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DraftKings MMA: UFC 216 Preview

Jon Litterine

Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.


The UFC returns to Las Vegas on Saturday, where Demetrious Johnson will attempt to tie the UFC's title defense record, and a new interim lightweight king will be crowned.

If you’re hoping to turn the event into an opportunity to build your DFS bankroll, DraftKings.com has you covered with a full slate of contests. Players get a $50,000 budget to select five fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:

(Please note that DraftKings has altered their scoring system. The new point values are listed below and the rosters will now expand from 5 to 6 fighters).

Moves Scoring
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Advance (ADVC): +3 PT
Takedown (TD): +5 PTS
Reversal/Sweep (REV): +5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +10 PTS


Fight Conclusion Bonuses
1st Round Win (1rW+): +90 PTS
2nd Round Win (2rW+): +70 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rW+): +45 PTS
4th Round Win (4rW+): +40 PTS
5th Round Win (5rW+): +40 PTS
Decision Win (WBD+): +30 PTS

Scoring Notes
Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.

Advances include: To Half Guard, To Side Control, To Mount, To Back Control

Now, on to the fights...

Main Event - Interim Lightweight Championship


Tony Ferguson (23-3-0) v. Kevin Lee (16-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Ferguson ($8,900), Lee ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Ferguson (-220), Lee (+180)
Odds to Finish: -220

With current UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor's future plans still very much up in the air, the UFC decided it was time to add an interim belt to the division. Any 155-pound championship bout that doesn't feature Khabib Nurmagomedov at this point is difficult to take seriously, but the UFC had a very hard time finding a main and co-main event for this card so creating a belt seemed like one of the easiest solutions.

A winner of nine fights in a row and having not suffered a loss in well over five years, Ferguson is deserving of a title shot. He was scheduled to face Nurmagomedov at UFC 209 in March before Khabib was forced to withdraw due to issues suffered during his weight cut. It's going to be more than 11 months between fights by the time "El Cucuy" steps into the cage on Saturday, but he will certainly be ready for the biggest fight of his career. Like fine wine, Ferguson has gotten better as he has aged and gained more experience. His biggest strength remains his submission game, but his striking skills have improved to at least average. He gets hit a bit too much on the feet for my liking, but that is really the only flaw in his game. His cardio is on point and he is deceptively strong.

Despite making his debut in February 2014, Lee already has 11 UFC fights under his belt. His record is impressive (9-2) and he is coming off a strong performance in a submission win over the uber-tough Michael Chiesa in June. Lee is a terrific athlete whose success is built around his ability to land consistent takedowns. His upper-body strength allows him to muscle his opponents to the mat from most any position. Lee had just one career win by knockout, but he has more power in his hands than that number would indicate.

I expect this to be a close, competitive fight. Lee is a solid all-around fighter that certainly has a chance to win, but this feels like Ferguson's time. "El Cucuy" can get a bit wild at times and that can result in him absorbing far too much sudden punishment, but I think he has more ways to emerge victorious. That being said, Lee is a live underdog and he is certainly worth a look as a value DK play.

THE PICK: Ferguson

Main Event - Flyweight Championship


(C) Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1) v. Ray Borg (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Johnson ($9,700), Borg ($6,500)
Vegas Odds: Johnson (-1250), Borg (+800)
Odds to Finish: -175

It was delayed a bit, but it's finally happening.

"Mighty Mouse" is the only Flyweight Champion in UFC history and he is currently riding a 12-fight winning streak. The list of fighters who have fallen victim to Johnson during that run (Joseph Benavidez 2x, John Dodson 2x, Wilson Reis, Henry Cejudo, Tim Elliott, etc.) are the best the division has to offer. DJ is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world in my book. He does everything perfectly from a technical standpoint and his world-class cardio allows him to fight in the 25th minute the same exact way that he fights in the first. It's a monumental advantage in a sport where fighters are gassing out left and right.

Borg is a gifted 24-year-old who relies on his grappling to win fights. He is very strong for a man who stands only 5-foot-4 and he has the ability to score successful takedowns from a variety of angles because of his brute strength. As I mentioned earlier, he has had issues making weight in the past. Either the UFC is confident that Borg's weight cutting issues are behind him, or else they feel as if they had no other option in regards to an opponent for Johnson. Borg also has very little power in his hands. He has just once career win by KO and that came in his third professional fight in May 2013. He is a quality fighter, but facing Johnson is a huge ask.

I am firmly of the belief that the only way to beat Johnson is to land one big shot that leads to a finish. There isn't a 125-pounder on the planet who can outpoint him for 25 minutes. DJ's last fight was against Reis, a big, strong wrestler who had a significant power advantage over the champ. Borg fights a similar style, he's just not as powerful. "Mighty Mouse" embarrassed Reis and I could see the same thing happening against Borg. DJ's greatness puts him in the DK conversation despite his massive salary. I will be picking Johnson in every single flyweight fight until he loses his title.

THE PICK: Johnson

Heavyweight


Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1) v. Derrick Lewis (18-5-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Werdum ($8,700), Lewis ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Werdum (-255), Lewis (+215)
Odds to Finish: -170

Lewis spoke of likely retirement in the immediate aftermath of his loss to Mark Hunt in June, but that was always an unlikely scenario and here he is less than four months later in another high-profile fight. Lewis had a six-fight winning streak snapped in the Hunt fight, a bout that showed all the issues that Lewis' detractors have been mentioning for years. Lewis hits like a Mack Truck and he can finish a fight on the feet at any time, but he is a one-dimensional fighter with cardio issues. Lewis has main evented his previous three fights, so going back to a 15-minute bout on Saturday should be a nice change of pace for "The Black Beast."

