UFC Daily Fantasy: The 15 Best Pound-For-Pound Fighters on FanDuel in 2022
UFC is so new as a sport -- founded in November of 1993 -- that even this stuff seems hard.
In any other sport, it's very obvious who the best players in fantasy are. Davante Adams has been catching touchdowns for years. LeBron James has been a stat stuffer since 2003. Mike Trout has been near the top of fantasy drafts his entire career.
Even in individual sports, Rory McIlroy and Kyle Busch have been winning golf tournaments and NASCAR races for over a decade. UFC is very different. Its brightest stars and even many of its champions aren't the best fighters for a spot on FanDuel.
We also just see them less often than other athletes during a calendar year. Even the most active UFC fighters will appear only three or four times a year. The average is less than two fights per turn of the calendar. With so much on the line, fighters take every ounce of reasonable time to prepare for a match.
When they come around onto a FanDuel card, these stars are worth consideration in any matchup. There's just no salary that's too high in any structure for a dominant favorite who will push the pace and score points.
This is the first of a yearly check-in I hope to do every Memorial Day week -- as this is a weekend UFC historically will always take off in observance -- where we look at the cream of the crop.
Here are the pound-for-pound top-15 fighters in UFC -- for fantasy purposes -- right now in 2022.
In order to be eligible, the fighter must be ranked in UFC's official rankings in at least one weight class. While these rankings aren't perfect (or, trust me, the least bit scientific), there is a baseline level of experience and success required to find the top-15 spots of any UFC weight class.
The calculation of evaluating these fighters came from a representation of what they provide in terms of FanDuel scoring over the course of 15 minutes.
This starts with their rate of FanDuel Points Per Minute Excluding Bonuses (FDPPM). This metric takes the fighter's rate of FanDuel points per minute excluding bonuses, complied by significant strikes, takedowns, and submission attempts. I've multiplied this figure by 15 in the calculation to represent the fighter's level of activity throughout a normally-scheduled UFC bout.
In addition to per-minute scoring, I've also calculated an Average Win Bonus (AWB) for the fighter's last five appearances. Some fighters did not quite have five appearances, but it was an average of what they've had. Some have jumped the line into the rankings from their work in other promotions.
Finally, I needed to add a Knockdown Bonus (KB) to represent the average knockdown bonus they've received in their past five fights. Knockdowns are an indication of fight-ending power and -- at 10 FanDuel points a pop -- go a long way towards finding the optimal MVP candidate on FanDuel.
The following rankings are an unbiased representation of those three things added together, labeled FanDuel Points Per 15 Minutes (FDPP15) below.
15. Islam Makhachev (Lightweight)
I have to be fully honest -- I'm a bit stunned these rankings start with #15 Islam Makhachev.
Don't get me wrong, Khabib Nurmagomedov's star pupil would be -- at worst -- a pick 'em in a championship fight at lightweight with the way he's dominated 10 straight opponents inside the octagon. It's just a bit surprising to see him this fantasy relevant.
Makhachev's true criticism of his ascent up the rankings was inactivity. After all, his career-high for significant strikes in a fight is just 61. But Makhachev's FanDuel value has bloomed when pairing his dominant wrestling attack (3.41 takedowns per 15 minutes) with back-to-back first-round finishes.
Khabib's career had the exact same arc. Nurmagomedov got more aggressive in using his dominance to find quick finishes later in his career. Only time will tell if that holds in what is surely a soon-to-be matchup with Charles Oliveira for the 155-pound strap.
14. Merab Dvalishvilli (Bantamweight)
The award for UFC's hardest worker might have to go to Georgia's #14 Merab Dvalishvilli.
To this day, Dvalishvilli isn't a polished striker. He just is an energizer bunny filled with a seemingly-unlimited gas tank, and he uses that to chain wrestling attempts together nonstop for 15 minutes.
Dvalishvilli's 7.30 takedowns per 15 minutes are the top mark you'll see anywhere on this list. It's terrifying how much room he has to grow, though.
At 4.26 significant strikes landed per minute, he's just now starting to evolve to a point where he's doing damage with the positions he's securing. He also averages just 0.3 submission attempts per 15 minutes. Like Curtis Blaydes, he'd be an unstoppable monster with a better idea of how to finish what he starts on the mat.
The champion in this division -- Aljamain Sterling -- credits Dvalishvilli, his teammate, for his excellent gas tank that saw him secure the title earlier this year. Merab may hold that belt one day, as well.
13. Kamaru Usman (Welterweight)
Though largely due to a technicality, there is just one champion on this list: #13 Kamaru Usman.
