We have one more Apex Center card before UFC 281 takes place next week, and that’s UFC Vegas 64. It’s a 12-fight card headlined by rising strawweight contenders Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Lemos. As usual, the action beings at 4:00 p.m. eastern time on ESPN plus.
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.
Marina Rodriguez ($8,800) vs. Amanda Lemos ($7,400)
As far as 115-pound fights go, we have a fairly entertaining one on tap between Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Lemos. Lemos has gone to the judge’s scorecards just twice in eight UFC bouts, and Rodriguez is riding a four-fight win streak that includes a TKO of Amanda Ribas.
That’s led to this one having -150 stoppage odds, one of the longer lines on the slate. It’s likely to come on the later end of the 25 scheduled minutes though, with the over/under on rounds set at 4.5. That’s a fairly ideal situation for DFS — plenty of time to rack up points, followed by a late stoppage.
This one looks to be primarily a standup fight. Lemos has big power in her hands, with a 1.34 knockdowns per 15 minutes rate. Those are heavyweight numbers. Rodriguez is also mainly a striker, landing just 0.2 takedowns per 15 minutes in her UFC run.
Lemos has a tendency to tire quickly (no doubt thanks to throwing heavy punches early in fights), while Rodriguez has two 25-minute decision wins on her record. That makes this a fairly binary fight, with Lemos having upside early and Rodriguez likely to win the later rounds.
That arguably makes Lemos the stronger DFS play, though. She has the clearest path to a big score, both via an early stoppage and takedowns. Rodriguez could win this fight and miss the optimal lineup thanks to her fighting style and salary — Lemos couldn’t.
Therefore, I want to be overweight on Lemos for tournaments. If you think Rodriguez wins this one, fading this fight entirely also isn’t crazy. There’s also a path toward both fighters making it to the optimal if Lemos racks up a lot of early scoring and then fades down the stretch. That’s not very likely, as it would rely on other fights on the card disappointing. Still, it’s worth considering if multi-entering, given the difficulty in staying unique on a 12-fight card.
As always, we should be rostering both fighters in cash games.
The Easy Chalk
Miranda Maverick ($9,400)
It’s not often that spending $9,400 on a women’s flyweight fighter feels right, but it’s not often that UFC matchmaking is this one-sided. Maverick is rematching Shanna Young ($6,800), whom she submitted in under three minutes in an exhibition bout for Invicta’s reality show.
Young is 1-2 in the UFC, with her only win coming against 7-6 Gina Mazany. Maverick is 3-2 in the UFC, with two close decision losses to accompany two stoppage victories. Maverick is six years younger, more athletic, and statistically superior in every category.
She’s clearly the safest cash game option on the slate as a -645 favorite — no other fighter is better than -300. The real question is if she does enough to pay off her salary. She likely needs a lot of takedowns or another stoppage to do so.
Only five fights on the card are favored to end inside the distance, though, with this being one of them. With the general ownership discount on WMMA, she’s a strong GPP option.
Mario Bautista ($9,100)
Bautista is the other heavy favorite on the card, moving to -300 by Friday afternoon. That makes him a solid value by definition. The betting line has moved his way steadily since salaries came out, and there aren’t many other safe-seeming options at the upper end of the salary scale.
He’s fighting Benito Lopez ($7,100), who’s 2-1 in the UFC, but hasn’t fought in over three years. That actually gives me some slight pause. Not because a long layoff is great (it isn’t) but because this line would likely be much closer had Lopez been 2-1 in the past year or so.
Bautista is certainly a deserving favorite. He’s won four of his last five, has been impressive both striking and grappling and has consecutive 100-point DraftKings performances. It really comes down to how Lopez has spent the last three years away from the Octagon.
If forced to pick between Bautista and Maverick, I’d lean toward the latter in both cash games and GPPs. Fortunately, there should be enough value that we don’t have to make that call though, so I’ll have both in cash games at the very least.
The Value Plays
Mark Madsen ($7,200)
Madsen is one of just two underdogs this week to see line movement in his favor, with a slight drop from +195 to +185 odds. His fight is also +140 to end early, so it fits the criteria of what we’re looking for in cheaper cash game options.
Madsen is fighting Grant Dawson ($9,000) to open the main card on Saturday. This match is a dream for grappling fans, with Olympic silver medalist in wrestling Madsen taking on a fighter in Dawson, who averages nearly four takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC.
Both fighters have similar striking numbers, with Madsen throwing heavier shots and Dawson having a technical edge. That’s not the real appeal, though. From a DFS standpoint, the dream scenario is a 15-minute wrestling match with both fighters exchanging takedowns frequently.
My biggest concern for Madsen is that the wrestling cancels out, and this turns into a sloppy standup fight. Madsen has questionable cardio and could lose this fight down the stretch if he’s not able to control things on the ground. Still, he’s a strong play in both cash games and GPPs at $7,200. He doesn’t need a finish to get to a high score — and he doesn’t need a huge score at his salary.
