UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC Vegas 61

Brendan Allen might be a sneaky value play in a tough matchup this weekend. Which other fighters should we build around on FanDuel?

The Ultimate Fighting Championship holds no short of a dozen mixed martial arts bouts nearly every weekend 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 winning 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 Vegas 61: Dern vs. Yan, taking place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada this Saturday.

MVP Considerations

When a -1200 favorite is on a card, it's hard to start anywhere else.

Sodiq Yusuff ($23) drew Don Shainis in a last-minute attempt to save his fight two weeks ago, but it eventually was called off. UFC has kept this matchup intact, which is bad news for Shainis. Yusuff has fought several ranked fighters, including outstriking top-10 featherweight Arnold Allen. Shainis doesn't have a single win over a current UFC fighter.

Yusuff's striking style and solid production rate (3.34 FanDuel points per minute excl. bonuses) make it hard to see a path to failure. His floor is seemingly a dominant decision win with plenty of strikes.

Still, you can always explore alternatives in a sport this random. To me, that includes Raoni Barcelos ($21) and Mike Davis ($19) in matchups they should dominate.

Barcelos' 61% striking defense and 92% takedown defense have made him brutally difficult to finish, so, at worst, he's likely hanging around against Trevin Jones. Raoni could pile strikes into Jones' face given his 41% striking defense. Jones' improved takedown defense (68%) actually helps Barcelos' daily fantasy outlook with less of a chance he's just laying on Jones and not scoring points.

As for Davis, he's posted five takedowns in his past two matchups, so, at worst, he can win this fight via decision with his wrestling. Viacheslav Borshchev has just a 37% takedown defense and ceded 11 effortless takedowns to Marc Diakese in London two months ago. If Borshchev doesn't correct that, he's not long for the promotion.

Davis' ceiling is underrated, too. He's posted a strong 53% striking accuracy and 57% striking defense against Mason Jones, former title challenger Gilbert Burns, and the aforementioned Yusuff. Borshchev has scored a knockout in five of his six pro wins, but Davis has never been knocked out. It's hard to see "Beast Boy" falling flat.

Other High-Salaried Fighters

The other two who I imagine will command popularity at MVP are Randy Brown ($22) and Randy Costa ($21). I like them both to win, but there are concerns.

Brown's matchup is difficult. Even at 44 years old, Francisco Trinaldo (and his 60% striking defense) is a tough guy to stop. In fact, Trinaldo's never been knocked out, and he's been submitted just three times. Brown's not really in any danger of losing given he'll have a massive eight-inch edge in reach over the former lightweight, but his ability to score fantasy points at a supreme level might not be there.

As for Costa, he's been his own issue. Costa's hot starts in Round 1 have led to a flameout in all three UFC bouts that extended beyond the first. He's been tired and finished in the second round in all of them. Can he knock out 42-year-old Guido Cannetti in the first? Of course. But, if he doesn't, Costa could be flailing badly as this fight extends. He's a high-risk MVP option who I find more suitable as a flex play.

I want to also mention Maxim Grishin ($18) as a flex play in this area. He's in a hard-to-decipher fight with Phillipe Lins, and while Grishin's low volume (3.40 significant strikes landed per minute) has never been my favorite, he's exactly tied in that department with Lins.

In that event, Grishin's efficiency (+1.33 striking success rate) is just a lot better, and this is a guy who sat down Dustin Jacoby twice. He's got heavyweight-level power at 205.

Value Fighters

I wouldn't confidently circle any underdog this week as a win pick, which means mixing and matching away from our core favorites is acceptable n tournaments.

That starts with the trio at $15: Brendan Allen ($15), Jesse Ronson ($15), and Chelsea Chandler ($15).

The newcomer Chandler might be the most interesting. She trains with the Diaz brothers in Stockton, and she'll draw Julija Stoliarenko (1-4 in UFC) at 140 pounds. Of Stoliarenko's 10 pro wins, 9 have come as submissions via armbar. If she hasn't found it, she's struggled badly (-1.55 striking success rate). Chandler's last fight was all grappling, though, so there's inactivity risk if she can't find a finish.

I'd put Allen second. He's 8-2 in UFC, and five of those wins have come via finish. He's just got a brutal defensive matchup in Krzysztof Jotko, who has been to six straight decisions as a testament to both his durability and inactivity. Allen isn't super likely to find the finish, but he's a much better bet than Jotko to do so.

Ronson is more of a dart. This line is moving toward Joaquim Silva, who was knocked out by Ricky Glenn last time out. Ronson put away Nicolas Dalby at welterweight on short notice, so he's got some power and a surprisingly decent striking success rate (+0.28).

You'll notice I haven't touched on the main event. It's because it's a stylistic clash that could be a total bust in fantasy. Mackenzie Dern is always live for a submission (2.00 attempts per 15 minutes), but she'll actually be losing expected fantasy points as her fight goes on.

Dern's 9% takedown accuracy is atrocious. It's the single worst mark in UFC history for someone with at least 30 attempts. If she can't secure one, it's actually Yan Xiaonan ($14) who should be posting points on the feet. Unless Dern finds a first-round finish, I don't think she'll do enough per minute to pay off her salary later into the bout.

Daniel Santos ($11) is the closest thing to a process play we'll find this week. He and opponent John Castaneda have been finished just once in a combined 34 pro fights, so Santos should be around for 15 minutes to score points. I wouldn't read too much into his poor metrics given he was so badly outmatched against Julio Arce in a late-notice debut.

You could also toss darts at Aleksei Oleinik ($14) given his opponent is an inactive lay-and-pray wrestler. Oleinik has 46 career wins via submission, so he can turn his fight with Ilir Latifi on a dime.