UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 277
The Ultimate Fighting Championship holds no short of a dozen mixed martial arts bouts nearly every Saturday with no real offseason. As one of the most unique 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!
numberFire is always the best spot to prepare you for any UFC card. If you would rather bet on the fights, our betting guide is excellent for finding value on Saturday's card. In addition to this primer, I 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 277: Pena vs. Nunes 2, taking place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas this weekend.
This is a tricky week in UFC daily fantasy, but it was made a bit easier when salaries were released and Michael Morales ($22) wasn't even the highest-salaried fighter in the FanDuel pool.
Morales is a -720 favorite over stand-in replacement Adam Fugitt. The undefeated Colombian has finished 11 of his 13 wins -- the most recent coming in the first-round stomping of multi-time UFC winner Trevin Giles.
The 22-year-old prospect seems to be a generational talent now set to face a foe with zero wins over an opponent with a UFC appearance. Whether it's his volume wrestling (3.14 takedowns per 15 minutes) or an 11th career knockout, Morales figures to control this one.
Magomed Ankalaev ($21) is also a gigantic -620 favorite without a salary that's cumbersome. His low offensive output (2.50 FanDuel points per minute excl. bonuses) has never impressed, but Anthony "Lionheart" Smith is a dream matchup for his efficiency. Smith defends just 42% of his opponent's strikes and 48% of their takedown attempts.
Smith is a monster fantasy day waiting to happen, and Ankalaev still has finished four of his eight UFC foes.
The higher salary in a harder matchup makes Brandon Moreno ($20) less of a priority than these two, but Moreno also has five potential rounds to pile up points in Saturday's interim title fight.
Moreno's +0.23 striking success rate overall isn't amazing, but he just wrapped up a +37 striking differential in his trilogy with Deiveson Figueredo, who -- in terms of striking accuracy and knockdown rate -- is the most accurate and powerful flyweight ever.
I'm not worried about Moreno's ability to withstand the kickboxing of Kai Kara-France ($10) and his +1.33 striking success rate. If he can, he likely can get him to the mat where he'll have a decided advantage. Moreno submitted both Figueredo and Brandon Royval in the top five of this division, and Kara-France has been controlled for at least three minutes in two of his past three bouts.
Other High-Salaried Fighters
Notice anyone missing?
Amanda Nunes ($23) is a -295 favorite to get her belt back in the main event, which essentially is oddsmakers giving her a mulligan for her December loss to Julianna Pena ($14). However, I'm not willing to give her a full pass into MVP over any of those three.
Pena dominated that fight. Nunes had a -33 striking differential in less than two rounds. Pena's dipping jab gave the champion fits, and that was Nunes' first cut to 135 pounds since 2019. At 34 years old, Nunes' fatigue issues shouldn't be a total write-off.
When it comes to the actual "best of the rest", Drew Dober ($19) and Orion Cosce ($18) stand out.
Dober's woes in UFC have come via his awful 53% takedown defense. Given his opponent this week, Rafael Alves, has just one unsuccessful takedown attempt in three UFC bouts, Dober should be in a position to use his striking. In that case, he has four straight wins via knockout, and Alves' -1.86 striking success rate -- primarily due to a lack of volume offensively -- is pitiful.
As for Cosce, he draws the coolest name in UFC at present -- City Kickboxing's Blood Diamond. However, Diamond's legendary kickboxing career didn't translate to tangible UFC success in his first bout. He was controlled for all but 13 seconds until he was eventually submitted. Diamond's takedown defense (80%) held well, but the other part of the equation is finding a way back to distance.
Orion's +0.90 striking success rate isn't bad, so he could hang there, but it's more likely he uses his wrestling to control Blood Diamond. Cosce landed a pair of takedowns in his debut and scores them at an efficient 42% clip overall.
In addition to these two, I'll also take Sergei Pavlovich ($17) and Ihor Potieira ($16) as coin flips to win their heavyweight and light heavyweight slugfests.
Pena is certainly viable from the main event as a value option, but my best guess is her second-fight strategy will be to try and limit Nunes' offensive output with the wrestling attack that fatigued her in the first fight. That could hurt her potential to score fantasy points.
The better title-fight 'dog might be Kara-France. He and Moreno are billed a 58.7% implied chance to go all 25 minutes. If that's the case, "Don't Blink" has a punt-level salary to still pile up his fair share of strikes.
This week is not short on quality value plays that can win, though.
My favorite option is Alex Perez ($11). Though most are siding with his opponent Alexandre Pantoja, Perez has massive advantages in striking defense (61%), takedown defense (87%), striking success rate (+1.54), and FanDuel points per minute excl. bonuses (4.37).
Analytically, he's the much better fighter, but none of his wins have come over opponents still with UFC. Saturday should be a great measuring stick.
Hamdy Abdelwahab ($11) is another interesting dart at that salary. He's basically unproven in MMA, but the Egyptian Olympic wrestler earned his ticket to UFC without five straight wins since transitioning sports. Don'Tale Mayes has just two wins over opponents 2-5 in UFC overall, and his peripherals --including a 42% striking defense -- are poor, so I don't mind taking swipes at the heavyweight newcomer.
Ji-Yeon Kim ($15) is another interesting option given she averages plenty of striking volume (5.86 significant strikes landed per minute) and her opponent, Joselyne Edwards, is there to be hit (43% striking defense).
My other underdog win picks -- albeit with less desirable scoring potential -- are Alex Morono ($13) and Rafa Garcia ($9).