Welcome to my DFS breakdown for UFC Vegas 39: Dern vs. Rodriguez! The UFC is back in action at their apex facility this weekend with a 10-fight card headlined by Brazilian strawweight contenders. We have an interesting stylistic clash in the main event, with Dern being an elite BJJ player and Rodriguez being more of a distance striker. The rest of the card is relatively thin in terms of name value. However, we know that the quality of fights doesn’t mean a ton for DFS, and what does matter is the AMOUNT of fights we have this weekend, which is only 10. With significantly less fights than normal, it’s important that we remember that while crafting lineups. Ownership will be inflated across the entire player pool, and we may have to focus more on raw point projections and win equity, as opposed to maximizing pure upside, just because there may not be six “ceiling” outcomes this weekend. I’ll be in the FTNBets Discord leading up to Saturday's slate to discuss last-minute changes and additional 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. 

High tier: Alexandr Romanov $9200 

As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, with just 10 fights on this weekend’s slate we need to adjust our normal strategies for MMA DFS a little bit. On weeks with only 20 fighters in the player pool, it becomes more difficult to fade the “elite” plays just because there aren’t many fighters that can match their upside. For example, two weeks ago we saw Valentina Shevchenko as an objectively great play as a massive favorite with huge finishing equity. But there were 25 other fighters on the slate, specifically one’s priced around her at the upper-echelon of salary, that could match her upside. That is not the case this week, where Romanov is by far the biggest favorite on the slate and is a favorite to win inside of a round at a few sportsbooks. I’m not a massive believer in Romanov long term, as he has questionable standup and cardio, but he should take Jared Vanderaa down and finish him early in this one. Let’s differentiate elsewhere on the slate and take the pure projection here. 

Mid-tier: Matheus Nicolau $8500

Nicolau is an interesting look in DFS this weekend because I don’t necessarily think there’s a ton of value in terms of his pricing on DraftKings, but he takes on Tim Elliott in a fight that stands out as one of the best targets on the slate. Both men are willing wrestlers offensively, with Nicolau landing nearly two takedowns per 15 minutes, while Elliott excels at racking up takedowns to the tune of over four landed per 15 minutes. In addition to being potent offensive wrestlers, both men have takedown defense percentages below 60%, which should lead to plenty of scrambles and ground exchanges. The reason I favor Nicolau here is I think he has the much better striking and a chance to win by knockout on the feet, and on top of that, when Elliot normally loses it comes via finish. Elliot has a tendency to slow down in fights at times and gets caught with submissions when tired. I could see this being a fast-paced scramble-fest where Nicolau sinches up a front headlock choke of some sort in the 2nd or 3rd round. 

Low Tier: Deron Winn $7200

I mentioned in the Romanov writeup earlier that on slates with a limited number of fights, sometimes you need to eat more chalk than normal to ensure a solid floor and capture upside that isn’t widely available on the slate. However, you can’t just play a lineup full of chalk (unless you want to min-cash and share a lineup with 1,000 people). A fight that I’d like to be against the grain on this week is Phil Hawes vs. Winn. Hawes has a good shot to finish this fight early on and will be highly owned due to that, but I think Deron Winn has a skillset to pull off a potential upside and bury the chalk. Winn is an elite wrestler who should be able to keep this fight standing (or land takedowns of his own) while testing Hawes’ cardio, which has historically been very sketchy. I love the leverage here in terms of ownership vs. win equity, and think that Winn has massive upside in terms of takedowns landed down the stretch, and he’s landed totals of 12 and 6 takedowns in his four UFC appearances, with 169 significant strikes in another matchup. Lastly, this could be a week where just one or two underdogs win, therefore any win for Winn at $7.2K could prove to be optimal.