This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Fight fans are in for a treat Saturday, as the headliner is a quality heavyweight bout and one that would be worthy of headlining any Fight Night card. Blaydes and Volkov are both 7-1 in their past eight fights and and closing in on a title shot.
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 $600,000 MMA Throwdown Special with $150,000 to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
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
Blaydes has lost twice in the UFC and both were knockouts at the hands of Francis Ngannou. Not only has Blaydes won the rest of his bouts with the company, he's done so in dominating fashion. He is fresh off back-to-back knockouts over Junior dos Santos and Shamil Abdurakhimov. Blaydes is most known for his wrestling and pace. He's highly energetic – particularly for a heavyweight – and averages a whopping 6.63 takedowns per 15 minutes. His takedown percentage is just 55 percent, but in a way, I like that slightly lower number. That means Blaydes sticks with the attempts even when they aren't landing, and that's a key for him. Curtis has less one-punch knockout power than your typical heavyweight, but he displays vicious ground-and-pound from top position.
Volkov is a former Bellator Heavyweight Champion and the big Russian hasn't missed a beat since joining the UFC. He's 4-1 with the company, and that lone defeat came against Derrick Lewis with 11 seconds left in a fight in which Volkov was dominating and in line to win a clear-cut unanimous decision. Volkov's style is the exact opposite of Blaydes'. He is a pure kickboxer who relies on his 6-foot-7 frame to land strikes – particularly kicks – at distance. Volkov excels at putting together combinations and his toughness has long been underrated. He's really, really good despite getting little recognition from casual fans.
The technical breakdown of this fight is pretty straightforward. I expect Blaydes to consistently try for takedowns (as usual) and the outcome will depend on Volkov's ability to stay upright. Volkov is a much crisper striker and should have the advantage for as long as this remains a kickboxing match. His takedown defense throughout the early portion of his UFC run has been strong (76 percent), but he has yet to face a guy like Blaydes coming after him. I think Blaydes is the pick here, but I love Volkov at his price. It's rare you get a fighter of his ability so cheap and I advocate getting a healthy piece of him if you are the type to make multiple lineups.
THE PICK: Blaydes
Co-Main Event - Featherweight
I expect this to be the most entertaining fight on the entire card. It's terrific matchmaking by the UFC and sets up as a potential back-and-forth brawl.
Emmett has displayed far more good than bad over the course of his first eight UFC bouts. His record is 6-2, and he's coming off back-to-back knockout wins over Mirsad Bektic and Michael Johnson. Emmett spent his entire career prior to his UFC arrival on the regional scene in his native California, but his skills have translated to the higher level. Emmett's most recent fight was the one against Bektic last July. He has since been scheduled to face Edson Barboza and Arnold Allen, but both fights fell through. Emmett has a background in wrestling and can mix in a takedown now and then (1.50 per 15 minutes), but his calling card is his power. He has real thunder in his hands for a 145-pounder. I think Emmett has more one-punch knockout power than Burgos.
Burgos' lone UFC setback (6-1) came against rising star Calvin Kattar. He has won three in a row, including a split decision win over long-time division mainstay Cub Swanson. Burgos has remarkably fast hands, particularly in tight. He averages a whopping (and unsustainable) 7.09 significant strikes landed per minute. That's the good news. The bad news is that Burgos absorbs 5.34 significant strikes per minute. That number is too high and could potentially be an issue against a power puncher like Emmett. Burgos is also underrated on the mat. He has the same number of submission victories (five) as knockout wins.
I get on the UFC all the time for booking senseless fights, but that's not the case here and they deserve credit for getting this one done. Give me Burgos in a competitive bout, but similar to the main event, I like Emmett as an underdog play. His power is totally legit and gives him a chance in any fight in which he competes.
