This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
The final card before UFC 254 is an 11-fight slate that begins at 4 p.m. EST on Saturday, October 17. As someone who loves to hunt for dogs, I'm disappointed to report that I only spotted a few viable options ahead of Saturday's action, but we've kept it interesting by featuring the least expensive fighter on the docket. As always, fighters in this article will be listed in order from most to least desirable among the given choices.
One 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 Option: Chan Sung Jung ($20)
Chan Sung Jung has had fits and starts in his career thanks to impediments such as injuries and compulsory service in the South Korean military, but it looks like the 33-year-old is ready to reach the next level. He seems to have struck the perfect balance between his crisp, powerful boxing and submission game. Brian Ortega is lethal against almost anybody if he can get the fight to the ground, but he's had trouble doing that in his career, and Jung boasts a robust 77 percent takedown defense in his 11-fight UFC run. We saw Ortega without many answers against the boxing of Max Holloway when he couldn't get the fight to the floor. This should look something like that, but the power that "Zombie" provides could shorten the fight time a great deal.
What can we say about Gadzhimurad Antigulov? It's a genuine question. The Dagestani fighter has never been outside of the first round in the UFC and is so chaotic in what he wants to do that he either ends fights in the blink of an eye (as he did with Joachim Christensen and Marcos Rogerio de Lima) or gets finished just as quickly (as was the case with Paul Craig and Michal Oleksiejczuk). When a fight is going his way, it means that he has sprinted towards his opponent to close the distance to secure a takedown and work his top game. Maxim Grishin isn't the submission threat of someone like Craig, but he is quick and agile, and we saw Antigulov run into the counters of Oleksiejczuk over and over again until the fight was finally stopped. This is a very odd fight to call because, despite his record in the organization, Antigulov's game probably will be effective here if he can get it going. The issue is whether he can get inside on Grishin and hold him down once this occurs. I'm forced to pick Grishin here just based on how sloppy Antigulov is going to get against another agile, powerful counter striker, but this is a binary fight, meaning whoever wins is likely to rack up the points.
Not only is Jun Yong Park a functional kickboxer with a nice jab, but he's also perfectly comfortable wrestling, as we saw when he took down Marc-Andre Barriault five times in his last bout. The John Phillips game is a simple one: throw big shots at my opponent's head and body until he goes to sleep. The trouble is that these shots are often not set up by anything, which allows for the opponent to game plan around them. We've seen wrestlers make easy work of Phillips more than once in his UFC career, and Park has three submission victories on his record, giving him a perfectly viable "Plan B" if he begins to feel overwhelmed on the feet.
Gillian Robertson is a DFS target every time she fights because she always goes for finishes. The 25-year-old has only been to decision in a victory once in her career, which came in her second professional MMA fight. I like her to continue this trend against Poliana Botelho, who has vicious body kicks but not a whole lot else to threaten her opponents. By contrast, Robertson is actually rounding out her game and has shown off a decent jab of late, which she should be able to use to back Botelho up and get takedowns. From there, I expect it to be a clinical performance against an opponent who does not have a submission win on her record in 10 professional fights.
The women's flyweight division didn't exist when Jessica Andrade made her move from bantamweight to strawweight in 2017, but there is every chance that this intermediate step between the two could be the perfect place for the Brazilian fighter, who is returning after a tough loss against Rose Namajunas in July. The key to this bout is Andrade only knows how to fight one way, and every committed wrestler who has tried to take down Katlyn Chookagian has done so. I expect that to hold true here, with Andrade punching her way into the clinch before getting rinse and repeat trips to the mat. Chookagian is an accomplished BJJ brown belt, and Andrade has fallen prey to a guillotine choke once in her UFC career, but she is excellent at slamming her opponents into side control and staying out of guard, which should negate some of those submission attempts.
Best Option: Mateusz Gamrot ($18)
KSW alumnus Mateusz Gamrot is a fun fighter to watch. He will work a nice, fluid boxing game touching his opponent with stinging shots before landing a hammer. He also has a wrestling/grappling game he will look for opportunistically. This is in sharp contrast to Guram Kutateladze, who throws stiff punches from a stiff guard, trying to explode into the pocket with big shots. I think the sense of range, crispness of striking, and takedown game will be enough to pick off and fluster Kutateladze for the majority of the fight, leading to a high-scoring decision victory.
Jamie Mullarkey will face a kickboxer for the second consecutive time in Fares Ziam, but this should feel like a baseball bat without the donut after his UFC debut fight against Brad Riddell. Ziam throws hard leg kicks but often does so without setting them up. What's more, he seems to have trouble finding his range in the cage, which leads to strikes falling short a decent amount of the time. Mullarkey, on the other hand, is a very solid kickboxer with a piston for a jab and decent takedown defense. This should come in handy, as Ziam sometimes tries to bridge his missed strikes into wrestling attempts. At the end of the day, Mullarkey seems to be a level above his opponent here. I expect him to show it with a convincing decision win.
It seems some are ready to write off Thomas Almeida for his matchup against Jonathan Martinez, but I think it's important to look at who he has fought to pick up three losses in his last four bouts. Rob Font, Jimmie Rivera and Cody Garbrandt are all quick, agile fighters with power in their hands. Martinez is going to be flat-footed in the cage, leaving Almeida on the right side of the speed equation for the first fight in quite some time. He also works much quicker than his opponent. All of this adds up to Almeida simply outworking Martinez over three rounds. I think Martinez is tough enough not to get finished, which is why this fight is placed firmly in the "cash" section, but those looking past Almeida here may be suffering from a bit of selective memory coupled with the fact that we haven't seen the Brazilian since 2018.
Best option: Mark Striegl ($9)
Put simply, Said Nurmagomedov has done nothing to be this big of a favorite against someone as experienced as Mark Striegl (18-2-0). What's more, this seems like a perfect style matchup for Striegl, as Nurmagomedov was getting his leg cut to ribbons by Raoni Barcelos in their fight, and the Filipino fighter loves to throw the low-calf kick. We should also note that Striegl is the strongest wrestler Nurmagomedov has faced in the Octagon, and while he goes for a few too many scarfhold chokes, he is good at controlling his opponent and looking for the back. Nurmagomedov's offense generally comes via spinning stuff, but the pressure of Striegl should work to cut off many of those attacks.
As the (much) better kickboxer who is also a BJJ black belt, some may wonder why I'm not all in for James Krause here against Claudio Silva. The answer is I think the relentless nature in which Silva looks for takedowns will end up getting to Krause, whom we have seen gas out in previous fights. I also think this could be a fight in which Krause's black belt works against him, making him too eager to play on the ground with someone like Silva. While it's true that Krause beat a highly decorated BJJ artist in Sergio Moraes not too long ago, Moraes looked oddly switched-off after getting an easy takedown in the first frame. I don't expect Silva to give in so easily.
An open cage door added some controversy to Modestas Bukauskas' victory in his UFC debut, but there is a lot to like about the young Lithuanian. He is big for the weight class, has great speed and footwork, and comes into the matchup against Jimmy Crute with a four-inch reach advantage. The last time Crute fought someone with a striking edge over him in Oleksiejczuk, he resorted to shooting for his life until he was finally able to secure a submission. This time, I expect Bukauskas to have a strength advantage. He has also shown the ability to grapple, notching back-to-back rear-naked chokes for Cage Warriors in 2018. I think Crute will try to wrestle again based on the dynamics of the matchup. It will not be pretty if/when he fails.