UFC 252 should be one for the books with plenty of well-known finishers all over the card. Saturday’s 11-bout pay-per-view card is headlined by the third bout between heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and MMA legend Daniel Cormier (the final fight of his career) on and DFS lineups will lock at 7 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 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.

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.

Get 252-1 Odds on Either Side of Miocic vs. Cormier Main Event

The Easy Chalk

Merab Dvalishvili ($8700)

Dvalishvili has a Perfect% over 55% across both platforms and for good reason. For one, he is a prohibitive -240 favorite in his match against John Dodson, (implied probability of 70.42%), and he is a machine; no, seriously, his nickname is “The Machine.”

Dvalishvili may not have the stopping power that is usually necessary for a strong DFS play, but he makes up for it with an insane output and gas tank. He averages more than 8 takedowns per 15 minutes and lands over 4 significant strikes per minute. In his last four fights, all wins, he is averaging over 123 points on DK, and can be in line for a triple digit output once again on Saturday.

Herbert Burns ($8900)

A bit pricier than Dvalishvili, Burns is also a strong play for Saturday. The brother of top welterweight  contender Gilbert Burns, Herbert is an ace grappler with eight of his 11 MMA wins coming from submission. Burns will be matched up with another grappler in Daniel Pineda, but Pineda is fighting in his first scrap in a year-and-a-half and Burns will be the bigger man in the fight with a 2-inch height advantage and 3-inch reach advantage.

Burns is projected to win by submission, with a line set at -150 (implied probability of 59.88%), and the total is shaded towards under 1.5 rounds. With a ceiling of 104.5, and the possibility of a quick submission, Burns should also be targeted in all lineups.

The Upside Plays

Chris Daukaus ($7700)

The first fight of the night may not garner much attention, but from building a lineup, there is a ton of value in adding Daukaus to your lineup. Both Daukaus and opponent Parker Porter will be making their UFC debuts at Heavyweight which adds extra variables, but the prior will be the bigger man with a 2-inch height and reach advantage. Daukaus has an 8-3 pro record with seven coming by way of knockout.

Looking at the projections, he finds his way into the optimal lineup at least 43% of the time on both platforms. While neither man has fought in nearly a year and gas tanks could empty out quickly — Daukaus does have a floor of 17.5 points — there is a possibility of a quick finish, and Daukaus can be a low-owned, boom-or-bust type option to fill out the roster.

Vinc Pichel ($7900)

Pichel has become the betting favorite throughout fight week. After opening as a +155 underdog, Pichel is now a -130 favorite as of this writing (implied probability of 56.5%) in his matchup against journeyman Jim Miller. Still, Pichel is still the cheaper option on DraftKings.

Based on the simulations, Pichel poses a higher floor and ceiling than his opponent making him an attractive addition to lineups. Pichel is the much more active fighter on all offensive fronts. He lands at a slightly higher clip on a per minute basis but is significantly more aggressive in taking down his opponent, averaging four takedowns per 15 minutes with 60% success, a fine mark. Pichel’s steady median outcome, 66.5 points, due to a heavy offensive game makes him a safe play to add at a cheap price with an upside of 97 points.

Stay Away

Sean O’Malley ($9200)

The most expensive fighter on the card is a stay away from me. O’Malley talks the talk and is being groomed to be the next big thing in the UFC, but Marlon Vera is no slouch, and this should be a competitive fight wherever it takes place. O’Malley can turn the lights out on his opponent, but as seen through Koerner’s projections, he does not run well with an optimal lineup, placing in about 24% of them across both DK and FD.

O’Malley’s cost is simply too high, which I can attribute to his opponent. Vera has never been stopped in his UFC career and has the edge in grappling offense with a few submission wins to his name. I don’t see O’Malley winning so quickly against the sturdy Vera, and while “Sugar” may take the promotion by storm, it will not come easy. You can spend your money better elsewhere.

The Swing Fight

Daniel Cormier ($8000) vs. Stipe Miocic ($8200)

A winning card most likely has either DC or the champion, Stipe Miocic. Cormier is the cheaper option by $200 but also the slight betting favorite now as the week has went on, sitting at -115 as of this writing (implied probability of 53.48%). Re-watching the first two fights, DC had the quick knockout over Miocic in a competitive first round and was rolling in the first three rounds of the second one before Miocic made some necessary adjustments with body shots and landing the fourth round KO.

Even though he was knocked out, Cormier still landed at a much higher clip and had ground control for a majority of the first round. If you lean Miocic, I would say play him, both are going to land shots and score points in DFS, but I see DC getting his belt back Saturday and with his high output offense and ability to get this to the ground. I see a clearer path not only for Cormier to win, but also to score very well, which is fortified with a Perfect% between 43 and 48%, according to Koerner.

Pictured above (L-R): Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic
Photo credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images