UFC Daily Fantasy: The 15 Best Pound-for-Pound Fighters on FanDuel in 2024

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
UFC Daily Fantasy: The 15 Best Pound-for-Pound Fighters on FanDuel in 2024

UFC is so new as a sport -- founded in November of 1993 -- that even this stuff seems hard.

In any other sport, it's very obvious who the best players in fantasy are. Justin Jefferson has been catching touchdowns for years. LeBron James has been a stat stuffer since 2003. Mike Trout has been near the top of fantasy drafts his entire career.

Even in individual sports, Rory McIlroy and Denny Hamlin have been winning golf tournaments and NASCAR races for over a decade. UFC is very different. Its brightest stars and even many of its champions aren't the best fighters for a spot on FanDuel.

We also just see them less often than other athletes during a calendar year. Even the most active UFC fighters will appear only three or four times a year. The average is less than two fights per turn of the calendar. With so much on the line, fighters take every ounce of reasonable time to prepare for a match.

When they come around onto a FanDuel card, these stars are worth consideration in any matchup. There's just no salary that's too high in any structure for a dominant favorite who will push the pace and score points.

This is the third edition of a yearly check-in I hope to do every Memorial Day week -- as this is a weekend UFC historically will always take off in observance -- where we look at the cream of the crop.

Here are the pound-for-pound top-15 fighters in UFC -- for fantasy purposes -- right now in 2024.

Baseline Criteria

In order to be eligible, the fighter must be ranked in UFC's official rankings in at least one weight class. While these rankings aren't perfect (or, trust me, the least bit scientific), there is a baseline level of experience and success required to find the top-15 spots of any UFC weight class.

After all, if they're posting these numbers against ranked competition, they'd destroy lower-level foes.

The calculation of evaluating these fighters came from a representation of what they provide in terms of FanDuel scoring over the course of 15 minutes.

This starts with their rate of FanDuel Points Per Minute Excluding Bonuses (FDPPM). This metric takes the fighter's rate of FanDuel points per minute excluding bonuses, compiled by significant strikes, takedowns, and submission attempts. I've multiplied this figure by 15 in the calculation to represent the fighter's level of activity throughout a normally-scheduled UFC bout.

In addition to per-minute scoring, I've also calculated an Average Win Bonus (AWB) for the fighter's last five appearances. Some fighters did not quite have five appearances, but it was an average of what they've had. Some have jumped the line into the rankings from their work in other promotions.

Finally, I needed to add a Knockdown Bonus (KB) to represent the average knockdown bonus they've received in their past five fights. Knockdowns are an indication of fight-ending power and -- at 12 FanDuel points a pop -- go a long way towards finding the optimal MVP candidate on FanDuel.

The following rankings are an unbiased representation of those three things added together and labeled FanDuel Points Per 15 Minutes (FDPP15) below.

2024 Pound-for-Pound UFC Daily Fantasy Rankings

15. Shavkat Rakhmonov

Weight Class: Welterweight
FDPP15: 132.4
Last Year's Rank: 10th

This list starts in a pretty strong place when #15 Shavkat Rakhmonov is likely next in line to challenge for the 170-pound throne.

"Nomad" has made fans quickly behind his torturous, methodical style, well-rounded skill set, and distinctive headdress made of wolf skin.

The finisher from Kazakhstan has maintained a perfect, 18-for-18 pro finishing rate through a six-fight UFC career to this point. Those names keep getting better and better, adding ranked fighters like Neil Magny, Geoff Neal, and Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson to the list most recently.

Early finishes are the name of the game in UFC DFS, so it's no surprise to see him make the top 15 for a second straight year. Rakhmonov's significant-strike-per-minute volume (4.49 SSLPM) and takedown volume (1.49 TDp15) aren't super high, so those finishes will need to keep coming for him to crack the rankings in 2025.

14. Dricus Du Plessis

Weight Class: Middleweight
FDPP15: 133.2
Last Year's Rank: 6th

Last year, we didn't have a UFC champion on this list. #14 Dricus Du Plessis made that a reality by dethroning Sean Strickland in January.

It's hard to finish competition at a championship level, which is how Du Plessis slid back on this list after going all 25 minutes with the former champ. Nonetheless, he also scored a second-round TKO of Robert Whittaker since my last pass at these rankings to help offset those issues.

The South African's striking (6.49 SSLPM) and takedown (3.00 TDp15) volume are both excellent, mixing in nearly a submission attempt per 15 minutes with them (0.8). Du Plessis' high-octane style has been a puzzle for all middleweights given his 7-0 record with the promotion.

