UFC Vegas 58 is a bit of a letdown following the stacked UFC 276 card last weekend. However, there are still big prizes to be won in DFS. We have another 12-fight card, so staying unique will be critical for big GPPs. We’ll discuss some paths to doing that below, including an angle in the Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Rafael Fiziev main event.
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 make 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.
The Main Event
Rafael Fiziev ($9,000) vs. Rafael Dos Anjos ($7,200)
The battle of Rafael’s takes center stage this weekend, with the grizzled veteran RDA looking to fend off surging prospect Fiziev. This one has all of the cliches: striker (Fiziev) vs. grappler, prospect vs. veteran. Both fighters have clear paths to big fantasy scores, making it an intriguing DFS fight.
Fiziev is a moderate favorite, with the line holding firm at around -210 all week. Since losing his debut, he’s rattled off five straight wins against progressively tougher competition. Those wins include two knockouts, one of which was a highlight-worthy wheel kick in the third round against Brad Riddell in his last fight.
While Fiziev has fought increasingly tougher competition, Dos Anjos has fought a who’s who of the lightweight and welterweight divisions in his career. He’s been in the UFC since 2008 and has fought Khabib, Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, and tons of other high-level competition.
He’s used his dominant wrestling and grappling to great effect, only really struggling against other high-level wrestlers (Khabib, Usman, Covington, etc.) That’s not the matchup in front of him, with Fiziev a former Muay Thai fighter. Fiziev has shown excellent takedown defense in his UFC career — 95% — but hasn’t had to fight anyone near RDA’s level.
Additionally, RDA has been in countless five-round fights, keeping a solid pace until the final bell. This will be the first five-rounder for Fiziev, who’s faded a bit later into some of his fights. RDA could drop the early rounds but rally in the final three frames to pull off an upset here.
That angle leads to a greater chance both men end up in the optimal lineup, particularly on a card that’s expected to be fairly decision-heavy. I want to be overweight on RDA in general but also want some lineups with both Rafael’s for tournaments. I’ll also be stacking both fighters in cash.
I discussed that angle from a DFS standpoint on the latest Action Network UFC Betting Podcast:
The Easy Chalk
David Onama ($9,300)
Onama is the easiest of easy chalk this weekend, as he’s taking on a short-notice replacement as a massive favorite. Of course, DraftKings was already committed to his salary before that changeover occurred. Occasionally we get fighters who flip from underdogs to big favorites with late changes, but that’s not the case here.
Onama was already the most expensive fighter against his previous opponent (Austin Lingo), but his betting line has gone from -275 or so to a ridiculous -750. That usually means a salary of $9,600 or so, which seems to be the maximum on DraftKings.
Regardless, he’s by far the heaviest favorite on the slate and an absolute lock for cash games. He already holds a win as an amateur against his opponent, UFC newcomer Garret Armfield ($6,900). Armfield is primarily a 135 lbs fighter, while Onama fights at 145 and is big for the weight class.
Onama is an absolute lock for cash games and should probably be in most of your GPP lineups. The newcomer occasionally shocks the world, so mixing in a bit of Armfield exposure has its merits, but it’s exceptionally hard to see that path here.
Said Nurmagomedov ($9,200)
The last name “Nurmagomedov” usually works as a fast pass to the easy chalk section, but it’s notable that the Dagestani fighter is of no blood relation to Khabib and Umar. Even so, he’s the heaviest favorite on the card outside of Onama and could be in for a big day.
Despite the last name and Dagestani origin, Said is more of a striker, with less than half of a takedown landed per 15 minutes in his UFC career. However, he’s nearly as dominant as the other Nurmagomedov’s, with a 4-1 UFC record. We generally want either takedown upside or quick finish upside for high-priced fighters, and Said has the latter. Three of his wins have come within the first frame.
While this is a step up in competition against Douglas Silva de Andrade ($7,000), betting markets are all over him. He opened at -275 on Monday and has been bet down to -330 on DraftKings. That makes him a value at his current salary, even if it’s not as obvious as Onama.
Fitting all of the high-priced fighters on the slate will be challenging, but I want some exposure to lineups with both Said and Onama. A first-round win almost certainly secures him a spot in the optimal, and he’s got a strong chance to do just that.
The Upside Plays
Jamie Mullarkey ($9,100)
Mullarkey rounds out the $9,000 and up club for his matchup with UFC veteran Michael Johnson ($7,100). This fight has the best inside the distance odds on the slate at -240, making it an obvious one to target for DFS.
Mullarkey has the better path towards doing so as a -225 favorite. That line has held steady throughout the week, so he’s not the value as Nurmagomedov or Onama. That said, he’s still worth fitting into some lineups. Johnson had lost four straight before his win against 38-year-old Alan Patrick in his last fight and certainly seems to be in the twilight of his career at 36 and with 37 fights.
