UFC 266 takes place on Saturday, and the event will be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. In the main event, Alexander Volkanovski is defending the UFC featherweight title against Brian Ortega. This fight was originally scheduled for UFC 260 but had to be postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Volkanovski and Ortega coached against each other in the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter.
In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko is defending the women’s flyweight title against Lauren Murphy. Shevchenko has laid waste to the women’s flyweight division, winning seven consecutive fights since returning to flyweight, including six title fights.
Nick Diaz is also making his UFC return in a rematch against Robbie Lawler. Diaz and Lawler previously fought 17 years ago all the way back at UFC 47 in 2004. Diaz, who has not fought since 2015, is one of the biggest stars of his era and his rematch against Lawler is highly anticipated. Diaz won the first fight by KO/TKO in an entertaining striking match.
- Alexander Volkanovski (-170) vs. Brian Ortega (+150)
- Valentina Shevchenko (-1500) vs. Lauren Murphy (+850)
- Nick Diaz (+115) vs. Robbie Lawler (-135)
- Curtis Blaydes (-310) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+245)
- Jessica Andrade (-265) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (+215)
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 266 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $700K in total prizes, including $150,000 to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $700K 266 Special [$150K to 1st].
Jairzinho Rozenstruik ($7,000)
Rozenstruik (+245) enters his fight against Curtis Blaydes (-310) as a substantial underdog on DraftKings Sportsbook. Blaydes trains out of a good camp at Elevation Fight Team and his only UFC losses are to fighters who currently rank in the top five at heavyweight—champion Francis Ngannou and recent interim title challenger Derrick Lewis.
Blaydes has strong wrestling and has racked up massive takedown volume. Blaydes is averaging nearly seven takedowns per 15 minutes and holds the record for the most total takedowns landed in the history of the heavyweight division. Blaydes also holds the heavyweight record for time spent in top position, which makes sense given his heavy takedown volume. Because Blaydes spends so much time in top position, he does not absorb many significant strikes, as it is difficult to land significant strikes from bottom position on the ground. Blaydes has absorbed under two significant strikes per minute, an excellent number. All of these factors have contributed to Blaydes being a substantial betting favorite for this fight.
However, there is a legitimate path to victory for Rozenstruik in this matchup. Blaydes is coming off a devastating KO loss to Derrick Lewis, where Lewis was waiting for a Blaydes level change and had a counter shot loaded when Blaydes shot in for a takedown. Lewis landed flush on an incoming Blaydes and put Blaydes out cold in one of the most vicious knockouts of the year.
Rozenstruik’s fighting style is not that dissimilar—he is a patient counter striker who has a lot of punching power. Rozenstruik’s strength is his kickboxing, and he will have the advantage on the feet in this matchup. It’s entirely possible Rozenstruik catches Blaydes with a power shot and ends the fight with a knockout, especially considering Blaydes has been hurt by strikes on the feet before. Blaydes has been stopped by strikes in each of his last two UFC losses, and Mark Hunt had Blaydes badly hurt on the feet before a Blaydes takedown allowed him to recover.
All six of Rozenstruik’s UFC wins are by KO/TKO, and Rozenstruik has the power striking to finish Blaydes on the feet. Rozenstruik’s only two losses have been to the most elite fighters in the division—heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane. As the fourth cheapest fighter on the slate at $7,000, Rozenstruik is worth considering as a salary relief play in a matchup that is probably closer than the salaries indicate.
Nick Diaz ($7,900)
Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler first fought in 2004 at UFC 47, which feels like a different stratosphere. At the time of their first fight, the UFC had still not really hit the mainstream, and both Diaz and Lawler were in their early 20s. Now, both Diaz and Lawler are nearing 40. Diaz has not fought since 2015, and because Diaz has been out for so long, there’s some uncertainty as to how he will look.
Traditionally, Diaz is a volume striker who does not load up for huge power shots, but is relentless with pressure and is excellent at working the body. Diaz’s bodywork saps opponents of their wind and opens up shots to the head. Diaz has high-level jiu jitsu and does not fear being taken down due to his excellent guard and grappling. Diaz has good length and is strong at managing distance on the feet, which he used effectively against Lawler in their first fight. Vintage Diaz also has excellent cardio and a strong chin. Diaz has not been stopped by strikes since 2002, which was just his fifth pro fight.
At $7,900, Diaz is an appealing value play because he is in a good position to beat Lawler again, and when Diaz wins, he usually scores a lot of fantasy points on the back of solid volume. Diaz is averaging 119 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) per fight in his last seven wins. Lawler has slowed down considerably and is on a four-fight losing streak. Lawler has absorbed more strikes than he has landed, and this has been especially true in his most recent fights. Lawler also struggled with Diaz’s length in their first fight and Diaz was able to tag Lawler several times from range.
This is also a five-round fight despite it being a non-title fight, which potentially creates 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring. For this reason, getting exposure to Brian Ortega ($7,600) could also result in value in the $7K range, as Ortega’s fight with Volkanovski is also five rounds.
DraftKings Sportsbook Favorite to Build Around: Valentina Shevchenko ($9,500)
Shevchenko is a titanic favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, carrying an obscene moneyline of -1500. Shevchenko has left a trail of destruction in the women’s flyweight division and has won seven straight fights, including six title fights. Shevchenko is incredibly well-rounded, carrying the advantage basically everywhere against every opponent she faces at flyweight.
Shevchenko’s only two UFC losses are to Amanda Nunes, who is widely regarded as the greatest women’s MMA fighter ever, and those two fights took place at bantamweight, a heavier weight class.
Shevchenko’s opponent, Lauren Murphy, has absorbed more strikes than she has landed, posting a negative strikes landed to absorbed ratio. This is always a big red flag. Murphy has been outlanded by her opponents in three of her last four fights. This could set Shevchenko up for a big striking advantage and lead to a knockout. Shevchenko has finished three of her last five fights by KO/TKO, and betting Shevchenko to win by KO/TKO (-120) on DraftKings Sportsbook can be a way to get the moneyline down from -1500 to a much more reasonable -120.
Because Shevchenko is such a massive favorite, she is easily the safest fighter to build DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups around. Shevchenko has scored over 130 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) in each of her last two fights and has peaked at 160 DKFP. Shevchenko has the safest floor on the slate and also carries a high ceiling.
Merab Dvalishvili ($8,900)
Dvalishvili’s volume-heavy fighting style has made him a strong fantasy scorer. Dvalishvili racks up a ton of takedown volume and can generate plus control time when he gets the fight to the ground, two factors that aid his fantasy scoring. Dvalishvili is averaging an elite seven takedowns per 15 minutes and has recorded double-digit takedowns in three of his eight UFC fights. Dvalishvili also throws plus striking volume, landing about four significant strikes per minute. His strikes landed to absorbed ratio is also strong, absorbing only about two significant strikes per minute.
Dvalishvili is facing Marlon Moraes in a favorable matchup. Moraes has absorbed more strikes than he has landed, which is a red flag. Moraes has also stopped 66% of opponent takedown attempts, which isn’t the greatest rate. At -260, Dvalishvili is a solid moneyline favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook and carries fantasy upside. Dvalishvili has scored over 120 DKFP in four of his last six fights and has one of the best average fantasy scores on the slate.
Seven of Dvalishvili’s eight UFC fights have gone the distance, and all of his UFC wins are by decision, so Dvalishvili by decision (-110) and Fight to go the distance: Yes (-190) are bets that can be considered. Dvalishvili’s fighting style makes him prone to going the distance, as he is a grinder who wears opponents out over a period of time.
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