After a star-studded pair of events, things calm down a but this week at UFC Vegas 42. Headlined by former featherweight champion (and current No. 1 ranked) Max Holloway against No. 3-ranked Yair Rodriguez, the whole card jumps off at 1 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon.
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
Max Holloway ($9,500)
Holloway is the most expensive fighter on the night, but he’s still underpriced. His point-per-salary projection is 50% higher than the next closest fighter. Holloway is roughly a -700 favorite in this one against Yair Rodriguez ($6,700), with +140 odds to end it inside the distance.
Holloway’s style means that a stoppage victory might not be ideal though. In his last fight against Calvin Kattar, he scored an insane 209 DraftKings points (a record since DraftKings offered MMA contests as far as I can tell) while setting a UFC record for significant strikes landed with 445. He broke his own record that night, having previously set it with 290 strikes vs. Brian Ortega. No fighter outside of Holloway has ever landed more than 238 significant strikes in a contest.
DraftKings’ insistence on opposing fighters salaries combining to be exactly $16,200 is interesting here. At the very least, fighters in five round contests could be priced higher. Holloway is a perfect example of why that should be the case — 60% more time for him to work is insane. (If Lamar Jackson got to play in a 90 minute football game, shouldn’t his price be way higher than everyone else?)
Regardless, Holloway is a near-lock here. Rodriguez has a punchers chance, but sharp money has pounded Holloway down from -350 at the open to -750 now. That combination of win equity and extreme fantasy friendly style, all in a five-round fight, is second to none. Lock him in your lineups.
Sean Woodson ($9,200)
To be honest, I’m not sure how chalky Woodson (or anybody other than Holloway) will truly be here. Regardless, Woodson is a very strong play. Like Holloway, he’s seen significant line movement in his favor — opening around -275 but being pushed down to -320. That means we’re getting a bit of a discount on him here, with his win equity exceeding his price.
Our projections have Woodson a distant second to Holloway in essentially every category, including Pts/Sal. However, his ceiling is somewhat limited for his price. He’s a +225 favorite to win this fight by a stoppage. He’s also not active enough to make up for the lack of finishing equity, leading to his high DraftKings score (in three fights) of 82 points.
Woodson is fine for cash games here, but I’m struggling to see a scenario where he’s a must in tournament lineups. Even before the UFC, most of his professional wins were by decision. Given his salary, fading Woodson could be the best option here in tournaments.
The Upside Plays
Ben Rothwell ($8,600)
Rothwell takes on Marcos Rogerio de Lima ($7,600) in the lone heavyweight bout of the night. Unsurprisingly, this fight has the best odds of the night to end early, with a decision at +165 odds on DraftKings.
The veteran Rothwell has performed well as of late, winning three of his last four bouts with two stoppages. De Lima on the other hand, has been submitted twice in his last four contests. That’s not a great statistic when facing Rothwell, who has secured a third of his professional wins by submission.
Rothwell is only a moderate favorite here, in the neighborhood of -170. That keeps his median projection reasonable. However, given the outsized chance of a stoppage here, our projections like Rothwell’s ceiling. He trails only Holloway in that category, ahead of more heavily favored (and highly priced) fighters like Woodson.) Rostering 40 year-old heavyweights is never the safest choice, so you can probably fade Rothwell in cash. The ceiling is certainly there for tournaments though, at a very reasonable price.
The Contrarian Approach
Colin Anglin ($7,000)
Anglin is facing Woodson (see above) in featherweight action on the prelims. Anglin is 0-1 in the UFC, having lost his debut to Melsik Baghdasaryan in July. It was a poor performance for Anglin, who was outclassed throughout before succumbing to a second round knockout. However, that loss doesn’t seem so bad in the rear-view mirror, with Melsik looking dominant against Bruno Silva last week.
Anglin is a lifelong wrestler, who gave up a college wrestling scholarship to pursue mixed martial arts professionally. Woodson was taken down three times in a round by Julian Erosa, who has three total takedowns in his other seven UFC fights.
Woodson’s escapability sets up nicely for Anglin’s fantasy production as well. You can’t score another takedown unless your opponent gets back up, so Anglin could rack up a lot of points that way. At his salary, any win is probably enough to be in the optimal lineup. However, it’s even better if he posts a high score while doing so.
Our projections are low on Anglin here, but that’s largely due to betting markets having him as a +240 or so underdog. I think the markets have it wrong here, which means you should consider Anglin for your lineups.
The Swing Fight
Kennedy Nzechukwu ($7,900) vs. Da Un Jung ($8,300)
The UFC must really want everybody to tune in early on Saturday, with this fight being booked as the opening bout. Nzechukwu and Jung have won a combined 16 of their 23 professional victories by knockout, and this fight should be no different.
Nzechukwu has been criminally underrated since his submission loss to Paul Craig in 2019. Craig was a 2-3 UFC fighter at the time, so I understand the logic, but has since gone 5-1 and left a trail of shattered joints behind him. Nzechukwu has gone 3-0 since then, including a vicious knockout victory over much hyped City Kickboxing prospect Casey Ulberg (as a +190 underdog.)
Jung is unbeaten in his short UFC career, with a 3-0-1 record (two stoppages.) He’s mixed in some grappling ability as well, submitting Khadis Ibragimov in his UFC debut, as well as taking down William Knight eight times (on nine attempts) in his last bout.
Nzechukwu has yet to land a takedown in his UFC career, so Jung’s ability (and willingness) to bring the fight to the ground will likely determine this fight. Nzechukwu has almost five inches in reach, and seems to be the more powerful striker. Jung struggled in his draw against Sam Alvey to bring his opponent down (zero takedowns on three attempts), so it will be interesting to see how that plays out against Kennedy.
Our models give the favored Jung a slight edge in median projection, with Nzechukwu having the edge in ceiling, as well as being slightly cheaper. That feels right, with Jung more likely to win a decision, but Nzechukwu hunting for knockouts the duration of the bout.
Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above: UFC fighter Max Holloway