This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Two former champions collide Saturday night, capping off a loaded lineup with plenty of top prospects and rankings-implicating fights.
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 $300k MMA Throwdown with $100k 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 - Welterweight
Covington finally got his shot at Kamaru Usman and the undisputed UFC Welterweight Championship last December. He hung around for a little while before Usman eventually pulled away. Covington ended up being knocked out with 50 seconds remaining in Round 5. While it was by no means an embarrassing effort for Colby, he clearly wasn't on Usman's level. The main takeaway here is that Usman may very well go down as the best welterweight of all time, and the loss shouldn't impact Covington moving forward.
Woodley looks just about done. He will be turning 39 years of age this coming April and enters off back-to-back losses to Usman and Gilbert Burns. It wasn't so much that Woodley lost those fights, but how it happened. He wasn't the least bit competitive in either bout, not even in small stretches. By comparison, Colby looking infinitely better against Usman than Woodley did against either Usman or Burns. Tyron looks hesitant inside the Octagon. He's a great athlete, but he looks like a fighter who isn't willing – or able – to trust his own athleticism and explosiveness at the moment. That, along with his advanced age, is a bad combination.
On the surface, this seems like a poor matchup for Woodley. Covington completely got away from his wrestling game against the bigger Usman, but he still averages a whopping 4.91 takedowns per 15 minutes. Woodley defends them at a 90 percent clip, but the Woodley we have seen the past two fights doesn't look like the guy who was a former champion not all that long ago. I bet Colby tries to establish his wrestling game here. Tyron is a high-end wrestler himself, but he's never used those skills from an offensive standpoint, averaging just 1.11 takedowns per 15 minutes.
Then there's the cardio aspect. Usman was able to match Covington in that department, but Kamaru is a generational talent with respect to endurance. If this fight sees the championship rounds, I would strongly wager the 32-year-old Covington is in better shape than the 38-year-old Woodley.
Colby should be fine here as long as he doesn't fight foolishly. Even if he does, he might be okay. Woodley isn't landing much of anything on the feet these days, let alone fight-altering power shots. I don't see how you can pick Woodley against any high-level opponent until we see that he has some gas left in the tank. I give Tyron a bunch of credit. A loss here would all but eliminate him from future title contention, and he still accepted the fight. The payday – along with his hatred of Covington – almost assuredly drove the decision, but now he has to go out and perform. I don't see how we can bet on that at the moment.
THE PICK: Covington
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
I love Cerrone, appreciate all that he has done for the sport of MMA and understand how popular he remains, but it is going to be very difficult for the UFC to run Cowboy back out there if he loses this fight. Cerrone enters having lost four in a row. That's bad. The bigger concern is that three of those four have come via knockout. Cowboy will be turning 38 years of age in late-March. I think it's entirely reasonable to assume that his advanced age, combined with all the wars he has been in over the years, are simply beginning to wear him down. He's clearly lost a step (or five), and his inability to generate consistent offense has resulted in Cerrone playing far too much "defense". I really hope I'm wrong, but I don't see it getting any better.
Price is essentially a .500 fighter, having alternated wins and losses in his past six bouts. All six of those fights ended via knockout. That alone should make DFS players take a long look at this fight, regardless of what side they're on. Price has 10 career knockout wins on his resume, but I wouldn't call him a pure "power puncher". He relies on all sorts of combinations in order to damage his opposition. Price's ceiling is low because he doesn't pay attention to defending himself. He is going to rack up some impressive wins because of his aggressiveness, but anyone expecting him to put together some sort of winning streak is going to come away disappointed.
This is only a three-round fight, but I'd still be shocked if it saw the final bell. The entire breakdown essentially comes down to which man you think has the better chin, because you know both are going to land a ton of strikes. Cerrone definitely has the advantage on the mat and would be wise to try to get this fight there, but I don't expect him to do that.
