DraftKings MMA: UFC 231 Preview
DraftKings MMA: UFC 231 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

There's $125,000 up for grabs in this week's $10 MMA Uppercut, with $25,000 heading to first place. Saturday's pay-per-view features two title fights, and plenty of opportunities to cash in.

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.)

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 Championship

(C) Max Holloway (19-3-0) v. Brian Ortega (14-0-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Holloway ($8,300), Ortega ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Holloway (-125), Ortega (+105)
Odds to Finish: -170

For a fighter in the midst of a 12-fight winning streak and without a loss for the last 5.5 years, it's been a rough 2018 for Holloway. A leg injury forced Holloway to withdraw from a fight against Frankie Edgar scheduled for UFC 222 in March, and then a rough, last-minute weight cut resulted in Holloway stepping aside for a potential champion v. champion fight against UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in April. If that wasn't enough, concussion symptoms forced Holloway from an originally scheduled fight with Ortega in July. Apparently fully healthy, the two will finally get it on this Saturday.

Holloway has been one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world over the past several years and is continuously improving, but these ongoing health issues are a concern moving forward. The champion wins with pace and output and both of those aspects of his game are threatened by potential injuries. If this fight stays on the feet for any significant amount of time, Holloway has a massive advantage. "Blessed" does a brilliant job of tailoring his game plan to his opposition, and he is certainly well aware of Ortega's world-class ground game. As long as he doesn't take too many risks and leave one of his limbs exposed, I think he'll be ok.

Ortega is undefeated as a professional and in April he became the first (and only) man to knockout Edgar, so it's pretty clear he deserves a title shot. As I mentioned earlier, Ortega is one of the game's great ground specialists. A BJJ black belt under the renowned Rener Gracie, Ortega is a threat to finish a fight via submission at any time. Ortega's striking has improved over the years but that's not the strength of his game. As impressive as Ortega's knockout of Edgar was, it had an air of flukiness to it. I love Ortega and I think he's probably the second-best 145-pounder on the planet, but he's not going to make his living by putting people to sleep with his hands.

Holloway has a huge advantage in the striking game, his takedown defense is exceptional (83 percent) and he has shown the ability to keep up his pace in the later rounds. Ortega is traditionally a slower starter who has pulled out some miraculous finishes at the end of fights. That isn't going to fly against Holloway. He needs to come hard and he needs to keep it up for 25 minutes. I'm not convinced he can do it. At least not to the point that he can upend the champ.

THE PICK: Holloway

Co-Main Event - Women's Flyweight Championship

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-2-0) v. Valentina Shevchenko (15-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Jedrzejczyk ($6,800), Shevchenko ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Jedrzejczyk (+285), Shevchenko (-345)
Odds to Finish: +175

The UFC Women's Flyweight Championship has caused a ton of controversy for a title that was introduced less than a year ago. It's inaugural winner, Nicco Montano, won the belt by winning a reality show and was stripped before she ever had a chance to defend it. Thankfully, that is now all water under the bridge. Saturday we get the fight that everyone is looking forward to.

Shevchenko was scheduled to face Montano for the belt at UFC 228 in September. After a disastrous weight cut forced Nicco to withdraw, UFC President Dana White yanked the title from her. It's too bad for Valentina, as she was roughly a (-1300) favorite for that fight and would almost certainly be the champion today had it ever taken place. "Bullet" has lost just twice in the past eight years, and both came against current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes. Both fights were competitive and an argument can be made that Valentina deserved the decision in the September 2017 rematch. A Muay Thai specialist, Shevchenko does a shockingly good job defending herself on the feet for a woman whose specialty is her kickboxing. She's powerful, physical, and has an underrated ground game.

