UFC 276 has a stacked card, with a pair of title fights and some heavily anticipated matchups elsewhere on the 12-fight card. It’s a fun one for DFS, with a pair of five-round fights adding an interesting strategy element and the smaller number of matchups making differentiation important. Lineups lock at 6:00 p.m. eastern time on Saturday.
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 make 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 in our UFC Models.
The Main Event
Israel Adesanya ($9,400) vs. Jared Cannonier ($6,800)
Saturday’s main event features the widest betting lines on the slate, with a correspondingly wide discrepancy in the salaries of the two fighters. Adesanya is the most expensive option on Saturday, with the challenger Cannonier coming in as the cheapest.
The line has moved pretty heavily towards Adesanya throughout the week, which would generally make him a substantial value. He opened around -365, while he’s currently approaching -500 at most books. However, he’s put up some very disappointing DFS scores in recent memory, only topping 100 points once in his last five fights.
While it depends on how the rest of the slate plays out, a 75-85 point score for Adesanya might actually hurt your lineups, even in cash. I’m anticipating even lower volume than usual from him here, as he respects the power of Cannonier and will want to stay at range.
On the other hand, this isn’t a fight where Cannonier is likely to lose with a good score. He’s not a high-volume striker, nor does he rack up many takedowns. While the latter factor could change on Saturday, his ability to find success in that department is questionable.
That makes fading this fight a viable strategy, perhaps even in cash games. Despite being the most expensive fighter, Adesanya ranks fifth in our median projections. Cannonier isn’t popping as a value either, even considering his price.
However, if you think Cannonier has a shot as a live dog, he’s a tremendous play. Any win at his salary should find him in the optimal. I like his chances to secure an upset here, so I’ll be mixing him in my GPP lineups. I discussed why on the latest edition of the Action Network UFC Podcast:
The Co-Main Event
Alexander Volkanovski ($9,000) vs. Max Holloway ($7,200)
These two are meeting for a third time on Saturday, a rarity considering the same Volkanovski won both prior meetings. Volkanovski is a somewhat heavy favorite considering how close the last fight was, with a split decision victory that many thought should’ve gone Holloway’s way.
I rewatched that fight this week and agree with the official scoring — with a caveat. Holloway won two rounds very clearly, but Volkanovski won three in very close fashion. Had this fight been judged in its entirety rather than round-by-round, it should’ve gone Holloway’s way.
Regardless, expect both fighters to make adjustments here. Holloway will likely try to keep up the volume later into this fight, He may have thought he was ahead 3-0 in the last matchup and took his foot off the gas. That could lead to more significant scores, like in his last two non-Volkanovski fights. He scored a ridiculous 362 points in those two, largely thanks to extreme striking volume.
On the Volkanovski side, expect him to look for the takedowns sooner in this one. The last fight swung his way once he started attempting them. He doesn’t even necessarily need to finish takedowns; merely the threat opens up his striking. That could lead to some increased scoring on the Volkanovski side as well.
Both fighters are tremendous plays at their salaries, and this fight could end up with both of them in the optimal. While Holloway scored only 43 in the last meeting, he had two knockdowns that weren’t ruled as such. A 63-point performance at his salary could get there. Volkanovski has the highest median and ceiling on the slate and will be a tough fade.
The Easy Chalk
Sean O’Malley ($9,300)
“Sugar” Sean is second only to Adesanya in salary this weekend but is a far better DFS play. The bantamweight keeps a much higher pace than Adesanya, landing an insane 8.26 significant strikes per minute throughout his UFC career.
That number could be even higher Saturday, thanks to his matchup with Pedro Munhoz ($6,900). “The Young Punisher” (who’s 35 years old) can be a bit of a punching bag, absorbing over six strikes per minute in his UFC career.
O’Malley will have major advantages in reach and speed, allowing him to land a ton of volume for the outside while Munhoz tries to close the range. Munhoz is extremely durable, having never been finished in his career. However, O’Malley’s volume could lead to a massive score even without a stoppage bonus. He would’ve scored 132 points against Kris Moutinho if that fight had gone the distance, even without additional strikes.
With significant DFS question marks about the rest of the fighters who cost more than $9,000, O’Malley will be very popular on Saturday’s slate. He’s still a great play, though, and his projections trail only Volkanovski’s.
Andre Muniz ($9,200)
Muniz has moved to the second-biggest favorite on the slate throughout the week, as money has come in heavily on his side, pushing him past O’Malley. Muniz is now -320 on DraftKings, making him one of the best options in terms of win equity per dollar on the card.
However, that doesn’t necessarily make him the best DFS play. Muniz is taking on Uriah Hall ($7,000), one of the most powerful strikers in the UFC. Muniz is the far better fighter here, with world-class grappling ability. However, his low volume of strikes means he’s heavily reliant on quick submissions to score points.
Hall isn’t an easy out in that regard, He has a strong takedown defense at 65% in his career, with most of his opponents wanting to take him to the canvas. He’s also never been submitted — though he’s been finished via ground and pound — despite fighting top grapplers throughout his career.
However, Muniz is on another level with his submission skills and should be able to get it done. The bigger question is if he can do it fast enough — or rack up multiple takedowns — to produce a big score. He’s an excellent cash play, evidenced by the line movement in his favor. While I still prefer him to Adesanya, thanks to the stoppage upside, fitting him in won’t be a priority in my lineups.
His ceiling projection ranks fourth on the slate.
The Upside Plays
Jalin Turner ($8,400)
Turner is another fighter with significant line movement in his favor, opening at -130 and now sitting at -150 on DraftKings. The vast majority of his win condition comes via stoppage, with Turner never making it out of the second round in any of his victories.
