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UFC 251 Fight Card Picks: Top DraftKings DFS Fantasy MMA Targets, Values

Stephie Haynes gives her top picks and targets for the UFC 251 fantasy MMA DraftKings DFS slate that takes place at 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 11.

At 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 11, UFC 251 brings forth one of the biggest and best cards of the year. With three title fights, and tons of “Fight Island” marketing, this event has the undivided attention of not only the MMA community, but sports fans in general. The thirteen-fight bout sheet is filled with a multitude of compelling, intriguing fights, even with the late replacements in a few of the contests. To use the words of the young folks, this show is going to be lit. The action gets underway at 6:00 p.m. ET on July 11.


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STUDS

Kamaru Usman ($8,900)

Usman is the favorite in this fight for a few reasons, first and foremost his incredible wrestling base. Kamaru isn’t just a good wrestler, he’s a powerful one, and he’s adapted his wrestling to fit his overall MMA skillset better than 95% of fighters on the roster. He has a ferocious blast double, absolutely smothering top game and a high work rate. He scrambles well and manages to get favorable positions and keep them.

He’s one of the few wrestlers/grapplers that hasn’t abandoned his fundamental skill in favor of evolving striking. When we ended up getting a mostly stand-up fight in the Colby Covington bout, it was because he had little respect for Covington’s boxing. Covington is a volume striker but packs very little power. Usman weighed the particulars carefully and felt the best route to go was to keep the fight standing rather than take risks with Colby’s excellent wrestling—a move that proved to be the intelligent choice and netted him the victory. When wrestling is warranted, Kamaru definitely uses it advantageously. He is a cerebral, intelligent athlete with high fight IQ.

And speaking of his striking, it has come a long, long way. He uses a very effective jab with quite a bit of pop on it and has flashes of power that are being seen with more frequency. In the Covington fight, he landed several blows that really did some damage and slowed Colby down considerably. He also goes to the body and puts in lots of rib and liver tenderizers there, a tool that more fighters should embrace.

Finally, we should note the near endless stamina that Usman possesses. He stays fresh from start to finish, managing his cardio very well. In the instances when he takes brief moments of respite, he still strives to stay active enough to win rounds. All in all, there’s very little to take issue with in “The Nigerian Nightmare’s” skillset.


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Alexander Volkanovski ($9,100)

Volkanovski is a powerhouse that employed an incredibly intelligent game plan when he fought Max Holloway the first time. His forward pressure and distance management was key in being able to stay inside, where he could tear up Max’s legs with powerful kicks and work his body over with solid volume striking. It may not have been a complete decimation, but it was a solid, dominant victory that saw clear-cut rounds determining the outcome in his favor. There wasn’t much controversy to the decision save for the contrarians that were dead set on awarding the victory to longtime fan favorite Holloway.

Volkanovski is a former rugby player built like a brick house. He’s short, stocky and nearly immovable. As a result of the height disparity he had when facing Holloway, he immediately moved to get into the phone booth to start working the legs and body, a smart plan for any fighter, size disparity or not. He landed 75 leg kicks in the first bout and will likely maneuver himself to be able to put in similar leg work early this time around, as well.

Alexander was very effective with his kickboxing and countering combos, frequently catching Max while he was being pressured backward. Lots of those counters went unanswered, and if Volk can once again get a quick start, especially since Max takes a bit to get warmed up, he can neutralize him early and put a pace on him that will make it difficult to recover from. Volkanovski has very good cardio for such a stocky, muscular athlete, and seems to be better suited to 145-pounds than Holloway is currently. Max has experienced difficulties making weight in the past and as he ages, he might find himself better suited for lightweight, especially if he loses this rematch.


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VALUES

Jorge Masvidal ($7,300)

Masvidal has had a tremendous career arc that is nothing short of incredible. He’s gone from being a solid, but almost middling fighter who lost several close decisions—some of which he arguably should’ve won—to being a fast-paced, entertainment juggernaut. He’s been setting records, putting in fast food orders with his fists and winning belts specifically denoting what a bad man he is.

Jorge has always had great boxing, of that there is no question. The problem was that he was sometimes a slow starter and allowed his opponents to dictate the pace and distance. He fights well off his back foot, but when you’re being walked down, judges often take note of who is moving forward more so than who is landing the cleaner shots and award their points thusly.

That is no longer the case these days. For the last few years, Masvidal has gotten off to a quicker start, and maintained forward momentum, clearly taking into consideration what most judges are looking for. His always great boxing is even better now, as evidenced by his masterful performances against Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone.

“Gamebred” also has a very durable chin, as Darren Till landed a very clean shot that dropped him in the first round of their fight. It was a flash knockdown, and Jorge bounced back up immediately, landing a hammer of his own. In that fight, Masvidal showed very good instincts and used a level change to fake a takedown, but instead popped up to land a few quick shots. When Till got him up against the cage and was landing big punches, Jorge never panicked and ended up coming back to stun Darren with a couple bombs before the horn. By the time the second round rolled around, Masvidal had tasted the best Till had to offer and made the necessary adjustments.

One of those adjustments was to follow through on a level change and get Till down and take his back. Jorge has very underrated grappling, and although it’s nowhere near as effective as Usman’s, it could be enough to mount some defense when needed.

The real jewel in the crown for Jorge Masvidal is the power he packs in that left. When he connects clean, it is lights out. And make no mistake, Jorge isn’t taking any chances. He immediately goes for the conclusive finish with devastating follow-up shots. He’s also just as effective with his knees (hello, Ben Askren) and body and head kicks.

In short, Masvidal turned a corner in his career and has become a very well-rounded, complete fighter. He certainly has the tools to upset the three-to-one favorite Usman, making him an absolutely stellar value pick.


Max Holloway ($7,100)

RED ALERT! Max Holloway is a steal at this price! I know Alexander Volkanovski decisively won their last fight, but Holloway did much better in rounds four and five, once he got Alex figured out, for the most part. While I do maintain that Volkanovki clearly deserved the victory, I also believe that Holloway was fairing much better in those last rounds, making me think that if there were one more, he might’ve been able to keep his belt. Now that Max has an idea of what to expect, he could very well make the proper adjustments to make this his fight to lose.

The first and foremost thing he must do is check the leg kicks. Switching stances frequently (especially staying away from the orthodox stance), employing better footwork and using long range kicks to dictate the distance and pace are keys to nullifying Volkanovski’s stifling pressure game.

Uppercuts and body work were positively lethal to Volk’s excellent cardio, and in round four, Max utilized those weapons very well. If he could get those realized earlier in the fight, he could sap Alexander’s stamina much sooner. Volkanovski is also susceptible to short knees inside the clinch, as he leans in with his head way low when he throws those big overhands, so use of those could find valuable purchase.

Cardio will be king in this fight. Both men have loads of it, but in Abu Dhabi, where the temperatures will be soaring above 100 by the time they take the octagon, especially since the arena is a giant tent, gas tanks will surely be put to the test. All week long, the temps have been blazingly hot and the humidity has also been significant, adding to the cloistering, oppressive heat. If Max has worked toward establishing his combos and body work early, in addition to be able to withstand the pace and heat, he has an excellent chance to regain his title.

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UFC 251 - 50% Profit Boosts: The UFC is heading to Fight Island and we want to give you two (2) 50% Profit Boosts for UFC 251! Access the profit boosts here at the DraftKings Sportsbook promo page! (opt-in required)


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is crooklyn949) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.

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