Mullarkey is a dangerous striker, and the once durable Johnson has been knocked out twice in his last six losses. Mullarkey also has submission upside in this one, with a few wins via tapout prior to his UFC career. Johnson has been especially vulnerable on the ground, with nine submission losses in his career.
Johnson is a dangerous veteran, so I will likely avoid Mullarkey for cash games. He’s a strong GPP choice though, with most of his win conditions being a relatively quick stoppage.
Ronnie Lawrence ($8,400)
Lawrence is another fighter who’s a bit scary for cash games but brings a ton of GPP upside. I can’t think of any UFC fighter who pushes the pace for takedowns harder than Lawrence, who averages over nine per 15 minutes in his UFC run.
He’s fighting Saidyokub Kakhramonov ($7,800), a well-rounded fighter who will likely be the better striker here. In Kakhramonv’s debut, he landed two of seven takedown attempts while defending all but one of the eight attempts by Trevin Jones.
I’m expecting a similar number of takedown attempts in this one, though with a higher degree of success from the Lawrence side. Larence has a 78% takedown accuracy rate in the UFC, extremely impressive for a fighter who attempts the amount he does.
This is another fight that could be a potential stack in GPPs. We could see both guys landing a handful of takedowns and reversals, with a late finish from Kakhramonov potentially boosting him into the optimal. I wouldn’t be shocked if Lawrence puts up an optimal-worthy score at his salary, even in a loss. His last fight was a decision win, but he would’ve topped 100 points even without the win bonus.
The Value Play
Courtney Casey ($7,500)
I’ve touched on some fighters I prefer as GPP options, but let’s pivot to one that stands out for cash. Casey checks all the cash-game cheapie boxes: she’s cheap at $7,500, she has a high output at 68 strikes attempted per round, and this fight has the longest inside-the-distance odds on the slate.
She’s taking on Antonina Shevchenko ($8,700), the sister of flyweight champion Valentina. Antonina is a far lesser fighter, though, with a 3-4 UFC record. Like her sister, she’s primarily a striker, landing just half a takedown per 15 minutes.
That’s important if rostering Casey since we’re depending on striking volume to rack up points. She should at least have the opportunity to land plenty of shots, with some upside if she can pull out a win. However, I’m slightly concerned that Shevchenko takes this one to the ground, given Casey’s 38% takedown defense.
Still, we need to save salary somewhere, and Casey has the highest floor of the cheap options (outside of the main event.) I may mix her in slightly in GPPs on the chance she pulls out the upset as a +145 underdog, but she’s a lock for cash games.
The Contrarian Approach
Aiemann Zahabi ($7,400)
This isn’t a slate where I love a ton of underdogs for tournaments, but Zahabi is a possible exception. He’s taking on Ricky Turcios ($8,800), who will be making just the second UFC fight of his career. Turcios was 2-2 in the four fights before being signed by the UFC, with a loss in his Contender Series bout and a knockout loss to Mana Martinez.
He won his debut, but it was a very close split decision over Brady Hiestand. Hiestand isn’t exactly top competition, so it’s hard to say how good Turcios really is. Zahabi is more established, with a 2-2 UFC record including a knockout win.
I expect Zahabi to be the better striker here, based on his knockout in his last fight and his past record. Turcios likely needs to make this a wrestling match, but Zahabi has shown strong takedown defense in his UFC run.
This isn’t a pick I’m highly confident in, but one I want to mix in for GPPs. As with Casey in our cash builds, we have to save salary somewhere, and there aren’t many cheap options with much appeal.
The Swing Fight
Caio Borralho ($8,900) vs. Armen Petrosyan ($7,300)
Borralho and Petrosyan are both making their second appearance in the Octagon. Both are coming off of decision wins, with Borralho winning a technical decision in his debut. That fight ended with an illegal strike from Borralho while clearly winning on the scorecards. Petrosyan saw his debut go the distance, winning a split decision while outstriking Gregory Rodriguez more than 2-1. That’s Rodriquez’s only loss in the UFC, with three other wins.
The strength of schedule (at least in the UFC) thus clearly favors Petrosyan. This fight is actually somewhat similar to the Rodriguez fight. In both, Petrosyan is surrendering a few inches in reach and is probably the superior striker against a dangerous Brazilian grappler.
Borralho is the more well-rounded fighter, though, with slick submissions and decent striking. He’s also the shorter fighter despite having a considerable reach edge, which is a metric I generally like to target. However, it can make it challenging to keep opponents grounded; longer limbs provide more avenues for escape from the bottom.
This fight has the third-best odds to end inside the distance, and both fighters push a fairly high pace for the division. If Petrosyan wins, he’s almost certainly in the optimal lineup, while Borralho gets there with a finish or multiple takedowns.
I’m likely to include one or the other in each of my tournament lineups. I’m leaning fairly strongly to the underdog, but Borralho is a -230 favorite and the safer pick.
Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above: David Onama