This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Saturday's main event may be slapped with the "interim" tag in front of it, but make no mistake, these are two heavyweights ready to throw hands for a shot at Francis Ngannou's belt.
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$750k UFC 265 Special with $200k 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 - Interim Heavyweight Championship
Francis Ngannou earned his UFC Heavyweight Championship this past March, so there's really zero reason for the company to be making an interim title at this point in time. The UFC is a business, however, and the company wanted to beef up a card that was previously scheduled to be headlined by Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena. So here we are.
Lewis suffered back-to-back stoppage losses against Daniel Cormier (title fight) and Junior dos Santos in late-2018 and early-2019. He has since rebounded with four-straight wins, including knockouts of Curtis Blaydes and Aleksei Oleinik, and decisions over Ilir Latifi (unanimous) and Blagoy Ivanov (split). The Blaydes fight, the most recent, was the most impressive of the bunch. Lewis is exceedingly popular, and the fact he now lives in Houston – where this card is taking place – certainly played into the company's decision here.
It's impossible not to be impressed by the 31-year-old Gane. He has just nine professional fights under his belt, six of which have come in the UFC. Gane beat up on some lesser competition in his early days with the company, but his unanimous decision victory over Alexander Volkov in a main-event spot in late-June was a work of art. Volkov is a high-level, all-world kickboxer, and Gane routed him from bell-to-bell. His power is obvious, but I've been most impressed by his technique. Gane's long-term ceiling is through the roof considering how little pro experience he has.
I know you're going to be shocked, but this fight sets up like virtually every other in which Lewis competes. Gane is going to have an advantage in speed, striking technique and cardio. He's also an inch taller and has a two-inch reach edge. Lewis, of course, has the edge in one-punch knockout power.
The fact this is a five-round fight works in Lewis' favor. Hear me out here. Yes, Gane will likely show up in better shape and should have an edge in the championship rounds, but all Lewis needs to win is land one huge shot, and the ten extra minutes on the clock increases his odds of landing it.
Gane has to be the pick given what we have seen from him lately, and he could very easily pay off despite his massive salary if Lewis is unable to land with any consistency. If you're the type to make multiple lineups, and you know we advocate that you do, you have to get a significant chunk of Lewis. He stands an excellent chance of scoring a knockout every single time he steps into the Octagon, and $6,800 is a flat-out bargain.
THE PICK: Gane
Co-Main Event - Bantamweight
Aldo appeared to be a cut candidate given his three-straight losses (May 2019-July 2020) and advanced age, but the UFC gave him one more opportunity, and he responded with a nice unanimous decision victory over Marlon Vera last December. It's a stretch to say Aldo (35 this coming September) is the same guy who was widely viewed as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world for years, but he appears to have plenty left in the tank. It should be noted that those three previously-mentioned defeats came against Alexander Volkanovski, Petr Yan and Marlon Moraes – all elite-level competition.
Munhoz is also fresh off a strong unanimous decision win over Jimmie Rivera this past February. Prior to that one, Pedro had lost back-to-back bouts to Aljamain Sterling (unanimous) and Frankie Edgar (split). Munhoz is an excellent all-around fighter. He has displayed legitimate knockout power during his time with the company, in addition to racking up some impressive submission victories. Three of his prior four bouts have all won Fight of the Night awards. It's safe to say Munhoz doesn't get the credit he deserves in a loaded division. He's quite good.
Munhoz is exactly two days older than Aldo, so neither man should have an edge in that department. I'm worried about Munhoz's defense should this turn into a kickboxing match. While he lands 5.60 significant strikes per minute, "The Young Punisher" absorbs a whopping 5.87 significant strikes per minute. For comparison's sake, Aldo eats just 3.52 significant strikes per minute. Aldo is going to pick Munhoz apart with leg kicks if he gets overly aggressive and doesn't defend himself properly. The fact Jose enters with a whopping five-inch reach edge doesn't help matters. It's a tough weight cut for Aldo, but this is why he does it.
Munhoz is exceedingly durable, having never been knocked out in his pro career, but this sets up as a good matchup for Aldo. I think he leans on his kicks and does a great job of using his opponent's aggressiveness against him, likely via decision.
THE PICK: Aldo
Set to turns 34 years old this coming December, Chiesa is in the midst of his best run to date. He has won four straight, racking up a submission of Carlos Condit and unanimous-decision wins over Diego Sanchez, Rafael dos Anjos, and Neil Magny. The Magny fight in particular was an extremely impressive showing. Chiesa is leaning on his wrestling more than ever, racking up at least four successful takedowns in each of those fights.