Werdum most recently dropped a majority decision to Alistair Overeem in July in a fight in which not a whole heck of a lot happened. Following a long string of undefeated bouts, Werdum is just 2-2 in his last four fights. Those kind of numbers are not going to cut it for a fighter who turned 40 years old earlier this year. As one of the best mat specialists in the world, the Brazilian is going to have a monumental advantage in all grappling exchanges between the two men. The issue for Werdum will be getting the fight to the ground. He will have to avoid the bombs that Lewis throws his way if Werdum has any hope of winning.

A professional for more than 15 years, Werdum has been knocked out just twice in his entire professional career (Junior Dos Santos, current UFC Champion Stipe Miocic). Of course, Lewis hits harder than just about any man on the planet, so Werdum could certainly be in trouble, but I'm confident that Werdum's chin will hold up well enough for him to pick up the win. On the flip side, Lewis' power, as is almost always the case, makes him the better DK play.

THE PICK: Werdum

Lightweight


Beneil Dariush (14-3-0) v. Evan Dunham (17-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dariush ($9,000), Dunham ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Dariush (-230), Dunham (+190)
Odds to Finish: +130

This is an intriguing matchup between two of the more underrated lightweights on the roster. Dariush was knocked out by Edson Barboza in March, but he had won seven of his previous eight prior. He is a slow, methodical fighter, bordering on dull. Dariush waits for his opponents to make a mistake and makes them pay. He is very good at it. I'm very interested to see how his calm demeanor fairs against an in-your-face opponent such as Dunham. Fighting at a high pace isn't Dariush's strength, but he may not have a choice here.

Dunham's game is built around his toughness and durability. He has a wrestling background and is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He does everything well, but his great weakness is a lack of power in his hands. He is similar to Dariush in that aspect. Both can finish a fight with strikes under the right circumstances, but they are far more likely to use the other aspects of their respective games. The issue when facing Dunham is that he is just so darn scrappy that he drains the gas tank of his opponents. He sticks to you like glue and he has a unique ability of keeping his opposition planted on the mat if he gets ahold of you. It's an especially unique talent when you take into account that Dunham's career takedown percentage (34.6 percent) isn't particularly great.

The pace of this fight will determine the winner. Any high-tempo action will massively favor Dunham. There isn't a whole lot of separation between the two men in what is essentially a pick 'em for me. I would wager that the odds here are well better than 50/50 that this one goes the distance. I'm taking Dunham because he has looked better of late (he has won four straight and hasn't lost in more than three years) and I think he can wear Dariush down, but I expect a close, competitive fight. Regardless of who you think will win, Dunham seems like a real value play with his extremely cheap salary.

THE PICK: Dunham

Lightweight


Will Brooks (18-3-0) v. Nik Lentz (29-8-2, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Brooks ($8,600), Lentz ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Brooks (-320), Lentz (+240)
Odds to Finish: TBD

There is no doubt that Brooks' brief three-fight UFC run has been a struggle. He is sporting a 1-2 record with the company and he looked poor in his only victory. Brooks is only 30 years old, but this is last call for a fighter that was widely viewed as one of the better lightweights in the world when he joined the company in July of last year. The former Bellator Lightweight Champion, Brooks' background is in wrestling. He has enough pop in his hands to keep his opponents honest, but his strength is his grappling. I remain a big believer in his long term ability, but Brooks needs a win here any way he can find it.

Lentz has spent his career bouncing back and forth between lightweight and featherweight. His background is also in wrestling, although Brooks is the better pure athlete of the two men. Lentz has been in a ton of fights over the course of his career and he essentially gets by with grit and determination at this point. He tries to wear down his opposition and make his fights ugly. Lentz is as tough as they come and he isn't going to beat himself. He is a gatekeeper at this point in his career, but Lentz can beat you if you give him an opening.

Brooks is younger, more athletic and has more ways to win so it's easy to see why he's favored. He also has exhibited terrific takedown defense (81.5 percent) during his time with the UFC and I think Lentz is going to have difficulty if he can't get Brooks to the ground on a regular basis. "Ill Will" is the pick here despite his salary being a bit much for my liking. Lentz is a competent opponent and this fight could easily go the distance.

THE PICK: Brooks

Other Bouts


Women's Flyweight


Mara Romero Borella (11-4-0, 1NC) v. Kalindra Faria (18-5-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Romero Borella ($7,300), Faria ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Romero Borella (+160), Faria (-210)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Faria

Bantamweight


Tom Duquesnoy (15-1-0, 1NC) v. Cody Stamann (15-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Duquesnoy ($9,100), Stamann ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Duquesnoy (-150), Stamann (+110)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Duquesnoy

Lightweight


Lando Vannata (9-2-0) v. Bobby Green (23-8-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Vannata ($8,800), Green ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Vannata (-260), Green (+180)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Vannata

Women's Strawweight


Pearl Gonzalez (6-2-0) v. Poliana Botelho (5-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gonzalez ($8,400), Botelho ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Gonzalez (-120), Botelho (-120)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Botelho

Heavyweight


Walt Harris (10-5-0) v. Mark Godbeer (12-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Harris ($9,200), Godbeer ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Harris (-300), Godbeer (+220)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Harris

Flyweight


John Moraga (17-6-0) v. Magomed Bibulatov (14-0-0
DraftKings Salaries: Moraga ($6,900), Bibulatov ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Moraga (+325), Bibulatov (-475)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Bibulatov

Middleweight


Thales Leites (27-7-0) v. Brad Tavaras (15-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Leites ($7,900), Tavaras ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Leites (+135), Tavares (-175)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Tavares

Flyweight


Matt Schnell (10-4-0) v. Marco Beltran (8-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Schnell ($8,200), Beltran ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Schnell (-160), Beltran (+120)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Schnell

All odds taken from BestFightOdds.com on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 3.
The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.