This is also a sneaky fight to consider stacking. If it turns into a back-and-forth wrestling match, both fighters could end up scoring multiple takedowns. We’d need a Dawson win for that scenario to pay off, but as a solid favorite, that’s not an unreasonable request.
Ramona Pascual ($7,700)
Pascual is the other underdog to see positive line movement, with a DraftKings salary that reflects a +130 betting line but +110 odds currently. She’s fighting UFC newcomer Tamires Vidal ($8,500) to open the festivities on Saturday.
Pascual is winless in the UFC, with two decision losses so far. However, they were both close fights, and she scored 46 and 32 DraftKings points in them. With this fight also +140 to go the distance, she’s highly likely to put up an acceptable score even in a loss.
She also could easily win this one, with Vidal looking a bit shy of UFC-ready at this point in her career. She has one win over a UFC fighter in her 6-1 record (Ailin Perez), but it came via an illegal knee by Perez. Perez is 0-1 in the UFC.
Either way, I don’t see a stoppage or a big score from Pascual being especially likely, so she’s more of a cash game option for me. She’s a safer bet for an “acceptable” score than Madsen, though her upside is more limited.
The Contrarian Approach
Carlos Candelario ($7,000)
Candelario has an interesting story. He won his first fight on Dana White’s Contender series but wasn’t offered a contract. He was given a second try — which he accepted on short notice. That one went to a close split decision, with Candelario losing controversially. His cardio was a major factor — likely a result of his limited time to prepare.
However, he was rewarded with a contract following that loss, making his UFC debut against undefeated Japanese product Tatsuro Taira. He lost another decision there, though that’s aged well, with Taira following that up with a dominant submission victory.
This time he takes on another top prospect in Jake Hadley ($9,200). Hadley also lost his UFC debut by decision, in his case to Alan Nascimento. Despite similar resumes, Candelario is a +215 underdog.
Hadley is known for his excellent grappling, but I’m not so sure he’ll be able to utilize it against Candelario. Candelario has strong wrestling himself, averaging over two takedowns per 15 minutes in his UFC/DWCS run. If this one turns into a striking match, it should still be fairly close.
This fight should have a much closer betting line and salary than it does, making Candelario an excellent GPP option. If he’s able to utilize his wrestling, he has massive upside. Any win probably places him in the optimal lineup, given his salary.
The Upside Plays
Daniel Rodriguez ($7,800)
“D Rod” is taking on longtime UFC veteran Neil Magny ($8,400) in the co-main event on Saturday. This fight is lined at effectively a toss-up, with Rodriguez currently at even money on DraftKings. Fortunately, the high number of close fights coupled with DraftKings’ refusal to give fighters identical salaries gives us a discount on the slight underdog here.
That’s not why we’re here, though. We want GPP winning ceiling. Rodriguez has that in droves. He averages nearly eight significant strikes landed per minute in his UFC run, and his knockdown rate is roughly twice the UFC average.
Ideally, Rodriguez keeps this one standing. Magny is a fairly aggressive grappler, landing 2.31 takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC. It’s hard to rack up striking volume from your back. On the plus side, D-Rod’s 73% takedown defense is solid.
Rodriguez also has a far better inside-the-distance line (+250) than Magny (+500). Based on his moneyline, that suggests about 50% of his win condition is a stoppage here. That should come with more than enough points for his salary, making him a strong GPP play.
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The Swing Fight
Chase Sherman ($8,200) vs. Josh Parisian ($8,000)
This is an awful fight. Neither man has UFC-level skills and would have no shot at being in the UFC organization at any other weight class. Yet here we are, with the shallow nature of the heavyweight division (all the good athletes that size are playing football) leading to both of them hanging around.
Sherman lost four in a row before his comeback victory of Jared Vanderaa (himself a loser of five straight), and he’s the favorite in this fight. Parisian is 2-2 in the UFC, but the combined UFC records of the fighters he beat are 0-7.
Unfortunately, getting this bout right is probably the key to taking down GPPs on Saturday. It’s -225 to end inside the distance, which is about right for heavyweight fights. It’s a relatively straightforward striker vs. grappler matchup, with Sherman having the edge standing and Parisian the grappling upside.
For that reason, I’m leaning towards Parisian. That plays better from a fantasy standpoint, as Sherman needs a knockout to get to a big score. Since his knockdown rate is roughly a quarter that of 115-pound Amanda Lemos, that’s not a bet I want to make.
On the flip side, Parisian has had a hard time getting takedowns to stick, with just a 30% accuracy rate. The path is there for Sherman to wear him down with strikes. I’ll have one of each of these fighters in most of my GPP lineups — but that doesn’t mean I like it.