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MMA DFS Strategy – Everything You Need to Know

I realize some of you may be seasoned DFS players and some beginners, and that’s totally cool. This free strategy guide is meant to get us on a more even playing field and set you up for success moving forward.

MMA DFS is perhaps the most fun sport to play in the daily fantasy industry. The “sweat” of watching your fighter land a knockout blow is unmatched in terms of the entertainment value and the adrenaline rush that it provides. But more importantly, the barrier of entry in playing MMA DFS is much smaller than the bigger sports such as NFL, NBA and MLB. 

In other words, it would be very difficult to give someone a crash course on any of those sports and expect them to be a profitable player overnight. But MMA is different; it is a niche sport that can be taught relatively quickly. I believe you can take someone who knows next to nothing about the sport and turn them into a +EV player in a short amount of time. Today, we begin that journey.

For starters, you need to understand how MMA DFS is scored. 

DraftKings Scoring                                     

FanDuel Scoring

What this means

So right off the bat, we could see that based on the scoring, we want fighters who will finish their fights early so we can capitalize on the win bonuses because that is where most of the points come from. Additionally, because of the high value of takedowns on both sites, we know that wrestling-based fighters who fight at a high pace should score well because they are likely to land multiple takedowns. The last main portion of the scoring metrics would be the significant strikes landed by fighters. 

Each strike is not worth much, but it is easy to see that we want to target fighters who land more strikes. A way to do this is by looking up their significant strikes landed per 15 minutes, which is a statistic tracked on the UFC website. Obviously, each matchup is different and important, but it gives you a baseline of how many strikes that fighter lands on average over the course of 15 minutes. 

There are other ways to score points such as reversals or landing a knockdown, but these are usually high-variance and more difficult to predict, so we will stick with the basics for now. 

To take it one step further, DraftKings points per minute for every UFC fighter is available here on FightNumbers.com for free. This should give you a good idea for which fighters have a high or low baseline of expected points excluding other factors like knockdowns, reversals and win bonuses.

The last thing you should know when it comes to scoring is that the main event fight is five rounds as opposed to typical three-round fights. Sometimes you will see a co-main event that is five rounds as well but this is usually only if they are fighting for a championship belt.

In order to fill out a lineup for MMA DFS, you must pick six fighters without going over the $50,000 salary cap. The goal is to pick six fighters who win. If you pick six winners, then you will likely cash every contest you play in (depending on field size).

But in tournaments, you not only need six winners but, in most cases, you will need around 100 points from each fighter to have a shot at winning the tournament. Every slate is different and sometimes you need more, sometimes you do not need as much to get there – all depends on how that slate plays out. That is why it is critical to be able to identify which fighter(s) and which fight(s) will score well. There are multiple resources out there that can assist you in doing just that. 

Vegas Odds

Vegas odds are important in every DFS sport, but they are critical when it comes to MMA. They will tell you which fighter is the favorite, how big of a favorite and how much the market agrees with it based on any line movement. More importantly, you will see the line on fights to end in a decision or not. For example, if a fight is (-400) not to go to decision then we know that the market feels strongly that the fight will end with a finish. This helps us identify which fighters have a better chance of earning an early win bonus for our lineups. 

Additionally, once the props are released, you can see each fighter’s “inside the distance” line, which indicates how likely the market thinks they are to finish their fight inside the distance — or in other words, before the final bell. So, while the first line tells us how likely the market views a fight to end in a finish, the inside distance line will tell us how likely the market thinks the individual fighter is to finish. Using these two lines cohesively will give you an idea of who to target for your fantasy lineups but also which fights to possibly take a shot on the underdog in. 

You can find these lines on most sportsbooks, but I recommend using fightodds.io which lists multiple books and the props for each of them all in one place. 

Ownership Projections

Like the Vegas odds, I weigh ownership much more in niche sports like MMA and PGA as opposed to the bigger sports. This is because MMA is one of the highest-variance sports out there. (When you have two people punching each other inside of a cage, anything can happen.) Although it does not happen often, it’s possible to have a (-500) favorite go out there and lose; that happens far less often in the bigger sports. 

