DraftKings MMA: UFC 258 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC 258 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

The UFC is back in Vegas on Saturday for its second PPV event of 2021, headlined by a welterweight title bout. While the main card endured some shuffling, there are still 12 fights for DFS players to pick from as they seek a piece of the $150k top prize up for grabs in the $600k UFC 258 Special on DraftKings.

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:

Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.

Moves Scoring
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Control Time: +0.03 PTS/SECOND
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
Quick Win Bonus: +25 PTS
(fight is finished in 60 seconds or less)

Scoring Notes

  • Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
  • A Significant Strike will count as both a strike and a significant strike and will be worth a total of 0.4 Pts
  • Control Time is the time spent in the dominant position on the ground or in the clinch. +0.03 points are awarded per second.
  • A Knockdown is awarded to a fighter who knocks his/her opponent down due to debilitation for what the official scorers consider an appreciable amount of time.
  • A Quick Win Bonus is awarded to the winning fighter if they win in the first round in 60 seconds or less.

Main Event - Welterweight Championship

(C) Kamaru Usman (17-1-0) v. Gilbert Burns (19-3-0)
DK Salaries: Usman ($9,000), Burns ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Usman (-280), Burns (+240)
Odds to Finish: +110

This one has been a long time coming. Usman and Burns were scheduled to fight way back at UFC 251 in July of last year before Burns was forced to withdraw due to a positive COVID test. The two were briefly linked to other events, but the timing never worked out.

Undefeated for the better part of the past eight years, Usman will attempt to run his winning streak to 17 in a row and look to defend his title for a third-straight time. Usman has emphatically proven to be one of the very best all-around fighters in the sport today. He's a perfect 12-0 in the UFC, including wins over Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Tyron Woodley, Rafael dos Anjos, Demian Maia, and Leon Edwards. Usman is a big, physical force. He averages 3.38 takedowns per 15 minutes and has yet to be taken down during his time with the company. He's also proven to be extremely durable. Usman hasn't shown any signs of slowing down in the slightest despite the fact he will be turning 34 years of age this coming May.

34 years old himself, Burns has more than earned this title shot on the strength of six-straight victories. Burns spent the vast majority of his career at lightweight before moving up to welterweight back in August 2019. Since the move up, Burns has decision Alexey Kunchenko, Gunnar Nelson and Woodley, and knocked out Maia. Burns looks for all the world like a legitimate top-tier contender. We have seen fighters in this sport improve as they age, and the Brazilian appears to fall into that category. 

Burns' main improvement has come on the feet. He has long been one of the most decorated ground specialists in the sport, but his striking has improved considerably in recent bouts. His hands look faster and he's getting hit less in return. In short, I'm a believer. The issue for Burns is that he's going up against a dominant champion who would appear to be his equal in most every category. 

This is the best fight the UFC can make at 170 pounds at the moment. Usman has to be the pick given how dominant he's been, but I have interest in Burns from a DraftKings perspective. He's red hot, and it's exceedingly rare to find a fighter of his caliber at such a cheap price tag. Unfortunately, I think Usman is simply on a different level.

We're going to find out quickly if Burns is for real or not. I could see a scenario in which Burns keeps this fight very competitive and I could see another in which Usman routs him. I'd probably rather bet on Burns from a DK perspective given the $1800 difference in salary, but remember Usman is elite.

THE PICK: Usman
 

Co-Main Event - Women's Flyweight

Maycee Barber (8-1-0) v. Alexa Grasso (12-3-0)
DK Salaries: Barber ($7,900), Grasso ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Barber (+120), Grasso (-140)
Odds to Finish: +175

On the sidelines for the better part of the past 13 months due to a knee injury, Barber will look to rebound from her unanimous decision loss to Roxanne Modafferi, the first (and only) setback of her professional career. Most everyone, myself included, thought Barber would dominate that fight, but Modafferi picked her apart on the feet. It was a highly concerning result despite Barber's youth and inexperience. Barber won't turn 23 years of age until May, so there's a real argument to be made that the only thing that matters at this point is she remains healthy and gets extensive reps inside the Octagon, but at some point she has to remain competitive, win or lose.