"The Nigerian Nightmare" was actually a bit of a fantasy slug in his earlier days with a wrestling-heavy approach. It's still there overall (3.00 takedowns per 15 minutes), but what's pushed him into the top-15 spots during his championship reign has been his power.
Usman leads all ranked UFC fighters with seven knockdowns in his last five fights. It has resulted in three early stoppages. That's pretty terrifying behind a +2.07 striking success rate that is efficient, as well.
We likely won't see the welterweight champion again in 2022 due to hand surgery, but it'll be great to have him back.
12. Manon Fiorot (Women's Flyweight)
Women's flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko isn't anywhere close to this top-15 ranking at her age, and if Brazil's Taila Santos doesn't take her belt this summer, France's #12 Manon Fiorot might.
"The Beast" was a highly-billed prospect overseas who's lived up to the hype. She's a striker who uses punches and kicks equally well to the tune of 6.60 significant strikes landed per minute.
These rankings aren't about efficiency (in fact, some of these fighters have terrible defensive efficiency), but her +4.08 striking success rate is what's truly the impressive part about her. She's not taking damage on top of inflicting plenty.
In her last fight against top-10 contender Jennifer Maia, she showed an additional focus on changing levels and secured a pair of takedowns. That well-rounded dimension can only help her already excellent striking.
I'd love to see her matched up with Alexa Grasso next. Grasso is a lower-volume prospect (4.92 significant strikes per minute), and these two matching up would be -- I think -- a huge statement on how important volume is in high-level MMA fights.
11. Chris Daukaus (Heavyweight)
As the founding member of the Daukaus Caucus (trademark pending), you won't hear a negative word about #11 Chris Daukaus from me.
Thankfully, these rankings are objective. Daukaus' body of work has put him here far before my fandom. In his recent sample, Daukaus has three knockout wins and two knockout losses. One way or another, he's been a key piece for fantasy.
For a heavyweight, Daukaus averages 6.44 significant strikes landed per minute. That's come with great striking defense (59%). He's just felt the absolute hammer fists of Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes in back-to-back setbacks.
Blaydes insinuated that Daukaus cutting weight to light heavyweight might be his best move, but I'd also add that Daukaus could just lean on his brother.
Kyle Daukaus averages 2.40 takedowns and 2.0 submission attempts per 15 minutes as an unranked UFC middleweight. With zero attempts himself, Chris would give even those two power punchers fits with a legitimate ground attack to compliment his lightning-quick hands.
10. Charles Oliveira (Lightweight)
Usman is the only champion on the board, but it's solely because of the May 2022 weight-cutting disaster that #10 Charles Oliveira endured.
Oliveira still came out through what had to be an agonizing process and demolished Justin Gaethje in the first round. That followed stoppage wins over Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler. He seems unstoppable right now in UFC's most glamorous division.
He combines the dominant ground fundamentals that Islam Makhachev or Beneil Dariush have with real fight-ending danger. Oliveira averages 2.9 submission attempts per 15 minutes, and he's posted three knockdowns in his last five. He can end the fight anywhere.
While this belt is officially vacated at the moment, Oliveira will inevitably be the favorite to get it back once a challenger between the aforementioned pair has emerged.
9. Ilia Topuria (Featherweight)
Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski largely has no challengers at this moment. He's rematching Max Holloway a third time just because no one else has been close.
#9 Ilia Topuria is one name many have pegged to potentially have that type of ceiling since he is only 25 years old. Lower-volume wrestlers Movsar Evloev and Bryce Mitchell would be others.
The difference between Ilia and those other two is that he is explosive. Three of Topuria's first four wins have come via an early finish, and he has a similar combination of power on the feet (two knockdowns in his four fights) and grappling (2.6 submission attempts per 15 minutes) that Charles Oliveira does at lightweight.
Considering many of the ranked challengers ahead of him have grappling woes that Mitchell and Evloev have both exploited in earnest, Topuria can rise quickly in this division.
He faced some adversity against Jai Herbert his last time out, so while he's not at a championship level yet, he has plenty of tools -- and plenty of self-confidence -- to get there.
8. Jessica Andrade (Women's Strawweight)
#8 Jessica Andrade doesn't look like any other women's strawweight fighter, so she does things that you don't see from many in UFC's smallest weight class.
Andrade's standing-arm-triangle finish her last time out was the latest wonky finish she's had just with a brute strength advantage at 115. She held this belt previously after a slam knockout of Rose Namajunas.
