DraftKings MMA: UFC Fight Night 81 Preview
DraftKings MMA: UFC Fight Night 81 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

A title fight for the ages headlines a rare UFC Sunday card in Boston.

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:

Moves Scoring
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Advance (ADVC): +1 PT
Takedown (TD): +2 PTS
Reversal/Sweep (REV): +2 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +3 PTS

Fight Conclusion Bonuses
1st Round Win (1rW+): +100 PTS
2nd Round Win (2rW+): +70 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rW+): +50 PTS
4th Round Win (4rW+): +40 PTS
5th Round Win (5rW+): +40 PTS
Decision Win (WBD+): +25 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 – Bantamweight Championship

(C) T.J. Dillashaw (13-2-0) v. Dominick Cruz (20-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dillashaw ($10,100), Cruz ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Dillashaw (-145), Cruz (+125)

We may be in the early days of 2016, but this is quite possibly the best fight that the UFC will produce all year. Dillashaw has looked unstoppable since winning the UFC bantamweight title from Renan Barao in May 2014. This will be Dillashaw's first fight since officially leaving Team Alpha Male and moving to Colorado to join the fast-rising Elevation Fight Team. Dillashaw is so good that I don't expect the move to impact his performance in the least. He has no weaknesses in his game and he has huge power for a 135-pounder. The only thing that has ever held Cruz back has been injuries. He has struggled to stay healthy for the majority of his UFC career, especially lately. He was the first ever UFC bantamweight champion, although he later had to vacate the title due to numerous injuries. Cruz has just one fight on his ledger since October 2011, a quick TKO win over Takeya Mizugaki in September 2014. Cruz's footwork and cardio are elite. He never gets tired and he absorbs very little damage on the feet. It's an interesting matchup against a guy in Dillashaw who tends to be active on the feet. Both guys are also terrific wrestlers, although the slight edge probably goes to Cruz in that category. Dillashaw has never been taken down in his UFC career. This is a fight between two guys who are easy top-10 pound-for-pound fighters when they're healthy. When there's a fight between two guys who are as highly skilled as Dillashaw and Cruz, the possibilities as to what could happen are endless. Dillashaw's biggest advantage is the fact that he has been far more active over the last four-plus years. That being said, knowing Cruz's work ethic, it is clear he is going to come into this fight prepared. Dillashaw is a truly special talent, but I think a healthy Cruz is even better. People forgot how good he is simply because he hasn't been around much. No matter what happens, I expect this to be a long fight. Both of these guys are too good to see this one end quickly.

THE PICK: Cruz

Co-Main Event – Lightweight

Anthony Pettis (13-2-0) v. Eddie Alvarez (26-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Pettis ($11,000), Alvarez ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Pettis (-345), Alvarez (+285)

Everyone was wondering what was wrong with Pettis after he was destroyed by Rafael dos Anjos last March. Pettis certainly didn't look comfortable in that fight, but I think that was more the result of RDA being really, really good as opposed to anything Pettis did wrong. Pettis' resume speaks for itself. He has wins over Benson Henderson (twice), Donald Cerrone, Gilbert Melendez, etc. Pettis is a truly special athlete whose game is remarkably complete. If there is one chink in Pettis' armor, it has been his takedown defense (61 percent). Thankfully for Alvarez, his wrestling is the strongest part of his game. Alvarez dropped his UFC debut to Cerrone, but he rebounded to earn a decision victory over Gilbert Melendez in a fight in which he fought the final ten minutes with one eye completely swollen shut. Alvarez is a former two-time Bellator lightweight champion, and while he doesn't have the resume that Pettis does, Alvarez has been regarded as one of the top lightweights in the world for a long time. Alvarez has a tendency to take a lot of punishment on the feet, something that could prove to be a problem against the gifted Pettis. Alvarez's best chance of winning this thing is to make it a boring fight, spend a lot of time in top position, and grind his way to a decision victory. I don't think it will happen, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. That's an awful low DK salary for a fighter of Alvarez's pedigree.
THE PICK: Pettis

