If you were looking for an amazing way to spend your Saturday morning and early afternoon, UFC 254 is the answer. With the most anticipated fight of the year headlining the show, and a supporting card with some incredibly intriguing bouts, it’s easy to make the choice to stay in and leave the grocery shopping until Sunday. And if you’re planning to skip the prelims, I’d suggest sticking around because the brass stuck a couple of really good scraps in there too.
We’ve curated a list of fighters based on their stats, tendencies in fights and other factors that could help make your selection process a little easier when choosing your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Let’s take a look at those now.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 254 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $500K in guaranteed prizes, including $100K to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 11:00 a.m. ET on Saturday morning with the start of the prelims. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $500K 254 Special [$100K to 1st].
DraftKings Sportsbook will also be featuring bets that can be placed throughout the day for the duration of UFC 254. See all the available bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page or by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.
Justin Gaethje, $7,000
Gaethje’s skill set makes him a perfect fit for both the strikers and the knockout kings category, but I’m thinking at some point I will probably make a “most improved” category, which he would also fit perfectly into. Once upon a time, Gaethje was a brawling, defensively irresponsible fighter who abandoned caution and was willing to take nearly as much punishment as he was doling out. Once he reached the UFC, he began refining his game, working on his striking, his defense, his foot and head movement…you name it, he’s improved it. He’s always had excellent wrestling, especially defensively, and his style will certainly present challenges for Khabib Nurmagomedov ($9,200).
Gaethje is a volume striker in the truest sense of the phrase. He lands 7.74 strikes per minute, and while his stats say he absorbs 8.37 in that same minute, those numbers are a bit off-kilter, as the stats are only applicable to his UFC fights. The “Highlight” has 19 knockouts to his credit and even a submission, but the knockouts are the most important thing to factor in, as he has legitimate, one-punch, starch-your-collar power. Did I mention his kicks? He’s a wizard with those too and lands them frequently. He’ll have his work cut out for him with Nurmagomedov, but in my opinion, Gaethje is the most well-equipped fighter to dethrone him.
Da-Un Jung, $9,400
Jung is an orthodox volume striker with physical advantages in height (two inches) and reach (three inches) on his side. He has endless reserves of stamina and a willingness to get right in the center of the cage and trade. He lands at a rate of 6.59 strikes per minute, but as is the downfall of so many high-volume, pressure fighters, they often give up something defensively, and for Jung it comes in the form of absorbing 7.05 strikes in those 60 seconds.
Sam Alvey ($6,800) is primarily a counter-striker, but he seems a bit lazy with his output lately, and he tires out by the third round. Alvey is always dangerous and has a hammer, but too much headhunting and not enough activity have caused him to drop his last four fights. Da-Un has a very sturdy chin, so perhaps that fabled power won’t find its mark, or if it does, it may not have the intended effect.
Nathaniel Wood, $7,500
Nathaniel Wood is an orthodox volume striker who has a very well-rounded skill set. He lands at a respectable 5.52 strikes per minute while only absorbing 3.30 in the same time frame—a unicorn of sorts, in that most athletes landing at high rates also absorb pretty close or in some cases, more than they land. Nathaniel is also blessed with the hot hand and owns nine knockouts to illustrate that point. He’s also got some grappling chops, with five submission wins to his credit.
Casey Kenney ($8,700) is a very tough out. He’s a great striker, but has become quite a good wrestler, as well. The drawback to this very promising prospect is his gas tank, which has proven to be a bit shallow. Kenney might not possess the power that Wood does, but his wrestling is better, and his chin is likely the more durable of the two. I doubt it ends in a finish, and it is certainly either man’s fight to win. This is my early pick for fight of the night. Let’s hope it delivers the way we hope.
Justin Gaethje, $7,000
Alexander Volkov, $8,600
Alexander Volkov has some work to do to erase the sour taste from the mouths of fans all over the world after his last fight (against Curtis Blaydes). He was dominated for the majority of the fight, then managed to take away the last round from Blaydes. Hopefully, we get a better showing against Walt Harris, who isn’t the athlete that Blaydes is, but he has power and can shut down the power plant with one of his heat seekers. Fortunately, Volkov is a pretty intelligent fighter and makes the most of his long, rangy frame.
The Russian has 20 knockouts to his credit and is also a solid grinder, with the ability to make fights ugly and stifling. Volkov has very underrated defensive grappling as well, but his bread and butter is his technical striking. He’s not your traditional knockout artist, but rather a cumulative striker who ended up with many of his knockouts coming as a result of accumulation rather than a one-punch KO. Volkov is the favorite here and rightfully so. Harris’ cardio issues in the latter part of fights is also a known issue that swings the pendulum even more in the favor of Volkov.
Sam Alvey, $6,800
Alvey has 19 wins to his credit by way of knockout, thanks to a hammer left hand. At one time, Sam had put together a nice, four-fight run, but these days, he’s riding a four-fight losing streak. The 34-year-old has 47 fights under his belt dating back to 2008, and with that much time in the sport and with some of the wars he’s been in, the wear-and-tear is starting to show. He’s become less active and his stamina is not what it once was. But, when he lands one of those bombs, it’s lights out for whomever happens to be the unlucky one on the receiving end, and that alone makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone. It’s been nearly three years since he’s scored a knockout, so perhaps this weekend he’ll add a new one to his resume. Just don’t hold your breath.
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Stefan Struve, $8,300
Struve is a gargantuan 6’11’ orthodox grappling ace with 18 wins by submission on his resume. The 32-year-old has eight knockouts as well, including one over current champion, Stipe Miocic. Struve’s height and reach is a boon to his ground game, but in all his 15 years of fighting, he never really figured out how to make the most of all that range effectively, so his striking has frequently been at a deficit when he takes on talent of any consequence. His impressive ground game is another thing entirely, and his work off his back is to be commended.
Tai Tuivasa ($7,900) trained with Mark Hunt, but the similarity pretty much stops there, as Tai looks like he may have hit his ceiling with the win over Andrei Arlovski back in 2018. Against Struve, who will likely be able to get the fight to the ground where he can do his best work, he will be fighting an uphill battle quite literally. With nearly a year off, hopefully Struve will return to action rejuvenated and refreshed for a good fight.
Note: Struve has had issues with stamina in the past, which places him in our gas guzzlers category as well.
Joel Alvarez, $9,000
I would say Alvarez is a gigantic lightweight at 6’3”, but his opponent, Alexander Yakovlev ($7,200), is also 6’3” (according to UFC Stats), so now we have a real clash of titans in this bout. Joel is an orthodox grappler with 15 submission wins on his record, and a pair of knockouts for good measure, too. He has a budding striking game, not quite as polished as some, but he’s just 26 with plenty of room for growth. Alvarez is a very talented grappler and clearly knows how to use his lanky frame to his advantage.
Yakovlev is as tough as old leather but hasn’t been able to translate that into a win with any real consistency since 2013. As a matter of fact, since joining the UFC in 2014, Yakovlev has gone just 3-4. The thing that sticks with me about Yakovlev is that of his 10 losses, four were by submission, so there’s definitely a big window of opportunity for Alvarez. Another thing worth noting is this will be Alexander’s third fight since returning to lightweight. Alvarez has the wherewithal to beat Yakovlev, but it likely won’t be an easy fight.
Sam Alvey, $6,800
Walt Harris, $7,600
Stefan Struve, $8,300
Nathaniel Wood, $7,500
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is crooklyn949) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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