It's pretty remarkable she's so much stronger than her foes and produces the output she does. She adds 2.85 takedowns per 15 minutes to 6.16 significant strikes per minute, and she's scored three straight first-round finishes. It's a frantic pace every time she fights.
Fluke knockouts happen in this sport, and Andrade suffered one to drop her belt to Weilei Zhang. Ever since that bout, Andrade has been wholly more impressive than Zhang, and she's a real threat to get back to the belt.
That path was made even clearer with Carla Esparza now holding this belt. It's an easier sell to pit Andrade with Esparza than a potential trilogy fight with Namajunas.
Regardless of the opponent, "Bate Estaca" -- Portuguese for "pile driver" -- seems like the most dominant 115-pound woman on the planet.
7. Jamahal Hill (Light Heavyweight)
To me, the best part of UFC is watching a fighter go from their debut to title contention. Off of Dana White's Contender Series, #7 Jamahal Hill has surged through the prospect stage to legitimate title contention.
Hill is a high-paced striker at light heavyweight, which has been a division devoid of top-shelf striking talent since Jon Jones abandoned the weight class in 2020. 42-year-old grappler Glover Teixiera took this belt from 39-year-old slugger Jan Blachowicz in 2021. It's so ready for a special athlete, and Hill is one.
At his size, Hill averages 7.06 significant strikes per minute. He's one of very few on this list with zero career takedowns or submission attempts. He's just out there swinging.
Those swings have resulted in four knockdowns and three first-round finishes in his last five fights.
There is a ceiling for now in Hill -- I think -- with how poor his grappling defense is. Paul Craig dislocated Hill's elbow in the first round. But every fight starts standing, and he seriously needs just a matter of seconds to inflict his will with a massive speed advantage over quite literally everyone else in this division.
6. Casey O'Neill (Women's Flyweight)
If there is a sample that's not as "legitimate" as others on the list, it's the one of #6 Casey O'Neill.
O'Neill has just four UFC appearances since her debut in February 2021, but she's taken out four UFC winners. Women's flyweight is arguably the weakest division in UFC, so it just doesn't take much to find the rankings -- even with a small sample.
It's been a phenomenal sample, though, where she's showcased offense at all levels. She averages 8.65 significant strikes landed per minute, headlined by her 229 landed in 15 minutes against Roxanne Modafferi. She's also shown off grappling skills, taking Antonina Shevchenko down three times in a second-round finish.
It's really hard to project a ceiling for her after she answered any defensive striking questions by defending 67% of Modafferi's attempts in that high-paced slugfest.
At this point, she's on the shelf with a torn ACL, but if Fiorot and Taila Santos are both unsuccessful in thwarting Valentina Shevchenko's title reign, O'Neill might return to a very high-profile fight near the top of women's 125.
5. Jiri Prochazka (Light Heavyweight)
This entire rankings piece has featured future contenders. The future is now for #5 Jiri Prochazka.
"Denisa" entered UFC a step ahead of most prospects. He's got a career 28-3-1 record after a long, successful career in RIZIN, a well-regarded Japanese MMA promotion. For many years, MMA fans and media have known Prochazka was one of the best 205-pound fighters on the planet.
He's wasted zero time proving it. Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes are both former title challengers, and Prochazka finished both in the second round in fights that weren't close.
He's added just one takedown to 7.18 significant strikes landed per minute in the striking, so while I'm unsure of his well-roundedness, it just doesn't matter in his division. Almost everyone near the top has significant limitations compared to challengers in other divisions.
Prochazka fights Glover Teixeira for the 205-pound belt in June 2022 at UFC 275. If he wins, he's only 29 years old. Given that he appears to be a striker, this division could see a war or two between him and Jamahal Hill in the coming years.
4. Alexandr Romanov (Heavyweight)
#4 Alexandr Romanov just found the rankings to qualify. I'm glad he did. While many of these fighters have made several appearances in main events and on pay-per-view cards, Romanov is a hidden gem.
This fridge from Moldova -- now undergoing a strength and conditioning program to lean out his frame -- is a problem.
Romanov is a top-control wrestler that squashes heavyweights. He's landed 6.46 takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC, and he's added 1.6 submission attempts per 15. Some of the submission attempts are unorthodox ones, like forearm chokes, that other fighters just don't have the strength to pull off.
His poor striking defense (43%) will be his challenge at the top level of the sport. It'll either have to improve or he will really need to be able to take a punch from champion Francis Ngannou, Tai Tuivasa, and other challengers.
All of those fighters struggle with wrestling defense, though, so Romanov's skillset is an incredibly intriguing one against some of the power-reliant brawlers at the top of heavyweight.
