With one stop until UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden, we’ve landed again at the UFC Apex for another great DFS slate. Let’s break down some of the most popular fights from this Fight Night card to put you in a position to win on DraftKings!
Good luck in contests this weekend! Feel free to follow me on the Twitter Machine (@JeffGailius) for more UFC and DFS content!
The Heavy Favorite
Miranda Maverick ($9,400) vs Shanna Young ($6,800)
Maverick and Young are the only fighters on this card who have fought each other before. In 2019, these two matched up in Invicta FC and the younger Maverick submitted the older Young in the very first round.
Miranda Maverick enters this fight as a whopping -600 betting favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, despite losing two of her previous three bouts. Her losses were to ranked opponent Maycee Barber, and young up-and-comer Erin Blanchfield, neither of whom profile similarly to the 31-year-old Shanna Young. Maverick is a dominant wrestler who has improved drastically with her standup game since the last time she faced Young in 2019.
Shanna Young is coming off a recent underdog TKO win against Gina Mazany, and is likewise 1-2 in her last three fights. Despite having a four-inch height advantage, Young enters this fight as a +450 underdog. A striker without an extensive wrestling background, Shanna will need to keep this fight on her feet in order to have a chance against the younger and stronger Maverick.
Maverick should be a focus for DFS cash builds this week as the heaviest betting favorite on the slate. In tournaments, playing Maverick means you believe she will repeat her 2019 performance and finish Young within the distance. It is rare for a women’s fight to end early, but Maverick certainly has the skill set and experience to get it done here.
The Toss Up
Chase Sherman ($8,200) vs Josh Parisian ($8,000)
I don’t feel great about picking a winner in this matchup. However, given how close these two are in pricing and the potential for a KO, my prediction is that one of these two will be in the optimal lineup on Saturday. DraftKings Sportsbook has Under 2.5 rounds set at -160, which is the shortest odds on any of these fights to end early, so we’ll need to at least consider these guys for their DFS upside.
Chase Sherman is an established combat veteran on his second stint in UFC. A veteran of Titan FC and BKFC, he has extensive standup experience and he searches and often finds knockouts. Hitting 6.51 strikes per minute and winning 94% of his fights by KO, Sherman enters this fight as a slight -130 favorite for good reason.
Josh Parisian has been consistently inconsistent since joining the UFC. Alternating between losses and wins, Parisian is now 2-2 in the UFC with his most recent two fights ending by TKO. The less voluminous striker in this matchup, Josh only hits 4.97 strikes per minute compared to Sherman’s 6.51. He does have a significant advantage in the ground game, which makes him an interesting target in tournaments. Averaging 1.06 takedowns per 15 minutes and 30% TD accuracy, Parisian is far from an elite wrestler. However, it is worth noting that Sherman’s last two losses have come by ground stoppage, both in the very first round. Two of Parisian’s last three wins have come when he is in the dominant position on the ground. I will give the slight edge to Josh Parisian in this matchup because he has the ability to earn takedowns, and could finish Sherman on the ground.
Mark Madsen ($7,200) vs Grant Dawson ($9,000)
In a late replacement swap, Mark Madsen is now scheduled to face 28-year-old Grant Dawson in a potential high volume wrestling matchup that should be very DFS friendly.
Dawson is a -215 favorite in this fight and profiles as a highly played pay-up option on this slate. Earning at least one takedown in every fight, Dawson combines a safe floor on the mat, while also possessing the ability to either submit or KO his opponents. With more professional experience than his opponent, a knack for finishing fights and a one-inch height advantage, I’m tempted to take Dawson in this matchup.
However, we can’t only play favorites… That’s just not how MMA DFS works. So we’re taking a stab at the older Mark Madsen. Currently undefeated as a pro, Madsen stands at 12-0 with four straight wins since joining the UFC. While he’s only gone over 100.0 DKFP once in his UFC career, he has his own knack for takedowns, earning 12 over his four fights and averaging 3.7 per 15 minutes for his career.
I’m giving the slide edge to the undefeated Madsen, who had been preparing for this matchup. I’m expecting this one to go the distance, but wouldn’t be surprised to see an early sub on either side.
Darrick Minner ($7,300) vs Shayilan Nuerdanbieke ($8,900)
Darrick Minner takes on -215 favorite Shayilan Nuerdanbieke in another matchup that will feature a heavy amount of wrestling. Neither guy has a huge edge in striking, which is to be expected in a matchup between two wrestlers.
Nuerdanbike LOVES to fight. Averaging eight bouts per year, he’s earned a record of 38-10 since his professional debut in 2016. However, he only has three UFC fights on his record, going 2-1 in featherweight bouts that went to a decision. He’s the favorite in a matchup that is not projected to go the distance, and should come in as another popular tournament option.
Minner is a very interesting underdog play, and is probably the most mispriced fighter on this card in both DFS and on the Sportsbook. Winning 85% of his professional fights by submission, this matchup seems perfect for Minner, who also has an edge in takedown accuracy (72% vs. 32%) and takedown defense (66% vs. 40%) against Nuerdanbieke. In addition, Minner holds the advantages in each striking category, hitting 2.58 strikes per minute compared to Shayilan’s 1.8.
I’m grabbing Minner in tournaments and in cash games. He is simply too cheap for his takedown, ground control and submission upside. If he’s able to pull off the upset, he’s another potential optimal play for this Saturday’s slate.
The Main Event
Marina Rodriguez ($8,800) vs Amanda Lemos ($7,400)
Our main event should be a fun one, as two top 10 strawweight contenders face-off in a five-round bout that could easily lead to a title shot against the winner of Esparza vs. Weili next weekend at UFC 281. Both of these women are absolute beasts, and my favorite bet on this card is Under 4.5 rounds. Each woman has a path to a stoppage victory, and I’ll be watching on the edge of my seat to see who comes out on top.
Amanda Lemos has a ton of upside in this fight as an underdog, with potential for an early KO. Her unique striking power and creativity makes her a tough opponent for anyone in this division, and her only recent loss was to former champion Jessica Andrade, which was the first ever standing arm-triangle choke in UFC history. Only two of her 15 fights have gone to a decision, and this one should follow that same pattern. She does have significant concerns with her gas tank, as she’s never gone the full five rounds of a UFC fight. If she can finish Marina early, she’ll be one of the top plays on the slate.
However, Marina Rodriguez is just as dangerous, and enters this fight a -210 betting favorite. As a striker, Marina dominates her opponents. She has only one loss in her UFC career to current champion Carla Esparza, which was a split decision. Otherwise, she has out-struck or out-maneuvered each of her last four opponents, two of which went the full five main event rounds.
As I mentioned, both of these women have the power to finish this fight. Lemos is an exciting DFS play because she has the potential for a first round finish, which would be great value at her price point. However, I’m giving a slight lean to Marina as the veteran with a better gas tank, and if she winds up with a finish, it’ll come in round three or later.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests. The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups.