This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The UFC Heavyweight Championship of the world is on the line as the UFC heads to Cleveland for the first time Saturday night.
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:
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
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 – Heavyweight Championship(C) Stipe Miocic (15-2-0) v. Alistair Overeem (41-14-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Miocic ($10,000), Overeem ($9,600)
Vegas Odds: Miocic (-135), Overeem (+115)
I picked Miocic to defeat Fabricio Werdum in May, but I certainly didn't see him landing a one-punch knockout off his back leg less than three minutes into the fight. It shows the crazy power that Miocic possesses, even if we don't see it on a regular basis. Still, that finish highlighted the biggest strength of Miocic's game: he is an elite athlete who possesses perhaps the best footwork of any fighter in the UFC's heavyweight division. He is 6-1 in his last seven fights dating back to June 2013, and in his lone loss against Junior Dos Santos, he proved that he can take an absolute beating and still continue to dish out punishment. It's an attractive combination in a division where top guys are seemingly getting knocked out left and right.
With four wins in a row, three of which are of the stoppage variety, Overeem has certainly earned his title shot. The Reem still retains a ton of power, and he has 19 career wins by submission, proving he has multiple ways to finish a fight. Questions remain about how Overeem's chin will hold up when a high caliber opponent blitzes him, but he has victories against heavy hitters like Andrei Arlovski, Dos Santos and Roy Nelson in the past year-plus. The Reem has never seen the fourth round of a fight in his entire storied career, so I am mildly concerned about his ability to compete with a fighter such as Miocic, who has proven on multiple occasions that he is well equipped to go the distance.
The other thing that must be mentioned here is the hometown advantage that Miocic, an Ohio native, is going to have in this fight. This is the first ever event that the UFC has held in Cleveland, and it figures to be a raucous crowd in support of their heavyweight champ. I try not to put too much stock in that type of stuff when breaking down a fight, but it's worth bringing up in this case.
The fighters in the heavyweight division are so big and strong, and they have so much power that I don't see any man holding the belt for any extended period of time. There are only five or six fighters on the roster who are worthy of being champion, and while Cain Velasquez is probably the most complete fighter of the group, they are all fairly interchangeable at this point. I like Stipe in this fight. He is the better athlete of the two and I believe his footwork will allow him to avoid what figures to be repeated attempts by The Reem to throw power combinations. Overeem has the power to knockout any man on earth, but Stipe has been finished just once in his entire career. Play the odds here.
THE PICK: Miocic
Co-Main Event - HeavyweightFabricio Werdum (20-6-1) v. Travis Browne (18-4-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Werdum ($10,700), Browne ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Werdum (-210), Browne (+175)
This fight was originally supposed to be Werdum v. Ben Rothwell, but Big Ben had to withdraw due to injury. Browne accepted the fight on late notice, and this will be a rematch of an April 2014 fight between the two men, a fight that Werdum won via unanimous decision.
All the accolades that Werdum received for his brilliant performance against Velasquez, that won him the UFC Heavyweight Championship in June 2015, went out the window when Miocic quickly finished him in May. Werdum has been very durable for his entire career, so the finish appeared to be a bit fluky, especially how it went down. Werdum is now 39 years of age, but he keeps himself in great shape, he remains a wizard on the mat, and he has more power than he gets credit for.
Browne looked like a future title contender following back-to-back first-round TKO wins over Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem in mid-2013, but it has been all downhill since the first Werdum fight. Browne is 2-2 in his last four fights and even the wins have been a struggle. He will show flashes of brilliance here and there, but there is no consistency to his game and he gets hit far too often – something that is entirely unacceptable in a division filled with monsters. Browne's name is bigger than his game and he may continue to get more notable fights than he deserves because he is dating Ronda Rousey, but I don't think he's a top-10 heavyweight at this point.
This is a young man's sport and I do all I can to avoid picking 39-year-old fighters whenever possible, but I have zero confidence in Browne's ability to defeat a top opponent. Werdum isn't as good as Miocic, he isn't as good as Velasquez and he may not be as good as Overeem, but he's better than Browne. This fight may very well go the distance again, which makes both men risky fantasy plays, but I think Werdum wins fairly easily.
THE PICK: Werdum
WelterweightCM Punk (0-0-0) v. Mickey Gall (2-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Punk ($8,000), Gall ($11,400)
Vegas Odds: Punk (+375), Gall (-470)
This is going to be quite the spectacle. It's been nearly two years since Punk (or Phil Brooks, we'll just call him Punk) signed his UFC contract. He will turn 38 years old next month, and he has never had a professional MMA fight. He also underwent back surgery in February, so it's not like has been training non-stop since he agreed to do this. He is undoubtedly getting top-flight coaching everyday with the Roufusport team in Milwaukee, but since he's never had a fight before, no one really knows how much progress he has made.
Say what you want about Punk, but he has plenty of experience performing in front of big crowds. That's not the case for Gall, who has just two career fights under his belt, and just one in the UFC. Gall quickly submitted Mike Jackson back in February, but that fight told us little about his true potential. Gall certainly has youth on his size, but it's not like he is a seasoned veteran.
Every fighter in this sport (except perhaps the Diaz brothers) will tell you that they fight to win championships and be the best in the world, or something to that extent. A close second is making money. The decision to sign Punk is all about dollars. A countless number of people are going to purchase this event just to see him. It will result in a ton of mainstream media attention, and that is good for the sport. For that reason, I don't have a problem with the UFC signing a guy who has never had a professional fight before.
