This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: we seem to be in line for a lot of finishes on this Saturday's fight card. UFC 255 is once again filled with action fighters in a small cage, which means the variance will be high. Worry not, as I am here to guide you through cash locks, dog plays, and captains, with notes about which fights to target sprinkled in for good measure.
One final note before we begin: 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 1.5X)
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 Option: Joaquin Buckley ($19)
Jordan Wright may have avenged his quick loss on The Contender Series with a flashy spin kick that ultimately stopped his fight against Ike Villanueva, but I didn't see anything in that victory to quiet the concerns I have about his fighting style. Wright has impressive kicks for days, but he stands up too tall and repeatedly backs himself into the fence. Not only is this a defensive liability, it also takes away his best offensive weapons, as he needs space to pull off those devastating attacks. Enter Joaquin Buckley, who has built an entire game off of relentlessly pressuring his opponents and landing big, powerful shots. Buckley is also incredibly athletic in the cage, which makes it highly unlikely that he will just walk onto a big shot. Combine all of this with a functional wrestling game, and what you get is a remarkably bad style matchup for Wright – one that will likely end with him looking up at the lights.
It's a bit difficult to find tape on Louis Cosce, but what we saw on the Contender Series was a fighter who will come forward and throw combinations with power. He also has a collegiate wrestling background, which he seamlessly works into his offensive attack. Sasha Palatnikov doesn't exactly look like a bad fighter, but it seems as though he has survived on the regional scene by working his wrestling against smaller opponents. He also likes to take his time in space with a range kicking game, and I just don't think Cosce is going to let him have that kind of space. It's far more likely that Cosce overwhelms the 31-year-old, leading to his third knockout loss in eight professional fights.
Daniel Rodriguez has taken off like a shot in the UFC, finishing two of his first three fights in the organization and landing a whopping 175 significant strikes in his decision victory. Nicolas Dalby is an aggressive fighter who will look to push the pace, but we saw in his fight with Jesse Ronson the penalty for rushing in wildly and falling short with shots against a slick counter puncher. Not only can Rodriguez step back and counter, but he will also be able to use a piston-like jab to keep range and frustrate Dalby on the way in. It is a veritable certainty that this fight will carry a furious pace for as long as it lasts, so Dalby should be viewed as a live underdog, but I like Rodriguez to be a bit sharper and more composed, giving him the edge and making him an enticing favorite.
Those that want to spend down in the captain's spot should take a good look at Tim Means. Means (somewhat surprisingly) opened as the underdog against Mike Perry, and while he has alternated wins and losses of late, I just see him as the far more skilled fighter here. Means has always had a slick boxing game that not only sees him throw in combination but also find angles to land his shots. Perry actually seems to have regressed in his time with the organization, to the point where he simply stalks forward and tries to throw big, looping shots to knock his opponent out. Means can be hit, but I have to imagine he will see those shots coming. It should also be noted that he has leaned more on his wrestling in recent fights should he need an escape hatch.
It's been quite a while since Brandon Moreno appeared on an optimal lineup, but we need to consider the incredible pace that Brandon Royval has kept in his two UFC fights, which has me confident that whoever wins this bout will end up with a big score. Moreno came back to the UFC after being released from the company in 2018 with an improved sense of range and timing, along with a bit more power in his hands to compliment his wrestling and BJJ. As I stated above, Royval's pressure and pace are remarkable even among flyweights, but the way he crashes forward nearly got him knocked out by Kai Kara-France, and I don't think he will be able to use his jiujitsu to bail him out when he gets into trouble. The range Moreno keeps should also keep him clear of Royval's dangerous spinning attacks.
Best Option: Valentina Shevchenko ($23)
Valentina Shevchenko is still priced like the woman who showed us remarkable finishes against Jessica Eye and Priscila Cachoeira, but the reality is that she remains a relatively slow-paced fighter who likes to work off the counter. The fact that she has incorporated wrestling into her game at this weight class has been a plus, but it may be ineffective against Jennifer Maia, who will come into the contest with a solid 70 percent takedown defense rate. The old adage of "kickbox the boxer" should still apply here, but I think it's much more likely to be a slow pick-apart over five rounds than a massive blowout, as Maia has always been a solid defensive fighter.
