This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
We are back at it with another UFC card after a one-week hiatus! UFC Fight Night Overeem vs. Volkov features 14 bouts, which means we get more opportunities in DFS contests with more fighters to choose from.
For those unfamiliar with my DFS and betting work, I am not afraid to be contrarian and be strategic at the same time. Furthermore, I am in it for the long game and invest in things that I believe hold long-term value. For instance, I bet Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 against Conor McGregor because I thought he would win long-term (i.e., capped him as 55% likely to win) after doing my analysis. The +250 price tag was worth a bet on my behalf (i.e., a third-party tracked and verified site I use that shows this).
Still, there are certainly times when I am wrong, but I feel good about my decision-making at the end of the day because of my process. I do not get bothered if I lose a certain percentage of my DFS bankroll on a DFS slate (i.e., I wager at most 5% of my DFS bankroll on a slate) my homework on these slates, realize this is a long term game. Most importantly, I love playing DFS win, lose, or breakeven.
We know that we want to create lineups with the highest scores possible, whether in cash or GPP. In cash games, we want plays that are perceived to be optimal with less emphasis on ownership. I am not only going to provide you plays that I believe are optimal from a scoring upside perspective but plays that could go under-owned in GPPs.
If I do not mention a fighter in this article, it does not mean I am not considering them for a specific category. Still, I am putting fighters in these categories out of respect for prioritization. I will provide at least a couple of fighters for each of these categories.
Lastly, I always make multiple lineups when playing GPPs as I like to embrace this fun game's variance. Let's dive right in!
FanDuel Scoring System:
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
MVP Top Contrarian Plays
One nice thing about the MVP format on FanDuel is that the ownership is reasonably predictable, even if you're someone who has historically struggled at predicting ownership. Most often, players gravitate towards the captain plays they feel are "safe," which means massive favorites and main event fighters. I like to take an angle in captain mode to place a mid-priced fighter or lower-priced fighter that is likely to be a high-paced fight or one where a finish may materialize. Players typically do not prefer this method because there is more risk involved at a glance; however, I see this as a critical way lineups win GPP contests weekly. As it pertains to this fight night event, here are some of the plays that fit this mold.
Carlos Diego Ferreira ($15) and Beneil Dariush ($15)
Let's start with the rematch from over six years ago between Beneil Dariush and Carlos Diego Ferreira. In the first meeting, Beneil took down and controlled CDF for all three rounds and won. I find it unlikely that the path to victory for Beneil happens again. Since the first meeting, CDF has significantly improved his takedown defense, scrambling ability and is a much better fighter overall. Therefore, I think these two will be standing and throwing a lot of offense at each other.
Beneil has more punching power, and CDF is hittable early on in fights (i.e., was hurt by Taisumov, Kyle Nelson), so Beneil may be able to get a quick finish again. However, if Beneil does not finish CDF early, I think he likely slows down and cannot keep up with CDF's pace and pressure (i.e., lands 5.07 significant strikes per minute). CDF may be able to earn a stoppage himself, as Dariush has never lost a pro-MMA fight via decision and has historically gotten tired as fights progress (i.e., against Evan Dunham and Scott Holtzman).
This is a fight I am willing to target both sides in the GPP format because this fight's winner has a solid chance of putting up a valuable score.
Alexandre Pantoja ($16)
I think it's a great style matchup for Pantoja, assuming he chooses to offensively grapple (i.e., is an excellent submission grappler and scrambler), as Kape has shown multiple times in his RIZIN fights that he can be taken down and controlled for long periods. I am optimistic Pantoja chooses the grappling path as his primary game plan as he trains at American Top Team, which is known for doing such things (i.e., fighters such as Jorge Masvidal, Dustin Poirier, and other excellent talents train there). Kape is a very talented fighter. His best chance to win this fight will be to threaten Pantoja on the feet with his athleticism, precision and power (i.e., similar to how Figueiredo did), which can happen (i.e., Pantoja got rocked by Schnell and Figueiredo). However, Pantoja has still never stopped in 27 pro MMA fights.
I am willing to take my chances on Pantoja, knowing he generally fights at a high pace (i.e., has landed 119 and 79 significant strikes in the past) and has a legit chance to dominate the grappling exchanges, which can lead to a stoppage victory.
