UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC Vegas 38
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. If you would rather bet the fights, our betting guide is a great place to find value on Saturday's card. In addition to this primer, I also dove deeper into the slate on this week's UFC edition of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
Without further delay, let's break down UFC Vegas 38: Santos vs. Walker, taking place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Karol Rosa ($22): Bethe Correia is a UFC women's bantamweight pioneer, but her retirement fight on Saturday is all about Brazilian prospect Karol Rosa. Correia missed weight and has been outstruck in eight consecutive fights, and the UFC is leveraging her as a spot to continue building their star prospect. Rosa has made bantamweights wilt with her insane pressure (7.73 significant strikes per minute), and her 90% takedown defense has kept the fight in her striking domain. Rosa is a -560 favorite for a reason, and her +600 odds to score a technical knockout seem reasonable given she profiles to turn Correia into a speedbag.
Casey O'Neill ($18): Rosa will carry tremendous popularity in that showcase spot, but it is actually Casey O'Neill who has shorter +140 odds of the two to win her fight inside the distance. O'Neill shocked many by scoring a third-round submission over Lara Procopio, but she dominated that entire fight with 71 significant strikes, 2 takedowns, and a submission attempt. The Aussie's strength is her grappling, and that is the largest weakness of Antonina Shevchenko. Shevchenko is several notches below her sister, as she has just a 50% takedown defense overall and has surrendered seven submission attempts in her last three fights. O'Neill's pace and pressure will always be fantasy relevant, and this matchup sets up well for her to do what she does best.
Other High-Salaried Fighters
Niko Price ($18): In terms of sheer upside, "The Hybrid" Price is often number-one on any card he fights on. He is coming off back-to-back decisions in his last two fights after not needing the judges for his first 12 UFC bouts. With 68.3% implied odds that his fight does not see the judges on Saturday, Price will look to get back to his old, wild ways. There is a massive volume disparity in this fight between Price and Alex "Cowboy" Oliveria. Price attempts 12.90 significant strikes per minute historically, and Oliveria is well behind at just 5.72. The belief for me is that Price overwhelms and swallows Oliveria with punching pressure, and there is fantasy upside in that process given Oliveria has been finished in six of his eight UFC losses.
Kevin Holland ($17): The last two times Kevin Holland has set foot in the octagon, he was thoroughly embarrassed as Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori -- in main events -- took him down and rendered him unable to get back to his feet. His 47% takedown defense is a concern, and Holland knows that. He spent a week with Daniel Cormier and Deron Winn to try and improve his defensive wrestling, because with it, he could be unstoppable. His +1.41 striking success rate against top-shelf middleweights speaks to his striking acumen, and he has bullied several of the caliber of Kyle Daukaus. Daukaus is a step back from the title-challenging competitors Holland has faced recently, and he may have been too confident in his wrestling to take this fight. Daukaus has just a 29% takedown accuracy against lower-level middleweights. If Holland can stay on his feet, he should obliterate the 39% striking defense of the iron-chinned Daukaus, and that could lead to fantasy points in the direction of "Big Mouth."
Misha Cirkunov ($14): The Canadian grappler drops to middleweight on Saturday to battle Krzysztof Jotko, and fireworks should be on tap. If you don't believe me -- all 10 of Cirkunov's UFC fights have finished inside-the-distance, and that should breathe some life into this matchup that lacks fantasy upside for the favorite, Jotko. Jotko averages just 2.26 FanDuel points per minute (excl. bonuses) as a plodding, one-dimensional striker, and Jotko has gone the full distance in eight of his nine UFC wins. From a process perspective, backing the more active Cirkunov (4.99 FanDuel points per minute excl. bonuses) with first-round upside makes sense at the value salary.
Gaetano Pirello ($11): Unfortunately, the best value option on the card was lost during weigh-ins Friday as Macy Chiasson ($10) had her fight against Aspen Ladd canceled. Pirello, therefore, steps into the role of the best punt on the slate. Pirello's statistical profile is a mess after he was thrust into a short-notice debut against Ricky Simon as a +415 underdog. Still, the Belgian deserves a second chance to get it right with a full training camp, and he flashed plenty of upside before joining UFC with 14 of his 15 pro wins coming via an early finish. Like Jotko, Douglas Silva de Andrade is a low volume, one-dimensional striker with minimal upside, and with that, leveraging the historical ceiling of Pirello in a spot that will not carry significant popularity is interesting for tournaments.