This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
It may not be happening under the best of circumstances, but FanDuel has at long last found its way to the MMA realm. The site already has a wide array of contests posted for Saturday's UFC Brasilia card, and with President Dana White saying that the company will continue putting on events despite the threat of the coronavirus, now may be a good time to introduce the wider DFS-playing public to MMA. In this article, we will discuss the quirks of the FanDuel scoring system, as well as some strategies that can be used to maximize our point totals before concluding with a few general notes on the game itself.
1. Format/Scoring System
As with any new DFS game, the first thing we need to do is get comfortable with the scoring system. One thing that jumps out at us in the table above is the implementation of an MVP spot, which means that one fighter on our roster will earn 1.5 times more than any other. This should be familiar to players who have played other single-game slates in sports like NFL football. For those who have yet to play with MVP mode, it should be noted that Fanduel does not charge us any extra to put a player in this spot, meaning we will always be able to fill it with the fighter we deem best suited for the position.
Moves Scoring (MVP 1.5X)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.9 PTS
Takedown (TD): +9 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +18 PTS
Moves Scoring (standard)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.6 PTS
Takedown (TD): +6 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +12 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (MVP 1.5 X)
1st Round Win (1stW): +150 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +112.5 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +75 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +52.5 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +37.5 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +30 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (Standard)
1st Round Win (1stW): +100 PTS
2nd Round Win (2ndW): +75 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rdW): +50 PTS
4th Round Win (4thW): +35 PTS
5th Round Win (5thW): +25 PTS
Decision Win (DecW): +20 PTS
2. Look for the Finish
The next pieces of information that should grab our attention are the values for various events. As we can see finishes (fighter stoppages) are the most valuable, with a finish in the first round garnering us a cool 100 points. While it's not always possible to pick the round, understanding when a fight is more likely to finish is imperative for scoring highly in MMA DFS. How can we tell if a fight will finish? Look at the history of the fighters (both your selection and their opponent). Do they finish/ get finished often? The other thing we need to consider is the weight class the fighters are competing at. Fights at higher weight classes tend to finish more frequently based on the power exhibited by those involved. A fight that fits both of these criteria for Saturday's contest would be the one between Johnny Walker ($17) and Nikita Krylov ($14). These two light heavyweights almost never see the final bell, with Krylov having gotten a stoppage (or been stopped) in nine of his last 10 fights, and Walker having yet to be involved in a decision in his four UFC bouts. This tells us that both sides of the bout should probably be played pretty heavily, as either fighter can put up a ton of points in a hurry.
3. Takedowns to Take it Down
As far as the actual moves themselves, we will note that Knockdowns (12) and takedowns (6) rule the roost. It should be mentioned, however, that it's not really possible to select fighters based on how many knockdowns they might score. Opponent toughness, power, and accuracy of a given shot (among other things) all factor into whether a knockdown will happen. All told, there are simply too many variables to predict knockdowns with any regularity.
Takedowns, on the other hand, are much more dependent on the fighter themselves, with accomplished wrestlers generally being able to send even good defenders to the mat. This is why rostering takedown artists will always be good general strategy, as a strong wrestler with the right matchup can easily rack up 20 or more points just on their prowess alone before any kind of win bonus is ever awarded. While takedowns are always valuable, one big difference between FanDuel and DraftKings scoring is that points for advancements and reversals have been eliminated, so that should center our value with rinse-and-repeat fighters, while perhaps steering away from the more active scramblers.
As we look towards UFC Brasilia, we will note that Main Event fighter Kevin Lee ($16) has notched three or more takedowns eight times in his 17-fight UFC run. The flow of this fight is a bit more difficult to predict due to the fact that his opponent, Charles Oliveira, is a real submission threat, but his 58 percent takedown defense lets us know that fighters who have tried to take him down have done so with relative ease. We also need to take into account that this is a five-round fight, which means Lee will have more time to hit takedowns and score points in general.
4. Don't be a Slave to Salary Expectations
Now that we've gone over scoring and strategies, I want to briefly touch on the key differences between MMA DFS and some other games. One major difference is that there is a de-emphasis on using salary. In other sports, the players that score the most points are generally the ones who get the most time on the floor (in basketball) or see the most touches (in football). In MMA, however, there is really nothing that dictates how much an opponent scores aside from the strength of their matchup (and even then, nothing is guaranteed). This doesn't mean we should always pick lineups with no regard for salary, as more skilled opponents are generally higher priced, but it does mean that we get to trust our reads quite a bit. If you see a weakness in a fighter's performance or stats that you think plays well against a particular opponent, don't be afraid to put that fighter on the roster, no matter what your bankroll looks like in the end.
5. Watching Fights is the Best Research Method
Another big difference is that MMA isn't really a stat driven DFS sport. This may seem a bit strange (especially for those coming from a sport like baseball), but the majority of analysis is done simply by watching fights and identifying advantages, such as the ones we went over earlier. That's not to say there is no use for statistics at all, however. Those who want a quick and dirty overview of particular combatants can check out the UFC Stats page. While this isn't a substitute for watching fights, it will tell you things like how often a fighter completes takedowns, and how good they are at striking defense.
All of the usual modes of play are here (though at the time of writing, there are no "beat the score" contests available), and with most other sports being postponed for the foreseeable future, now may be the perfect time to learn how to play DFS MMA. It's certainly a bit different than some other forms of DFS, but that can also mean larger edges for those who have a grasp on the finer points of the game.