Welcome to my DFS breakdown for UFC Vegas 35: Barboza vs Chikadze. After a fight night card that delivered well above my expectations last week, the UFC is back at the Apex in Las Vegas for an event headlined by two elite strikers at 145 pounds. This card is currently scheduled to have 12 fights, though as anybody who’s been following the UFC over the last few months knows, anything can happen with weigh-ins and late week shenanigans. I’ll be in the FTNBets Discord leading up to Saturday's slate to discuss last-minute changes and general slate strategy!
If you’re interested in DFS and betting takes for every fight on this card, you can check out The Undisputed MMA Show with Jon Kelly and me.
In this weekly article, I will outline three fighters who present strong floors and ceilings for your DraftKings lineups.
I want to start this section off by mentioning that I’m not convinced Andre Petroski is anything special as a fighter, he is a pretty awful striker with less than two rounds of cardio from the tape I’ve seen on him, and he’s making his UFC debut on ten days notice. The reason I wanted to start off with that is because I already know that people who watched The Ultimate Fighter this year and saw Petroski embarrassingly gas out in his last fight are going to be the first ones to write him off in this spot because “he’s a bad fighter”. And that’s fine, but people doing that are bad DFS players. Just because Petroski isn’t going to be a great UFC fighter does not mean that he doesn’t have the most upside of anybody on this week’s DFS slate. While Petroski has gas in his tank (which seems to be about the first 5-7 minutes of a fight) he is a solid wrestler with good takedown entries and a punishing top game. That should serve to be enough against Micheal Gillmore, who may be the worst fighter in UFC history, to put it bluntly.
Gillmore took a short notice fight on TUF and was quickly submitted, which has been a trend in many of his regional fights as well. Gillmore is a brawler who I’ve seen knock down opponents just to end up getting submitted via triangle choke just seconds later. Petroski is currently a favorite at some sportsbooks to win this fight in the first round, and he should rack up takedowns, control time, and strikes before securing a first-round finish here. In MMA DFS we care about one matchup, and that’s the one directly ahead of us. Petroski should roll.
Mid-tier: Kevin Lee $8500
Since I already called half the playing field for this week's contests “bad DFS players” in my Petroski writeup I’m not sure how much of a hot take I want to spout out in this mid-tier section of the article, but I’m extremely high on Kevin Lee this week which has led to a LOT of debate in the Twitter streets. I love when we get a high-level fight like Rodriguez vs Lee and it feels like people are really split on how they think things will go down. For me, I fall on the Lee side both as my pick, but more importantly within the context of DFS, as one of my favorite plays of the week. Lee is an extremely willing wrestler who lands over one takedown per round, and will chain takedown attempts together against his opponents. Statistically, Rodriguez does have a takedown defense of 83% over his UFC sample, but he hasn’t faced a legitimate chain wrestler like Lee before. One thing that a lot of people backing Rodriguez in this matchup would say is that there’s a significant striking advantage for D-Rod here, which I agree with, but would actually argue is even more of a reason to be bullish on Lee in DFS, where takedowns = money and he may be forced to shoot them in bulk. Bottom line, Kevin Lee has averaged 110 DK points per win during three-round fights over the course of his career. I like Lee to land takedowns here, and then find himself in a dominant position for a finish.
Low tier: Brady Hiestand $7500
We’re heading back to a TUF contestant for our low-tier option of the week with Brady Hiestand. Hiestand is a 22-year-old grappler who trains out of Oregon with former TUF winner Michael Chiesa. I don’t normally mention who guys train within this article, but I think that’s an important factor in this matchup because Hiestand’s fighting style reminds me a lot of Chiesa. When DFS players hear the name Michael Chiesa, their ears normally perk up (or their hearts sink after his collapse against Vicente Luque last month) because Chiesa is an MMA DFS player's dream. He has very little striking ability, but has a knack for staying glued to his opponents and racking up control time and takedowns. I expect Hiestand to do a lot of that this weekend. His opponent, Ricky Turcios is a legitimate prospect as well and this should be a competitive fight, but something that cannot be ignored when studying this fight is how willing Turcios is to fall to his back during takedown attempts and play offense off his back. That’s a great sign for Hiestand because it likely means his takedowns come without much resistance, and he should be a strong enough grappler to avoid any danger and ride out rounds in top control. Of course, this is a matchup between two fairly green guys at the UFC level, so it’s possible that it turns into chaos, but I know that Hiestand wants to get this fight to the ground and he’s just 7.5K, so that’s enough for me.