Daily fantasy has taken over the sports world as you consistently see commercials for DraftKings and FanDuel all over your sports channels and sporting events. It has become a huge industry, and the UFC joined in earlier this year when they became a part of DraftKings. With nine months of events in the past, the UFC is here to stay on DraftKings, and there is some money to be made for those willing to participate.
While they do not have the number of games for play as the NFL or the MLB, DraftKings MMA still has plenty of fun to offer. With that being said, starting this week with UFC Fight Night 75, we will be taking a look at ways you could potentially earn some money, if you are willing to take the risk, and perhaps earn some big money.
Let's start with the basic rules for those who may be unfamiliar with how Draft Kings MMA works. Every fighter on the card is assigned a salary. They are generally coordinated with the current betting odds at the times the salaries are set. A huge favorite will have a large salary while a big underdog will not cost you as much. It involves a lot of risk and taking chances on fighters you may not be sure will actually win. You have a salary cap of $50,000, and your team is limited to five fighters. Generally speaking, depending on the salaries, you are usually able to fit two or three favorites onto your roster, but you will always have to take on two or three betting line underdogs.
The scoring system runs as follows: you get 0.5 points for a significant strike, 1 point for position advancement on the ground, 2 points for a takedown and a reversal/sweep on the ground, and 3 points for a knockdown. You also get points on how the fight ends. You earn 100 points for a first-round win, 75 points for a second-round win, 50 points for a third-round win, 40 points for a fourth-round and a fifth-round win, and 25 points for a decision win. With that system, you should be looking at filling your roster with fighters you expect to win early with a finish.
Every week, beginning with this week, we are going to give you a rundown of who I see as being studs to score you points, some value plays, and then some fighters I am going to avoid. Then, I will be joined by WrestlingObserver.com contributor Paul Fontaine, and occasional Bryan & Vinny show crasher PeachMachine as we give your our lineups that we will be using to make money as well as our thoughts into why exactly we went with the five fighters we did.
Diego Brandao ($10,600)
Diego Brandao has the sixth-highest salary on the UFC Fight Night 75 card, and he has perhaps the best chance to score a finish when he takes on Katsunori Kikuno. Kikuno has lost two of his four UFC bouts, and both of those losses have come by knockout in the first round. Brandao is a violent and dangerous fighter, and his only UFC losses have come to top featherweights. Kikuno has a weird style with the karate background, and Brandao can mentally implode at times. Brandao is coming off a big stoppage win over Jimy Hettes, and he is a finisher, having won 15 of his 19 bouts by finish. Finishes score you the big points, and with Kikuno's suspect chin and Brandao's aggressive nature, he has the chance to score you some big points.
Takeya Mizugaki ($10,500)
Takeya Mizugaki is coming into Saturday night's fight card on a two-fight losing streak, but he gets a favorable match-up against George Roop in his home country of Japan. Mizugaki is on a win streak when fighting in Japan, and is looking to bounce back in a big way. He is a big betting favorite over Roop, which should bode well for his chances. He can score points on a lot of takedowns, and his ground game is well above Roop. Roop has been stopped by strikes in his last three losses, and while Mizugaki isn't known as a big finisher, he can finish a weak opponent. Roop is a weak opponent. On a card where there might not be a lot of finishes, you should look for someone who has the chance to score the biggest going the distance. Mizugaki is that guy.
Roy Nelson ($8,600)
I'm actually a little surprised that Roy Nelson is available at his modest price. I was thinking about whether or not to put him as a value play as his recent record isn't all that good. Then again, all seven of his wins in the UFC have come by knockout, and he gets an opponent in Josh Barnett who is coming off a near two-year layoff. Barnett was finished in his last fight, and finished quickly by Travis Browne. You know that Nelson is going to be looking for the knockout, and while Barnett can avoid punches quite well, the right hand from Nelson is a difference maker. If you are stacking your team with overwhelming favorites, perhaps taking a flyer on Nelson scoring a finish could make the difference in winning.
