DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 17 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 17 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

While this card lost a stellar matchup between Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev, there are plenty of high-action affairs scheduled to pull in fight fans for the final card of the year.

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 $200k MMA Finishing Fights GPP with $50,000 to first place. 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 - Welterweight

Stephen Thompson (15-4-1) v. Geoff Neal (13-2-0)
DK Salaries: Thompson ($7,800), Neal ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Thompson (+100), Neal (-120)
Odds to Finish: -145

This is an extremely significant step up in competition for Neal, who was originally slated to face Robbie Lawler in August and has more than earned this opportunity. A product of Dana White's Contender Series, Neal is a perfect 5-0 in the UFC, with three knockouts and a submission on his resume. That being said, Mike Perry, Niko Price, Belal Muhammad, Frank Camacho and Brian Camozzi are not Wonderboy. Neal is good and his power is undeniably legitimate, but this is a big ask.

Thompson rebounded from back-to-back losses to Darren Till and Anthony Pettis to take a unanimous decision from Vicente Luque a little over 13 months ago. The Pettis fight in particular was concerning, as Wonderboy seemed a step slow on the draw against a clearly inferior striker. Thompson got back to everything that makes his successful – angling his opponent, stringing together combinations, throwing a bunch of kicks – against Luque. Thompson will be turning 38 years of age this coming February, so time isn't exactly on his side. He needs to string together some wins in a hurry. 

I would be pretty shocked if this is anything other than a kickboxing match. I think Neal is the stronger man and the more likely of the two to attempt a takedown here and there, but I doubt that will be part of his game plan. 

I would wager that Neal has more one-punch, fight ending power, but I said long ago there isn't a welterweight in the world I would pick over Wonderboy in what I expect to be a kickboxing match, and I'm sticking with that. I can't overstate the gap in talent between Thompson and everyone Neal has faced prior. I wouldn't be totally shocked if he pulls the upset, but regular readers of this column know I've been the conductor of the "Wonderboy Hype Train" since the get-go and I'm not hopping off now.

I believe Thompson is the better DK play regardless of who you think may win. I have a difficult time seeing this as anything other than a pick 'em, and that should never result in a $600 salary difference between the two men.

THE PICK: Thompson 
 

Co-Main Event - Bantamweight

Jose Aldo (28-7-0) v. Marlon Vera (16-6-1)
DK Salaries: Aldo ($8,600), Vera ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Aldo (-140), Vera (+120)
Odds to Finish: +150

With the UFC in the process of trimming its roster, the 34-year-old Aldo would do well do avoid a fourth-straight defeat here. Of course, those three losses came against current UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan, current UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski and former title challenger Marlon Moraes. A featherweight for his entire career, Aldo moved down to bantamweight about a year ago. He dropped a split decision to Moraes and then was bafflingly thrown into a title shot against Yan when Henry Cejudo vacated the 135-pound belt. Aldo hung around for a while before being overwhelmed in the later stages of the fight. While Vera is no pushover, this matchup is much more reasonable.

Vera is fresh off a massive first-round knockout upset of uber-prospect Sean O'Malley in August. Of course, Vera was getting worked over pretty good in the early stages of that fight before an O'Malley injury turned the tide. Still, credit Vera for getting the job done and earning the stoppage. "Chito" has been with the company for more than a half dozen years now. He's 6-1 in his past seven fights dating back to August 2018. He's durable and fights often. Vera has long had trouble with better competition prior to the O'Malley fight, and I can't help but think that might have been a different result if not for O'Malley's injury. I'm interested to see how Vera looks here.

Expecting Aldo to compete with the likes of Yan and Volkanovski was never realistic. This fight should give us a much better gauge of how much he has left in the tank. I'm often critical of the UFC's booking, but they got this one right.

Vera may try to get this bout to the mat, but Aldo is notorious for having brilliant (90 percent) takedown defense. I think he is able to keep this one standing and takes a decision, but I'm not as confident about as I probably should be.

THE PICK: Aldo 
 

Bantamweight

Marlon Moraes (23-7-1) v. Rob Font (17-4-0)
DK Salaries: Moraes ($9,000), Font ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Moraes (-140), Font (+120)
Odds to Finish: -105

One of the top bantamweights in the world for years, Moraes has hit a bit of a rough stretch of late. He has alternated wins and losses in his past four fights dating back to February 2019 and is fresh off a crushing knockout loss at the hands of Cory Sandhagen in October. Moraes has wins over Aljamain Sterling (67-second knockout), Jimmie Rivera, Raphael Assuncao and John Dodson on his UFC resume, so it's hard to say he hasn't done well, but he's generally failed to live up to expectations in his most important fights. 

This is a big fight for Font, who earned back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Ricky Simon and Sergio Pettis to halt a brief 1-2 stretch. Font has developed into quite the dependable bantamweight despite joining the company as nothing more than roster depth nearly a half dozen years ago. Font has extremely quick hands. He'll mix in a submission here and there, but his bread and butter is his striking. It will be interesting to see if Font's two-inch height and four-inch reach edge will come in handy against a notoriously physical opponent in Moraes.