Danillo Marques ($10)
Recommending Marques does not mean I am entirely off Mike Rodriguez, but should Marques have his way and get the win, he can boost lineups to the leaderboard's top. In his 17 pro MMA fight career, Mike Rodriguez has never won a fight past the 2nd round partly due to his tendency of slowing down significantly as fights progress. His previous opposition has had success slowing him down via grappling (i.e., Clark, Allan, and Herman all took him down in victory).
Marques' takedowns are good enough to get Rodriguez to the ground IF he closes the distance from what I've seen. Marques is a good submission grappler, and we've seen Rodriguez look defensive liable on the ground multiple times in the UFC thus far. Hence, Marques' submission win, I believe, is in play at what is likely to be lower ownership. The risk with playing Marques is Rodriguez (i.e., 5.5-inch reach advantage) may knock him out (i.e., Marques was knocked out cold on the regional scene), which is why I also like Rodriguez as a GPP play but someone whose ownership I'll be mindful of as he'll likely be popular.
Timur Valiev ($16)
Timur Valiev is a tremendous talent, and he has another very favorable stylistic matchup Saturday against Martin Day. Timur lost his UFC debut after dominating the striking exchanges, nearly stopping Trevin Jones in Round 1, but Jones was able to weather the storm, clip Valiev with a big punch, hurt him and get the finish. That is the concern I have for Valiev in this matchup (i.e., Valiev has also been rocked in fights before his UFC debut). Day is a talented striker with some power, but Valiev is the superior striker overall (i.e., more technical, varied, craftier, outstanding footwork, and range management). Day is not a defensively sound fighter in striking (i.e., does not move his head off the centerline) nor in the grappling (i.e., has gotten his back taken multiple times, has been put in many submission attempts). Valiev is a BJJ Brown Belt (i.e., good guard passer in the top position), a Master of Sports in Sambo, an excellent offensive wrestler, and holds other very impressive credentials, so he likely can control where this fight takes place and have a strong advantage everywhere the fight goes.
Valiev is a massive favorite again for a good reason. He may lose, but I think the percentage of that happening is very small (i.e., is nearly a -500 favorite), considering he is the vastly superior technical fighter who is more well-rounded. I'll take my chances on the discounted Valiev.
Cash Game Favorites
Unlike the GPP categories below, the cash game plays do not emphasize the ownership percentages. The goal with cash game lineups for me is to build an optimal lineup. What does this mean? Well, to me, it means putting together the best lineup with the readiest resources available while taking into account opportunity cost, floor, ceiling, and price. Let's discuss some specific fighters I like for cash games this week.
Alexander Volkov ($21)
He is an obvious play, but he is a priority for me in cash games. Volkov is the main event favorite (i.e., has been getting a lot of betting action), strikes at a high rate (i.e., lands 4.76 significant strikes per minute), is durable (i.e., has only been finished via strikes two times in 40 pro MMA fights), and has a good ITD line (i.e., +110).
Furthermore, I think Volkov's defensive grappling is good enough to largely neutralize Overeem from winning this fight via that path, unlike Overeems previous two outings. Overeem has been resorting to his grappling because of his timidity in striking exchanges (i.e., he has been knocked out 14 times in pro-MMA). I trust Volkov's pace, cardio, and durability much more in a fight that is mainly going to be won or lost standing.
Also considered: Timur Valiev ($16)
Cash Game Underdogs
I pick fighters in this category that I believe have reasonable floors even in a losing scenario. These fighters, I think, are in very close fights and can win, which is excellent. However, some underdogs in contests that go to a decision are valuable even if they lose because they allow one to pay up for the higher-priced fighters one prioritizes the most in cash games.
Lara Procopio ($13)
I think she's live to pull off the upset. She's got a reach advantage of 5.5 inches, throws a lot of striking volume (i.e., landed 165 significant strikes in her UFC debut against Karol Rosa), and is a good BJJ practitioner (i.e., McCann has struggled in the past against superior grapplers like Talia Santos and Gillian Robertson). Even if Procopio does not win, she has a concrete floor with her offensive output combined with the fact that this fight is very likely to go to the judges' scorecards.
