Every Saturday is now Fight Night at DraftKings as daily fantasy MMA heats up. That means along with fantasy football, basketball, hockey and golf, you have another opportunity to earn cash prizes and bragging rights.
No longer is MMA just a sport to watch on TV. You can now build rosters of fighters to compete in daily fantasy contests, just like you do with football and baseball. If you visit the DraftKings lobby, you’ll see fantasy MMA listed right alongside the other big sports.
Below, I’m going to give you a quick strategy guide for building high-scoring squads that earn you real cash prizes. A “Daily Fantasy MMA for Dummies Guide” if you will.. Before we do that, however, let’s go over a few rules of engagement.
How To Play Daily Fantasy MMA – Using DraftKings
FanDuel is the other 800 lb. gorilla in daily fantasy sports. But they do not offer MMA contests. That being the case, we’ll focus on MMA at DraftKings.
Here are the basics:
– you have a $50,000 salary cap
– you must draft 5 fighters
– rosters lock 5 minutes before the start of the first bout
– points are awarded for offensive moves and how quickly your fighters win their bouts
– fantasy UFC contests are 1-day events
Now, let’s take a look at scoring. Following are the number of points your fighters will earn for executing moves:
Significant Strikes – 0.5 points
Advance – 1 point
Takedown – 2 points
Reversal/Sweep – 2 points
Knockdown – 3 points
Below, you’ll find the points awarded for wins according to round:
1st round – 100 points
2nd round – 70 points
3rd round – 50 points
4th round – 40 points
5th round – 40 points
Decision – 25 points
If you’re an avid UFC fan, you may already be concocting a draft strategy based on the information above. If you’re new, don’t worry. The following strategy guide will quickly get you up to speed.
Tip #1: For Non-Main Event Bouts, Focus On First-Round Wins
Take another look at the number of points awarded for wins based on round.
A 1st-round win is worth 100 points. If a fighter finishes his opponent in the first round, you definitely want him in your lineup. If he’s not, you’ll fall behind other team owners who had the foresight to draft him. You may even find it’s impossible to catch up.
You might be thinking, “I don’t need a first-round victory. My fighters are great at scoring with knockdowns, takedowns and other moves.”
But let’s do the math.
Suppose one of your fighters lands 60 strikes, makes 10 advances and deftly executes 6 takedowns, 5 sweeps and 2 knockdowns during a bout. By most measures, he’s effective in the ring.
Here’s a quick tally of his score:
60 strikes = 30 points
10 advances = 10 points
6 takedowns = 12 points
5 sweeps = 10 points
2 knockdowns = 6 points
That’s 68 points. It’s respectable. But it’s a lot less than you’ll earn with a first-round win.
Keep in mind, there are only 3 rounds in non-main event bouts. That means your fighters don’t have a lot of time to rack up points. So, focus on first-round wins rather than grinding out points with strikes, takedowns and other moves.
Tip #2: For Main Event Bouts, Pick Fighters Who Can Last
There’s less chance of scoring a first-round win in a main event bout. It can happen, but it’s not as common as it is in non-main event bouts. The main event usually pits 2 highly-trained and highly-conditioned titans against each other. Neither is likely to let his guard down. As such, neither is likely to knock out or submit his opponent in the first round.
Bottom line: it’s tough to find main-event fighters who can win in the first round and deliver 100 fantasy points right off the bat. You’re better off targeting guys who can go the distance.
Main-event bouts have 5 rounds. The fighters have a lot more time to earn points. An aggressive fighter who lasts 5 rounds can lose to a decision, but still earn as many points as he would for a first-round victory.
Tip #3: Enter Small 50/50s And Head-To-Heads
In fantasy football, you draft players from a huge pool. Same with basketball and baseball. Consequently, there’s bound to be a lot of variability between your lineup and other team owners’ lineups.
Fantasy MMA contests are different. There aren’t nearly as many fighters on an evening’s card. You and other team owners will draw from a much smaller pool of fighters.
That can be a problem in a large tournament with thousands of entrants. There will be a lot of similarity in lineups across the field. Consequently, a single point can have a huge influence on whether or not you cash. Luck plays a big role.
For that reason, I recommend you stick to cash games that impose a low ceiling on the number of entrants. The smaller field will reduce the amount of overlap in lineups. That gives you a better chance to stand out from the pack.
Tip #4: Choose Aggressive Fighters
You need fighters who are always on the offensive. DraftKings doesn’t award points for defense. You earn points on offense.
