The last UFC PPV event of the year is here, with a makeshift title fight between Magomed Ankalaev and former champion Jan Blachowicz now serving as the main event. This is also unique for recent UFC PPVs in that there’s just one title fight — and thus only one five-round fight.
It’s a solid card though, with the PPV debut of Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett, and some other high-interest fights. IT all goes down at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
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.
Magomed Ankalaev ($9,200) vs. Jan Blachowicz ($7,000)
This isn’t the title fight we wanted at UFC 282, but it’s the one we’re getting. Especially from a DFS standpoint, this is a major step down from the Glover Texeira-Jiri Prozchaka rematch that was likely to produce a ton of points.
However, with only one five-round fight on the card, we still need to account for this fight. Former champion Blachowicz is a fairly heavy underdog here as he takes on Magomed Ankalaev. Ankalaev lost his UFC debut — by submission to Paul Craig, no shame there — but has since rattled off a nine-fight winning streak with five knockouts.
This almost feels like a striker vs. grappler match at first blush, but Ankalaev isn’t the stereotypical Russian wrestler. Blachowicz is actually averaging slightly more takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC, though most of them have come when facing much smaller opponents. In the last five years (11 fights), he has nine takedowns, but seven of them came against current middleweights Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier.
The point is, if anyone works for takedowns in this one, it’s likely to be Ankalaev. He showed off his scary ground and pound against Anthony Smith in his last fight and is comfortably the superior grappler here.
However, he doesn’t really rack up the volume needed to produce a big score. If you’re rostering Ankalaev here, you’re betting on a finish, ideally an early one to pay off his salary. Blachowicz has only lost inside the distance twice in 18 UFC fights and is fairly durable. We’ve also seen Ankalev take a cautious approach against dangerous strikers like Blachowicz, so an early finish isn’t incredibly likely.
That makes Blachowicz probably the better DFS play if you think he has a chance here. His power makes him a live dog, and any win at his salary puts him in the optimal. This is also a fight we should consider fading in GPPs, though, with the likeliest outcome an Ankalaev win that doesn’t come with enough points to pay off his salary.
For cash games, I’ll have both fighters in my lineup at the start of contests. If I’m cashing heading into the final two fights, they’ll stay there. However, they’re priced just $100 apart from the fighters in the co-main event, so pivoting off one to get to Jared Gordon ($7,100) or Paddy Pimblett ($9,100) is the move if your lineup is trailing. I prefer Gordon and Ankalaev if you have the extra $100, but either combination gives you a shot at catching up.
The Easy Chalk
Cameron Saaiman ($9,300)
Saaiman and his opponent Steven Koslow ($6,900), are both 6-0 pro fighters making their UFC debut. Yet Saaiman is a massive favorite, having moved to -360 on DraftKings after opening at -295. That’s because Saiiman punched his ticket via the Contender Series, picking up an impressive late finish over a fellow undefeated (at the time) fighter.
Koslow has six submission wins, all over fighters with losing records. That’s not a great sign heading into an Octagon debut. Saaiman fought (moderately) tougher competition even prior to his Contender Series bout, making him more of a proven commodity.
He’s also more well-rounded, with a win via submission, one via ground and pound, a decision, and three knockouts. He should be the superior fighter here and also the one the UFC is looking to build up as a prospect. He may not do enough to make it to the optimal lineup, given his salary, but he’s the safest bet for a win on the card.
Raul Rosas Jr. ($9,000)
Rosas, who will become the youngest fighter in UFC history, is my favorite play on the UFC 282 slate. He’s taking on Jay Perrin ($7,200) in a bout obviously designed to build the hype around Rosas. Perrin is 0-2 in the UFC and lost his Contender Series fight before getting a shot as a late replacement following some regional wins.
Rosas was dominant in his DWCS bout, picking up three takedowns and controlling a very tough Mando Gutierrez en route to a unanimous decision win. The -250 line on Rosas would be a lot longer if people understood how good Gutierrez is. I watched him submit a significantly larger black belt at a grappling tournament mere weeks after his fight against Rosas.
Perrin is also a good stylistic matchup for Rosas. Perrin is mainly a grappler as well, which should allow Rosas plenty of chances to work his jiu-jitsu game. While Rosas has some major holes in his striking game, a grappler vs. grappler matchup isn’t likely to expose those.
