UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 284

Alexander Volkanovski is UFC's gold standard at featherweight, but can his success translate to lightweight this week? Should we roster Islam Makhachev as a heavy favorite instead?

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, my betting guide is excellent for finding value on Saturday's card. I also dove deeper into this card on this week's Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.

Let's break down UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski, taking place at the RAC Arena in Perth, Australia on Saturday night.

MVP Considerations

I'll probably be fairly contrarian at the top this week, but it's a card loaded with heavy favorites where the margins are thin.

FanDuel salaries largely mirror the descending order of moneylines, so it's no surprise to see Tyson Pedro ($18) with a lower salary than his fantasy prospects. Pedro's fight with Modestas Bukauskas is -270 to be wrapped up inside a full 15 minutes, and Pedro seemingly has two obvious paths to win.

First, Bukauskas is a one-dimensional striker with a poor -0.95 striking success rate (SSR). Pedro's is not only better there (+0.60), but he's also got grappling in his back pocket with an above-average 1.3 submission attempts per 15 minutes for this weight class.

I'll probably turn to Jimmy Crute ($17) next. I normally like the heavier favorites at higher salaries, but Crute is a -200 favorite in a fight that's -400 to not go the distance. The only problem is Alonzo Menifield (five career UFC knockouts) is more likely than Bukauskas to turn that in his direction.

Still, Menifield's two-fight streak has come over opponents that are 1-6 since the start of 2019. He's been crushing cans, and "The Brute" Crute leads the card in FanDuel points per minute excl. bonuses (5.21). He's not a guy you want to fade if it's going his way.

Lastly, Islam Makhachev ($23) is worth every penny of his slate-high salary, but he's facing by far the stiffest test of these three in Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski's an elite featherweight, but climbing up 10 pounds to face Makhachev here is a wild risk. Makhachev (65% takedown accuracy) has easily smothered elites his own size, and Volkanovski surrendered two takedowns and three submission attempts to Brian Ortega two fights ago.

Other High-Salaried Fighters

The card's largest favorite is Zubaira Tukhugov ($22), but there are risks to his FanDuel scoring.

At just 2.75 FanDuel points per minute excl. bonuses (sixth-worst on this card), it's not something he does well in a vacuum, and his fight with newcomer Elves Brenner is -110 to go the entire distance. If I get a read he'll be unpopular at MVP, I'd consider it, but I can't see the -670 favorite ignored at the multiplier spot by many.

Debutant Jack Jenkins ($22) shares that salary, and his appearance on Dana White's Contender Series was pretty explosive. He piled up 4.14 takedowns per 15 minutes in a third-round stoppage. Don Shainis (-12.00 SSR) was laughably submitted in his debut, so I can't really give you a tangible reason to back the upset.

As likely the least popular fighter above $16, Loma Lookboonme ($19) has gone to a decision in her first six UFC bouts. I do think she's got a shot at her first career finish, so I'll get there in flex spots. Lookboonme ragdolled Sam Hughes with four takedowns in a 2021 win, and Hughes ragdolled Loma's opponent this weekend, Elise Reed, in a 2022 stoppage. There's a chance the former atomweight is just levels above Reed.

Even though he's a +152 'dog, I'll also back Josh Emmett ($17) in Saturday's interim featherweight title bout. If Emmett takes the right game plan as I've tried to tell him, he'll likely cruise to a decision over Yair Rodriguez. Rodriguez was taken down twice and was getting mauled in grappling by the aforementioned Brian Ortega before Ortega's shoulder popped out of its socket, and Yair's 62% takedown defense is the definition of mediocre.

Value Fighters

In the pick 'em fight down here, I can't imagine backing Josh Culibao over Melsik Baghdasaryan ($15) at the same salary. Culibao's 63% striking defense is better than Melsik's (53%), but it doesn't overcome the massive gulf in strikes landed per minute. Baghdasaryan lands 6.00 per minute with 60% accuracy compared to Culibao's 3.06 per minute with 44% accuracy. With zero career takedowns on either side, these two will duel on the feet.

The unassuming Parker Porter ($15) is an underdog, but he shouldn't be. Justin Tafa's two UFC wins have come over opponents who are 1-4 in their other five bouts. Porter is a 3-2 UFC heavyweight himself, and he's done so with the ability to contribute offensively by striking or wrestling. The burly Bostonian is fifth on the card in FanDuel points per minute excl. bonuses (4.64), so there's upside here, too.

In the endless search for a quality underdog, I'll roll the dice on newcomer Blake Bilder ($14) as a shorter-than-expected 'dog. Bilder's seven pro wins have come via finish, and Bilder's electric submission on Dana White's Contender Series showed his grappling ability, but his striking accuracy (52%) and defense (55%) were also pretty solid.

However, my favorite newcomer is Francisco Prado ($11). The 20-year-old Argentian has a path to make his UFC debut one to remember. Jamie Mullarkey is a sloppy wrestler (30% accuracy) with just one failed career UFC submission attempt. Prado already has six submission wins regionally. If he's the better grappler, he could catch the veteran -- who attempts 8.43 takedowns per 15 minutes -- napping.

It's stunning to me Randy Brown ($10) is such a distance 'dog in the last fight before we're handing out belts. Jack Della Maddalena has absolutely been a superstar, holding a card-best +4.52 SSR in three prior UFC wins. The veteran (10-4 UFC) has a substantial experience advantage, and his +1.13 SSR in the much larger sample is significantly more reliable. I could see an upset.

The same could be said for Australia's Shannon Ross ($9). On top of an excellent environment where both Ross and Kleydson Rodrigues ($20) average north of 5.60 significant strikes per minute, it's the Aussie that has a much higher striking defense (54%) than Rodrigues' (49%). Should all of these upset paths fail, Ross' floor in a fight that's +120 to go all 15 minutes could be the punt-level salary worth targeting.