UFC 251 is taking place at 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 11, and in this article, I am looking at the fights where I think the winner has a chance to score big DraftKings fantasy points and break the MMA Millionaire slate.
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Kamaru Usman ($8,900; -250) vs. Jorge Masvidal ($7,300; +200)
Of the three title fights on Saturday’s card, this is the one that I think has the most fantasy upside. I think the winner is a near lock to be in the top lineup in DraftKings tournaments. It’s also a fight that will garner a ton of ownership and getting the winner correct is not only going to be pivotal, but will provide a ton of leverage since the losing fighter will likely be one of the higher owned fighters on the slate.
This is the main event, although this wasn’t always the case. Kamaru Usman was scheduled to take on Gilbert Burns, who was forced to withdraw from the fight after testing positive for COVID-19. Just when it looked like Usman would be pulled off the card, Jorge Masvidal stepped up on short notice to take the fight.
While taking the fight on a week’s notice is a big ask, it appears Masvidal has been preparing for a fight against Usman for a while. I don’t expect his conditioning to be much of an issue and we can’t forget that Masvidal stepped into the fight game on short notice. He took his first paid fight on just minutes notice while he was at a McDonald’s eating lunch. Masvidal got a call to fight a Kimbo Slice protege in a laundromat parking lot. He finishing eating, drove over and won the fight. It became a viral video on YouTube, and just like that, his fighting career began. Masvidal is a fighter and his nickname of “Gamebred” is well-deserved.
Even though I think that Masvidal is live in this fight, I have to favor Usman. Masvidal will likely have an advantage on the feet, although it might not be as significant as most people think. Usman actually lands strikes at a higher rate than Masvidal. In addition, Usman also absorbs less strikes per minute than Masvidal. Usman lands 4.6 significant strikes per minute and absorbs 2.17 per minute while Masvidal lands 4.33 significant strikes per minute and absorbs 2.94.
With the above information said, I don’t think Usman is going to look to strike with Masvidal for extended periods of time. I think he will (and should) look to get into clinch situations, take down Masvidal and land ground and pound. This is where Usman has the biggest advantage. He lands 3.44 takedowns per 15 minutes and even though Masvidal has solid takedown defense, we have seen him struggle to deal with wrestling pressure when he’s spammed with takedown attempts. This was most evident in the fight against Demian Maia. He attempted 12 takedowns, landing four of them and controlled Maia on the ground for most of the fight. Usman is a much stronger wrestler than Maia and I expect him to land at least a few takedowns if he applies his normal relentless pressure. This is what I believe is his best path to winning the fight and putting up a lofty DraftKings score.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision
Makwan Amirkhani ($8,600; -215) vs. Danny Henry ($7,600; +170)
Most of the fights on Saturday’s card are expected to go the distance. This is not one of those fights. It’s slotted at -177 to finish inside the distance, making it one of the fights most likely to end in a stoppage. This is one of the reasons I expect the winner to score well on DraftKings. In addition, both of these fighters have a history of scoring well in victories. Amirkhani has scored at least 85.5 DKFP in four of his five UFC wins and Henry has scored over 100 DKFP in each of his wins in the UFC.
As for the most likely outcome for this fight ending, I think it will likely be on the ground via submission. Both of these fighters are capable submission grapplers and Henry is typically willing to take chances on the mat. For this reason, three of his last four fights have ended in a submission and five of his last six fights have ended inside the distance. Henry has been on both the winning and losing ends of these finishes.
There is more reason to think this fight will end with a submission due to Amirkhani’s fight style. He’s a very aggressive wrestler, making this fight very likely to end up on the ground more often than not. Amirkhani lands 3.39 takedowns per 15 minutes and Henry doesn’t have the greatest takedown defense. The weakness to Amirkhani’s game is his cardio. He typically tires if he doesn’t get an early finish, as we saw in his last fight against Shane Burgos. After a great first round where he nearly earned a finish, Amirkhani gassed and was beaten up badly in the final two rounds. Especially due to the current training circumstances surrounding COVID, I doubt that Amirkhani can fight three hard round. For this reason, I think it’s either going to be Amirkhani by submission early or Henry takes over in the second and third rounds. Both warrant exposure in GPP and I’ll likely be close to a 50/50 split on these two fights. I lean slightly towards Amirkhani as my pick for the fight since I do think he has the better skills of the two fighters.
Prediction: Makwan Amirkhani by first round submission
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Karol Rosa ($9,200; -240) vs. Vanessa Melo ($7,000; +185)
Most likely, this fight is not going to end with a finish. It has a prop of -305 to go the distance, although that doesn’t necessarily scare me off this fight. The more I look at the metrics, the more I think the winner of this fight has a chance to score well on DraftKings.
In Rosa’s first UFC fight, she won a decision and scored 125.5 DKFP. She didn’t land any takedowns, and there was no groundwork, just a torrid rate of striking. Rosa landed 171 significant strikes in a three-round fight while her opponent, Lara Procopio, landed 165 significant strikes. On one hand, the stat keeper may have been feeling a bit generous that day. On the other hand, it’s really tough for me to ignore that kind of output. The fight started with the two ladies meeting in the middle of the octagon and throwing hands for 15 minutes without much of a break in the action. Since Melo absorbs 6.8 significant strikes per minute, I think there’s a chance we could see more of the same in this fight. The last time we saw Melo in a stand up affair that went the distance, Irene Aldana landed 125 significant strikes against her. Melo is extremely hittable.
The final reason I like this fight is that I doubt it’s going to carry much ownership. Since Rosa is priced around the the favorites in the title fights and a massive favorite in Amanda Ribas ($9,500), it stands to reason that Rosa will be lowest-owned of the most expensive tier of fighters. In massive GPP that pays $1M to first with almost half the prize pool going to the top lineup, it makes sense to take some shots on a fighter who will be low-owned with a chance for upside. Rosa is in a favorable matchup and scored 125.5 DKFP in her last bout. The upside should be apparent, but will likely go overlooked.
Prediction: Karol Rosa by unanimous decision
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