The 185-pound strap hasn't been scheduled for a defense yet, but many expect aging former middleweight champion Israel Adesanya could be next in line due to his star power. If Du Plessis' tornado of violence meets the one-dimensional Adesanya, I wouldn't be surprised to see him back on the list next year.

13. Ilia Topuria

Weight Class: Featherweight
FDPP15: 136.2
Last Year's Rank: 11th

Did I mention we didn't have one title on this list last year? Here's a second in 2024.

#13 Ilia Topuria dethroned the legendary Alexander Volkanovski via second-round knockout in February, but Topuria -- a three-time member of this list -- is a wrecking ball that we saw coming. "El Matador" lit up Josh Emmett for 152 significant strikes to earn the shot with Volkanovski, whose waning durability met the Spaniard at the wrong time.

Topuria could absolutely be the next 145-pound champion to hold his belt for at least five defenses, joining Jose Aldo, Max Holloway, and Volkanovski on that list. He's scored four knockdowns in his last five bouts with elite boxing and plus power, yet his grappling (1.3 submission attempts per 15) could be a key advantage over several top contenders.

Behind elite striking (65%) and takedown (92%) defense, Ilia is largely without a weakness amidst his 7-0 start. A pending fight with the aforementioned Holloway -- UFC's all-time leader in significant strikes -- should only help him retain a spot in these rankings.

12. Mario Bautista

Weight Class: Men's Bantamweight
FDPP15: 137.7
Last Year's Rank: N/A

This was the first total stunner to see on the list.

#12 Mario Bautista entered the rankings by lighting up Ricky Simon for 112 significant strikes in January, and Bautista has been a dominant fantasy player on the way up.

He's used solid striking volume (5.69 SSLPM) to apply pressure to what has indisputably been some of the most lethal submission danger in the division. Bautista averages 1.0 attempts per 15 minutes, converting three into wins via sub in his last five fights.

"Super" Mario trains at one of the best gyms in this division at MMA Lab in Arizona -- home to champion Sean O'Malley, Kyler Phillips, Marcus McGhee, and other top-performing UFC 135ers. There aren't better partners to continue the progression of his skillset and ascent.

At 30 years old, Bautista is smack dab in the middle of his athletic prime, and a big fight -- perhaps even his first career main event -- should await him within the next year.

11. Karine Silva

Weight Class: Women's Flyweight
FDPP15: 138.0
Last Year's Rank: N/A

It's very rare that I'm not extremely high on the potential of anyone on this list, which could mean I might need to change my tune about #11 Karine Silva in a hurry.

I've been a doubter of Silva through weak, entry-level competition at women's 125. Her striking defense (49%) is poor, and she's yet to defend a UFC takedown attempt. However, "Killer" has brought high-level offense that her opponents just haven't been able to handle, scoring a first-or-second-round finish in her first four UFC fights.

Her latest bout -- and first inside the rankings -- with Ariane da Silva was a decision win where she scored just 66.2 FanDuel points. As the competition got stiffer, Silva's dominant ways in DFS went by the wayside.

That result is in line with divisional trends at women's flyweight, too. She might also begin losing due to defensive issues, which is a quick way to exit this list. While I might have undersold Silva's general effectiveness as she ascended up the 125-pound rankings, I'd be pretty surprised if she was on this list in 2025.

10. Tatiana Suarez

Weight Class: Women's Strawweight
FDPP15: 144.1
Last Year's Rank: 13

Injuries to fighters that look like contenders are heartbreaking, and unfortunately, #10 Tatiana Suarez can't seem to shake the injury bug that's bitten her entire career.

Suarez went over three years without a fight between 2019 and 2022 due to neck issues, and there was a collective groan from MMA fans when she was forced to pull out of UFC 298 in February with a new knee injury. It's unknown if she'll even compete in 2024 at all, but holding this ranking, she still qualified for this list.

In her two fights since returning from the neck injury, she's posted second-round submissions of Montana De La Rosa and Jessica Andrade. When available to make the walk, Suarez's dominant wrestling game (6.20 TDp15) appears too much for anyone -- including possibly 115-pound champion Zhang Weili -- to handle. She's 7-0 in UFC dating back to 2016.

Suarez is one fight from a UFC title opportunity, but that path has once again been delayed by injury. Should she be able to return, I wouldn't fade her in DFS against anybody. Weili (50% takedown D) and Yan Xiaonan (62%) are excellent matchups for her as the other top contenders in the division.

