UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: Fight Night 4/17/21

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 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 is showcased on both cable and pay-per-view events every month. As one of the most unique DFS sweats available, UFC daily fantasy is now live on FanDuel.

numberFire is always the best spot to get you ready for any UFC card. In addition to this helper, Brandon Gdula's betting guide breaks down where you should be placing your sharp dollars on Saturday's bouts. I also dove deeper into this slate on this week's UFC edition of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.

Without further delay, let's break down UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum, taking place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas on Saturday.

MVP Considerations

Tony Gravely ($23): This small card has the potential for a wild top of the salary pool. There are plenty of questions among the high-salary options, but Gravely -- a -320 moneyline favorite -- is a tremendous building block. Gravely's wrestling base has helped him post a rate of 5.60 takedowns per match so far in the UFC, and he has never secured fewer than 3 takedowns in a fight so far. Normally, the 74% takedown defense of his opponent, Anthony Birchak, would be cause for concern. But in Birchak's only UFC fight since 2016, he was taken down twice on three attempts and quickly submitted by Gustavo Lopez, who averages just 1.07 takedowns per match. This matchup appears to prime Gravely for another big performance as an athletic bantamweight prospect.

Tracy Cortez ($20): The one argument against Cortez as a potential fantasy consideration is her inability to finish fights, but every other metric is sparkling for the -300 favorite. Cortez has mixed her striking (+1.69 striking success rate) with offensive wrestling (3.00 takedowns per match) in three dominant wins, and she is spending an average of 9:33 in control time each of her past two fights, so she is actually due for regression to finish a fight and mentally break an opponent. Perhaps that could happen versus Justine Kish, who holds only a 55% takedown defense and may struggle to stay on her feet against Cortez in the featured prelim fight of the evening.

Other High-Salaried Fighters

Abdul Razak-Alhassan ($22): Once with four knockouts in five UFC appearances, Razak-Alhassan has fallen on hard times, getting controlled by Mounir Lazzez and swiftly knocked out cold by Khaos Williams. A loss this week might cost Razak-Alhassan his UFC contract, especially when factoring in the experience of his opponent, Jakob Malkoun. Malkoun has not landed a strike in the UFC so far, and he absorbed seven in his first-minute knockout loss to Phil Hawes. Razak-Alhassan is -165 to end this fight early by knockout or submission, and his experience should help him harness his lethal knockout power (six knockdowns in seven UFC fights).

Lupita Godinez ($21): There is not much information on Godinez, as her lone appearance in Legacy Fighting Alliance was a nice win over Vanessa Demopoulos. But the Mexican-born strawweight is 5-0 professionally and enters as a -300 favorite in her UFC debut against Jessica Penne. Penne may shoulder plenty of responsibility for that, as she has lost three straight fights with ugly peripherals behind the defeats, including a -2.27 striking success rate and just a 20% takedown defense in the UFC. Godinez never saw the mat against Demopoulos, but that was against a strong wrestler and submission artist. Godinez may choose to use her well-rounded skill-set to control Penne as several prior fighters have.

Value Fighters

Kelvin Gastelum ($15): A value play in the five-round main event? That worked out well for Derek Brunson exactly four weeks ago in this middleweight division as a sizable underdog with a path to victory, and Gastelum finds himself in a similar situation against Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker as a heavy +220 underdog. However, the peripherals in this fight are much closer than the odds suggest, as neither Whittaker (2.88 FanDuel points per minute) nor Gastelum (2.71) are pace pushers, and that alone may leave this fight in the hands of the judges on a margin of just a few punches. Gastelum's 43% striking accuracy is higher than Whittaker's (40%), and Gastelum will look to build on the wrestling-heavy strategy that landed him with a career-best six takedowns against Ian Heinisch. Whittaker may prevail in this high-level fight, but the salary-based value is without question on the side of Gastelum.

Juan Espino ($12): Some of Espino's metrics are just ridiculous in his two-fight, seven-minute sample. He averages 14.19 takedowns per 15 minutes, 6.10 submission attempts per 15 minutes, and 10.30 FanDuel points per minute -- all of which are the highest numbers my model has ever charted in a multi-fight sample (minimum three minutes). He faces Alexander Romanov this weekend in a battle of heavyweights who have crushed their competition thus far, and each will be facing his highest-ever ranked foe when they square off tonight. As a +122 underdog and with serious grappling that could be a higher level than any Romanov has seen so far, Espino has defined first-round finishing upside at a salary where that is not super common.

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.