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Fantasy MMA DFS Picks: UFC on ESPN+ 17, Yair Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Stephens

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Josh Engleman is back with his MMA DFS Picks for UFC on ESPN+ 17, including thoughts on Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens.

Take a break from football and get your MMA DFS Picks for UFC on ESPN+17, with a main-card featuring Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens.

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[#7] Yair Rodriguez (-105) vs. [#8] Jeremy Stephens (-115)

If this fight is boring, I quit.

Rodriquez enters the cage for the first time since his November 2018 walk-off knockout of Chan Sung Jung. Before that he was dismantled by Frankie Edgar in a fight he simply wasn’t ready for. Now, he has a date with the #8 ranked Stephens. If I can vent for a second, the fact that Stephens is ranked at all is comical. He’s 5-7 in his last 12 fights. Two of those wins are against Gilbert Melendez and Renan Barao, which were five years after either guy was relevant.

Speaking of Stephens, he’s dropped his last two fights to Zabit Magomedsharipov and Jose Aldo. His last win was a KO against Josh Emmett 18 months ago. I’m honestly surprised to see this be a coin-flip fight. Yair is the much more dynamic striker. Stephens is a one-trick pony. He hasn’t landed a takedown in a UFC fight since his June 2014 against Cub Swanson. Can he knock out Yair? Absolutely. Is he more likely to win than Rodriguez? I just don’t see it.

I’m anxious to see what the projected ownership looks like, but for now, I greatly prefer Rodriguez to Stephens. Rodriquez will look better in a decision, as Stephens doesn’t really have the volume to make a long fight work. If he doesn’t put Yair to sleep, he’s not going to be worth it. Unless the ownership is crazy between the two, I will prioritize Yair.

[#8] Carla Esparza (+115) vs. [#9] Alexa Grasso(-125)

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

This fight has the highest odds of going to decision. Neither fighter is north of 20% likelihood of finishing the fight. Ignoring flash knockouts/submissions, the only path I see to one of these women being involved in a high scoring GPP lineup is for Grasso to box Esparza’s face off for 15 minutes. She landed 148 significant strikes against Karolina Kowalkiewicz back in June. That was good enough for 104 FP at $7800. She’ll need to do that again here at a slightly higher salary. I’m going to pass.

Best of the Rest

Sergio Pettis is the second most expensive fighter on the card. He’s taking on Tyson Nam, an MMA vet making his UFC debut. Pettis has some of the lowest odds on the card of winning this fight inside of distance. I’m not sure he has enough volume to pay off in GPPs, but he’s one of the safer cash plays on the card. If I’m spending up, I’m looking at Claudio Puelles. He has the same odds to win the fight as Pettis, but he has a staggering 58% chance to win inside of distance. That’s the highest rate on the entire card by a mile. Based on his odds to finish, Polo Reyes looks like the best $7K fighter. Both he and Kyle Nelson aren’t very good, so I’ll take the salary discount with comparable finish odds. Anything can happen in this fight, but as long as Reyes’ finish odds stay >30%, I’ll be using him a lot.

I’ll be back Saturday morning with my cheatsheet picks once we have our projections and ownership posted. Check back later and good luck!

Josh is the Director of Content for Awesemo.com where he hosts video and writes content regularly across the primary sports of MLB, NBA, and NFL as well as contributing to the development of models and projections across all sports. He originally started producing projections & articles for Reddit's r/DFSports in 2014 where he built a loyal following that brought him to where he is today. Josh is most known for his elaborate Excel spreadsheets, which he shares in all of his video content. You can find him on Twitter or hanging out in Awesemo's Premium Slack. You can contact Josh by emailing support@awesemo.com.

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