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UFC 291 Picks: Top DraftKings DFS Fantasy MMA Targets, Values for UFC 291

Tim Finnegan gives UFC 291 picks for Saturday’s DraftKings UFC slate.

UFC Fight Night Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

UFC 291 is taking place on Saturday from Salt Lake City, Utah, and the main event is technically a non-title bout between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. While there is no official UFC title on the line, the winner of the fight will be given the “BMF” belt. The BMF belt is a celebratory title that is short for “baddest motherf****r”. Jorge Masvidal last won the BMF belt after beating Nate Diaz in November 2019.

The co-main event is a light heavyweight bout between former UFC champions Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira. This is Pereira’s first fight at light heavyweight as he moves up from middleweight. After this fight was booked, UFC light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill ruptured his Achilles tendon playing basketball and vacated the title, so the winner of this fight could be next in line for a title shot.

DraftKings is hosting a huge UFC 291 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $750,000 in total prizes, including $200,000 to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $750K UFC 291 Special [$200K to 1st].


Miranda Maverick ($9,400)

At about -300 on DraftKings Sportsbook, Maverick is one of the biggest favorites on the card for her matchup against Priscila Cachoeira. Cachoeira has absorbed a colossal amount of strikes, absorbing nearly eight significant strikes per minute, one of the highest marks in the UFC. Cachoeira’s striking defense is also poor on a rate basis, avoiding only 46% of opponent significant strike attempts. Cachoeira’s tendency to absorb a lot of strikes puts Maverick in a good position to rack up striking volume.

Maverick, who is averaging over two takedowns per 15 minutes, also has a pathway to generate fantasy scoring through takedowns and control time. Cachoeira’s takedown defense is not strong, stopping 65% of opponent takedown attempts.

Maverick is positioned well to record a high fantasy score with a blend of striking volume, takedowns and control time in a fight she is expected to win.

Dustin Poirier ($8,300)

Poirier and Justin Gaethje fought previously back in 2018, with Poirier finishing Gaethje via strikes in the fourth round. In that fight, Poirier out-struck Gaethje 174 to 115 in significant strikes landed and finished with 111 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP). Gaethje had success attacking Poirier’s legs with low kicks, but Poirier was far more successful landing strikes to the head, which tends to impact the judges more than strikes to the body. 81% of Poirier’s significant strikes landed were to the head, compared to only 48% for Gaethje.

Poirier is the better technical fighter between the two, as Gaethje tends to fall into wild brawls that cause him to absorb a massive amount of strikes. Gaethje has absorbed nearly eight significant strikes per minute, which is one of the highest marks you’ll see by any top UFC contender. Poirier will be in a good position to take advantage of Gaethje’s reckless style in the rematch and win this fight on the back of plus striking volume. This fight is also the only five-round fight on the card, which potentially creates 10 extra minutes to generate fantasy scoring.

Value Plays

Alex Pereira ($8,000)

Pereira is one of the best strikers in the sport and has arguably the greatest left hook in the history of MMA. Pereira’s elite striking is also very diverse, and he attacks his opponents everywhere, from calf kicks to high kicks to a stinging jab to a power right hand to his signature left hook. As a result, Pereira’s striking volume is plus, landing over five significant strikes per minute, which can fuel solid fantasy scoring.

The main issue for Pereira will be if he can keep this fight standing so he can utilize his elite distance striking. In 2021, Pereira’s rival, Israel Adesanya, moved up to light heavyweight to face then-champion Jan Blachowicz in an attempt to become a two-division champion. Adesanya was unable to deal with Blachowicz’s size advantage, and Blachowicz took over in the later rounds with takedowns and top control to win a decision. Blachowicz took Adesanya down in each of the final three rounds and recorded over seven minutes of control time in the final 15 minutes of the fight.

If Blachowicz is going to beat Pereira, it will likely be via a similar strategy, because Pereira is very similar to Adesanya in terms of skill and style. However, the major difference between Pereira and Adesanya is that Pereira is naturally much larger and will be coming into this fight significantly heavier than Adesanya did when he moved up to light heavyweight. Adesanya weighed only 200.5 pounds for his fight against Blachowicz, and after Blachowicz was able to re-hydrate post weigh-ins, he weighed around 220 pounds, giving him about a 20-pound weight advantage over Adesanya. Pereira was monstrously large for middleweight and reportedly weighs around 230 pounds as he prepares for UFC 291, so it appears that Pereira will enter the octagon against Blachowicz as the larger fighter.

Pereira has been taken down before, most notably in his fights against Andreas Michailidis and Bruno Silva, where Michailidis and Silva both took Pereira down twice. However, Pereira was able to keep his back off the mat and quickly get to his feet, which kept him out of danger on the ground and allowed him to return to his distance striking game. This fight is also taking place at altitude in Salt Lake City, which can affect the cardio of fighters. Relentlessly hunting takedowns can be exhausting, and it’s possible Blachowicz’s gas tank is kept in check enough to keep Pereira upright, especially the longer the fight goes on.

Pereira will have a significant edge in distance striking against Blachowicz as long as he can keep this fight standing. Blachowicz is also an orthodox fighter, which is notable because his lead defensive shoulder is on the opposite side of Pereira’s left hand, which could make him vulnerable to that left hook at some point during the fight.

Michael Chiesa ($7,800)

Chiesa has a winnable matchup against Kevin Holland, who has notoriously poor takedown defense. Holland has stopped just 50% of opponent takedown attempts and lacks strong scrambling to get back to his feet when he does get taken down.

Chiesa is averaging over three takedowns per 15 minutes, a strong rate, and is capable of recording large amounts of control time. Chiesa leads all active UFC welterweights in control time percentage at roughly 55%, ahead of elite wrestlers such as Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Chiesa also ranks first among all active welterweights in top position percentage at about 46%, another good sign that Chiesa will be able to control Holland on the ground and keep him there.

Holland’s poor defensive wrestling could create opportunities for Chiesa to record takedowns and control time on his way to a win.

Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: UFC $750K UFC 291 Special [$200K to 1st]

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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.