UFC 256 is the last pay-per-view card of the year and the brass made sure to stack it so heavily that even with four fight cancellations, we’re still left with 10 great fights. The best part is that we’ve got quite a range of talent, from the super elite level to the exciting prospect level. At the top of the Festivus tree is the flyweight title bout between reigning champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. Directly beneath that is perhaps the best matched fight on the entire card, Tony Ferguson vs. Charles Oliveira. It’s a tremendous offering and a great way to begin 2020’s wind-down since we’ll only have one more card after this one.
We’ve chosen a handful of athletes from the card that are what we feel are the best representations of their DraftKings fantasy pricing. Let’s get started.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 256 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $600K in guaranteed prizes, including $150K to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 7:30 p.m. ET. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $600K 256 Special [$150K to 1st].
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Deiveson Figueiredo, $9,000
Figueiredo is a force of nature both in and out of the octagon. Outside, you get a man that rides bulls and buffalo, is a sushi chef and a hair stylist—a bit of a renaissance man, if you will. Inside, you get a well-rounded athlete with legitimate one-punch knockout power, as well as a solid ground game. In 21 fights, we’ve only seen him go to decision four times. He fights from the orthodox stance, as does his opponent, Brandon Moreno ($7,200). Both have nasty grappling skills. Both can scramble and transition seamlessly. And there is where the comparison stops. Moreno has come a long way since his first days in the UFC that saw raw, almost clunky striking, but now he’s evolved significantly and works a steady jab mixed in with effective combos. Figgy, on the other hand is the human embodiment of a grenade launcher. That power, along with a savvy submission game, sturdy chin and the ability to corral his opponents exactly where he wants them to deliver the maximum amount of damage is the recipe for another successful title defense.
Mackenzie Dern, $8,700
Mackenzie Dern has been growing her overall fight game considerably. Every fight she looks a little more polished. She faces an ultra-tough opponent in Virna Jandiroba ($7,500), a former Invicta champion who’s mowed down every opponent she’s faced save one—Carla Esparza. Dern is still a pretty raw striker, but her talent on the ground is undeniable. Virna is also a very accomplished grappler, but her level of competition hasn’t exactly been at the UFC level until just last year. Dern also choked when she took the step up with Amanda Ribas, so they bear that in common. The difference in the two is that Dern is a natural athlete with power. She may not have sterling technique—as a matter of fact, most would consider it sloppy—but the underlying athleticism and power is there. With Jandiroba, it’s not. Her striking is actually just as bad as Dern’s. When this fight invariably hits the ground, these women are a quite balanced pairing. I don’t think Dern makes many mistakes on the ground and neither does Virna, but I’d have to say the grappling edge at a higher level almost certainly lies with Dern, giving her the overall edge in the fight.
Billy Quarantillo, $8,500
Billy Quarantillo has been one of the best prospects to come from the Contender Series. The 32-year-old has real power and a sensational wrestling/grappling game. His opponent, Gavin Tucker ($7,700), is no slouch, but he doesn’t have that crippling knockout ability that Billy does. Injuries kept Tucker on the sidelines for a good portion of his career—he’s had just seven fights in nearly eight years. That kind of inconsistent fight schedule is a stark contrast to Quarantillo, who has logged 17 fights in that same time frame. Billy will also carry in a 4-inch height and 4-inch reach advantage against the Southpaw. Tucker is a legitimate threat on the ground, though, and is very active there, but again, the experience edge, the physical edge, power, and even youth favors Quarantillo. One thing you can count on, the scrambles are going to be bonkers in this one.
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Charles Oliveira, $7,600
Charles Oliveira has a lot to overcome if he wants to have his arm raised at the end of this fight. Traditionally, Tony Ferguson ($8,600) is a slow starter in his efforts to get a feel for his opponents. That is the window of opportunity “Do Bronx” must capitalize on. Fortunately, Charles is a fast starter and has recently added power to his already impressive armaments. Both men are very skilled on the ground, and while I certainly give the grappling edge to Oliveira, a lot of his submissions come on the heels of his opponent’s mistakes, typically in trying to either get him down with doubles or trying to exit from ground exchanges, hence the plethora of front chokes. The thing is, on the ground, Tony is pretty formidable and doesn’t make many mistakes. Tony gets stronger as the fight goes on, the Gaethje fight notwithstanding. The X-factor is what the Gaethje fight may have taken out of him. He’s visibly slowed down in his last few fights before Gaethje and now we must wonder if that beating he took was career-altering. My guess is that it had significant impact, leaving an opening for Chuckie Olives to get the W.
Cub Swanson, $7,900
Cub Swanson has been such a treat over the course of his career. He’s fought some of the most exciting fights in UFC history, and even though his recent record is very shaky, those fights were at the top level, and he did turn things around in his last fight where he issued a lesson in humility to Kron Gracie. Daniel Pineda ($8,300) pretty much reinvented himself on the regional circuit since his 2014 release from the UFC. He was welcomed back to the octagon by Herbert Burns, the highly touted younger brother of Gilbert Burns, and ended up getting the TKO victory over the younger Brazilian. That said, beating prospects and regional level talent might not hold the same weight as facing Brian Ortega, Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano and Shane Burgos back-to-back. In his absolute prime, Cub beat the likes of Jeremy Stephens, Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira and Ross Pearson, and was the one that gave “The Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi his first loss in six-plus years. Pineda, on the other hand, has difficulties when taking the next step up, and in his travels outside the UFC, only faced the upper echelon of talent during his stint in Bellator, and both times he fought up a level, he lost. It’s a bold pick, but I think Cub still has the tools to best Pineda.
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