DraftKings MMA: UFC 236 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC 236 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

A pair of interim title fights headline Saturday's pay-per-view card in Atlanta, with a $30,000 top prize up for grabs in the $15 MMA Throwdown on DraftKings. Let's take a look at some fights that will be key for building winning lineups this weekend.

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 - Interim Lightweight Championship

Max Holloway (20-3-0) v. Dustin Poirier (24-5-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Holloway ($9,100), Poirier ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Holloway (-225), Poirier (+185)
Odds to Finish: -250

Obsessed by the idea of "interim championship" fights these days, the UFC will give Holloway a chance to become a two-division champion while Poirier finally gets his shot at UFC gold. Holloway, the UFC Featherweight Champion, will be competing at lightweight for the first time since July 2011. Poirier and Holloway fought at featherweight in February 2012, a fight Poirier won via first-round submission.

Without a loss in more than five years, Holloway enters on a 13-fight win streak. Victims over that span include Brian Ortega, Jose Aldo (x2), Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, Anthony Pettis and Ricardo Lamas. Holloway has gotten considerably better as he has aged and at 27 years old, is now comfortably one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He provides constant pressure and rarely seems to get hit when you take into account how often he seems to string together combinations. Holloway (5-foot-11) is massive for 145 pounds, but he's giving up two inches in reach to Poirier.

"The Diamond" has found new life since returning to lightweight in April 2015. He has won seven of nine fights (7-1-0, 1NC) sincem and is coming off stoppage wins over Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, and Pettis. A scheduled fight against Nate Diaz in November was cancelled when Poirier was forced to withdraw due to a minor injury. Poirier is comfortable in brawls and excels when the action gets out of hand. His cardio is strong (although not on the level of Holloway) and I think he'll fare just fine in a five-round fight. He also has the advantage of fighting in his natural weight class.

Holloway is the far more technical fighter. I also think his fight IQ is higher than Poirier's, and I trust his ability to make adjustments during the course of a fight. The only way I see Holloway losing is if the extra weight on his frame results in his movements slowing, and thus he struggles with the physicality of Poirier. I don't think it's impossible and Poirier interests me given his surprisingly cheap salary, but I wouldn't bet on it happening.  

THE PICK: Holloway

Co-Main Event - Interim Middleweight Championship

Israel Adesanya (16-0-0) v. Kelvin Gastelum (15-3-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Adesanya ($9,200), Gastelum ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Adesanya (-170), Gastelum (+150)
Odds to Finish: -145

More interim titles! At least this one makes some sense. Gastelum was scheduled to fight Robert Whittaker for the UFC Middleweight Championship in February. Whittaker withdrew the day before the bout and Gastelum ended up being removed from the card.

Numerous issues cutting weight necessitated Gastelum moving beck up to middleweight in 2016, and it was the best thing that ever could have happened to him. Kelvin is 3-1 (1 NC) since moving up, and the lone loss came against Chris Weidman in a fight in which he was simply giving up too much size to win. Gastelum trusts his hands, and my guess is that he would be willing to engage Adesanya in the brawl he is seeking. Gastelum has a background in wrestling and would be wise to try to lean on that against Israel. He's giving up a ton of size, so getting Adesanya to the mat won't be easy despite his experience edge.

Adesanya defeated Anderson Silva in the main event of what was supposed to be the Whittaker/Gastelum card. Anderson did his best, but Adesanya was too big and too quick for the aging veteran. Israel's striking game is insane. He throws tons of shots from unique positions and is continuously improving. If his apparent grappling advancements are legitimate, he's almost certainly a future world champion.

Israel has a six-inch height advantage and a 8.5-inch edge in the reach department. Those are massive numbers for Gastelum to try to overcome. He is going to have to be right up against Adesanya in order to land consistently. Think of what we saw in the most recent Jon Jones v. Daniel Cormier fight and that will give you a rough idea of what this has the potential to look like. Gastelum has the skill set to win this fight and $7,000 is a ridiculously cheap salary for a fighter of his caliber, but I think he's simply giving up too much size to emerge victorious.

THE PICK: Adesanya

Light Heavyweight

Eryk Anders (11-3-0) v. Khalil Rountree (7-3-0)
DK Salaries: Anders ($9,000), Rountree ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Anders (-190), Rountree (+165)
Odds to Finish: -215

A former Division I college football player at the University of Alabama, Anders has lost three of his last four fights. Two of those setbacks have come via split decision and Anders's stock seemingly hasn't dropped all that much despite his recent struggles. Anders will turn 32 years old next week, but he has been a pro for less than four years and as a result, he is still refining his technical skills. Anders definitely has power in his hands, and he's obviously a world-class athlete, but he's getting up there in age and he is probably a good six-to-eight fights behind where he should be in an ideal case.

Rountree is coming off a 117-second knockout loss to rising superstar Johnny Walker in November. Rountree hits hard (all three of his UFC victories have come via KO) and has strong cardio. He also has the advantage of fighting in his normal weight class, while Anders has bounced between light heavyweight and middleweight of late. If Rountree can survive the early assault from Anders, I think he will be in decent shape. He will almost certainly be the fresher man if the bout goes to the final round.

Anders is understandably favored here and he is my pick, but I think Rountree is a live underdog. I have much more confidence in Khalil if this fight goes the distance than I would if you told me it is going to end quickly. Rountree is certainly worth a look if you are the type of DK player who makes multiple lineups.

THE PICK: Anders


Alan Jouban (16-6-0) v. Dwight Grant (9-2-0)
DK Salaries: Jouban ($8,300), Grant ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Jouban (-115), Grant (-105)
Odds to Finish: -125

This certainly isn't the deepest card the UFC has ever produced, and as a result, you get a fight like this one on the main card of a PPV. Jouban is talented, yet inconsistent. He has a ton of power and is terrible defensively. "Brahma" is most comfortable in a brawl and always fights the same way regardless of who is opponent is. Now 36 years old and sporting a 1-2 record in his last three fights, Jouban needs to put a string of victories together if he wants to make a move in the UFC's crowded 170-pound division.

After dropping a split decision to Zak Ottow in his official company debut last December, Grant rebounded to knock out Carlo Pedersoli in late-February. A striker by trade, Grant seems likely to engage Jouban in the brawl he is seeking. We have had very few looks at Grant, so it's difficult to gauge his potential, but I think there's a decent chance he struggles with the physicality of Jouban. On the flip side, Jouban does get hit a lot and Dwight has fast hands.

I think there's a better than even chance that this one doesn't see the final bell, and since this card gets awfully thin in a hurry, you might want to get a piece here. Give me Grant in a slight upset. Jouban's striking defense really worries me.


Light Heavyweight

Ovince Saint Preux (23-12-0) v. Nikita Krylov (24-6-0)
DK Salaries: Saint Preux ($8,000), Krylov ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Saint Preux (-105), Krylov (-115)
Odds to Finish: -335

This will be a rematch of a March 2014 fight which OSP won via technical submission (Von Flue choke) in 149 seconds. Since then, both men have been through a lot. Saint Preux has fought UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, among many others, while Krylov has left and rejoined the company.

Krylov returned in September after nearly two years away and was submitted by Jan Blachowicz in what was a truly dreadful effort. It was a matchup that set up well for Nikita and he flopped. Krylov (14 career submission victories) has a great mat game for a big man. His submission defense isn't great, but he is durable on the feet and I think he still has more to offer. 30 fights into his professional career, Krylov turned just 27 years old in early March.

Like Anders, OSP played Division I college football (University of Tennessee) and like Anders, he remains more of an athlete than a mixed martial artist. He has alternated wins and losses in his last four fights, and Saint Preux, at age 36, needs to get hot in a hurry if he wants to get back into the title conversation. Given Krylov's poor takedown defense (40 percent), OSP would be wise to try to grind out a victory here.

The UFC's 205-pound division remains a disaster. There's Jones, Alexander Gustafsson, Walker, Thiago Santos, Anthony Smith, and not a heck of a lot else. Guys like Krylov and OSP are a group of a half dozen or so guys who constantly fight each other and no one seems to gain any ground. I would avoid this fight if possible, as there appear to be a wide range of outcomes. If forced to pick (and I am), I'd probably go with OSP simply because the payoff is slightly better. I have little confidence in either man.

THE PICK: Saint Preux


Other Bouts

Jalin Turner (8-4-0) v. Matt Frevola (6-1-1)
DK Salaries: Turner ($8,400), Frevola ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Turner (-120), Frevola (+100)
Odds to Finish: -375
THE PICK: Frevola

Wilson Reis (23-9-0) v. Alexandre Pantoja (20-3-0)
DK Salaries: Reis ($7,400), Pantoja ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Reis (+130), Pantoja (-150)
Odds to Finish: +195

Max Griffin (14-6-0) v. Zelim Imadaev (8-0-0)
DK Salaries: Griffin ($8,000), Imadaev ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Griffin (-115), Imadaev (-105)
Odds to Finish: -170
THE PICK: Imadaev

Boston Salmon (6-1-0) v. Khalid Taha (12-2-0)
DK Salaries: Salmon ($8,600), Taha ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Salmon (-125), Taha (+105)
Odds to Finish: +150
THE PICK: Salmon

Belal Muhammad (14-3-0) v. Curtis Millender (17-4-0)
DK Salaries: Muhammad ($8,500), Millender ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Muhammad (-135), Millender (+115)
Odds to Finish: +140
THE PICK: Muhammad

Montel Jackson (7-1-0) v. Andre Soukhamthath (13-6-0)
DK Salaries: Jackson ($9,400), Soukhamthath ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Jackson (-485), Soukhamthath (+385)
Odds to Finish: -145
THE PICK: Jackson

Women's Flyweight
Poliana Botelho (7-2-0) v. Lauren Mueller (5-1-0)
DK Salaries: Botelho ($8,900), Mueller ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Botelho (-165), Mueller (+145)
Odds to Finish: -135
THE PICK: Botelho

Brandon Davis (9-5-0) v. Randy Costa (4-0-0)
DK Salaries: Davis ($8,700), Costa ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Davis (-165), Costa (+145)
Odds to Finish: -185

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. Jon Litterine plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: JLitterine.
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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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