DraftKings MMA: UFC Norfolk Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC Norfolk Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

All the flyweights on the UFC roster can thank Henry Cejudo for saving the division. Cejudo's knockout win over former UFC Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw a little over 13 months ago made the former Olympic gold medalist a two-division king and opened up a world of new possibilities to a previously dormant division. Cejudo vacated his flyweight title in mid-December to focus on defending his bantamweight crown, and now Benavidez and Figueiredo will fight for the vacant belt.

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, including a $100,000 top prize in the UFC 246 special. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:

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 - UFC Flyweight Championship

Joseph Benavidez (28-5-0) v. Deiveson Figueiredo (17-1-0)
DK Salaries: Benavidez ($8,800), Figueiredo ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Benavidez (-145), Figueiredo (+125)
Odds to Finish: +130

One of the very best fighters in UFC history to never win a belt, Joe Benavidez will get his third shot at gold on Saturday. He came up short against Demetrious Johnson in his two previous tries. A pro for more than 13 years, Benavidez has lost five fights in his pro career. Two came against Johnson, two came against Dominick Cruz, and one was a controversial split decision against Sergio Pettis. Simply put, Joe B is one of the best flyweights in the history of the sport. His cardio is exceptional, he's a threat in all areas of the sport, and he's been fighting high-level competition for nearly a decade. He deserves another shot at the belt.

Figueiredo is also deserving of his title shot. Sporting a 6-1 record in the UFC and with just one loss in his eight-year MMA career, the Brazilian has proven to be a heavy-handed puncher for a 125-pounder. Figueiredo also has an underrated submission game and is a solid wrestler. He moves well, is athletic, and has proven to be durable. The only knock on Figueiredo is that he hasn't faced many notable opponents during the course of his career. The best opponent he has seen to date was Jussier Formiga and that went down as the only loss of Figueiredo's pro career.

I expect this to be a high-paced, energetic fight. I'm torn on the decision. I think Figueiredo has the talent to be the division's champion, but I have a difficult time betting against Benavidez. He's gotten so close to the top of the mountain on multiple occasions and I think this may be the time he finally reaches the summit. Regardless, I see no reason for the gap in salaries between the two men. Something like Benavidez at $8,300 and Figueiredo at $7,900 would have been much more reasonable. I love Figueiredo as an underdog DraftKings play at his price and I'm wary of using Joe B, even though I think he finally captures gold.

THE PICK: Benavidez

Women's Featherweight

Felicia Spencer (7-1-0) v. Zarah Fairn (6-3-0)
DK Salaries: Spencer ($9,400), Fairn ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Spencer (-800), Fairn  (+550)
Odds to Finish: -285

You can watch every UFC event from now until the end of time and you may not find a more awkward co-main event. Neither of these women are well known, although both are theoretically interesting because there is room for immediate and significant advancement in the UFC's painfully-thin 145-pound female division.

Spencer is the bigger name of the two. She debuted in the UFC last May after a successful run in Invicta and immediately proceeded to hammer Megan Anderson in her first fight with the company (as a significant underdog). More due to the lack of other options as opposed to any other reason, Spencer was forced into a fight against Cris Cyborg just five weeks later. That fight went as virtually everyone predicted. While Spencer dropped a lopsided unanimous decision, she also displayed toughness in seeing the final bell against one of the sport's most powerful pound-for-pound punchers. Spencer's game plan for success involves getting her opposition to the mat and implementing her submission game. Her durability is definitely an asset and she looks like one of the better fighters in a division that needs all the legitimate competitors it can find. 

Fairn's first and only UFC bout also came against Anderson. After spending her entire MMA career prior to the Anderson fight in the regional circuit, Fairn got the call to the big leagues and wasn't the least bit competitive in a first-round submission setback. Anderson's mat limitations have been quite apparent for a while and the fact Fairn was overwhelmed by her on the ground is highly, highly concerning moving forward. Spencer is twice the threat on the mat Anderson was, and Fairn figures to be in trouble once again unless she made some shocking unexpected improvements to her game at age 33.

It's difficult to say because we've seen her in all of one fight, but I wouldn't be surprised if Fairn is legitimately one of the weakest fighters on the entire UFC roster. She entered the company with zero pedigree and she looked abysmal against Anderson. In short, she shouldn't be in the co-main event of any card. Spencer is an easy pick here, but $9,400 is a massive, massive price to pay for any fighter. That's up there in retro Demetrious Johnson/Ronda Rousey territory. I wouldn't want to pay it if I could help it, but this is a card with countless unknown fighters and DraftKings players will have to make a stand somewhere.

