MMA DFS 101 - Daily Fantasy MMA Tournament Strategy
MMA can be a crazy sweat and it’s one of the most high-variance sports that exist, so prepare for some crazy nights.
I wrote up the below information just to give you an idea of where to start. As with all my other content, most of the information is just a general guide. My subscribers who have the most success tend to use my breakdowns, rankings, projections etc., in combination with their own thoughts/decisions to develop a process that can be fine-tuned over time. And it’s always important to play the long-term game with this sport.
Strategy: Cash Games vs. GPPs
MMA is very unique in the sense that it’s a binary sport. You can either win the fight, or lose it (or draw, but that outcome is far too unlikely to factor into projections). Because of this, MMA is completely different from most, if not all other sports. And since fight conclusion bonuses are worth the vast majority of a fighter’s points, the swings from one punch to the next can be drastic, and an extremely intense to sweat.
If you’re interested in playing tournaments, forget everything you might know about cash games because GPPs require a completely different strategy. Four wins MIGHT get you a minimum cash in this format, but if you’re putting out a lineup, it should be one designed to earn six wins. No matter how good those four wins are, winners in GPPs will find a way to secure 6/6 victories.
For me, the best way to construct GPP lineups is to focus on the middle tier of fighters, and the reason is two-fold. The top tier of fighters will be the ones Vegas projects as the heaviest favorites and the most likely fighters to secure a win. They’re great and safe plays in cash games, but it often forces you to dumpster dive on a pick or two. And when you drop too far down on underdogs, it can leave you with a roster that’s VERY unlikely to earn six wins.
The second reason I’ll target the middle tier is because it’s generally less owned. If I can roster Jon Jones against a terrible opponent, why shouldn’t I??? Well, because everybody looks to the top tier. Those fighters tend to have bigger names and more obvious routes to victory, and are therefore are much more highly owned than fighters with a lesser chance to win.
In cash games, I said that I need my expensive fighters to win. In tournaments, finding the right underdogs is much more important. It’s not that difficult to find good favorites you think will win and score highly, but if you put your sole effort there, it will leave you choosing the underdogs who fit based on their price. That’s not good.
The only way to win tournaments is to get six wins, so your underdogs are massively important, and you can’t ignore them ‘till the end. Just like cash games, if we can find a cheap fighter who is favored to win based on Vegas odds, that fighter is an automatic consideration in tournaments for me.
But instead of focusing on which underdogs can last a few rounds, I will focus more on the 0 vs. 100 point fighters, the risks. If I roster a fighter who scores 0, I’m going to lose in tournaments. But If I roster a fighter who lasts a few rounds and scores 15 and loses, I’m still going to lose! So the risk of my underdog getting finished quickly doesn’t matter, as long as they have they upside to score highly.
One way to go about finding the upside is to look at Vegas Inside the Distance props (ITD). Each fighter will have an ITD prop, and the better it is, the more in consideration they are for tournaments.
One good example is heavyweight underdogs, especially ones facing better opponents on paper. Usually in these high-risk heavyweight bouts, the fight as a whole will be likely to end ITD, but people often ignore the underdog because they think the favorite will win and score highly. It’s not that crazy, but often those underdog heavyweights have great ITD props for their price, and they still will win some of the time.
If any underdog has less than a +200 ITD prop, I will automatically consider them in tournaments.
When I’m choosing favorites, I still want them to win, and I’d like them to finish, but I will take on more risk. I want fighters who IF they win, will win dominantly. Sometimes we see examples like a fighter who IF he gets the fight to the ground will dominate, but we just don’t know he will or not. Those fights will be close in the odds and close in the prices, and there’s clear risk, but the upside is high. If my fighter does get the fight to the ground, he will most likely dominate that area and score highly.
This works in reverse too, if a fighter has a dominant striking advantage but we’re not sure whether he can keep the fight standing. I will take those risks, because if he does keep the fight standing, I know he is dominant and can likely win the fight by knockout.
Targeting both sides of an expected high action fight is a great tournament strategy in general, especially if you are making multiple lineups. It’s HARD to predict every winner on a card correctly, and there’s no reason you should have to do that to profit. There are many times, for example in a main event, where I’m very confident the winner will score highly and end up on the winning lineup. I may have a lean as to who I think will win, but it would be foolish of me put all my eggs in one basket.
Instead, I’ll make sure that I have some exposure to each side of the coin. You don’t need to do this with every fight, but if you can focus on which fights will be high-action and will produce high scores, and build around those, you will set yourself up to profit.
I made this word up, but understanding the flow of a fight is as important as understanding game flow in the NFL or NBA. Watching fights helps, but learning the style of each fighter will help you determine their potential range of outcomes.
Some fighters will only look to take the fight to the ground and earn a submission. Some fighters will do the exact opposite, and will do everything in their power to stay on their feet because if the fight hits the mat, they are a fish out of water.
Some fighters don’t like to push the action, they like to sit back and counter. I rarely target these types of fighters, I want ones who are always pushing the action and looking for a finish. The more fights you watch and the more research you put in, like in any sport, the better feel you will have for how a fight will look.
As I’ve mentioned in both my cash game and GPP strategy, Vegas is an important tool to use, it’s often the most important tool. Many players simply don’t look or care about Vegas lines, and that’s where we can gain a significant advantage.
And unlike most sports, the Vegas lines on MMA fights shift dramatically throughout the week. A fighter may open as a -120 favorite, and come into fight night as a +150 underdog. Or we may see a favorite open at -150 who ends the week -350.
DraftKings usually releases prices early in the week, which gives the lines a full few days to shift. Essentially, as the odds shift, it increases or decreases each fighter’s value. But DraftKings cannot change a fighter’s salary once it’s set early in the week, which means sharp players have ample time to spot values that the average player will not find.
I personally use Vegas odds as my No. 1 tool to create lineups, and if you study them daily (or even bi-weekly) as the odds shift, and values change, you will already have a leg up on the competition.