The former queen of the UFC Women's Strawweight division, this will be Jedrzejczyk's first appearance at 125 pounds with the company, and her first overall in more than four years. Joanna never had an issue making the 115-pound strawweight limit and her cardio has always been pretty good, so I'm not sure the extra ten pounds on her frame will make all that much of a difference. Joanna rebounded from her back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas to decision Tecia Torres in July. She looked better than she had previously and she won easily, but it wasn't the dominant, overwhelming effort that we had become accustomed to with Jedrzejczyk. I'm confident in saying that she will get back to that level eventually (she's still just 31 years old and she trains with American Top Team), but Shevchenko is a bad matchup for any fighter than isn't on the top of her game.

This fight is fascinating because both women have a Muay Thai background and make their respective livings by beating up their opposition on the feet. Valentina has a bit more finishing power and is a bit more accurate with her strikes while Joanna is slightly better at putting together combinations. The bottom line for me is that I simply don't trust Joanna's ability handle the physicality of Shevchenko. Granted, this is as cheap of a salary as you well ever see her listed at and she makes plenty of sense if you plan on submitting multiple lineups, but Valentina could probably fight at featherweight if she had to and Jedrzejczyk spent nearly her entire career at strawweight. Joanna is terrific, but this is a massive task for any woman at 125 pounds.

THE PICK: Shevchenko

Welterweight

Alex Oliveira (19-4-1, 2NC) v. Gunnar Nelson (16-3-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Oliveira ($7,800), Nelson ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Oliveira (+125), Nelson (-145)
Odds to Finish: -295

One of the more underrated fighters on the roster since his company debut back in March 2015, Oliveira gets a chance to add another signature victory to his resume on Saturday. The Brazilian is now 9-3 (1NC) during his time with the UFC, and included in that stretch are triumphs over Will Brooks and Carlos Condit. Oliveira has legitimate power and an underrated ground game. Of course, getting into grappling exchanges with a wizard like Nelson is a recipe for disaster. Oliveira is durable, and has a much better gas tank at welterweight that he displayed during his brief run at lightweight.

Gunnar has been on the sidelines for nearly a year and a half. His last fight was a first-round knockout loss to rising star Santiago Ponzinibbio in July 2017. Since then, Nelson was due to fight Neil Magny in July before withdrawing due to injury. Gunnar has been banged up for the vast majority of his UFC career, and as a result, he has struggled to get on any sort of run. He has fought just four times in the past three years. A BJJ black belt under the legendary Renzo Gracie, Nelson is legitimately one of the best submission specialists in the world. Any work Gunnar does on the feet is simply to set up his submissions.

Although both men are 5-foot-11, Oliveira has a 4.5-inch reach advantage. He's the better striker of the two and is going to have a significant advantage for as long as this fight remains in the standup position. On a card where I'm not in love with many underdogs, I'm going to take Oliveira in an upset. Nelson can be a bit sleepy at times and it takes him a while to get going. I think the Brazilian can take advantage of that. I'm worried about Nelson's time off as well. That being said, Oliveira's biggest weakness is his submission defense and Nelson certainly has the skills to make him pay in that area. I expect a competitive fight.

THE PICK: Oliveira

Light Heavyweight

Jimi Manuwa (17-3-0) v. Thiago Santos (19-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Manuwa ($7,400), Santos ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Manuwa (+185), Santos (-225)
Odds to Finish: -555

This fight is intriguing given Manuwa's recent struggles and the fact Santos, a natural middleweight, is competing at light heavyweight for just the second time, both in a span of less than three months.

Manuwa would have earned a shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship had he been able to beat Volkan Oezdemir last July. Instead, he was knocked out in 42 seconds and followed up that abysmal performance with a unanimous-decision loss to the thoroughly mediocre Jan Blachowicz in March. The concern surrounding Manuwa has always been that he is a knockout artist that brings little else to the party. 10 fights into his UFC career, those fears have been confirmed. Jimi turned 38 years old earlier this year, and he won't be adding new tricks to his repertoire at such an advanced age. His power is legit, but Manuwa struggles in anything other than an all-out brawl.

