This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The UFC begins Saturday in Belfast and finishes it in Sao Paulo. Our super-sized preview is below!
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).
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
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 – MiddleweightGegard Mousasi (40-6-2) v. Uriah Hall (13-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Mousasi ($9,600), Hall ($6,600)
Vegas Odds: Mousasi (-550), Hall (+425)
A rematch between Mousasi and Hall isn't something that most people are clamoring to see, but the UFC needed, as late notice replacement for the injured Gunnar Nelson and Hall was willing to step in. Hall won the first fight between the two in September 2015 with a highlight-reel second-round KO, but that result seems to have "fluke" written all over it.
Mousasi has won three-straight fights since the Hall loss and he is coming off back-to-back TKO/KO wins over Thiago Santos and Vitor Belfort. It's a shame that Nelson had to drop out because Mousasi has more than earned an opportunity to fight a high-level opponent. Even a win over Hall isn't going to do much for his career. Mousasi's methodical style of fighting has served him well and there is no reason to change what he is doing. He sits back, waits for openings, and pounces. He also has 10 submission wins over the course of his career. There are very few middleweights, if any, who can match the all-around skills that Mousasi brings to the table.
Hall hasn't won since the first Mousasi fight, dropping back-to-back fights to talented up-and-comers Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson. Hall is probably going to have one or two more highlight-reel knockout wins over the course of his career, but it's anyone's guess when those will magically appear. He looks to be a below-average middleweight on most nights. The whole consistency thing is non-existent here. Showing up once every three or four fights simply isn't good enough.
Hall is the better athlete of the two men, but Mousasi is the better fighter. Outside of another fluke knockout, I see no way that Hall pulls off the upset a second time in row. The mostly likely scenario here is an easy Mousasi win and a fight against a top-five opponent for the former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion.
THE PICK: Mousasi
Co-Main Event - LightweightRoss Pearson (21-11-0, 1NC) v. Stevie Ray (19-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Pearson ($8,500), Ray ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Pearson (-120), Ray (+100)
Pearson continues to get high-profile fights, although there is no reason for it. He is 1-3 in his last four fights, and the one victory was a split-decision win over Chad Laprise in which Pearson was lucky to get the judge's call. Few fighters on the UFC roster are as inconsistent as Pearson. He is very aggressive on the feet and he has power, but he offers little else. The other issue is that Pearson gets hit far too much. It has always been a problem for him, but it's getting worse as he gets older. Pearson can fight in multiple weight classes, which makes him valuable to a company that is forced to reschedule fights on a regular basis, but he is a below-average fighter no matter where he competes at this point.
Ray began his UFC career with three-straight wins before dropping his last fight to Alan Patrick in September. Braveheart is a talented mat specialist with underrated power, but he would be best served to not get into a kickboxing match against Pearson. Ray is young enough (26) that it's reasonable to expect improvement from him each time we see him fight, although he would be better served spending time with a top camp in the United States as opposed to training in his native Scotland.
Pearson has a massive experience edge here while Ray technically has the higher ceiling. Pearson appeared to be a potential star after he won Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter, but his career has been a disappointment. Pearson tends to throw a ton of strikes, but Ray's striking defense is exceptional. The guy rarely gets hit. If Pearson isn't landing consistent combinations, he's going to have a hard time winning.
THE PICK: Ray
HeavyweightTimothy Johnson (10-2-0) v. Alexander Volkov (26-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Johnson ($8,100), Volkov ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Johnson (-135), Volkov (+115))
THE PICK: Volkov
FeatherweightArtem Lobov (13-12-1, 1NC) v. Teruto Ishihara (10-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lobov ($7,300), Ishihara ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Lobov (+215), Ishihara (-255)
THE PICK: Ishihara
FlyweightIan McCall (13-5-1) v. Neil Seery (16-12-0)
DraftKings Salaries: McCall ($9,200), Seery ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: McCall (-335), Seery (+275)
THE PICK: McCall
MiddleweightMagnus Cedenblad (14-4-0) v. Jack Marshman (20-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cedenblad ($8,800), Marshman ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Cedenblad (-230), Marshman (+190)
THE PICK: Cedenblad
FlyweightKyoji Horiguchi (17-2-0) v. Ali Bagautinov (14-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Horiguchi ($8,400), Bagautinov ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Horiguchi (-190), Bagautinov (+165)
THE PICK: Horiguchi
LightweightKevin Lee (13-2-0) v. Magomed Mustafaev (13-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lee ($8,300), Mustafaev ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Lee (-105), Mustafaev (-115)
THE PICK: Lee
Women's StrawweightAnna Elmose (3-1-0) v. Amanda Cooper (2-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Elmose ($7,600), Cooper ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Elmose (+110), Cooper (-130)
THE PICK: Elmose
HeavyweightJustin Ledet (7-0-0) v. Mark Godbeer (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Ledet ($8,200), Godbeer ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Ledet (-150), Godbeer (+130)
THE PICK: Ledet
WelterweightZak Cummings (19-5-0) v. Alexander Yakovlev (23-7-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Cummings ($9,000), Yakovlev ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Cummings (-170), Yakovlev (+150)
THE PICK: Yakovlev
Women's BantamweightMarion Reneau (6-3-0) v. Milana Dudieva (11-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Reneau ($9,100), Dudieva ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Reneau (-220), Dudieva (+180)
THE PICK: Reneau
BantamweightBrett Johns (12-0-0) v. Kwan Ho Kwak (9-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Johns ($8,700), Kwak ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Johns (-220), Kwak (+180)
THE PICK: Johns
WelterweightCharlie Ward (2-1-0) v. Abdul Razak Alhassan (6-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Ward ($6,800), Alhassan ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Ward (+260), Alhassan (-350)
THE PICK: Alhassan
Main Event - Light HeavyweightRyan Bader (22-5-0) v. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (22-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Bader ($9,500), Nogueira ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Bader (-350), Nogueira (+290)
This fight was originally supposed to be Alexander Gustafsson v. Little Nog, and while this isn't quite the lopsided matchup that that fight would have been, Bader is still an overwhelming favorite here.
