We’ve got a wild night of fights with UFC 251 this Saturday. Tonight’s card features three title fights, headlined by welterweights Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, and DFS lineups will lock at 6 p.m. ET.
We’ve have built out a full player-projection model to help us try and put together some winning DFS lineups in UFC.
The model, created by my colleague Sean Koerner, is based on 10,000 simulations of all 12 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.
Another tool that you can use to make it easier to identify which fighters to use in the big tournaments is Perfect%.
Perfect% is the percentage of the time that fighter finishes in the ‘perfect/optimal lineup’ based on my simulations. It’s worth noting that this is factoring in the “perfect lineup” that meets the DraftKings budget of $50,000 or less. Therefore this is the perfect metric to use when trying to figure out the ideal fighters to use in the MMA Million.
The Easy Chalk
Amanda Ribas ($9500)
We have to start with the most significant favorite on the slate, and one of the more significant MMA favorites that you will see as Ribas (-835) faces the popular Paige VanZant. Ribas won by submission in her UFC Debut (100 DraftKings points) and has scored 77 and 95 DraftKings points in her past two wins via decision.
Saturday’s fight is a 50/50 proposition on whether it goes the distance.
Ribas is expected to win by submission 28% of the time — and that early finish upside gives her the third-highest ceiling rating on the slate and lands her in the perfect lineup 35% of the time (4th) — but she also has the highest floor (75.5 points) projection as such a firm favorite.
Karol Rosa ($9200)
Rosa landed more than 170 significant strikes in her UFC debut and has enough cumulative power to generate a second- or third-round finish. My crowdsourced projection says that she is the most undervalued fighter on Saturday’s card, making her a 90% favorite, while listed odds imply that her chances are closer to 70%.
She generated 126 DraftKings points in that three-round debut, and I would imagine that she will go overlooked at her price point, on the undercard, compared to the high-priced favorites on the main card. Note that her opponent, Vanessa Melo, weighed in more than five pounds over the limit for this fight.
The Upside Plays
Makwan Amirkhani ($8600)
“Mr. Finland” (23.2% perfect rating) could finish the fight vs. Danny Henry ($7600) by submission at +175 (implied 36.6%) at any point, but particularly in the first round at +300 (implied 25%) – which he has done nine times before. The fact that Amirikhani’s perfect rating and first-round finish odds align so closely suggests that that is his only path to the optimal lineup at his mid-range price point.
Muslim Salikhov ($8200)
The Russian is listed at +188 (implied 35%) to win by KO/TKO in the winning-method market, Salikhov offers a path to the optimal lineup (24%), but his overall striking output is not particularly high.
Max Holloway ($7100)
“Blessed” has averaged 148 significant strikes over his past three fights — all of which went the five-round distance, and his 290 significant strike performance in a four-round TKO win over Bryan Ortega (190 DraftKings points) remains one of the most impressive efforts in MMA history. He is a pretty solid cash-game play, scoring 91 and 67 DraftKings points despite losing two of his past three fights — and he can make his way into the optimal lineup with a win more than 30% of the time.
The Swing Fights
Kamaru Usman ($8900) vs. Jorge Masvidal ($7300)
How good is Saturday night’s main event? Koerner’s projections have one or both of Masvidal or Usman landing in the optimal lineup more than 98% of the time. Both are priced very reasonably — the only two fighters to generate a bargain rating higher than 90% — and you should probably have exposure to one or the other in each of your lineups.
Usman has the highest median (109) and ceiling (130) projections on the slate and is the only fighter besides Ribas (10.3) to crack double digits (12.3) in projected points per $1000 of salary.
Usman has landed an average of 148 significant strikes over his past three fights while recording 12 takedowns against Rafael dos Anjos (176 DraftKings points) — and I expect that kind of ceiling performance from the champion in a five-round win via decision — and would want at least 100 significant strikes with five takedowns.
Masvidal doesn’t have a particularly high ceiling projection (97), ranking 11th on the slate, but if “Gambred” wins the fight, he likely lands in the optimal lineup at his price point. My crowdsourced projection has him winning the bout and the welterweight belt 35% of the time — a few ticks off from his perfect forecast.
The fan-favorite Masvidal has been a trendy underdog betting pick this week, and I do expect that support to carry over to DFS, which likely makes Usman the value side for DFS lineups.
Rose Namajunas ($9000) vs. Jessica Andrade ($7200)
Like Masvidal, Andrade will be a popular underdog selection in DFS lineups. She won the first match against Namajunas via KO, has a history of recording stoppages, and has scored more than 100 DraftKings points, twice, in three-round decision victories. Andrade owns the third-highest perfect rating on the slate, at 38%.
Namajunas ranks fourth by ceiling projection (103), but I like her to win by a decision in this rematch, and she has not scored well in DFS when winning on the scorecards (18.5 DraftKings points per round). Rose needs a finish to make herself playable, but more importantly, she can ruin a ton of lineups that key upon Andrade.
I would make sure to include Andrade in at least one-quarter of your lineups, however.
Pictured above: Kamaru Usman of Nigeria.
Photo credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images.