UFC 296 is taking place on Saturday from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and the card has had multiple fight-week changes. Ian Garry has pneumonia and was forced to withdraw from his fight against Vicente Luque. Randy Brown vs. Muslim Salikhov has also been taken off the card due to Brown getting sick.
The top end of the main card remains intact and features two title fights. The main event is a welterweight title fight between Leon Edwards and Colby Covington. The co-main event is a flyweight title fight between Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval. Rising English fighter Paddy Pimblett is also on the card against former interim champion Tony Ferguson.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 296 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $400,000 in total prizes, including $100,000 to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $400K UFC 296 Special [$100K to 1st].
Casey O’Neill ($8,700)
O’Neill has been an elite fantasy producer due to a massive blend of striking volume combined with grappling. O’Neill has recorded a monstrous 8.8 significant strikes landed per minute, the most on the slate. O’Neill is also averaging two takedowns per 15 minutes, which has helped her generate strong control time in three of her five UFC fights. As a result, O’Neill is averaging an elite 111 DraftKings fantasy points per fight, the highest on the slate.
O’Neill has a favorable matchup against Ariane Lipski. Lipski has absorbed more strikes than she has landed, which is a red flag in her metrics. O’Neill’s striking metrics are better than Lipski’s on a rate basis, including striking accuracy (55% to 39%) and striking defense (58% to 51%). O’Neill is also a solid favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook with a Moneyline of about -200, making her a relatively safe play with high fantasy scoring upside.
Colby Covington ($8,000)
Covington’s style is very fantasy-friendly due to his fast pace and heavy offensive grappling. Covington has strong cardio and can work a relentless pace, which allows him to constantly attack his opponents by blending his wrestling with distance and clinch strikes. Covington is an excellent wrestler who was an All-American in college, and his wrestling allows him to generate big takedown and control time numbers. Covington is averaging a heavy four takedowns per 15 minutes and has recorded 67 total takedowns, the fourth most among all active UFC fighters. Covington also ranks second among active welterweights in control time, third in control time percentage and has generated the fifth most control time among all active fighters on the UFC roster. Covington is good at hiding takedown attempts and timing his takedown attempts when his opponent is off-balance, which helps him get inside without getting hit clean.
Covington’s fast pace can also allow him to record plus striking volume, especially over a prolonged fight. Covington has landed 700 total significant strikes over his last six fights, which is adjusted to roughly five significant strikes per minute.
These factors have made Covington a huge fantasy scorer. Covington is averaging 107 DraftKings fantasy points per fight, the second most on the slate, and he has scored over 130 DKFP in each of his last four wins, peaking at 172 DKFP.
Covington has a clear path to victory against Leon Edwards, and it’s through using his cardio and offensive grappling to wear Edwards out and rack up enough points to win a decision. Covington is not a big finisher, as his control-heavy style combined with a lack of one-punch power generally makes him prone to going the distance. Six of Covington’s last seven wins are by decision, and seven of his last nine fights have gone the distance. Edwards is also very tough—Edwards has not been finished in 25 career fights. The combination of Edwards being tough to finish along with Covington’s style makes this fight a good candidate to go the full 25 minutes, which is notable because it potentially creates 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring.
Covington has a chance to generate a lot of control time and volume in this fight and carries some of the highest fantasy scoring upside on the slate.
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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.