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UFC 253 Picks: Top DraftKings DFS Fantasy MMA Targets, Values for September 26

Stephie Haynes gives her top picks and predictions for the UFC 253 DraftKings slate that takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 26.

UFC 253 is heading back to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, and the change in scenery will be welcome. Sure, it will be another nearly empty arena, but we’ll still get those breathtaking shots of all the UAE hotels around the venue on Yas Island. At the top of the main card is one of the best matched, most intriguing fights of the year—Israel Adesanya defending his title against the mega formidable Paulo Costa. Directly under that is the contest for the vacant light heavyweight title between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz. And supporting these two title bouts is a compelling bout sheet of great fights from top to bottom.

Let’s take a look at which fighters are worth their lofty DraftKings price tags and which are unbeatable values. The lineups you build for your DraftKings fantasy teams should begin here.

DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 253 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $500K in guaranteed prizes, including $100K to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 7:00 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $500K 253 Special [$100K to 1st].

You can also place UFC bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page or by downloading the DK Sportsbook app.


Dominick Reyes, $9,000

Dominick Reyes is a long, rangy light heavyweight who fights from the Southpaw stance. His head kicks are lethal, and he is equally dangerous with his hands. A low-end volume striker, Dom lands 4.88 strikes per minute and absorbs only 3.0 in that same stretch. His takedown defense is also rock solid at 82% which should serve him well if Blachowicz decides he wants this fight on the ground. Reyes boasts two more inches in height and is seven years more youthful than Jan, and despite visibly slowing down in the last couple rounds of the Jon Jones fight, his cardio was never really sapped and he appeared to draw upon a small second wind in the final round of the fight. He didn’t win the round, but he appeared more revived than in round four, and landed some great body shots in that final stanza. Blachowicz is, by no means, an easy fight for Reyes, but this is definitely Dom’s fight to lose.

Ketlen Vieira, $8,800

Ketlen Vieira is a much more well-rounded fighter than Julia Avila, making this a significantly more challenging task for Sijara Eubanks. For starters, Ketlen will have a considerable size advantage which she will wield with great success, as she has done with all her opponents except Irene Aldana. She’s a diverse striker, an excellent grappler and she has a good gas tank. Eubanks has proven that she can dig deep to pull out a win after taking extensive leather, but Vieira is markedly better than any opponent she’s faced so far. Both women stack up well with each other, making the choice between them even more difficult, but Vieira is the more pragmatic pick here.

Jake Matthews, $9,400

Jake Matthews is the logical choice in this contest—full stop. Does Diego Sanchez have a path to victory? Of course he does. It’s the fight game, and anything can happen. That said, nearly all the advantages lie with young Jake—from youth to speed, power and durability. Sanchez does still possess formidable grappling, but that also happens to be Matthews’ wheelhouse, so if it goes to the ground, we might get treated to some interesting scrambles and exchanges. The elder statesman may demonstrate some craftiness here, as young Jake has been susceptible in the past to some questionable decision-making, but then we have to take into consideration that Diego abandoned his formal training and fight team and now is exclusively under the watchful eye of Joshua Fabia, a man who just last week was training his students how to repel knife attacks…by using a real knife. Because knife attacks are now in the unified rules? All told, this really is Matthews’ fight to lose.

New DraftKings Sportsbook users can get a risk-free bet up to $500! Get your first bet matched instantly up to $500. New users can also get 100/1 odds on the UFC 253 main event. See the DraftKings Sportsbook Promotions page for more info.

Get a 50% Profit Boost to bet with for UFC 253! See the DraftKings Sportsbook Promotions page for more info.


Paulo Costa, $7,700

Paulo Costa is not a shoe-in to win this fight. He has the tools to get the job done, but the matchmakers really took their task to heart when they booked this contest. Costa has an impressive work rate, throwing bona fide heaters from every direction. From hooks to uppercuts, sturdy high kicks and nasty knees, “Borrachinha” is a whirlwind of constant, blinding movement. Adesanya, by contrast, is a composed, measured kickboxer who does his best work from range. A gifted counter striker, Izzy can be corralled and pinned against the cage for body work, something Costa does very well in close quarters. When pressured, Adesanya is a willing brawler, but can be overwhelmed, as Kelvin Gastelum demonstrated in round four of their fight. If anyone at middleweight can dethrone the king, Paulo Costa is the man to do it.

Brandon Royval, $7,300

Brandon Royval is a steal at $7,300. Kai Kara-France is an excellent opponent, but the gap in pricing could see thrifty contestants in the win column by selecting the Colorado grappler in his sophomore effort. Back in May, we saw Royval take on seasoned veteran Tim Elliott, scoring a round-two arm triangle in his promotional debut. Royval is a very low-volume striker, averaging just 2.05 strikes per minute, but his ground stats are certainly encouraging, with 1.81 takedowns per 15-minute fight, with submission attempts coming in at 3.6 for those same 15 minutes. This is probably the most important factor for Brandon, as Kara-France is not a super savvy grappler. He has good takedown defense, but once he’s down, he can be controlled. The big question is whether Royval can get it done. I say he has a very good chance of scoring the upset.

Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $500K 253 Special [$100K to 1st].

Place your UFC bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page or by downloading the DK Sportsbook app.

Get a 50% Profit Boost to bet with for UFC 253! See the DraftKings Sportsbook Promotions page for more info.

Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.

For sports betting, head over to DraftKings Sportsbook or download the DK Sportsbook app.

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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