He’s also an ideal DFS play, thanks to his grappling-heavy style. He’s likely to rack up a ton of takedowns and reversals here, both of which are worth five points and add up in a hurry. He was credited for five (three takedowns and two reversals) in his DWCS bout and easily could’ve scored a couple more. A submission finish would just be icing on the cake. I’ll be heavily overweight in GPPs and wouldn’t dream of leaving him out of a cash lineup.
The Value Plays
TJ Brown ($7,900)
The TJ Brown vs. Erik Silva ($8,300) is currently a toss-up at nearly every sportsbook. However, it has a wider spread in salary, thanks to a canceled fight being given the $8,200/$8,000 price tag. That makes the cheaper fighter — in this case, Brown — a value by default.
He’s also projecting fairly well, thanks to a high-output style. He has 16 takedowns in his five UFC fights and an above-average striking output. That gives him the best Pts/Sal projection of any fighter under $8,400.
With that said, I do have some concerns about his prospects on Saturday. Silva is dangerous, with five consecutive wins in under seven minutes prior to this, his UFC debut. That includes a first-round finish on the Contender Series. All of Silva’s wins were on the ground (submission or ground and pound), so he’ll likely test Brown’s 41% takedown defense.
The numbers are pointing to Brown as the better value play here, and he’s a solid cash game choice. However, that should keep ownership down in Silva as well, so he just might be the better GPP option.
The Contrarian Approach
Darren Till ($7,400)
There’s only one underdog to see the betting line move his way between now and when DraftKings released salaries: Darren Till. Till is infamous for his struggles with injury keeping him out of competition, but he looks to be healthy coming into this one. This will be just his second fight since July 2020.
He’s also 1-3 since challenging for the UFC welterweight championship in 2019, though all the losses came against high-level competition. Till was once the hot young British prospect, starting his UFC career with six straight wins before the recent skid. Still just 29, he clearly has the talent to be a contender.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in this fight, given Till’s inactivity and recent performance relative to what we saw him do at his peak. Most of the field will probably prefer Dricus Du Plessis ($8,800). That gives us an edge on Till in tournaments if he can live up to his promise.
This one is also a solid -200 to end inside the distance, so the winner likely comes away with a big score. I want tons of exposure to this fight and to be overweight the field on Till.
Jared Gordon ($7,100)
Gordon is fighting the much-hyped Paddy Pimblett ($9,100) in the co-main event. Both fighters are excellent pivots for cash game lineups, thanks to their proximity both temporally and salary-wise to the main event fighters. However, my GPP interest is in Gordon.
Pimblett has topped 100 points in just one of his three fights, so he’s not a lock to make the optimal lineup even with another win. This is also a huge step up in competition for “The Baddy,” whose three prior wins came against the bottom of the lightweight UFC roster.
Gordon is 4-1 since 2020 and a challenging stylistic matchup for Pimblett. Pimblett is at his best as the aggressor, moving forward and swarming with strikes and takedowns. Gordon is also a pressure fighter though and has had higher rates of strikes and takedowns (against tougher competition) in his UFC career.
Pimblett has some defensive holes that Gordon could expose if Pimblett is the nail rather than the hammer. I also worry about Pimblett’s cardio. His habit of getting (massively) out of shape between fights and his all-action style isn’t a great combination. Gordon is 6-0 in UFC decisions, while Pimblett has lost the last two fights to see the scorecards.
Fortunately, even a decision win probably places Gordon in the optimal, thanks to his bargain price. He’s an excellent GPP option — and cash game pivot if needed.
The Upside Plays
Joaquin Buckley ($8,500)
It’s a fairly simple case for Buckley. He’s fighting a fellow striker in Chris Curtis ($7,700), and Buckley has huge power. Four of his five UFC wins have been by knockout, and 11 of his 15 wins overall.
Curtis has never attempted a takedown in the UFC, so this is either a standup fight or one where Buckley controls the grappling. Curtis also has absorbed over six significant strikes per minute in the UFC, thanks to “The Action Man” relentlessly walking down his opponents.
Buckley is a bit expensive from a straight value standpoint since this one should be reasonably close. If he gets the win, though, it probably comes violently and with a big DFS score.
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The Swing Fight
Jairzinho Rozenstruik ($9,000) vs. Chris Daukaus ($7,200)
We have a heavyweight fight between two fighters who haven’t attempted a single takedown in the UFC. What more do we need? This fight is -550 to end inside the distance — somebody is getting knocked out. I’ll have a rule to include at least one of these fighters in every lineup in our optimizer, with a slight boost to Daukaus. He’ll be under-owned relative to his win probability here.