By using the Vegas odds to identify which fighters and fights are likely to end with a finish, you should know that those fighters are going to be more popular in DFS. In some cases, it makes sense to take the most popular fighter and “eat the chalk,” but you can also get massive leverage by taking the other side which is a strategy that I typically try to use as often as possible. In fact, I have had some of my biggest wins by simply fading the most popular fighter on a given night.

For example, when someone like Amanda Nunes was fighting, you should probably just play her nearly every time. She has one of the safest floors, because she gets five rounds if she needs it but also because she is a strong finisher and lands takedowns as well. She is usually a large favorite, but just because she will be very popular does not always mean it’s a good idea to fade or take the other side. 

On the flip side of that, there are situations where the favorite gets overvalued by the market and we see massive ownership in DFS. Using our Amanda Nunes example above, she was one of the most popular fighters on the slate at UFC 269 and was submitted in the second round by Julianna Pena which was one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. So yeah, crazy stuff does happen in MMA and the goal is to get paid off in a big way when it does.

Where to find good MMA DFS Projections?

Fortunately, with a new subscription to FightNumbers, we now have access to FightPickSim which is an advanced DraftKings projection, simulation and optimization tool based on your picks. This tools will not just provide you with top of the line projections but it will also give you an optimal lineup percentage based on how many times the fighters appeared in the optimal lineup. I highly recommend using this tool every week. It is fairly easy to understand once you get the hang of it and you can watch me use it myself every week on the DraftKings Deep Dive show which is also included in your subscription.

I bring up FightPickSim because it plays a big role in identifying which fighters are not showing up on the optimal lineup very much despite having a high ownership projection. These fighters are likely solid candidates to fade for that week.

But none of this works without accurate ownership projections and I am happy to report that FightNumbers ownership projections are among the best in the industry. I personally update them every week on Thursday and make adjustments as needed right until lineups lock on Saturday. I used to give these away for free until people started telling me how much more accurate they were than the rest of the industry so I decided to lock it down just for subscribers.

Putting it all together

Instead of shying away from the volatility in MMA DFS, you should embrace it. Rather than trying to pick every winner, just focus on picking the fights where we expect the winner to score well. 

I always recommend playing multiple lineups in MMA DFS. That does not mean you have to max every tournament, but it does make the game more enjoyable when you have more than one team going. If you only play one lineup then your night is basically over as soon as one of your fighters loses. You also can be a +EV player and not even realize it with playing just one lineup each week as it could take hundreds of slates for you to realize your edge.

When you have multiple lineups, you can take stances on fighters that you feel confident in but also take chances on fighters that are riskier, but in the fights that we expect to score well. For example, each week I try to identify a core of fighters that I like to win and to score well and then I’m basically rotating in the riskier fighters that I am less confident in around that core, while trying to get as much leverage as possible without sacrificing projection or upside.

For a fight you think scores well but you don’t have a strong lean on who wins, it makes sense to play one fighter on six of your lineups and the other fighter on the other four lineups, across 10 teams. By doing this, you know that you will have the winner of a fight that scores well (assuming your initial analysis is correct). 

If you were right about your core, then you know you will have a few live lineups that have a chance to win when the night is coming to an end. At that point, you just need variance to go your way. But if you put enough shots on goal, it’s only a matter of time before you score.

Now let’s get to work.

PS. To get access to exclusive tools like FightPickSim and additional DraftKings content and resources like fighter rankings, ownership projections and exclusive discord access, Subscribe!

BONUS VIDEO

Hey guys, a couple years ago, I did a full MMA DFS strategy video which is designed to take any player from square one and help them become a successful MMA DFS player moving forward. This video details the tools and resources that I feel are most important when it comes to this sport and how we can use that data to our advantage. I also talk about the strategy that I use for my own roster construction and explain how easy it is to implement into your strategy. While the video is a few years old, some of the strategy and insights are still applicable in today’s game.