The biggest UFC show thus far in the year 2016 comes our way on Saturday night with UFC 196 taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event is the biggest star in the sport, UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor, as he moves up two weight classes to take on Nate Diaz in a short-notice situation. Also on the card is UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm defending her championship for the first time against Miesha Tate. Below are our studs, value plays and fighters to avoid when making your daily fantasy line-ups for Saturday night's event.
Conor McGregor ($11,000)
Conor McGregor is the biggest star in the sport of MMA right now and he is the top play this weekend in fantasy MMA. He has won 15 straight fights, and all but one of his seven wins inside the Octagon have come by finish. He won't have the distraction of a big weight cut this week, and he is fighting a short-notice replacement. Nate Diaz is good, but he hasn't had a camp. McGregor has shown amazing skills, and due to his mouth and how he presents himself, there are a lot of cases where fans just don't wanna give him the credit he deserves. This fight is a style fight that is great for him as Diaz is a slow volume striker. McGregor is light on his feet, has great footwork, is an excellent counterpuncher, and is a power striker. He says he is finishing Diaz inside the first round, and it is hard to argue against him with his track record. He is the top play this week. Use him in your line-ups.
Brandon Thatch ($10,900)
Brandon Thatch has struggled recently, dropping his last two fights. However, those losses came to Benson Henderson and Gunnar Nelson, who are top fighters. Before that, Thatch had won eleven of his twelve professional fights, and was a rising prospect. Now, he fights with his potential UFC future on the line. He gets a step back in fighting Siyar Bahadurzada, who is 1-2 inside the Octagon and hasn't fought since December 2013. Bahadurzada is a tough opponent, but he hasn't shown much that can convince me he will be a tough challenge for Thatch, and that is without factoring in the long layoff. Thatch has scored all of his wins by stoppage, and all in the first round. He is a big favorite and has a high salary, but he is an excellent play on Saturday night.
Gian Villante ($9,200)
Gian Villante is looking to score his second straight win after a brutal knockout win over Anthony Perosh in November. He definitely goes all out in his fights and the knockout is always prevelant in his bouts, whether he is on the winning or losing end. Villante has struggled to get a solid run going since coming over to the UFC, but he has a favorable bout in his hands on Saturday night. He is taking on Ilir Latifi, who is a knockout artist himself. However, Latifi struggles with heavy hitters, which is what Villante is. Latifi also fought just six weeks ago, so this is a quick turnaround even though he won in just 28 seconds. Villante is worth a look at his salary and a knockout win is always in the cards when he steps inside the Octagon.
Tom Lawlor ($8,800)
Tom Lawlor fights for the second time since making the move back up to 205 pounds when he takes on Corey Anderson, and it is a real mystery why he is such a big underdog, which makes his salary an interesting one for this card. Lawlor has won three of his last four fights, with the three wins coming by stoppage, and the loss to Francis Carmont was a fight that should have gone in his favor. Anderson has scored some good wins in the UFC, but hasn't had a finish in his last three wins, and Lawlor is the best fighter he has fought so far in the UFC. Lawlor has a strong wrestling game, good submissions and showed off his underrated knockout power in his finish of Gian Villante in his last fight. Best of all, he is cheap, and he is the best bet for an underdog win on Saturday. He has extremely solid value.
FIGHTERS TO AVOID
Valentina Shevchenko ($9,500)
Valentina Shevchenko had an impressive UFC debut, defeating Sarah Kaufman by split decision on very short notice. She is 12-1 in her MMA career and had a 56-2 record in her kickboxing career. However, she gets a huge step up in competition when she takes on Amanda Nunes on Saturday night. It may be too early in her UFC career for Shevchenko to be taking on a top-five opponent, and Nunes has shown to be a finisher. All of her wins have come by finish, but she has been finished in three of her four losses. Shevchenko is a live underdog, but it is going to be a tough match-up for her. I don't think she wins, which makes her a fighter to avoid on Saturday night.
Darren Elkins ($9,300)
Darren Elkins has been rotating wins-and-losses in his last six UFC bouts, a far cry from when he was on the brink of title contention having a five-fight win streak. History says he is set for a loss on Saturday night when he takes on Chas Skelly. Skelly himself is a quality fighter, with a 15-1 record in his career. Elkins is also known as a grinding fighter, preferring to take opponents down and smother them. He will have trouble doing that with Skelly, who is a strong wrestler himself. Elkins has also scored just one true stoppage in the UFC, and that was three years ago. His history makes him an easy fighter to avoid and he will have all sorts of trouble getting the win on Saturday.
RYAN FREDERICK- Conor McGregor ($11,000), Brandon Thatch ($10,900), Amanda Nunes ($9,900), Gian Villante ($9,200), Tom Lawlor ($8,800)
Everyone I have on my team has been mentioned in some form above. It is hard to bet against proven track records with finishers, and I feel all five of these fighters are going to score big finishes on Saturday. Conor McGregor has been nothing short of amazing in his UFC career, and the fight against Nate Diaz is favorable for him. Brandon Thatch has won all of his professional fights by finish in the first round, and his opponent hasn't fought in over two years. Amanda Nunes has also won all of her fights by stoppage, and she is on quite a tear inside the Octagon. Gian Villante and Tom Lawlor are big punches with exciting fights, and they fight opponents who have been finished in the past. I see all of them scoring stoppage wins on Saturday night in what should be a fun event.
PAUL FONTAINE- Julian Erosa ($10,500), Erick Silva ($10,300), Ilir Latifi ($10,200), Jim Miller ($10,000), Tom Lawlor ($8,800)
Erick Silva fights are usually quick and violent so the question is whether Silva will be the one to go down or the one to put someone out. I'm betting on the latter. Ilir Latifi is one of the strongest guys in his division outside of Rumble Johnson and I like him to put away Gian Villante early. Julian Erosa looked impressive on the most recent season of the The Ultimate Fighter and even better in his official UFC debut in December. He should continue that here. My lineup wouldn't be complete without our very own Tom Lawlor who I think is a steal at $8,800. My final pick is Jim Miller. His opponent Diego Sanchez, is tough to put away but will take a lot of shot from the tenacious Miller, earning me a lot of points.
PEACH MACHINE- Conor McGregor ($11,000), Brandon Thatch ($10,900), Gian Villante ($9,200), Tom Lawlor ($8,800), Miesha Tate ($8,600)
McGregor will murder Diaz. We will see the first Octagon death... I don't understand why everyone is favoring Holm wildly. I expect a long match with a lot of ground work where Tate comes out on top... Villante looked great before getting unexpectedly KO'd by Filthy Tom. I don't think ol stubby arms Latifi can snatch a win, or a purse (lol), from the hands of big Gian... I like Lawlor. I haven't been impressed by Anderson. He wins, but Lawlor fights FILTHY!... Thatch is going to rebound from his loss to Gunnar Nelson. He's on a two fight skid, but I'm predicting his turn around here.