UFC Fight Night: Austin has a stacked (by free card standards) 14-fight card headlined by Calvin Kattar vs. Josh Emmet. The featherweights are both known for their exciting styles, while both ranked inside the top 10. Elsewhere on the card, we have the rescheduled match between “Cowboy” Cerrone and Joe Lauzon and Kevin Holland looking to continue to work towards a welterweight ranking. The action begins at 4:00 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 Main Event
Calvin Kattar ($8,800) vs. Josh Emmett ($7,400)
Kattar is the No. 4 contender for the featherweight belt according to the UFC’s official rankings and could be a win or two away from a title shot. Emmett will have something to say about that, carrying a four-fight winning streak into this one.
This one should be mostly contested on the feet, with both men attempting strikes at a well above-average rate. Emmett probably possesses most of the grappling upside, averaging 1.25 takedowns per 15 minutes in his UFC career. Kattar has excellent takedown defense (89%), though, so it’s not certain that Emmett could get him to the ground.
Kattar is known for his crisp boxing, landing at least 100 significant strikes in each of his last three bouts — all five-round fights. He’s both longer — with a two-inch reach edge — and more technical on the feet than Emmett. However, Emmett has a clear power edge. Emmett’s knockdown average is roughly thrice that of Kattar’s, and he’s the likelier fighter to finish this one.
What’s questionable is Emmett’s ability to win minutes, especially deep into this one. Kattar has three consecutive five-round fights, while Emmett has only seen the championship rounds once in his professional career and never in the UFC. Throwing heavier shots tends to wear fighters out faster, though Emmett looked strong in recent three-round decisions.
This is a pretty clear fight to force into most or all of your tournament lineups, though. The extra rounds means a Kattar decision comes with plenty of volume that should see him make the optimal lineup. Emmett has finishing and grappling upside, but nearly any win sees him in the optimal as well.
As usual, the favored Kattar is projecting better in our models. However, I want to be overweight on Emmett. Besides the ownership leverage, he could benefit from judges rewarding his heavier shots. I broke down that angle in our latest UFC Betting Podcast:
The Easy Chalk
Adrian Yanez ($9,400)
There are six fighters priced at $9,000 or above for Saturday’s event. Most of them aren’t especially appealing from a DFS standpoint, with Yanez as a notable exception. While Kattar is known as a volume striker with his 5.19 per-minute rate, Yanez has him beat by more than s trike per minute, checking in at 6.35.
That’s a perfect style for him in his fight against Tony Kelley ($6,800). Kelley has a fairly poor 45% striking defense rate but is extremely durable, having never been finished in his professional career. Yanez should be able to put up a solid score even without a stoppage.
There are also no guarantees that Kelley’s durability holds up here. Yanez is averaging more than two knockdowns per 15 minutes in his UFC career and has +115 odds (46% implied) to finish this one. He’s a good combination of safety as a -280 favorite and upside and will make the bulk of my lineups.
The line has moved a bit in Kelley’s way though, making him a solid value play at a cheap price. Given the activity levels of both fighters, stacking them in cash games isn’t an outrageous idea, nor is mixing in a bit of Kelley — who could post a solid price-considered score in a losing effort.
Phil Hawes ($9,000)
Hawes isn’t my favorite expensive fighter, but he leads all fighters outside of Kattar in median and ceiling projection in our models. “Megatron” is taking on Deron Winn ($7,200) in middleweight action, with Hawes as a -250 favorite.
The problem is the relative inactivity from Hawes, who doesn’t throw a ton of volume striking. He’s done most of his scoring via takedowns, picking up six in his two decision victories following the Malkoun bout. That’s going to be a lot tougher against Winn, a fellow high-level wrestler who nobody has even attempted to take down in his UFC career.
Hawes certainly has the striking edge here, mostly thanks to his 7.5-inch reach advantage. This one could turn into a wrestling match, though, which gives the edge to Winn. Winn’s been credited with an insane 4.98 takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC, and while I doubt his ability to keep Hawes down, it’s hard to land big shots while fending off takedowns or working back to your feet.
Additionally, on a 14-fight card, we probably need a pretty big score from Hawes to make the optimal lineup, where a wrestling-heavy decision win could be sufficient for Winn. I have more interest in the underdog in this one, though I’ll have some exposure to Hawes in multi-entry contests.
The Upside Plays
Albert Duraev ($8,600)
Duraev is another fighter providing upside by way of his grappling. He attempted nine takedowns in his UFC debut against Roman Kopylov, en route to a decision victory. While he landed only one of those takedowns, Kopylov is a Russian Sambo fighter with very strong grappling.
His opponent on Saturday, Joaquin Buckley ($7,600), has far more questionable takedown defense skills. He’s defended only 40% of the takedowns he’s faced in his UFC career, well below the UFC average. Buckley has also been matched up primarily with fellow strikers, so I wouldn’t be shocked if his rate goes down as he faces more wrestle-heavy opponents.
Duraev has also seen considerable line movement his way, going from a -200 favorite when salaries came out to -230 now. With stoppage odds of +110, he has a reasonable shot at a finish but can get to a ceiling score even without them if the takedowns come early and often.
