On Saturday, May 9, the UFC will host its first live event since March 14 at an empty VyStar Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
With 12 matchups on the docket for UFC 249, DraftKings is offering a DFS contest with a $1 million prize pool, the largest pool ever offered for an MMA contest on the site.
This is the first of three UFC events scheduled at VyStar Arena from May 9 to May 16. Florida is currently the only state classifying professional sports as an essential business.
Fighters will be allowed their full corners and will undergo mandatory medical screenings and COVID-19 tests, then will be asked to self-isolate until the test results come back. The event begins at 6 p.m. Saturday on Pay-Per-View and the headliner between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title is set for 10 p.m.
How to play UFC DFS
DraftKings is offering a wide range of contests where contestants select six fighters from the field while staying under the $50,000 salary cap. Fighters earn points based on officially scored moves including Knockdowns (10pts), Takedowns (5pts), Reversals/Sweeps (5pts), Advances (3pts), and Significant Strikes (0.5pts). Fighters earn a bonus when declared the winner.
For those DFS players who are used to other sports, the principles are similar in MMA DFS: Identify value, use safe plays in Cash games, and take risks in GPP formats.
“If you’re getting into [MMA DFS] for the first time, I’d really let the betting lines guide you,” suggests DraftKings Analyst Greg Ehrenberg. “Betting lines often move. By the time the fight rolls around Saturday, the odds could flip, and that would signify some value on a different fighter. Tracking line movement is usually the best way to go about building DraftKings lineups.”
UFC 249 card breakdown
The most expensive fighter on the board at $9,300 is Ryan Spann (pictured), who will take on Sam Alvey in a light heavyweight matchup. Spann owns a 17-5 career record and is a big favorite with -400 odds to win this matchup.
Heavyweights Fabricio Werdum (-300) and Francis Ngannou (-260) are also towards the top of the leaderboard ahead of their respective bouts, followed by welterweight Vicente Luque (-270) and lightweight Calvin Kattar (-240).
Then we get to some of the more notable names in the headliner fights. Henry Cejudo is priced at $8,800 as he looks to defend his bantamweight championship against Dominick Cruz ($7,400) in the co-main event. Cejudo owns a 15-2 career record and is a -220 favorite to defeat the 35-year-old Cruz, who is coming off injury and has not fought in four years. Cruz is a wily veteran with a 22-2 record and UFC president Dana White has speculated that the former three-time champion “could pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport.”
The other card on the main event pits 36-year-old Tony Ferguson against Justin Gaethje ($7,500). Ferguson, who is priced at $8,700 with -180 odds to win, is fighting Gaethje despite the fact that he’s already secured a title shot with champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (who is in his native Russia). With a 12-fight win streak and 26-3 career record, Ferguson is a deserved favorite and may have a training edge over Gaethje, who accepted the fight on April 6.
Since Ferguson/Gaethje and Cejudo/Cruz are title fights, they’re definitely bouts to target since they can go up to five rounds instead of the standard 3 rounds. Ferguson and Gaethje are both fighters that strike at a high rate, giving the main event deserved appeal in all DFS formats.
“It’s nearly a lock that the winner of the main event is going to wind up in the optimal lineup,” said Ehrenberg. “So in a GPP, you want to target that fight and in a Cash game it’s reasonable to roster both fighters.”
Other key events include Ngannou fighting Jair Rozenstruik ($7,100) to become the No. 1 heavyweight contender, and former strawweight champion Carla Esparaza ($8,400) facing Michelle Waterson ($7,800) in the lone women’s fight on the card.
Here is the full fight card with betting odds:
UFC 249 fight card
- Tony Ferguson -180 vs. Justin Gaethje +155 (Interim lightweight title)
- Henry Cejudo (c) -220 vs. Dominick Cruz +180 (Bantamweight title)
- Francis Ngannou -260 vs. Jair Rozenstruik +210 (Heavyweights)
- Calvin Kattar -240 vs. Jeremy Stephens +200 (Featherweights)
- Greg Hardy -195 vs. Yorgan De Castro +165 (Heavyweights)
- Anthony Pettis -150 vs. Donald Cerrone +125 (Welterweights)
- Vicente Luque -270 vs. Niko Price +220 (Welterweights)
- Fabricio Werdum -300 vs. Aleksei Oleinik +240 (Heavyweights)
- Ronaldo Souza -125 vs. Uriah Hall +105 (Middleweights)
- Carla Esparza -160 vs. Michelle Waterson +135 (Women’s strawweights)
- Bryce Mitchell -180 vs. Charles Rosa +155 (Featherweights)
- Ryan Spann -420 vs. Sam Alvey +330 (Light heavyweights)