malley put up the fantasy performance of a lifetime in his last contest, landing roughly 4 million (230) significant strikes en route to a third-round standing TKO victory over UFC newcomer Kris Moutinho. This obviously skews his average stats a bit. However, he attempts more strikes per round than all but one male fighter on the card, which leads to big fantasy scores. (Female fighters generally strike at much higher volume, but with greatly diminished knockdown/knockout rates.)

This time, he has a much tougher test in No. 18-ranked Raulian Paiva ($7,100). Paiva fights with a similar high-volume approach, but with less power than “Suga.” O’Malley still has a 2 1/2-inch reach advantage in this one, so he should be able to get off his trademark distance strikes. Barring another 200+ strike performance though, O’Malley will probably need a knockout to pay off his price in this one. (With 14 fights on the card, merely getting “good” performances from the $9,000-plus fighters usually won’t win you much.) That’s a bigger ask this time, with Paiva’s only (T)KO loss coming by way of a cut.

At -350, O’Malley should win this one. However, that doesn’t always mean he’s a good fantasy play.

Start Your PRO Trial Today

Lineup builder and optimizer

Real-time DFS models

Data-driven analysis & tutorials

The Upside Plays

Josh Emmett ($8,800)

Emmett averages an insane 0.45 knockdowns per round in his UFC career (the promotional average is just over 0.1). We sometimes see anomalies like that in fighters with a couple of UFC fights under their belt — Emmett has nine. He also strikes at an above-average rate, while mixing in about half a takedown per round. With five of his seven UFC wins producing at least 110 DraftKings points, he’s a solid play as a -165 favorite. Emmett isn’t one of the best values in terms of win equity per dollar, but if he does win, it’s likely to be with a big score.

The Value Play

Kai Kara-France ($7,500)

I’m all about Kara-France in this one as he welcomes Cody Garbrandt ($8,700) to the flyweight division. Garbrandt has lost four of his last five, with three of those by knockout. That’s a bad recipe against a dangerous striker like the City Kickboxing product Kara-France. Kara-France attempts more strikes per round than any other male fighter at 66. He also has a reach advantage despite being four inches shorter, which regular readers will recognize as one of my favorite situations to target.

Garbrandt is the favorite here and has a decided wrestling edge. However, he’s been somewhat reluctant to use it in his UFC career, attempting a subpar one takedown per round. Kara-France also has defended 88% of the takedowns he’s faced in the UFC to date.

Kara-France is a +120 dog here, but that’s down from +135 earlier in the week. Smart money is on his side to win this one. It’s also likely that if he does win, it’s through a knockout — or a high volume of strikes at a minimum. Though at only $7,500, almost any victory should propel him into the optimal lineup.

The Contrarian Approach

Derrick Minner ($7,300 DraftKings)

Minner is a +170 favorite in this one and doesn’t project particularly well. He’s taking on the ever-frustrating Ryan Hall ($8,900) on Saturday. There’s effectively two outcomes in Hall fights: 1) Hall flops around on his back, before entangling one of your legs and catching you in a heel hook. 2) Hall gets knocked out  while attempting to flop around on his back.

We saw option number two in Hall’s last fight, against Ilia Topuria. Topuria is a better fighter than Minner, but all Minner needs to do here is follow the game plan (avoidance!) that Topuria laid out. This feels like a situation where once the groundwork is laid, subsequent fighters will be able to walk the same path fairly easily. Minner isn’t a cash game play, but deserves some exposure in GPP lineups.

Whatever you do though, make sure you watch this fight. It’s like being transported back to 1993 except Royce Gracie is a skinny white guy instead.

The Swing Fight

Tai Tuivasa ($8,300) & Augusto Sakai ($7,900)

We always want to target the big boys for their upside, but especially so in this case.

Sakai and Tuivasa have combined for only four takedown attempts in 13 UFC fights — this one is getting decided on the feet. Betting markets have this one as a pick’em across the board. That makes Sakai the slightly better value on paper, but I prefer Tuivasa here.

Sakai has been knocked out in both of his last two fights, while Tuivasa is on a three-fight win (and knockout) streak, all of which were decided in Round 1. Besides, it’s way more fun rooting for the guy who’s going to drink a beer out of his shoe if he wins.

Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above: Amanda Nunes