Kyle Daukaus has a wrestling/BJJ game that is conducive to high DFS point totals, but he's just priced a bit too high for me in his matchup against newcomer Dustin Stoltzfus, who has a solid base for defending takedowns and is competent on the ground in his own right. Ultimately, I see nothing in Stoltzfus' game that tells me he will be able to stand up to the pressure and pace of Daukaus, but I do think he is skilled enough not to get finished (or at least drag the fight into the later rounds), which puts the 27-year-old squarely in the "cash" category as far as I'm concerned.
Cynthia Calvillo has gone through phases where she's forgotten about her wrestling entirely but looks to be back on the right track, having landed seven takedowns in her last two fights. The problem from a scoring perspective is that Katlyn Chookagian is a slick jiu-jitsu practitioner, having never been submitted in 18 professional fights. This puts a cap on Calvillo's ceiling, but the wrestling should still be there, giving her a solid floor against a woman who has logged just a 48 percent takedown defense rate in 11 UFC fights.
Antonina Shevchenko and Ariane Lipski have fairly similar games, as they are both hard-hitting kickboxers that can surprise you by how scrambly and opportunistic they are on the ground. The main separator for me is just how much deeper Shevchenko's game is from a technical perspective, as Lipski generally likes to just wing big shots in the pocket until her opponent falls down. The other thing to note here is Shevchenko will come into the matchup with a two-inch height advantage, which should give her plenty of leverage in the plum-clinch situations she likes to force on her opposition.
Best Option: Tim Means ($15)
I have a feeling I'll largely be on my own in predicting a new flyweight champion, but it strikes me that Alex Perez has the two qualities that Jussier Formiga used to stifle Deiveson Figueiredo's offense: strong wrestling and slick kickboxing. Figueiredo is, of course, a powerhouse both on the feet and in top position, but he still stands flatfooted in the cage, which makes me think that Perez will be able to use his leg kicks and agility to keep the champion at bay before looking for takedowns. We all remember the epic beating Figueiredo put on Joseph Benavidez in July, but I would argue that was more of a fortunate style matchup than anything else, with Benavidez constantly leaping into range unprotected against a sharp counter striker. Perez is much better on the defensive end and I think the ability to keep himself safe will allow him to find his shots and wear Figueiredo down over five rounds.
Everything about the fight between Mauricio Rua and Paul Craig is weird. The first thing to note is that this is a rematch of a fight that took place in November of 2019, which went to a draw. This wouldn't be so strange except I'm not sure what the hurry was to rebook a fight nobody really asked for the first time. The next thing to note is that Craig was a sizeable underdog in their first fight (as high as (+200) in some places) and now finds himself as a (-170) favorite. Why is this? There is no doubt that Craig was handling "Shogun" on the feet in Round one, using his range kicking game and length generally to really give him problems. Toward the end of Round 2 and for most of Round 3, however, "Shogun" realized that he could simply take Craig down and use his counter jiu-jitsu to easily thwart everything the Scottish fighter attempted off his back. I think this will be a reliable path forward for "Shogun" in this fight. I expect the Brazilian will use his wrestling until Craig gets tired, which will allow him to potentially get a finish late in the fight.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Alan Jouban ($16) will make his return to the Octagon after more than a year-long hiatus to fight Cage Warriors' alumnus Jared Gooden ($15) in his UFC debut. Gooden can do a bit of everything inside the cage but stands up a bit too tall and can get pressured back against the fence a bit too easily. Jouban is an aggressive Muay Thai striker who will push a pace but has shown something of a glass chin in the past, and Gooden has been known to land a crisp counter shot. I will ultimately put my money on Jouban to outwork and outlast Gooden, but won't be surprised if he gets caught out by a shot he doesn't see.