The UFC heads to Paris on Saturday afternoon, featuring Parisian Cyril Gane taking on fan-favorite Tai Tuivasa in the main event. The co-main event features two former middleweight title challengers in Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori. There’s 10 other fights on the card, which kicks off at a special early start time of noon eastern.
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.
You can check out the projections for every fighter on Saturday’s card in our UFC Models.
Cyril Gane ($9,500) vs. Tai Tuivasa ($6,700)
Gane opened as a massive -540 favorite against Tuivasa, with the line continuing to drift his way throughout the week. He’s now as high as -670 at some books, making the $9,500 salary feel almost like a bargain in this one.
Gane is taller, longer, more athletic, the better technical striker, and has most of the grappling upside in this match. That makes him a really tough fade, especially in a 25-minute heavyweight bout.
On the other hand, most of those points have been true about almost all of Tai Tuivasa’s fights. The last five have all ended by a Tuivasa knockout, accompanied by his requisite “shoey” celebration. There’s not really a good reason to believe Tuivasa will do it again — but he just might.
Therefore, I want to be heavily exposed to Tuivasa in GPPs. There’s almost no way he wins this other than a knockout, which would obviously provide more than enough fantasy points at his current salary.
This is also the rare five-round fight where I can see a case against stacking. It’s pretty unlikely that the loser of this one has a usable score for their price tag, given the low-volume striking and lack of takedowns provided by both men. I’ll have both in my cash lineups, but only because I’m on Tuivasa, but want to cover myself if he loses.
We broke down this fight a bit more — including how I’m betting it — on the latest edition of The Action Network UFC Betting Podcast:
The Easy Chalk
Benoit St. Denis ($9,100)
Benoit St. Denis is the only fighter aside from Gane projected for at least 90 DraftKings points in our models, making him an excellent choice for all contest types on Saturday. The other fighters at the top end of the salary scale have largely seen betting lines move against them, where BSD is now the second-heaviest favorite on the card.
He’s fighting UFC newcomer Gabriel Miranda ($7,100), a Brazilian submission artist. That’s slightly scary for an aggressive wrestler like St. Denis, but is also a good thing from a DFS standpoint. Miranda is very likely to be accepting of St. Denis’ takedown attempts, leading to plenty of fantasy scoring.
St. Denis is also a capable submission artist himself, picking up his first UFC win via rear naked choke in his last bout. When you factor in the home field advantage in Paris, he’s about as safe of a pick as there is on the card.
Given how many cheaper fighters I like on the card — and the lack of expensive ones — I’ll be well above the field on St. Denis, and he’s a near must for cash games.
Abusupiyan Magomedov ($8,900)
Magomedov and St. Denis are the only fighters in the top six (by salary) who don’t have the DraftKings line move against them this week. That makes Magomedov an equally appealing option on Saturday, especially for cash games.
Magomedov is a -280 favorite against Dustin Stoltzfus ($7,300), who brings a 1-3 UFC record into the contest. Magomedov is making his UFC debut, following a two-fight winning streak in Polish promotion KSW.
He profiles as a classic Dagestani-born grappler, and those fighters make ideal DFS plays. We’re hunting for takedown volume or quick finishes, with Magomedov having a path towards both. Two of the three losses on Stoltzfus’ current streak came via submission, with the third being a decision loss against a grappler in Kyle Daukaus.
Stoltzfus’s 46% takedown defense is well below the UFC average, which is another good sign for the newcomer. Like St. Denis, I’ll end up with a ton of him in all contest types thanks to the dearth of expensive options I like this week.
The Upside Plays
Joaquin Buckley ($7,200)
Buckley meets the perfect definition of an upside play. He’s an all-or-nothing option, with a total of 18 fantasy points scored in his two UFC losses. However, he’s averaging over 90 points in his five wins, four of which have come by knockout.
He’s a moderate — but shrinking — underdog against Frenchman Nassourdine Imavov ($9,000) in this one. I’m somewhat hesitant about Buckley due to this fight taking place on enemy soil, but outside of that there’s a ton to like from “New Mansa.”