I would argue Moraes needs a victory here considerably more than Font. A 1-3 stretch in a division as deep as bantamweight is essentially a death sentence in terms of getting back in the title picture, and that's what Moraes is looking at if he loses this one. Moraes is more than a year younger than Font but has far more MMA miles under his belt.

When this fight was first announced I thought I would go with Moraes without issue, but then I did some more research and began to second guess myself. All the striking numbers favor Font. He lands more (5.11 significant strikes per minute compared to 3.43 from Moraes) and gets hit less (3.89 to 3.91). I do think Moraes fights more physically, but this projects to be a much closer bout than I originally thought.

I'm ultimately still going with Moraes, but hesitantly. Font is a live underdog and an exceptional DraftKings value. Some of the DK salaries for this card are a little hinky and this is a prime example. 

THE PICK: Moraes
 

Welterweight

Anthony Pettis (23-10-0) v. Alex Morono (18-6-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Pettis ($9,200), Morono ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Pettis (-230), Morono (+190)
Odds to Finish: +140

Pettis is coming off a decision victory over Donald Cerrone in May which halted a two-fight losing streak. A former UFC Lightweight Champion, Pettis is 5-7 in his past dozen fights dating back to March 2015. Many of those bouts have come against some of the very best fighters in the sport. Pettis made a name for himself due to elite athleticism. The prime example of that is the "showtime kick" which finished Benson Henderson. In my eyes, Pettis looked hesitant and unsure of himself inside the Octagon for years now. It seems as if he is reacting to what his opposition is doing as opposed to setting the pace himself. I need to see several good performances in a row before I believe he's back.

The good news for Pettis is that this appears to be a winnable fight for him. Morono has quietly won four of his past five, with his only defeat in that span coming against rising star Khaos Williams. Morono is a pure boxer. He has some pop in his hands and is fairly durable considering most every fight he is in quickly devolves into a stand-up brawl. He gets hit too much on the feet and I don't think he's particularly athletic, but Morono can do damage if his opposition is foolish enough to stand in front of him and go blow-for-blow. 

If there is ever a fight for Pettis to empty the gas tank in terms of athleticism, this is it. It's imperative that Pettis forces Morono to move his feet and play defense. The two men are nearly exactly the same size, but Pettis is the better grappler and Morono defends takedowns at just a 45 percent clip. Pettis needs to take advantage of that. 

I've been out on Pettis of late, but this looks like a good matchup for him. That said, I'm not going to be particularly high on him moving forward even if he gets by Morono. I'm not interested in Pettis at his inflated price tag, especially in a fight favored to go to the judges, as there are too many other potential values here. 

THE PICK: Pettis
 

Other Fights

Welterweight
Michel Pereira (24-11-0, 2NC) v. Khaos Williams (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Pereira ($8,300), Williams ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Pereira (-120), Williams (+100)
Odds to Finish: -260
THE PICK: Williams

Heavyweight
Marcin Tybura (20-6-0) v. Greg Hardy (7-2-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Tybura ($7,700), Hardy ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Tybura (+100), Hardy (-120)
Odds to Finish: -150
THE PICK: Tybura

Women's Flyweight
Gillian Robertson (9-4-0) v. Taila Santos (16-1-0)
DK Salaries: Robertson ($8,000), Santos ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Robertson (-105), Santos (-115)
Odds to Finish: +125 
THE PICK: Santos

Women's Bantamweight
Sijara Eubanks (7-5-0) v. Pannie Kianzad (14-5-0)
DK Salaries: Eubanks ($8,800), Kianzad ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Eubanks (-155), Kianzad (+135)
Odds to Finish: +250
THE PICK: Kianzad

Middleweight
Karl Roberson (9-3-0) v. Dalcha Lungiambula (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Roberson ($9,300), Lungiambula ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Roberson (-260), Lungiambula (+220)
Odds to Finish: -225
THE PICK: Roberson

Catchweight (195 pounds)
Deron Winn (6-2-0) v. Antonio Arroyo (9-3-0)
DK Salaries: Winn ($7,300), Arroyo ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Winn (+130), Arroyo (-150)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Arroyo

Bantamweight
Aiemann Zahabi (7-2-0) v. Drako Rodriguez (7-1-0)
DK Salaries: Zahabi ($7,100), Rodriguez ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Zahabi (+160), Rodriguez (-185)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Rodriguez

Middleweight
Tafon Nchukwi (4-0-0) v. Jamie Pickett (11-4-0)
DK Salaries: Nchukwi ($9,400), Pickett ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Nchukwi (-300), Pickett (+250)
Odds to Finish: -325
THE PICK: Nchukwi

Flyweight
Jimmy Flick (15-5-0) v. Cody Durden (11-2-1)
DK Salaries: Flick ($8,700), Durden ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Flick (-150), Durden (+130)
Odds to Finish: -260
THE PICK: Durden

Lightweight
Rick Glenn (21-6-1) v. Carlton Minus (10-2-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Glenn ($9,500), Minus ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Glenn (-325), Minus (+265)
Odds to Finish: +150
THE PICK: Glenn 

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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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