Saturday’s UFC 273 event is loaded and features two title fights at the top of the card. In the main event, Alexander Volkanovski is facing “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung for the UFC featherweight title. Volkanovski is coming off a win over Brian Ortega, which featured one of the greatest rounds in UFC history.
The co-main event is a rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan for the UFC bantamweight title. Sterling won the title from Yan in March 2021 in controversial fashion. Yan was ahead on the scorecards and appeared in line to take a decision win, but Sterling absorbed an illegal strike late in Round 4, which rendered him unable to continue. Due to the illegal strike, Sterling was declared the winner, and the title changed hands.
Super prospect Khamzat Chimaev is also on the card, taking on former title challenger Gilbert Burns. Chimaev is one of the best UFC prospects ever and has taken the sport by storm.
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Studs to Pay Up For
Khamzat Chimaev ($9,400)
Chimaev is one of the most exciting prospects the UFC has ever seen, and as a result, he is a gigantic favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, carrying a moneyline of about -550.
Chimaev has unbelievable metrics through four UFC fights. Chimaev is landing just under nine significant strikes per minute, an extremely fast striking pace, and has absorbed just one total significant strike in four UFC fights. To repeat: Chimaev has absorbed just one total significant strike in four UFC fights. This gives Chimaev an incredible significant strikes landed to absorbed ratio of 112:1.
Part of the reason Chimaev has not absorbed any strikes is because of his monstrous offensive wrestling, thoroughly and brutally dominating his opponents with eye-popping strength and pace. Opponents are unable to throw strikes at Chimaev because they are too busy fighting for their lives against Chimaev’s offensive grappling. In Chimaev’s most recent fight against Li Jingliang, he so easily ragdolled Jingliang with a bodylock that Chimaev decided to yell at UFC president Dana White while he was holding Jingliang in the air.
This type of thorough physical dominance is incredibly rare in the UFC. Chimaev is averaging a heavy 4.65 takedowns per 15 minutes and has registered about 12 total minutes of control time in about 13 total minutes of octagon time, giving him a control time percentage of over 90%, which is crazy.
All of these factors have made Chimaev an explosive fantasy scorer. Chimaev is averaging 122 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) per fight, the highest on the slate.
Chimaev is facing former title challenger Gilbert Burns, who is a huge step up in competition. Burns is a world champion in jiu jitsu, so it will be very difficult for Chimaev to submit Burns or advance to positions on the ground that would make a finish easy. Instead, it is much more likely that Chimaev will win this fight either by knockout or decision. Chimaev has showcased one-punch knockout power, most notably in his win over Gerald Meerschaert, and Burns is coming off a recent knockout loss to Kamaru Usman. A decision win is also a realistic outcome—if Chimaev can record takedowns but cannot advance to strong positions to help him finish the fight, we could see Chimaev win a decision on points. This could help Chimaev record fantasy volume through takedowns, close-distance striking volume and control time.
As a -550 favorite, Chimaev is one of the safest fighters on the slate and also carries huge fantasy-scoring upside.
Alexander Volkanovski ($9,500)
Like Khamzat Chimaev, Volkanovski is a huge favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, sitting at about -700 on the moneyline, which is one of the steepest moneylines you’ll see in a men’s title fight. Volkanovski being such a massive favorite makes him an incredibly safe fantasy play, and like Chimaev, Volkanovski also has fantasy scoring upside.
Volkanovski is landing about 6.5 significant strikes per minute, which is excellent striking volume. His strikes landed to absorbed ratio is close to 2:1. which is also excellent. Volkanovski is also prone to going to decision, which is notable given his main event status. Volkanovski’s fight is five rounds long, which gives him potentially 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy volume. Volkanovski is averaging a strong 108 DKFP per fight and is coming off a 136 DKFP performance against Brian Ortega. In that fight, Volkanovski pulverized Ortega with a massive 214 total significant strikes to fuel the strong fantasy scoring.
Volkanovski is facing Chan Sung Jung, who is tough and durable—hence his nickname “The Korean Zombie”. Between these two fighters, their last six fights combined have gone to decision. A fight between two very tough fighters at a lighter weight class is a recipe for a long fight, and Volkanovski is in a good position to accumulate fantasy volume over 25 minutes in a fight he is highly likely to win.
Tecia Torres ($8,000)
Torres is facing jiu jitsu world champion Mackenzie Dern. Dern is an elite grappler once the fight hits the mat, but she lacks strong offensive wrestling to get the fight to the ground where she can utilize her biggest strength. Dern has converted just 10% of her takedown attempts, a very poor rate. Dern is also averaging just 0.54 takedowns per 15 minutes, which is also poor.
While Dern’s striking has improved a lot since her MMA debut, Torres still holds the advantage in the striking department, and if Dern cannot get this fight to the ground, Torres should be in a good position to win. Torres has blazing fast hands and will be primed to outstrike Dern on the feet where she can generate a solid fantasy score on the back of plus striking volume.
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Aljamain Sterling ($6,900)
Sterling has the nice salary for his rematch with Petr Yan. The popular public opinion is that Yan was dominating the first fight before getting unlucky with a disqualification late in Round 4. This has contributed to Sterling being a large +360 underdog on DraftKings Sportsbook for this fight. Sterling’s nice $6,900 salary is also the third cheapest on the entire slate.
Despite the lopsided betting odds and big gap in DFS pricing, Sterling’s first fight against Yan was closer than the mainstream tends to acknowledge. Sterling actually outlanded Yan in total significant strikes in the fight, 97 to 86. Sterling is longer than Yan, carrying about a four-inch reach advantage, and Sterling had success from distance, particularly with bodywork off kicks. Sterling outlanded Yan 79 to 64 in distance strikes and was able to connect with a hard flying knee in Round 1 that Yan ate.
Yan is the better fighter and more likely to win, so Sterling is a risky fantasy play, but the huge gap in betting odds and DFS pricing is probably too wide. This makes Sterling an option as a lower-owned salary relief play in tournaments.
All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests. The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups.
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