Grasso is better than Modafferi and no easy mark, although she has struggled with consistency for years. Grasso has alternated wins and losses in each of her first seven UFC bouts. She's generally performed well against lesser competition and struggled against better fighters. The long-term issue for Grasso is that she is a Muay Thai specialist with zero stopping power in her hands. In fact, she doesn't have a single stoppage victory during her time with the UFC, and three of her four knockouts came in her first three professional fights. I don't expect any improvement in that particular area moving forward given Grasso's small, slight frame.

Barber's greatest attribute is her aggressiveness, but there is a fine line between being aggressive and being reckless, and anyone who has watched Barber fight in the UFC can tell she struggles making that distinction at times. She certainly has more power than Grasso, but I think I trust Grasso's ability to implement and stick to the proper game plan just a bit more.

Ultimately, this is essentially a pick 'em for me. The $400 in savings is enough to swing me towards Barber on a card in which I like very few underdogs outright. It's simply a bet on Barber's physical gifts over Grasso's. Nothing more. 

THE PICK: Barber
 

Middleweight

Kelvin Gastelum (16-6-0, 1NC) v. Ian Heinisch (14-3-0)
DK Salaries: Gastelum ($8,800), Heinisch ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Gastelum (-240), Heinisch (+190)
Odds to Finish: +175

A loser of three fights in a row and with just a pair of victories on his resume dating back to December 2016, there is a non-zero chance Gastelum is fighting for his job on Saturday. Those three previously mentioned setbacks have come against current UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya as well as a pair of top contenders in Darren Till (split) and Jack Hermansson, so it's not as if Kelvin is losing to scrubs, but you have to mix in a victory here and there if you wish to remain employed. The loss to Adesanya was voted 2019 Fight of the Year by multiple publications. Gastelum has proven time and time again that he's talented enough to compete with the best the division has to offer. 

Heinisch snapped a brief two-fight losing streak this past June with a 74-second knockout win over Gerald Meerschaert. Heinisch has generally fought down to his competition over the course of his UFC run. He has legitimate power and possesses some explosiveness , but I doubt many people think Heinisch is going to run off a prolonged winning streak at 185 pounds anytime soon. I think what you've seen to this point is pretty much what you're going to get moving forward.

Heinisch is two inches taller and has a one-inch reach edge, but Kelvin is clearly the better boxer. Gastelum has a background in wrestling, but his stand-up has always been his greatest attribute. He does an excellent job of both pounding the body and stringing together combinations. 

I think Gastelum is the clear pick here given the fact his back is up against the wall. Kelvin's durability is legendary, and it's not as if Heinisch has been stopping guys left and right. I don't see Heinisch outpointing Gastelum over the course of 15 minutes, so I think he will have a difficult time if he doesn't earn a stoppage. There's no way to confidently predict that given the fact Gastelum has yet to be knocked out in his long pro career. Give me Kelvin via decision.

THE PICK: Gastelum
 

Middleweight

Maki Pitolo (13-7-0) v. Julian Marquez (7-2-0)
DK Salaries: Pitolo ($7,500), Marquez ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Pitolo (+145), Marquez (-165)
Odds to Finish: -170

Another guy almost certainly fighting for his job Saturday, Pitolo will be looking to avoid his fourth defeat in his first five UFC bouts. Pitolo earned his UFC opportunity with a knockout win on Dana White's Contender Series back in July 2019, but that success hasn't carried over. Two of Pitolo's three defeats came in a three-week span last August. Pitolo is uber-aggressive with some legitimate pop in his hands, but his stand-up defense is questionable and he's going up against a bigger opponent in Marquez.

Another product of the Contender Series, Marquez hasn't fought in more than two and a half years. His most recent bout was a split decision loss to Alessio Di Chirico way back in July 2018. I've long been intrigued by the frame of Marquez. The power is real, and that, combined with his 6-foot-2 height, gives him a couple legitimate attributes to work with. The downside is obviously all the time spent in the sidelines, in addition to the fact it remains to be seen how effective Marquez will be in anything other than a senseless brawl.