That makes him fairly boom or bust, with a wild style and somewhat questionable cardio. He’s taking on Brad Riddel ($7,800), the striking coach of City Kickboxing — home of Adesanya and Volkanovski, among others. Riddel is no easy out on the feet, though Rafael Fiziev knocked him out in his last fight.
Mich of Turner’s upside comes on the ground, where he uses his extremely long frame (6’3″ tall, 75″ reach) to wrap up his opponents in chokes. Riddell has been known to shoot for the occasional takedown — 1.5 per round — which could be a mistake against Turner.
Turner can also win on the feet thanks to his significant reach advantage. A Turner win likely comes fast, giving him a ton of upside for this one. He’s not a great cash game play but will be a priority in tournaments. His ceiling projection ranks fifth on the slate.
Jim Miller ($8,700)
Miller is taking on Donald Cerrone ($7,500) in what will be Cerrone’s third attempt at a UFC fight in the last two months. He’s had two fight-day cancellations against Joe Lauzon before stepping up on short notice to replace Bobby Green on Saturday.
While Cerrone might be the UFC’s most willing and able competitor to fight at any time, it’s still not ideal to have continually fractured training camps, peaking cycles, and weight cuts. This one is at 170lbs, so the weight cut is less of an issue, but that’s still a mark against him.
The more significant factor is Cerrone’s lack of chin at this point in his career. He’s been knocked out in four of his last six UFC bouts, going 0-5-1 in that span.
Miller is roughly the same age as Cerrone and is the UFC’s all-time leader in fights. However, he’s looked far better recently, picking up two knockout victories in the past eight months. His winless streak in 2017/2018 was reportedly the result of Lyme disease rather than just being washed.
Miller appears to have far more left in the tank than Cowboy and has the power to finish the 2022 version of Donald Cerrone. He’s one of my favorite tournament plays on the slate.
The Value Play
Dricus Du Plessis ($8,000)
Du Plessis is similar to Turner, having opened as a slight underdog but is now sitting at -150. That makes him the better value, though he’s slightly less likely to secure a quick finish. Still, his most viable method of victory is a knockout; he’s +165 to end it that way, compared to +350 by decision.
“Stillknocks” secured knockout wins in his first two UFC fights but is facing a significant step up in competition against Brad Tavares ($8,200). Tavares is Tapology’s 14th ranked middleweight and a 20-fight UFC veteran. However, three of his last four losses have come via knockout, so the path to victory is there for Du Plessis.
This is a tough fight to break down, with similar styles between the two. Both throw at about average rates, with solid power and occasional takedowns mixed in. The close salaries make sense for that reason. However, I’m willing to trust the betting markets here. Du Plessis is far too heavily favored for an $8,000 fighter, making him a tremendous value.
Outside of Max Holloway, he leads all fighters at $8,000 or below in Pts/Sal projections.
The Contrarian Approach
Gabe Green ($7,400)
Gabe Green is fighting undefeated Irish prospect Ian Garry ($8,800) on Saturday’s prelims. Garry is 2-0 in the UFC, but neither of his wins was impressive relative to the hype surrounding him. “The Future” picked up a first-round knockout in his UFC debut but was outstruck and briefly wobbled before finding the knockout.
That win came against Jordan Williams, who’s now 9-6 as a professional and winless in three UFC fights. Next, he fought Darian Weeks — who’s also winless in his UFC career — to a fairly plodding decision victory.
Green is a huge step up for Garry, with wins in his last two UFC fights. He was able to control Phillip Rowe with wrestling before knocking out Yohan Lainesse in a fight he was losing in his last outing. Garry likes to fight on the outside and pull back following his strikes, using his long reach to his advantage. Green was able to solve that problem (in wildly different ways) against Lainesse and Rowe, both of whom have longer reaches than Garry.
He also has the power to punish Garry in exchanges and should be able to do more damage than Williams did if landing at a similar rate. Green should also be the better grappler, with Garry’s wrestling looking fairly basic and no UFC tape of him on the mat.
I think Green should be favored here, so getting him at $7,400 feels like a steal. He should come in relatively low owned with Garry having the big name and has a ton of finishing upside as well.
The Swing Fight
Alex Pereira ($8,300) vs. Sean Strickland ($7,900)
The winner of this bout has already been promised the next crack at the UFC middleweight title, with plenty of hype on the Pereira side. Pereira defeated current UFC champion Adesanya twice in kickboxing, including a knockout victory. He shouldn’t look past Strickland, though, who’s 5-0 since moving up from welterweight.
Strickland is known primarily as a striker, throwing a ton of relatively low-damage attacks with sporadic attempts at grappling. To put it in perspective, he’s thrown more strikes per round than Sean O’Malley in their UFC careers. Of course, keeping it standing is probably a bad plan against Pereira, who has three inches in height and four inches in reach on Strickland, in addition to being a decorated kickboxing champion.
This one likely comes down to whether Strickland is willing and able to turn this into a grappling match. Strickland is perhaps the most unhinged UFC fighter and seems like the kind of guy crazy enough to try to strike with Pereira. Even if he does attempt takedowns, Pereira won’t go willingly. He’s been training with former light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira and understands the need to keep his fights standing.
Either way, both guys throw a ton of volume and could produce optimal scores even in decision victories. I prefer the Pereira side, but Strickland brings some theoretical grappling upside as well. Given the volatility of this fight, neither are strong cash game plays but both are tremendous GPP options. I want exposure to both.
Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above: Israel Adesanya