This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
We are back at it with another UFC Pay-Per-View event! UFC 259 features 15 bouts, including 3 title fights, which makes for plenty of opportunities to roster fighters in our FanDuel lineups!
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.
Let's get into it!
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 Plays
Amanda Nunes ($23)
Amanda Nunes is one of the biggest MMA betting favorites in recent memory. Nunes also holds the most decisive win inside the distance line on the entire card and has five rounds to accrue FanDuel points if need be. Nunes is the superior striker (i.e., is more technical, has excellent footwork, more defensively sound), wrestler (i.e., double leg takedown ability in open space, Brown Belt in Judo), and grappler (i.e., Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt) in this title defense which is very likely good enough to propel her to victory.
Nunes's opponent, Megan Anderson, has shown a defensive grappling weakness in the past (i.e., taken down four times and controlled for nearly eleven minutes against Holly Holm, held on the ground for almost three minutes, then finished by Felicia Spencer in round 1). Megan is improving her game and working with James Krause. Still, her skill set is not nearly as polished as Amanda's is. Nunes has a lot of potentials to dominate this fight and therefore put up a substantial FanDuel score.
Islam Makhachev ($22)
Islam Makhachev is one of the best grapplers in the UFC (i.e., 2016 Men's Combat Sambo World Champion, various technical takedowns, the ability to chain wrestle, excellent control, and ability to pass the guard of the opposition while in the top position). Makhachev is facing a climbing Drew Dober who will be a threat in the striking (i.e., Dober has power, excellent technique, high volume, and counterstriking proficiency). Still, Makhachev absorbs the lowest amount of significant strikes per minute per ufcstats.com (.76) because Makhachev has good distance management, is not willing to throw in combination often to avoid counters, and utilizes kicks & straight punches while at a distance.
Makhachev has shown to generally close distance well. When he does, he is likely to take Dober down and impose his superior grappling (i.e., Dober was taken down three times by Alexander Hernandez, two times by Beneil Dariush three times by Frank Camacho). Dober has also allowed many guard passes in the past, which has led to some submission losses. Makhachev can dominate the grappling exchanges here and get a submission, leading to a high score on FanDuel.
Sean Brady ($20)
I believe Sean Brady has a favorable stylistic matchup against veteran Jake Matthews. I see Brady as the superior striker (i.e., better technique, outstanding combinations, more varied, better defensively, excellent counter striker, and fights at the higher tempo), wrestler (i.e., chain wrestling and footsweep ability), and grappler (i.e., good guard passer in the top position, BJJ Black Belt under Daniel Gracie, and excellent positional control).
Additionally, I view Brady as the better fighter in the clinch (i.e., superior control, physicality, and awareness) who has better cardio (i.e., Brady has shown to fight at a high pace for all three rounds whereas Matthews was very tired in round 3 against Martin and Meek).
Despite being a BJJ Black Belt, Matthews has looked susceptible defensively on the ground multiple times (i.e., was mounted by Bojan Velickovic, Andrew Holbrook took his back, finished on the ground by Martin, Vick, and Lee). Brady being a physical and good technical grappler, can potentially exploit the defensive grappling weakness of Matthews and get a finish which may lead to a big FanDuel score.
Cash Game Underdogs
Aljamain Sterling ($17)
Despite this being a challenging test, I believe Aljamain Sterling likely defeats Petr Yan on Saturday. Aljamain has a 4-inch reach advantage over Petr, has better movement (i.e., has excellent distance management, utilizes various kicks and straight punches to establish the range, great lateral footwork), is more defensively sound (i.e., absorbs 1.94 significant strikes per minutes has 66% striking defense per ufcstats.com), and utilizes low kicks more persistently (i.e., Yan was hurt by the low kicks from Aldo and Rivera).
I favor Aljamain in the grappling department as he is the more threatening submission grappler and strong fighter in the clinch. Sterling may not be likely to finish this fight, but he is in a 5-round battle with plenty of opportunities to accumulate volume and potentially win.