Santos knocked out Eryk Anders in his 205-pound debut in late-September. Known as one of the more active fighters on the roster, the Brazilian in 6-1 in his last five fights dating back to February 2017. Santos throws more kicks than Manuwa does, but he is also an all-out power striker that is constantly seeking the finish. The difference between the two is that Santos has displayed an ability to vary his attacks as he goes in search of the finish. Manuwa, on the other hand, swings for the bleachers from the moment the opening bell rings until the moment the fight ends.

This is a tough pick. I think Santos is the better athlete and has the much better chin. Jimi has the advantage of fighting in his normal weight class. When push comes to shove, Manuwa is getting hit too much and Santos certainly has knockout power. The line is a bit high for my liking, but I think Santos wins.

THE PICK: Santos

Women's Strawweight

Claudia Gadelha (16-3-0) v. Nina Ansaroff (9-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gadelha ($9,300), Ansaroff ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Gadelha (-320), Ansaroff (+260)
Odds to Finish: +180
Add this fight to the list of questionable bouts that the UFC has booked recently. Gadelha has been one of the division's best fighters since her company debut in 2014. She has ridiculous upper-body strength and solid submission skills. Gadelha's only three UFC loses came against Joanna Jedrzejczyk (twice) and Jessica Andrade. In other words, the best the division has to offer. She gets hit too much on the feet, but I doubt Ansaroff will be able to take advantage of that weakness.

Long viewed as nothing more than roster depth, Ansaroff has quietly won three fights in a row. That's the good news. The bad news is that the victories have come against poor competition (Randa Markos, Angela Hill, Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger). I see no reason to believe Ansaroff is worthy of this opportunity. She's a respectable fighter who is competent in all areas of the sport, but her ceiling is extremely limited and to match her up against the top-ranked Brazilian seems like a waste of time.

Gadelha can struggle now and then, but I think she wins this fight with ease. She has a massive strength advantage and although Ansaroff's takedown defense has been quite good (80 percent), she has never faced a fighter with the abilities of Claudia. Any Ansaroff victory will almost come via decision and I don't see that happening. She doesn't interest me as a DK underdog.

THE PICK: Gadelha

Other Bouts


Featherweight
Hakeem Dawodu (8-0-1) v. Kyle Bochniak (8-3-0)
DK Salaries: Dawodu ($8,600), Bochniak ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Dawodu (-185), Bochniak (+160)
Odds to Finish: +155
THE PICK: Dawodu

Women's Flyweight
Katlyn Chookagian (11-1-0) v. Jessica Eye (13-6-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Chookagian ($8,700), Eye ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Chookagian (-175), Eye (+155)
Odds to Finish: +305
THE PICK: Chookagian

Middleweight
Elias Theodorou (15-2-0) v. Eryk Anders (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Theodorou ($8,200), Anders ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Theodorou (-120), Anders (+100)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Anders

Lightweight
Olivier Aubin-Mercier (12-3-0) v. Gilbert Burns (14-3-0)
DK Salaries: Aubin-Mercier ($8,500), Burns ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Aubin-Mercier (-140), Burns (+120)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Burns

Light Heavyweight
Devin Clark (9-2-0) v. Aleksandar Rakic (9-1-0)
DK Salaries: Clark ($6,700), Rakic ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Clark (+425), Rakic (-550)
Odds to Finish: -215
THE PICK: Rakic

Bantamweight
Brad Katona (8-0-0) v. Matthew Lopez (10-4-0)
DK Salaries: Katona ($8,900), Lopez ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Katona (-245), Lopez (+205)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Katona

Welterweight
Chad Laprise (14-3-0) v. Dhiego Lima (14-7-0)
DK Salaries: Laprise ($9,100), Lima ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Laprise (-345), Lima (+285)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Laprise

Lightweight
Diego Ferreira (13-2-0) v. Jesse Ronson (13-5-0)
DK Salaries: Ferreira ($9,200), Ronson ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Ferreira ($-350), Ronson (+290)
Odds to Finish: +130
THE PICK: Ferreira

Odds last updated Dec. 4 at 6:45 PM ET.

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.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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