This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
A former title challenger returns to the company after an absence of well over four years in a rare Friday card from Saitama, Japan.
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 - Light HeavyweightOvince Saint Preux (20-10-0) v. Yushin Okami (30-8-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Saint Preux ($9,500), Okami ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Saint Preux (-480), Okami (+360)
Odds to Finish: -240
Originally scheduled to be a rematch between OSP and Mauricio Rua, Shogun was forced to withdraw less than a week before the event due to injury. With the card being held in Saitama, Japan, the UFC needed a Japanese fighter as a replacement due to the potential visa issues involved with the entire situation on short notice. Enter Okami.
OSP has had his struggles since the original Shogun fight, posting a 3-4 record. His losses have come against quality opposition (Jon Jones, Jimi Manuwa, Glover Teixeira, Volkan Oezdemir) and his wins have come against lesser fighters (Patrick Cummins, Rafael Cavalcante, Marcos Rogerio de Lima). OSP is still unrefined as a fighter. He will look brilliant at times, which isn't a surprise given that he played Division I college football at the University of Tennessee. Saint Preux is a world-class athlete, but he isn't a world-class fighter. Given all of the opportunities that have been presented to him, his career would have to be termed as a disappointment. I'm not optimistic that things will suddenly improve at age 34.
Okami last fought for the UFC in September 2013. He has fought seven times since leaving the company, going 5-2 during that stretch. His victories have come against nobodies and he fought less than two months ago. Okami may currently be riding a 4-fight winning streak, but I'm not expecting much in his return. There was a reason he was let go in the first place, and he is going to be giving up a boatload of speed and athletic ability to OSP.
This fight is simply a marriage of convenience. The UFC wanted to keep Saint Preux on the card and Okami remains a popular name in his home country. I was flip flopping in regards to my pick for the OSP-Rua fight, but there is little doubt who the favorite is here. I still don't think all that much of Saint Preux's long-term prospects, even in a thin division, but he should be able to handle the 36-year-old Okami, who wasn't planning on fighting a week ago at this time. That being said, $9,500 is an insane DraftKings price for a fighter who has proven time and time again that he isn't amongst the elite in his division. He was a big favorite against Oezdemir (-420) and Manuwa (-185) as well, but let fantasy owners down in each of those bouts.
THE PICK: Saint Preux
Co-Main Event - Women's StrawweightClaudia Gadelha (15-2-0) v. Jessica Andrade (16-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gadelha ($9,000), Andrade ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Gadelha (-280), Andrade (+230)
Odds to Finish: +160
This is the best fight on the card by a significant margin. The second-best fighter in the division behind undefeated champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Gadelha will almost certainly get another shot at the belt if she is able to win here. The only two losses of Gadelha's career have come against the champ. Gadelha's greatest asset is her brute strength, but she is facing an opponent in Andrade that can at least come close to matching her power. The easy takedowns that she has been able to rack up in the past are unlikely to materialize on Friday. Gadelha now trains full time with the JacksonWink team in Albuquerque, so you know that she is getting elite-level training on a daily basis.
Andrade got her title shot against Jedrzejczyk in May at UFC 211 and was soundly dominated in a unanimous decision loss. There were many (myself included) that thought her punching power would give the champion issues, but Joanna ended up having one of her easiest title defenses to date. Andrade has been fighting at strawweight for less than 16 months, but she is already one of the top fighters in the division. She hits harder than virtually any 115-pounder on the planet, but she didn't have the necessary hand speed to match a former World Muay Thai Champion in Jedrzejczyk. She should be able to hit Gadelha with a bit more regularity, but Claudia is a better fighter than Joanna in several other areas, mainly grappling.
A valid argument can be made for Andrade as a value play because she has such thunder in her hands, but it is at the point where I think you have to pick Gadelha against any fighter in the division not named Jedrzejczyk. She does so many things well and she is young enough (29 in December) that she remains firmly in the prime of her athletic career.
THE PICK: Gadelha
FlyweightJussier Formiga (19-5-0) v. Ulka Sasaki (20-4-2)
DraftKings Salaries: Formiga ($9,200), Sasaki ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Formiga (-440), Sasaki (+330)
Odds to Finish: +120
Something will have to give in a fight that features two grappling specialists.
Formiga has a boatload of impressive wins in his professional career (Wilson Reis, Zach Makovsky, Dustin Ortiz), but he has struggled with consistency of late. Formiga has alternated wins and losses in his last four fights. Because he is such a brilliant grappler, Formiga looks uncomfortable in prolonged striking exchanges. He doesn't have a knockout win in his entire career, a stunning stat for a fighter that will have his 25th professional fight on Friday. Formiga's grappling exploits are as good as any fighter in the world, but it's hard to win when you can't come remotely close to threatening your opposition on the feet.
The 27-year-old Sasaki built up a nice resume prior to joining the UFC, but he is just .500 (3-3) during his time with the company. The issue for Sasaki in this fight is that engaging Formiga in a grappling contest is a recipe for disaster. He is going to have a five-inch height advantage and a four-inch reach advantage so it would be in Sasaki's best interest to keep the fight standing, even if he isn't particularly comfortable in that setting.
By far the biggest advantage for Sasaki here is the fact that he gets to fight in his home country while Formiga, who has fought in Brazil is 17 of his 24 career fights, has to travel around the world to make it to the arena. I still don't think it will be enough for Sasaki to win, but at least there is a potential path to victory.
THE PICK: Formiga
LightweightTakanori Gomi (35-13-0, 1NC) v. Dong Hyun Kim (14-8-3)
DraftKings Salaries: Gomi ($7,100), Kim ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Gomi (+290), Kim (-370)
Odds to Finish: -485
THE PICK: Kim
Light HeavyweightGokhan Saki (0-1-0) v. Henrique da Silva (12-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Saki ($8,600), da Silva ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Saki (-180), da Silva (+150)
Odds to Finish: -675
THE PICK: Saki
FeatherweightTeruto Ishihara (10-4-2) v. Rolando Dy (8-5-1, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Ishihara ($8,700), Dy ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Ishihara (-160), Dy (+145)
Odds to Finish: -165
THE PICK: Ishihara
FeatherweightMizuto Hirota (19-8-2) v. Charles Rosa (11-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Hirota ($7,400), Rosa ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Hirota (+165), Rosa (-190)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Rosa
WelterweightKeita Nakamura (32-8-2, 1NC) v. Alex Morono (13-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Nakamura ($7,770), Morono ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Nakamura (+110), Morono (-135)
Odds to Finish: +115
THE PICK: Morono
Women's StrawweightSyuri Kondo (5-0-0) v. Chan-Mi Jeon (5-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Kondo ($8,00), Jeon ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Kondo (-115), Jeon (-115)
Odds to Finish: +170
THE PICK: Kondo
WelterweightDaichi Abe (5-0-0) v. Hyun Gyu Lim (13-6-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Abe ($7,800), Lim ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Abe (+100), Lim (-125)
Odds to Finish: -450
THE PICK: Abe
WelterweightShinsho Anzai (9-2-0) v. Luke Jumeau (12-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Anzai ($7,300), Jumeau ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Anzai (+205), Jumeau (-245)
Odds to Finish: +105
THE PICK: Jumeau