Kyler Phillips ($12)
Kyler Phillips will hold a 5-inch reach advantage, cardio advantage, tempo advantage, and grappling advantage over the very talented Song Yadong. Yadong is a very technical striker with power, athleticism, and decent grappling, so this will undoubtedly be a stiff test for the rising Phillips, but it's a test I believe he passes.
Not only does Phillips hold the advantages mentioned above, but I also believe Phillips will have more success of the two at kicking range due to his wider variety of kicks. Yadong has an excellent initial sprawl (i.e., has trained at Team Alpha Male in the past). Still, as he fatigues, his defensive grappling is liable (i.e., was gassed in round 3 against Stamann and was mounted, nearly finished, and tired towards the end of round 2 against Vera).
Phillips has some of the best cardio in the division and is a BJJ Brown Belt and World Champion (i.e., excellent guard passer in the top position, submission threat in various areas, aggressive finisher, and remarkable ability to take the back while in transition). Yadong may have some success early, but I think Phillips's chances of winning increase steadily as this fight goes on.
Jan Blachowicz ($17)
Jan Blachowicz faces the 185lb champion, Israel Adesanya, for his first 205lb title defense. I believe the fight is more competitive than odds indicate (i.e., the implied odds I made are -150/60% Adesanya to win), which is part of the reason I am more interested in Jan than Israel from a DFS perspective. Jan will have the size, power, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu advantages in this matchup. I also think the striking exchanges will be competitive (i.e., both are content to fight methodically outside, they are both excellent technical strikers). Additionally, both are generally durable and generally defensive sound, so it seems this fight is likely low tempo.
There will only be a 2-inch arm reach discrepancy in favor of Israel which is noteworthy considering many of the previous opposition were at least at 6-inch reach disadvantages (i.e., Gastelum, Costa, Whittaker, Romero, Tavares, and Vettori). Jan has a low price on FanDuel due to the odds, but since I view him as a live underdog in a 5-round fight, I willing to consider him for cash games.
Thiago Santos ($11)
When I am typing this, Thiago Santos and his opponent, Aleksander Rakic, have nearly identical wins inside the distance lines, yet Santos is the underdog. Santos is a very dangerous and athletic striker who is the only fighter in the UFC to finish Jan Blachowicz via strikes (i.e., Jan had only been finished via strikes one other time in his 35 fight pro MMA career).
Rakic will likely try and set the tempo by making it a methodical kickboxing fight. Still, Santos has a habit of making fights chaotic with increases his chances of winning this fight, in my opinion. Rakic has not been finished via strikes professionally but was hurt by Devin Clark (a blocked left hook) in his sophomore UFC appearance and is yet to face a striker as threatening as Santos. I am willing to target Santos in GPPs, thinking if he wins, there's a solid chance it's via finish.
Aalon Cruz ($10)
Like the Thiago Santos recommendation, this is a risky option, but I am willing to take risks, especially in GPPs. Aalon Cruz will hold a 7-inch reach advantage over his debuting promotional opponent, Uros Medic. Reach is not everything in a matchup, but it's certainly relevant especially considering Medic is usually the longer fighter in his previous matchups; not the case here. Also, Medic has not been past the 51-second mark of the second round, which prompts the question, how good is his cardio? Based on his very aggressive style, I am willing to guess not great.
Cruz is more experienced in the octagon and has shown to have solid cardio for three rounds (i.e., attempted 328 significant strikes and landed 132 significant strikes on his Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series appearance). I trust Cruz's cardio much more, and there's also the potential that the move up to 155lbs helps his durability (i.e., was hurt and finished via strikes by Spike Carlyle in his UFC debut).