9. Anthony Hernandez

Weight Class: Middleweight
FDPP15: 147.4
Last Year's Rank: N/A

I'm not sure what #9 Anthony Hernandez's upside is in UFC, but the promotion is better off having dudes like "Fluffy" around.

Hernandez has overcome a 1-2 UFC start to become one of the hardest matchups in the world at 185 pounds. Fluffy's signature attribute is absurd pace and cardio, averaging 6.62 takedowns per 15 minutes. Though lacking top-end knockout power, he's wilted four of his last five opponents for a second-or-third-round finish.

The win that strikes fear into most of this division was a submission of former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Rodolfo Vieira. The Orange County native is still the only pro to have accomplished that feat. He's posted 2.2 submission attempts per 15 minutes overall.

While Fluffy's striking defense (45%) is a glaring red flag, he was one of very few to successfully take down Roman Kopylov (87% takedown D) earlier this year -- and did so thrice. He hasn't had to strike to this point, and the grappler is a poor matchup for nearly all challengers in his wake until he reaches Du Plessis.

8. Jailton Almeida

Weight Class: Heavyweight
FDPP15: 150.1
Last Year's Rank: 3rd

It's a testament to #8 Jailton Almeida's blistering start that he's still in the rankings after a pair of underwhelming performances.

Last year in Sāo Paulo, Almeida went to his first UFC decision but still compiled 98.8 FanDuel points over the course of 25 minutes against Derrick Lewis. Then, it seemed as though his unbeaten streak was going to easily continue against Curtis Blaydes in February after nine takedowns in the first round, but fatigue, a bad spot, and Blaydes' power led to a TKO loss (via elbows) in the second round.

Some suggest these fights are proof that "Malhadinho" doesn't have the true size to win a title in UFC's largest division, yet six straight wins via early finish preceding those bouts suggest the opposite. Almeida's takedown (6.88 TDp15) and submission (2.2 attempts per 15) volume are still 95th percentile or better at heavyweight.

Almeida simply made a mistake against Blaydes -- a top-five fighter in the division. Rather than a difficult cut to 205 pounds, I still believe rounding out his striking (2.54 SSLPM) in this division is his most likely path to UFC gold.

7. Umar Nurmagomedov

Weight Class: Men's Bantamweight
FDPP15: 150.2
Last Year's Rank: 7th

You know you're a scary MMA fighter when even the world's best fighters are afraid to fight you. #7 Umar Nurmagomedov's last name and skill set has led to a "no thanks" from several of 135's best.

Umar has just one fight since we last did these rankings, and it was a decision win over the debuting Bekzat Almakhan (0-1 UFC). Almakhan agreed to the fight for a chance at his next UFC opportunity. Nurmagomedov posted a decent 90.8 FanDuel points, which was good enough to keep the same ranking as scoring dipped across the board last year.

The charades with Nurmagomedov seem to be coming to an end. He's got a confirmed fight against top-five contender Cory Sandhagen in August, and a win in that bout will put him next in line for whomever has the title at that point.

This rankings list is all about offense, yet the cousin of the former lightweight champion also has an absurd striking (76%) and takedown (100%) defense that's left him unblemished through five UFC appearances.

Many point to him as the true best bantamweight in the world that hasn't yet gotten an opportunity to prove it.

6. Khamzat Chimaev

Weight Class: Middleweight
FDPP15: 161.7
Last Year's Rank: 1st

Unfortunately, last year's top overall scorer was a letdown in his only 2023-24 appearance to this point.

#6 Khamzat Chimaev was pretty close to a first-round finish of Kamaru Usman that might have kept him at the top, but he faded to actually lose the third round and squeak through a tight decision. Usman, the former welterweight champion, is no slouch, but there's no doubt that "Borz" has left the category of divisional boogeyman when he's gone the full distance -- in close fashion -- with both top-10 contenders he's faced.

In the first round, there aren't many scarier than Chimaev behind absurd striking volume (5.72 SSLPM) and a smothering wrestling attack (3.99 TDp15). His conditioning pushing such a pace -- if you survive -- makes him fairly beatable outside the first.

It's hard to deny Chimaev's personal and citizenship issues have taken a toll on his MMA career. He's appeared just twice in the last two years, showing up 10 pounds overweight for his second-most recent fight. That has forced him to middleweight (185) permanently.

He's lined up for a matchup with the uber-professional Robert Whittaker -- and Whittaker's 82% takedown D -- in June that will tell us a lot about the longevity of the post-COVID superstar.

5. Sergei Pavlovich

Weight Class: Heavyweight
FDPP15: 165.9
Last Year's Rank: 2nd

Even coming up short in his first UFC title opportunity, #5 Sergei Pavlovich is probably still the heavyweight that no one in the division would love to fight.