Luque is on a nice run of his own, having won three straight. He knocked out Niko Price and Randy Brown before submitting former UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley in his most recent bout this past January. Luque is an extremely aggressive and innovative striker. He's next-level tough and is the type who is willing to eat a shot in order to land two of his own.
The striking numbers between these two are remarkably stark. Luque lands 5.74 significant strikes per minute, while eating 5.78 per minute. On the flip side, because he spends so much time wrestling, Chiesa lands 1.81 per minute while absorbing 1.71. It goes without saying that any prolonged kickboxing match benefits Luque in a major way.
Conversely, Luque is going to have to figure out a way to remain upright. Chiesa averages 3.6 takedowns per 15 minutes, Luque's takedown defense is a solid, if unspectacular, 65 percent.
I'm very worried about Luque overwhelming Chiesa on the feet, but this looks like a nice buy-low spot for Michael. We know he's the better wrestler and it may just take a couple successful tries in order for him to grind out a decision. The significant savings in salary doesn't hurt, either.
THE PICK: Chiesa
This will be a rematch of a fight that took place at UFC 188 way back in June 2015 in Mexico City. It was the first official bout with the company for bout women on the heels of their appearances on The Ultimate Fighter.
Hill is always one of the most active fighters on the roster. She fought four times each in 2019 and 2020, and has already fought once in 2021. She's just 5-4 in her past nine fights, but three of the four losses came via split decision. Hill has considerably more ability than her record would lead you to believe, and she has shown no signs of slowing down at age 36. Hill's biggest issue is that she has generally come up short against better competition. I'm not sure Torres falls into that category these days.
Tecia appeared to be on her way out following a four-fight losing streak from February 2018 to August 2019, but she has since rebounded with back-to-back wins over Brianna Van Buren and Sam Hughes. The Hughes fight, her most recent, was the first knockout victory of her career. It's important to note that four out of five of Torres' career losses have come against either current or former UFC Women's Strawweight Champions (Rose Namajunas, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Zhang Weili, Jessica Andrade).
I would be flabbergasted if this developed into anything other than a kickboxing match. I would also be very surprised if it didn't see the final bell. Both Hill and Torres are high-level strikers with limited stopping power in their hands. They rely on volume, and both are exceedingly durable.
All the numbers between these two are very similar. The only real advantage either woman has is a four-inch reach edge in Hill's favor. She's the slightly bigger women and fights with a tad more physicality, and that's enough to swing me in her direction as a surprisingly-significant DK underdog.
THE PICK: Hill
A former LFA standout and two-time fighter on Dana White's Contender Series, Kenney has been a revelation since arriving on the scene back in March 2019. His record with the UFC is 5-2, with the defeats coming against arguably the best wrestler in the sport today in Merab Dvalishvili, and a split decision against former UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz in his most recent bout this past March.
Song is no easier mark, however. The 23-year-old was undefeated in his first five (4-0-1) UFC bouts before dropping a unanimous decision to Kyler Phillips on the same card in which Kenney lost to Cruz. Song's ceiling is immense given his youth. He will have nearly 25 professional fights under his belt by the time he turns 24 years of age in early-December, and there is no substitute for that type of experience.
This bout is as close as the odds and DK salaries would lead you to believe. Both men are nearly identical in size and both tend to employ a high-paced, aggressive style of fighting. I would give Kenney the edge on the mat, but both men are capable of clamping on a submission should the circumstances dictate.
I ultimately landed on Kenney simply because I think he has gone up against better competition. Song has been in the Octagon with the likes of Marlon Vera and Cody Stamann, but Kenney has faced Cruz, Dvalishvili and veterans like Ray Borg and Louis Smolka. I'll take him in what should be a close fight.
THE PICK: Kenney
Ed Herman (27-14-0, 1NC) v. Alonzo Menifield (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Herman ($7,000), Menifield ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Herman (+200), Menifield (-250)
Odds to Finish: -275
THE PICK: Menifield
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-6-0) v. Jessica Penne (13-6-0)
DK Salaries: Kowalkiewicz ($8,300), Penne ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Kowalkiewicz (-120), Penne (+100)
Odds to Finish: +240
THE PICK: Kowalkiewicz