This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Arguably the most anticipated grudge match in UFC history headlines Saturday's card from Anaheim that features an unprecedented three title fights! There are plenty of high-level fighters with low DK salaries, from former champion Renan Barao ($7,800) to current No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter Daniel Cormier ($7,300). However, do they make good fantasy plays? With a plethora of different outcomes possible, this is the perfect event to mix and match with different lineups.
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 - Heavyweight Championship(C) Daniel Cormier (19-1-0) v. Jon Jones (22-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cormier ($7,300), Jones ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Cormier (+220), Jones (-270)
Odds to Finish: +130
The bad blood between the two men is going to overshadow the fact that the most important thing about this fight is Jones' return after 15-plus months on the sidelines. "Bones" has been stripped of his title twice, once due to a hit-and-run incident in April 2015 and most recently due to a failed USADA drug test that resulted in his recent year-long suspension. Inside the cage, Jones is right there with Demetrious Johnson as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The only loss of his career came via DQ. In the first fight between the two, Jones used his five-inch height edge and insane 12-inch reach edge to perfection. He can stand at a distance and smash his opposition, and not get hit in return. It's a massive advantage in any fight.
Since his loss to Jones, DC has won four straight fights. His victims included Rumble Johnson (twice), Alexander Gustafsson and Anderson Silva. Cormier, at age 38, still relies on his wrestling to succeed. His striking is average and he does his best work when he is in tight against his opposition. DC excels in slow, grinding fights. He has also proven that he can fight for 25 minutes if needed. Yet, he went 1-for-8 on takedowns in his first matchup with Jones, and that isn't going to get the job done.
DC's lack of height and reach are going to make it very difficult for him to connect on the feet on a regular basis. Leaning on his wrestling doesn't seem to be a great plan either, given the fact Jones' career takedown defense is nearly 95 percent. "Bones" not only has a background in wrestling, but he's freakishly strong. Jones' greatest test came against Gustafsson, the one opponent who could match his length. Gustafsson and Cormier are the only fighters to have successfully registered a takedown against Jones, with each of them recording a solo takedown in defeat.
Jones' last four wins have all come via decision. It's not as if he is finishing fights quickly, but he is probably going to land with such regularity here that he still makes for a strong DraftKings play. Cormier isn't likely to rack up points unless he's scoring takedowns, and I don't see that happening on a regular basis. Not being able to defeat Jones, who is arguably the best fighter of his generation, shouldn't have any impact on DC's legacy, but it almost certainly will. I see no reason to believe that the encore will go any differently than the original.
THE PICK: Jones
Co-Main Event - Welterweight Championship(C) Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) v. Demian Maia (25-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Woodley ($8,700), Maia ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Woodley (-210), Maia (+170)
Odds to Finish: -350
After facing a world-class kickboxer in Stephen Thompson in his last two fights, Woodley gets a completely different type of opponent in Maia. Woodley survived the two "Wonderboy" fights as opposed to thriving. He had his moments, particularly in the first bout, but there were also times where he struggled and looked out of sync. He is going to have a monumental striking and power edge on Maia, so he would be smart to lean on those skills.
Maia has won seven straight fights to earn this opportunity. One of the most decorated ground specialists in the history of the sport, Maia has 12 career wins via submission. His recent run has included victories over Carlos Condit, Jorge Masvidal, Neil Magny, and Gunnar Nelson, so it's not as if Maia has raised his stock by defeating scrubs. Maia's success in this fight is entirely dependent on how he handles Woodley's punching power. Striking isn't Maia's strength to begin with, and facing such a hard-hitting opponent only makes it worse. Maia can submit any man in the world at any time, but he has to get into position to do it. Getting Woodley to the mat – with his 91.89 percent career takedown defense – is easier said than done.
Much like Jones strikes me as a terrible matchup for DC, this seems like a terrible matchup for Maia. He has only been knocked out once in his career, therefore I think it's entirely possible (if not likely) that he lasts the entire 25 minutes, but his greatest strengths would seem to be cancelled out by those of Woodley. Give me Woodley by decision. Maia is more than deserving of his chance, but I think the good times are coming to an end Saturday.
THE PICK: Woodley
Women's Featherweight ChampionshipCris Cyborg (16-1-0, 1NC) v. Tonya Evinger (19-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cyborg ($9,600), Evinger ($6,600)
Vegas Odds: Cyborg (-1250), Evinger (+850)
Odds to Finish: -1175
This was originally supposed to be Cyborg v. Megan Anderson before the Aussie withdrew due to personal reasons, but since the Brazilian is the entire attraction, it doesn't much matter who she faces. Cyborg, who fought her first two UFC fights at a catchweight of 140 pounds, earned knockouts in both in a combined 3:50. Here, she will finally get the opportunity to compete for the UFC in her natural weight class. Cyborg's power is legendary. She hits twice as hard as any woman in the sport. She has earned knockout victories in her last 12 fights (one was later changed to a no-contest) and her lone loss came in her pro debut more than 12 years ago.
