The UFC returns to ABC early on Saturday. They’re bringing a 12-fight card, with a main event between top-ten featherweights Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez. Ortega is a former title challenger, with Rodriguez perhaps next in line if he pulls out the win. The action kicks off with an early fight time of 11:00 am eastern, so be sure to have your lineups ready.
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 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 in our UFC Models.
Brian Ortega ($8,500) vs. Yair Rodriguez ($7,700)
Saturday brings a relatively close main event for the first time in a while, with the favored Ortega carrying a very moderate $8,500 price tag. That means we’ll probably want one of the main event fighters in every lineup we build since the score needed to find the optimal from either man isn’t all that high.
This one also projects to produce more total scoring than some recent main events. Both fighters throw an above-average volume of strikes and have reasonable power, with Ortega also carrying some takedown upside. After failing to record a takedown for six consecutive bouts, Ortega has at least two in each of his last three fights.
It’s a relatively standard striker vs. grappler matchup here, with Rodriguez having the edge in the striking department. He lands more and is hit less than Ortega, who has solid power but is very hittable at times. Ortega has a negative striking differential of more than two per minute, so Rodriguez should be able to score on the feet.
Both men have clear paths to victory, and those victories should come with solid fantasy scores. I’m somewhat interested in stacking both fighters for GPPs as well. It’s a 12-fight card, so doing anything we can to make unique lineups is a priority. With both of them inside the top six in Pts/Sal projections, it’s a solid fight to do so.
Both ending up in the optimal would require a fairly specific fight, though, with Rodriguez doing a ton of damage on the feet and Ortega finding a late submission victory. That’s been the script for many of Ortega’s fights, so it’s certainly not out of the question.
The Easy Chalk
Punahele Soriano ($9,200)
Soriano has the highest projections outside the main event, as he’s a somewhat heavy favorite in the fight likeliest to end inside the distance according to betting lines. From a strategy standpoint, we want long stoppage odds on our favorites, especially in GPPs.
This one is -200 to end early, with Soriano as a -225 favorite. I’m a bit concerned at the line movement we’ve seen, though, as Soriano opened at -260 on DraftKings. That makes him not a great value, but if he can find a knockout, it won’t matter.
He’s fighting Dalcha Lungimabula ($7,000), a dangerous striker with a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He’s looked good at times but is ultimately 2-3 in the UFC, with both wins coming against fighters who were cut shortly after.
Soriano is 2-2 in the UFC, with a pair of first round knockouts and a pair of decision losses. That’s typically not a great sign for his cardio, but Lungiambula is also a fast starter who tends to fade quickly. This one projects to get out to a quick start, with Soriano having significant power and durability edges.
The violent nature and unfavorable line moves make Soriano less than ideal for cash games, but he’s an excellent GPP option.
Su Mudaerji ($9,100)
Mudaerji trails only Ortega and Soriano in median projection on Saturday’s card. He’s seen the line move his way and at -265 is a heavier favorite than Soriano while carrying a cheaper price tag.
That makes him a solid cash game option on Saturday, as we’re willing to sacrifice some stoppage upside for win equity. That said, a finish is certainly possible against Matt Schnell ($7,100). Mudaerji has one knockout in three UFC wins and finished all his non-UFC bouts.
Schnell is 1-3 over his last four, with one knockout loss and one submission. His lone win was a split decision, which also doesn’t inspire confidence. Sumaerdji is a considerably better striker, landing more than twice as many strikes per minute as he absorbs while carrying more power than Schnell.
With Schnell landing only two takedowns in ten UFC bouts, the better striker should also be the winner of this one. That’s Mudaerji, who’s a solid play for all formats.
The Upside Plays
Amanda Lemos ($9,400)
Lemos is the heaviest favorite on the card, as she fights “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson ($6,800) in the co-main event. Her price tag is fairly appropriate for a fighter with -305 odds, though the line has shifted slightly towards Waterson since the start of the week.
Generally, I prefer to avoid female fighters at the top of the salary scale, but Lemos is an exception. We need stoppages or a ton of takedowns from our $9,000 and up fighters, and Lemos provides the former. She averages 1.53 knockdowns per 15 minutes in her UFC career. For context, men’s welterweight strikers Li Jinagliang and Muslim Salikhov average 1.54 combined.
Waterson is also returning after more than a year off, a period that saw her dealing with a “potentially career-ending” injury. I have no clue what the injury is, as Waterson has not shared, but that’s still not a great sign.
Stylistically, both women throw relatively low volume strikes, preferring to stay on the outside and snipe rather than swarm with combos. That also favors Lemos, as she has a three-inch reach advantage.