All that being said, no one should have any expectations from Punk whatsoever. He is a terrific athlete. Anyone who has watched him compete in the WWE can tell you that. But he is an aging, terrific athlete who is trying to learn a very difficult sport on the fly while being way past his athletic prime. Gall may be nothing more than roster depth, but he's younger than Punk and that alone is going to give him a huge advantage. Gall being completely overwhelmed on the big stage is probably Punk's best hope for a win. Maybe he can shock everyone, but I would wager than the odds are considerably better (or worse, depending on your terminology) than 50-50 that Punk will never win a fight in the UFC. To be clear, I still wouldn't use Gall in DraftKings contests, given the high salary. There just isn't enough evidence here to support the use of either fighter.
THE PICK: Gall
BantamweightUrijah Faber (33-9-0) v Jimmie Rivera (19-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Faber ($9,700), Rivera ($9,700)
Vegas Odds: Faber (+115), Rivera (-135)
The California Kid is 3-3 in his last six fights. He has defeated everyone he was supposed to beat and he has lost every time a better opponent was placed in his path. Faber didn't deserve a UFC Bantamweight Championship shot against Dominick Cruz in June, and he wasn't competitive in the five-round unanimous decision loss. The difference in foot speed between the current title holder and the 37-year-old Faber was as wide as the Atlantic Ocean. Faber's cardio is as strong as ever and his work ethic is second to none, so he can certainly still be an effective fighter, even if he isn't on the level of the top guys in the division.
Rivera lost his second career fight to someone named "Jason McLean" way back in November 2008, and he has won 18 straight since, including a perfect 3-0 mark in the UFC. Rivera, at age 27, isn't too young despite his limited time with the company, so a pushing him into a matchup against a high-caliber fighter like Faber makes sense. Perhaps they can build a contender if Rivera pulls out a win. At 5-foot-4, Rivera is small, even for the bantamweight division. His ground game is better than his standup game, although he has four career wins by knockout, as opposed to just two by submission.
As strong as Rivera has looked over the past several years, he has never fought anyone of note in his entire career. Perhaps he has the goods to defeat one of the better all-around fighters in the game, but we have never seen him do it before. Faber can't compete with the likes of Cruz or T.J. Dillashaw anymore, but he keeps himself in great shape and I imagine that he still has enough left in the tank to finish Rivera in some manner of speaking.
THE PICK: Faber
Women's StrawweightJessica Andrade (14-5-0) v. Joanne Calderwood (11-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Andrade ($9,900), Calderwood ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Andrade (-145), Calderwood (+125)
Andrade's first seven UFC bouts took place at bantamweight before she dropped down and knocked out Jessica Penne in June. The Brazilian has as much power as any strawweight on the roster, but her muscular frame makes it difficult for her to cut down and reach the 116-pound weight limit. The question here is how will Andrade fair when she faces a strawweight who doesn't stand in front of her for the entire fight. Penne is notorious for possessing poor footwork that leads to her getting pummeled, and Andrade took full advantage. It won't be as easy against Calderwood.
Calderwood has been up and down throughout her UFC career, although her overall record (4-1) is impressive. JoJo will certainly realize that she is giving away a ton of size and strength to Andrade, so it's a necessity that she uses her speed and quickness to her advantage. She doesn't have a ton of power, but she tends to be aggressive and that generally works to her advantage. That may not be the case in this fight where JoJo has to be selective in the chances she takes on the feet or else she risks getting planted with a huge counter shot from the Brazilian.
Andrade has the more accomplished submission game and her power always makes her a decent DK play, but I think Calderwood is the better all-around fighter. She couldn't have looked any better in her TKO win over Valerie Letourneau in June, and I have concerns about Andrade's ability to safely cut weight. Give me JoJo to win, but this should be a close, competitive fight.
THE PICK: Calderwood
Women's BantamweightJessica Eye (11-5-0, 1NC) v. Bethe Correia (9-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Eye ($10,100), Correia ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Eye (-145), Correia (+125)
THE PICK: Correia
MiddleweightBrad Tavares (13-4-0) v. Caio Magalhaes (9-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Tavares ($9,800), Magalhaes ($9,600)
Vegas Odds: Tavares (-185), Magalhaes (+160)
THE PICK: Tavares
LightweightNik Lentz (28-7-2, 1NC) v. Michael McBride (8-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lentz ($10,200), McBride ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Lentz (-470), McBride (+375)
THE PICK: Lentz
Note: The scheduled flyweight bout between Ray Borg and Ian McCall has been pulled from the card following Borg's withdrawal due to illness.
FlyweightIan McCall (13-5-1) v. Ray Borg (9-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: McCall (9,000), Borg ($10,400)
Vegas Odds: McCall (-130), Borg (+110)
THE PICK: McCall
WelterweightYancy Medeiros (12-4-0, 1NC) v. Sean Spencer (12-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Medeiros ($10,500), Spencer ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Medeiros (-125), Spencer (+105)
THE PICK: Medeiros
Light HeavyweightCB Dollaway (16-9-0) v. Francimar Barroso (18-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dollaway ($10,900), Barroso ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Dollaway (-185), Barroso (+160)
THE PICK: Dollaway
LightweightDrew Dober (16-7-0, 1NC) v. Jason Gonzalez (10-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dober ($11,200), Gonzalez ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Dober (-170), Gonzalez (+150)
THE PICK: Dober