Former bantamweight champion Petr Yan looks to get back on track Saturday with a matchup against fellow top-five fighter Merab Dvalishvili. Dvalishvili is a teammate of Yan’s longtime rival, Aljamain Sterling, and this bout has major implications for future title shots. That and 13 other fights go down this Saturday from Vegas, with DFS lineups locking at 3:00 p.m. ET.
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.
Petr Yan ($9,200) vs. Merab Dvalishvili ($7,000)
It wasn’t long ago that Petr Yan was being discussed as the potential best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Since then, he’s suffered three losses — one via disqualification and two split decisions. The more recent decision against Sean O’Malley was especially controversial, with many thinking Yan won the fight.
The road back to the top doesn’t get any easier, though, with Merab riding an eight-fight UFC win streak. Dvalishvili is a suffocating wrestler who’s put up some massive DFS scores thanks to his takedown rate. He’s topped 100 DraftKings points in seven of his eight wins, despite just one finish (and all three-round fights).
Yan is primarily a striker with excellent boxing and takedown defense. His 90% takedown defense makes him a difficult matchup for Dvalishvili, which explains the nearly -300 odds on Yan. Yan does his best work in the championship rounds as a notoriously slow starter who picks up speed throughout the bout.
This is a five-round fight, the first in Dvalishvili’s career. That’s a big edge to Yan as well, making him the sharper side for DFS. Of course, we’ll be rostering both in cash games — the extra rounds and the grappling upside Dvalishvili brings means both men should end up with solid scores.
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The Easy Chalk
Mario Bautista ($9,700)
There are plenty of heavy favorites on Saturday’s card. However, there are holes that can be poked in each of them. That is, except for Bautista. He’s a roughly -1000 favorite depending on the book, in a fight that’s -550 to end inside the distance. He’s fighting 43-year-old Guido Canneti ($6,500), who’s riding a two-fight win streak but against much lesser competition.
Bautista is a solid favorite to end this one inside of the first round and the superior fighter wherever this one takes place. There’s certainly a chance he doesn’t live up to his salary, but he’s the safest bet for a very strong score on the card. He’s a lock for cash games, and I’ll be heavy on him in GPPs as well.
Carlston Harris ($8,300)
DraftKings has tried to reprice fighters when their opponent switches in recent months, but due to the late notice on Harris, they were unable to do so this time. He was a slight favorite in his original matchup but is now fighting Jared Gooden ($6,900) with Harris at -320 or so.
That makes his $8,300 price tag a steal, as it’s about $1,000 too cheap. Harris should be the slate’s most popular fighter, but he’s still hard to avoid at his price point. If fading Harris, you almost have to play Gooden. Their combined salaries are $15,200, a full $1,000 cheaper than every other fight on the card. That means someone from this fight almost certainly ends up in the optimal — with a reasonable case towards stacking both as well.
The Contrarian Choice
Tony Gravely ($7,800)
Gravely is checking in as a +125 or so underdog for his bout against Victor Henry ($8,400). There’s a lot to like about Gravely’s game, though. He’s an aggressive wrestler who lands nearly six takedowns per 15 minutes and also has knockout power — he’s finished two of his four UFC wins via (T)KO.
Those two attributes are what we’re looking for in DFS fighters, especially at Gravely’s price point. Victor Henry is 1-1 in the UFC, with a loss in his last fight to 40-year-old Rafael Assuncao ($7,700). Assuncao is a less credentialed wrestler than Gravely but still took Henry down twice in their bout.
Gravely should be even more active with the takedowns here, giving him a path to massive upside in a win and a solid floor in a loss.
He’s a solid choice for any contest type.
Jonathan Martinez ($7,100)
Martinez is fighting Said Nurmagomedov ($9,100), a fighter whose famous last name influences his betting line (and thus, DFS salary) despite having no relation to Khabib. For that reason, I frequently look to target fighters against him.
Nurmagomedov is primarily a striker, with just half a takedown landed per 15 minutes in his UFC career. That bodes well for Martinez, a dangerous striker with vicious leg kicks that have fight-ending ability. Martinez is the more active striker as well, landing an extra 1.2 significant strikes per minute. That should play well to the judges, should they get involved.
Martinez is the inferior grappler here, but given Nurmagomedov’s relative hesitancy to initiate wrestling, it’s not a major concern.
Martinez is a bit thin for cash games but makes an excellent GPP option at likely low ownership.
The Value Play
Ariane Lipski ($6,800)
Lipski is the classic value play — a high output female fighter in a bout very likely to go to a decision. Outside of the main event, her fight with JJ Aldrich ($9,400) has the longest odds on the card to go to the judges, at +130.
This should also be primarily a stand up fight, with both Lipski and Aldrich averaging less than one takedown per 15 minutes in their UFC tenures. Striking matches tend to have higher floors for both fighters involved, but lower ceilings. That’s ideal for cash games, or when trying to salvage a good score from a cheap fighter.
Personally, I have some slight interest in Lipski as an underdog as well. With her salary, any win should see her land in the optimal, so I’ll have some light GPP exposure in addition to using her in cash.
The Upside Play
Tyson Nam ($7,300)
Tyson Nam is 3-3 in the UFC, with all three wins coming via knockout. He’s the definition of a boom-or-bust option, with all of his losses coming in under 25 points and his wins all over 95.
Nam is old for the division at 39, but has a reasonable matchup with Bruno Silva ($8,900). Silva hasn’t fought in nearly two years, and could have some ring rust to knock off. That’s dangerous against a fighter like Nam, who needs just one punch to put his opponents away.
Silva should also be willing to stand and bang with Nam, with both of Silva’s UFC wins coming via knockout. That should make for an exciting fight as long as it lasts, with the winner likely to have a big score. I’ll be mixing some Silva in as well, but I want to be above the field on Nam.
The Swing Fight
Nikita Krylov ($8,700) vs. Ryan Spann ($7,500)
Krylov and Spann were originally slated as the main event two weeks ago but were rebooked due to a Krylov illness. Betting lines and DFS salaries have remained virtually identical. This fight has been moved up to a 215lbs catchweight, so both fighters don’t need to go through as extensive of a weight cut. Additionally, this bout is now three rounds rather than five.
Those factors — as well as Krylov’s illness — should all favor the larger Spann. Still, my original analysis remains mostly unchanged, though with more of a lean to the underdog. With this one highly likely to end early, it should be a priority in GPPs. Here’s what I said last time:
Krylov and Spann are both riding two-fight win streaks, with their only losses coming to top competition. They’re both back-end top-10 fighters with a chance to move up into the championship picture in a suddenly chaotic 205 lbs division.
The point is the stakes are high here. Both fighters have clear paths to upside — both have plenty of knockout power as well as grappling/submission ability. Spann probably has more of the former, with Krylov being better in the latter department.
Spann has a tendency to punish grapplers with a nasty guillotine choke, though, so Krylov could choose to make this a striking match. Krylov is the better technical striker of the pair, but Spann has the power edge. For that reason, Spann is my preferred DFS option when considering price — though it’s fairly close.
Either way, this one’s too tight to pick a side for cash games. For GPPs, I’ll have one or the other in every lineup I build since this one is a whopping -900 (now -650 for the three-round fight) to end inside the distance.