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UFC Fight Night DFS Breakdown: Model, Preview, Picks for Santos vs. Hill, Luque vs. Neal, More Saturday Fights

UFC Fight Night takes place from the Apex Center on Saturday, featuring top-10 light heavyweight contenders in the main event. We also have the championship bouts for TUF season 30, with the UFC debut of Muhammad Usman. In all, we have a 12-fight card that kicks off at 7:00 PM eastern.

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 bout 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 of which fighters we should target based on 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.

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Main Event

Jamahal Hill ($9,000) vs. Thiago Santos ($7,200) 

Hill burst onto the UFC scene in 2020, compiling an impressive 5-1 UFC record, with the lone blemish being a nasty submission from Paul Craig. Four of those five wins have been knockouts, as the 6’4″ southpaw uses his range and excellent footwork to pick his opponents apart on the feet.

For my money, he’s the best pure striker in the light heavyweight division. His +4.35 significant strikes differential is extremely impressive, as is his 1.48 knockdowns per 15 minutes. I’d classify his grappling more as “questionable” than outright bad, as there’s no shame in being submitted by Paul Craig.

Santos is also primarily a striker who’s vowed to exchange with Hill on the feet in this one. The former title challenger has fought most of the top-10 of the division, taking Jon Jones to a split decision in 2019. That fight resulted in double knee surgery for Santos, who hasn’t looked nearly as good since.

He’s 1-3 since fighting Jones, with three of the four bouts coming as Fight Night main events. That five-round experience could give him an edge over Hill if this one goes longer, but his win-loss record isn’t a great sign.

Additionally, Hill’s smooth striking style should be pretty easy to sustain deep into this fight. I’ll be taking a stand for my GPP lineups this week and rostering Hill in nearly all of them while fading Santos.

I can even see the justification for fading Santos in cash if you can find another fighter in his price range you prefer. It’s relatively thin at the bottom this week, but it’s hard to see Santos scoring well in a loss. The likeliest outcome is the majority of the points in this one coming via win bonuses and knockdowns.

I broke down Hill’s chances of ending this one early in the latest Action Network UFC Podcast:

The Easy Chalk

Terrance McKinney ($9,500)

McKinney is a massive -850 favorite in this one, making him stand out. He’s been a great DFS option in his young UFC career, with two first-round finishes in three fights. He even scored reasonably well in his lone loss — despite it also coming in the first round — as he picked up a knockdown and two takedowns along the way.

His opponent this time is Erick Gonzales ($6,700), who’s 0-1 in the UFC after suffering a knockout loss to Jim Miller. It’s curious matchmaking for McKinney, who nearly beat ranked lightweight Drew Dober in his last bout.

For that reason, I expect McKinney and his team to use this reasonably non-threatening matchup as an opportunity to build up some cage time. He’s spent only 5:37 seconds in the octagon across three fights, most of which he dominated. For that reason, I’m not anticipating a quick early knockout for McKinney, so his DraftKings score could be disappointing.

On the other hand, this slate isn’t likely to provide a ton of scoring, so he could still make his way into the optimal. However, he’s expected to be the highest-owned fighter outside Hill, so fading him provides massive leverage.

Michal Oleksiejczuk ($9,300)

Oleksiejczuk is the slate’s other big favorite, at -600 as of Friday afternoon. He’s taking on Sam Alvey ($6,900), who is 0-7-1 in his last eight fights. Alvey still being on the UFC roster is truly confounding, but he has the chance to take sole ownership of the longest losing streak in UFC history (if we ignore the tie) on Saturday.

Oleksiejczuk is 4-3-1 in his UFC career, with three of his wins coming via knockout. Those bouts were all contested at 205lbs, so his power should carry over to 185 lbs very well.

He’s -125 to win this one inside the distance and should find his way to any lineup where you can afford his salary.

The Upside Plays

Bryan Battle ($8,700)

TUF 29 champion Bryan Battle returns on this card — which features the championship rounds of TUF 30 — to take on his first non-castmember opponent, Takashi Sato ($7,500). Sato is 1-3 in his last four fights, with two losses coming via submission.

This fight also marks the UFC welterweight debut for Battle, who moved up to middleweight to compete on the show. Battle has three inches in height and four inches in reach on Sato, which should give him the edge in the striking exchanges.

Battle is also a strong grappler, with five of his nine wins (counting the exhibition bouts on the show) coming via submission. That’s a good sign against Sato, given his propensity to get submitted.

Battle has seen his moneyline odds go from -215 to -280 throughout the week, making him a solid value play. His high output style (7.1 strikes landed per minute) and odds of a stoppage provide a ton of upside. He’s a strong pivot off the more expensive fighters at the top of the slate.

