After a fun few weeks with stadium events all over the world, the UFC returns to the Apex Center on Saturday for a lower-wattage fight night. We’ve got an excellent main event, though, with top lightweights Mateusz Gamrot and Rafel Fiziev squaring off.
That comes at the end of the 11-fight card, which kicks off at 4:00 ET on Saturday afternoon.
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.
Rafael Fiziev ($8,500) vs. Mateusz Gamrot ($7,700)
The extremely deep lightweight division sends two of it’s best for Saturday’s main event. Both fighters were a fight or two away from a title shot before recent stumbles but would remain firmly in the picture with a win this time.
Fiziev is an electric striker who lands over five significant strikes per minute, with knockout victories in half of his UFC wins. He’s coming off a somewhat surprising upset loss to Justin Gaethje, though that loss looks better in retrospect with Gaethje now the “BMF” champion.
Gamrot is more of a grappler, averaging over 4.5 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon, despite fighting plenty of other high-level wrestlers (Arman Tsarukyan, Beneill Dariush, Guram Kutaladze) along the way. He’s been able to land multiple takedowns in each of his UFC fights, with the exception of a first-round win over Jeremy Stephens.
Of course, Fiziev is notoriously hard to take down, with a 90% takedown defense rate in the Octagon. However, he hasn’t fought a wrestler like Gamrot, so I expect that defense rate to drop after this one.
Gamrot is a slight underdog here, but his grappling-heavy style is far friendlier for DFS. He’s averaging roughly 20 more DraftKings points per contest than Fiziev despite having the same number of losses and one less win in the Octagon. I’m on Gamrot as an underdog, and he’s pretty clearly the superior DFS play.
He has a much higher floor and ceiling, thanks to his grappling. The likeliest Fiziev win is a decision with a score in the 70s, while “Gamer” could challenge that number even in a loss.
The Easy Chalk
Jacob Malkoun ($9,500)
Last week’s slate featured plenty of lopsided lines. This week, we have Malkoun as a -550 favorite against Cody Brundage ($6,700) and no other fighters heavier than -300 or so.
The relative value on Malkoun is even higher when you consider that the other two heavy favorites on this card are both women whose fights project to be fairly slow-paced, limiting their ceilings. Malkoun is roughly even money to win this one inside the distance but has a massive grappling-based ceiling.
He’s scored at least 115 points on DraftKings in each of his wins in the Octagon and draws a fairly easy matchup in Brundage, who’s on a three-fight losing streak. He’ll be massively owned but a tough fade, as no other fighter on the slate, has his combination of safety and ceiling.
The Upside Plays
Andre Fialho ($8,900)
Outside of the main event, Fialho is the one fighter who’s upside challenged Malkoun– though he’s a far more volatile pick. He has massive power, with two first-round knockout wins in his first three UFC fights. However, he’s been downhill since then, with three straight losses of his own.
He draws a step down in competition this time against Tim Means ($7,300). “Dirty Bird” is a long-time veteran of the sport, with 47 pro fights and 26 of them under the UFC banner. However, he’ll turn 40 in February and is also riding a three-fight losing streak.
Means is still a crafty veteran, but we’ve seen a steep decline in his athletic ability in recent fights. Filaho is still in his 20s, so he’s a far safer bet to turn it around.
My biggest concern with Fialho is his cardio, as he tends to fall off a cliff if he can’t end things early. Still, that’s the kind of fighter we want to target for GPPs, as his wins tend to go for triple-digit scores.
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The Value Play
Michelle Waterson ($6,900)
The thesis — and projections — on the two cheap female fighters on the card are essentially identical. Both Waterson and Hannah Goldy ($7,000) are massive underdogs, but their fights are both +200 or longer to end inside the distance. That gives them very solid floors but limited upside.
I prefer Waterson, who’s slightly cheaper and has longer stoppage odds for her fight against Marina Rodriguez ($8,900). This is a rematch of their 2021 fight, a win for Rodriguez that saw Waterson score a respectable 50 DraftKings points thanks to her high-volume striking approach.
Both women are now riding two-fight win streaks and seem to be somewhat past their prime, but we don’t need an upset from Waterson at her price. She has some fringe GPP-appeal — a 50-point score might end up in the optimal at her price — but is primarily a cash-game salary saver.
The Contrarian Choice
Dan Ige ($7,400)
I was fairly surprised at the salary and betting lines on Ige and his opponent, Bryce Mitchell ($8,800) here. Ige has bounced back from his three-fight losing streak in impressive fashion, having recently picked up consecutive wins.
On the other hand, Mitchell has just one fight in the last 18 months, a submission loss to Ilia Topuria. While there’s no shame in losing to Topuria, the inactivity — mainly due to injury — is a bad sign. Mitchell is also going through a lot in his personal life and might not be fully prepared for this one.
From a stylistic standpoint, this is a striker-vs-grappler matchup, with Ige having the edge on the feet. The issue for Mitchell is he’s excellent on the ground but can sometimes struggle to get fights there. Ige wrestled at Iowa and is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, which should allow him to dictate where this fight takes place.
Ige also has massive power for the division, which gives him significant upside via early knockouts. However, at his price tag, we don’t need to rely on a finish — any victory should land him in the optimal lineup. I’m riding with Dan Tom here, who’s predicting an Ige victory.
The Swing Fight
Bryan Battle ($8,700) vs. AJ Fletcher ($7,500)
This has been the toughest fight for me to get a read on this week, with two relatively green fighters squaring off. Battle is the TUF 29 champion and has a 4-1 UFC record but a relatively low level of competition in the Octagon — outside of his loss to Rinat Fakhretdinov.
He is coming in off an impressive 14-second knockout over Gabe Green in his last fight and has made massive improvements since his time on the show. A natural welterweight, he competed at middleweight on the show and immediately after. Since returning to 170, he looks far more comfortable, with solid power for the division.
Fletcher is just 1-2 in the UFC but also showed some major improvements in his last fight. His 67″ reach is absurdly short for the division, but he’s an explosive athlete who can burst into range and land big shots or takedowns. The former college football player has a considerable edge in athleticism against Battle, though it will be a challenge to use it given the 10-inch reach discrepancy.
This one likely hinges on Battle’s ability to keep his distance. The small cage at the Apex Center doesn’t do him any favors, which has me leaning a bit towards Fletcher. Further, Battle has been taken down in most of his fights, with just a 38% takedown defense. Reach doesn’t help you from your back, which is another point to Fletcher.
With the -175 stoppage odds, I’ll be mixing in both fighters, as a Battle knockout wouldn’t be a shock. However, I prefer to be overweight on Fletcher, who should come in at much lower ownership.