This article is part of our FanDuel MMA series.
The second leg of the week-long MMA DFS marathon is just around the corner, with UFC Fight Island 8 kicking off on Jan. 20 at 9 A.M. EST. This one is loaded with 14 fights, giving us lots of room to maneuver as we look for the best possible plays. Those plays include a winless UFC fighter as a potential captain and an underdog going up against an undefeated legacy.
One final note before we begin: 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: Mike Davis ($20)
Mike Davis and Mason Jones are cut from the same cloth as kickboxers who have no problem getting involved in wars. That likely won't end well for Jones, as Davis is far more athletic and powerful. Jones' wrestling could be an issue for Davis here, as Davis was put through the paces on the mat before being submitted by Gilbert Burns, but "Beast Boy" should be the stronger of the two men, which doesn't leave many avenues for the debutante.
It was downright fun to watch Mounir Lazzez pick apart Abdul Razak Alhassan in his UFC debut. The Tunisian fighter showcased all sorts of slick techniques inside the cage, not the least of which was a beautiful step-in knee that seemingly couldn't help but find Alhassan's midsection. Warlley Alves is a powerful kickboxer and strong grappler, but we saw James Krause pepper the Brazilian fighter with straight shots until it was time to find the hammer blow, and Lazzez will enter this fight with a four-inch reach advantage. We've also seen Alves get tired grappling, and he doesn't wrestle frequently enough for me to trust that he will bring this fight to the mat.
It's not often we get to mix in a dog play in this section, but it always feels good when we get the chance. Neil Magny has looked like a new fighter since his return to the Octagon in March, showcasing a stinging jab and excellent control of range. The issue here is that we still haven't seen this new iteration square off against a committed wrestler/grappler, and the way Rafael dos Anjos cut through him on the ground in 2017 shouldn't be forgotten. Michael Chiesa has his flaws as a fighter – he doesn't check leg kicks and takes too much damage, generally – but he's plenty big at this weight class and seems to have gotten stronger due to nixing the dangerous weight cut to 155 lbs. It may be touch-and-go for a while, but I expect Chiesa to get his hands on Magny at some point and control the fight when he does.
There is nothing comfortable about having to roster either Ike Villanueva or Vinicius Alves Moreira in a fight, as they are a collective 0-5 in the UFC. However, we must note that all five of those losses came by finish (four in Round 1), so whoever ends up getting their hand raised here will likely secure a lot of points. While Villanueva hasn't looked great inside the Octagon, he at least has a plan that can yield results. He wants to pressure, throw big strikes, and knock you out. There have been worse fight strategies at light heavyweight. By contrast, Moreira looks incredibly unsure of himself in the cage, as his game basically consists of just throwing off-balanced kicks before trying to force a grappling exchange. This might be a selling point if we could trust him to get the fight to the ground, but the Brazilian fighter boasts a paltry 18 percent takedown success rate in his three fights. Villanueva has to be the pick for having what can be considered a functional pressure-striking game, but this will likely be a sloppy mess until it's over.
Tyson Nam began his UFC career with losses to Kai Kara-France and Sergio Pettis before feasting on lesser competition in his next two outings, securing knockouts in each. Nam is a pressuring fighter who wants to throw big shots until his opponent falls asleep but can sometimes get caught looking for the perfect shot, making him a boom-or-bust type of play. He shouldn't have that problem against Matt Schnell, who will always look to force action in the cage, and has been known to get into striking wars with opponents despite a suspect chin, which has led to three first-round knockout losses in the UFC. Schnell will usually try to wrestle before this happens, but Nam carries a perfect takedown defense rate (4-for-4) and looks incredibly strong for the weight class. This leads me to believe that Schnell will be forced to stand with Nam at some point, which should lead to yet another KO loss.
Injuries and anxiety issues have kept Tom Breese from being in the cage as often as he might like, but he looked incredibly sharp in his last fight with K.B. Bhullar, landing a snapping jab with a thunderous right hand behind it. Omari Akhmedov is known for his pressure striking and wrestling, but he often tires himself out when he has to engage in too much grappling and hasn't been much of a submission threat throughout his career. He also tends to lunge into his power strikes on the feet, which should allow for the taller, crisper striker in Breese to pick him off on the way in. Akhmedov is a tough man to finish, but I expect a lot of high-impact exchanges here and am relying on the better striker to win the majority of them.
