This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The UFC heads to the City of Brotherly Love this weekend where a $30,000 top prize is up for grabs in this week's MMA Throwdown.
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 - Lightweight
Edson Barboza (20-6-0) v. Justin Gaethje (19-2-0)
DK Salaries: Barboza ($8,500), Gaethje ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Barboza (-135), Gaethje (+115)
Odds to Finish: -570
Get your popcorn ready! This figures to be a stand-up war from the moment the opening bell rings until the fight finally comes to a conclusion.
Barboza rebounded from his losses to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee to knock out the very talented Dan Hooker in December. Edson got popped a couple times in the early going, but he eventually found his range and pummeled an overmatched Hooker. The fight ended midway through Round 3 and only Hooker's superhuman toughness kept it going that long. Barboza has the best leg kicks in the game. If Gaethje doesn't check Edson's kicks, he's going to find himself hopping around in short order.
Gaethje's four-fight UFC run has gone about as expected. His record is 2-2 and includes a pair of highlight reel knockout wins (James Vick, Michael Johnson) and a pair of knockout losses (Dustin Poirier, Eddie Alvarez). I've gone on record numerous times in saying that I wouldn't pick Gaethje against any talented lightweight and that still stands. His ability to eat punishment and keep on ticking is unlike anything we have ever seen before (expect maybe Diego Sanchez), but sooner or later you have to pay attention to defense and Gaethje has displayed zero desire to do that over the course of his career. The fact he has a background in wrestling is meaningless because he refuses to put those skills to use.
I'm picking Barboza obviously but I do acknowledge that Gaethje's ability to take a beating gives him a chance in most any fight he is in. It takes so much to stop him via strikes that he has time to inflict punishment upon his opposition. Gaethje is going to win his fair share of fights because of that one simple reason, but I don't see how one can accurately quantify when that is going to happen. Thus, Edson is the selection.
THE PICK: Barboza
Co-Main Event - Middleweight
David Branch (22-5-0) v. Jack Hermansson (18-4-0)
DK Salaries: Branch ($7,900), Hermansson ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Branch (+105), Hermansson (-125)
Odds to Finish: -180
Branch looked good heading into his fight with Jared Cannonier in November. He had won two of his first three bouts since returning to the UFC, and he fared very well against Luke Rockhold in the one defeat. Then all of the sudden his striking defense evaporated, he was knocked out by Cannonier and now he finds himself at a career crossroads at age 37. Branch has a ton of power and he keeps himself in excellent shape. He has shown an ability to fight in multiple weight classes and he is a former two-division world champion in the former WSOF. In short, he has a bunch of things going for him despite the recent struggle.
Hermansson enters having won four of his last five with the only setback coming via knockout to Thiago Santos (who is knocking out everyone these days). Like Branch, Hermansson does his best work on the feet. The Swede can mix in a submission here or there, but it's not his biggest strength. Hermansson is seven years younger than Branch and he has faced far worse competition over the course of his career. It will be interesting to see if he can rise to the occasion here.
The lone concern I have about Branch is his chin. After being knocked out just once in his first decade in the sport, he has now been stopped via strikes in two of his last three fights. If his chin is truly evaporating at age 37, Branch's time as an above-average middleweight is over. I'm going to roll the dice on him one more time, especially since he comes at a value, but there are clear risks here.
THE PICK: Branch
Josh Emmett (13-2-0) v. Michael Johnson (19-13-0)
DK Salaries: Emmett ($7,800), Johnson ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Emmett (-105), Johnson (-115)
Odds to Finish: -110
Emmett's meteoric rise to the featherweight title picture came to a crashing halt when he was knocked out by Jeremy Stephens last February. He hasn't fought since and this is essentially a must-win bout in order for Emmett to remain relevant. Emmett has legitimate pop in his hands, he moves well, and up until the Stephens fight, he had displayed a strong chin. This looks like a strong spot for him to rebound.
Fighting for his job in the middle of 2018, Johnson took back-to-back decisions over Andrei Fili and Artem Lobov in a two-month span to steady the ship. "The Menace" still doesn't look right. His biggest asset – his power – is negated by the fact he is super aggressive and fight foolishly. Johnson is very durable for a guy who constantly engages in brawls, but his submission defense is abysmal. The victories over Fili and Lobov don't necessarily mean that Johnson is out of his funk.
