This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Following a week on the sidelines, the UFC returns to the Apex Center in Las Vegas for an event set to showcase many of its heavyweight contenders.
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 $400k MMA Throwdown with $100k to first place. 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.
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)
- 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 - Heavyweight
There is room for immediate and significant advancement in the UFC's heavyweight division, but both Rozenstruik and Sakai are coming off a loss, and neither has the pedigree to remain on the fringes of the top-five with a second-straight defeat.
Rozenstruik began his UFC run with four straight knockout victories, but has gone 1-2 in his past three fights, with losses to Ciryl Gane and current UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou sandwiched around a win over the since-released Junior Dos Santos. As expected, Jair has been exposed as the competition level standing across from him has risen. Rozenstruik has legitimate high-end power and is very durable, but his offensive arsenal is as basic as it gets, and his footwork is non-existent. Jair would be in far worse shape if he competed in a division with a bit more depth.
A long-time member of the Bellator roster, Sakai has shown more good than bad during his time with the company. He won four straight prior to his recent loss to Alistair Overeem, although two of those four victories (Blagoy Ivanov, Andrei Arlovski) came via split decision. Like Rozenstruik, there's nothing in Sakai's background to suggest any sort of winning streak against quality competition is forthcoming. I think he's a bit more athletic than Jair, but they are fairly similar fighters once you get beyond that.
This will almost certainly be an all-out brawl. That means you should get a piece of it in some form or fashion because the odds of this fight seeing the final bell are small. The fact both men have similar salaries only stands to enhance that opinion. Rozenstruik enters with a one-inch edge in both the height and reach department. Of course, he is going to have difficulty taking advantage of those numbers since he doesn't move his feet enough.
This fight should be highly entertaining despite the fact it's unlikely to mean much either way over the long term. It's essentially a pick 'em in terms of both the DraftKings salaries and Vegas odds, and that's how I view it as well.
I'm going to roll with Sakai as a very small underdog in hopes that Rozenstruik's lack of athleticism will be his undoing.
THE PICK: Sakai
This one features two fighters going in completely opposite directions.
Harris, who turns 38 years of age next week, is fresh off back-to-back knockout losses to Overeem and Alexander Volkov and may need a victory to save his job. Harris is an explosive athlete with power. He moves exceptionally well for such a big man, but has always had problems defending himself. His chin is extremely questionable, and Harris has always struggled with consistency. He SHOULD be a far better fighter than he has been given all his physical gifts, but it would be foolish to expect any late-career resurgence given his age (37).
Tybura is on the upswing, having won four in a row. All four of those wins came against middling competition (Greg Hardy, Ben Rothwell, Maxim Grishin, Sergey Spivac), and just one came via stoppage (Hardy), but Tybura is making a push. The main knock on Tybura are that his fights can be dull at times. He doesn't have the typical one-punch knockout power we see from many heavyweights and instead prefers to compete in a tight, grinding battle. Still, it's difficult to argue with the results of late.
The longer this fight goes, the more it favors Tybura. Harris' gas tank is questionable, and I think there's a pretty good chance Tybura simply grinds him to dust if we see second and third rounds.
It's nearly impossible to rely on Harris at this point. I'm completely out until I see some (or any) signs of improvement. Of course, if he loses here, his next opportunity seems likely to come with a different organization. For those looking for a silver lining regarding "The Big Ticket", Harris is the much more likelier of the two to score a stoppage, and four of Tybura's six career defeats have come via knockout. Harris isn't the worst option in the world given his cheap salary, but I don't think he wins.
THE PICK: Tybura
Ponzinibbio appeared to be closing in on a title shot at 170 pounds following a seven-fight stretch from December 2015 to November 2018 which saw him go 7-0 with four knockouts. Then Ponzinibbio was forced to the sidelines for well over two years and returned this past January with a knockout loss to Li Jingliang. Ponzinibbio was out for so long that I'm willing to chalk that performance up to rust. Plus, Li is both good and underrated. Baeza is no easy mark in his own right, but I expect a better performance from Ponzinibbio.
Baeza is 3-0 since earning his contract on Dana White's Contender Series, with all three wins coming via stoppage – the last two of which earned him a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. Baeza has big-time power. There are questions regarding his secondary skills and how he will perform if those power shots aren't landing on a consistent basis, but he did submit Takashi Sato in his last bout with an arm-triangle.
Baeza is two inches taller and has a one-inch reach edge. Both are relevant numbers given the fact the majority of this fight figures to be spent on the feet.
The only question that matters here is whether or not Ponzinibbio's performance against Li was a fluke or a sign of things to come. He got hit a lot in that fight, and that won't fly against Baeza. If Santiago looks like he did against Li, he's going to lose. He needs to get out of dodge before Baeza returns fire. Of course, that's easier said than done.
I'm ultimately going to give Ponzinibbio one more shot. This is a guy who looked like a high-level welterweight for quite a long time, and this seems like a prime buy-low opportunity for a guy with a ton of natural talent. One more poor performance would obviously change things moving forward.
THE PICK: Ponzinibbio
I feel comfortable saying with near 100 percent certainty that Latifi needs a victory here to save his job. He's lost three fights in a row (Derrick Lewis, Volkan Oezdemir, Corey Anderson) dating back to December 2018 and will be turning 38 years of age late next month. The Lewis fight, Latifi's most recent (February 2020), was his first appearance at heavyweight since 2008. Perhaps there was no longer anything intriguing available for Latifi at 205 pounds, but a move up a division this late in his career is baffling. Not to mention, he's going to be undersized in virtually every fight in which he competes up there given the fact he stands just 5-foot-10.
Boser is 3-2 in his first five UFC bouts. The wins have come against lesser competition (Raphael Pessoa, Philipe Lins, Daniel Spitz) while the defeats came against Andrei Arlovski and Ciryl Gane. Boser's most recent fight against Arlovski last November was a unanimous decision defeat. It goes without saying that it's a bad sign whenever a fighter is dropping unanimous calls to Arlovski at this stage of his career. Boser is your typical heavyweight in the sense that he has a bunch of power and a pretty good chin. I don't think there's much here to be excited about over the long term, however.
I have little doubt that Latifi is a better mixed martial artist than Boser, but there are other factors in play here. The size difference is one, and the fact Boser is almost exactly eight years younger is another.
Boser appears to be highly overpriced, even if you think he is going to win, which I do. I have much more interest in Latifi as an underdog play. $7300 is very cheap and it's not as if this card is full of known commodities. He has the potential to wear Boser down with volume as long as he is able to get inside on a consistent basis. I wouldn't be shocked if it happened.
THE PICK: Boser
Dusko Todorovic (10-1-0) v. Gregory Rodrigues (7-3-0)
DK Salaries: Todorovic ($8,600), Rodrigues ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Todorovic (-155), Rodrigues (+135)
Odds to Finish: -285
THE PICK: Todorovic
Ariane Lipski (13-6-0) v. Montana De La Rosa (11-6-1)
DK Salaries: Lipski ($6,900), De La Rosa ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Lipski (+220), De La Rosa (-260)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: De La Rosa