Well, folks, we did it. The next big-time UFC event is already here. UFC 254, once more held in Abu Dhabi (UAE) this next Saturday will mark the last time we visit Fight Island at least in the short-term future. We'll be back at Las Vegas' UFC APEX center starting Oct. 31 and going all the way to Nov.28 (UFC 255 included), so enjoy the beaches while you still can.
This card can't come more packed. The main event alone is worth the watching price, not going to lie. Khabib faces interim-champ Gathje for the Lightweight championship, and I can't think of many more appealing fights that one putting Nurmagomedov in the center of an Octagon. Seriously. Then I went on to check the rest of the card... and oh, Lordy Lord. We have Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier co-leading, and both of them rank in the top-2 of Middleweight contenders, which means belt-holder Israel Adesanya will be watching closer than you and me. And there will also be names those of Volkov, Malkoun, and Cutevala making appearances on Saturday Night. The stuff of the dreams, this one.
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy MMA, UFC lineup picks for DraftKings for UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje on 10/24/20. You can check out our FanDuel MMA DFS picks as well. These DFS lineup picks can vary from higher-priced players and elite options to lower-priced fighters and value picks on DraftKings. Give me a follow on Twitter @chapulana. Good luck!Editor's Note: Our new Premium MMA tools include DFS Cheat Sheets, a powerful Research Station, and the DFS Lineup Optimizer. Check them out! VIEW TOOLS
DraftKings MMA Lightweight - UFC DFS Lineup Picks
Khabib Nurmagomedov, $9200 - vs. Justin Gaethje
It's been more than a year since we last saw Khabib get inside the Octagon. As for Gaethje, the last time he fought he did against Tony Ferguson last May for the interim belt due to Nurmagomedov extended absence. It took Khabib all of nine wins in the UFC to finally got a shot at then-champion Al Iaquinta in 2018 when he grabbed the belt for good and has yet to surrender it (Khabib is a career 28-0 fighter, just in case).
Gaethje can consider himself a champion* (yes, that asterisk must appear there), and he's got a great 22-2 overall record himself having debuted in the UFC with two KO losses but four straight wins in the past two years. All of Gaethje's fights have finished in KO, with three first-round knockouts inside the first round. He has attempted all of one takedown inside the Octagon, back in 2017.
Khabib is the more complete fighter, and perhaps close to the no. 1 P4P these days. He's an absolute machine. Can do it with strikes, excels on the grappling game (he had a record-setting 21-of-27 takedown performance in 2013), and is just plain and simple the clear favorite to get the W here and retain the belt. You'd be paying a ton, sure, but Khabib has scored more than 61 DKFP in his last nine fights.
DraftKings MMA Middleweight - UFC DFS Lineup Picks
Robert Whittaker, $8000 - vs. Jared Cannonier
While both Whittaker and Cannonier are UFC veterans, the former almost double the latter's number of fights under the promotion's banner, 15 to 8 to this day. Whittaker can call himself an (interim) champ, too, getting the belt against Yoel Romero in 2017. When it came to the actual gold, though, Whittaker lasted all of eight minutes and a half against Israel Adesanya, never truly conquering the division.
Cannonier himself has never fought for the title. That should change soon because 1) he's right there in the ranks aiming at reigning king Adesanya and 2) he's won three straight via KO inside the first two rounds at most. While Cannonier had a rough spell of three losses between 2017 and mid-2018, he's 3-0 in the past 24 months.
Whittaker throws more volume of significant strikes while landing virtually the same of them as Cannonier. On top of that, he at least tries his luck with takedowns here and there (he threw 13 toward Darren Till in his last fight, succeeding two times) and is also better at preventing being taken down. This is a super close fight, with Whittaker the slight underdog. I think he'll still get the win here, putting on another strong case to face Adesanya a second time down the road.
DraftKings MMA Heavyweight - UFC DFS Lineup Picks
Alexander Volkov, $8600 - vs. Walt Harris
Neither of Volkov or Harris has ever fought for the heavyweight belt. That's interesting, considering that Volkov had a four-win streak to start his career (he's 2-2 since 2018, though) and that Harris was 3-0-1 in his four fights before dropping his last one to über-veteran Alistair Overeem. The HW division has been dominated by Stipe Miocic lately and he's been feuding with Daniel Cormier, though, so it wasn't going to be easy to find a way there.
Both men enter this fight with losses in their most recent bouts. Harris is a killer, that's it. He has yet to attempt more than 98 SS in a single UFC fight, topping at that mark all the way back in 2016. Don't get it wrong, though: Harris just doesn't need more volume as landing between 4 and 32 SS has allowed him to KO six foes so far in his career. His power is undeniable.
Volkov, on the other hand, throws a lot more SS and lands them at higher rates while carrying some grappling prowess with him too. Harris has a higher ceiling because of his constant KO outcomes, but Volkov is the safer play as he can do it every way and doesn't depend on extra fantasy points coming via early stoppages. Removing those extra DKFP, Volkov is a 51.6 DKFP career fighter compared to Harris' 17.1...
DraftKings MMA Women's Flyweight - UFC DFS Lineup Picks
Lauren Murphy, $8800 - vs. Liliya Shakirova
We got ourselves a debutant! Yay! Liliya Shakirova will make her first appearance under the UFC banner this Saturday facing veteran Lauren Murphy. Murphy debuted back in 2014 and her initial UFC-run wasn't that good with a 1-4 record from that year to 2018. Starting in 2019, though, she has racked up three straight victories in the Octagon.
Shakirova will fight carrying a nice 8-1 career record into this one, and she's also on a three-fight winning streak, all of those Ws coming from Sep. 2018 to this date. She has yet to fight in 2020, with her last bout happening slightly over a year ago.
Murphy is the favorite here, and she's a complete fighter with both striking and grappling prowess. She throws volume and lands one TD every five attempts, not bad all things considered. Shakirova is replacing Cynthia Calvillo (COVID positive), and while Calvillo might have put Murphy in trouble, it is hard to see the debutant doing that.
DraftKings MMA Light Heavyweight - UFC DFS Lineup Picks
Magomed Ankalaev, $8900 - vs. Ion Cutelaba
This fight smells like fireworks. Let me introduce you to Ankalaev first: five fights since 2018, 4-1 record so far, three of four wins via KO, two inside the first round. As for Cutelaba: 2-2 in the same span, all four fights ending early, two KO wins, one KO loss, one submission loss. If this bout doesn't end before the final bell I will stop watching MMA forever.
There are not enough data points to consider the bodies of work of these two and making proper assessments. They just haven't logged the fight time to generate those statistics, so you have to pro-rate all of their numbers to get an idea of what they are. Other than insane, that is.
Both men have very similar DKFP averages if removing their bonus points (via KO or submission). They sit at around 28 DKFP each that way, and both are upside/boom-bust plays. Ankalaev current streak of four wins with two straight KOs in his last two is enough to consider him the favorite, but watch out for Cutelaba: he's finished three opponents with a KO under a minute since 2017.