The UFC returns to San Diego on Saturday with a 13-fight card headlined by ranked bantamweights. Marlon “Chito” Vera looks to continue his rise through the rankings, this time against former champion Dominick Cruz. The action kicks off at 4:00 p.m. ET, so be sure to have your lineups set early.
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.
Marlon Vera ($8,500) vs. Dominick Cruz ($7,700)
Vera vs. Cruz is about as ideal of a DFS main event as you can hope to see. Both fighters operate with high striking volume and solid cardio, and the fight is -190 to go the full five rounds. Additionally, neither fighter is very expensive. We should see a lot of total points, just like we saw in Vera’s last fight when he and Rob Font combined to land 430 significant strikes.
Cruz’s legendary footwork and defensive ability should keep that number lower this time, but still with plenty of volume to go around. Cruz also has some takedown upside, averaging nearly three per 15 minutes. Vera’s wrestling has improved by leaps and bounds in recent fights, but Cruz could — and should — look to control him on the ground when possible.
This fight is a potential stacking target for GPPs, with five-round main events occasionally having two fighters in the optimal lineup. The last time it happened was April 30th in Vera’s last fight. The odds of that go up when the favorite is on the cheaper side since they won’t need a quick finish to pay off their salary.
Of course, playing both fighters is a must for cash games. While there are odd situations where I consider just rostering one or the other, this week isn’t one of them. It’s unlikely we see a quick stoppage by either man: Cruz isn’t much of a finisher in general, and Vera’s finishes are mainly based on attrition rather than a big shot or two.
Of course, Vera is the better play if picking between them. The line has shifted his way throughout the week, making him a solid value at $8,500 and a -240 favorite. He also has a high ceiling, with his striking volume providing a path to a big score.
I’ll be setting a rule in the FantasyLabs Optimizer to feature at least one of these two in each of my lineups.
The Easy Chalk
Bruno Silva ($9,000)
Silva is a dangerous striker who opened his UFC career with three consecutive knockout victories before being sacrificed to future UFC title challenger Alex Pereira in his last time out. Pereira has elite striking skills, something his opponent this time, Gerald Meerschaert ($7,200), certainly does not.
“GM3” is a game veteran but has a negative striking differential in his UFC tenure and was knocked out in the first round in two of his last three losses. Silva is the better striker here by a wide margin. That’s reflected in his moneyline odds, which opened at -280 and have been creeping up throughout the week.
Meerschaert does have some significant grappling upside here, though. Silva hasn’t been tested too heavily in the grappling department yet, while GM3 has three submission wins in his last four fights. That makes me slightly hesitant to roster Silva for cash games, as a quick submission loss isn’t out of the question.
However, he’s a tremendously strong GPP play, with his likeliest win coming via violent knockout. That could come quickly given the weak chin of GM3 or later with a high volume of strikes, and either one would lead to a solid DFS score.
David Onama ($8,600)
Onama should be tremendously popular, as he’s a massive value on Saturday’s slate. He was a moderate -210 favorite on Monday, leading to his $8,600 price tag. Since then, his odds have improved to -300 or longer across the industry.
Onama has topped 100 DraftKings points in his two UFC wins, both coming via stoppage. Like Silva, he’s the superior striker in his matchup with Nate Landwehr ($7,800). Landwehr has two knockout losses in four UFC fights.
Unlike Silva, Onama may also have the grappling edge in his matchup. Onama picked up two takedowns en route to a submission win in his last bout. Landwehr has fairly dangerous submission skills himself but will likely struggle to get Onama to the mat.
Onama is a perfect combination of high output and stoppage upside, making him a strong play for all contest types.
The Upside Plays
Ode Osborne ($8,800)
Osborne is another fighter who’s seen the line move his way throughout the week, though less aggressively than Onama. Still, he’s a strong value against 38-year-old Tyson Nam ($7,400), who hasn’t fought in the last 18 months.
Osborne has four inches in reach on Nam while landing more strikes per minute and absorbing less. He should be able to rack up a ton of volume in a short time on the aging Nam, who has power in his hands but is somewhat limited defensively.
I expect a striking battle here, but Osborne also has more grappling upside. Nam has attempted only four takedowns in his five-fight UFC career while landing none. Osborne mixes in the occasional takedown, going 1-7 in five fights.