Yusuke Kasuya ($8,500)
Yusuke Kasuya is an underdog and a value pick as he is making his UFC debut against a tough foe in Nick Hein. Kasuya has won nine fights in his career, all by stoppage, with seven finishes in the first round. Simply put, from a fantasy perspective, he gets the job done. However, Hein will give him a challenge. Hein has some good wrestling and his striking is improving, and he is well-rounded. Kasuya has a solid grappling and ground game, and if he can score a takedown, he is one who quickly looks for guard passes in looking for a submission. It is a risky play, but a very valuable one should you be looking for an underdog to hit big.
Gegard Mousasi ($11,300)
Gegard Mousasi has the highest salary of the twenty fighters on the card, and he is the biggest betting favorite. He is fighting Uriah Hall, a tough opponent, but one who is taking the fight on short notice. Mousasi can be an enigma. He can finish you fast, but he can also drag fights to the later rounds and squeak out an uneventful decision where not much happens. You can't really know whether to trust him putting up big points from a fantasy point-of-view. He may score you takedown points, but Hall has good takedown defense. Hall is the kind of opponent that will make Mousasi's striking attack more methodical over a constant barrage. You don't quite know what to get from Mousasi in this fight, so I would avoid him. He could put up big points, but at the salary he's at with the opponent he has, I'm not taking the risk. I do see him winning the fight though.
Katsunori Kikuno ($8,800)
I don't expect Katsunori Kikuno to get the win over Diego Brandao. He leaves too many openings, has a suspect chin, and his striking skills have seemed to diminish with each UFC bout. He doesn't have the same head movement, and his head is going to be a target for Brandao. I love Brandao as my top stud on this card, as noted above, which makes Kikuno the one fighter I'm staying away from. He is cheap, and Brandao can get in a wild brawl and lose his head, and Kikuno could definitely capitalize. I still see Brandao getting an early finish.
OUR LINEUPS --
RYAN FREDERICK: Kajan Johnson ($10,700), Diego Brandao ($10,600), Takeya Mizugaki ($10,500), Roy Nelson ($8,600), Yusuke Kasuya ($8,500)
I like Brandao, Mizugaki, Nelson and Kasuya for all of the reasons I stated above. I see Brandao and Mizugaki scoring finish wins early, and Kasuya being an underrated pick. Nelson has the big right hand that can end any fight. I also like Kajan Johnson against Naoyuki Kotani. Kotani is 0-4 in the UFC, and he has been finished in his last three Octagon appearances, and Johnson has scored 16 of his 20 professional wins by stoppage.
PAUL FONTAINE: Gegard Mousasi ($11,300), Diego Brandao ($10,600), Takeya Mizugaki ($10,500), Teruto Ishihara ($9,000). Roy Nelson ($8,600)
I like Nelson as the underdog here and I think he's good value. Barnett has his foot in too many waters these days and Nelson's power cannot be overlooked. Mizugaki is a finisher and even though he's a favorite, there are bonus points for finishes with Draft Kings. Same goes for Diego Brandao. Brandao in particular is facing someone that has suffered two first round knockouts in recent fights. Ishihara is more a bet against his opponent Mizuto Hirota, who has two UFC fights on his resume and lost them both. Ishihara is also 10 years younger. Mousasi is the most expensive pick but I have room for him and feel quite confident he'll finish the overmatched Uriah Hall in quick order.
PEACH MACHINE: Kyoji Horiguchi (11,000), Roy Nelson (8,600), Yusuke Kasuya (8,500), Kajan Johnson (10,700), Li Jingliang (10,300)
Horiguchi is my lock. I had the pleasure of training with Horiguchi in Guam. He's a masher. I picked him to beat DJ, and even though he got decimated, he was beaten by the best. Look for him to finish early. KO's score big points. I picked Nelson ecause I have no faith in Barnett. Bad KO's change a man, and his last fight was a bad KO. His future is in BJJ. Another KO win for big points. I saw Kasuya decimate Frank Camacho, a monster BJJ Brown Belt, in the PXC in Guam in his last fight. Frank is a monster brown belt at jits and he was subbed by Kasuya. I'm taking him by sub. Johnson trains at Tristar. Anyone under GSP has a good shot anytime he steps in the cage... Except for Francis Carmont coming off a 5 hour delay against Phil Davis. Jingliang is my sleeper pick. This will be a good match so I'm hoping for some high points due to a lot of strikes being thrown, if not the win. My remaining salary is $900. I'll wager all my extra money on the main event not going five rounds.