While it's entirely possible that we have already seen the best Emmett has to offer, I think he still has enough to get by Johnson. Johnson generally gets knocked out when he loses and goes the distance when he wins, so if you think he is going to emerge victorious and see the final bell, he would almost certainly rack up plenty of DraftKings points in that scenario. As both the odds and salaries indicate, this one figures to be close.
THE PICK: Emmett
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-3-0) v. Michelle Waterson (16-6-0)
DK Salaries: Kowalkiewicz ($8,600), Waterson ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Kowalkiewicz (-150), Waterson (+130)
Odds to Finish: +240
The winner here could theoretically be just one more big victory away from a shot at the UFC Women's Strawweight Championship. There is suddenly a decent amount of depth in a division that appeared to be going through a rough patch over the past 12-to-18 months.
Kowalkiewicz got a wake-up call when she was knocked out by Jessica Andrade in less than two minutes last September. Andrade is going to fight champion Rose Namajunas for the belt at UFC 237 in May, so Karolina will still be in decent shape if she can rebound with a victory over Waterson. Kowalkiewicz excels at putting together combinations, and she is deceptively strong for her size. The Andrade fight aside, she tends to be fairly durable, although she has a clear lack of stopping power in her hands. Karolina wins with volume and she should have a fairly significant striking advantage over Waterson.
"The Karate Hottie" is coming off back-to-back decision wins over Felice Herrig (unanimous) and Cortney Casey (split). Waterson did her best work in Invicta at atomweight (105 pounds) and the move up to strawweight hasn't treated her all that well. She's undersized for the division and Waterson has really struggled in slow, grinding fights. That isn't Kowalkiewicz's type of fight either, but I think Karolina is the stronger of the two women. Waterson's biggest advantage will be on the mat. Michelle is a submission wizard and any ground exchanges between the two favor her in a major way.
The top of the division seems to be Namajunas and Andrade and then everyone else. Even former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (before she moved up to flyweight) and perennial contender Claudia Gadelha have had their ups and downs. That's a long way of saying that I wouldn't be surprised if this fight goes either way, but I'm going to pick Karolina. Waterson defeated a very physically strong opponent in Herrig, but she more survived than she did thrive. I'm not convinced it's going to happen a second time in a row.
THE PICK: Kowalkiewicz
Paul Craig (10-3-0) v. Kennedy Nzechukwu (6-0-0)
DK Salaries: Craig ($7,200), Nzechukwu ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Craig (+185), Nzechukwu (-225)
Odds to Finish: -445
THE PICK: Nzechukwu
Sheymon Moraes (11-2-0) v. Sodiq Yusuff (8-1-0)
DK Salaries: Moraes ($7,500), Yusuff ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Moraes (+135), Yusuff (-155)
Odds to Finish: -135
THE PICK: Yusuff
Jessica Aguilar (20-7-0) v. Marina Rodriguez (10-0-1)
DK Salaries: Aguilar ($7,100), Rodriguez ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Aguilar (+250), Rodriguez (-300)
Odds to Finish: +240
THE PICK: Rodriguez
Ross Pearson (20-15-0) v. Desmond Green (21-8-0)
DK Salaries: Pearson ($6,900), Green ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Pearson (+350), Green (-440)
Odds to Finish: +250
THE PICK: Green
Enrique Barzola (15-3-1) v. Kevin Aguilar (16-1-0)
DK Salaries: Barzola ($8,200), Aguilar ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Barzola (-115), Aguilar (-105)
Odds to Finish: +205
THE PICK: Aguilar
Kevin Holland (13-4-0) v. Gerald Meerschaert (28-10-0)
DK Salaries: Holland ($8,900), Meerschaert ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Holland (-210), Meerschaert (+175)
Odds to Finish: -300
THE PICK: Holland
Ray Borg (11-3-0) v. Casey Kenney (11-1-1)
DK Salaries: Borg ($9,400), Kenney ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Borg (-355), Kenney (+265)
Odds to Finish: +165
THE PICK: Borg
Maryna Moroz (8-3-0) v. Sabina Mazo (6-0-0)
DK Salaries: Moroz ($7,400), Mazo ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Moroz (+150), Mazo (-170)
Odds to Finish: +240
THE PICK: Mazo
Alex Perez (21-5-0) v. Mark De La Rosa (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Perez ($9,200), De La Rosa ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Perez (-280), De La Rosa (+240)
Odds to Finish: +100
THE PICK: Perez