Pavlovich was given a dose of his own medicine in November when interim champion Tom Aspinall flattened him in 69 seconds. That snapped a streak of six straight first-round finishes.

To that point, the Russian has melted foes behind the second-highest average of SSLPM among ranked fighters (8.21) and an absurd 4.79% knockdown rate. Simply, even the division's best power punchers -- outside of Aspinall -- can't stand with the guy.

He's also kept the fight standing with a 75% takedown defense, which is how he dispatched the aforementioned Blaydes -- the next challenger in Aspinall's path -- as a wrestler.

Pavlovich's next bout is the co-main event underneath Chimaev-Whittaker, and he'll face Alexander Volkov -- who admitted he'd rather not fight Sergei. Needless to say, he'll be favored to win that bout and stay in the title picture.

4. Benoît Saint Denis

Weight Class: Lightweight
FDPP15: 167.0
Last Year's Rank: N/A

Even suffering a defeat in his most recent fight, "The God of War" established himself as a contender that isn't to be trifled with.

#4 Benoît Saint Denis might find fighting in a UFC octagon rather trivial after his time with France's Special Operations Command, but he's really good at it. He's a complete, well-rounded wrecking ball behind 5.70 SSLPM, 4.76 TDp15, and 1.5 submission attempts per 15 minutes.

Saint Denis scored five straight first-or-second-round finishes to begin his lightweight career, which earned him a bout with Dustin Poirier that was for the next crack at champion Islam Makhachev.

He was heavily favored (-210) and en route to winning the first two rounds behind 50 significant strikes and 3 takedowns, but a mighty left hand from Poirier ended his night in an instant. Excuses tend to fly after losses, but Benoît did state he had a staph infection that compromised him leading into UFC 299.

Compromised or not, Saint Denis likely earned another top-10 fight next, and he'll likely be favored given how his fight with a credentialed challenger like Poirier was going. Don't write off the 28-year-old from snatching this belt away from Makhachev before his prime is over.

3. Carlos Ulberg

Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
FDPP15: 175.9
Last Year's Rank: N/A

The most recent appearance on this list belongs to #3 Carlos Ulberg, who scored 116.2 FanDuel points just two weeks ago at UFC St. Louis.

That win earned "Black Jag" a spot in the rankings, and it was well overdue in UFC's weakest division. Ulberg has now scored six straight early finishes after a loss in his UFC debut that might have been the most dominant performance of them all. The City Kickboxing product posted a +64 striking differential against Kennedy Nzechukwu before the former ranked contender found a miracle, come-from-behind KO.

That loss hasn't compromised Ulberg's ambition. He still lands the most significant strikes per minute inside the 205-pound rankings (7.41) with incredible 59% accuracy. He's also turned away wrestlers in bulk behind a 75% takedown defense.

Some see Ulberg's 52% striking defense -- and the result against Nzechukwu -- as a reason to believe he's a "fraud check" waiting to happen. It'll be a fluke knockout, though; it's hard for me to picture anyone getting the better of the kickboxer's +3.89 striking success rate over the course of a prolonged fight.

Another elite striker, Alex Pereira, holds this belt, but Ulberg -- a teammate of Israel Adesanya -- might have the perfect skillset to avenge his aging friend.

2. Kayla Harrison

Weight Class: Women's Bantamweight
FDPP15: 180.2
Last Year's Rank: N/A

I considered not adding #2 Kayla Harrison to this list given a sub-seven-minute UFC sample, but she's worth pointing out in this space considering the former Olympic gold medalist in Judo is going to mop the women's 135-pound division from a real life and daily fantasy perspective.

She showed that with a second-round finish of former champion Holly Holm, which was the first early loss for Holm since 2016. Harrison posted a +49 striking differential while landing two of her five takedown attempts. She converted her first career submission attempt to end the fight, too.

Harrison dominated Professional Fight League (PFL) for years with a 15-1 record, and now that she's successfully found a way to cut to 135 pounds in lieu of PFL's 145 or 155-pound divisions, her size advantage is borderline unfair. That was the only obstacle keeping her out of UFC the entire time.

For context, Holm bested current 135-pound champion Raquel Pennington in 2020 via unanimous decision. Pennington's 63% takedown defense isn't even a solid mark in the division, so I'm expecting Kayla to be an extremely large favorite to easily snatch this title away -- likely in her next fight.

I wouldn't fade her on FanDuel as it happens.

