UFC 279 takes place this Saturday from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The main event is a non-title bout between rising UFC star Khamzat Chimaev and MMA legend Nate Diaz. Chimaev is one of the most exciting UFC prospects in recent memory and is coming off a gutty win against former title challenger Gilbert Burns. Chimaev is 11-0 in his career, including 5-0 in the UFC, and could be next in line for a title shot provided he gets past Diaz.
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Khamzat Chimaev ($9,600)
Chimaev is one of the highest volume fighters in the UFC, registering an elite blend of grappling and striking volume on the back of a fast pace, which makes him an explosive fantasy scorer. Chimaev has landed nearly eight significant strikes per minute, an elite number. Chimaev has converted over three takedowns per 15 minutes, a strong rate. Chimaev is also capable of racking up big control time due to his excellent wrestling—Chimaev took a control time percentage of roughly 90% into his last fight against Gilbert Burns. As a result, Chimaev is averaging 118 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) per fight, easily the most on the slate.
Chimaev’s opponent, Nate Diaz, is extremely tough and difficult to finish. Diaz has only been finished twice in 26 career UFC fights. Diaz also lacks strong defensive wrestling, stopping just 41% of opponent takedown attempts, which gives Chimaev an easy path for takedowns and control time in this matchup. Because Diaz is difficult to finish but has poor takedown defense, Chimaev could be aligned for a lot of takedowns, control time and ground strikes over the course of 25 minutes. This fight is also the only five-round fight on the card, which gives Chimaev potentially 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring. In addition, Chimaev is a massive favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook carrying a moneyline of over -1000, making him an extremely safe play with very high upside.
Ion Cutelaba ($8,600)
Cutelaba is one of the highest-volume grapplers on the slate, converting roughly five takedowns per 15 minutes. Cutelaba goes for a lot of takedowns and has logged as many as 19 takedown attempts in a single fight. Cutelaba’s takedown volume gives him the ability to register plus control time, and he also has plus striking volume, landing about five significant strikes per minute.
Cutelaba’s opponent, Johnny Walker, does not have great takedown defense, stopping only 62% of opponent takedown attempts. Cutelaba is in a good spot for takedowns and control time in this matchup. Cutelaba has scored over 100 DraftKings fantasy points in each of his last four wins.
Macy Chiasson ($7,400)
Chiasson’s opponent, Irene Aldana, has subpar striking metrics. Aldana has absorbed nearly six significant strikes per minute, an elevated rate. Aldana has also absorbed more strikes than she has landed, which is a red flag. Chiasson has the length advantage in this fight, carrying a four-inch reach advantage, which will help for distance strikes. Chiasson has been a strong fantasy scorer in most of her wins, registering over 100 DKFP in five of her six UFC wins. As the seventh cheapest fighter on the slate, Chiasson is an appealing salary relief play and has a much better chance to win than her $7,400 price tag indicates.
Daniel Rodriguez ($7,500)
Rodriguez draws a difficult task against Kevin Holland, who recently moved down from middleweight. Holland is massively long by the standards of the division, carrying an 81-inch reach, and Holland will have a substantial seven-inch reach advantage over Rodriguez in this catchweight fight, which is taking place at 180 pounds.
However, Holland has been erratic and has been prone to lapses in focus during fights. Rodriguez fights at a fast pace and is the highest-volume striker on the slate, landing over eight significant strikes per minute. This fight has potential to be an exciting, high-volume striking match, one that Rodriguez has a legitimate chance to win and produce a solid fantasy score on the back of plus striking volume. Rodriguez is the eighth-cheapest fighter on the slate, and the gap in skill is probably a little closer than the pricing indicates.
Tony Ferguson ($7,200)
Ferguson was once one of the top lightweights in the sport, but he has looked old and decrepit during his recent four-fight losing streak. Ferguson is clearly past his prime, but something to note is that his quality of competition has been elite during his losing skid. Ferguson has lost to Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, Beneil Dariush and Michael Chandler, who all rank in the top six in the lightweight division.
Ferguson had moments in several of those fights. Against Chandler, Ferguson looked good in the opening round, winning the first round on all three of the judges’ scorecards. In the Gaethje fight, Ferguson had Gaethje hurt from an uppercut, but the round ended before Ferguson could follow up:
Ferguson is moving up to welterweight for this fight against Li Jingliang. Li Jingliang is a step down in competition from Ferguson’s recent scheduleand Ferguson has a five-inch reach advantage for distance strikes. It’s also possible that the move up to welterweight helps Ferguson absorb strikes better—big weight cuts can make it more difficult for the brain to absorb strikes. As the fourth-cheapest fighter on the slate, the former top lightweight is worth considering as a salary relief play in tournaments.
All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests. The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups.
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