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UFC Vegas 35 Model, Preview and Picks: Finding the Best Values for DFS Lineups

ufc-vegas-35-andre-petroski

UFC Vegas 35 features the championship fights from this season of The Ultimate Fighter, as well as a featherweight bought between Edson Barboza and the surging Giga Chikadze

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

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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

Unlike last week, this card has some of the easiest chalk I’ve seen in quite some time. The challenge this week will be picking between the three highest projected fighters; it’s pretty difficult to find enough value to get all of them in a single lineup. This slate likely comes down to getting the right combination of our top projected fighters, especially if one of them puts up a disappointing score.

Andre Petroski ($9200)

My favorite of the three is Andre Petroski. Petroski and his opponent Michael Gillmore ($7000) were both cast members on this season of TUF — and are thus making their official UFC debuts — but that’s about where the similarities end. Petroski is 5-1 as a pro, losing only to an 8-2 middleweight, while Gillmore (6-3) has fought much worse competition and is a true welterweight.

(For some reason Gillmore’s Tapology page considered his last pre-UFC bout as a middleweight contest, despite being contested at 175lbs, and as recently as 2019 he fought at 165 lbs.)

With all credit to Gillmore, whose story of quitting his job so he could hang around Vegas as an alternate for the show is awesome, there’s a reason Petroski was picked to be on the show and Gillmore wasn’t. Petroski defeated Aaron Phillips before losing to eventual finalist Brian Battle ($8600) in the second round, while Gillmore was quickly dispatched by Gilbert Urbina in the first round of his only TUF contest. (Yes, Urbina is a finalist too, but by virtue of being a replacement for an injured Tresean Gore.)

Petroski carries our highest median, ceiling and points-per-dollar projections on the card, and for good reason as he should win in a fairly dominant fashion.

Mana Martinez ($8200)

“Manaboi” (a top-10 nickname in my opinion) is now on his third attempt at a UFC debut, having two cancelled fights originally scheduled for last week’s card. The 8-2 (8 KOs) prospect has fought tough regional competition, including a first-round knockout of TUF finalist Ricky Turcois in 2018.

He’s a -275 favorite against Guido Canneti ($7200) who is 8-5 in his pro career, 41 years old, and coming off two straight losses, both by stoppage. Canneti is likely fighting for his promotional life and could also have one foot out the retirement door at this point in his career.

While I don’t think there’s a ton more that needs to be said, Martinez is top three in our median, ceiling and points-per-dollar projections, as well as being -110 (FanDuel) to end the fight by KO.

Makhmud Muradov ($9300)

Muradov has our second best median and floor projections, as well as the third best points-per-dollar for his fight against Gerald Meerschaert ($6900). GM3 is coming off of a guillotine win that followed two consecutive first-round KO defeats (both within the first 90 seconds), while Muradov is riding a 14-fight win streak that dates back to 2016 and includes a perfect 3-0 run in the UFC.

Muradov is also the heaviest favorite on the card, checking in at a whopping -650. This certainly feels like a fight designed to build up a following around the exciting Muradov, who has won two of his three UFC bouts by third-round knockout, including a flying knee his last time out.

The likeliest outcome here is a Muradov knockout at some point (-150 FanDuel) which makes sense. While Meershaert is only two years older, when a fighter with almost 50 fights to his name starts getting knocked out, they usually don’t stop.

The Upside Play

Wellington Turman ($8400)

We have Turman as fourth in ceiling projection, despite there being nine fighters more expensive than him on the slate. Turman is a moderate (-140) favorite in a bout that is -136 to be decided without assistance from the judges. His opponent Sam Alvey ($7800) is winless (one draw) in his last six contests, while Turman is 1-3 during his stint in the UFC.

So while this isn’t exactly a fight between top competitors, Turman is only 25 and should be continuing to improve, while Alvey is 35 and on the back end of his career. If Turman can end this fight early, he will put up more than enough points to pay off his reasonable salary, but if Alvey makes it to the final bell, it will be tough to build a GPP winning lineup with Turman.

The Value Play

Gilbert Urbina ($7600)

You can find my expanded thoughts on Urbina over in my best bets selection this week, but the quick summary is this: If we discounted everything that happened on the Ultimate Fighter show, and just evaluated these guys based on their official pro fights, Urbina would be a moderate favorite. Since post-show fights have more in common with other official fights than they do with the exhibition bouts on the show, we should overweight their careers beforehand relative to their performance on the show.

He’s being priced, both by betting markets and DraftKings, as a rather large underdog, so he’s a big value here in my eyes and should be fairly low-owned. Without having solid UFC data on these guys it’s hard to feel great about the pick, but given my desire to jam in the heavy favorites, I’ll be rolling with a lot of Urbina lineups.

The Swing Fight

Edson Barbosa ($8200) vs Giga Chikadze ($8000)

It seems like most of the main events of late have had a clear favorite (and thus avoided the “swing fight” designation) but this week is the exception. While there’s been some movement back and forth as to which of the two is favored, betting markets have consistently had this fight as a near toss-up. At the time of writing, Barbosa is (-115) with Chikadze being (-105) most places.

This lines up perfectly with both their pricing and our projections, where we give Barbosa a 10-point edge. There’s numerous ways you can play this one, and I’m okay with all of them. If you have a strong lean on who you think will win the fight, that guy will obviously be a better value given the close prices. It’s relatively unlikely for either fighter to be a (price-considered) dud here. FanDuel has the fight at -146 to make it to the fourth round.

(Sidebar: FanDuel also has the fight at +122 to go the distance, which implies a roughly 14% chance to end in round four or five. All five-round UFC fights in UFC history have about an 11% fourth- or fifth-round finish rate, so there’s definitely an edge to be exploited here, especially when considering smaller fighters, more recent fights and fights with closer odds all have decreased finishing rates in general.)

Both guys attempt less than half a takedown per round, while throwing a decent volume of strikes, so expect a stand-up affair. I can see a case for playing both of them together, especially in cash or smaller tournaments, since it’s likely that the losing fighter has a solid floor while the winner posts among the highest price. My personal, very slight lean is with Chikadze, but there’s not a wrong way to play this one.

Kevin Lee ($8500) vs Daniel Rodriguez ($7700)

Kevin Lee is taking on the always exciting “D Rod” in a welterweight bout. Lee is just behind Turman in ceiling (fifth best) while similarly discounted (fifth most expensive). D Rod has one of the biggest median to ceiling differences on the slate.

Our projections expect a lot of fantasy points to be scored somewhere here, and I agree. Both guys average over 80 DraftKings points per contest (including losses.)

There’s a lot of stats on how this could pay off, but here’s some of my favorites:

  • D rod averages a knockdown every three rounds in the UFC (average is every 10)
  • Lee has seen one decision in his last 10 bouts and hasn’t won a decision since 2016
  • They combine to attempt 131 strikes per round (average is around 84)

Lee is the moderate betting favorite at -150, which is reflected in his price. The case for him is that he’s the best competition that Rodriguez has fought in his short UFC career and is more experienced while being six years younger.

Rodriguez has impressive power on his side, as well as the fact that he should be the bigger fighter, since Lee has fought most of his career as a lightweight.

My lean currently is that Lee makes the safer cash game play, as he should be able to rack up a few takedowns and some control time even if he ends up unconscious. On the flip side, I like the underdog better for tournaments, since he’s scored over 100 points in 80% of his wins. At his price he has a better shot of making it to the optimal lineup.