It’s the last call on UFC DFS for 2022, with some massive DraftKings contests on the docket. The UFC has a 13-fight card for the slate, headlined by middleweight contenders Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland. It’s a 4:00 p.m. start time, so have your lineups ready.
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.
Sean Strickland ($8,500) vs. Jared Cannonier ($7,700)
Strickland is looking to get back in the win column, as he was a fight away from a title shot before being knocked out by now-UFC champion Alex Pereira. Similarly, Cannonier is a former title challenger, with his winning streak stopped by former champion Israel Adesanya.
These two should make for both an entertaining fight and a good one for DFS. Neither man looks to grapple much, so we should see a fairly high-volume striking affair. Both have a clear upside case as well. Strickland has two five-round wins in his UFC career. They went for 93 and 144 DraftKings points. On a slate where upside could be hard to find — only two fights are favored to end inside the distance — those are solid scores from a fighter at $8,500.
On the Cannonier side, five of his last six wins have been knockouts. He has scary power, with a better-than-usual chance of putting away Strickland. Strickland is small for the division as a former welterweight and is also coming off a knockout loss.
Therefore, whoever wins this has a strong chance of finding their way to the optimal. We could see solid scores from both men together as well, especially if Strickland lands a lot of volume before being put away late. I probably won’t stack this fight on a 13-fight card, but will certainly play both men in cash games.
The Easy Chalk
Amir Albazi ($9,600)
Albazi is 3-0 in the UFC and was originally booked against two fellow top-10 flyweights in Brandon Royval and Alex Perez. Both of those opponents were forced to withdraw, and he’s now taking on UFC newcomer Alessandro Costa ($6,600).
This is a big step down in competition for Albazi, and he’s around a -400 favorite. With his price tag, though, he likely needs a finish to make it into the optimal. While he’s stopped two of his three opponents — both first-round submissions — he’s only -135 to end inside the distance. Additionally, both submissions came with solid (112 and 107) DraftKings scores, but not huge numbers.
My expectation is a strong, but not spectacular, score for Albazi here. That makes him a very safe cash game play, but questionable for tournaments. His chances of making the optimal likely come down to the scores posted by other fighters on the slate.
Keep that in mind while building Albazi lineups. He’s unlikely to make the optimal with big scores from other expensive fighters. Therefore, we should be looking to roster him with mostly mid-tier fighters.
Sergey Morozov ($9,300)
Morozov is one of a few higher-priced fighters to see the line move further in his direction this week. He’s now a -300 favorite at DraftKings, with better odds than the $9,400 fighter. That makes him a solid value on a per-dollar basis, with some upside as well.
That upside comes from his takedowns, as he’s landed nearly three per 15 minutes in his UFC tenure. He’s fighting Journey Newson ($6,900), who’s failed to defend a takedown attempt against him in the UFC (three faced).
That raises the chances of a solid score for Morozov, though, like Albazi, the ceiling is a bit more limited than we’d like. Even when he picked up six takedowns against Khalid Taha, he finished with just 105 DraftKings points. Much like Albazi, that makes him a strong cash game play, but unlikely to be in the optimal, barring an overall lower scoring slate.
The Value Plays
Saidyokub Kakhramonov ($8,000)
Kakhramonov is the cheaper fighter in his bout against Said Nurmagomedov ($8,200), but betting markets have a different opinion. He’s moved to -120 on the moneyline since salaries dropped, making him a fairly obvious value. He also brings massive takedown upside, having landed 12 in his two prior UFC bouts.
Fighting somebody with the last name “Nurmagomedov” is usually a bad sign for a wrestler, but Said isn’t related to Khabib and the rest of the famous grappling family. Said is actually more of a striker, making this a solid matchup for Kakhramonov.
With his $8,000 salary, he won’t need a massive score to make it into the optimal either, as long as he’s able to pull off the win. The way the line is moving in his favor, I like his chances to do just that.
Rinat Fakhretdinov ($8,300)
Fakhretdinov’s fight against late-notice replacement Bryan Battle ($7,900) opened near a pick’em before smart money immediately hammered Fakhretdinov down to a -150 or so favorite. That makes his $8,300 salary far too cheap, and he’s likely to be one of the most heavily owned fighters on the slate.
Based on his UFC debut, Fakhretdinov appears to be the stereotypical Russian grappler. He landed five takedowns and racked up 13 minutes of control time in his UFC debut — a ridiculous figure in a 15-minute fight. Battle has 55% takedown defense in the UFC and got into mixed martial arts without any prior high-level grappling experience. He matches up very poorly here.
Battle also took this one on relatively short notice, meaning he doesn’t have the benefit of a full training camp centered around stopping the takedowns he’s likely to face.
Fakhretdinov is an awesome play in all contest types.
The Contrarian Approach
Maheshate is still somewhat of an unknown in the UFC, having logged just 1:14 seconds of cage time in his debut against Steve Garcia. He’s looking to follow up on that performance against Raga Garcia ($8,400) (no relation) in what appears to a striker vs. grappler matchup.
Garcia has a high takedown rate — over three per 15 minutes — but just a 40% success rate. He also has a tendency not to do a ton with the takedowns he gets, having lost two fights where he landed three or more takedowns. Both of which bode well for Maheshate, who’s too cheap for his +110 or so odds.
Maheshate also has better inside-the-distance odds than Garcia for this one, giving him solid upside and a reasonable floor. Since he’s unlikely to be on the losing end of a finish, he should have a usable score even in a loss. That makes him a strong cash game play, and his obvious power gives him upside for GPPs.
The Upside Plays
Manel Kape ($9,100)
“Starboy” is coming off consecutive first-round knockout victories, both of which saw him score over 100 DraftKings points. He has massive power for the flyweight division, with a knockdown rate that rivals much larger fighters. He’s fighting David Dvorak ($7,100) as a very strong -250 favorite.
Kape also provides some upside by way of the takedown when the opportunity presents itself. He picked up a pair in his decision loss to Alexandre Pantoja in his UFC debut. With Dvorak yet to land a takedown in his four-fight UFC stint, Kape should get to dictate where this fight takes place.
These two are also fast-paced fighters, so the winner is likely to emerge with a very strong score. Especially since this fight has the third-longest odds of a stoppage on the card. Given the odds on Kape, it will likely end with his hand raised, making him a solid DFS play.
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The Swing Fight
Michal Oleksiejczuk ($9,400) vs. Cody Brundage ($6,800)
While it’s odd to have what appears to be a one-sided fight as the “swing fight” of the night, it makes sense in the context of this slate. This one is -280 to end inside the distance, with only one other fight longer than -110. This is also the only fight outside of the main event at a weight class above 170 lbs, and we like heavier fighters for their finishing upside.
Oleksiejczuk is the clear side here at -275 or so. He’s a devastating striker with the best knockdown rate on the slate. He also has two inches in reach on Brundage (despite being the same height) and is clearly the better fighter on their feet.
However, Oleksiejczuk has been submitted in two of his three UFC losses. That leaves the door open for Brundage, who’s primarily a grappler. He was getting thoroughly outclassed by Dalcha Lungiambula in their fight before jumping guard for a guillotine and finishing it.
Given the dearth of likely finishes on this card, it’s highly probable that whoever wins this one makes the optimal lineup. Oleksiejczuk is the more likely option, but it’s far from a guarantee. Therefore, I want to be overweight on both this fight in general and Brundage specifically. At his bargain salary, even a late submission win would be far more than enough to make it in the optimal lineup.