Top five Bantamweights Marlon “Chito” Vera and Cory Sandhagen take center stage in San Antonio, as the UFC leaves the friendly confines of the Apex Center for a fight night. Both fighters are a win or two away from a title fight, and always deliver action-packed fights. There’s a 11-fight card from which to build lineups this time, with contests locking at 4:00 p.m. 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. We’ve also added ownership projections by yours truly, to help find leverage spots for GPPs.
You can check out the projections for every fighter on Saturday’s card in our UFC Models.
Cory Sandhagen ($8,600) vs. Marlon Vera ($7,600)
Saturday’s main event should be a great one for DFS purposes, with two high-volume strikers meeting. Sandhagen, in particular, is known for his impressive output, landing over 100 significant strikes in both of his previous five-round fights. While he lost both decisions, he still scored over 60 DraftKings points in both, giving him an incredibly solid floor.
Vera is more of a boom-or-bust option. He has better power than Sandhagen, with roughly double the knockdown rate, but isn’t as prolific with his volume. “Chito” is the better fighter late in fights, though, with a perfect 2-0 record in bouts that make it to the championship round.
The story of this one will be Vera’s ability to win the later rounds, as he’s a slow starter who builds throughout the fight. This one is +110 to end inside the distance (with over 4.5 rounds favored), so both men should have plenty of time to put up points.
Thus, the winner of this win likely ends up in the optimal due to their reasonable salaries. Given the smaller 11-fight card, a case could also be made for stacking both fighters. Besides being a unique way to build in larger tournaments, Sandhagen, in particular, could do enough in a 25-minute loss to still be in the optimal lineup.
For cash games, rostering both fighters is an absolute must. While there are scenarios where Vera disappoints, his floor is still extremely solid relative to his price.
Both Sean Zerillo and I see this one playing out the same way, as we discussed on the latest UFC Betting Preview from The Action Network:
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The Easy Chalk
Tucker Lutz ($9,200)
This is a tough week to find safety, with no favorites going off at better than -275. That’s where Lutz stands at the moment, with the best moneyline on the slate despite being the third-most expensive fighter. That makes him the best high-end fighter value for his fight against Daniel Pineda ($7,000).
Pineda is 37 years old with a 4-5 UFC record, and his last win came in August 2020. Contrast that with Lutz, who’s just 1-1 in the UFC but is only 28. He should still be improving, while Pineda is on the downslope of his career. Lutz’s loss is very excusable as well, coming against grappling ace Pat Sabatini (4-1 UFC).
Among the heavily favored fighters on the card, Lutz also has the best stoppage odds, at -120, to win inside the distance. That makes him the superior high-end play for GPPs. However, he’s not the safest pick, as the stylistic matchup with the grappler Pineda is a bit scary.
Maycee Barber ($9,100)
Checking in just below Lutz in moneyline odds is Maycee Barber. She’s around -260 for her fight against Andrea Lee ($7,100). This one is +110 to end inside the distance, so Barber is arguably the better floor play — it’s highly unlikely she loses by a stoppage.
Her ceiling is far more limited, though. Since returning from a torn ACL, her last three fights have all been decision wins. She’s scored between 54 and 79 DraftKings points in those fights, which is a disappointment from a fighter in the $9,000 range. While it’s possible she picks up the aggression here, her likeliest win condition is by decision at -110.
There’s an argument that Barber is the safer cash game play, but it’s potentially risky if Pineda ends up outscoring her by a significant amount. While rostering both isn’t impossible, I’m leaning towards Pineda for all contest types but may pivot to Barber for cash.
The Contrarian Choice
Alex Perez ($7,300)
Perez is my favorite underdog on the card from a DFS standpoint, as he squares off with Manel Kape ($8,900). Both flyweights push a fast pace, with Perez scoring at least 87 points in each of his UFC wins. This should be an exciting fight, with Kape’s early aggression and athleticism pitted against Perez’s skill and cardio.
Perez throws vicious leg kicks, which should serve him well as this fight goes into later rounds. He’s also the superior wrestler here, which could be big from a fantasy-scoring standpoint. Kape has a tendency to work for submissions from his back — which is great if it works but problematic if it doesn’t. That means Perez should be able to win minutes and rack up control time if he avoids the submission game of Kape.
He’s certainly a risky pick, though, as he’s been vulnerable against fighters who come out of the gate aggressively. That makes him unsuitable for cash games, as a quick Kape win is certainly possible here.
The Value Play
Yana Santos (Kunitskaya) ($7,200)
I don’t have a lot of faith in Santos to win here, as a +200 or so underdog returning to action for the first time since giving birth last May. However, she’s the underdog in the fight with the longest finish odds on the slate. She has strong output — attempting nearly 70 strikes per round in her UFC career.
She’s fighting Holly Holm ($9,000), who hasn’t finished an opponent since 2017 and at 41 is on the tail end of her career. The bigger concern is Holm slowing this fight to a snail’s pace with her clinch game, which limits the total output from both fighters.
Still, given 15 minutes to work, Santos should be able to put up a usable score from a cash game perspective. She’s scored at least 40 points in every fight that made it to the third round. Andrea Lee ($7,100) is a similar option, though she has a bit more stoppage risk based on the betting lines.
The Upside Play
Chidi Njokuani ($8,800)
All Njokuani does is win by knockout. Both of his UFC wins and his two most recent non-UFC fights have all ended the same way. He has tremendous power, averaging more than a knockdown per 15 minutes in his UFC career. He’s also enormous for middleweight, at 6’3″ tall with an 80-inch reach.
The matchup should benefit him here, too, as Albert Duraev ($7,400) showed himself to be very hittable in his last fight against Joaquin Buckley. Buckley was able to finish him and has since dropped to welterweight, so the far bigger Njokuani should find similar success.
Njokuani is roughly -170 on the moneyline, but about a coin flip to pick up a win inside the distance. A stoppage should see him land in the optimal lineup here.
The Swing Fight
Trevin Giles ($8,200) vs. Preston Parsons ($8,000)
The most evenly lined fight on the card, this one also has very strong stoppage odds at -250. Giles is a 10-fight UFC veteran, compiling a 6-4 record with three knockout victories and every loss coming inside the distance. Three of those losses were up a weight class at middleweight, though, and he’s looked better at 170 lbs.
Parsons is making just his third walk to the Octagon, with a 1-1 record to date. It’s been a bit of a weird start for him. His loss came on short notice and up at middleweight, while his win was against a lightweight who stepped up on short notice. We haven’t seen him beat — or lose to — anyone on level terms just yet.
Still, I trust the more proven Giles, who should have the edge in size and athleticism. Parson’s grappling could be an issue here, but should Giles weather an early takedown or two, I expect him to land the better strikes. I’m not confident enough in Giles to go that route for cash games, but I’ll have a fair amount of GPP exposure to him while mixing Parsons in as well.