This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.This card may leave a lot to be desired on paper, but it ends with a stellar main event Saturday in Fresno, where veteran featherweight Cub Swanson looks to hold off another up-and-coming challenger. With few gigantic favorites on the card, success on DraftKings will come down to precisely picking close fights, and of course, setting multiple lineups to cover unexpected losses.
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 six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
(Please note that DraftKings altered their scoring system in December 2016 to add a new fighter to the lineup and adjust scoring. The most recent point values are listed below.)
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 - FeatherweightCub Swanson (25-7-0) v. Brian Ortega (12-0-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Swanson ($8,100), Ortega ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Swanson (-110), Ortega (-115)
Odds to Finish: -115
One of the toughest and most entertaining fighters on the roster, Swanson is riding a 4-fight win streak and has earned back-to-back Fight of the Night bonuses for his two most recent victories over Dooho Choi and Artem Lobov. Cub has only two losses in the last six-plus years, and they came against some of the best the division has to offer in Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar. He has a ton of experience against the best fighters in the world and Saturday will be his 22nd appearance under the UFC/WEC banner. Not getting any younger at age 34, this is a fight that Cub has to have against a talented, younger opponent.
The 26-year-old Ortega is one of the most proficient submission specialists in the featherweight division and in the company as a whole. Exactly half of his 12 career victories have come via a tapout. The issue for Ortega has been slow starts. He has scored third-round stoppage victories in each of his last four fights. On more than on occasions in those fights Ortega was on his way to losing if he didn't pull out the miracle finish. He has rolled the dice four times in a row and managed to survive, but that is going to end in the near future if he keeps no-showing the first two rounds. Swanson is by far the toughest opponent that T-City has ever faced.
Regular readers will know that I have been backing Ortega for a long, long time, but this seems like a bad matchup for him. Swanson is going to rip him apart early if he doesn't come ready to fight. Ortega may very well be the better fighter, but I need to see him fight an entire 15 (or in this case, 25) minutes before I pick him against a top-five opponent. One thing Ortega does have going for him is the fact that five of Swanson's seven career losses have come via submission. Still, if he isn't ready to roll the second the opening bell rings, he might not be around to pull off one of his miracle finishes late.
THE PICK: Swanson
Co-Main Event - FeatherweightJason Knight (20-3-0) v. Gabriel Benitez (19-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Knight ($9,300), Benitez ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Knight (-310), Benitez (+255)
Odds to Finish: -115
One of the more underrated fighters in the division, Knight was riding a 4-fight winning streak when he stepped into the Octagon against Ricardo Lamas in July. He was knocked out by the former title challenger in just over four minutes, but he gets a chance to rebound Saturday against Benitez. While 13 of Knight's 20 career wins have come via submission, virtually all of them came early in his career. He clearly has grappling skills but I would term him more of an all-around fighter than a straight up submission specialist. Knight's striking style is a bit unrefined and can get crazy at times. As long as he is patient and allows the pace of the bout to come to him, he's a threat.
Benitez has alternated wins and losses in his last four fights with his most recent one being a unanimous decision setback to Enrique Barzola in May. Like Knight, more than half of Benitez's wins (10) have come via submission. He tends to do a decent job defending himself on the feet but that is more because he prefers grappling as opposed to an all-out brawl. We have seen enough from the 29-year-old to know that he possess limited upside. Benitez strikes me as nothing more than roster depth and I am a bit surprised that he got this fight to be perfectly honest.
Knight has his flaws, but I think he is clearly better than Benitez. That being said, his DraftKings salary is substantial and he isn't one of the divisions top fighters. Inserting him in your lineup is a risk. There is nothing to really think about in regards to making my pick for this one. Knight is younger, two inches taller and has shown flashes of being a quality fighter. As long as he doesn't take Benitez lightly (he shouldn't considering it's a fight that he has little to gain from even if he wins), he should be fine.
THE PICK: Knight
BantamweightMarlon Moraes (19-5-1) v. Aljamain Sterling (14-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Moraes ($8,600), Sterling ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Moraes (-150), Sterling (+120)
Odds to Finish: +210
This may very well be the best fight on the entire card, and if you insist the main event is tops, this one is certainly second best. Moraes will be stepping in for an injured Rani Yahya who withdrew in early November.
This will be Moraes' second fight in four weeks as he is coming off a split-decision win over John Dodson in Norfolk on Nov. 11. Moraes, the former WSOF Bantamweight Champion, deserves credit for his willingness to step into the octagon against anyone. Since joining the UFC his three fights will have been against Dodson, Sterling, and perennial contender Raphael Assuncao. It doesn't get much more difficult than that in a 3-fight stretch over a four-month span. Both the Dodson and Assuncao fights ended up being a split and I think Moraes actually won both. Sporting a black belt in Muay Thai and a brown belt in BJJ, Moraes is a true all-around threat, but his job gets no easier against the talented Sterling.