Josh Quinlan ($8,600)

Quinlan has some of the best inside the distance odds on the slate at -125, despite his reasonable price tag. He’s 5-0 as a professional, with each of his wins coming via stoppage. He also has a no contest on his record; his Contender Series bout that he won in just 47 seconds before having it overturned due to a positive drug test.

The fact that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in his first fight under the UFC banner scares me a bit. Individual states/athletic commissions have very questionable drug testing practices. For example, I was never tested for PEDs in my pro career, only recreational while fighting in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Virginia.

Quinlan’s pro fights up to this point have been outside of the stricter states (Nevada, California, New Jersey), so there are serious questions about how much his “supplement” use boosted his earlier results.

On the other hand, if you believe his abilities will be intact following USADA testing, he should have no problem with Jason Witt ($7,600). Witt has been knocked out thrice in his last fave fights and is on the downswing of his career at 35.

Given the high degree of variability at play, I want exposure to both guys in this one. Quinlan has more upside, though, thanks to his stoppage ability.

The Value Play

Miranda Granger ($7,100)

Granger fits the usual bill of a cheap female fighter in a bout unlikely to end early. At +180, this bout has the longest stoppage odds on the slate, as Granger takes on Cory McKenna ($9,100) on the prelims. McKenna is 1-1 in the UFC, with a win over the since-departed Kay Hansen and a loss to Elise Reed.

Granger is 1-2 but has faced much stiffer competition. She beat Hannah Goldy before losing to Amanda Lemos and Ashley Yoder. She would likely be favored in this one had she not given birth last August. That’s obviously a difficult thing for a female fighter to come back from.

However, results are relatively mixed on post-baby cage returns, with Julianna Pena winning her return bout following giving birth but other women losing their first fight back. It’s been roughly a year since giving birth for Granger, and many of the losses came from women who returned quicker.

Regardless, Granger is a strong play even if you aren’t expecting a win, as her solid volume and ten-inch(!) reach edge should allow her to rack up strikes. I also have some interest in GPPs on the chance she can pull off a victory here.

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The Contrarian Approach

Mohammed Usman ($7,300)

Usman is fighting Zac Pauga ($8,900) for the TUF 30 championship on Saturday. Usman is a fairly heavy underdog, opening at +190 or so before moving to +230 at the time of writing. That’s deserved, as Pauga was undefeated against tougher competition on the regional scene.

However, Pauga is a light-heavyweight who stepped up to heavyweight for the chance to be on the show. He wasn’t even a particularly big light heavyweight, occasionally weighing in somewhat under the divisional limit in regional action. Usman is a legit heavyweight, one of a few fighters in the division who doesn’t appear as if he could diet his way down to 205.

I’m concerned that his famous last name — he’s the younger brother of welterweight champ Kamaru Usman — will artificially inflate his ownership a bit. However, he should still be relatively under the radar. Our Models now have ownership projections included, and I have him in the low 20s. That’s reasonable on a 12-fight card, where average ownership is exactly 25%.

He has the power and athleticism to end this one with one punch, though I expect him to be losing until/unless that happens. Still, we need cheap GPP fighters this week, and I’ll be looking to the heavyweights for mine. Augusto Sakai ($7,400) is another plausible dart throw on Saturday’s card.

The Swing Fight

Vicente Luque ($8,500) vs. Geoff Neal ($7,700)

The co-main event features top welterweights in Luque and Neal. Both fighters have plus-power and like to strike, creating many opportunities for scoring points. Personally, I wish this were the five-round fight rather than Hill vs. Santos, but unfortunately, we’re only getting thee rounds.

Statistically, these fighters are very similar, with identical heights and reach, a high number of strikes landed and absorbed, and limited attempts at grappling. Luque is more of a fast starter, with his last four wins coming inside the distance, twice in the first round. He’s 1-4 in his UFC career in fights that go to a decision, though.

Neal is the more patient fighter, throwing less volume but heavier shots. He’s a somewhat better 2-2 in UFC decisions, and like Luque, has never been stopped in the octagon.

Given the high volume from both fighters, it’s likely that the winner of this one ends up in the optimal lineup. I like Neal’s chances a bit more than the salary would indicate, so I’ll be slightly overweight on him. He’s fared better against the opponents he has in common with Luque: Neal beat Belal Muhammad, Muhammad beat Luque, and Neal has the quicker finish against Niko Price.

Additionally, being heavier on Neal makes it much easier to afford the more expensive fighters on the slate. Either way, I want at least one of these two in most of my lineups, and there’s an outside shot they both put up good scores, so a stack isn’t out of the question.

Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above: Thiago Santos (left) and Jamahal Hill (right)

UFC Fight Night takes place from the Apex Center on Saturday, featuring top-10 light heavyweight contenders in the main event. We also have the championship bouts for TUF season 30, with the UFC debut of Muhammad Usman. In all, we have a 12-fight card that kicks off at 7:00 PM eastern.

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 bout 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 of which fighters we should target based on 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.

Start Your PRO Trial Today

Lineup builder and optimizer

Real-time DFS models

Data-driven analysis & tutorials

Main Event

Jamahal Hill ($9,000) vs. Thiago Santos ($7,200) 

Hill burst onto the UFC scene in 2020, compiling an impressive 5-1 UFC record, with the lone blemish being a nasty submission from Paul Craig. Four of those five wins have been knockouts, as the 6’4″ southpaw uses his range and excellent footwork to pick his opponents apart on the feet.

For my money, he’s the best pure striker in the light heavyweight division. His +4.35 significant strikes differential is extremely impressive, as is his 1.48 knockdowns per 15 minutes. I’d classify his grappling more as “questionable” than outright bad, as there’s no shame in being submitted by Paul Craig.

Santos is also primarily a striker who’s vowed to exchange with Hill on the feet in this one. The former title challenger has fought most of the top-10 of the division, taking Jon Jones to a split decision in 2019. That fight resulted in double knee surgery for Santos, who hasn’t looked nearly as good since.

He’s 1-3 since fighting Jones, with three of the four bouts coming as Fight Night main events. That five-round experience could give him an edge over Hill if this one goes longer, but his win-loss record isn’t a great sign.

Additionally, Hill’s smooth striking style should be pretty easy to sustain deep into this fight. I’ll be taking a stand for my GPP lineups this week and rostering Hill in nearly all of them while fading Santos.

I can even see the justification for fading Santos in cash if you can find another fighter in his price range you prefer. It’s relatively thin at the bottom this week, but it’s hard to see Santos scoring well in a loss. The likeliest outcome is the majority of the points in this one coming via win bonuses and knockdowns.

I broke down Hill’s chances of ending this one early in the latest Action Network UFC Podcast:

The Easy Chalk

Terrance McKinney ($9,500)

McKinney is a massive -850 favorite in this one, making him stand out. He’s been a great DFS option in his young UFC career, with two first-round finishes in three fights. He even scored reasonably well in his lone loss — despite it also coming in the first round — as he picked up a knockdown and two takedowns along the way.

His opponent this time is Erick Gonzales ($6,700), who’s 0-1 in the UFC after suffering a knockout loss to Jim Miller. It’s curious matchmaking for McKinney, who nearly beat ranked lightweight Drew Dober in his last bout.

For that reason, I expect McKinney and his team to use this reasonably non-threatening matchup as an opportunity to build up some cage time. He’s spent only 5:37 seconds in the octagon across three fights, most of which he dominated. For that reason, I’m not anticipating a quick early knockout for McKinney, so his DraftKings score could be disappointing.

On the other hand, this slate isn’t likely to provide a ton of scoring, so he could still make his way into the optimal. However, he’s expected to be the highest-owned fighter outside Hill, so fading him provides massive leverage.

Michal Oleksiejczuk ($9,300)

Oleksiejczuk is the slate’s other big favorite, at -600 as of Friday afternoon. He’s taking on Sam Alvey ($6,900), who is 0-7-1 in his last eight fights. Alvey still being on the UFC roster is truly confounding, but he has the chance to take sole ownership of the longest losing streak in UFC history (if we ignore the tie) on Saturday.

Oleksiejczuk is 4-3-1 in his UFC career, with three of his wins coming via knockout. Those bouts were all contested at 205lbs, so his power should carry over to 185 lbs very well.

He’s -125 to win this one inside the distance and should find his way to any lineup where you can afford his salary.

The Upside Plays

Bryan Battle ($8,700)

TUF 29 champion Bryan Battle returns on this card — which features the championship rounds of TUF 30 — to take on his first non-castmember opponent, Takashi Sato ($7,500). Sato is 1-3 in his last four fights, with two losses coming via submission.

This fight also marks the UFC welterweight debut for Battle, who moved up to middleweight to compete on the show. Battle has three inches in height and four inches in reach on Sato, which should give him the edge in the striking exchanges.

Battle is also a strong grappler, with five of his nine wins (counting the exhibition bouts on the show) coming via submission. That’s a good sign against Sato, given his propensity to get submitted.

Battle has seen his moneyline odds go from -215 to -280 throughout the week, making him a solid value play. His high output style (7.1 strikes landed per minute) and odds of a stoppage provide a ton of upside. He’s a strong pivot off the more expensive fighters at the top of the slate.