I don't like doing it much, but I have to go with Price. I'm not high on his long-term potential, but that is outweighed by the fact I think Cerrone might be totally done. He has a sliver of underdog DK value given how physical of a brawl this sets up to be.
THE PICK: Price
One of the most terrifying individuals to come through the pipeline in quite some time, Chimaev goes after his third straight victory to begin his UFC run. Chimaev made his company debut this past July 15. He beat a grossly overmatched John Phillips from pillar to post before finally mericifully submitting him early in Round 2. Just 10 days later, Chimaev destroyed Rhys McKee in a little over three minutes. The total strike count in the McKee fight was 68-0. No, seriously. 68-0! McKee didn't land a single strike. Heck, Phillips only landed two of them (Chimaev landed 124) in a fight that last more than six minutes.
Things figure to be a tad tougher on Saturday against an underrated veteran in Meerschaert. "GM3" has been a professional for nearly 14 years, and this will be his 12th UFC bout. Although his record is barely above .500 (6-5), Meerschaert is an extremely gifted mat specialist. He has 23 career wins via submission, in addition to six via knockout. He makes for very solid roster depth, but Meerschaert has almost always struggled when tasked with facing better competition, and I feel extremely confident saying Chimaev falls into that category.
Obviously, the sample size with Chimaev is small. His numbers are entirely unsustainable. There's no way he's going to continue to average 8.88 significant strikes landed per minute while absorbing 0.11 per minute. We'll also have to see how his wrestling game translate over the long term, but right now he's averaging 4.81 takedowns per 15 minutes. The striking numbers are obviously going to come down, but the takedowns could very well continue to pile up.
I'd like to see how Chimaev looks against a better opponent before declaring him a future potential champion. Meerschaert is worlds better than Phillips and McKee, but he's nowhere near the top of the middleweight division. It also feels like he's being thrown to the wolves here. My guess is that this ends up being another dominant win for Chimaev, and we are left having this same conversation (with an even better opponent) a couple months from now.
THE PICK: Chimaev
Walker began his UFC career with four straight victories. Included in that span were three straight knockouts in which not a single fight lasted more than 117 seconds. He appeared to be next in line for a shot at then UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, but Walker was knocked out by Corey Anderson in Madison Square Garden last November. He followed that up with a unanimous decision loss to Nikita Krylov this past March. In a span of about 10 months, Walker has gone from closing in on a title shot to needing a victory in order to remain somewhat relevant at 205 pounds.
A product of Dana White's Contender Series, Spann will be looking to run his record to a perfect 5-0 with the company. He has had some standout performances, but looked mediocre in his most recent fight, a split decision win over an immobile Sam Alvey in May. Spann has issues if he is forced to stand and strike for an extended period of time, but his submission game is legitimate. I had been quite high on him, but I saw plenty of things in the Alvey fight that I wasn't crazy about. I'm wondering if there are simply too many holes in his striking game for Spann to ever go on a sustained run.
The most intriguing thing about this fight is the fact both men are absolutely massive for the light heavyweight division. Spann checks in at 6-foot-5, and he is actually the SMALLER man. Walker is 6-foot-6 and will also enter with a three-inch edge in the reach department.
The breakdown of this fight is pretty straightforward, with Walker having a massive power and striking edge and Spann being the far more accomplished mat specialist.
It seems quite clear we overrated Walker from the start. He would probably be my pick all things considered, but there aren't a ton of underdogs I like on this card, and Spann is very reasonably priced. I'm going with a minor upset and the salary relief here.
THE PICK: Spann
Mirsad Bektic (13-3-0) v. TBD
DK Salaries: Bektic ($9,500), Opponent TBD
Vegas Odds: Bektic (TBD), Opponent TBD
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: TBD
Mayra Bueno Silva (6-1-0) v. Mara Romero Borella (12-8-0, 2NC)
DK Salaries: Silva ($9,000), Romero Borella ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Silva (-240), Borella (+200)
Odds to Finish: -145
THE PICK: Silva