He’s made huge strides in recent fights, tightening up his striking instead of swinging wildly for one-punch finishes. His somewhat questionable cardio has shown improvements, and he’s mixed in takedowns when necessary — and got back to his feet when his opponent takes him down.
He’s the longer fighter in this one, with an inch reach edge despite being five inches shorter. That’s generally a winning combination, as it allows the shorter fighter to carry more muscle at a given weight class without suffering the drawbacks of lesser reach.
His extremely low floor means I’ll be staying away in cash games, but he’s my favorite GPP flier for Saturday’s card. He’s also my favorite fighter to bet on this weekend, as mentioned in our best bets piece.
The Value Plays
Ailin Perez ($6,900)
The debuting Perez is the cheapest fighter on Saturday’s card outside of Tuivasa, but there’s a lot to like about her. First of all, she checks all the usual cash game floor play options. Lower level underdog in a women’s fight that’s somewhat likely to go the full 15 minutes. Though this one is -165 to end early, those are still some of the better odds on the card.
I don’t know a ton about Perez, who’s fought pretty low level competition on her way to a 7-1 professional record. That one loss did come via disqualification though, so she’s never been legitimately beaten. What I do know is that her opponent Stephanie Egger ($9,300) has no business at her price tag, regardless of matchup.
Egger is 2-2 in the UFC, but her most recent loss came just three weeks ago. That fight was in Las Vegas — and Egger trains in Switzerland — so that’s a ton of travel in a short period. We almost never see a quick turnaround for fighters coming off of a loss, and for good reason: it’s not like Egger was able to squeeze a full camp in since her last fight.
The short-notice nature of the bout is a big factor here, since Perez has been on this card and preparing for her debut for quite some time. She — or at least her record — also shows some promise.
The Contrarian Approach
Marvin Vettori ($7,400)
Vettori is another cheaper fighter I really like this week, as he takes on former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker ($8,800). Since 2016, both Vettori and Bobby Knuckles are undefeated in every bout that didn’t come against current champion Israel Adesanya.
Vettori was actually the closer of the two to defeating the champion, with both of his fights against Adesanya going to a decision, and one of those decisions being split. Whittaker has two losses to Adesanya as well: one by unanimous decision and a knockout.
While MMA math isn’t a reliable way to handicap fights, there’s a lot to like about Vettori here. He’s the more active fighter in both striking and grappling, which should play well to the judges if this one makes it that far. His legendary durability makes that likelier than not as well, he’s never been finished as a professional.
These fighters are far closer than their salaries or betting lines would suggest, with near-identical UFC statistics. The biggest edge for Whittaker is his power, but Vettori’s chin is likely to mitigate the impact of that.
Vettori doesn’t have a ton of upside from a DFS scoring standpoint, as he’s pretty unlikely to put Whittaker away. However, it’s only a 12-fight card, so we don’t need a massive score at his salary to end up in the optimal lineup. As a likely lower-owned option, He’s one of my favorite GPP choices.
The Swing Fight
William Gomis ($8,600) vs. Jarno Errens ($7,600)
Gomis and Errens are both making their UFC debut’s on Saturday, with neither of them coming through the DWCS or TUF pipelines to the promotions. That means very little is known about either of them, with tape relatively sparse on both fighters.
The favored Gomis is 10-2 as a professional, with seven of those wins coming inside the distance (six knockouts). Errens is 13-3, with eight stoppages (five submissions). A rough glance at their opponents tells me Gomis has fought stiffer competition in his career, but it’s fairly close.
Gomis is also French, and it seems likely that he’d be given a winnable matchup with this fight in Paris. So the betting lines make sense on this one, with Gomis opening and remaining a roughly -210 favorite.
Still, there’s a wide range of outcomes in this one. Lower level fights are far likelier to have a noticeable skill discrepancy and thus end early — just go to any local amateur show. I’m far more interested in the potential of this fight to produce points than I am in either fighter.
My goal will be to be overweight on both debutants on Saturday, which may be difficult depending on how ownership plays out. Still, I’ll be loading up on this one, as it seems highly likely to produce a quick finish for somebody.
Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Pictured above (L-R): Ciryl Gane