MMA DFS Preview and Picks: UFC Fight Night APEX

MMA guru Casey Olson provides his DFS preview to the latest installment of UFC's Fight Night from APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada
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After a quick week off, the UFC is back in Vegas after the Nevada State Athletic Commission approved the return of combat sports. With this approval, expect another string of fight cards between Las Vegas and the upcoming Fight Island venue. Do you know what this means? MMA DFS isn’t going anywhere, so get ready for the ride. As for Saturday, UFC has us set up with UFC Fight Night APEX, which is scheduled for 11 fights and will be broadcast on ESPN kicking off at 6 pm ET.

Fantasy players can play this week at Draftkings, Fanduel, and Superdraft, as collectively over $1.5 million and growing will be at grabs. Use this week as a warm-up as June 6th's event already has a millionaire-maker tournament up as well. Huge stuff on the horizon for MMA DFS. Let us take a look at this week.

SATURDAY 05/30/2020
BROADCAST: ESPN
VENUE: UFC APEX
LOCATION: Las Vegas, Nevada
MATCHES: 11

MAIN CARD

WELTERWEIGHT 170 LBS
#1 TYRON WOODLEY 19-4-1 VS #6 GILBERT BURNS 18-3

HEAVYWEIGHT 265 LBS
#12 BLAGOY IVANOV 18-3 VS #13 AUGUSTO SAKAI 14-1-1

CATCHWEIGHT 150 LBS
BILLY QUARANTILLO 13-2 VS SPIKE CARLYLE 9-1

LIGHTWEIGHT 155 LBS
ROOSEVELT ROBERT 9-1 VS BROK WEAVER 15-4

WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT 115 LBS
MACKENZIE DERN 7-1 VS HANNAH CIFERS 10-4

PRELIMS

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT 125 LBS
#2 KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN 13-3 VS #12 ANTONINA SHEVCHENKO 8-1

WELTERWEIGHT 170 LBS
DANIEL RODRIGUEZ 11-1 VS GABRIEL GREEN 9-2

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT 205 LBS
JAMAHAL HILL 7-0 VS KLIDSON ABREAU 15-4

FLYWEIGHT 125 LBS
#11 TIM ELLIOT 15-10-1 VS BRANDON ROYVAL 10-4

BANTAMWEIGHT 135 LBS
LOUIS SMOLKA 16-6 VS CASEY KENNEY 13-2-1

FEATHERWEIGHT BOUT 145 LBS
CHRIS GUTIERREZ 14-3-1 VS VINCE MORALES 9-4

STRATEGY

  • Choose active fighters. Coupling an active fighter on his or her way to a unanimous decision will give you critical points. Just like any other DFS traditional sport, you want the active, offensive player that scores. Key metrics here are SLpM and TD AVG/15min.
  • Play the heavyweights. The approximant overall finish rate in the UFC is 54%. Most of the weight divisions range from 40%-60%, while the heavyweights push a 75% finish rate. You will receive bonus points for finishes inside the distance.
  • Try always to include the main event or title fights. Five-round fights mean more time to rack up points if you pick the right fighter. In some cases, even if you have the loser, the points can be more than a three-round winner.
  • Don’t get excited and rush a pick based on stats, consider sample size. Some fighters have limited fights compared to their opponents when looking at metrics. Stats could be exaggerated. Do your research. Watch for spots with debuting fighters as well. Always check the records of the opponents they faced on their way to the UFC. Always pull fight tape as well. You’d be surprised at what you will find.
  • Review methods of victory. I supply the finish rates within this article, and as you dive in, you can compare the method of victory to the method of loss for the matchups. For example, you can find matchups where Fighter A has a high percentage of submission victories matched with Fighter B, with a high percentage of submission losses.

UFC APEX venue thoughts

A narrative for DFS players to consider going into his card is the UFC's decision to use its smaller, 25' octagon at the APEX, instead of the standard 30' cage. The use of the smaller octagon has historically increased fight finish rates, and shortened average fight times, due to the ability to create more action and engagement between the two fighters.

As mentioned in the tip sheet above, here’s my MMA DFS Heat Chart for UFC APEX. As you can see, the chart is ranked based on fight finish odds. Fight finishes are where the points are in MMA DFS. Take a glance at the stack, and we will break down the individual matchups below.

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Two key offensive metrics are strikes and takedowns. They get off on their opponents; watch your points rack up quickly. Here's my Offensive Output Meter for the card. With this chart, you can compare historical fighter averages in these two key metrics as I rank all fighters participating Saturday.

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Card Notes

  • Fighters who have probable odds on winning their fights inside the distance include:
    • Rodriguez -160
    • Dern -145
  • Fighters least likely to win via finish include:
    • Chookagian +800
    • Cifers +750
    • Weaver +685
    • Gutierrez +645
  • Fights with probable odds to not go to the decision:
    • Dern/Cifers -185
    • Quarantillo/Carlyle -175
    • Burns/Woodley -150
    • Elliott/Royval -110
  • Fighters with the highest percentage of their wins via finish:
    • Green 100%
    • Abreu 94%
    • Rodriguez 91%
    • Royval 90%
    • Carlyle 89%
    • Smolka 88%
  • Fighters with the lowest percentage of their wins via finish:
    • Chookagian 23%
    • Weaver 33%
    • Shevchenko 38%
    • Hill 43%
    • Kenney 46%

Lineup Recommendations

  • Remember, the smaller cage is being used. Fighters that typically press the action, land takedowns, and/or high finish rates matched up against those that get finished, roster. (see my charts above)
  • Take a look at the main event obviously with the five rounds and higher probability for a finish. I like WOODLEY.
  • The script is set up for DERN to win via finish here.
  • The salary wasn’t edited on DraftKings for Daniel Rodriguez. Green is taking the fight against him on four days' notice. Rodriguez has a 91% finish rate, while Green, win or lose, has never seen the final bell. RODRIGUEZ will be high owned.
  • Kenney vs. Smolka will be all over the place. Smolka has been known to get himself into dangerous positions for him to sneak a sub. I expect multiple takedowns in this one with these two and the small octagon in play. KENNEY is priced high but may hit value.
  • Although Hill should win, ABREU is a sneaky play. Hill can’t stop a takedown. Darko Stosic took him down six times back in January. Abreu has the skillset to do the same, but he must avoid the reach and striking advantage Hill brings, and control from the top as long as possible, once he gets this one down. Punt play.
  • As noted in the betting article, ROYVAL is a live dog. Love his price point.
  • MORALES vs. GUTIEREZ fight will have a ton of action. Expect some points in this one to kick off the night, in a fight that may not be highly owned.
  • Two top tier fighters recommended are DERN and WOODLEY.
  • Two value plays recommended are RODRIGUEZ and ROYVAL.

Good luck! I hope to see some of you cashing after Saturday night!