This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
With each passing day, the fact that we are actually getting a live MMA event on May 9 after nearly a two-month hiatus becomes more and more of a reality. With this in mind, DFS players need to knock off the rust, roll up their sleeves, and start building some lineups. If this seems like a tall task, there is no need to worry! In this article I will break down the best captain choices, value plays, and cash locks for the slates on FanDuel. All fighter tiers will be listed in descending order from most to least desirable among the choices.
First, here's a refresher on the scoring. If you're looking for general strategy tips, I wrote a FanDuel 101 article prior to UFC Brasilia on March 14, though there have been a few minor scoring changes since then that I've noted below.
Moves Scoring (MVP 1.5X)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.9 PTS
Takedown (TD): +9 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): +4.5 PTS
Submission Attempt (SA): +7.5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +18 PTS
Moves Scoring (standard)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.6 PTS
Takedown (TD): +6 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): 3
Submission Attempt (SA): 5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +12 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (MVP 1.5 X)
1st Round Win (1stW): +150 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +112.5 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +75 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +52.5 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +37.5 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +30 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (Standard)
1st Round Win (1stW): +100 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +75 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +50 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +35 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +25 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +20 PTS
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Oh, Captain my Captain
Best Play: Tony Ferguson ($17)
I have Tony Ferguson listed as the play, but that could just as easily read "whomever you think is going to win the main event." The reason for this is fairly simple, as Justin Gaethje and "El Cucuy" throw an incredible amount of significant strikes per minute (8.57 and 5.81 respectively) and both men have proven to be extremely difficult to put away. Over five rounds, that seems like a nice recipe for good scores. That said, I'm taking Ferguson to get the win bonus, as I think his cardio, creativity, and ability to create big offense in the pocket will ultimately be too much for "The Highlight" to handle.
As for the secondary options, Vicente Luque has already won this fight in dominant fashion once, when he completely stifled Niko Price with his pressure and leg kicks before finding the finish. Price will always look for a brawl when he is behind, which makes me think that Luque will catch him with something hard sooner rather than later.
I thought about putting Henry Cejudo above Luque on this list, with my one hesitation being the awkward movements of Dominick Cruz potentially leading to an adjustment period. That said, Cruz looked noticeably slower and more hittable the last time we saw him, and is now coming back from a nearly four-year layoff. In his fight against Cody Garbrandt in particular, he was getting hit hard whenever he would try to exit from an exchange, which makes me think Cejudo's speed and power will be more than enough to get this done.
It may surprise people to see Francis Ngannou last on this list, but we need to remember that both he and Jair Rozenstruik are extreme counter fighters. Both have big power that can end the night with one shot, but Jair's hesitancy to go first saw him 10 seconds away from a low-scoring loss against Alistair Overeem, and players who rostered either side of the Ngannou/Derrick Lewis fight (in which a combined total of 31 significant strikes were landed over three rounds), are still prone to waking up in cold sweats. All of that being said, I do think Ngannou gets this done by KO, as Jair can get careless from time to time, and "The Predator's" power is unlike anything else we have seen in the Octagon.
Best play: Justin Gaethje: $15
The first thing to note here is that there are two players on this list (Aleksei Oleinik and Cruz) whom I am not picking to win their bouts. So why list them here? In the case of Cruz, we have an active fighter who, between his wrestling and striking game, has consistently put up a high volume of offensive numbers. One could argue his wrestling will be muted against someone like Cejudo, but even if this is the case, having a high-volume striker like Cruz in a five-round fight could pay dividends at this price.
As for Oleinik, he is more of a "high-ceiling, no floor," kind of an option, with nine of his last 10 fights finishing inside the distance. Oleinik is another fighter whose best attribute (his jiujitsu game) may not count for much against Fabricio Werdum, but he throws hard and carries an 80-inch reach into the contest, which makes him worth a look as the second-least expensive fighter on the slate.
