The return of T.J. Dillashaw headlines an 11-fight card on Saturday night. If you’re playing DFS contests, make sure you get started early — the slate locks at 4 p.m.
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
Cory Sandhagen ($8800)
Sandhagen leads the slate in floor, median, points-per-dollar, and ceiling projections. This one is pretty straightforward, and he checks all of the boxes. He’s a fairly heavy favorite in a five round fight, facing an opponent coming off of a 29 month layoff due to PED use. Sandhagen’s work rate is great too, he attempts over 60 strikes per round (about 15 higher than the Bantamweight average).
We’re going to touch on this fight a bit more later, but it makes sense to lock Cory in for cash games, and have heavy exposure for GPPs. While he may not end up in the optimal lineup, I don’t see a lot of scenarios where he totally disappoints.
The Upside Plays
Punahele Soriano ($8200)
Among fighters only scheduled for three rounds, “Puna” has our highest ceiling projection at 101.4 points. I have absolutely no issue with that, as both of his UFC fights to date were first-round knockout wins. The risk here is that his opponent, Brendan Allen ($8000) turns this into a slower-paced grappling match, as Allen should have an advantage on the mat. Even so, Soriano brings enough power, as well as a solid wrestling background, that the most likely way this fight plays out is a Soriano KO.
Soriano averages two knockdowns per round (the UFC average is roughly 0.1) so even if the fight goes longer than anticipated he can still put up a big score. Best of all, at only $8200, he leaves a lot of flexibility in your lineup, and could make his way to the optimal lineup even without reaching his ceiling
Sijara Eubanks ($9300)
Next on our ceiling projections is Sijara “Sarj” Eubanks. While her Ceiling projection makes sense here, she has a comparatively lower chance to get there than Soriano (theoretically they both get there 20% of the time, but MMA scores are far less of a bell curve than other sports, so I don’t think we should take those odds literally.)
Anyway, Eubanks path to a big score here lies more in racking up takedowns and control time than an early stoppage. The fight is -140 or so to go the distance depending on your book, and obviously some of those scenarios involve a Eubanks loss or a late stoppage.
This fight is far harder for me to predict, as Eubanks has a 6-6 record with two straight losses, but her opponent Elise Reed ($6900) is making her UFC debut and doesn’t even have two years of professional experience yet. Due to the uncertainty, and Eubanks’ price tag, I expect her to be low owned, so it’s worth it to have some exposure for GPPs but I’m not planting a flag here.
The Value Plays
Maycee Barber ($7800)
I honestly don’t know what to expect from Barber here. She’s solidly middle-of-the-pack on all of our projections, but that’s just the average. Before her last two fights, she was 6-0 with five stoppages, including KO’s in all three of her UFC contests. Since then, she’s lost two decisions, one of them as a -850 favorite.
This time, she comes in as a slight +125 underdog against the solid Miranda Maverick ($8400). While Maverick is the more active fighter in terms of strikes and takedowns attempted, she only has one (T)KO win in her pro career, and it was due to a cut. So Barber definitely has the edge in power here, and that’s what we should be targeting.
The danger is another disappointing decision loss, but with public sentiment turning against “the future” (only 26% of Tapology predictions are on Barber) this is a buy-low opportunity in both price and ownership.
Elise Reed ($6900)
I covered most of what you need to know in the Eubanks write up, but if you’re looking to save salary Reed makes a lot of sense. From a cash game standpoint, the fight is likely to go all three rounds, and it would be hard to put up a score that disappoints given her salary with 15 minutes of cage time.
From an upside/GPP angle, Reed has two KOs in four professional fights, and is fighting a 6-6 opponent. I also doubt we see much ownership on Reed, so we can be overweight without going overboard. Does it feel great rostering a +310 underdog in her UFC debut? Of course not, but I do think her chances of being in the optimal lineup are greater than her ownership will be, and that’s what matters.
The Swing Fights
Cory Sandhagen ($8800) vs TJ Dillashaw ($7400)
I know, I know, I said Sandhagen was easy chalk. Hear me out though. We have no idea how long Dillashaw was using PEDs, how much the layoff will affect him, or what kind of shape he’s in at 135. What we do know, is that we have a five round fight, between two extremely high work-rate fighters.
This is a scenario where rostering both guys makes a ton of sense in cash games. If the fight ends early, you’ve guaranteed yourself a stoppage bonus at a reasonable price. If it goes long, regardless of who wins, Dillashaw almost certainly puts up enough points to pay off his salary. Our projections support this theory, with Sandhagen and Dillashaw as the No. 1 and No. 2 fighters on the card in median points per dollar.
The dream scenario, if employing this strategy, is a 4th or 5th round Sandhagen stoppage. It doesn’t seem far-fetched that Dillashaw does for a while, but a combination of ring rust and not being on EPO lead to him tiring out more than he used to. In that case, both guys put up a big score from a salary considered standpoint. If this happens, you’ll almost certainly need both in GPPs, and you’ll get a huge ownership discount rolling with both guys,
(Side note, anecdotally at least ownership on “both fighters in a five round fight” is much higher in cash games, as the sharper members of the field have figured out what I outlined above, but still tends to be pretty low in GPPs)
Hannah Goldy ($8300) vs. Diana Belbita ($7900)
Most sportsbooks have this one as a toss-up, or Belbita as a slight favorite, but that’s not why I’m interested. Save for the main-event, these two combine for the highest combined attempted strikes per round on the card, so one or both of them should put up a decent score.
This is more of a cash game only play for me, as this is the least likely fight to see a finish in the eyes of oddsmakers, but that’s a feature not a bug when we’re just looking to finish in the top half of the field. Belbita leads Goldy across the board in our projections, and is $400 cheaper, so that’s where my interest is, but I don’t mind using either fighter.
Pictured above: UFC fighter TJ Dillashaw
Photo credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images