Aljo has been up and down in his UFC career but his talent is evident. He easily took a unanimous decision from former UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao in July and he is now sporting a 4-2 record in six fights with the company. A physical fighter that relies on his wrestling to be successful, the Serra/Longo product has to limit the space of Moraes and use his physicality to his advantage. Sterling is a terrific athlete and generally does a good job of fighting to his strengths.
As good as Sterling is, and he's terrific, I just don't think he is quite on the level of Moraes. I expect a close, competitive fight and one that stands a good chance of going the distance, but I think the Brazilian has more ways to win. Any Sterling victory would appear to have to be of the slow, grinding variety. His DraftKings salary is pretty low and he is worth using if you make multiple lineups, but we've seen enough good work from Moraes to bet against a Sterling victory coming to fruition.
THE PICK: Moraes
Women's FlyweightLiz Carmouche (10-5-0) v. Alexis Davis (18-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Carmouche ($8,400), Davis ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Carmouche (-180), Davis (+145)
Odds to Finish: +180
Carmouche and Davis are two pioneers of women's MMA and this will be a rematch of a November 2013 fight that Davis won via unanimous decision.
For years Carmouche was the only fighter to even remotely threaten Ronda Rousey. Currently riding a 2-fight winning streak, Carmouche will have been on the sidelines for over a year when she steps into the cage on Saturday. One of the toughest women in the sport, Carmouche is tough, gritty and experienced. She is very physically strong, works hard and keeps herself in great shape. Liz's long term upside is essentially non-existent at age 33, but she isn't going anywhere any time soon.
After taking a year and a half off due to her pregnancy, Davis returned last December and was submitted by Sara McMann before rebounding to decision the debuting Cindy Dandois in April. Davis has been going up against the best female fighters in the world for more than a decade. Davis has a win under her belt over current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes and a pair of wins over Tonya Evinger, who just challenged Cris Cyborg for the UFC Women's Featherweight Championship. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, eight of Davis' 15 career wins are via submission.
My advice is to stay away from this fight altogether. Davis, Carmouche, and a bunch of other women in the company have similar skill sets and there is very little separating them. When you take into account that they are fighting at a weight class that was just created, anything can happen. Davis is the better athlete while Carmouche is the stronger of the two fighters. I'm picking Davis for the sole reason that Carmouche has more muscle to cut off of her frame now that the two women are fighting at flyweight as opposed to bantamweight.
THE PICK: Davis
LightweightScott Holtzman (10-2-0) v. Darrell Horcher (13-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Holtzman ($8,300), Horcher ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Holtzman (-120), Horcher (+105)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Holtzman
MiddleweightEryk Anders (9-0-0) v. Markus Perez (9-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Anders ($9,200), Perez ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Anders (-300), Perez (+235)
Odds to Finish: -180
THE PICK: Anders
BantamweightAlbert Morales (7-2-1) v. Benito Lopez (8-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Morales ($8,000), Lopez ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Morales (-110), Lopez (-110)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Morales
BantamweightLuke Sanders (11-1-0) v. Andre Soukhamthath (11-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Sanders ($9,000), Soukhamthath ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Sanders (-245), Soukhamthath (+200)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Sanders
FlyweightCarls John de Tomas (8-1-0) v. Alex Perez (18-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: de Tomas ($7,300), Perez ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: de Tomas (+270), Perez (-370)
Odds to Finish: -135
THE PICK: Perez
BantamweightFrankie Saenz (11-5-0) v. Merab Dvalishvili (7-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Saenz ($7,700), Dvalishvili ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Saenz (+135), Dvalishvili (-160)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Saenz
BantamweightAlejandro Perez (19-6-1) v. Iuri Alcantara (34-8-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Perez ($7,400), Alcantrara ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Perez (+170), Alcantara (-210)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Alcantara
LightweightChris Gruetzemacher (13-2-0) v. Davi Ramos (6-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gruetzemacher ($7,500), Ramos ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Gruetzemacher (+290), Ramos (-400)
Odds to Finish: +110
THE PICK: Ramos
MiddleweightAntonio Brago Neto (9-2-0, 1NC) v. Trevin Giles (10-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Neto ($7,100), Giles ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Neto (+200), Giles (-260)
Odds to Finish: -135
THE PICK: Giles