This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Daniel Cormier's legacy as a professional fighter may ultimately come down to whether or not he can defeat Jon Jones, but rather than wait around for him, Cormier will continue to challenge himself by granting Johnson a rematch of the best light heavyweight fight the promotion can currently make. The first quarter of 2017 has yet to deliver fans a fight that has been both exciting and meaningful for the title picture, and this bout certainly has the makings.
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 - UFC Light Heavyweight Championship(C) Daniel Cormier (18-1-0) v. Anthony Johnson (22-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cormier ($8,100), Johnson ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Comier (+105), Johnson (-125)
Odds to Finish: -550
This rematch has been a long time coming and it will finally take place on Saturday. With Jon Jones out of competition due to legal and personal issues that have persisted for over a year now, there is little doubt that Cormier and Johnson are the two best light heavyweights in the world. There is quite a significant gap between the two of them and everyone else in the division.
DC won the first fight via third-round submission, but he got tagged by Rumble on multiple occasions, including a first-round knockdown. Cormier appeared to be the fresher of the two men as the fight went along, which is something that obviously needs to be monitored closely in a five-round fight. I know with certainty that DC realizes his smoothest path to victory in this fight is to wrestle. It may not be pretty, but every single person who stands and trades with Rumble ends up going to sleep. Although Cormier was credited with a submission win in the first fight, it was more the result of Johnson being exhausted than anything else. It won't be pretty, but DC laying on top of Rumble may be the only way he can win.
Rumble has had cardio issues in the past, but we hadn't seen them in quite a long time. It cost him the first fight. If he enters this fight with better conditioning, I think he wins here, but there's no guarantee that will happen. Johnson's takedown defense has always been strong (79 percent) and highly underrated. In fact, Rumble and DC have nearly identical takedown defense rates during their respective UFC careers. Johnson's power is obviously the biggest difference-maker in this fight. He can connect from anywhere and needs very little time to load up. He doesn't even need to connect cleanly in order to finish you.
As I mentioned earlier, Rumble's cardio is the key to this fight. If he shows up in shape and doesn't gas out, I think he can defend DC's takedown attempts, and in turn, batter his opponent on the feet. Johnson is only 32 years old, but he's been fighting for a while. Even with the lack of depth in the division, surely he has to realize that he isn't going to get too many more chances at the top prize in the industry. This fight is essentially a pick 'em for me, just like the DraftKings salaries indicate. I went with Johnson in the first fight and I got burned. I'm going back to the well again. As great as DC is, I have a hard time picking against a man who can finish as fight as quickly as Rumble can, and of course, an early finish earns that big DraftKings bonus.
THE PICK: Johnson
Co-Main Event - MiddleweightChris Weidman (13-2-0) v. Gegard Mousasi (41-6-2)
DraftKings Salaries: Weidman ($7,900), Mousasi ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Weidman (+115), Mousasi (-135)
Odds to Finish: +130
Viewed as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world not all that long ago, Weidman is now riding an unprecedented two-fight losing streak. He got rocked early on in his most recent lost to Yoel Romero, but he appeared to have recovered before eating a vicious knee that essentially caused his face to explode early in Round 3. Losses to Romero and Luke Rockhold are nothing to be ashamed about, but Weidman cannot afford a three-fight losing streak. He has also gotten hit too much on the feet, even in his victories. Fortunately for Weidman, his wrestling ability allows him to spend relatively little time standing and trading with opponents. Weidman doesn't appear to have lost any of his skills, so I'm not concerned about him despite the recent struggles.
Mousasi has won four consecutive fights and six of his last seven. The only loss during that span was a fluke KO at the hands of Uriah Hall. Mousasi's methodical style of fighting isn't fun to watch, but it plays into his advantage. He has scored three straight impressive KO wins, all of them with relative ease. Many of his opponents try to force the pace, and Mousasi, who excels at countering, is more than willing to allow the opposition to make the first mistake. I think he has more power in his hands than Weidman, although I don't think either man wants this to turn into a kickboxing match.
I don't expect this to be a pretty fight. Much of Weidman's struggles in the Rockhold bout were the result of him forcing the action at inopportune times. If he does that against Mousasi, he's going to be in a world of trouble. However, I like Chris' chances if he can land a few takedowns. He excels at mat positioning and I think he has the ability to grind out a 15-minute decision. To recap, I like Weidman to win, but I think Mousasi has the better chance of scoring a quick finish.
THE PICK: Weidman
Woman's StrawweightCynthia Calvillo (4-0-0) v. Pearl Gonzalez (6-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cavillo ($9,100), Gonzalez ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Calvillo (-260), Gonzalez (+220)
Odds to Finish: +130
These two strawweight prospects have a combined total of 11 sanctioned, professional bouts under their belts, so trying to accurately predict exactly how this plays out turns into a bit of a mystery. The bigger mystery might be how this bout found its way on to the main card. Only Cavillo has experience in the UFC Octagon, defeating Amanda Bobby Cooper at 3:19 of the first round via submission (rear-naked choke) at UFC 209 just over a month ago. Trying to pick this one is a bit like throwing darts, so we'll roll with the favorite, even if she barely has three minutes of experience under the UFC banner. Neither 115-pounder makes for a particularly attractive fantasy play with (+130) odds to finish, unless you really feel like rolling the dice on the underdog at $7,100.
