UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 285

Dricus du Plessis sits undefeated in four UFC appearances so far, and he's got another winnable matchup Saturday in Las Vegas. Who should we prioritize on UFC 285's main slate?

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 285: Jones vs. Gane, which takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

MVP Considerations

UFC fans, meet Bo Nickal ($22). He'll likely be headlining one of these pay-per-view cards someday.

The two-time NCAA wrestling champion at Penn State went 90-3 during his college career, amassing perhaps the best NCAA wrestling career ever. As a top-shelf free agent upon graduation, UFC won his rights over for this opportunity. He's on the main card, and he's a -2500 favorite to squash Jamie Pickett.

Pickett (2-4 UFC) has struggled against others, evidenced by a -1.11 striking success rate (SSR) and pedestrian 65% takedown defense. Nickal already enters UFC as one of its top wrestlers, which explains his standing as a -240 favorite to win in just the first round. Those 70.6% implied odds of at least 100 FanDuel points are unmatched on pretty much all cards, including this one.

Only Ian Garry ($21) is in Nickal's zip code as a -850 favorite himself. He's also -135 to win by knockout. If Pickett somehow survives to a second round, it's possible the Irishman is the optimal MVP choice with a first-round finish. Not only does Garry (+1.61 SSR) have an analytical edge over Song Kenan (+0.02 SSR), but the gap is realistically wider. Song's four UFC wins have come over foes with an unsightly 1-10 record with the promotion.

There's not a huge reason to dip below these two with both projecting well over 100 FanDuel points, but Tabatha Ricci ($18) is the third fighter on this card with an opponent that just could be out of her element.

At 40 years old, Jessica Penne has had terrible takedown defense her whole career (40%). Ricci has landed at least five takedowns in both of her strawweight appearances, so she should pile them up on Penne, but don't discount Ricci's athleticism scoring her first UFC finish over the embattled veteran.

Other High-Salaried Fighters

Farid Basharat ($19) mirrored his brother's concerning trend for daily fantasy during his appearance on Dana White's Contender Series.

Farid went the full distance just as Javid has in his four UFC-affiliated appearances. The lack of finishing upside keeps him away from MVP on a card with Nickal and Garry, but he's still in an excellent spot. Basharat is second to Nickal on the card in FanDuel points per minute (excl. bonuses) thanks to his solid striking pace, and opponent Da'Mon Blackshear debuted with a -2.40 SSR last year in San Diego.

In the main event, I'm back Ciryl Gane ($17) over Jon Jones. I gave an in-depth reasoning here, but Jones' long layoff into championship competition doesn't bode well for his chances on Saturday. The expectation is Jones wrestles Gane to the canvas, but "Bones" landed just 6 of his last 23 takedown attempts at light heavyweight. Gane (+2.86 SSR) is arguably the best striker in the division's history, and if Jones can't get him to the ground, he's in massive trouble.

At the same salary, Dricus du Plessis ($17) appears well-positioned for another marquee UFC victory. Quietly, du Plessis' grappling (1.2 submission attempts per 15 minutes) could be a problem for the wrestler Brunson, who was finished in 2018 by the last foe he faced averaging north of an attempt per match. I've got zero concerns about du Plessis (+2.89 SSR) on the feet.

Marc-Andre Barriault ($16) and Cody Garbrandt ($16) are two others I'd tab as win picks behind their superior efficiency metrics over Julian Marquez and Trevin Jones, respectively. However, getting finished in multiple recent fights, I could see Barriault and/or Garbrandt taking a safer approach that caps their FanDuel output.

Value Fighters

Yes, as I did in her last fight, I'm fading Valentina Shevchenko at her slate-high $23 salary again.

"Bullet" was fortunate that Taila Santos broke her orbital bones on a clash of heads after the Brazilian took two (or potentially three) rounds from Shevchenko in that one, but Father Time is coming for the 34-year-old flyweight champion. Her offense (3.19 significant strikes per minute) has come to a standstill recently, which really pronounces her need for a finish to be DFS-relevant.

Alexa Grasso ($14) is far from her weakest test yet. Grasso is 4-0 at flyweight with a +1.12 SSR in UFC herself, and she's attempted five UFC submissions. There's reasonable expectation she avoids her second career finish against the aging Shevchenko, which would dramatically swing the daily fantasy value of her fight toward the underdog.

Elsewhere, Grasso's last foe Viviane Araujo ($15) is an interesting win pick in this area. She's taking on Amanda Ribas, who is 0-1 as a UFC flyweight. Ribas landed just three of her six takedowns in her 125-pound debut, and Araujo (90% takedown defense) is almost impossible to crack there. I like the powerful Araujo (48% striking accuracy) over the shifty Ribas (40%) in a striking battle where upside is key.

Jalin Turner ($13) is just one of those guys I won't fade -- especially as a 'dog. The 6'3" lightweight is an athletic specimen entering with five straight wins via finish. With both his UFC losses coming before his 24th birthday, Turner might be an unbeatable force now in his prime behind a solid knockdown rate (1.46%) and better-than-rumored submission skills (2.0 attempts per 15 minutes).

I can't believe MaƱa Martinez ($11) is the underdog to Cameron Saaiman in the early prelims. The 22-year-old South African was lucky last-minute foe Steve Koslow ran out of gas without a full camp in his debut. Saimaan surrendered five takedowns and a submission attempt before that happened. In what's likely a striking match, Martinez has landed more accurately (51%) against multi-time winners than Saaiman (46%) has against two foes without a UFC win.

Another key name missing from my helper that others will roster in droves is Shavkat Rakhmonov. He could win, but the moneyline gap between him and Geoff Neal ($10) is absurd. Neal's 85% takedown defense is arguably the best in the division, which could force Rakhmonov into a striking match he likely loses. Neal has eight career knockdowns and an elite 60% striking defense, entering off his dismantling of Vicente Luque.

Esteban Ribovics ($11) is another newcomer with upside. He's 11-0 with all 11 wins by finish. I'd rather take swipes there than with top-control wrestler Loik Radzhabov, whose ugly 4-4-1 PFL tenure didn't provide much hope he'll be an elite fighter for daily fantasy as he enters the big leagues.