DraftKings MMA: UFC 241 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC 241 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

UFC 241 features the most highly-anticipated rematch of 2019, in addition to some of the most exciting fighters on the roster (even if they've been out of the game for a while). To make matters even more interesting, DraftKings is putting up a six-figure top prize in the $25 UFC 241 Special.

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 - Heavyweight Championship

(C) Daniel Cormier (22-1-0, 1NC) v. Stipe Miocic (18-3-0)
DK Salaries: Cormier ($8,500), Miocic ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Cormier (-145), Miocic (+125)
Odds to Finish: -350

For the longest time, it appeared as if the UFC would be giving Brock Lesnar the next shot at Cormier's belt, but apparently Brock had some ridiculous contract demands in order to accept the fight and the company decided to go in another direction. This won't do the same rating as a Lesnar fight simply because of Brock's crossover appeal, but this is a much better bout for those who are legitimate fans of mixed martial arts. The fact it's a rematch of a July 2018 fight in which Cormier knocked out Stipe to originally win the belt is just an added bonus. 

DC has successfully defended his title once since winning it from Miocic. He overwhelmed an overmatched Derrick Lewis in just over seven minutes at Madison Square Garden in November. It was a late-notice bout because the card didn't have a legitimate main event and Cormier emerged victorious without breaking a sweat. While Cormier has openly discussed the fact he probably has no more than a handful of fights left at age 40, he hasn't slowed down even a hair. DC's cardio remains elite and his wrestling game is arguably the sport's greatest equalizer. Cormier's ability to fight to his strengths against much larger opponents is truly remarkable. 

Stipe hasn't fought since the first fight between the two, so in essence, he will get his immediate rematch. Considering Miocic entered that bout on a six-fight win streak, he deserves the opportunity. Stipe turns 37 years old on Monday, so he's clearly on the back-nine of his career, but as long as his chin continues to hold up I don't see why he can't be one of the best heavyweights in the world for many more years. The knockout scored by DC in the first fight between the two was a bit fluky and I would be surprised if we saw something similar this time around. Stipe's cardio is excellent and he is generally durable. 

Miocic was favored in the first fight between the two, but as you can see above, times have changed. I'm torn on my pick here as I was for the first fight. DC have proven time and time again that his wrestling can help negate the size disadvantage he faces when going up against bigger competition. The issue for Cormier is that he is going to be at a massive disadvantage as long as this fight remains on the feet. Not to mention the fact Stipe is a good wrestler. His 75 percent takedown defense is excellent,  and his edge in the striking/power department is much greater in my mind than the odds of DC consistently being able to drag him to the ground.

DC deserves the benefit of the doubt given what we have seen from him the past many years, but I'm taking Stipe in a slight upset. I expect a close, competitive fight, and the surprising salary gap between the two ultimately sealed the deal for me.

THE PICK: Miocic

Co-Main Event - Welterweight

Anthony Pettis (22-8-0) v. Nate Diaz (19-11-0)
DK Salaries: Pettis ($8,300), Diaz ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Pettis (-125), Diaz (+105)
Odds to Finish: +155

When this fight was announced in early-May, I was skeptical it would ever happen. But it's now August, and here we are. 

Diaz hasn't fought in three years. Both Nate and his brother Nick have been notoriously difficult in their contract negotiations with the company and the fact this is taking place means Diaz got the number he was looking for. The fact he gets to fight near his Stockton, California home also probably helps matters. Nate's last two bouts were against Conor McGregor. He won the first and lost the second. I have long maintained that the Diaz brothers both enjoy training and competing, and thus I expect Nate to show up ready to go on Saturday despite 36 months on the sidelines. 

Pettis looked better in his knockout win over Stephen Thompson in March than at any other point in at least the last half-dozen years. His striking was precise and his head movement was much improved. We have been fooled by Pettis multiple times in the past, so I'm not officially ready to say that he's back, but it was certainly a massive step in the right direction. Pettis has completely changed the way he fights. The days of Showtime overwhelming his opposition with world-class athleticism are over. His offensive arsenal is far less creative than ever before. He still has enough talent to win fights, but he has become a bit more predictable over the years.

