I’ll start off with some transparency. I haven’t played much MMA DFS and know almost nothing about MMA. In fact, of more than 150,000 DFS lineups that I have made only 650 of them have been for MMA. If that concerns you, you can stop reading right here.
However, if you’re also dabbling in new sports during the quarantine than perhaps you can learn something. I mean how much do we really know anyway?
For this article, I will be focusing on MMA strategy for DraftKings $15 MMA Throwdown Special with $150,000 to first place. Some of these theories may apply to lower entry tournaments, but for the most part, I am focused on the lotteries. I feel it is possible to construct a thoughtful DFS strategy for these tournaments even without a lot of experience in the sport.
Macro Strategy: Reducing Duplicates
In my rookie career of MMA DFS, it is almost impossible to avoid duplicate lineups altogether but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value to reducing the overlap you have. With the contest being a 47,000 person contest, we can help set parameters to understand expected duplicate lineups. One of the ways to reduce duplicates would be to set a cap on total projected ownership.
A pOwn cap of 100 would on average be unique. A pOwn cap of 150 would on average yield 10 duplicates. A pOwn cap of 200 would on average yield 65 duplicates.
There are only 11 fights on the card, so the average player will be owned by 27 percent of the field. Similarly, 90-95 percent of players will build lineups avoiding fighters from the same fight which further reduces the number of combinations.
If you look at the last slate, the winning lineup was duplicated 4 times, the 2nd place lineup was duplicated 17 times, and my 3rd place lineup was duplicated 7 times. Here are some stats:
- Lineup 1: 170.90% Total Ownership / $49.2K Salary
- Lineup 2: 202.90% Total Ownership / $49.5K Salary
- Lineup 3: 193.80% Total Ownership / $49.5K Salary
Just based on the ownership of these specific lineups and the players on them, we might have expected them to be duplicated 15, 41 and 34 times respectively. However, given that the field most frequently uses at least $49,800 of salary cap, these lineups were duplicated less frequently.
For me, the new MMA player who has know discernible skill in handicapping a fight or making projections, this is still an edge I can use.
Combining total projected ownership with salary constraints can help us reduce dupes. On full salary cap lineups you need to use less ownership, while as you leave more salary on the table you can roster chalkier fighters.
If you are looking for projections or ownership projections and optimizer access, competitors do offer this like RotoGrinders, Awesemo or Saber Sim. I am using the RG opto for my MMA play.
Slate Specific Strategy
This slate sets up fairly similarly to the 5/16/2020 slate from a MME perspective, primarily because we have a direct comp for the Chikadze – Rivera fight and the fight which features Daniel Rodriguez and Gabriel Green. Chikadze ended up going off at 55% ownership as a heavy favorite and we should expect the same from Rodriguez, who is a -335 favorite and priced at just $7300. Chikadze ended up delivering in that fight — sort of — as he delivered a 61SS, a KD and win by decision for 75.5 points. A great value at his price. The best Chikadeze lineup finished 4th (Total Ownership of 177.70% / $48.1K salary) and was duplicated 10 times including yours truly. When you are using an extremely popular player like Rodriguez on the upcoming slate you need to be aggressive at restricting salary and/or total ownership to reduce duplicates.
If you are hand building, this could be accomplished in different ways. Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns will be highly owned as the headline fight of the card and that it can go up to 5 rounds. Woodley at $8800 will be an extremely popular combo player with Rodriguez at $7300 and it wouldn’t surprise me if 35-40 percent of the field had that combination of fighters. Conversely, I would expect Rodriguez and Gilbert Burns to be owned on just 15 percent of rosters. One possible approach if hand-building or not using the strategy above would be to include only one of Rodriguez or Woodley on your lineups.
Highest Owned Fighters: Rodriguez, Woodley, Kenney, Dern
UFC Fight Night Las Vegas Odds
Fights to Target: The obvious fight to target is the championship bout and you could include players from that fight in many of your lineups. There is at least some chance that this is a win by decision and goes 5 rounds as the odds reflect above. Woodley has a few of those over the last few years with winning scores of 69 and 75 in his 5 round wins by decision. If that does happen, that is unlikely to be a GPP winning performance.
Beyond that, you should target the fights most likely to finish under 2.5 rounds due to knockout. The Elliott-Royval fight and Quarantillo-Carlyle fight are good secondary options that are expected to finish in under 2.5 rounds about half of the time. This means there is a 25 percent chance that both fights are decided inside of the distance and produce GPP winning upside.