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UFC 289 Picks: Top DraftKings DFS Fantasy MMA Targets, Values for UFC 289

Tim Finnegan gives UFC 289 picks for Saturday’s DraftKings UFC slate.

UFC 289 is taking place on Saturday from Vancouver, Canada, and the main event is a women’s bantamweight title bout between champion Amanda Nunes and challenger Irene Aldana. Nunes was originally scheduled to face Julianna Peña in a trilogy fight, but Peña was forced to withdraw from the fight, which resulted in Aldana entering as the replacement.

The co-main event is a lightweight bout between former champion Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush. The winner of this fight is a strong candidate to enter the lightweight title picture and potentially become the next challenger for the title.

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Amanda Nunes ($9,500)

Nunes bounced back from a shocking upset loss to Julianna Peña to win the title back from Peña in her most recent fight. In the first Peña fight, Nunes struggled badly with a dipping jab from Peña, which stunned Nunes. In response, Nunes began chasing the knockout by swinging for the fences and took more damage while gassing out, allowing Peña to take down and submit an exhausted Nunes.

In the rematch, Nunes countered Peña’s dipping jab by switching to a southpaw stance, which allowed Nunes to check and smother Peña’s lead hand, shutting down her jab. Nunes then used her advantages in power and offensive grappling to rack up a massive 153 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) in the win after recording three knockdowns, six takedowns, 13 minutes of control time and 126 total strikes.

This is the type of fantasy upside Nunes can carry in almost any matchup. Nunes is one of the most talented fighters in the history of women’s MMA and was widely considered to be the greatest women’s fighter in UFC history heading into her first fight against Peña. Nunes is highly capable of blending power striking with offensive grappling to produce big fantasy scores. Nunes is among the hardest strikers in women’s MMA history and has solid grappling statistics on a rate basis, averaging almost three takedowns per 15 minutes with a control time percentage of 36%. Nunes has also logged the second-most control time in the history of the women’s bantamweight division.

Nunes’ opponent, Irene Aldana, has absorbed more strikes than she has landed, which is a red flag in her metrics. Aldana has absorbed nearly six significant strikes per minute, which is an elevated rate. Absorbing a lot of strikes against a fighter who hits as hard as Nunes does is not a recipe for success.

As over a -300 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, Nunes is one of the biggest favorites on the slate, which makes her a safe play with high upside. This fight is also five rounds, which potentially creates 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring if the fight goes the distance.

Value Play

Charles Oliveira ($7,600)

Oliveira has only lost one fight since December 2017, going 11-1 with 10 finishes over that stretch. The only fight Oliveira lost was against reigning lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, who is one of the top fighters in the sport and is currently ranked third in the pound-for-pound rankings. Oliveira finished several elite fighters during his winning streak, including Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler, who all rank in the top five in the UFC lightweight rankings.

Oliveira holds the record for most finishes in UFC history with 19 and has finished about 90% of his UFC wins. Oliveira also holds the record for most wins via submission in UFC history with 16. Oliveira is a BJJ black belt and uses his jiu jitsu for potent offense, actively hunting submissions during his fights, even when he has his opponent hurt from strikes. Oliveira’s dangerous bottom game generally makes opponents hesitant to take the fight to the ground, which can give Oliveira margin for error when clipped with a strike, as some opponents allow Oliveira to stand back up, which gives Oliveira time to recover.

Oliveira has also developed good striking. Oliveira showcased his striking progression in his title fight win over Michael Chandler—Oliveira landed a beautiful left hook that stunned Chandler and set up the finishing combination to win the title.

Oliveira’s opponent, Beneil Dariush, has not faced the same degree of competition that Oliveira has faced, which gives Oliveira a tougher strength of schedule. Dariush has also been finished multiple times. All four of Dariush’s career losses are finishes, including three via KO/TKO. Two of these finishes were brutal knockouts where Dariush was out cold, so there is an avenue for a finish by strikes if Oliveira connects on the button.

This fight is probably closer than the DraftKings DFS salaries indicate, and as the seventh cheapest fighter on the slate at $7,600, Oliveira is worth consideration as a salary relief play.

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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.