This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
DFS players have precious little time to catch their collective breath following Wednesday's card, as Fight Island in the United Arab Emirates will host its third event in seven days on July 16. While this card also features its share of regional fighters, there are quite a few established veterans here as well, which should lessen the uncertainty in some spots. As always, fighters in this article will be listed in order from most to least desirable among the given choices.
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: Roman Dolidze ($17)
My "best play" at captain this week has less to do with the fighter himself than with his opponent. Khadis Ibragimov genuinely seems surprised that he's not running fighters over in the UFC as he did on the regional scene, where he amassed a perfect 8-0 professional record. There really isn't any mystery, however, as Ibragimov begins every fight by throwing shots so sloppy it would make your average bar fighter blush. From there, he generally tries to score takedowns, but all of this energy expenditure generally leaves him gassed out before the first round has ended. Roman Dolidze doesn't have a whole lot of finesse to his game, but he is fast, can throw a big right hand, and is more defensively responsible than you might expect from a 6-0 fighter. I expect him to have a strength advantage as well, which should aid in his own takedown game.
Joe Duffy has had a bit of a rough go of it in the Octagon, but I expect him to get on track against Joel Alvarez. While Duffy has had problems with length and a kicking game before, Alvarez keeps his head directly on the center line and frequently gets himself backed up against the cage, which should play right into the hands of a slick, pressuring boxer. Alvarez is something of a submission specialist, but doesn't always look great off his back, which should mean that Duffy's wrestling game will be a viable option.
Deiveson Figueiredo finished Joseph Benavidez in the second round of their fight in February, and I see a similar result in the offing as we approach the rematch. This is simply a style matchup that doesn't seem to favor the 35-year-old. Figueiredo can use his three-inch reach advantage to pick Benavidez off when he comes in with his winging style, and he has the strength to control him should he need to reset. Unless the Alpha Male product has introduced a new wrinkle or two, it seems that Figueiredo will grab the vacant flyweight title as long as he makes weight this time around.
Best Option: Jack Hermansson ($16)
Technically Jack Hermansson is the underdog in his bout against Kelvin Gastelum, but I don't like to stick names in the "dog play" category unless they are plus money. Regardless, this line has me a bit puzzled as I think about how a much bigger, stronger grappler in Chris Weidman was able to drag Gastelum to the ground and get a submission. That's not to detract from the skills of Gastelum, who is a sharp combination boxer and a decent grappler in his own right, but he just seems too small to compete with fighters who want to muscle him to the ground. It should also be said that Hermansson is no slouch on the feet himself, and can put together his own quick combos.
The MMA world seems to have soured on Ariane Lipski after three lackluster performances (one win) inside the UFC cage, but her striking has never been an issue, as she has shown a good understanding of range, mixed up her targets and thrown with power. Instead, it seems Lipski simply can't defend a takedown and tends to get stuck on her back once it's placed on the mat. This would be a bigger worry of mine if I thought Luana Carolina would try to wrestle. While she does appear to possess slick jiujitsu, she likes to impose her own Muay Thai striking game on the feet. More often than not, this game includes Carolina not moving her head and running at her opponents while striking, which should leave plenty of openings for Lipski to capitalize on.
We saw a different Marc Diakiese coming off of a three-fight losing streak in his last bout against Duffy. It seemed that for the first time, Diakiese had a fundamental game to fall back on to compliment his explosive techniques, as he used a slick range kicking game and wrestling to take a decisive victory. Rafael Fiziev came into the organization as a decorated striker, but he hasn't shown much more than a pressure power striking game in his two UFC bouts. We saw Fiziev get demolished by the only two kicks he saw in his UFC debut against Magomed Mustafaev, and I think the length and power of someone like Diakiese will be too much for Fiziev to handle.
Alexandre Pantoja is a bit of a rare breed at flyweight, as he likes to stand in front of his opponents and strike rather than bounce around on the feet. This could potentially be trouble in a matchup with a dedicated grappler like Askar Askarov, but Askarov was consistently outscrambled by Brandon Moreno on the ground in their fight, and Pantoja has an aggressive guard and sweep game. Askarov tries to dip into his takedowns by firing single shots on the feet, which should leave him open for counters from the faster man in Pantoja.
Best Option: Brett Johns ($12)
This line just seems off to me, as Brett Johns has a supremely well-rounded game, and is relentless in his pressure and grappling when he chooses to take the fight to that area. Montel Jackson will have three inches of height and reach on Johns in this one, but his striking always seems rather forced and stiff, and I don't think he will be able to significantly hurt Johns even with the longer reach. We saw Jackson have all sorts of problems with the wrestling of Ricky Simon when the two squared off in 2018 and while Johns isn't quite as skilled as a wrestler as Simon, there is no doubt that he is a much better submission grappler. Johns may need to figure out a way to get inside, but once he does I expect that he will find success.
Nad Narimani is a bit limited on the feet, as he tends to fall in love with throwing hooks, but he covers that wart nicely with blinding speed and power. Grant Dawson is a fantastic wrestler and grappler but got tagged up by Mike Trizano in their bout, and Trizano is not nearly as fast or powerful. It should also be noted that Narimani has never been submitted in his 15-fight career, and holds a 75 percent takedown defense rate in his three UFC fights.
Davi Ramos is a world-class BJJ artist, but his striking has come along quite nicely in the UFC. He now features a nice, stiff Jab, and an ability to counter and fight off the back foot. While that part of his game is still a work in progress, I think it will be enough to get a win over Arman Tsarukyan, who likes to fire single, heavy shots while looking for takedowns. I think the speed and jab could be the defining factors here, as I doubt Tsarukyan will want to take this to the ground, but if he does, I am more than confident in Ramos' mat game to get this done.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
It's tough to find tape on Carlos Felipe ($15), but what does exist shows a fighter who isn't interested in much besides firing big right hands and using his size to control opponents. I hate to say it, but I think this is enough to pick him over Sergey Spivak ($16). Spivak is by far the more technical fighter here, but we haven't seen him win a UFC fight where he couldn't use his judo, which failed him spectacularly in his recent bout against Marcin Tybura. I really think the pressure, power, and size of Felipe will be too much for Spivak to handle, but if he is unable to put Spivak away, the Moldovan could certainly take over this fight in the later rounds.
Malcolm Gordon ($14) is a slick, athletic boxer who expertly transitions and finds subs on the mat, but he gets hurt a bit too much to pick him with certainty. This ground acumen should work to negate much of Amir Albazi's ($17) wrestling game, and while he can throw strikes with power, much of these are of the single-shot variety. As long as Brown keeps himself safe early, I think he will be able to pressure Albazi back and control the fight.