Moving on to fighters I actually like to win, I think Yorgan de Castro is in a great spot here at just $12. The hype refuses to move off of Greg Hardy regardless of how underwhelming he looks in the cage, but de Castro is a composed fighter who is athletic for his size, can wrestle a little, and can land a big counter shot. Hardy can still crack and is an incredibly athletic guy in his own right, but this feels like de Castro's fight to me.
Michelle Waterson's ownership will probably be fairly scarce, but I think she has a sneakily good matchup here against Carla Esparza due to her speed and excellent transitions on the ground, which I think she can use to her advantage after the opponent scores a takedown. Esparza's upright stance could afford Waterson some success in the standup realm, as well.
That brings us to Uriah Hall, a fighter I think should be priced a bit higher than $15. With the striking differential as wide as it is, Jacare Souza's path to victory seems to clearly be his wrestling and submission game. The problem there is that Jacare has only secured two takedowns in his last six fights, and hasn't had a submission win since 2017. Conversely, Hall has never been submitted in his MMA career, and looked pretty comfortable warding off a BJJ wizard in Antonio Carlos Junior last time out. I wouldn't at all be surprised if Hall stops Souza here, but I do expect a moment or two of adversity for the slight underdog.
Best Play: Henry Cejudo: $19
I covered Cejudo in the captain's spot, but it's just hard not to love a quick, athletic, powerful striker against a man who appears to be losing a step coming off a nearly four-year layoff. Cruz retains his value based on the length of the fight and his output, but Cejudo can definitely be seen as an anchor play for lineups.
Next, we turn to Calvin Kattar against Jeremy Stephens. The 32-year old has a very classic boxer's style, meaning he has a nice jab, and keeps distance effectively. We have seen Stephens struggle with fighters he could not corral in the past (Renato Moicano and Zabit Magomedsharipov come to mind) and while he does have his wrestling, I expect Kattar will cruise to a fairly easy decision unless "Lil Heathen" is able to land one of those knockout hooks he loves to sell out for.
As a relatively fresh-faced UFC fighter against a veteran, it may seem odd to include Bryce Mitchell in a cash play. What I really like about this matchup for Bryce is that he is a better defensive fighter than he is given credit for, and Charles Rosa's standup game basically involves just winging one big shot at a time. Things get a bit more interesting on the ground, but I consider Mitchell's wrestling and scrambling game to be at least on par with Rosa's. While I don't expect him to get the finish, I have to believe Mitchell is a pretty safe bet to pull out a victory here.
As I mentioned in my writeup for Oleinik, Fabricio Werdum comes into this fight with pretty strong advantages, and unless his opponent is able to pressure and land the big shot, it seems like the fight is his to lose. Something to keep in mind when it comes to Werdum, specifically, is he is one of the few fighters on this card who seems to be in a prime position to benefit from the new scoring criteria. Not only will he attempt submissions, but Oleinik has been known to attempt some strange low-percentage takedowns, which could be an easy way for Fabricio to get some points.
It's pretty strange to see Ryan Spann as the highest priced fighter on the card, especially considering that his grapple-first style has left us with a solid-floor more often than a boom. I included him here because I think he beats Sam Alvey regardless, and while I personally think the KO is coming, it's difficult to tell when that might be, which makes Spann difficult to roster in GPP formats.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Those of you following along with the roster may have noticed I have yet to mention the Anthony Pettis ($15) vs. Donald Cerrone ($15) fight. The reason for this is I'm not quite sure what category it belongs in. Pettis took the victory in their first bout in 2013, but it feels like a lifetime has passed since then in terms of their careers. Both men have looked increasingly fragile and vulnerable to damage, and both have been erratic when it comes to giving us their best performances. My read is that Pettis' counter game will be enough to sting Cerrone when he enters the pocket to throw his trademark long combinations, but Pettis has also shown a vulnerability to body kicks, which works in "Cowboy's" favor. While I can't neatly fit either into a specific category, it does seem like Cerrone is a bit too shopworn, and Pettis tends to hurt opponents even in fights he loses.