Bader ran off a five-fight winning streak that earned him a number-one contender bout against Anthony Johnson in January. He was promptly decimated by Rumble and now finds himself seemingly miles away from a title shot despite the fact he is currently ranked as the No. 4 light heavyweight. Bader rebounded from the Gustafsson loss to viciously knockout Ilir Latifi in September, although that finish was probably a bit of a fluke. Bader's wrestling game is as a strong as ever, and although he has little power in his hands, he shouldn't have to do much to take a decision from Little Nog.
Little Nog somehow managed to knock out Patrick Cummins in May, but that is his only victory in nearly four years. Nog still has power and he is a third-degree BJJ black belt, but he struggles to get into position to finish fights at his point in his career. Nog is also going to have a significant home-field advantage, but I don't think that is going to make much of a difference, either.
Nog's takedown defense over the course of his long UFC career stands at just over 66 percent. It's not the worst number I've ever seen, but it's not good. I'm no huge fan of Bader's long-term potential, but I'd be shocked if he didn't have enough left to defeat Little Nog. Bader's explosiveness should lead to repeated takedowns and in turn, vicious ground-and-pound from top position. At least Nog can take some solace in the fact that he doesn't have to take a beating on the feet form Gustafsson.
THE PICK: Bader
Women's StrawweightClaudia Gadelha (13-2-0) v. Cortney Casey (6-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gadelha ($9,200), Casey ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Gadelha (-450), Casey (+360)
The only two losses of Gadelha's professional career have come in title fights against current UFC women's strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Claudia may very well have won the first one, but she faded badly as the fight progressed in the second meeting between the two in July. Gadelha is carries a lot of muscle mass on her 115-pound frame, so it's easy to see why she tires out quickly at times. Gadelha is a strong wrestler and a very good submission specialist, so while she hasn't been able to reach the top of the mountain, she remains the second-best strawweight in the world at this point.
I have always been impressed with Casey, even when she was riding a two-fight losing streak to begin her UFC career. Since then, she as picked up back-to-back first-round stoppage wins over Cristina Stanciu and Randa Markos. Casey is a very good athlete who has a strong all-around game. The UFC women's strawweight division is stacked, but I think it's clear that Casey deserved to be ranked in the back half of the top 15 at this point.
Casey's only real chance of winning appears to be in attempting to tire out Gadelha over the first half of the fight by using a ton of movement and then trying to steal a finish in the later stages of the contests. It's not impossible, but I would consider it highly unlikely to happen. Casey has legitimate upside, but she is being pushed too quickly here against one of the best fighters in the world.
THE PICK: Gadelha
Co-Main Event - BantamweightThomas Almeida (21-1-0) v. Albert Morales (6-0-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Almeida ($9,700), Morales ($6,500)
Vegas Odds: Almeida (-320), Morales (+260)
THE PICK: Almeida
MiddleweightThales Leites (26-6-0) v. Krzysztof Jotko (18-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Leites ($8,300), Jotko ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Leites (-165), Jotko (+145)
THE PICK: Jotko
WelterweightWarlley Alves (11-1-0) v. Kamaru Usman (8-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Alves ($7,400), Usman ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Alves (+170), Usman (-200)
THE PICK: Usman
WelterweightSergio Moraes (10-3-1) v. Zak Ottow (14-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Moraes ($8,700), Ottow ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Moraes (-165), Ottow (+145)
THE PICK: Moraes
MiddleweightCezar Ferreira (11-5-0) v. Jack Hermansson (14-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Ferreira ($7,300), Hermansson ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Ferreira (+180), Hermansson (-220)
THE PICK: Hermansson
Light HeavyweightMarcos Rogerio de Lima (14-4-1) v. Gadzhimurad Antigulov (18-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Rogerio de Lima ($8,500), Antigulov ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Rogerio de Lima (-150), Antigulov (+130)
THE PICK: Rogerio de Lima
BantamweightJohnny Eduardo (27-10-0) v. Manny Gamburyan (18-10-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Eduardo ($8,600), Gamburyan ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Eduardo (-160), Gamburyan (+140)
THE PICK: Eduardo
HeavyweightLuis Henrique (9-2-0, 1NC) v. Christian Colombo (8-1-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Henrique ($9,000), Colombo ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Henrique (-235), Colombo (+195)
THE PICK: Henrique
BantamweightPedro Munhoz (12-2-0, 1NC) v. Justin Scoggins (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Munhoz ($7,800), Scoggins ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Munhoz (+145), Scoggins (-165)
THE PICK: Scoggins
Light HeavyweightFrancimar Barroso (18-5-0) v. Darren Stewart (7-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Barroso ($8,000), Stewart ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Barroso (-150), Stewart (+130)
THE PICK: Stewart