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UFC 257 Picks: Top DraftKings DFS Fantasy MMA Targets, Values for January 23

Stephie Haynes gives her top picks and predictions for the UFC 257 DraftKings slate that takes place at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 23.

UFC 257 is finally here after a whirlwind week of three events. Headlined by the Number 1 contender pairing of Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, the main event winner should end up either facing Khabib Nurmagomedov (looking more and more unlikely as he reiterated just yesterday that he wasn’t coming back), or fighting another contender for the vacant belt. This rematch has been six-plus years in the making, and the closer it gets to these two entering the octagon, the more fans are getting whipped into a fever pitch of excitement.

The show has lots of other great fights as well. The surging Amanda Ribas will be taking on Marina Rodriguez in a fight that will see the winner get a little closer to title contention. And we cannot ignore the co-main event which will feature the debut of former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler as he takes on super tough New Zealander Dan Hooker. You could close your eyes and throw a dart at this bout sheet and no matter where that dart lands, you’re pretty much guaranteed a fun fight.

We’ve selected four fighters from the event that will illustrate why they are worthy of their lofty or budget-conscious price tags in an effort to help you select your DraftKings fantasy lineups. Let’s get started.


DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 257 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $1 million in guaranteed prizes, including $200K to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $1M 257 Special [$200K to 1st].

DraftKings Sportsbook will also be featuring UFC bets that can be placed for UFC 257. Place your UFC bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page and bet online by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.


TARGETS

Dan Hooker, $8,500

Dan Hooker is a switch stance striker hailing from New Zealand’s City Kickboxing fight team. Head coach Eugene Bareman has been sharpening iron with iron, training the likes of Israel Adesanya, Alexander Volkanovski, Kai Kara-France, Shane Young, and Brad Riddell along with Hooker. “The Hangman” had an understated run at featherweight, but couldn’t find his way into title contention, so he made the jump to lightweight, and was immediately the better for it. He became a more effective striker, more aggressive, throwing heavy volume and finding purchase with big shots. His four-fight run after moving to lightweight even included a win over welterweight title contender, Gilbert Burns. Alas, all good things must be spoilt by loss at some point, and for Dan, it came in the form of Edson Barboza. To his credit, he almost survived the entire fight, but those body shots were absolute mayhem, and he eventually crumpled.

He rebounded with a trio of wins over top 15 talent (James Vick, Al Iaquinta, Paul Felder), before meeting and losing to Dustin Poirier. His breakout performance was against Al Iaquinta. He picked apart “Raging Al” in a masterclass performance punctuated by effective striking and brilliant clinch work. His knees in the clinch are a thing of beauty, and a weapon that could find easy purchase on his opponent, Michael Chandler, a decorated wrestler and former Bellator lightweight champion.

Chandler has fought some tough opposition, of that, there is no question. But outside a select few, namely Eddie Alvarez, Will Brooks and Patricio Freire, he hasn’t fought at the same level Hooker has. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a chance, because he certainly does, but his deficits fit perfectly with Hooker’s strengths, namely that Hooker has a marvelous range striking game that may foil takedown attempts, and those nasty knees up the middle are just dying to greet anxious chins diving for a takedown. I know Hooker may be approaching his ceiling, but I like him for the win in this contest.

Amanda Ribas, $9,200

Amanda Ribas has been such a treat to watch. Her arrival in the UFC saw immediate success with wins over Emily Whitmire and Mackenzie Dern in 2019 and she followed that up with another pair of wins over Randa Markos and Paige VanZant in 2020. She’s a hyper-aggressive submission specialist who is always looking for the finish. As an added bonus, she’s got great striking that looks better with every outing. She’s a very strong athlete, too, and she bullies her opposition relentlessly in her pursuit for a finish.

Her opponent, Marina Rodriguez is an excellent striker—better than Amanda—with a strong Muay Thai base. She’s defensively sound, as well, taking very little damage in exchanges. The problem with Marina is two-fold: she has terrible takedown defense and she has faulty cardio. Her issues with strong wrestlers have been present since her majority draw against Randa Markos, and were again evident in fights with Cynthia Calvillo and Carla Esparza. Deficiencies like those are going to play right into Ribas’ hands. Amanda has crispy, crunchy boxing that should be effective enough to set up her takedowns. Even if a submission isn’t in the cards, Ribas is deservedly the favorite here. I don’t know if I like how wide the gulf is in the prices, but she’s definitely my pick.


McGregor to win, boosted to +100!

Double your money if Conor McGregor gets the win at UFC 257! See the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page for more details!


VALUES

Dustin Poirier, $7,100

What do you get when you pair a guy who’s deadly in the first two rounds with a guy who’s incredibly durable, has a near-legendary second wind, and is known for cranking up the volume to 11 in the last half of the fight? Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier is what you get. This rematch has been a long time coming, and the differences in both men since the first fight aren’t as stark as one might think. Conor is still a powerhouse counter-striker with a lethal left. Poirier is still able to be lured into a brawl—although he is much more disciplined these days. Poirier has found durability and strength since moving back to 155. He’s not going in depleted after a rough weight cut these days. He trains for endurance, to weather the storm. He trains for the long haul. That’s not to say he isn’t a finisher, because 12 knockouts and seven submissions would indicate otherwise. However, he very smartly makes sure his stamina reserves are in order, and it’s served him well.

Dustin has a monumental task in Conor McGregor because just as Conor’s weak cardio will be beneficial to him in the latter rounds, Mac’s heat-seeker left could be his undoing in the first round. This is not going to be easy. While Dustin isn’t exactly a cold starter, he is willing to take quite a bit of damage in the early goings in the hopes of wearing out his opponents in the last half of the fight. That’s a big risk against someone with that kind of power, but again, I must defer to the new & improved Poirier, even if the danger from the first fight is still presenting in this one. Once again, I’m making a bold pick, but at this price, I’d be crazy not to. That, and full disclosure, I’m just a huge Poirier stan.

Julianna Pena, $8,000

Julianna Pena might be coming off a loss to Germaine de Randamie, but it is worth noting how good she looked in that fight. She’s a powerhouse wrestler, although not on the level that her opponent, Sara McMann is on, and she uses that wrestling to get her opponents down where she mauls them with extremely effective ground-and-pound. That’s her modus operandi and you can almost set your clock by it.

McMann is an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, but her wrestling hasn’t been as well-adapted to MMA as one might hope. When she meets opposition able to keep her on the back foot, she flounders, because her striking is a glaring weak spot in her overall game. She has also found herself on the wrong end of a submission when facing stronger opponents that aren’t able to be overwhelmed by her strength. As a matter of fact, she has back-to-back submission losses to Ketlen Vieira and Marion Reneau. Her lone win since that pair of losses is over Lina Lansberg in a lopsided victory that looked like Lansberg was fighting underwater.

The pricing on this fight is razor close, and it should be. Both women have strong wrestling bases with striking that leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m riding with Pena for the win based off her strength, better use of her wrestling, slightly better striking and her endless aggression. Pena looks like she comes into the octagon with a chip on her shoulder every fight. I’m thinking that combination makes for another W for the “Venezuelan Vixen.”

Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $1M 257 Special [$200K to 1st].

Place your UFC bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page and bet online by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.


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