UFC Vegas 63 goes live on Saturday with an 11-fight card headlined by top-10 featherweights Arnold Allen and Calvin Kattar. This will be the first main event for Allen, who’s riding an 11-fight win streak.
Getting unique will be the name of the game in GPPs, with just 11 fights on the card. To that end, our UFC Models now feature ownership projections, which should help in building unique lineups.
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.
Arnold Allen ($8,200) vs. Calvin Kattar ($8,000)
It’s been a long time since we had a main event as the $8,200/$8,000 fight on DraftKings, which means getting this fight right will be absolutely critical in DFS. Both fighters are cheap enough that on a small card, the winner has a very high probability of making it to the optimal lineup.
Allen is the up-and-comer here, with a nine-fight UFC win streak against steadily increasing opposition. In his last bout, he dispatched Dan Hooker via first-round knockout for a solid 110-point fantasy score. However, he had failed to top 82 DraftKings points in any prior bout and has just two other stoppage victories.
Still, those were all three-round fights, and an Allen win here means either five rounds of action or a stoppage. Those 70-80 point scores end up somewhere in the low 100-point range with two additional rounds to work. It should also be a high-volume fight from Allen since he has all of the grappling upside in this one.
Kattar is the more explosive striker here, with four knockouts in his seven UFC victories. While he’s 1-2 in his last three fights, those came against Max Holloway and Josh Emmett, two standouts in the division. Kattar is primarily a boxer who will look to use his two-inch reach edge to keep Allen at a distance here.
Kattar can get to a good score on volume alone, landing over 100 significant strikes in each of his last four bouts (all five rounders). He has almost no takedown upside but makes up for it with stopping power.
This is an obvious fight to stack in cash games, and there’s an angle to doing so in GPPs as well. On a smaller card, a fight where Kattar racks up strikes and Allen mixes in takedowns could produce big scores for both fighters.
With the betting line moving Kattar’s way, I would expect ownership to come in slightly higher on him. He’s the better on paper value, and if forced to pick one for cash games, it would be him.
I’ll be leaning Allen’s way in GPPs, though. The smaller cage at the UFC Apex center will help him turn this into a grappling match if need be. He’s also six years Kattar’s junior, and their careers seem to be trending in opposite directions. With that said, Kattar’s championship round experience could be a big factor here as well, so I’ll have exposure to both fighters.
The Easy Chalk
Waldo Cortes-Acosta ($9,000)
It’s not every day that a UFC newcomer debuts as a -200 or so favorite — but it’s not every day that one debuts against Jared Vanderaa ($7,200), either. Vanderaa is rapidly approaching Sam Alvey levels of “why is he still in the UFC?” as he brings a four-fight losing streak (and 1-5 UFC record) into Saturday’s festivities.
Four of those five losses have come via stoppage, including two ground and pounds, a standing knockout, and a submission. The only fighter to not finish him was 43-year-old Andrei Arlovski, though in fairness to Vanderaa, he arguably should’ve won that fight despite the decision going against him.
Point is, whatever you’re good at, Vanderaa will make you look great at. For Cortes-Acosta, that seems to be punching. He’s competed in as many professional boxing bouts (seven) as he has MMA fights, and his last three MMA bouts were won by knockout — including his Contender Series Fight.
He also has a kimura win on his record, so there’s a chance he submits Vanderaa as well. He’s -115 to win this one inside the distance, making his $9,000 salary more than fair. He’s an excellent option in all contest types.
Marcos Rogerio de Lima ($8,900)
Another multi-named Brazilian heavyweight makes the list for UFC Vegas 63, as Rogerio de Lima takes on the aforementioned Andrei Arlovski ($7,300). “Pezao” is an even bigger favorite than Cortes-Acosta, moving to -245 on DraftKings.
That doesn’t necessarily make him the better DFS option, though. When paying up for fighters, we need access to upside, not just likely wins. The Cortes-Acosta fight is -280 to end inside the distance, this one is just -105. de Lima sporadically implements a takedown-heavy game plan, though, which could lead to a decent score, even in a decision.
It’s also possible that father time finally catches up with Arlovski, who is now 43 but has won six of his last seven fights. All six were via decision, though, including two split decisions in his most recent fights. Both were somewhat controversial, and his luck is bound to run out at some point.
Arlovski’s penchant for lasting until the final bell has me a bit scared of rostering de Lima, though. It’s entirely possible that de Lima puts up a dominant real-life performance but has a fairly disappointing DraftKings score. That will keep me off him in cash games, but I want some exposure in GPPs — Arlovski is bound to hit a wall soon, and I want to profit off it when he does.
Chase Hooper ($9,200)
Once the UFC’s youngest fighter, the now 23-year-old Hooper looks to be hitting his stride. He has five UFC fights under his belt, with the most recent being a dominant ground-and-pound victory over Felipe Colares in May. He put up a massive 143-point performance in that one.