GPP Pivot Favorites
Aleksander Rakic ($19)
I view Aleksander Rakic as the rightful favorite against Thiago Santos. Rakic is the more technical striker (i.e., fights long, better defensively, boxing combinations are sharper) the larger fighter (i.e., Rakic cuts a lot of weight to get to Light Heavyweight, whereas Santos used to fight at Middleweight), is eight years younger & improving, and the better wrestler (i.e., trip takedown capability against the fence + in open space, single-leg takedown ability).
Santos has been finished in the majority of his pro-MMA losses. Though Santos's durability has held up better fighting at 205lbs, we've still seen Santos rocked (i.e., against Manuwa in round 1, very hittable in the pocket because he drops his hands and spams punches), so Rakic TKO/KO victory is realistic. I am willing to target Rakic thinking a finish is likely to materialize in this fight.
Carlos Ulberg ($21)
Carlos Ulberg is making his UFC debut yet is a big favorite and holds a solid win inside the distance line. Ulberg is an excellent Kickboxer (i.e., is varied, utilizes feints, great technique, footwork, and distance management) who trains with Israel Adesanya and Brad Riddell. Despite some unknowns on him (i.e., his defensive grappling, inexpensive in pro-MMA bouts), I am very impressed with what I've seen. He's facing Kennedy Nzechukwu, who will hold the 6-inch arm reach advantage in the matchup. Despite this, I favor Ulberg as a striker. As touched on, there's a risk with having some exposure to Ulberg in GPPs, but it's a chance I am willing to take.
Uros Medic ($19)
Under 'Aalon Cruz,' I expressed my hesitancy with Uros Medic's cardio should this fight extend. On the flip side, Medic has historically been a fighter who aggressively hunts for the early finish and has primarily been successful throughout his career. Medic throws with power, and Cruz has been hurt in the past (i.e., in his UFC debut and on Contender Series). There's a possibility Cruz's durability is better at 155lbs, but he's also facing more physical opposition, which implies more power. Medic is a risky option that I am willing to take a chance on, thinking that it's likely by an early finish if he wins this fight.
GPP Fades/Fighters To Be Light On
With 15 fights on this card, there are some fighters I want significantly less exposure to than others. Let's discuss the fighters that I am not interested in rostering a lot into my FanDuel lineups this weekend.
Amanda Lemos ($20)
Amanda Lemos holds one of the least intriguing wins inside the distance lines amongst all the betting favorites and faces Livinha Souza, who has not finished her 16 pro-MMA fight career. Lemos throws with power and is an excellent submission grappler, but Souza has shown to be very tough while being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt. Lemos's cardio and clinch defense have been an issue in the past that suppresses her FanDuel scoring upside. Considering I think it's unlikely Lemos dominates or finishes this fight, I will target other options in her price range or cheaper.
Israel Adesanya ($21)
You might be thinking, "AJ, why are you fading the defending champion who is featured in the main event?". Regarding the matchup, Israel Adesanya is facing Jan Blachowicz at 205lbs, where Israel will likely win. However, I think it's unlikely he dominates nor finishes this fight. Blachowicz is generally good defensively and durable.
Both Blachowicz and Adesanya are content to be on the outside while engaging in a methodical kickboxing fight. This type of dynamic can mean the tempo of the contest is anywhere from low to moderate. Other fighters on this card have better chances to win inside the distance, grapple, and fight at a higher pace. Thinking Adesanya likely needs to get a finish in the early rounds to put up a big FanDuel score, I am willing to be underweighted to him in GPPs.
Mario Bautista ($20)
Mario Bautista faces Trevin Jones, who has only been finished once in 18 pro MMA fights (showcased elite toughness in his UFC debut against Timur Valiev) and is a technical submission grappler. Bautista is a very skilled prospect, and I think he wins this matchup, but his win inside the distance line is amongst the least intriguing ones out of all the favorites on the card. With Bautista likely to want to keep this fight standing (i.e., the superior striker), he relies mainly on getting a finish or landing an extreme amount of significant strikes. Neither outcome seems likely, so I am willing to invest in other fighters in his price range.