Joselyn Edwards (TBD)
What I like about the fight between Karol Rosa (i.e., lands 9.70 significant strikes per minute) and Joselyn Edwards (i.e., lands 5.87 significant strikes per minute) is that it's likely to be fought at a high pace. Neither fighter has a good striking defense, so there's the potential the winner and loser of this fight can put up a solid score.
Edwards is the underdog in this matchup, and though I'm picking Rosa to win, I think the fight is closer than odds currently indicate (i.e., -230 Rosa to win per BetOnline.ag). I am not saying I will bet Edwards as I do not bet fighters unless I cap them as favorites, but I like Edwards for DFS purposes because of this fight's projected pace.
I also think there's a legitimate chance Edwards gets a submission victory. She has a threatening guard, and Rosa has been submitted from guard in the past, not that long ago. Nonetheless, I think that Edwards has a safe floor with added upside should she get her hand raised.
A crucial part of winning GPP lineups is underdogs that not only succeed but score sufficiently. For this category, I picked a few underdogs that have reasonable paths to victory AND can achieve well in a win scenario.
Considered in this category are Lara Procopio ($13), Joselyn Edwards (TBD) and Danilo Marques ($10), each of whom are profiled above.
GPP Pivot Favorites
This category includes fighters that I believe make for good plays in GPPs but less pronounced than some fighters on this slate (i.e., Volkov, Smith, Rodriguez, Sandhagen), which I believe make for right pivot GPP plays. If these lower owned plays come through with a big score, there's potential they boost lineups to the top of the leaderboard.
Ode Osbourne (TBD)
Ode does an excellent job creating chaos (i.e., reminds me of Niko Price), which adds a little extra variance in an octagon fight. He's only +140 (per Bet365) to win and has an ITD prop of +240 (per Betway). Even though he's not the best round winner, I think that for Ode to win, it's via finish as he has a very explosive style while being opportunistic and has a very long reach for this weight class.
Carlos Diego Ferreira ($15)
He is reasonably priced and has a couple of different ways of producing a high DFS score. He has an incredible striking output (i.e., landed 109 significant strikes against Taisumov), excellent grappling (i.e., 3rd Degree BJJ Black Belt, good scrambling ability, improving offensive wrestling, and solid TDD), and defensively he's solid overall as well. I can see the pace and pressure of CDF being too much for Dariush, who's historically slowed down in fights and either lead to a high-paced decision win or a stoppage victory. I'll take my chances on CDF in GPPs.
Also considered: Alexandre Pantoja ($16), Timur Valiev ($16)
The fade section's purpose is to include fighters that I would like to be underweighted to in GPPs or outright not play them in any lineup (i.e., even if making 20 lineups). Of course, the more lineups I make, the more likely I am to roster different fighters, as there's always the case for all GPP options based on game theory. Still, these are the fighters I think will get some action in lineups that I would prefer to look elsewhere when making tournament lineups.
Michael Johnson ($19)
I am hesitant to pick him in this fight. Johnson has wins over Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Edson Barboza, and other very talented fighters but has lost many fighters that were very favorable style matchups for him on paper. I think this is another favorable stylistic matchup for Johnson (i.e., his TDD while fresh should be good enough to keep the fight standing where he's the superior striker). However, his cardio and decision-making could quickly lose him this fight, which gives me pause in investing in him for DFS purposes. Also, Johnson has not earned a finish since September 2016, and Guida has historically shown to be very tough to put away via strikes. Johnson winning by TKO/KO would be his path to reaching a high DFS score, but it's not something I want to invest highly in, considering the circumstances.
Youssef Zalal ($20)
After coming off his first UFC loss, I am unsure how the market will react to rostering Zalal. He is likely to win his fight versus Seung Woo Choi, but for DFS purposes, I question his upside relative to his price. Zalal is primarily a point fighter with excellent footwork and movement on the outside. His fights can be anywhere from moderate to low tempo based on his style.
He does have a grappling advantage here against Choi (i.e., Choi was taken down several times by Gavin Tucker and Movsar Evloev). However, Zalal has not shown to be as technical, dangerous, or potent of a grappler as the previous opposition Choi struggled with, nor does he always choose to grapple against the susceptible competition (i.e., against Jordan Griffin).
Though I am predicting Zalal to win the matchup against Choi, I am not as interested in rostering him as other fighters in his price range (i.e., Rodriguez, Volkov, Sandhagen, Overeem).