THE PICK: Burgos
Catchweight (160 Pounds)
Here we are in the summer of 2020 and the Jim Miller experience continues. A professional for nearly 15 years and a member of the UFC roster for nearly a dozen years, Saturday will be Miller's 35th fight with the company. It started out very well for the New Jersey native and hit an extreme rough patch of late. Miller is 3-6 in his past nine bouts dating back to February 2017. Yes, four of those losses came against some of the best fighters in the world (Dustin Poirier, Anthony Pettis, Dan Hooker, Charles Oliveira)m but Miller has clearly lost a step. It has gotten to the point in which Miller struggles to compete in anything other than a prolonged grappling battle. That's a potential serious issue in a fight in which he is giving up a ton of size to Roberts.
Roberts is coming off a second-round submission victory against an overweight Brok Weaver last month. It will be just three weeks between fights for Roberts, although that shouldn't be an issue because he absorbed little damage in the Weaver bout. The size of Roberts is highly intriguing. good luck finding another natural lightweight who stands 6-foot-2. Roberts will enter with a five-inch height advantage over Miller, although the edge in the reach department will just be a single inch.
Roberts doesn't have a ton of power (three career wins via knockout) but his frame alone should give Miller trouble for as long as he is able to stay on his feet. The sample size is small, but Roberts' takedown defense in his UFC career is just 58 percent. That's below average. Thankfully for Roberts, Miller's takedown accuracy is a paltry 41 percent. It's extremely difficult to forecast a submission in any fight, and it's all the more difficult to predict one for an aging fighter such as Miller. I also think the extra five pounds could only help Roberts since he's the naturally bigger man. I'm out on Miller until I see considerable improvement.
THE PICK: Roberts
Modaferri has been in the game for well over 15 years, but she is coming off arguably the biggest win of her career, a unanimous decision thrashing of top prospect Maycee Barber in January. Her performance was made all the more impressive by the fact Modafferi entered as a roughly a +350 underdog. Roxi has seen and done it all in women's MMA. She's fought for gold in the UFC, Invicta, and Strikeforce, and has come up short every time. It's really, really difficult to get a read on Modafferi. The Barber win was extremely impressive, but it feels like a fluke. For starters, Modafferi will turn 38 years old in late September. Her UFC record is only .500 (3-3), and a couple of those setbacks came against really poor competition in Sijara Eubanks and Nicco Montano. Modafferi is competent in all areas, but she's not a great athlete and doesn't have one single elite skill to fall back on in the event of trouble.
Murphy is also fresh off the biggest win of her career, a split decision victory over Andrea Lee in February. There's a legitimate case to be made that Lee deserved the decision, but Murphy did a nice job in a fight in which most people (myself included) gave her no chance. The former Invicita Bantamweight Champion, Murphy's plan of offensive attack is a lot simpler than Modafferi's. Murphy is your classic up-tempo brawler. She has a decent amount of pop for a woman her size and she's ridiculously tough. Lauren has never been knocked out in her entire career and I'm extremely confident that streak will continue on Saturday.
This is a close one, as the Vegas odds indicate. I'm not particularly high on either woman moving forward given their age, but I think Murphy's skill set is a bit more sustainable. Modafferi isn't going to overwhelm her with athleticism and Murphy can try to turn this into an ugly brawl, similar to the Lee fight. The fact she comes at a DK discount is just an added bonus.
THE PICK: Murphy
Raquel Pennington (10-9-0) v. Marion Reneau (9-5-1)
DK Salaries: Pennington ($8,800), Reneau ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Pennington (-150), Reneau (+130)
Odds to Finish: +190
THE PICK: Reneau
Marc-Andre Barriault (11-4-0) v. Oskar Piechota (11-3-1)
DK Salaries: Barriault ($7,600), Piechota ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Barriault (+105), Piechota (-125)
Odds to Finish: -140
THE PICK: Piechota
Frank Camacho (22-8-0) v. Justin Jaynes (15-4-0)
DK Salaries: Frevola ($8,200), Jaynes (TBD)
Vegas Odds: TBD
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: TBD