UFC 285 is taking place from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, and the card is headlined by a heavyweight title bout between Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane. Jones is making his return to the octagon after being sidelined for three years and is moving up to fight in the heavyweight division for the first time. In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko will defend the women’s flyweight title against Alexa Grasso. The card also features the debut of elite prospect Bo Nickal.
DraftKings is hosting a huge UFC 285 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $700,000 in total prizes, including $150,000 to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $700K UFC 285 Special [$150K to 1st].
Bo Nickal ($9,600)
Bo Nickal is one of the most exciting UFC prospects in recent memory. Nickal is a three-time NCAA Division I National Champion wrestler and destroyed his competition on Dana White’s Contender Series to earn a UFC contract. Nickal won each of his two DWCS fights in roughly one minute and finished both fights by submission. Nickal also displayed explosive striking prior to DWCS, starching his opponent by KO in roughly 30 seconds in his professional MMA debut.
Bo Nickal landed two finishes in less than two minutes combined fight time on #DWCS @NoBickal is ready for his UFC debut SATURDAY at #UFC285! pic.twitter.com/IUWUgq4I5G— UFC (@ufc) February 28, 2023
As a result, Nickal enters his fight against Jamie Pickett as a massive favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, carrying a moneyline of about -1500. Nickal’s explosive skills make him highly likely to produce an excellent fantasy score in a matchup that he is widely expected to win quickly—the total rounds for this fight has been set at -300 to finish in under 1.5 rounds. Nickal is also an incredibly safe fantasy play given his elite skills and massive moneyline.
Valentina Shevchenko ($9,400)
Like Bo Nickal, Shevchenko is a huge favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook for her fight against Alexa Grasso, carrying a moneyline of about -800. Shevchenko has dominated the women’s flyweight division, winning eight consecutive flyweight title fights. Shevchenko blends striking and grappling together to produce strong fantasy scores and has recorded over 100 DraftKings fantasy points in seven of her last nine fights. Shevchenko is very difficult to hit and has absorbed under two significant strikes per minute, which is an excellent number.
Shevchenko has quality takedowns, especially from the clinch, and is averaging a solid 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. Shevchenko’s offensive grappling is notable against Alexa Grasso, who has been susceptible to being taken down. Grasso has stopped only 64% of opponent takedown attempts and has been taken down multiple times in six of her 10 UFC fights. As a huge favorite on the moneyline, Shevchenko is an extremely safe fantasy play in this matchup and also carries high upside.
You can't dodge a bullet! @BulletValentina defends her title against Alexa Grasso on Saturday at #UFC285!! pic.twitter.com/8UmyDWpGAU— UFC (@ufc) February 28, 2023
Amanda Ribas ($8,300)
Ribas once looked like a budding superstar, but her star has faded a bit after losing two of her last three fights. However, Ribas is still a well-rounded fighter who has strong metrics. Ribas has landed almost twice the amount of strikes she has absorbed and has elite striking defense on a rate basis, avoiding 70% of opponent significant strike attempts. As a black belt in both jiu jitsu and judo, Ribas is also a quality grappler. Ribas is averaging over two takedowns per 15 minutes and has excellent takedown defense on a rate basis, stopping 88% of opponent takedown attempts.
Ribas has a winnable matchup against Viviane Araujo, who has absorbed more strikes than she has landed, which is a red flag in her striking metrics. Araujo has absorbed over five significant strikes per minute, an elevated number. Araujo’s opponent has landed more significant strikes in six of Araujo’s last seven fights.
Derek Brunson ($7,500)
Brunson is 39 years old and is coming off a loss to Jared Cannonier, but he has some underdog appeal based on his price tag. Prior to his loss to Cannonier, Brunson ran off a five-fight winning streak on the back of a lot of takedown volume. Brunson recorded 19 total takedowns in those five wins, which contributed to solid fantasy scoring. Brunson scored over 100 DraftKings fantasy points in three of those five fights and averaged a strong 103 DKFP per fight. Brunson also had good moments in his loss to Cannonier, recording three takedowns and knocking Cannonier down with a punch. Brunson had a hurt Cannonier’s back and was working on a rear-naked choke as time expired in the first round, and had more time been on the clock, his winning streak may have extended to six fights.
Brunson is facing Dricus Du Plessis, who does not have a big wrestling background, opening up a potential path for takedowns and control time. Brunson has also faced far better competition in the UFC than Du Plessis has—Brunson’s losses are mostly to elite fighters such as Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva and Yoel Romero. As the ninth-cheapest fighter on the slate, Brunson is worth considering as a salary relief play in a winnable matchup.
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Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $700K UFC 285 Special [$150K to 1st]
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.