I'm not ashamed to admit I have less than no idea what is going to happen in this one. The obvious question here is what can we expect from Diaz after all the time off? I would generally do anything possible to stay away from a 34-year-old with three years on the sidelines, but the Diaz brothers live to fight and are a different breed entirely. Five months ago I would have said that Nate's height (two inches) and reach (four inches) advantage would give Pettis all sorts of issues, but then "Showtime" went out and torched Thompson. I'm going to take Pettis, albeit with little confidence. I think the range of outcomes for this fight is massive.

THE PICK: Pettis


Yoel Romero (13-3-0) v. Paulo Costa (12-0-0)
DK Salaries: Romero ($8,600), Costa ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Romero (-155), Costa (+135)
Odds to Finish: -350

The UFC has been so committed to making this fight happen that they have tried on three previous occasions, only to have it fall apart. Barring something unforeseen, it will finally go down on Saturday. 

Romero's six-plus year run with the UFC has been both fascinating and baffling. He has fought for the official or interim UFC Middleweight Championship in each of his past three bouts only to miss weight in the last two and not be eligible to win the title. Romero turned 42 years old in April, so there's no reason to believe his weight cut will suddenly get any easier. When he is at his best, Yoel looks like a real life superhero. A former Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling for his native Cuba, men as big as Romero shouldn't be able to move with the quickness and agility he possesses. Yoel's explosiveness in unrivaled in the division and maybe the sport. 

Costa remains undefeated as a professional with 11 of his 12 wins coming via knockout. He has insane one-punch knockout power and has yet to face anyone who has forced him to do anything other than unload uncontested bombs. Paulo is actually also a BJJ black belt under Big Nog, but we have yet to see his submission game in the UFC. Costa has been flagged by both the USADA and the Brazilian athletic commission in the past, so he too has some red flags in his portfolio. 

Romero's cardio has improved recently. Or, should I say, he has decided to start slower in hopes of saving energy for the later stages of the fight. The fact this is a three-round bout certain helps Yoel. I'm legitimately worried about his ability to survive Costa's first few flurries, and I'd be all over Paulo if I was making multiple DraftKings lineups, but for all the flack Romero gets (and he deserves much of it), he has been finished just once in his career and that came nearly eight years ago. He's my pick to win with the full understanding I would be less than surprised if Costa managed to stop him in under 30 seconds. 

THE PICK: Romero


Gabriel Benitez (21-6-0) v. Sodiq Yusuff (9-1-0)
DK Salaries: Benitez ($6,900), Yusuff ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Benitez (+245), Yusuff (-290)
Odds to Finish: -140

This is a nice underrated fight. Both Benitez and Yusuff have been hot of late, and the winner of this one will be in real good shape moving forward. 

Benitez has won two in a row and three of his last four. He possesses a respectable all-around offensive game, and is excellent defensively on the feet. The second part there is the key. Yusuff steps into the Octagon and unloads bombs, and it's imperative that Benitez get out of the way of those massive strikes. He can't stand toe-to-toe with the powerful Yusuff and expect to win. I tend to think Benitez and his excellent camp at American Top Team recognize that. Implementing a different game plan is another story entirely. 

A product of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, Yusuff has begun his official UFC career with back-to-back victories. He was particularly impressive in a unanimous decision win in his last fight against the underrated Sheymon Moraes in March. Yusuff is a pure striker. He has quick hands, quick feet, and legitimate power. I'm worried about the rest of his game, but Yusuff has a legitimate chance in any fight in which is opposition is foolish enough to engage him in the brawl is he so desperately seeking.

