UFC 249 Daily Fantasy Helper: Favorites and Underdogs to Target
Combat sports are one of America's longest-standing active sports to wager on. This was evident throughout the late-1900s as boxing took the sports world by storm. From Muhammed Ali to Mike Tyson, several stars were born, and Americans placed bets around the country on who would win boxing matches. Nowadays, with boxing much smaller than throughout the 1900s, mixed martial arts has taken the lead as America's favorite combat sport.
By far, the largest and most successful MMA organization in North America is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly known as UFC. The UFC lays claim to the best mixed martial artists in the world and are showcased on both cable and pay-per-view events every month. As one of the first sports to return with compliance of social distancing, UFC daily fantasy is now live on FanDuel.
UFC Daily Fantasy Basics
So how does UFC daily fantasy work? Well, the main object is not that different than placing a wager on a fighter because securing a win bonus on FanDuel is one of the most important factors. A quick first-round win earns a fighter the maximum bonus of 100 points, and a win after the fight is over by judge's decision only awards 20, with a varying amount for outcomes between.
However, fighters also earn points for significant strikes landed, takedowns, and submission attempts, so general activity and aggressiveness plays a huge role in how many points a fighter scores in a win or a loss.
UFC 249 Details
UFC 249 will take place in Jacksonville, FL on Saturday evening. This 12-fight card, which has been postponed since March due to COVID-19, includes two championship fights. The main event of the night pits Tony Ferguson against Justin Gaethje at lightweight for the interim belt -- and a date with Khabib Nurmagomedov. The second title fight is at bantamweight, where Dominick Cruz comes out of a three-year layoff to challenge current champion Henry Cejudo.
numberFire is the best place to get you prepared for UFC 249. Barry Cohen has you covered where to place the best bets for Saturday's action with his betting guide, and he joined Jim Sannes on this week's Covering the Spread podcast breaking down the action. For a more detailed breakdown on UFC DFS in general, I joined Jim Sannes on the Heat Check Podcast to discuss that and much more.
With that, let's preview UFC 249 on FanDuel:
Ryan Spann ($22): The most expensive player in the pool is never a bad place to start in just about any daily fantasy sport breakdown. The very first fight of the card is between Spann and "Smilin" Sam Alvey. Spann is a -450 favorite, which is by far the biggest on the card. The reason should be the style of this fight, where Spann should excel. At 6'5", Spann is a long, athletic striker that's wrestling is a project, but at only 0.09 takedowns per fight in the UFC, Alvey will not force Spann to wrestle in this one.
Spann should be able to stand at distance with Alvey and exercise his 3.5-inch reach advantage. Spann has finished four of his last five fights with knockouts or submissions, and if Alvey is not the next, it could mean plenty of significant strikes for Spann instead. He definitely merits heavy MVP consideration in FanDuel's 1.5x multiplier slot.
Francis Ngannou ($20): One of the most terrifying looking men on the planet is Ngannou, who stands at 6'4", 260 pounds with only 10% body fat. Ngannou's physical gifts as a striker have led to some highlight knockouts in the UFC, but some of the shine of Ngannou was rubbed off as he struggled badly wrestling heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic and later Derrick Lewis.
Ngannou's wrestling concerns are valid. However, his opponent Saturday, Jair Rozenstruik, will not be the one to exploit that. He has never fired a takedown attempt in the UFC. Ngannou is a heavy -280 favorite because these two fighters have the same one-strike knockout power, but Ngannou has performed better against better competition. Ngannou knocked out former champion Alistair Overreem in the first round, and it took Rozenstriuk all five rounds to do so in a fight he was arguably losing. Ngannou has the better body of work, so expect that to translate to a cleaner striking output and for him to be the one who lands the big punch.
Vicente Luque ($18): Luque was humbled against Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson in his last fight, but Thompson is maybe the best welterweight kickboxer ever. Luque sees a huge step back in competition with Niko "The Hybrid" Price. Price is dangerous, no doubt, as he has six UFC finishes to his name and power to end any fight in one shot, yet Luque should be the much more technical striker on Saturday.
At 5.18 significant strikes per minutes, Luque combines great volume with knockout power that finished Bryan Barberena (136 strikes) and broke "Platinum" Mike Perry's nose in a separate bout (84 strikes). Luque is a sizable -280 favorite as sportsbooks are for more comfortable with the reliable Brazilian in favor of the wild card Niko Price.
Justin Gaethje ($15): Tony Ferguson has one of the longest win streaks ever in UFC at 12, so picking a fighter going against him is particularly risky, but I like Gaethje in the main event Saturday night. "The Highlight" is just that waiting to happen -- and it's why he has finished his last three by knockout. He packs huge power and absurd volume at 8.57 significant strikes per minute, which currently leads all UFC fighters.
The five-round distance scheduled in this fight helps his striking floor even in a loss. The main reason I like Gaethje is the possible physical tax on Tony Ferguson, who still cut to 145 pounds on April 18th even after his fight was canceled. Ferguson made championship weight just fine on Friday, though I have serious questions at this level about three weeks apart fully dehydrating your body twice. Gaethje is a solid enough on a card with average underdog options at best.
Michelle Waterson ($14): Waterson might be a better outright bet than a DFS play, but an underdog who can secure a win bonus is worth targeting. While she is now ranked behind opponent Carla Esparza in the official UFC fighter rankings, it may not be fair given recent level of competition. Waterson is coming off a tough fight against fourth-ranked Joanna Jedrzeczyk, who since fought Weilei Zhang for the title in this division. Esparza just squeaked by 14th-ranked Alexa Grasso.
Waterson will also be the bigger fighter, which could be troublesome for Esparza as a wrestler, who needs that strength advantage to hold her opponents down. The only downside as a fantasy play to Waterson is that this fight is aiming toward a decision, but she should hit value in a convincing decision win at this small of a price point.
Dominick Cruz ($12): There are a lot of reasons to be bullish on Dominick Cruz in this fight, and he checks a lot of boxes in this matchup. Cruz will enjoy four inches of height and reach over Henry Cejudo, who typically fights in a weight class 10 pounds lighter. Cruz has an elite level fight IQ, which is why he does a lot of commentary for UFC broadcasts when not fighting. Cejudo is the champion because of his last two wins, where he beat Demetrious Johnson via a decision (other judges had him as losing that bout), and he stopped Marlon Moraes in a fight he was losing before the technical knockout.
Needless to say, Cejudo has plenty to prove against Cruz, who is the former champion and whose last six fights have all been bantamweight title fights. The only thing missing from Cruz is recent form, as with the three-year layoff, it's unsure what product he will provide. Even without that, there are too many "pros" to Cruz at this tiny price tag to outweigh that one "con." Cruz's odds to win the belt outright continue to shrink, as he's down to only a +190 underdog as of Friday.
Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.