Best Option: Ricky Simon ($21)
Newcomer Gaetano Pirrello looks like an interesting addition to the bantamweight division. He hits hard, applies suffocating pressure, and loves to overwhelm opponents in the clinch. The problem is he is going up against a fighter in Ricky Simon who wants nothing more than to clinch up to secure a takedown. It must also be said that the pace Simon will put on Gaetano is almost certainly unlike anything he's ever faced on the regional scene. I expect Gaetano to land a shot here or there, but he doesn't have the footwork of someone like Rob Font, and I can't rely on him landing a big shot in the vein of Urijah Faber, which leads me to believe he will break the meter on takedowns en route to another big score.
Roxanne Modafferi always comes to scrap and will make any top prospect look foolish if they are not ready to go on a given day. Having said that, though, it's difficult to imagine she'll find much joy against Viviane Araujo in this spot. "The Happy Warrior's" boxing might be ever-improving, but we have seen in fights with people like Jennifer Maia that it's tough for her to win when she can't get her wrestling game going, and Araujo will come into this fight with a 92 percent takedown defense rate. That means this fight should stay on the feet, where Araujo's athleticism and slick striking will likely create all sorts of problems for the veteran.
Su Mudaerji is a fast-twitch athlete with incredible kicks and powerful straight punches, while Zarrukh Adashev is a former kickboxer who looks like someone that has had five professional MMA fights. That's not to say he can't put punches together, but he stands awfully flat-footed in the cage before rushing forward in straight lines with his chin up. Beyond that, there isn't a lot of structure to his game, with his takedowns and striking seeming very much like separate phases he hasn't quite learned how to fit together. It would be tough to expect much of him against a 17-fight veteran like Mudaerji here, though the Chinese fighter is a bit too expensive to be anything other than a cash play.
Ditto for Lerone Murphy, who is an extremely slick boxer with an underrated kicking game. When we saw him last, he was taking down decorated BJJ player Ricardo Ramos in a winning effort, which should tell you all you need to know about his confidence and skill set. Douglas Silva de Andrade is a specimen athlete who explodes into strikes with power, but very often, these strikes come one at a time, and he has been known to get tired late in fights. I think Murphy has the technique and well-rounded game to take the fight from Andrade late, possibly with a finish.
If you didn't know his name, you would likely be able to tell Francisco Figueiredo was the brother of the flyweight champion by watching him fight. Francisco likes to walk down his opponents and throw big strikes, often mixing his targets. He also has a wrestling game that he engages in a bit more often than his brother does. I actually like a lot of what Jerome Rivera does inside the cage, but his propensity to throw naked leg kicks could get him in trouble here in the same way it did against Tyson Nam.
Best Option: Michael Chiesa ($16)
Victoria Leonardo was a big underdog when she stepped into the Contender Series cage against Chelsea Hackett, but her relentless pursuit of the grapple eventually earned her a stoppage victory in Round 3. Manon Fiorot garners praise for her kickboxing skills, but every fight I've watched of hers on the regional scene has her turning into the wrestler after an attack on the feet, which is powerful but not always aggressive. This should give Leonardo the opportunity to force her game on Fiorot. I also wouldn't rule out Fiorot welcoming some of these clinch exchanges to her own peril.
Markus Perez was looking incredibly sharp on the feet in his last fight against Dricus Du Plessis before an unbelievably ill-advised up-elbow attempt resulted in him taking a knockout blow to the side of the head. While unconventional maneuvers will likely be on display again here, Perez should be able to walk Dalcha Lungiambula down and sting him with hard kicks to the legs and body. Dalcha has power in his hands but is far too willing to let his opponent set the pace of the fight, which should work in favor of "Maluko" here. He will also be the superior grappler if "Champion" wants to rely on his judo.
Umar Nurmagomedov will likely disappoint fans expecting a smothering control grappler who saps their opponent's will, as Umar likes to rely on a range-kicking game in the cage. That's not to say he can't wrestle (and do it well), only that this fight will likely remain at distance for the majority of its duration. Sergey Morozov looks to be a well-put-together kickboxer who can be hit, but he has shown a fair bit of power in his career. My issue with Nurmagomedov as a fighter is he often throws the same kick repeatedly, and I don't think Morozov will allow him to work in space. This could lead to Umar engaging in wrestling, but Morozov should force enough of a fight to control the pace and take this one on points.