UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC Vegas 54

Michael Johnson returns to the octagon this weekend with his easiest matchup in a while. Which other fighters are the best picks in daily fantasy?

With no real offseason, the Ultimate Fighting Championship holds no short of a dozen mixed martial arts bouts nearly every Saturday. As one of the most unique DFS sweats available, UFC daily fantasy is live on FanDuel.

The strategy behind this fantasy sport is intriguing. Given that two fighters face off against each other, and some fights end in seconds, choosing which side to back is crucial, and there is a wide range of outcomes. However, getting the winner fighter isn't all that matters. They've also got to land enough strikes, takedowns, or submission attempts to score points, too!

numberFire is always the best spot to get you ready for any UFC card. If you would rather bet on 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 54: Blachowicz vs. Rakic, taking place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday.

MVP Considerations

Nick Maximov ($23): As the largest favorite on the card at -375, Maximov has a pretty clear path to victory. Andre Petroski's UFC opponents have a combined 0-5 record with all five losses being terribly lopsided. Petroski's strong peripherals exist as the lopsided winner in two of those, but Maximov's 11-takedown smothering of multiple-time UFC winner Puna Soriano is by far the largest feather in either guy's cap. Maximov trains with Nick and Nate Diaz, and while he's inherited the weak striking defense (39%), he also has obtained their endless cardiovascular endurance. Petroski's takedown defense is 0% entering this fight; it could be a long night for him.

Davey Grant ($22): Grant's 2021 schedule was absurd. He went right into the belly of bantamweight and emerged with a 1-2 record against Jonathan Martinez, Adrian Yanez, and top-five contender Chito Vera. Given that, a +0.80 striking success rate is more than serviceable. With finishes in 11 of his 13 wins, he's got clear upside in this bout with Louis Smolka. A bulk of Smolka's sample came 10 pounds lighter at flyweight, and moving up in weight has done zero favors to his already-disastrous 31% takedown defense. Smolka just lost via knockout to Vince Morales (3-4 in UFC), so this battle with one of bantamweight's toughest outs seems mismatched.

Other High-Salaried Fighters

Virna Jandiroba ($19): In terms of upside, Jandiroba is the clear side to back in her fight with Angela Hill. Hill is 0-9 against ranked foes in UFC, and 17 of Hill's 24 fights have gone the entire distance. She's incredibly unlikely to be the first woman to finish Jandiroba, who is looking to rebound after a decision loss to Amanda Ribas. Hill has been submitted twice in UFC, and Jandiroba (1.40 submission attempts per match) is arguably the best grappler she's faced thus far. Jandiroba has a 100% finishing rate in her entire pro career, so the path to a quick finish exists in this one.

Michael Johnson ($17): The always-unreliable Johnson isn't a comforting daily fantasy play, but this is a matchup he should exploit with ease. Johnson is a great boxer with elite hand speed, and his long, arduous UFC career has left him still with a +0.39 striking success rate. On the other side, Alan Patrick has just a 44% striking defense. If Johnson's 78% takedown defense keeps this fight on the feet, he should coast to a decision nearing 100 significant strikes, but Johnson does have three career UFC finishes, as well. Johnson's issue has been grappling, but with just two career submission attempts, Patrick doesn't seem too dangerous in that area.

Others to Consider: Tatsuro Taira ($21), Andrea Lee ($16)

Value Fighters

Jan Blachowicz ($15): It feels like the wrong fighter is favored in the main event. Blachowicz's +0.80 striking success rate has come against championship-level competition, including one of the greatest strikers in UFC history, Israel Adesanya. Aleksandar Rakic's +2.00 mark is shinier, but it's been more of an indictment of his competition, as he's crawled to just 2.66 significant strikes landed per minute in his past two bouts. Blachowicz just lost his title via submission to Glover Teixeira, but Rakic averages just 0.75 takedowns per 15 minutes and has posted one career submission attempt. In a striking match, I'll back Blachowicz's legendary "Polish Power."

Amanda Ribas ($12): There is no more of an "underdog or pass" favorite in UFC DFS than Katlyn Chookagian. Chookagian has gone to a decision in 12 of her 14 UFC bouts, and the only exceptions were knockout losses. Stepping up from strawweight, Amanda Ribas has the skillset to give Chookagian all she can handle defensively. Ribas' 70% striking defense is the highest mark ever in UFC for a 115-pound woman with at least five fights, and notably, she's added 1.99 takedowns and 1.5 submission attempts per 15 minutes. Chookagian's 55% takedown defense has been her path to failure before, and the Brazilian Ribas can absolutely exploit that as a +154 'dog.

Others to Consider: Frank Camacho ($14), Allan Nascimento ($11), Ryan Spann ($10)