The UFC is back after a break for Thanksgiving, returning with top-five Bantamweight action. Rob Font and Jose Aldo square off in the main event, with the winner in a solid position to challenge for a title shot. The action kicks off at 7 p.m. eastern time on ESPN+, with the main card starting at 10.
We have built out a full player-projection model using the FantasyLabs tools 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 Easy Chalk
Rob Font ($8,400)
Font is a moderate favorite (-150 or so) in the main event against Jose Aldo ($7,800), which means he’s likely to be chalk. (As is Aldo, and for cash games, combining Font and Aldo — DraftKings should really switch their pricing for five-round fights.) With this one being a -135 favorite to go all five rounds, Font will need to get there with volume to live up to his lofty projections. He leads the slate in both Median and Pts/Sal projections.
Fortunately, he’s more than capable of doing so. He attempts over 61 strikes per round, which is almost 50% higher than the UFC average. He also knocks down his opponents at more than double the UFC average — a rarity for fighters in the lower weight classes. All of which helps explain his 84-point scoring average on DraftKings.
While it’s not the likeliest option, Font also has a reasonable shot at a finish against Aldo. Font has finished six of his nine UFC victories, five by knockout. Aldo is extremely durable, and has only ever been finished on the feet by Conor McGregor. His other three TKO losses were all via ground and pound, but Aldo’s 91% takedown defense means we are unlikely to see Font win the fight that way.
Font’s salary makes him hard to avoid in any contest this week. With relatively close salaries, the winner of the main event is highly likely to be in the optimal lineup. Font is likely to be the winner.
Brendan Allen ($9,600)
At -375, Allen is this weekend’s heaviest favorite for his bout against Chris Curtis ($6,600). Curtis is stepping in on somewhat short notice, after making his UFC debut less than a month ago with a knockout win over Phil Hawes. “All In” was scheduled for a matchup with fellow top-15 middleweight Brad Tavares before Tavares withdrew, leading to the fight with Curtis.
Curtis is capable of shocking people — as we saw against Hawes — but the journeyman is extremely over-matched against a top competitor like Allen. Curtis is a natural welterweight (fun fact: I fought on the under card of Curtis vs. Belal Muhammad in a regional show in 2014.) who is only competing as a middleweight due to the short-notice nature of both of his UFC contests. That’s a problem against Allen, who’s fairly large for the division.
Allen is a solid technical fighter, who should have the striking defense (and grappling offense) to avoid big shots from Curtis. The real question is whether he’s able to rack up enough points to pay off his salary. He’ll need a stoppage to do so, as his output is somewhat underwhelming. He’s a +125 underdog to finish this fight against the durable Curtis, who’s only been knocked out once as a professional and has never been submitted. (Despite fighting consistently strong competition on the regional scene throughout his career. Curtis had two of his first six fights against future UFC veterans.)
Allen is very likely to put up a solid score, but not one that’s worth paying up for. We can probably let the rest of the field eat the chalk on him in this one, at least for tournaments.
Jim Crute ($9,200)
Crute is second in our Pts/Sal projections, and one of the larger favorites at -200 as he takes on Jamahal Hill ($7,000). Hill is coming off his gruesome arm injury at the hands of Paul Craig, and oddsmakers are apparently of the opinion that he won’t be back to full strength. Hill had won three straight UFC bouts in impressive fashion before taking on Craig.
Crute is also coming off of an injury, after his bout with Anthony Smith was stopped due to his leg giving out between rounds. He had been impressive too though, compiling a 4-2 UFC record (four finishes) since joining the promotion three years ago. “The Brute” brings a very impressive 1.24 knockdown average per 15 minutes to this one, as well as two submission victories.
Despite his power, Crute will probably need to rely on the takedown in this one, as Hill has been extremely difficult to hit in his UFC career. However, that shouldn’t be a problem for Crute, who averages almost five takedowns per 15 minutes. If it gets to the ground, Crute’s at a huge advantage. He submitted Paul Craig, who made easy work of Hill.