Jeremiah Wells ($8,000)
Wells is undefeated in the UFC, with a 2-0 record, both coming via stoppage. Neither of his UFC bouts have gone past the 30-second mark of the second round. Wells typically hunts for finishes right from the start of his fights. He’s a product of Renzo Gracie Philly, an up-and-coming team that currently has a perfect 14-0 combined record in the UFC.
He’s a slight underdog to Court McGree ($8,200), a 19-fight UFC veteran. McGee is a strong grappler with decent striking but limited power, whose recent two-fight winning streak came via a pair of decisions. Prior to that, the 37-year-old McGee seemed to be on his way out the door, with three consecutive losses, including one to Sean Brady, a teammate of Wells’.
While I don’t think the teammate angle means much here, I haven’t been impressed by McGee in recent years. He’s only been finished once in the UFC, but he’s approaching an age (37) where fighter’s chins generally start to fade, especially when they’ve been fighting as long as McGee. Wells is only two years younger but has never been finished as a pro and has just 13 fights under his belt.
I have concerns over Wells’ cardio, but his finishing potential is high here. He has dangerous submissions and a ton of power and is also a fast starter.
At his salary, that’s worth taking a chance on.
The Value Play
Kevin Holland ($8,900)
Holland doesn’t fit the usual connotation of value (cheap), but he checks an important box for this one. His line opened at -240, but he’s moved to -285 on DraftKings as of Friday, making him (along with Duraev) the best value from a win-equity-per-dollar standpoint.
Holland looked great in his welterweight debut, putting away “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira in the second round with strikes. He’ll look to continue his ascension through the welterweight ranks against Tim Means ($7,300), a former lightweight and 24-fight UFC veteran.
Means is the poster child for the addition 160lbs or 165lbs division, especially earlier in his career, with a thin 6’2″ frame.
He’ll be much smaller than Holland, who has a similar build but a six-inch reach edge. Means seems to be relatively uncomfortable with longer fighters — which doesn’t often happen — with both of his more recent defeats coming to fighters who held a reach advantage or were within an inch of Means.
Both of those losses were finishes, which is how I see this one playing out. Even if Holland can’t put Means away, he has reasonably high activity rates and should be able to put up a solid score. Holland is a fairly safe pick for the money, with upside for a lot more.
The Contrarian Approach
Natalia Silva ($7,100)
Silva is the lone debuting UFC fighter on the card, as she takes on Jasmine Jasudavicius ($9,100) on the prelims. Jasudavicius is 1-0 in the UFC, with a decision win over Kay Hansen. That win was rather uninspiring, with Jasudavicius landing a pair of takedowns but not doing much to work for a finish. She also landed only 50 significant strikes. That win has also aged rather poorly, with Hansen being released from the UFC with a 1-3 record and her attention seemingly more focused on other things.
The point is, it’s hard to say definitively that Jasudavicius is a high-level UFC fighter. She lost to Elise Reed (1-2 UFC) prior to joining the promotion. Outside of a Contender Series win over an 8-2 opponent, Jasudavicius’ best opponent had a 2-1 professional record at the time of the fight.
Silva, on the other hand, has fought relatively tough competition. She picked up submission wins over a 10-5 and 3-0 opponent in her last two bouts. While she has five losses on her professional record, four of those came before the age of 20. The fifth came to UFC contender Marina Rodriguez, while Silva was just 20 years old and Rodriguez was 8-0 as a pro.
Silva hasn’t fought since late 2019, but that should have given the now 25-year-old plenty of time to improve her game. She seems to have dangerous submissions, with seven of her 12 victories coming that way. At just $7,100, any win should be sufficient for her to find her way in the optimal.
A finish would clearly get here there, and the odds of that are significantly higher than the market is indicating.
The Swing Fight
Donald Cerrone ($8,300) vs. Joe Lauzon ($7,900)
This co-main event of Fight Night: Austin is a rebooked pairing between veterans Cerrone and Lauzon. This one was originally scheduled for November but was rescheduled due to “food poisoning” suffered by Cerrone (more on that later).
It’s an obvious choice for the swing fight, though, with Cerrone and Lauzon second and sixth all-time in UFC finishes.
Lauzon hasn’t fought since October of 2019, a first-round TKO victory over Jonathan Pierce. Despite that, he still has the more recent win of the pair. Cerrone is currently on an 0-5-1 streak, with four (T)KO losses. Generally, the more active fighter has an edge. With the age and durability concerns surrounding these two, the layoff and time to heal probably favors Lauzon.
Cerrone is a notoriously slow starter, with three of those knockout defeats coming in the opening frame. That’s a good sign for Lauzon, who has first-round wins in three of his past four victories. The fight is definitely to Cerrone’s advantage if it goes longer, though, with “Cowboy” picking up steam later into the fights he remains conscious for.
I have my doubts about Cerrone’s health in this one as well. He hasn’t fought at lightweight — where this bout will be contested — since 2019, and it’s much harder to make weight as fighters age. Cerrone has 52 weight cuts under his belt as a professional, which is hard for a body to recover from.
That’s why I have my questions about the alleged food poisoning last time around. Cerrone has been around long enough to know what to eat following a weigh-in. I think it’s likelier that his body failed him due to the weight cut — I had a similar experience during my fighting days. He made weight this time but reportedly looked pretty rough on the scales.
With all that said, I want to be overweight on the underdog Lauzon here. I’ll have some Cerrone, too though, with both fighters cheap enough to likely make the optimal with a win.