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UFC 288 Picks: Top DraftKings DFS Fantasy MMA Targets, Values for UFC 288

Tim Finnegan gives UFC 288 picks for Saturday’s DraftKings UFC slate.

MMA: JUN 12 UFC 263 Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UFC 288 is taking place on Saturday from Newark, New Jersey, and the main event is a bantamweight title fight between current champion Aljamain Sterling and former champion Henry Cejudo. Cejudo is making his UFC return after a three-year hiatus due to retiring after his last title defense in May 2020.

The co-main event is a matchup between Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad that has significant title implications—the winner will likely be next in line to fight for the UFC welterweight title. Of note, this is a five-round fight, despite it being a non-title, non-main event fight.

DraftKings is hosting a huge UFC 288 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $600,000 in total prizes, including $200,000 to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $600K UFC 288 Special [$200K to 1st].


Movsar Evloev ($9,400)

Evloev’s style is fantasy friendly because he mixes large grappling volume with solid striking metrics. Evloev has converted just under five takedowns per 15 minutes, which is huge, and is able to follow up his takedowns with a lot of control time. Evloev’s 40.5% control time percentage ranks sixth-best among active featherweights and he has averaged about 7.5 minutes of control time per fight over his last three fights. Evloev has a strong background in Greco, which fuels his offensive grappling.

Evloev’s striking metrics are also good. Evloev is landing over four significant strikes per minute while avoiding 63% of opponent significant strike attempts, showcasing good striking defense on a rate basis. As a result, his strikes landed to absorbed ratio is plus.

Evloev was originally scheduled to face Bryce Mitchell, but Mitchell was forced to pull out of the fight earlier this week after DraftKings DFS pricing was set. Instead, Evloev will face Diego Lopes on short notice. Lopes taking the fight with only five days to prepare creates a substantial advantage for Evloev, who has rocketed to a -850 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, up from about -280 for his original matchup vs. Mitchell. Evloev is now by far the biggest favorite on the slate, which makes him a very safe fantasy play.

Evloev is averaging a slate-high 103 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) per fight and is in an excellent position to record an elite fantasy score in this matchup.

Value Plays

Henry Cejudo ($8,100)

Cejudo is a world-class wrestler, having won an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling. Due to his elite wrestling background, Cejudo is incredibly difficult to take down—he has stopped 93% of opponent takedown attempts and has been taken down only once in his UFC career. Cejudo is excellent at preventing control time by opponents and has never allowed any opponent to record more than 42 seconds of control time in any of his UFC fights. Cejudo has spent only 13 total seconds in bottom position in the UFC, and his bottom position percentage of 0.15% ranks fourth lowest among all active UFC fighters.

This is notable against Aljamain Sterling, who will have fewer paths to victory due to Cejudo’s elite wrestling. Cejudo’s striking has dramatically improved from early in his UFC career and Cejudo should carry the striking edge in this matchup. Cejudo also carries the power advantage, which is supported by their knockdown statistics. Cejudo has recorded a knockdown in two out of his last three fights, while Sterling has failed to record any knockdowns in 17 UFC fights.

Cejudo has not fought in three years due to a retirement stint, so there is some uncertainty as to how he will look, which adds an element of risk. However, if Cejudo is close to his vintage form, he should be able to keep this fight standing and win. This fight is also five rounds, which potentially creates 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring.

Rafael Estevam ($8,300)

Editor’s note: Rafael Estevam vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov has been pulled from UFC 288.

Estevam has only fought once under the UFC umbrella, winning on Dana White’s Contender Series last September. Estevam dominated that fight, out-landing his opponent 48 to 3 in significant strikes while racking up a heavy 6:40 of control time off two takedowns in just over seven minutes inside the octagon. Estevam blending a lot of striking volume, takedown volume and control time bodes well for fantasy scoring.

Estevam draws a favorable matchup for his official UFC debut against Zhalgas Zhumagulov. Zhumagulov has absorbed more strikes than he has landed, absorbing an elevated rate of 5.37 significant strikes per minute. Zhumagulov’s last two losses have been controversial split decision losses, but he has still lost five out of his six UFC fights. As a result, Estevam is a solid -190 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook. Estevam should probably be priced higher on this slate, which opens up a potential source of value.

Tournament Play

Yan Xiaonan ($7,400)

Yan is a good striker who has solid striking metrics. Yan moves well, has quick hands, and throws a lot of combinations, which fuels plus striking volume. Yan has landed about 5.5 significant strikes per minute. This could play up more against Jessica Andrade, who runs a fast pace. Andrade’s fast pace has contributed to her absorbing over five significant strikes per minute, one of the higher marks on the slate.

Yan’s striking defense is better than Andrade’s on a rate basis and time-adjusted basis, and her quality striking should keep her competitive in this fight. Andrade is a -190 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, so Yan carries risk in this matchup, but she is worth considering as a salary relief play in tournaments as the seventh-cheapest fighter on the slate.

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Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $600K UFC 288 Special [$200K 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.