Evinger, the current Invicta Bantamweight Champion, has turned down the UFC's advances in the past, but she was unable to do so this time. The 36-year-old is a true veteran of the sport. She has been a professional for more than a decade and is known for her solid all-around game. Evinger has eight career wins by knockout and seven via submission. Perhaps most importantly is the fact she has never been knocked out. Of course, she has never faced Cyborg before.
Cyborg's DK salary and the Vegas odds are as expected - ridiculous. I almost never advocate putting a fighter that expensive into your lineup, but Cyborg's propensity to rack up quick finishes make her the exception to the rule. Still, protect yourself by making several different lineups that don't have her in it. It's too big of a risk to put all your eggs in one basket.
THE PICK: Cyborg
WelterweightRobbie Lawler (27-11-0, 1NC) v. Donald Cerrone (32-8-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Lawler ($8,500), Cerrone ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Lawler (-160), Cerrone (+135)
Odds to Finish: -130
It is going to be nearly a year between fights for Lawler by the time he steps into the Octagon on Saturday, and that is something that I think can only help him moving forward. He has been in a lot of wars over the last few years, and the time off to let his body heal is good news for the former UFC Welterweight Champion. Lawler's last fight was his title loss to Tyron Woodley back at UFC 201. At age 35, he still has crazy power in his hands. His success is based upon aggressive striking. He has always been a guy who gets hit a lot in return, so if his chin is starting to go, he is in major trouble, but I think there's a good chance that his loss to Woodley was simply the result of facing a guy with crazy power and getting caught with a solid punch.
Cerrone lost his last fight against Jorge Masvidal in late January. He had won his four previous fights prior to that, but there are concerns moving forward. Cerrone is getting hit more than ever and he isn't handling it well. In the past "Cowboy" would just walk though the combinations that his opposition threw his way, and he doesn't seem to be able to do that anymore. I don't see any way that "Cowboy" can change his aggressive style of fighting, since that is what has made him one of the most popular fighters in the company for years.
With two aggressive fighters who throw tons of creative combinations, this fight should be pure fireworks. Cerrone's layoff of about five months is pretty much his limit. I can't see him ever sitting on the sidelines for much longer than that. I think the winner of this fight is the guy whose chin holds up under pressure, and based on what I've seen lately, I have more confidence in Lawler surviving than "Cowboy." I also think he hits harder.
THE PICK: Lawler
Light HeavyweightJimi Manuwa (17-2-0) v. Volkan Oezdemir (14-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Manuwa ($8,800), Oezdemir ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Manuwa (-180), Oezdemir (+150)
Odds to Finish: -485
As ridiculous as it sounds, the winner of this one would not be out of line in asking for a title shot in his post-fight victory speech. This is the state of the UFC's 205-pound division these days.
Manuwa is 6-2 in his eight-fight UFC career and his two losses came against Johnson and Gustafsson. Five of the six wins have come via knockout. Manuwa has crazy power in his hands. It isn't quite on the level of "Rumble," but it's not too far off. He doesn't need to hit his opposition cleanly in order for them to go down. At age 37, Manuwa looks fresher than ever.
Oezdemir, who entered the UFC as a late-notice replacement in February, has already secured wins over Ovince Saint Preux and Misha Cirkunov in a three-month span. The Cirkunov win was especially impressive. Oezdemir seemed to be in trouble before catching Cirkunov with a short shot that ended the bout.
I expect this to be a highly entertaining fight. Both men swing for the bleachers on a regular basis and do very little other than strike. It's obviously a brief sample, but Oezdemir appears to get hit a bit too much for my liking. That will work against some guys, but if Manuwa connects on a regular basis, you're going to sleep. Oezdemir makes for a decent DraftKings play because I expect him to go out of his way to end the fight in a hurry. I don't think it will happen, but it's not an impossible scenario to envision and $7,400 is an awful cheap salary.
THE PICK: Manuwa
BantamweightRicardo Lamas (17-5-0) v. Jason Knight (20-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lamas ($8,100), Knight ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Lamas (+110), Knight (-120)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Lamas
140-pound CatchweightAljamain Sterling (13-2-0) v. Renan Barao (35-4-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Sterling ($8,400), Barao ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Sterling (-125), Barao (+100)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Barao
FeatherweightRenato Moicano (10-0-1) v. Brian Ortega (11-0-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Moicano ($8,200), Ortega ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Moicano (-155), Ortega (+125)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Ortega
FeatherweightAndre Fili (16-4-0) v. Calvin Kattar (16-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Fili ($9,200), Kattar ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Fili (-370), Kattar (+295)
Odds to Finish: -140
THE PICK: Fili
Women's StrawweightKailin Curran (4-4-0) v. Alexandra Albu (6-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Curran ($7,900), Albu ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Curran (+135), Albu (-160)
Odds to Finish: -110
THE PICK: Albu
FlyweightEric Shelton (10-3-0) v. Jared Brooks (12-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Shelton ($7,600), Brooks ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Shelton (+125), Brooks (-155)
Odds to Finish: +190
THE PICK: Brooks
LightweightJosh Burkman (29-15-0, 1NC) v. Drew Dober (17-8-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Burkman ($7,200), Dober ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Burkman (+275), Dober (-350)
Odds to Finish: -120
THE PICK: Dober