Whether your fighters are best on their feet or prefer to grapple, they must always be trying to advance and strike. That’s how you accrue points.
The worst type of fighter to have on your squad is the guy who refuses to engage his opponent. He moves around the ring and dodges his opponent’s strikes.
Defense is fine. In fact, it’s a smart strategy when the goal is just to win bouts. But when it comes to daily fantasy MMA, offense earns points and wins cash prizes.
Tip #5: Research Each Fighter’s Strengths (And Weaknesses)
Obviously, you should know something about the fighters you put in your lineup. Doing more research than your competition pays off.
A lot of fantasy MMA players will just take a look at their fighters’ track records and leave it at that. They’ll find out how many wins and losses certain fighters have to their names. They might also look up their average fight time. And that’s it.
You can do better.
Every fighter has a unique style. That style will have a major effect on his (or her) fantasy point production.
For example, consider grapplers. They do their best work on their backs. The problem is, each round starts with both fighters on their feet. The grappler has to work harder just to get into position to earn major points.
So you need to take into account more than just a fighter’s track record. His fighting style matters.
Also, each fighter has specific strengths and weaknesses. For example, take Daniel Cormier. There’s a reason he commands a salary above $10,000. He’s an excellent grappler who can pull from a wide range of takedown scenarios. His opponents are smart to be on their toes around him.
But he has weaknesses. For example, Cormier doesn’t pack a ton of power behind his strikes. He doesn’t throw haymakers. Plus, he tends to lean forward with his jabs, sometimes exposing himself to assaults from his opponents.
It’s important to be aware of your fighters’ strengths and weaknesses. That way, you can keep an eye open for good matchups while avoiding those where other fighters exploit your fighters’ flaws.
Tip #6: Use A Studs-And-Scrubs Draft Strategy
With the $50,000 salary cap at DraftKings, you’re not going to be able to fill your roster with 5 elite fighters. There’s not enough money.
That leaves you with 3 main options:
Option 1: draft 2 studs and 3 scrubs
Option 2: draft 3 studs and 2 scrubs
Option 3: draft 5 middle-tier fighters
Forget Option 3. I recommend you use a studs-and-scrubs strategy.
The important thing to keep in mind is that spending more at the top end of the salary range leaves you with less cash to fill out the rest of your roster.
For example, let’s say you choose Option 1. You draft 2 heavily-favored fighters, both of whom command high salaries. You then use the rest of your budget to pick up 3 underdogs. You’re hoping your 2 elite fighters can deliver early-round wins. Assuming they’re at the top of their class, there’s a good chance they can make that happen. Lacking that outcome, you expect them to go the distance and produce a mountain of points through takedowns, advances, sweeps, etc.
Now, compare that scenario to Option 2. You choose 3 studs, none of whom are as heavily favored as the 2 studs in Option 1. You’re spreading your money thinner. The fighters you DO draft are still favored, but the likelihood they’ll deliver early-round victories is smaller.
Here’s the takeaway: you definitely need studs in your lineup. That’s the only way you can hope to keep pace with other team owners. Whether you roster 2 or 3 of them will depend on the extent to which you feel comfortable relying on your underdogs.
Tip #7: Avoid Fighters Who Are Out Of Practice
It’s the rare UFC fighter who can stay out of the octagon for several months and return to immediately dominate his opponents. Most guys get a little rusty. Whether they took a sabbatical to recover from an injury or to address personal issues, it’s not easy to get back into the flow.
Sure, training helps. But it’s not the same thing as climbing into the ring and facing a bloodthirsty opponent.
Bottom line: don’t roster fighters who have been taking a breather for months on end. Wait for them to regain their momentum before you put them in your lineups.
Final Thoughts On Fantasy Mixed Martial Arts
Daily fantasy MMA is one of the hottest tickets going at DraftKings. Don’t just watch the bouts on TV. Jump into the action for a chance to win guaranteed cash prizes. MMA bouts were once known for their lack of rules. The fights were brutal. Sure, breaking someone’s neck was frowned upon, but dislocating his shoulder or repeatedly pummeling his groin?
That was considered fair game.
The bouts are a lot different today. They’re more organized. There are more rules. You’re no longer going to see a 140 lb. waif facing a 270 lb. behemoth.
From a fantasy sports perspective, that’s a good thing. Rules give MMA legitimacy. (You can thank Dana White, president of the UFC, for that.) Also, the only way for daily fantasy mixed martial arts to exist is for the fighters to be relatively well-matched against each other.
That brings us to today.
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