This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
It was shrouded in mystery for much of the month, but the next Fight Night will go ahead with an 11-fight card at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 30th. It's important to note at the outset that research suggests more finishes occur in smaller cages like the one the fighters will occupy Saturday, which could put more fights in play than "finish" betting lines indicate. As always, fighters will be listed in order from most to least desirable among the given choices.
A final note before we begin: here's a refresher on the scoring. If you're looking for general strategy tips, I wrote a FanDuel 101 article prior to UFC Brasilia on March 14, though there have been a few minor scoring changes since then that I've noted below.
Moves Scoring (MVP 1.5X)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.9 PTS
Takedown (TD): +9 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): +4.5 PTS
Submission Attempt (SA): +7.5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +18 PTS
Moves Scoring (Standard)
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.6 PTS
Takedown (TD): +6 PTS
Takedown Defense (TDEF): 3
Submission Attempt (SA): 5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +12 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses (MVP 1.5X)
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
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Oh captain, my Captain
Best Play: Augusto Sakai ($17)
I almost balked at this placement of Augusto Sakai due to the legendary toughness of Blagoy Ivanov (finished just once in 21 professional fights), but I can't get over how many stark advantages I expect the 29-year-old to have in this matchup. He should be faster (with both hand speed and movement), have more power, and be the far better kickboxer. While the toughness of Blagoy remains something to be considered, it wasn't that long ago that he was noticeably wobbled by a worse fighter in Tai Tuivasa, and Sakai has finished 11 of his 14 wins with strikes.
Daniel Rodriguez will stay at the price of $13 despite becoming a sizeable favorite after Gabriel Green stepped in on short notice. This means he will be highly owned, but we should be able to differentiate ourselves somewhat by throwing Rodriguez in the captain's seat. Rodriguez showed phenomenal craft in his UFC debut against Tim Means in February, using a stiff jab and angling off to land shots before finding a submission. By contrast, Green just doesn't seem ready for this level. His striking looks very stiff, and while he likes to grapple and scramble on the ground, I have my doubts that he will be as fluid as Rodriguez in those exchanges.
Roosevelt Roberts hasn't shown the quick submission ability that got him noticed on the regional scene all that much in the UFC, but he faces an opponent in Brok Weaver that should help him get back on track. Weaver has basically been taken down at will between his promotional debut and his bout on the Contender Series. What makes things even better for Roberts is that Weaver likes to play on the ground rather than get back to his feet, which should allow for "The Predator" to show off his slick transitions on the mat. The pressure and combination striking should be an issue for Weaver as well, who is another stiff striker who has trouble finding his range.
Best Play: Brandon Royval ($14)
Brandon Royval, is an active, powerful kickboxer with one major problem: he leaves his chin hanging in the air while he's in the pocket. Against most fighters, this would be a major problem. The fact is, however, that Tim Elliot simply doesn't put people away on the feet, having finished just three of his 15 career wins by strikes. What we can definitely say about Elliot is that he has been hit incredibly hard in recent fights. I am thinking specifically of the bouts against Ben Nguyen and Askar Askarov. In the former bout, the strike led to a quick finish by submission. In the latter, Elliot later said that he didn't remember anything after being struck by the shot in Round 1. If all this wasn't good enough, Elliot recently threw himself into a guillotine in a fight against Deiveson Figueiredo. Taken all together, there are several reasons to like Royval, even with a flaw that will almost certainly come back to hurt him in later fights.
I entered tape study expecting to pick against Spike Carlyle here, but I just don't see any fluidity in the striking of Billy Quarantillo. While he is a smooth BJJ player, he is also susceptible to being taken down and controlled. I suppose it wouldn't shock me if Quarantillo beat Carlyle in a grappling exchange and found a submission from the bottom, but that seems like a small window against a quick, aggressive fighter who is also an accomplished wrestler.
Klidson Abreu looked about as good as one can look in a loss to Shamil Gamzatov in his last bout, using his kicks well and keeping himself safe while looking for his grappling opportunities. While those opportunities didn't present themselves against Gamzatov, they should be there in droves against Jamahal Hill, who was taken down six times in his UFC debut against Darko Stocic. Hill is also a bit too comfortable fighting off the back foot, which should allow for Abreu to work his pressure striking game.
This is by no stretch a confident play, but I figured I needed to say a word about Hannah Cifers as the cheapest play on the card going up against BJJ prodigy Mackenzie Dern. Dern was reduced to ineffective flailing when a takedown didn't materialize in her last fight against Amanda Ribas. In some instances, this meant literally trying to flee the pocket with her chin up after throwing a couple of strikes. But hey, she can just land a takedown and end the game, right? Well, not exactly. Dern has a jaw-droppingly low eight percent takedown success rate in her three UFC bouts. In terms of real numbers, she has hit just one takedown in 12 attempts. It should also be noted that a submission did not materialize from said takedown. So why am I still hedging a bit on Cifers? She hasn't shown us all that much to love. What she can do, however, is throw combos in the pocket and hit a counter when given the opportunity. For $10 and some scarcity, I'd say that's more than enough reason to give her a shot.
Best Play: Casey Kenney ($19)
Louis Smolka has done much better work with his wrestling and boxing since his return to the UFC, but I don't see it being nearly enough to best Casey Kenney, who has a bit better kickboxing game and is the far better control grappler. Smolka was famously taken down 12 times in his fight with Elliot in 2017, meaning the points could come fast and furious here.
As a big fan of Gilbert Burns, it pains me to pick Tyron Woodley in this spot, but Burns' erratic striking has already cost him badly once in the form of a KO counter shot from Dan Hooker, and Woodley is nothing if not a patient, powerful, marksmen. Woodley does so little when he isn't countering that it was basically impossible to put him in as a captain option, but I do think he finds a fight-altering shot at some point, particularly since I don't expect Burns' wrestling to be nearly as effective as Kamaru Usman's.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
I am of two minds about the matchup between Antonina Shevchenko ($15) and Katlyn Chookagian ($13). On the one hand, it's perfectly reasonable to think Chookagian maintains her distance and rides her bike to a points-based victory. On the other, Shevchenko is by far the better kickboxer, and if she weren't so green in the sport itself, I would almost certainly pick her outright. My main concern is that Shevchenko has shown some deficiencies when attempting to cut off the cage, which doesn't bode well for a bout with a movement-heavy boxer. I will take Antonina to edge this out by landing the harder shots, but I'm not sure this one is a great FanDuel play either way, even with the smaller cage.
I like both Vince Morales ($16) and Chris Gutierrez ($17) as functional, defensively sound kickboxers. Morales is more of an action/volume fighter but can get a bit overzealous when leaping into the pocket, which could open the door to Gutierrez's counter game. Ultimately, this is one of the closest fights on the card to me, but I'll take Morales to outwork his opponent in what should be a live fight on both sides.