UFC Daily Fantasy Helper: UFC 263
Combat sports are one of America's longest-standing active sports to wager on. This was evident throughout the late 1900s as boxing took the sports world by storm. From Muhammed Ali to Mike Tyson, several stars were born, and Americans around the country placed bets on who would win boxing matches. Nowadays, with boxing much smaller than it was throughout the 1900s, mixed martial arts has taken the lead as America's favorite combat sport.
By far, the largest and most successful MMA organization in North America is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly known as UFC. The UFC lays claim to the best mixed martial artists in the world and is showcased on both cable and pay-per-view events every month. As one of the most unique DFS sweats available, UFC daily fantasy is now live on FanDuel.
numberFire is always the best spot to get you ready for any UFC card. In addition to this primer, Brandon Gdula's betting guide breaks down where you should be placing your sharp dollars on Saturday's bouts. I also dove deeper into this slate on this week's UFC edition of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
Without further delay, let's break down UFC 263: Adesanya vs. Vettori 2, taking place at the Gila River Arena in Phoenix, AZ on Saturday.
Leon Edwards ($22): With three five-round fights on the card, there is no secret where to head at the MVP spot on FanDuel. In the first three instances in which UFC has aligned this many extra-length fights, the optimal MVP came from the five-round fights each time and averaged 153.4 FanDuel points without the multiplier. With so much top-tier talent scheduled for extra volume, the MVP pool is realistically narrowed down to five or six fighters, and Edwards is tops among them for me.
At just 2.21 FanDuel points per minute, Edwards normally posts frustratingly low volume, but the unranked Nate Diaz being on the other side of the octagon has ballooned the welterweight title challenger to a -700 favorite on FanDuel Sportsbook. In Diaz's only two stints against ranked welterweight competition, he absorbed 6.90 significant strikes per match with a terrible 40% striking defense, and that is in addition to his career-long poor 42% takedown defense against all competition. Edwards may not usually be ideal from a fantasy perspective, but he likely earns a title shot with a win Saturday versus Diaz, who has just two appearances since the start of 2017.
Deiveson Figueiredo ($21): The co-main event of the evening is a flyweight title rematch from a Fight of the Year candidate for 2020. Figueredo and Brandon Moreno ($17) faced off in a war that ended in a draw back in December, and they now attempt to settle the score once and for all. With that fight being so close, the natural inclination is that Moreno possesses value with his salary discount compared to "Deus De Guerra," but Figueiredo has better performances in him than last December. And for the record, he believes an illness significantly affected his performance in the first bout with Moreno. Figueredo entered his fight with Moreno averaging 3.6 fight-ending sequences (knockdowns plus submission attempts per match), including nine in his previous three title fights, but he failed to secure any against Moreno in 25 minutes. Figueiredo is a monstrous -250 favorite -- and +110 inside the distance -- for a rematch of a draw, but it likely is because the proven finisher was not himself in December.
Other High-Salaried Fighters
Joanne Calderwood ($17): Buried on the preliminary card is a fight that likely will determine the next women's title flyweight challenger, even if the winner has the misfortune of facing the dangerous Valentina Shevchenko. "JoJo" Calderwood battles Lauren Murphy for that spot, and Calderwood enters this fight in tremendous form in her striking. Calderwood's 6.59 significant strikes per minute over her entire UFC career is second on this card, which is littered with champions, and she has done so at a +2.19 striking success rate, as well. Her 58% takedown defense is certainly a concern, but Murphy is not exactly comfortable there herself. Murphy averages only 1.18 takedowns per match and 0.10 submission attempts per match, which, for context, are both behind Calderwood, who would prefer to never be on the mat. This fight profiles as a striking match, and Calderwood -- a -144 moneyline favorite -- is the more refined, higher-volume striker of the two.
Marvin Vettori ($16): The infamous Israel Adesanya ($23) is the highest-salaried fighter in the FanDuel player pool, but Vettori is as dangerous of a matchup as Adesanya may face among all challengers at 185 pounds. Vettori's 66% striking defense leads all active UFC middleweights who carry a multi-fight sample, and his ability to stay out of danger in Adesanya's domain is what allowed him to become the only middleweight ever to have beaten Adesanya on a single judge's scorecard. Adesanya returns to middleweight following an unsuccessful venture to light heavyweight, where he suffered his first career loss to champion Jan Blachowicz.
Vettori and Blachowicz share many similarities stylistically. They both are primarily defensive-minded strikers who output plenty of power and wrestling volume, with Vettori at 2.11 takedowns per match following a brutal 11-takedown beating of Kevin Holland in April. Adesanya's takedown defense (82%) is much better than Holland's (47%) over the long-term sample, but Adesanya did surrender takedowns on three of five attempts to Blachowicz and 7:06 in control time. Especially considering the split decision in their first fight, there is not nearly enough respect behind the +225 odds in this fight for Vettori to at least push Adesanya to the brink, and the "Italian Dream" will have a great shot at being UFC's first Italian champion if he can do so.
Brad Riddell ($11): There are plenty of viable value fighters on the prelim card to pair with MVP options coming from the title fights. Given his floor due to his environment, Brad Riddell is the top option in this area. Riddell and Drew Dober both average 1.00 or fewer takedowns per match, and these two strikers are likely fed up with being forced onto the mat to wrestle. Riddell has been taken down at least three times in each of his first three fights, and Dober was controlled for 9:26 of the 13:37 duration of his last fight against Islam Makhachev. Therefore, in what profiles to be a striking match between two close combatants in terms of volume and defense, the gap in efficiency with Riddell (50% striking accuracy) should be a crucial help to finding more shots and defeating Dober (40%).
Paul Craig ($8): Craig may be the latest knockout of Jamahal "Sweet Dreams" Hill, but there is at least value on his salary as a punt in this spot should he avoid that outcome. Hill has been sensational as a striker moving up the UFC ranks. But his glaring weakness analytically is his 53% takedown defense from his early days as a prospect, and he may not be appropriately tested in that dimension. Hill did not face a takedown attempt in either of his last two fights, and Craig fights nearly exclusively on his terms in that regard, averaging 2.11 takedowns per match and winning 12 of his 14 pro victories by submission. Hill certainly could starch "Bearjew" before Craig can control him on the mat, but the salaries are not reflective of the fairly even odds that happens in what is a complete coin flip stylistically.
Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.