Josh Quinlan ($8,600)

Quinlan has some of the best inside the distance odds on the slate at -125, despite his reasonable price tag. He’s 5-0 as a professional, with each of his wins coming via stoppage. He also has a no contest on his record; his Contender Series bout that he won in just 47 seconds before having it overturned due to a positive drug test.

The fact that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in his first fight under the UFC banner scares me a bit. Individual states/athletic commissions have very questionable drug testing practices. For example, I was never tested for PEDs in my pro career, only recreational while fighting in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Virginia.

Quinlan’s pro fights up to this point have been outside of the stricter states (Nevada, California, New Jersey), so there are serious questions about how much his “supplement” use boosted his earlier results.

On the other hand, if you believe his abilities will be intact following USADA testing, he should have no problem with Jason Witt ($7,600). Witt has been knocked out thrice in his last fave fights and is on the downswing of his career at 35.

Given the high degree of variability at play, I want exposure to both guys in this one. Quinlan has more upside, though, thanks to his stoppage ability.

The Value Play

Miranda Granger ($7,100)

Granger fits the usual bill of a cheap female fighter in a bout unlikely to end early. At +180, this bout has the longest stoppage odds on the slate, as Granger takes on Cory McKenna ($9,100) on the prelims. McKenna is 1-1 in the UFC, with a win over the since-departed Kay Hansen and a loss to Elise Reed.

Granger is 1-2 but has faced much stiffer competition. She beat Hannah Goldy before losing to Amanda Lemos and Ashley Yoder. She would likely be favored in this one had she not given birth last August. That’s obviously a difficult thing for a female fighter to come back from.

However, results are relatively mixed on post-baby cage returns, with Julianna Pena winning her return bout following giving birth but other women losing their first fight back. It’s been roughly a year since giving birth for Granger, and many of the losses came from women who returned quicker.

Regardless, Granger is a strong play even if you aren’t expecting a win, as her solid volume and ten-inch(!) reach edge should allow her to rack up strikes. I also have some interest in GPPs on the chance she can pull off a victory here.

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Your deposit will be fully matched

New users only

The Contrarian Approach

Mohammed Usman ($7,300)

Usman is fighting Zac Pauga ($8,900) for the TUF 30 championship on Saturday. Usman is a fairly heavy underdog, opening at +190 or so before moving to +230 at the time of writing. That’s deserved, as Pauga was undefeated against tougher competition on the regional scene.

However, Pauga is a light-heavyweight who stepped up to heavyweight for the chance to be on the show. He wasn’t even a particularly big light heavyweight, occasionally weighing in somewhat under the divisional limit in regional action. Usman is a legit heavyweight, one of a few fighters in the division who doesn’t appear as if he could diet his way down to 205.

I’m concerned that his famous last name — he’s the younger brother of welterweight champ Kamaru Usman — will artificially inflate his ownership a bit. However, he should still be relatively under the radar. Our Models now have ownership projections included, and I have him in the low 20s. That’s reasonable on a 12-fight card, where average ownership is exactly 25%.

He has the power and athleticism to end this one with one punch, though I expect him to be losing until/unless that happens. Still, we need cheap GPP fighters this week, and I’ll be looking to the heavyweights for mine. Augusto Sakai ($7,400) is another plausible dart throw on Saturday’s card.

The Swing Fight

Vicente Luque ($8,500) vs. Geoff Neal ($7,700)

The co-main event features top welterweights in Luque and Neal. Both fighters have plus-power and like to strike, creating many opportunities for scoring points. Personally, I wish this were the five-round fight rather than Hill vs. Santos, but unfortunately, we’re only getting thee rounds.

Statistically, these fighters are very similar, with identical heights and reach, a high number of strikes landed and absorbed, and limited attempts at grappling. Luque is more of a fast starter, with his last four wins coming inside the distance, twice in the first round. He’s 1-4 in his UFC career in fights that go to a decision, though.

Neal is the more patient fighter, throwing less volume but heavier shots. He’s a somewhat better 2-2 in UFC decisions, and like Luque, has never been stopped in the octagon.

Given the high volume from both fighters, it’s likely that the winner of this one ends up in the optimal lineup. I like Neal’s chances a bit more than the salary would indicate, so I’ll be slightly overweight on him. He’s fared better against the opponents he has in common with Luque: Neal beat Belal Muhammad, Muhammad beat Luque, and Neal has the quicker finish against Niko Price.

Additionally, being heavier on Neal makes it much easier to afford the more expensive fighters on the slate. Either way, I want at least one of these two in most of my lineups, and there’s an outside shot they both put up good scores, so a stack isn’t out of the question.

Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above: Thiago Santos (left) and Jamahal Hill (right)