THE PICK: Calvillo
WelterweightThiago Alves (26-12-0) v. Patrick Cote (24-10-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Alves ($7,700), Cote ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Alves (+140), Cote (-160)
Odds to Finish: +140
This is a pretty poor fight for the main card of a pay-per-piew. Alves has lost two in a row and is 4-6 in his last 10 fights. His recent wins have come against nobodies and his recent losses have come against quality competition. Alves made his name as a striker, although some of his explosiveness has understandably deteriorated as he's aged. While he retains much of the power in his hands, he has trouble getting into position to land those strikes.
Cote was knocked out by Donald Cerrone last June, a loss that snapped a three-fight winning streak for the Canadian. In fact, Cote's only two losses dating back to July 2012 have come against Cerrone and Stephen Thompson. Simply put, there is nothing fancy about Cote's style of fighting. Although not blessed with great athletic ability, The Predator is proficient in all areas of fighting. His biggest issue at this point in his career is age. Through no fault of his own, the 37-year-old's skills are beginning to decline.
Both Alves and Cote challenged for a UFC Championship during their respective careers, but that was a long, long time ago. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the loser of this fight (especially if it's Alves) gets cut. I trust Cote's durability more than I trust Alves' ability to score a knockout, but I acknowledge there is a wide range of outcomes for this fight.
THE PICK: Cote
LightweightWill Brooks (18-2-0) v. Charles Oliveira (21-7-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Brooks ($9,000), Oliveira ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Brooks (-265), Oliveira (+225)
Odds to Finish: -120
The start of Brooks' UFC career has not gone as planned. He took a unanimous decision from Ross Pearson in his company debut last July, and he then lost to Alex Oliveira in October. Oliveira missed weight for that fight, but Brooks decided to go through with the bout anyway. It ended up being a mistake. He had a ton of trouble getting off of his back against his bigger, stronger (overweight) opponent. Despite the loss, Brooks should still be considered one of the best lightweights in the world. The former 155-pound Bellator champ is best known for his back-to-back wins over Michael Chandler. He is a terrific athlete that excels at making his opponents pay for mistakes. The one downside is his lack of finishing ability. It results in long, extended fights and makes Brooks a questionable DraftKings play on most nights.
Oliveira was a top-five threat at featherweight, but he could never make weight on a consistent basis and he is now forced to fight at lightweight. Considering how many times he has missed weight (four), it seems unlikely that the UFC will ever allow him to fight at featherweight again. He is a far less interesting option in a deep 155-pound division. As good as Oliveira is on the mat, the rest of his game hasn't improved all that much over the years. Oliveira turned 27 years old in October. He's still in his athletic prime, but time is running out for him to put together a win streak that pushes him into title contention.
Oliveira has gone up against names such as Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, Anthony Pettis and Cowboy Cerrone. That's the good news. The bad news is that he has lost every single one of those fights. I have little confidence in his ability to defeat a quality fighter in a weight class in which he has little recent experience.
THE PICK: Brooks
WelterweightKamaru Usman (9-1-0) v. Sean Strickland (18-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Usman ($9,200), Strickland ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Usman (-350), Strickland (+260)
Odds to Finish: +170
Although the UFC decided to place it on the undercard, this is a high level fight. Usman is 4-0 in the UFC, including winning The Ultimate Fighter. He's an explosive athlete who does everything well. Usman has averaged more than five takedowns per fight in his brief UFC career and trains with world class teammates every day with the Blackzilians. His skills are as sharp as ever at age 29.
Strickland has quietly complied a 5-1 record in his three-plus years with the company, although two of those wins were of the split decision variety. Much like Usman, Strickland is a strong all around performer. His takedown defense (73 percent) has been strong and he does a pretty good job of defending himself on the feet.
The big issue here is that both of these men have had problems finishing fights. Six of their nine combined UFC victories have come via decision. It's particularly surprising in Usman's case considering his natural athletic ability. I always bet on great athletes which is why I'm picking Usman to win, but a decision victory isn't going to do much for DK owners, especially with a $9,200 price tag.
THE PICK: Usman
FeatherweightMyles Jury (15-2-0) v. Mike De La Torre (14-6-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Jury ($9,400), De La Torre ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Jury (-425), De La Torre (+320)
Odds to Finish: -140
THE PICK: Jury
FeatherweightShane Burgos (8-0-0) v. Charles Rosa (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Burgos ($8,900), Rosa ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Burgos (-205), Rosa (+165)
Odds to Finish: +115
THE PICK: Burgos
Light HeavyweightPatrick Cummins (8-4-0) v. Jan Blachowicz (19-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cummins ($8,000), Blachowicz ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Cummins (+100), Blachowicz (-130)
Odds to Finish: -140
THE PICK: Cummins
LightweightGregor Gillespie (8-0-0) v. Andrew Holbrook (12-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gillespie ($8,600), Holbrook ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Gillespie (-225), Holbrook (+175)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Gillespie
LightweightJosh Emmett (10-0-0) v. Des Green (19-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Emmettt ($8,800), Green ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Emmett (-245), Green (+185)
Odds to Finish: +155
THE PICK: Emmett
Women's BantamweightKatlyn Chookagian (8-1-0) v. Irene Aldana (7-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Chookagian ($8,700), Aldana ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Chookagian (-175), Aldana (+145)
Odds to Finish: +170
THE PICK: Aldana
FlyweightJenel Lausa (7-2-0) v. Magomed Bibulatov (13-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lausa ($6,700), Bibulatov ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Lausa (+385), Bibulatov (-485)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Bibulatov