Ideally, we get an ownership discount on Lemos commensurate with most female fighters. She’s a strong play even if we don’t, though. I expect her to finish this fight, as I discussed on the latest Action Network UFC Betting Preview:
Shane Burgos ($9,000)
Burgos has the highest ceiling projection on Saturday’s card, as his fight with Charles Jourdain ($7,200) has fight of the night written all over it. Burgos attempts the most strikes per round of any fighter on the card, with Jourdain not far off.
Burgos is only a -165 favorite on DraftKings, which should keep some of the field away from him. This fight is likely to produce a ton of points, but it’s no lock that the bulk of them go to Burgos.
Both he and Jourdain have considerable power for the division and little interest in takedowns. That means a standup battle that should favor Burgos, who has superior striking numbers (both differential and total landed) and a 6.5-inch reach advantage.
His output gives him multiple paths to a big score, which could come from either a knockdown or a high-paced decision win. Jourdain has enough stoppage upside in his own right that I want some exposure to him, and I’ll also avoid Burgos in cash games. His ceiling is too high to ignore for GPPs, though.
The Value Play
Lauren Murphy ($7,400)
I’m genuinely puzzled by the salary and betting line on Murphy as she welcomes Miesha Tate ($8,800) back to the flyweight division. Tate is 1-1 since returning to the UFC, with her win coming against 44-year-old Marion Reneau.
Murphy is a former title challenger, who rode a five-fight win streak into a bout with Valentina Shevchenko. While she lost that fight, it’s hard to say she’s anything but one of the top few female flyweights in the world.
I’m also not a fan of the 35-year-old Tate dropping a weight class. It’s tough on older fighters to lose extra weight, and it feels like a desperate move from a fighter who knows they can’t compete for a title at their prior weight class.
Beyond the reasons that Murphy could outperform her salary/betting odds, she’s a good cash game value even if you assume the lines to be correct. She attempts roughly 50% more strikes than the UFC average, and this bout has the longest stoppage odds on the slate.
That’s precisely what we’re looking for in a cheap cash game fighter, as she could put up a reasonable score even in a loss. She’s a great cash game play with upset potential that would benefit her in GPPs.
The Contrarian Approach
Li Jiangliang ($7,600)
Like Murphy, “The Leech” is a fighter I would make a slight favorite if I were setting the lines. Fortunately, we’re getting him at a considerable discount. He’s also popping as a value, with his betting line dropping from +150 when salaries were released to +130.
Li is fighting Muslim Salikov ($8,600), a fighter with a similar style. “The King of Kung Fu” has a background in Sanda, a Chinese combat sport that involves kickboxing with trips/throws — but no ground fighting. That’s Jiangliang’s background as well, and both fighters are fairly similar by the numbers.
Both have slightly positive striking differentials, above average power, and land just over a takedown per round. Jinagliang has a 2.5-inch reach edge, though, and is four years younger than the 38-year-old Salikov.
He’s also fought much stiffer competition, with his recent losses coming to top welterweights Khamzat Chimaev and Neal Magny. Salikov’s recent fights include a decision win over 42-year-old Francisco Trinaldo and a split decision win over Elizeu Zaleski — whom Jiangliang knocked out.
This is probably a coin flip if it sees the judges, but Jiangliang has more of the stoppage upside. That’s a great deal at Jiangliang’s price, and one I’ll be pouncing on in tournaments.
The Swing Fight
Jack Shore ($8,400) vs. Ricky Simon ($7,800)
This is a dream matchup for wrestling fans, with Shore and Simon combining for over 10 takedowns per 15 minutes in their UFC careers. Shore is undefeated through five UFC fights against mostly lesser competition, while Simon is 7-2 with losses to Urijah Faber and Rob Font.
Simon is probably the better wrestler here, with better takedown accuracy and more landed per minute. His 6.76 average per 15 is concerning in one regard, though — it means he’s struggled to keep his opponents down. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as more opportunities for takedowns lead to more points, but it hurts his ability to get the victory.
I give Shore a slight edge in the striking department. He’s landed more and absorbed less than Simon in his UFC run and has a better knockdown rate. He also has better takedown defense than Simon, though neither man has fought many opponents who want to wrestle them.
Given the close salaries, this fight is highly likely to find its way into the optimal. It probably comes down to where most of the bout takes place, with Shore having an edge standing. I’ll be setting an optimizer rule to include at least one of these two in every lineup.
I did say at least one. This fight might be the best stacking option on the card. If Shore is willing to engage in the wrestling exchanges, they could scramble their way to a handful of takedowns each. That’s a good way to get unique on a smaller card, with a clear route to two high scores.
Outside of my stacks, I want to be slightly overweight on Shore. With so many strong plays at higher salaries, the field will probably come in heavier on the underdog Simon to save salary.
Photo Credit: Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Pictured above: Punahele Soriano