He’ll look to follow it up against Steve Garcia ($7,200), who’s coming off a knockout loss of his own. Garcia is 1-2 in the UFC and looks to be a stepping stone for the up-and-coming Hooper.
After landing just one takedown in his first three fights, Hooper has made massive strides in his wrestling. Already an excellent grappler, he’s been able to land seven takedowns in his last two outings. That’s massive for his potential as a fighter — and for DFS purposes.
Hooper is not without risk, though. Garcia is a solid wrestler himself and has 100% takedown defense in his UFC career. While it’s not outlandish to think that Hooper could win a striking match with Garcia, he’d be far better served by bringing this one to the ground.
Still, he’s a -300 or so favorite for a reason. All of Hooper’s UFC wins have come inside the distance, so he’s likely to end up with a big score if he gets it done. I have enough concern to avoid him in cash games but will have a heavy dose of Chase “The Dream” in GPPs.
The Value Play
Phil Hawes ($8,400)
Hawes is near the top of our median projections, despite coming in at just an $8,400 salary. This feels like a rare miss on the part of the DraftKings pricing algorithm, with “Megatron” topping 95 points in four of his five UFC fights. He’s a high-level wrestler with big power in his hands — the perfect combination for DFS.
He’s taking on Roman Dolidze ($7,800). Like Hawes, Dolidze is 4-1 in the UFC, though his track record is somewhat less impressive. Three of his four wins are over fighters no longer on the UFC roster. The fighters Hawes beat are a combined 7-2 since losing to Hawes (not counting Deron Winn, who’s yet to fight again).
Hawes should be the better striker here, with a more active pace and bigger power in his hands. I also struggle to see Dolidze winning the wrestling exchanges based on Hawes’ pedigree. It’s a volatile fight, though, with Dolidze having excellent submission skills if it does hit the mat.
Usually, I use the “value play” section to highlight safer cash game options, but that’s not really how I see Hawes this week. His upside is simply far greater than his salary since a win likely includes either plenty of takedowns, a knockout, or both. As a -175 favorite, that’s a solid value at just $8,400.
The Contrarian Approach
Tresean Gore ($7,500)
“Mr. Vicious” hasn’t quite lived up to his potential since making it to the final round of TUF 29, but the potential is certainly there. He appears to pack some major power but has struggled to pull the trigger with his strikes in the UFC Octagon.
I’ve known plenty of fighters who have all the tools but sometimes are unable to put it together in competition. It’s quite possible that Gore turns out to be one of them. However, this is something of a last call on him. He’s fighting Josh Fremd ($8,700), who’s 0-1 in the UFC after stepping in on short notice to fight Anthony Hernandez in his debut.
Either Gore gets it done here — in which case we’re unlikely to see another $7,500 price tag — or he loses and is probably cut from the roster. I’m of the opinion that the latter is more likely, but he could be worth a stab at low ownership.
The Upside Plays
Cody Durden ($7,700)
When looking for GPP upside, the two most important factors are takedowns and stoppages. Durden brings both, averaging over four takedowns per 15 minutes in his UFC tenure and winning his most recent fight by first-round knockout.
He’s taking on Carlos Mota ($8,500), a former LFA flyweight champ who profiles as a pure striker. Durden’s striking hasn’t been impressive, but the upside is there if he turns this into a 15-minute wrestling match.
Lighter weight classes are preferable if hunting takedown upside, as smaller fighters have an easier time scrambling back to their feet and creating opportunities for another takedown. The smaller cage at the UFC Apex also helps. Durden is an underdog for a reason here but has absolutely slate-breaking upside if he can string together takedowns for 15 minutes.
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The Swing Fight
Dustin Jacoby ($8,300) vs. Khalil Rountree ($7,900)
The light heavyweight bout between Jacoby and Rountree is a matter of when, not if, one of them gets knocked out. Rountree has five knockouts in his six UFC wins and a ridiculous 1.85 knockdowns per 15 minutes of cage time. Jacoby is a bit more cautious but still has an above-average knockdown rate and three knockouts in six UFC wins.
Jacoby comes from a pro kickboxing background and mixes in excellent leg kicks with his powerful punches. Rountree is more of a pure brawler, with a slightly negative significant strike ratio. You can’t teach power, though, and Rountree certainly has it.
Neither man has much of an interest in grappling, so this one should be a slugfest as long as it lasts. Jacoby is likely to be winning for most of the fight but needs to avoid Rountree’s power for all 15 minutes. Jacoby has the better skill set here, which is why he’s a -170 or so favorite.
However, Rountree is the better GPP play. Jacoby has a path to a decision win and could end up with a lackluster score in the process. For Rountree, it’s knockout or bust. Therefore, I’ll be overweight on the underdog here, but I want some exposure to both fighters.