UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 253

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 around the country placed bets on who would win boxing matches. Nowadays, with boxing much smaller than it was throughout the 1900s, mixed martial arts have 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 is 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.

numberFire is always your best place to prepare for the upcoming UFC card. In addition to this DFS helper, if you would rather bet the fights outright on FanDuel Sportsbook, Barry Cohen has you covered with his betting guide to find where to place sharp money on Saturday’s fights. I also took a deeper dive into this weekend's card on The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast earlier this week.

With those tools at our disposal, let's break down UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa, which will take place on Saturday night live from "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi.

MVP Considerations

Paulo Henrique Costa ($19): Recent data indicates that, on FanDuel, if there is a five-round title fight on the card, that is the place to search for an MVP. On the five FanDuel UFC slates that featured a five-round title fight, the optimal MVP came from one of the title fights every single time. That makes sense given the extra the talent involved and the extra volume opportunity, so it narrows tonight's pool to four potential fighters. Paulo Costa stands out in the main event of the night, as the undefeated Brazilian faces off against the undefeated Israel Adesanya ($21) at middleweight.

Costa pops statistically, as he leads all UFC middleweights at 8.43 significant strikes per minute, and that is at a +1.57 striking success rate, as well. The interesting dynamic in this fight is the Adesanya is seen as the "precision" to Costa's "power," but Costa has the higher striking accuracy at 57%. With Adesanya at 65% striking defense himself, this should be high-paced fight that is worth a look to stack in tournaments because of the talent involved. Costa is $2 lower in salary, which gives him the slight nod as the best MVP option on the card.

Dominick Reyes ($22): As the week has progressed, there is an argument to be made for the strong and stable Jan Blachowicz ($17), but Dominick Reyes seems destined for stardom at light heavyweight, and that would start with winning the belt on Saturday. Reyes is a heavy favorite in large part due to his great performance against the greatest light heavyweight ever in February, when Reyes outstruck Jon Jones 116-104 in Houston. Reyes had finished four of his first five fights in the UFC before facing Jones, so he has plenty of upside to end this fight early, and he stands as a -110 option on FanDuel Sportsbook to do just that on Saturday.

Reyes has more direct finishing potential than Adesanya or Costa, but he also comes at a greater cost than either and does not profile to be in such a high-striking affair against Blachowicz, who is around the UFC averages in significant strikes per minute (3.45) and takedowns per match (1.16). Either way, the former Stony Brook football star is firmly in the conversation for the MVP spot on FanDuel.

Other High-Salaried Fighters

Jake Matthews ($20): Outside of the title fights, this card is incredibly strange at certain spots. For instance, Australian welterweight Jake Matthews has gone to a decision in four of his last five bouts, yet stands as a -105 option to finish Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez on Saturday night. His standing as a whopping -820 moneyline favorite is justified, as Diego Sanchez's late career has been aptly named as a nightmare. Sanchez is just 6-6 in his last 12 fights, and Sanchez has been outstruck in half of those wins, meaning that poor decisions and disqualifications have prevented him from a dismal 3-9 record. Sanchez has not landed more than 60 significant strikes in a fight since 2013, so Matthews faces a far below-average amount of danger than the average UFC welterweight would present. A win would push Matthews to 5-1 in his last six fights.

Juan Francisco Espino Dieppa ($19): Many expected a title run out of Juan Espino after he won The Ultimate Fighter 28 in eye-popping fashion, but two years between competition for Espino leads him to Saturday night's less-than-glamorous UFC debut against Jeff Hughes, who is 0-2 with a no contest in three UFC appearances. Espino has jaw-dropping metrics in his UFC career thus far, including a +5.00 striking success rate, 8.33 submissions per match, and an average of 9.76 projected FanDuel points per minute (excluding win bonuses), which is the highest of any fighter entering an appearance so far.

Espino has relatively short odds (+360) to submit Jeff Hughes in exactly the first round and is a -125 favorite to finish Hughes inside the full distance. Hughes hits hard, but Espino is projected to quickly use his size advantage to over take the heavyweight, and that would be one of several quick finishes Espino would need to continue to hunt a heavyweight title, but the clock is ticking at 39 years old.

Value Fighters

William Knight ($16): William Knight-Aleksa Camur is certainly the lowest-skilled fight on the card, which makes it a fantasy target. These two powerful men have a combined 13 knockouts in 15 professional MMA fights and have plenty of weaknesses in their own rights. Knight has a clear wrestling advantage, with a career mark of 3.54 takedowns per match, but his 30% striking defense is incredibly poor. Aleksa Camur also graded out poorly in a decision win against a weaker opponent in Justin Ledet, who suffered a third straight loss against Camur and has failed to record 50 strikes during that losing streak.

With this fight currently -300 to see an early finish, the question becomes which fighter makes a more costly mistake. If Camur had a wrestling or grappling alternative, he would possibly be able to grapple Knight, as was the case in Knight's appearance on Dana White's Contender Series. However, he does not, and Camur let Justin Ledet land to his head with 77% accuracy in his last fight. If one overhand punch connects, Knight likely ends the fight in quick order.

Brandon Royval ($12): A surprising choice for the final bout of the night before the UFC hands out two belts was the flyweight battle between Kai Kara-France and Brandon "Raw Dog" Royval, but these ranked contenders are likely not too far from a title shot at 125 pounds, and both present very different styles. Kara-France is the favorite, and the kickboxer has started his UFC career with four wins in five tries -- all of those coming by decisions. At $18 on FanDuel, a decision win goes only so far in tournaments, which makes Royval an interesting pivot as a live underdog in this fight.

Royval has one thing on his mind, which is to use his large 5'9" frame to hunt a submission. At 3.38 submission attempts per match, Royval hunts early and often for the finish, and his size allows him the opportunity to get in position from a huge punch. Kara-France is the more talented fighter on the feet, which might make this an up-and-down fight, but Royval will remain a threat throughout it because of his grappling.

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.