Heavyweight

Travis Browne (17-3-1) v. Matt Mitrione (9-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Browne ($10,200), Mitrione ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Browne (-155), Mitrione (+135)

This is more or less Browne's last stand as far as proving he remains a threat in heavyweight division. He has lost two of his last three, and the UFC frowns upon potential contenders losing the majority of their fights. Browne has shown a questionable chin in the past, something that could be a problem against the power of Mitrione. Mitrione is a terrific athlete (he played in the NFL), but he is 37 years old and still relatively inexperienced as far as pro MMA experience goes. Mitrione was controlling Ben Rothwell in his last fight before he went for a stupid takedown and ended up getting submitted. If Mitrione can't pick up the knockout, I think he is going to have a hard time winning. Browne has experience going deep into fights, and not one of Mitrione's last seven bouts have gone past the first five minutes. Browne is my pick, but I think Mitrione is a live underdog. He makes for a fine DraftKings play because so many of his wins come early in fights.
THE PICK: Browne

Lightweight

Ross Pearson (20-9-0, 1NC) v. Francisco Trinaldo (18-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Pearson ($10,300), Trinaldo ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Pearson (-150), Trinaldo (+130)

UFC fans never know what they're going to get from Pearson. Will we see the guy who defeated Paul Felder in his last fight in September, or the guy who was hammered by Al Iaquinta and Evan Dunham in the last year-plus? Pearson's strength is his boxing. He tends to prefer to strike, with virtually all of his submission victories coming early in his career. Trinaldo has won four fights in a row, some of them against decent competition (Chad Laprise, Norman Parke, Leandro Silva). Trinaldo is another guy who has picked up the majority of his submission wins early in his career. At age 37, he has also turned into a guy who tends to primarily strike with his opponents. I really don't see much separating these two fighters. On paper, one would think that the younger, more athletic Pearson would have an edge, but he has been so inconsistent throughout his career that it's hard to put any stock in his last performance. When I'm on the fence, I almost always take the guy who is the underdog because the payoff is bigger.
THE PICK: Trinaldo

Other Bouts


Welterweight

Patrick Cote (23-9-0) v. Ben Saunders (19-6-2)
DraftKings Salaries: Cote ($9,600), Saunders ($9,800)
Vegas Odds: Cote (+100), Saunders (-120)
THE PICK: Saunders

Lightweight

Chris Wade (10-1-0) v. Mehdi Baghdad (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Wade ($10,400), Baghdad ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Wade (-290), Baghdad (+210)
THE PICK: Wade

Light Heavyweight

Tim Boestch (18-9-0) v. Ed Herman (23-11-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Boetsch ($10,500), Herman ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Boetsch (-230), Herman (+190)
THE PICK: Boetsch

Featherweight

Maximo Blanco (12-6-1, 1NC) v. Luke Sanders (10-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Blanco ($9,900), Sanders ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Blanco (-130), Sanders (+110)
THE PICK: Sanders

Lightweight

Paul Felder (10-2-0) v. Daron Cruickshank (16-7-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Felder ($10,700), Cruickshank ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Felder (-260), Cruickshank (+220)
THE PICK: Felder

Light Heavyweight

Ilir Latifi (11-4-0, 1NC) v. Sean O'Connell (16-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries:Latifi ($10,900), O'Connell ($8,500)
THE PICK: Latifi

Featherweight

Charles Rosa (10-2-0) v. Augusto Mendes (5-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Rosa ($10,800), Mendes ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Rosa (-265), Mendes (+185)
THE PICK: Rosa

Bantamweight

Rob Font (11-1-0) v. Joey Gomez (6-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Font ($10,600), Gomez ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Font (-220), Gomez (+180)
THE PICK: Font

Light Heavyweight

Francimar Barroso (17-4-0) v. Elvis Mutapcic (15-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Barroso ($10,400), Mutapcic ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Barroso (+125), Mutapcic (-165)
THE PICK: Mutapcic

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.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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