UFC Fight Night 80 kicks off the biggest fight week in UFC history on Thursday night in Las Vegas. The event is headlined by a five-round women's strawweight bout between Rose Namajunas and Paige VanZant. Below is our playbook for your daily fantasy line-ups, with our studs, value plays, and fighters to avoid.
Sage Northcutt ($11,300)
He is the biggest favorite on the card. He has the highest salary of the 24 fighters competing on the card. He has a ton of hype. He is only 19-years-old. He also happens to be our top play on this fight card. Sage Northcutt is looking for his seventh career win, and seventh win by stoppage. He put up massive points in his UFC debut at UFC 192. He has a soft opponent in Cody Pfister that looks to be a showcase for Northcutt. He is being put in a position to score an impressive win. Pfister has a lot of confidence and is showing a nothing to lose attitude, and that can be dangerous for Northcutt. However, Northcutt is primed to defeat the caliber of fighter that Pfister is. He will eventually have trouble, but, for now, you will want Northcutt in your line-ups.
Elias Theodorou ($10,700)
Elias Theodorou is another undefeated fighter looking to score an impressive win at UFC Fight Night 80. He has the fifth-highest salary, so using him will allow you to spend more on some good value. Theodorou has averaged 87.8 fantasy points in his UFC bouts, the second-highest of the 22 fighters who have had UFC bouts scored for fantasy. He has a tough opponent in Thiago Santos, but one that is primed for a win for Theodorou. Santos has been finished twice in his career and eats a lot of punches. Theodorou is going to be a very solid play in your line-ups.
Rose Namajunas ($9,200)
Rose Namajunas is interesting on this card. She is an underdog and has a reasonable salary. The discrepancy in salaries between her and Paige VanZant is very interesting, and it makes Namajunas a solid value play allowing you to spend up in your line-ups. She has slick submissions and a very solid striking game, but she won't be able to match the pressure and takedowns of VanZant. Her best bet is to catch VanZant on a takedown for a submission. It can happen, and honestly, the longer the fight goes, the more it may favor Namajunas. She is definitely worth a look at her salary.
John Howard ($8,500)
John Howard is also interesting on this card. He has a very low salary, especially for someone who has the power in his hands to end a fight at any moment. A lot of it has to do with having lost three straight fights prior to winning his last bout, and his opponent, Tim Means, being 6-2 in his last eight fights. Means is lanky and has good striking, but he can be rocked and finished. Howard has 15 stoppage wins, and when looking for some value, he is a fighter to really look at for your line-ups.
Santiago Ponzinibbio ($10,500)
Santiago Ponzinibbio is 20-3 in his MMA career and has scored eleven wins by knockout and six wins by submission. He has a decently high salary for UFC Fight Night 80, and most metrics point to him being someone you should use on your roster. However, I am avoiding him as I don't think he has been overly impressive in his UFC career. He is just 2-2 inside the Octagon, and he was dominated and finished in his last bout by Lorenz Larkin. His opponent, Andreas Stahl, is 9-1 in his career, but is coming off a very long layoff. Stahl has yet to be finished, and both men haven't shown the fire in the UFC. I'm avoiding both, but especially Ponzinibbio at his price.
Phillipe Nover ($9,000)
Phillipe Nover is in his second stint with the UFC, and he is coming off of his first UFC win in May in a split decision. He has won four straight fights, but he hasn't been overly impressive in doing so. He goes to a decision whether he wins or loses more often than not, and he has a tough opponent in Zubaira Tukhugov. Tukhugov hasn't fought in over 14 months, but he would actually be worth adding to your roster with his potential starting to show. Tough match-up, being one he is likely to be on the losing end of, means I'm keeping Nover away from my line-up.
RYAN FREDERICK: Sage Northcutt ($11,300), Aljamain Sterling ($11,000), Paige VanZant ($10,200), Andreas Stahl ($8,900), John Howard ($8,500)
I like Sage Northcutt the most to score a decisive first-round finish and maximize the most points on the card. He is a special fighter right now, and the match-up is perfect. Aljamain Sterling is also as close to a slam dunk win as there will be on the card, but he does have a tough fight against Johnny Eduardo. I think he gets a finish. While I have Rose Namajunas as a value play, I still see Paige VanZant scoring a lot of takedowns and significant strikes en route to a finish. Andreas Stahl and John Howard are sneaky plays at their prices with solid chances of scoring upsets, and they allowed me to spend big on the other three, hoping to score big.
PAUL FONTAINE: Sage Northcutt ($11,300), Aljamain Sterling ($11,000), Paige VanZant ($10,200), Kevin Casey ($8,800), Thiago Santos ($8,700)
It's the Paige and Sage show so no way I'm having a team without the two darlings of MMA. Seriously though Paige probably lands more strikes than anyone in any division and this could be a five round fight. She also should have a size advantage so as long her cardio doesn't become a problem, she could pepper Rose with punches for 25 minutes, perhaps scoring a late finish. Sage is a bulldozer and nothing about what I've seen thus far from Cody Pfister makes me think it will stop here. Should be a quick finish for Zack Morris 2.0. I'm taking chances with Santos and Casey but I like the chances. Santos has devastating KO power and will likely either get a quick win or be finished quickly, which could blow up in my face. I don't think that Theodorou has the power to stand with him so all he needs is one good shot and to avoid the takedown or cage clinch. Casey hasn't lost since his UFC debut (although he did have a result overturned). Carlos Junior is kind of a sloppy fighter and will likely either lose a decision or get knocked out. My final pick is an unbeaten fighter who I can't believe is buried in the prelims in Aljamain Sterling. 3-0 in the UFC and 11-0 overall, he's a virtual lock in my opinion and should score his 3rd straight finish here.
PEACH MACHINE: Aljamain Sterling ($11,000), Tim Means ($10,900), Jim Miller ($9,700), Rose Namajunas ($9,200), Phillipe Nover ($9,000)
I like Rose. I think Paige is going to crack under the pressure and Rose is more experienced. Miller is a bulldog and I've never been impressed with Chiesa. I expect Miller to get inside and make it a war, and Chiesa has experience being finished. Means did not look good in his last time out, but I expect him to rebound and use his reach to destroy the over matched Howard. Aljamain Sterling is primed for a big win and hopefully this fight gets on the PPV portion of the show. Nover is a grinder and while I personally don't like him, I think he'll win since he looked pretty good in UFC re-debut.
As you can tell, we all like Aljamain Sterling, and Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant get a good amount of play. Good luck to all playing!