Osborne likely needs a finish to pay off his salary but has a reasonable chance to do so. He’s +120 at DraftKings to win inside the distance, and he should be one of the least popular favorites on the card.
Jason Witt ($7,100)
The bout between Witt and Josh Quinlan ($9,100) has been rescheduled from last weekend. Here’s what I had to say at the time:
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 Witt. Witt has been knocked out thrice in his last five 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.
While Quinlan still stands out in this fight from an odds perspective, the prices have been adjusted slightly this week. Quinlan’s price is up $500, while Witt is $500 cheaper. That increases my interest in Witt, who I think is slightly undervalued in our projections.
The bout was rescheduled due to Quinlan having trace amounts of PEDs still in his system, but he passed all tests during his nine-month suspension. It appears likely he’s been clean since then. Cutting weight occasionally causes athletes’ bodies to release trace amounts of PED metabolites.
I’ll have exposure to both fighters, but I’ll be more overweight on Witt.
The Value Play
Priscila Cachoeira ($7,500)
Cachoeira’s fight against Ariane Lipski ($8,700) was scheduled for last week, but Lipski missed weight and wasn’t medically cleared. Now, they’re fighting up a weight class at 135, but only one week later.
I’m confident Lipski still cut some weight this time around. She weighed in at 128.5 last week, but that was a hard enough cut that she couldn’t fight afterward. That suggests she walks around above 135 since a seven-pound cut is unlikely to have caused her to be unable to fight.
Generally following weigh-ins, fighters rehydrate and refuel immediately, which can cause a rebound beyond their previous weights. Having to cut weight again just seven days later is a tall order, especially with Lipski’s weight miss being blamed on a bout of COVID during this camp.
That’s a problem against “Zombie Girl,” who comes forward aggressively in all her fights. Cachoeira is 3-1 in her last four, with two knockout wins and a loss on the ground. I don’t expect Lipski to bring her down — she’s landed just one takedown in seven UFC fights — so the combination of Cachoeira’s power and a depleted Lipski could spell another TKO win for Zombie Girl.
Even if she doesn’t, the high striking output of Cachoeira in a standup battle provides an excellent floor. She’s scored at least 30 DraftKings points in every fight where she wasn’t submitted, and Lipski’s limited interest in the ground makes her a safe bet to repeat that feat.
The Contrarian Approach
Charlie Ontiveros ($6,900)
Ontiveros is fighting Gabriel Benitez ($9,300) at lightweight, who has no business being the slate’s most expensive fighter. Benitez is 1-4 over his last 5, with his only win coming against Justin Jaynes. Jaynes was in the midst of a five-fight losing streak, including losing his first post-UFC fight.
On the Ontiveros side, his first UFC fight was a short-notice bout up at middleweight against Kevin Holland. He followed that up with a TKO loss to Steve Garcia. He dominated the first round against Garcia, though, recording two knockdowns before being taken down and pounded out in the second.
Benitez has mostly fought at featherweight but is returning to lightweight on Saturday. Ontiveros could look and be nearly two weight classes bigger come fight time. He has six inches of height and five inches in reach on Benitez, which could be a determining factor if this one stays standing. Benitez has landed all of one takedown in his UFC career, so that is likely to be the case.
Ontiveros has shown solid power with his knockdowns of Garcia, so as long as he can keep this one standing, he’s in a great spot against Benitez. This fight has the longest odds on the card to end inside the distance, making him a GPP-only play. I prefer my cash game underdogs to have a better shot at going 15 minutes.
In addition to being a great DFS play, he’s my favorite underdog on the card in this week’s edition of The Action Network’s UFC Betting Podcast:
The Swing Fight
Martin Buday ($8,900) vs. Lukasz Brzeski ($7,300)
The lone heavyweight bout on a card is a good bet to end up in the “swing fight” section of this column. This week is no different. UFC newcomer Brzeski is taking on Buday, who’s 1-0 following a technical decision win over Chris Barnett in his debut.
Brzeski has finished seven of his eight professional wins, with Buday finishing eight of his 10. We don’t have much data on either fighter, but both seem interested in putting opponents away early. This one is -200 to end inside the distance, one of the higher marks on the slate.
The lack of information on both fighters — Buday’s debut against Barnett doesn’t tell me much — means I don’t have a strong opinion either way. Brzeski seems like a solid value at his low price, though. I’ll try to overweight the field on him in GPPs while avoiding both in cash.
Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above: Bruno Silva