1. Tom Aspinall

Weight Class: Heavyweight
FDPP15: 185.9
Last Year's Rank: 4th

It's kind of absurd to think about how far #1 Tom Aspinall would be ahead of everyone else if my criteria didn't ding him entirely out of his control.

Technically, Aspinall "lost" to Curtis Blaydes in 2022 due to his MCL tear just 15 seconds into their fight. That's staining what is otherwise a nearly perfect record, amassing a first-or-second-round finish in each of his other seven UFC fights.

That included aforementioned power-puncher Sergei Pavlovich in his last fight, and he'll re-rack the Blaydes fight to begin his title defense at heavyweight. Yes, I'm of the belief this "interim" title is truly his title; Jon Jones will never fight amidst heavyweight's true contenders. That's because the aged legend would handily lose at this point.

Aspinall's speed at his size is truly intimidating. He's posted an absurd 7.72 SSLPM around lumbering heavyweights that can't keep up, and he's taken the path of least resistance by amassing 3.46 takedowns and 1.7 submission attempts per 15 minutes against the ones that can't grapple. Personally, Blaydes -- having just surrendered nine takedowns to Almeida -- has no shot because of the latter point.

Relative to his divisional peers, I've maintained for about a year that Aspinall is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Another quick finish of Blaydes will likely begin to reinforce that idea for those less inclined to believe his sparkling data.

Honorable Mentions

In a transient year, six fighters slipped outside the 2023 rankings. They are #16 Jack Della Maddalena, #22 Erin Blanchfield, #26 Casey O'Neill, #27 Jiří Procházka, #38 Ian Machado Garry, and #40 Jalin Turner. Surprisingly, Della Maddalena and Machado Garry did so without losing.

#18 Islam Makhachev saw a huge increase from 31st after a first-round finish of Volkanovski in his last bout. Once a frustrating DFS proposition, he's quietly topped 100 FanDuel points in four of his last five fights.

I'm almost certain #21 Diego Lopes will be in the rankings next year. Lopes has scored three straight first-round finishes to fly into the featherweight rankings, and he's still aging out a loss to undefeated #70 Movsar Evloev on just four days' notice. Lopes' insane power and submission game is reminiscent of fellow Brazilian duelist #31 Charles Oliveira.

#23 Sean O'Malley just missed the rankings -- in large part due to #102 Marlon Vera's absurd toughness. "The Suga Show" is still posting 7.63 SSLPM but none of the 230 (!) he landed on Vera could get "Chito" out of there.

"BMF" belt-holder #47 Max Holloway might be a shocking omission to many, but in addition to minimal grappling points scored, Holloway had been to a decision in eight of his nine fights entering his last -- a legendary KO of #81 Justin Gaethje. Any result like that moving forward will vault him up the 2025 listings.

#156 Leon Edwards is a great reminder that a dominant champion is not an automatic plug in this format. Amidst five wins in his sample, Edwards low striking volume (2.75 SSLPM) has still made him an afterthought in this realm. That's good to know with a high salary guaranteed each time he'll be on the slate.

Holloway was among the five largest movers from last year's rankings. #17 Michel Pereira, #36 Khalil Rountree Jr., #89 Maycee Barber, and #93 Angela Hill all jumped at least 65 spots. They're good names to monitor as afterthoughts in DFS previously that seem to have improved.

On the flip side, #105 Luana Pinheiro, #124 Amanda Lemos, #142 Beneil Dariush, #152 Anthony Smith, and #162 Tai Tuivasa all slipped at least 75 spots. I wouldn't roster any of them in upcoming fights. Hilariously, Smith tumbled down the rankings despite a solid 111.6 FanDuel points just three weeks ago at UFC 301.

Finally, #173 Holly Holm wins 2024's "Most Valuable Staller" award. Holm hasn't topped 60 FanDuel points since the start of 2021, and her last win via early finish came in 2015 via her historic upset of Ronda Rousey. At 42 years old, I'm guessing she'll vacate this spot due to retirement before next year's edition.

Full Rankings

Weight Class
Sub Att p15
14Tom AspinallHeavyweight7.723.461.780.07.2185.9
2N/AKayla HarrisonWomen's Bantamweight7.524.422.275.00.0180.2
3N/ACarlos UlbergLight Heavyweight7.410.950.390.012.0175.9
4N/ABenoît Saint DenisLightweight5.704.761.570.09.6167.0
52Sergei PavlovichHeavyweight8.
61Khamzat ChimaevMiddleweight5.723.992.768.04.8161.7
77Umar NurmagomedovMen's Bantamweight4.754.510.675.02.4150.2
View Full Table

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author’s advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.