This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Set your lineups early with another morning card on the horizon, as early prelims are scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. EST in the U.S., with the Pay-Per-View kicking off at 11 a.m. EST on ESPN+. DraftKings still has its regular slate of contests available, which includes a $50,000 top prize in the 242 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.)
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 Championship
(C) Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0-0) v. (IC) Dustin Poirier (25-5-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Nurmagomedov ($9,300), Poirier ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Nurmagomedov (-450), Poirier (+360)
Odds To Finish: -165
The UFC's first trip to Abu Dhabi (for a PPV, that is) is headlined by one of the best fights the company can make at the moment. Both Khabib and Dustin enter on what appears to be an unstoppable roll and one man will be sent back to the drawing board Saturday in the United Arab Emirates.
Undefeated as a professional and a perfect 11-0 in the UFC, Nurmagomedov continues to handle everyone thrown his way with little-to-no issue. His mauling of Conor McGregor last October showed exactly why Khabib is considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today. His ability to drag his opposition to the mat from seemingly any position is arguably the sport's greatest equalizer. The next man to consistently ward off Khabib's takedown attempts will be the first.
Poirier finally gets his shot at undisputed UFC gold and he has more than earned it. Sporting a 9-1 (1NC) record since moving back up to lightweight in April 2015, Dustin is coming off a dominant unanimous decision win over Max Holloway in April to win the interim belt. Holloway had won 13 in a row heading into that bout and Poirier handled him with ease. Dustin wins with toughness and physicality. He out muscled Holloway at the point of attack and used his size and upper-body strength to do consistent damage on the feet. Combine that with his durability and you have a highly-intriguing fighter moving forward.
The worst thing Khabib can do in this fight is engage Dustin in the all-out brawl is he seeking. Poirier has more power and is the far more effective striker. Khabib has displayed a ridiculous chin when necessary, but allowing Poirier to get loose on the feet is a recipe for potential disaster. Of course, if Poirier's takedown defense – which is generally pretty good (69 percent) – doesn't show up on Saturday, it probably won't matter what he does on the feet.
Like Jon Jones at light heavyweight and Demetrious Johnson earlier in his career at flyweight, Khabib has reached the point where I will be picking him in every fight at 155 pounds until he loses, and like everyone else in this sport, he will fall eventually. While he has taken significant damage on the feet in the past, Nurmagomedov has never been in any real danger of actually being stopped. Poirier has the frame and power to be the first man to buck that trend and he opens a lot of options up for you at $6,900 if you're the type to submit several DraftKings lineups, but the champ is the champ for a reason.
THE PICK: Nurmagomedov
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
Edson Barboza (20-7-0) v. Paul Felder (16-4-0)
DK Salaries: Barboza ($8,500), Felder ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Barboza (-155), Felder (+135)
Odds To Finish: -150
This will be the rematch of a July 2015 which Barboza won via unanimous decision in Chicago. That was just Felder's third fight with the company and his first loss under the UFC banner.
"The Irish Dragon" has been on a nice run of late, sporting a 4-1 record in his past five fights dating back to February 2017. That one setback came via split decision against Mike Perry in a fight contested at welterweight. Felder looks and performs much better at lightweight. His aggressive style of fighting makes for must-see television, but also presents a problem against a fellow talented striker in Barboza. Felder is willing to eat shot in order to land them, and that's a dangerous path to go down against arguably the best kicker in the sport in Barboza.
Edson needs a victory in the worst way. A loser of three of his last four, including a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Justin Gaethje in his most recent bout in March, Barboza is seemingly absorbing more punishment than ever before. He's struggling to get his head off the center line and he's paying the price. Barboza, at age 33, should have plenty left in the tank, but I'm concerned about what I've seen of late. He has to know Felder is going to come right after him and I'm not entirely convinced Barboza will be able to handle the onslaught.
I'm willing to listen to an argument that Felder should be the pick here given the value he provides at his salary, but I still find it hard to go against Barboza. I think the Brazilian is getting overlooked due to his recent struggles. He should fare well in this one as long as he takes his time and picks his spots on the feet.
THE PICK: Barboza
Islam Makhachev (17-1-0) v. Davi Ramos (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Makhachev ($9,200), Ramos ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Makhachev (-325), Ramos (+265)
Odds To Finish: +180
Although he rarely gets mentioned alongside the best the division has to offer, Makhachev is undoubtedly one of the better 155-pounders on the UFC roster. He enters riding a five-fight win streak and has lost just once in his nine-year pro career. Makhachev (like seemingly all Russians who compete in this sport) is a Combat Sambo World Champion. The 27-year-old does limited damage on the feet, but he's an exceptional mat wrestler. Makhachev trains with Khabib Nurmagomedov at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, and the payoff of that apprenticeship has been substantial. Makhachev averages 4.25 takedowns per 15 minutes, has an exceptional 72 percent takedown accuracy rating, and defends the takedown at a ridiculous 92 percent clip.
Ramos is a third-degree BJJ black belt with even less stopping power in his hands than Makhachev. He has won four straight (three via submission) but the competition level (Chris Gruetzemacher, Nick Hein, John Gunther, Austin Hubbard) has been lousy. Opponents are so afraid of Ramos's submission skills that not one of his first five UFC opponents has even attempted to take him to the mat. That's saying something, but I imagine that streak comes to an end Saturday.
Makhachev is one of the best 155-pounders that no one ever talks about. I think his ceiling is that of an easy top-10 guy and I don't think he's all that far away from reaching it. Ramos has a path to victory here given his submission skills, but it's going to be exceedingly difficult for him to get in a position to clamp on one of those holds given how well Makhachev controls both his opponent and his own body position on the mat. This is an easy pick.