THE PICK: Spencer

Light Heavyweight

Ion Cutelaba (15-4-0, 1NC) v. Magomed Ankalaev (12-1-0)
DK Salaries: Cutelaba ($7,200), Ankalaev ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Cutelaba (+190), Ankalaev (-130)
Odds to Finish: -225

I'd go as far as saying Cutelaba is one of the more physically gifted light heavyweights on the UFC roster, but he has been wildly inconsistent throughout the course of his near four-year UFC run. Although Cutelaba's record with the company is barely over .500 (4-3), he is coming off arguably his best performance to date – a 2:35 knockout win over Khalil Rountree – in September. Three of Cutelaba's four UFC victories have been first-round knockouts. His ability to rack up quick finishes puts him squarely on the map as a DK play.

That being said, Ankalaev is no easy mark. After being submitted with just one second left on the clock by Paul Craig in his UFC debut in March 2018, the Dagestani has since run off three straight victories. The issue for Ankalaev is that all three wins have come against poor competition in Marcin Prachnio, Klidson Abreu and Dalcha Lungiambula. Like many Russia MMA fighters, Ankalaev is the proud owner of a Master of Sport in Sambo. Ankalaev's biggest asset is his power, so it will be interesting to see if he will be able to keep this fight standing against a fighter in Cutelaba who averages 2.62 takedowns per 15 minutes.

This figures to be an obvious Fight of the Night contender. The issue is how Ankalaev will fair against an opponent in Cutelaba who is arguably the best fighter he has faced in his career. I'm going to take Ankalaev in a close one but I'm not entirely confident about it. Cutelaba's salary is cheap enough and there are enough questions surrounding his opponent that he makes for an intriguing dart throw in hopes he can score another early stoppage. 

THE PICK: Ankalaev


Marcin Tybura (17-6-0) v. Sergey Spivac (10-1-0)
DK Salaries: Tybura ($8,000), Spivac ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Tybura (+100), Spivac (-120)
Odds to Finish: -460

Sporting a 1-4 record in his last five fights and with just one victory under his belt dating back to June 2017, Tybura figures to be fighting for his job on Saturday. His UFC run has been as fascinating one. Tybura has scored some very impressive stoppage victories, but has always come up short when the competition level rises. Unfortunately for Tybura, youth isn't on his side. He turned 34 years of age in November and has the look of roster depth moving forward. Tybura's biggest weakness is a questionable chin and that's not something that improves with age. While Tybura has some skills, his inability to stay upright is damaging his ability to win fights.

Spivac was knocked out by Walt Harris in just 50 seconds in his company debut last May before rebounding with a submission win over Tai Tuivasa in enemy territory in October. All ten of Spivac's wins have come via stoppage (four knockout, six submission). He's probably a bit better on the mat than he is on the feet, but he would be foolish to willingly engage Tybura in a ground battle given the former's durability issues. I'm not convinced Spivac's long-term ceiling is all that high, but people are forced to take notice when you rack up 10 stoppage wins in your first 11 career pro fights.

The salaries between the two men are close enough that Spivac is the pick given Tybura's durability issues. Perhaps Tybura gets a slight bump knowing he is almost certainly on the chopping block if he loses – and that makes him a halfway decent play if you are trying to fit a cheaper salary into your lineup – but I don't think he wins. The is very much a "what have you done for me lately?" sport and the answer regarding Tybura is "absolutely nothing."

THE PICK: Spivac

Other Fights

Women's Featherweight
Megan Anderson (10-4-0) v. Norma Dumont (4-0-0)
DK Salaries: Anderson ($9,100), Dumont ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Anderson (-230), Dumont (+190)
Odds to Finish: -205
THE PICK: Anderson

Grant Dawson (14-1-0) v. Darrick Minner (24-10-0)
DK Salaries: Dawson ($9,300), Minner ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Dawson (-470), Minner (+375)
Odds to Finish: -400
THE PICK: Dawson

Luis Pena (7-2-0) v. Steve Garcia (7-2-0)
DK Salaries: Pena ($9,200), Garcia (TBD)
Vegas Odds: Pena (-285), Garcia (+225)
Odds to Finish: N/A

Gabriel Silva (7-1-0) v. Kyler Phillips (6-1-0)
DK Salaries: Silva ($8,400), Phillips ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Silva (-120), Phillips (+100)
Odds to Finish: +140
THE PICK: Phillips

Brendan Allen (13-3-0) v. Tom Breese (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Allen ($7,900), Breese ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Allen (+115), Breese (-135)
Odds to Finish: -155
THE PICK: Breese

Jordan Griffin (17-7-0) v. T.J. Brown (14-6-0)
DK Salaries: Griffin ($8,500), Brown ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Griffin (-130), Brown (+110)
Odds to Finish: -110

Aalon Cruz (8-2-0) v. Spike Carlyle (8-1-0)
DK Salaries: Cruz ($8,900), Carlyle ($7.300)
Vegas Odds: Cruz (-185), Carlyle (+160)
Odds to Finish: +125

Sean Brady (11-0-0) v. Ismail Naurdiev (19-3-0)
DK Salaries: Brady ($7,600), Naurdiev ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Brady (+105), Naurdiev (-125)
Odds to Finish: +190
THE PICK: Naurdiev

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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