Saturday’s UFC 277 card is headlined by a rematch between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Peña for the women’s bantamweight title. Peña won the title from Nunes in December in a stunning upset. Nunes closed as about a -1000 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook prior to the fight, which made Peña’s win one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.
The second title fight on the card is for the interim flyweight title. Champion Deiveson Figueiredo is sidelined with an injury, so Brandon Moreno will face Kai Kara-France in another rematch. Moreno won the first meeting by decision in December 2019.
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Stud To Pay Up For
Amanda Nunes ($9,200)
Entering the first fight, Nunes was widely considered to be the greatest women’s fighter in UFC history and closed as a massive -1000 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook. Nunes started out strong, winning the first round on all three of the judges’ scorecards. Nunes landed 22 of her 27 strike attempts, went 1-for-1 on takedown attempts and controlled Peña for 3:35 of the five-minute round. Nunes also sent Peña to the mat twice in the first round off strikes, including a calf kick early in the round.
The fight turned in Round 2 when Peña kept stinging Nunes with a jab, which stunned Nunes. In response, Nunes began chasing the knockout by swinging for the fences and took more damage while gassing out in a wild brawl, allowing Peña to take down and submit an exhausted Nunes.
Despite the shocking loss, Nunes still carries significant advantages over Peña in several key areas. For one, Nunes has a big power advantage. Nunes is among the hardest strikers in women’s MMA history and is only one strike away from landing a fight-altering blow. Nunes’ power advantage was on display in Round 1 after she sent Peña to the mat twice and controlled Peña for most of the round.
Peña has poor takedown defense on a rate basis, stopping just 22% of opponent takedown attempts, giving Nunes an avenue for takedowns and control time should she choose to grapple. In the first fight, Nunes easily converted her only takedown attempt and recorded 3:35 of control time off the takedown, including taking Peña’s back. Nunes is averaging a solid 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and has recorded as many as eight takedowns in a single fight.
A more measured approach where Nunes does not recklessly chase the knockout and conserves her gas tank could result in a bounce-back win. This fight is also five rounds, which potentially creates 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring if the fight goes the distance.
Sergei Pavlovich ($8,200)
By time-adjusted stats, Pavlovich is the highest volume striker on the slate, landing over six significant strikes per minute. Pavlovich also carries big finishing power. 12 of Pavlovich’s 15 career wins are by KO/TKO, including all three of his UFC wins. Pavlovich’s fast striking pace combined with his finishing ability has helped him produce strong fantasy scores, recording over 100 DraftKings fantasy points in each of his last three fights.
Pavlovich is facing Derrick Lewis, who has poor defense. Lewis has avoided just 41% of opponent significant strike attempts and has been finished by KO/TKO six times in his career, including twice in his last three fights. There is a good avenue for a KO/TKO win for Pavlovich given Lewis’ poor defense and tendency to be finished by strikes.
Kai Kara-France ($7,300)
Kara-France trains out of one of the best camps in the world, City Kickboxing, which features UFC champions Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski. Kara-France is a good striker who has appealing striking metrics, ranking second-best in the flyweight division in significant strikes landed per minute (4.84) and posting the division’s best striking differential (1.33). Kara-France also has good defensive metrics, avoiding 65% of opponent significant strike attempts, second-best in the flyweight division. Kara-France has better overall striking metrics than Moreno.
The first time Kara-France fought Moreno, the fight was competitive, and Kara-France had moments, including stunning Moreno with a strike in Round 1 behind Moreno’s ear that wobbled Moreno.
Since Kara-France vs. Moreno is a title fight, this fight is also five rounds, which potentially creates 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring. Kara-France winning a striking match over the course of five rounds is not an unrealistic outcome, and at the sixth cheapest salary on the slate, Kara-France is a salary relief consideration. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Kara-France to win by decision is the second most likely outcome of this fight.
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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