Benitez is a decent fighter and much better than his DraftKings salary here would lead you to believe, but Yusuff looks like a potential star. Benitez (10 career submission wins) will have to get this fight to the mat in order to be successful, and Yusuff's takedown defense has been perfect in the early portion of his UFC career. Few younger fighters have displayed his combination of skill and composure in the Octagon with relatively little pro experience, and that makes the 26-year-old an easy pick here. 

THE PICK: Yusuff


Derek Brunson (19-7-0) v. Ian Heinisch (13-1-0)
DK Salaries: Brunson ($7,400), Heinisch ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Brunson (+130), Heinisch (-150)
Odds to Finish: -130

Now 35 years old, time is running out for Brunson. He needs to put together a prolonged winning streak in order to keep his name in the mix at 185 pounds, and it starts with taking out the talented Heinisch. Brunson is an exceptional athlete with remarkable explosiveness for a big man. He's a lot like Romero in that aspect. That's the good news. The bad news is that his cardio and fight IQ are both poor, and his chin is downright dreadful. I'm seriously worried about Brunson's ability to take a punch, and that's not something that improves with age. 

Heinisch came out of nowhere and suddenly looks like a legitimate threat at middleweight. He has picked up unanimous decision victories (Antonio Carlos Jr, Cezar Ferreira) in his first two official UFC bouts, and looked good doing so. Heinisch's goal for this fight should be to slow the pace down. If he can survive the early flurry from Brunson that is undoubtedly forthcoming, he will be in excellent shape to win this thing on points in the later stages of the bout. I like what I've seen from Heinisch, but Brunson is clearly his toughest test to date. 

The biggest gap between the two men is in the quality of competition they have faced. Yes, Brunson is 3-4 in his last seven fights dating back to November 2016, but the four setbacks came against current UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker, Interim UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya, perennial top contender Jacare Souza, and Anderson Silva (in a fight in which Brunson clearly won and got screwed by the judge's scorecards). Still, I don't think that's enough to save Brunson.

His explosiveness and athleticism will give him a chance, and he's certainly a worthy DraftKings play at such a cheap salary, but I'm just too worried about his chin and fight IQ to pick him outright. If Heinisch connects with a few early combinations, I could see Brunson crumbling.

THE PICK: Heinisch

Other Fights

Khama Worthy (12-6-0) v. Devonte Smith (10-1-0)
DK Salaries: Smith ($9,500), Worthy TBD
Vegas Odds: Smith (-750), Worthy (+450)
Odds to Finish: -395

Raphael Assuncao (27-6-0) v. Cory Sandhagen (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Assuncao ($7,500), Sandhagen ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Assuncao (+140), Sandhagen (-160)
Odds to Finish: +180
THE PICK: Assuncao

Manny Bermudez (14-0-0) v. Casey Kenney (12-1-1)
DK Salaries: Bermudez ($8,400), Kenney ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Bermudez (-125), Kenney (+105)
Odds to Finish: -165
THE PICK: Bermudez

Drakkar Klose (10-1-1) v. Christos Giagos (17-7-0)
DK Salaries: Klose ($9,000), Giagos ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Klose (-200), Giagos (+170)
Odds to Finish: +185

Women's Strawweight
Hannah Cifers (9-3-0) v. Jodie Esquibel (6-5-0)
DK Salaries: Cifers ($9,200), Esquibel ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Cifers (-255), Esquibel (+215)
Odds to Finish: +300
THE PICK: Cifers

Kyung Ho Kang (15-8-0, 1NC) v. Brandon Davis (10-5-0)
DK Salaries: Kang ($8,900), Davis ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Kang (-175), Davis (+155)
Odds to Finish: +100

Women's Flyweight
Shana Dobson (3-2-0) v. Sabina Mazo (6-1-0)
DK Salaries: Dobson ($8,200), Mazo ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Dobson (-130), Mazo (+110)
Odds to Finish: +240

Odds last updated on the afternoon of Aug. 13. Please see the RotoWire MMA Lineup Optimizer for the latest MMA odds.

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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