THE PICK: Makhachev
Curtis Blaydes (11-2-0, 1NC) v. Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-4-0)
DK Salaries: Blaydes ($9,400), Abdurakhimov ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Blaydes (-485), Abdurakhimov (+385)
Odds To Finish: -185
Viewed as nothing more than roster depth when he entered the company more than 3.5 years ago, Blaydes has quietly and effectively worked his way into title contention. He is sporting a 6-2 (1NC) record in his first nine UFC bouts, but unfortunately for the big man, both of his losses have come against top ranked contender Francis Ngannou and that figures to be a problem for Curtis down the road. Blaydes is exceptionally active for a 6-foot-4, 265-pound monster. He averages an insane 6.79 takedowns per 15 minutes. His striking numbers are limited (3.71 landed per minute), but that's because he spends virtually the entirety of every bout in top position dominating his opposition. It's a truly unique skill set and one you rarely see from such a big man.
Abdurakhimov has racked up a 5-1 record in his past six bouts, with his only loss coming against Derrick Lewis. Shamil is 37 years old, and although he's a massive human being in his own right, he's giving up an inch in height and four inches in reach to Blaydes. The size differential could be a big issue for Shamil in a fight in which he projects to be constantly defending takedowns.
Abdurakhimov's takedown defense is a more than reasonable 66 percent, but he has never faced anyone like Blaydes. Curtis is one of the rare UFC fights who sticks with his wrestling game even if the first few tries don't go his way. Shamil will probably have to score a knockout to win this fight and he clearly doesn't have the power of a guy like Ngannou. The fact this is a three-round, 15-minute bout favors Blaydes. He can empty the gas tank and consistently go for takedowns.
THE PICK: Blaydes
Mairbek Taisumov (27-5-0) v. Diego Ferreira (15-2-0)
DK Salaries: Taisumov ($9,000), Ferreira ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Taisumov (-225), Ferreira (+215)
Odds To Finish: -155
Other than the main event, this is the fight I am most looking forward to on this card. It's getting shockingly little coverage considering the two competitors enter having won a combined 10 fights in a row. They have both done a ton of winning of late, but their flaws are eerily similar.
Taisumov has won six straight, with five of them coming via knockout. In what is a rare occasion these days, Taisumov has seemingly added more stopping power to his arsenal as he has aged. As impressive as he has looked inside the cage, the 31-year-old missed weight for his last fight against Des Green in September 2018 and was later issued a six-month USADA suspension following the fight. Taisumov is a talented all-around mixed martial artists, but it hasn't been a completely smooth ride for him of late despite all the winning he has done inside the Octagon.
Ferreira continues to roll through everyone put in front of him. Of course, he also missed weight for his most recent bout against Rustam Khabilov in February and was handed a 17-month USADA suspension in December 2016 for taking prohibited substances. Ferreira has fought just three times since January 2016 as the result of the suspension. A third-degree BJJ black belt, Ferreira does his best work on the mat. He's more athletic and technical on the feet than he gets credit for, but he doesn't pack a ton of punching power and it's clear when you watch him fight that he would much prefer to be rolling around on the mat.
The UFC's 155-pound division is loaded, but I could definitely see both of these guys in the back-half of the top-10 if they get their weight cutting issues under control and keep their noses clean. There's a ton of lopsided fights on this card and DraftKings owners will have to make their stand somewhere. I'm making mine here. I'm taking Ferreira in the upset. I'd probably give a slight edge to Taisumov if all things were equal, but I see no reason for such as massive gap in both the DraftKings salaries and betting odds. Ferreira provides excellent value regardless of who you have winning.
THE PICK: Ferreira
Joanne Calderwood (13-4-0) v. Andrea Lee (11-2-0)
DK Salaries: Calderwood ($7,400), Lee ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Calderwood (+185), Lee (-225)
Odds to Finish: +240
THE PICK: Lee
Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4-0) v. Lerone Murphy (8-0-0)
DK Salaries: Tukhugov ($9,500), Murphy ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Tukhugov (-465), Murphy (+370)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Tukhugov
Liana Jojua (7-2-0) v. Sarah Moras (5-6-0)
DK Salaries: Jojua ($8,400), Moras ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Jojua (-145), Moras (+125)
Odds to Finish: +150
THE PICK: Jojua
Ottman Azaitar (11-0-0) v. Teemu Packalen (8-2-0)
DK Salaries: Azaitar ($8,900), Packalen ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Azaitar (-225), Packalen (+185)
Odds to Finish: -185
THE PICK: Azaitar
Belal Muhammad (15-3-0) v. Takashi Soto (15-2-0)
DK Salaries: Muhammad ($9,100), Soto ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Muhammad (-355), Soto (+295)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Muhammad
Nordine Taleb (15-6-0) v. Muslim Salikhov (14-2-0)
DK Salaries: Taleb ($8,200), Salikhov ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Taleb (-120), Salikhov (+100)
Odds to Finish: -105
THE PICK: Salikhov
Omari Akhmedov (18-4-1) v. Zak Cummings (23-6-0)
DK Salaries: Akhmedov ($8,300), Cummings ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Akhmedov (-120), Cummings (+100)
Odds to Finish: +110
THE PICK: Cummings
Don Madge (8-3-1) v. Fares Ziam (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Madge ($8,700), Ziam ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Madge (-170), Ziam (+150)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Madge