Hill’s range and striking give me a bit of pause in this one, but Crute is a solid option. He’s scored at least 88 points in each of his wins, and over 106 in all but one of them. As a -200 favorite to win, the match checks out in his favor.
The Upside Plays
Luis Smolka ($8,500)
Smolka has the highest ceiling projection of any fighter in a three-round fight priced under $9,000. He’s kicking off the action on Saturday, taking on Vince Morales as a -150 favorite. Smolka has at least 106 DraftKings points in each of his UFC wins, all of them coming within the distance. He’s also a beneficiary of some line movement in his favor, having opened at -140 in most books.
Dusko Todorovic ($8,600)
Todorovic has nine of his ten professional wins by stoppage, and is taking on the highly-stoppable Maki Pitolo ($7,600) to close out the ESPN+ prelims. Pitolo is 1-4 in the UFC, with two submission defeats. The Serbian Todorovic appears noticeably bigger and stronger than Pitolo (who should really drop a weight class) and is +175 to win this fight by knockout. Our projections like Todorovic, giving him the sixth-highest ceiling projection (at the 10th highest price.)
The Contrarian Approach
Jeremiah Wells ($7,100)
Jeremiah Wells looked extremely impressive in his UFC debut, dispatching solid veteran Wallrey Alves 30 seconds into round two by way of knockout. Next up for Wells is UFC veteran Jake Matthews ($9,100), who will be entering the Octagon for the 16th time despite being just 27 years old. Matthews’ most recent fight was a submission loss to Sean Brady. Brady and Wells are teammates at Renzo Gracie Philadelphia, which is a good sign for Wells.
Wells should also have a striking advantage. He appears noticeably faster and more powerful than Matthews, and brings a three-inch reach advantage despite being the shorter fighter. This is a big edge, as being shorter allows you to carry more muscle at a given weight class, while the longer reach eliminates the drawbacks of fighting taller fighters.
Sharp betting action has been coming in on Wells too, with his money line opening somewhere around +165 before dipping to +150 or so. That would make Wells a few hundred dollars more expensive on DraftKings based on their typical pricing. Given his stopping power and submission ability, the sky is the (price-considered) limit for Wells in this one.
The Swing Fight
Alonzo Menifield ($8,700) vs. William Knight ($7,500)
After many attempts to make this fight happen, it looks like it’s finally good to go this time. Menifield uncharacteristically won a decision in his last bout, but had previously finished all of wins within 32 seconds of the 2nd round. Knight similarly has 10 professional wins — with nine of them coming by knockout.
This fight features perhaps the two most physically imposing fighters on the UFC roster, and promises fireworks. Menifield deservedly has the edge, as he brings similar power to Knight but a more developed takedown and submission game. That’s why our projections prefer him, but this fight could go either way if it turns into a slugfest.
This fight is -150 to end by knockout, with the harder question being which man is able to pull off the victory. I’m not sure either, but I think Knight is the better tournament value. You’re saving salary and probably ownership at a pretty significant level for a fight that’s somewhat close on paper. Either way, you’ll want one of the two in all of your lineups.
The Short Notice Special
Bryan Barberena ($8,400)
We seemingly get burned by these more often than not. However, Barberena’s original opponent was Matt Brown, with Barberena as only a slight favorite. Now, he’s taking on 5-0 UFC newcomer Darian Weeks ($7,800) and is still…a slight favorite. For what it’s worth, I think Brown would’ve been the tougher fight here.
Brown had won his prior fight against Diego Lhima, while Weeks is coming off a win against a 3-4 fighter and a loss in a boxing match. Barberena isn’t as obvious of a value as sometimes appears in these situations, but he’s still a solid play against the 14th-best welterweight in the Kansas/Missouri region on four days notice.
Pictured Above: Opponents Alonzo Menifield and William Knight
Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC