This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC Minneapolis was originally scheduled to be a welterweight showcase between Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler, but that idea was scrapped due to a Woodley injury. In steps a prolific heavyweight matchup between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos, which was moved up from next weekend's UFC 239 card. Plenty of fireworks will headline an event in which DraftKings is putting up a $25,000 top prize in the $15 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 - Heavyweight
Ngannou's struggles against Stipe Miocic and his baffling performance against Derrick Lewis appear to be a thing of the past. He has since knocked out Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez in a combined 71 seconds. Ngannou's one-punch knockout power remains the sport's most dangerous weapon. I'm still worried about his cardio and grappling abilities, but the thunder in Ngannou's hands is going to make him the favorite against almost anyone he faces. He has the rare ability to finish opponents by barely grazing them with a shot.
This doesn't appear to be a great matchup for Dos Santos, but he's won three fights in a row since coming up short in a title fight against Miocic in May 2017, and he could earn another title shot if he defeats Ngannou. Effectively, he really had no choice but to accept this bout. Following a unanimous decision over the uber-tough Blagoy Ivanov, Dos Santos has since knocked out Tai Tuivasa and Lewis in his last two bouts. JDS still has power, that much is obvious. If his opposition remains stationary and allows Dos Santos to let his hands go, he can beat anyone. The question in this fight will be his defense. We have all seen Ngannou finish guys despite barely touching them, and JDS is a fighter who is traditionally comfortable trading in the pocket. That's not going to fly against Ngannou.
I still view Ngannou as the most dangerous heavyweight in the division. He's obviously not as good of a fighter as champion Daniel Cormier or quite possibly Miocic, but his power is the great equalizer. He appears to be fully recovered from the Lewis fiasco and it's again worth noting this is a guy who has been fighting professionally for less than six years. JDS isn't done quite yet, and the fact this is a five-round fight clearly favors him, but let's be real here, what are the odds this thing sees the final bell? Not good. I'm all over Ngannou here.
THE PICK: Ngannou
Co-Main Event - Flyweight
Although the UFC's flyweight division may be on its last legs, the winner of this fight (particularly if it's Formiga), will seemingly be ensured a title shot if the division still exists when that time rolls around. Benavidez scored a first-round TKO victory when these two first met in September 2013.
Formiga continues to get no recognition despite the fact he has proven time and time again that he is one of the very best 125 pounders in the world. He was won four straight, including back-to-back bouts over the very talented Deiveson Figueiredo and Sergio Pettis. A noted ground specialist, Jussier's striking has improved. He still has zero power (Formiga doesn't have a knockout win in his career), but his form has gotten better over time, and he can at least threaten his opposition on the feet these days. I'm extremely wary of fighters who can't finish a fight via strikes, but Formiga does pretty much everything else well.
Joe B lost to Pettis in June 2018 and has since rebounded with wins over Dustin Ortiz and Alex Perez. Benavidez is the second-most decorated flyweight in company history behind former long-time champ Demetrious Johnson. Joe B has cardio for days, pop in his hands, and an above-average ground game. To summarize, he can beat you in a variety of different ways and has shown no signs of slowing down despite the fact he turns 35 years old late next month.
Much like Daniel Cormier's legacy will unfairly be negatively impacted by his inability to defeat Jon Jones, Benavidez's legacy will be marred due to his inability to beat Johnson. All things being equal, I would probably give a slight edge to Joe B here, but this card is chock-full of fights with wide discrepancies in both the DraftKings Salaries and Vegas odds. I'm trying to find value with an underdog somewhere, and Formiga appears to be as good a bet as any to pay off.
THE PICK: Formiga
Anthony Rocco Martin (it was much easier when he went by "Tony Martin") is on quite a little run. His current four-fight win streak coincides with a return to welterweight in April 2018. Martin's entire UFC run prior to his last four bouts was spent at 155 pounds, and his body looked drained on fight night due to the weight cut. Martin is a big guy (6-0) and far more effective with the extra 15 pounds on his frame. Martin has just one career win via knockout, so that is something to keep an eye on.
Maia dropped unanimous decisions to Woodley (title fight), Colby Covington (former interim champion) and current champion Kamaru Usman in a three-fight span from July 2017 to May 2018. Everyone (myself included) was ready to write the veteran off after that poor run, but he rebounded with a nice submission victory over the underrated Lyman Good in February. Maia will turn 42 years old in November. The days of him being competitive in any sort of kickboxing match have long since passed, but his world-class mat abilities remain.
The way I see it, Martin is in a tough spot here. Although his striking has looked better of late, it's not his strength. His biggest is his ground game, and that is all but negated by the fact Maia is literally one of the last men on earth you want to get into a ground battle with, even at his advanced age. I certainly think Martin is the more likely of the two to have success moving forward, but this looks like a bad matchup for him. He has earned the opportunity, but I'm taking the Brazilian. That being said, Martin has some DraftKings value as a massive underdog. The strides he has made of late look legitimate and I could see him giving Maia a competitive fight, even if he ultimately loses.
THE PICK: Maia
Competing in arguably the sport's deepest division, Roberts – a Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series alum – has earned back-to-back victories in a five-month span to begin his UFC career. The competition has been lousy (Darrell Horcher, Thomas Gifford), but Roberts has looked calm and composed inside the Octagon in the early going. Roberts's greatest asset is his size. He checks in at a massive 6-foot-1, and his long frame is ideal for clamping on submissions.
Pichel's last bout was a submission loss to Gregor Gillespie last June, which represented his first setback in 5.5 years. Of course, he was injured for 36 months in the middle of that, but he entered that bout on a four-fight win streak nonetheless. Pichel is insanely tough. He has been in some brutal wars over the years and his ability to absorb punishment is remarkable. Any fighter whose nickname is "From Hell" better be able to take it as will as dish it out, and Pichel can. A former Ultimate Fighter competitor, Pichel is a brawler with an underrated ground game. I actually like his all-around skill set, but he will be 37 years old in November, and all that time he missed from 2014-2017 will take it's toll eventually.
I'm interested in seeing how Pichel fights as the shorter man. It's not very often a guy who checks in at 5-foot-10 is going to be undersized at 155 pounds, but that's what Pichel is looking at here. I'm always weary of picking a fighter whose two greatest attributes are heart and determination. It rarely ends well. I would avoid this fight all together. I think Roberts ultimately wins, but his salary is way too high for a guy we still know relatively little about.
THE PICK: Roberts
Ricardo Ramos (12-2-0) v. Journey Newson (7-1-0)
DK Salaries: Ramos ($9,100), Newson ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Ramos (-335), Newson (+275)
Odds to Finish: +130
THE PICK: Ramos
Dalcha Lungiambula (9-1-0) v. Dequan Townsend (18-7-0)
DK Salaries: Not offered in game (yet).
Vegas Odds: Lungiambula (-240), Townsend (+180)
Odds to Finish: -385
THE PICK: Lungiambula