DraftKings MMA: UFC Phoenix Preview
DraftKings MMA: UFC Phoenix Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

One of the biggest stars in UFC history returns to face a rising young prospect in Sunday's main event from Phoenix.

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 – Featherweight

Yair Rodriguez (9-1-0) v. B.J. Penn (16-10-2)
DraftKings Salaries: Rodriguez ($9,200), Penn ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Rodriguez (-485), Penn (+385)

This fight is a terrible, terrible idea. We'll start with the good – that being Rodriguez. El Pantera is 5-0 in the UFC and one of the brightest prospects in the sport. At age 24, he has continuously improved, and his unorthodox style of fighting can give any opponent fits. Rodriguez is very tall for the featherweight division (5-foot-11) , and he excels at using his long limbs to connect with strikes from awkward angles. It's nearly impossible to game plan for an opponent who fights the way Rodriguez does. El Pantera pushes the pace whenever possible, but he takes a shockingly little amount of punishment in the stand-up game (2.12 significant strikes absorbed per-minute). He isn't there yet, but he has the potential to eventually challenge for a world title one day.

Penn hasn't fought since July 2014, and he hasn't won a fight since UFC 123 in November 2010. Simply put, he never should have come out of retirement. Penn is one of the most influential fighters in UFC history. He is one of only three fighters (Randy Couture, Conor McGregor) to win titles in multiple weight classes. But if he thinks, at age 38, that he is going to step back into the octagon and compete against the best young fighters in the world, he's delusional.  Penn was legitimately one of the best fighters in the history of the sport, but he's too old and too slow to avoid taking serious punishment moving forward. He never should have returned in the first place, but if he was hell bent on stepping into the octagon one more time, it certainly should not have been against an animal like Rodriguez.

I understand the UFC's thinking here. They think they have a future star on their hands in Rodriguez and they are confident that he can add a win over Penn to his resume for future marketing purposes. The difference is that any fan that knows anything about the sport realizes that a win over Penn in 2017 means absolutely nothing. I would be shocked if Rodriguez didn't win in spectacular fashion.

THE PICK: Rodriguez

Co-Main Event – Lightweight

Joe Lauzon (26-13-0) v. Marcin Held (22-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lauzon ($8,500), Held ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Lauzon (-140), Held (+120)

This is an interesting little battle - albeit one that has zero impact on the UFC Lightweight Championship picture. Lauzon is coming off a Fight of the Night, split-decision loss to Jim Miller in August. J-Lau has never had much power, although he is seemingly taking more punishment on the feet than ever before. On the bright side, his submission game is as strong as ever. Lauzon has issues surviving striking exchanges in order to get his opponent to the mat, but he should be OK against an opponent in Held who also has limited power in his hands.

Held's UFC debut in November couldn't have gone any worse. He was battered by a fading Diego Sanchez and looked like a fighter who didn't belong in the UFC. He doesn't figure to do all that much better against Lauzon. If Held could get his striking to the point that it was even average, his ground skills would give him a chance to win most fights. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case thus far. Even though Held's strength is his submission game, he isn't going to succeed by getting into a grappling match against Lauzon.

I don't think too highly of Lauzon at this point in his career, but Held legitimately didn't look like a UFC-caliber fighter in his fight against Sanchez. He came into the UFC with a decent reputation, but a lot of that was apparently the result of beating up nobodies in Bellator. He's going to have to figure out a way to beat Lauzon if he wants anyone to take him seriously.

THE PICK: Lauzon


Court McGee (19-5-0) v. Ben Saunders (19-7-2)
DraftKings Salaries: McGee ($7,800), Saunders ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: McGee (-105), Saunders (-115)

A former Ultimate Fighter winner, McGee has alternated wins and losses over his last five fights. He's not going to overwhelm you from a physical standpoint, but he keeps himself in good shape, and he can eat a punch. McGee is going to struggle with highly athletic opponents who force him to move his feet, although he has a chance of defeating anyone who is dumb enough to get into a slow, grinding war with him.

It is going to be almost a year to the day since the last time Saunders stepped into the octagon, which resulted in a knockout loss at the hands of Patrick Cote. It was a particularly disappointing performance since it came on the heels of an impressive three-fight winning streak. Killa B is very tall for the welterweight division (6-foot-2), and although he has 10 career knockouts on his resume, Saunders' goal is to use his length in the striking game to help set up his submission attempts.

I could very easily see this fight going to distance. Any win that McGee racks up these days isn't likely to be a pretty thing to watch. Saunders takedown defense (40 percent) is notoriously poor and I think McGee can grind his way to victory if he sticks with his wrestling, even if he is unsuccessful with it early in the bout.


Other Bouts


John Moraga (16-5-0) v. Sergio Pettis (14-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Moraga ($8,100), Pettis ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Moraga (+115), Pettis (-135)
THE PICK: Moraga


Aleksei Oleinik (50-10-1) v. Viktor Pesta (10-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Oleinik ($8,600), Pesta ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Oleinik (-145), Pesta (+125)
THE PICK: Oleinik


Tony Martin (10-3-0) v. Alex White (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries:Martin ($8,900), White ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Martin (-260), White (+220)
THE PICK: Martin


Devin Powell (8-1-0) v. Drakkar Klose (6-0-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Powell ($7,200), Klose ($9,000)
Vegas Odds:Powell (+195), Klose (-235)

Women's Strawweight

Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-3-0) v. Nina Ansaroff (6-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Jones-Lybarger ($8,100), Ansaroff ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Jones-Lybarger (+120), Ansaroff (-140)
THE PICK: Jones-Lybarger


Walt Harris (8-5-0) v. Chase Sherman (9-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Harris ($8,700), Sherman ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Harris (-135), Sherman (+115)
THE PICK: Harris

Light Heavyweight

Bojan Mihajlovic (10-4-0) v. Joachim Christensen (13-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Mihajlovic ($7,400), Christensen ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Mihajlovic (+195), Christensen (-235)
THE PICK: Christensen


Dmitrii Smoliakov (8-1-0) v. Cyril Asker (7-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Smoliakov ($8,200), Asker ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Smoliakov (+100), Asker (-120)

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. Jon Litterine plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: JLitterine.
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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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