3. Sean O'Malley (Bantamweight)
One of UFC's most controversial stars is a can't-miss option on FanDuel every time he steps into the octagon.
The biggest reason? #3 Sean O'Malley makes no secrets about the fact he doesn't want to fight top-shelf competition. O'Malley has said on several podcasts and TV interviews he's not here to blemish his record fighting the toughest possible fight. He wants the weakest opponent that will agree to face him.
That list of fighters willing to face him is getting shorter. He's dismantled competition to the tune of 8.26 significant strikes per 15 minutes and a gaudy +4.74 striking success rate. He hasn't even needed his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in a while, posting only 0.6 submission attempts per 15 minutes.
O'Malley is arguably the top fantasy fighter in UFC just because of the gap in competition. The top fighters on this list will be fighting championship-level competition for the rest of their prime. O'Malley is still actively avoiding it.
He'll be a heavy favorite -- and surely a sublime MVP candidate -- every time he's on a slate.
2. Khamzat Chimaev (Welterweight)
I was amongst #2 Khamzat Chimaev's biggest doubters before his last fight with Gilbert Burns. He battered unranked, unproven competition to stellar peripherals. It's very real now.
Even after 15 brutal minutes against the former title challenger, Chimaev's peripherals are still second to just one. He's put up elite offense on the feet (7.87 significant strikes landed per minute), wrestling (3.23 takedowns per 15 minutes), and looking to end the fight with his grappling (2.7 submission attempts per 15 minutes).
That fight answered just about any questions I had. Level of competition? Check. Cardiovascular endurance to do it for 15 minutes? Check. Ability to take damage in return? Check.
At this point, anyone doubting that he can compete in a fight with Kamaru Usman isn't paying attention. Colby Covington went 50 full minutes with Usman with a fraction of the striking and offensive grappling that "The Wolf" has.
Just on merit, he probably should fight Covington or Leon Edwards for one more top-shelf bout before a title shot, but he'll be ready when his time comes.
1. Tom Aspinall (Heavyweight)
It's been since Michael Bisping's 2016 upset of Luke Rockhold that England held a UFC title. Their next may come via heavyweight #1 Tom Aspinall.
Aspinall entered UFC as a decently-well-regarded prospect with a 7-2 from England's Cage Warriors promotion. No one predicted this meteoric rise.
He's got peripherals that are remarkable in every category. He lands 7.33 significant strikes per minute with a +4.68 striking success rate. He's added 4.07 takedowns and 2.0 submission attempts per 15 minutes. That's all translated to five first-or-second-round finishes in five tries.
There are a lot of peripherals that look like that amongst UFC prospects, but Aspinall isn't crushing cans. His five opponents are 14-2 in bouts since the start of 2020 in fights not facing Aspinall. They've been destroying others, and he's been destroying them.
His upcoming main event with Curtis Blaydes will be his final hurdle before a shot at UFC gold. He's got the power to exploit Blaydes' historically-uncertain chin, and he's got submission skills to threaten Blaydes on the mat.
He's one step away from Francis Ngannou, and I'd put the 29-year-old at about -800 odds right now to become "Sir Tom" in England after what appears to be an illustrious, successful MMA career.
For you diehard fans, I did want to provide an upfront look at who just missed the cut. A full table of the top-35 fighters will follow. There are some names missing that were pretty shocking to me.
While not a champion, #19 Justin Gaethje is seen as an all-offense fighter, but two losses in Gaethje's last five have quelled his overall scoring. Gaethje also has never landed a takedown or attempted a submission in UFC. Something you see about the fighters on this list is that they're almost all well-rounded
#22 Alexander Volkanovski would have my vote for the single best fighter in UFC. He's masterful at everything. However, his one drawback is his ability to finish fights early. He's won four of his past five by a decision, and that win bonus just isn't very large on FanDuel.
One of the reasons why I believe #31 Valentina Shevchenko is closer to losing her belt than not is her unimpressive per-minute peripherals. With no knockdowns in her last five fights, her slow striking pace (3.26 landed per minute) doesn't separate her from quality opponents. She's largely feasted on a weaker flyweight division, but tougher challengers -- including two on this list -- are on the way.
Finally, I was shocked to see all-time FanDuel scoring record-setter #35 Max Holloway at the bottom of the entire list. Holloway is one-dimensional, posting just 0.31 takedowns per 15 minutes and 0.3 submission attempts per 15 minutes. Plus, he doesn't have a win by finish or a knockdown in our recent sample. His floor is absurd, but against lower-paced opponents, he can struggle to realize a ceiling.
Note: The table below is sortable by any figure.