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UFC Vegas 36 Model, Preview and Picks: Finding the Best Values for DFS Lineups

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UFC Vegas 36 is light on star power but features top-10 middleweights Derek Brunson and Darren Till in the main event, as well as the debut of highly-touted Paddy Pimblett in the UFC. Make sure to get your lineups built early — we have a rare 1:30 p.m. ET start time.

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.


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UFC DFS Model

With 10 fights on the card, and some very strong plays at the top, the real challenge on this slate will be finding a unique lineup — or at least one unique enough to not chop first place too many ways. While I’m hoping the lack of big names means rostership is less condensed than normal, the top projected fighters really stand out here.

Jack Shore ($9,100)

Shore leads the slate in median projection, is .2 points off from the lead in ceiling and has the best floor by a 25-point margin. He’s also the most expensive fighter on the slate, but he’s not as expensive as -600 favorites usually are. The 14-0 bantamweight (3-0) is now facing his third different scheduled opponent for the fight in UFC-newcomer Liudvik Sholinian ($7,100) who stepped up to face Shore on less than a week’s notice. Shore was probably the strongest play on the card against his original opponent(s), but his edge only grew given the last-minute replacement. This one’s easy, as Shore belongs in lineups of all types.

Charles Jourdain ($8,900)

While he’s probably overpriced given his Vegas odds (-180), Jourdain projects for the highest ceiling on the slate, and the second best projection and points-per-dollar. Given that his fight is -235 to go to a decision, this stems from the likelihood that if he wins, he’ll be bringing a stoppage bonus with him. All of Jourdain’s professional wins have come inside the distance, with his losses (and his draw) all being decided by the judges. Jourdain is a 25-year-old rising prospect coming off of a 116-point performance (punctuated by a first-round knockout), facing a 32-year-old journeyman in Julian Erosa ($7,300) who has a 3-5 UFC record (across three different stints) and just got knocked out in 97 seconds. Erosa is tough, but has been in and out of the big show enough times to prove that he’s a lower-tier fighter by UFC standards. We’re betting on some progression from Jourdain here — which makes him not quite as strong of a play as Shore — but it’s a relatively safe bet.

Tom Aspinall ($9,000)

Aspinall trails only the fighters above in projected points. As a -250 favorite with a knockout win as the most likely outcome (-105), he’s hard not to like. He’s 3-0 in the UFC, with all of his victories coming inside the distance, and none lasting more than 6:09. He also has about ten lbs and two inches on his opponent, Sergey Spivak ($7,200.) Aspinall’s floor is the only concern here, he ranks 6th in that metric (despite the 2nd highest salary) reflecting a healthy amount of respect for Spivak’s abilities. The Ukranian fighter has shown a willingness — and an ability — to bring his opponents to the mat (more than one per round in his UFC career) where he’s picked up six submission wins using five different submissions. This adds up to slightly more risk for Aspinall than the other top plays, but his ceiling is still just as high, and the likeliest outcome is another big number next to Aspinall’s name when this one’s through.

The Upside Play

Marc-André Barriault ($8,400)

Barriault has overcome an 0-3 start to his UFC career by picking up consecutive knockout victories (although one was overturned due to a PED test failure.) He takes on Dalcha Lungiambula as a -165 favorite and trails only Jourdain and Shore, despite coming in at a significant discount. He’s a volume striker (63 strikes attempted per round, well above the divisional average of 37) who also has above-average power (.14 knockdowns per round.) He averages 125 points in his DraftKings wins (counting the no decision as a second-round win, DK currently lists that score without his win bonus, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t overturn contest results when the news broke.) The decision tree here is pretty easy. He has a good chance to win, and when he wins, he scores big. While I think Lungiambula has a decent enough chance to pull off an upset, the upside is enormous.

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The Value Play

Derek Brunson ($7,400)

I’m honestly very surprised by the pricing on this one. Brunson is only a +155 favorite in a five-round fight, and he has looked fantastic his last few fights. He has a top-five projection in points-per-dollar and a higher ceiling than his opponent Darren Till ($8,800.) During his four-fight win streak, he’s been an underdog thrice, with the final fight being a pick’em, and he has averaged over 100 DraftKings points per fight. While Till is a step up competition wise, Kevin Holland was supposed to be to, and Brunson dominated that one.

Till is 1-3 over his last four fights, having been stopped at welterweight twice in that span, and he has only ever beaten Kelvin Gastelum (also a former welterweight) at 185lbs. While part of this is more hunch than backed by anything solid, Brunson is bigger, has been in better form lately and is more highly ranked than Till, yet he comes as one of the slate’s cheapest fighters. If Brunson wins by any method, his salary makes him a must-have across contest types. He could also lose (especially a decision) while not tanking your roster in a five-round fight. I might be wrong, but this is the biggest +EV play of the day.

The Swing Fight

Khalil Rountree ($7,700) vs. Modestas Bukauskas ($8,500)

The only fight of the night that features two fighters with a 90+ point ceiling is the 205-pound bout between Rountree and Bukauskas. Bukauskas is a moderate -160 favorite in this one, but the fight is a whopping -250 to go the distance. Both guys are extreme power punchers who’ve struggled as of late with two straight defeats each. Fortunately for both of them, and even more fortunately for us, neither guy has shown much of an interest in taking fights to the ground, with Bukauskas attempting one takedown in three fights, and Khalil never even considering one across 10 UFC bouts. I think the roughly 40% implied odds for Rountree is about right, but I’m tilting my rostership the other way, given the lower price (even relative to his odds) on Rountree, and what I project to be lower ownership. Either way, whoever wins this fight will almost certainly end up in the optimal lineup, so I’d make sure to instruct our optimizer to include one of them in every lineup.