It goes without saying that this isn't the best Pay-Per-View opener the company has ever put on. Pitolo appears to be extremely limited from an offensive standpoint, and we have zero idea what to expect from Marquez after the long layoff. 

I'll take Marquez if forced to pick, but this is another one I'm not crazy about. A guy who has looked subpar against another who has been off for two and a half years isn't a recipe for predicative success. I would certainly get a piece of the three fights I broke down earlier before I jumped on this one. 

THE PICK: Marquez
 

Lightweight

Jim Miller (32-15-0, 1NC) v. Bobby Green (27-11-1)
DK Salaries: Miller ($7,300), Green ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Miller (+220), Green (-260)
Odds to Finish: +165

A one-dimensional mat specialist who is sporting a 4-7 record in his past 11 bouts dating back to February 2017, Miller will look to bounce back from a unanimous decision loss at the hands of Vinc Pichel last August. One of the most active fighters on the UFC roster, Miller rarely spends the better part of five months on the sidelines. I actually think it's a good idea for him to get some rest considering Miller isn't any sort of legitimate title contender to begin with.

Green appeared to be making strides following a three-fight winning streak from June to September of last year, but then he dropped a unanimous decision to Thiago Moises on Halloween night. Green has been maddingly inconsistent over the course of his long UFC run and there is no reason to expect that to change now. The fact he fought four times in about three months last year is a good sign, but the odds of Green putting together any sort of prolonged winning streak against quality competition is such unlikely.

The breakdown of this fight is remarkably straightforward. Miller has the edge on the mat and Green has the edge on the feet. Of course, Green doesn't have a knockout victory in well over seven years. 

Miller's offensive arsenal is so limited at this point that it's essentially impossible to pick him to win against any halfway decent opponent. That being said, I do like him as a DK value play because I see no reason to believe Green is $1600 better than Miller in the later stages of their respective careers. Green looks a good $500+ overpriced to me. I'd feel much better about using him if he cost in the area of $8200-$8300. 

As mentioned earlier, this card isn't deep and we have seen more of Miller and Green than any two fighters on the card, so it's a good idea to get a piece of this one in some form or fashion. Something in the back of my mind is telling me that Miller is a decent value given his price tag but I simply can't bring myself to take such a limited fighter.

THE PICK: Green
 

OTHER FIGHTS

Catch Weight (140 Pounds)
Andre Ewell (17-6-0) v. Chris Gutierrez (15-3-2)
DK Salaries: N/A
Vegas Odds: Ewell (+140), Gutierrez (-170)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Ewell

Middleweight
Rodolfo Vieira (7-0-0) v. Anthony Hernandez (7-2-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Vieira ($9,300), Hernandez ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Vieira (-390), Hernandez (+320)
Odds to Finish: -515
THE PICK: Vieira

Welterweight
Belal Muhammad (17-3-0) v. Dhiego Lima (17-7-0)
DK Salaries: Muhammad ($9,200), Lima ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Muhammad (-390), Lima (+320)
Odds to Finish: +165
THE PICK: Muhammad

Women's Strawweight
Polyana Viana (11-4-0) v. Mallory Martin (7-3-0)
DK Salaries: Viana ($7,600), Martin ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Viana (+135), Martin (-155)
Odds to Finish: +165
THE PICK: Martin

Featherweight
Ricky Simon (17-3-0) v. Brian Kelleher (22-11-0)
DK Salaries: Simon ($9,100), Kelleher ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Simon (-250), Kelleher (+210)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Simon

Welterweight
Gabriel Green (9-3-0) v. Phil Rowe (7-2-0)
DK Salaries: Green ($8,000), Rowe ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Green (+115), Rowe (-135)
Odds to Finish: -165
THE PICK: Green

Women's Flyweight
Gillian Robertson (9-5-0) v. Miranda Maverick (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Robertson ($7,700), Maverick ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Robertson (+120), Maverick (-140)
Odds to Finish: +115
THE PICK: Maverick

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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