UFC 286 is taking place on Saturday from London, England, and the event is headlined by a trilogy fight between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight title. Since the event is being held in London, the DraftKings fantasy UFC slate has an earlier lock time than normal, with contests set to lock at 1:00 p.m. ET, roughly five hours earlier than usual. Be sure to submit lineups before the 1:00 p.m. ET lock time on Saturday.
DraftKings is hosting a huge UFC 286 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $700,000 in total prizes, including $150,000 to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $700K UFC 286 Special [$150K to 1st].
Kamaru Usman ($8,900)
Usman has traditionally been a big fantasy producer on the back of an elite mix of grappling and striking. Usman ranks third among all active UFC fighters in control time, eighth in takedowns landed, and fourth in total strikes landed. Usman also rarely loses—he is 15-1 in UFC fights and fell just one win short of tying Anderson Silva for the longest win streak in UFC history. As a result, Usman is averaging an elite 120 DraftKings fantasy points per fight.
The caveat to Usman’s record is that he lost his most recent fight to his opponent, Leon Edwards, via devastating head kick knockout. The knockout was set up brilliantly by Edwards. Edwards, who was standing southpaw, had noticed that Usman was exiting his head towards Edwards’ left after parrying when Edwards threw his left straight. To gain clearance to land the head kick, Edwards threw a left hand down the middle, and as Usman reached to parry with his hands, Edwards followed up with a left high kick that Usman ducked his head directly into, producing one of the most shocking knockouts in UFC history.
However, there’s reason to believe Usman will rebound and produce a strong fantasy score in this matchup. For one, Edwards’ head kick was a last-minute shot with one minute left in the fight, and Usman was on the verge of cruising to a decision win that would have netted him about 130 DraftKings fantasy points. Usman’s volume was strong in the fight, recording nearly 12 minutes of control time along with five takedowns and 189 total strikes landed. Had Usman fought safer in the final rounds with more close-distance fighting and clinching rather than staying at distance, he likely would have wrapped up a decision win.
In about eight rounds head-to-head, Usman has won the majority of them, and being more aggressive with his smothering offensive grappling can give Usman a safe way to protect a lead this time around. Usman is also expected to win, which is reflected in his moneyline of about -250 on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Usman’s fantasy ceiling is explosive because his style generally fits the DraftKings fantasy scoring criteria like a glove. Usman has scored as many as 195 DKFP in a single fight and has scored under 100 DKFP just three times in 16 UFC fights. Since this is a five-round title fight, there are also potentially 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring.
Muhammad Mokaev ($9,700)
At about -850 on the moneyline, Mokaev is easily the biggest favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook for this slate. Mokaev is a 22-year-old phenom who is generating buzz as a potential future champion in the UFC’s flyweight division. Mokaev only has three UFC fights, but he was a strong fantasy scorer in each of those fights on the back of a quick finish along with heavy offensive grappling volume.
Mokaev won his UFC debut in under a minute and racked up a titanic 13 minutes of control time in 15 minutes in his second UFC fight after converting 12 takedowns. Mokaev had another big fantasy scoring performance in his most recent fight due to large grappling volume, recording 10 minutes of control time and six takedowns. Mokaev has recorded at least 120 DraftKings fantasy points in each of his three UFC fights.
Mokaev’s opponent, Jafel Filho, is making his UFC PPV debut, and his only UFC experience is on Dana White’s Contender Series where he absorbed more strikes than he landed in his only fight. Mokaev’s heavy moneyline of about -850 makes him a very safe fantasy play in a fight that he is widely expected to win.
Casey O’Neill ($8,500)
O’Neill has been an elite fantasy producer on the back of a massive blend of striking and grappling. O’Neill has recorded a monstrous 8.65 significant strikes landed per minute, the most on the slate. O’Neill is also averaging just under three takedowns per 15 minutes, which has helped her generate strong control time in three of her four UFC fights. As a result, O’Neill is averaging an elite 126 DraftKings fantasy points per fight, the highest on the slate.
O’Neill has a good matchup against Jennifer Maia. Maia has absorbed more strikes than she has landed, which is a red flag in her metrics. Maia also does not have strong takedown defense, stopping just 55% of opponent takedown attempts. O’Neill is in an excellent position to produce another high fantasy score through a mixture of strikes landed and offensive grappling.
Justin Gaethje ($7,400)
Gaethje is one of the highest-volume strikers in the UFC, landing about 7.5 significant strikes per minute. Because Gaethje throws so much striking volume, he routinely produces strong fantasy scores when he wins, averaging about 105 DraftKings fantasy points per win. The issue with Gaethje is that he is reckless with his striking and absorbs just as much as he delivers. Gaethje is absorbing just under eight significant strikes per minute, which is massive.
However, on a rate basis, Gaethje actually has better striking defense than his opponent, Rafael Fiziev. Gaethje has avoided 55% of opponent significant strike attempts, compared to 50% for Fiziev. Fiziev’s striking metrics are also subpar, as Fiziev has absorbed slightly more strikes than he has landed. Fiziev has absorbed just under five significant strikes per minute.
Fiziev absorbing elevated striking volume combined with Gaethje’s incredibly fast striking pace gives Gaethje fantasy scoring upside in this matchup. Gaethje’s strength of schedule has also been stronger than Fiziev’s, as Gaethje’s losses are to former champions such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez.
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.