DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 44 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 44 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

After a week off, the UFC returns to Las Vegas to feature one of biggest names in combat sports, as Jose Aldo looks to return to the title conversation.

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.

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 - Bantamweight

Rob Font (19-4-0) v. Jose Aldo (30-7-0)
DK Salaries: Font ($8,400), Aldo ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Font (-145), Aldo (+125)
Odds to Finish: +100

The winner of four fights in a row and without a defeat dating back to July 2018, Font will be getting his second straight main-event slot, and it's well deserved. The first one was a unanimous decision victory over Cody Garbrandt this past May. Viewed as nothing more than roster depth when joining the UFC in July 2014, Font has gone on to win nine of his first dozen bouts with the company. In that stretch are victories over Garbrandt, Marlon Moraes, Sergio Pettis, and Douglas Silva de Andrade. Font is totally legit and appears to be getting stronger. 

Aldo's UFC run appeared to be on life support following three straight defeats at the hands of Alexander Volkanovski, Marlon Moraes, and Petr Yan from May 2019 to July 2020, but the former WEC and UFC Featherweight Champion has since rebounded to pick up back-to-back wins over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz. Aldo dropped down to bantamweight in order to challenge Yan for the vacant bantamweight belt in the middle of 2020 and decided to stay there. I was critical of Aldo's decision when he made it, but he looks completely healthy at 135 pounds, and the weight cut has gone smoothly each and every time, so credit to him for recognizing an opportunity and taking advantage of it.

This is a stellar fight and one that projects to be a 25-minute kickboxing match. Font is the more likely of the two to use his wrestling from an offensive standpoint, but Aldo's 91 percent takedown defense is one of the best in UFC history, so the odds are this fight stays standing.

I'm torn here in a major way. Font has a one-inch height and reach edge. He has exceptionally quick hands and excels at stringing together combinations. Yet Aldo is one of the best stand-up fighters in MMA history, and his kicks are legendary. His chin has also looked good of late, which is important because Font is going to land his fair share of shots. 

I landed on Aldo when all was said and done simply because I view this as a pick 'em, and like the very slight value he provides. There are few very safe and clear-cut plays on this card despite the fact it is scheduled for 15 fights.

THE PICK: Aldo
 

Co-Main Event - Lightweight

Brad Riddell (10-1-0) v. Rafael Fiziev (10-1-0)
DK Salaries: Riddell ($7,900), Fiziev ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Riddell (+100), Fiziev (-120)
Odds to Finish: +140

Another fighter who has seemingly come out of nowhere to make his mark with the UFC, Riddell has picked up victories in each of his first four fights with the company. All four have come via decision, and only the most recent one – against Drew Dober in June – came against a quality opponent, but there is no doubt Riddell has exceeded expectations to this point. Fiziev is a good fighter, so this is another bout that should help us gauge Riddell's long-term potential a bit better.

Fiziev was knocked out by Magomed Mustafaev in his company debut in April 2019 and has gone on to win four straight since. Included in that stretch are victories over Bobby Green and Renato Moicano, so it is Fiziev who has faced the better competition of the two. A former professional kickboxer, Fiziev is a pure striker. He lands 5.34 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 5.76 over that same time span. His stand-up defense is a major concern, and I could see him being picked apart on the feet by more technical opponents. There is clear power here, however, and Fiziev is a constant threat on the feet.

I'm curious to see if Riddell tries to work his wrestling game in this fight. It would appear to be the one area in which he would have a significant edge, but Fiziev has yet to be taken down in his UFC run, so getting him to the mat will be no easy task. I still think it's an avenue Riddell should explore early in the fight, if for no other reason than to give Fiziev something to think about. 

Everything seems to be just about right here, with Fiziev a slight betting favorite – and my pick – while Riddell is most certainly a live underdog and reasonable DraftKings play.

THE PICK: Fiziev
 

Light Heavyweight

Jimmy Crute (12-2-0) v. Jamahal Hill (8-1-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Crute ($9,200), Hill ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Crute (-160), Hill (+140)
Odds to Finish: -350

This is a battle of former standouts on Dana White's Contender Series, both of whom are coming off ugly knockout defeats. 

Crute has been inconsistent since officially joining the UFC roster, posting a 4-2 record. Crute had a real chance to make a statement this past April, only to suffer a knockout lost to Anthony Smith at the end of Round 1 due to a foot injury cause by a Smith leg kick. Crute has time on his side as he is just 25 years of age, but this is the type of fight he has to win. Light heavyweight isn't a deep division, but a two-fight losing streak is something Crute simply cannot afford at this point.

Hill needs a victory just as badly, as his most recent bout was a knockout defeat at the hands of Paul Craig in just under two minutes this past June. Craig has virtually zero power and is known as a high-level mat specialist, making the defeat all the more shocking. For the record, Hill entered the Craig fight as a -300 favorite. Hill is your typical brawler. He steps into the Octagon and attempts to knock your head off with every strike he throws. His defense is questionable, and he offers little on the mat, but Hill's power is entirely legitimate and a prolonged kickboxing match will most certainly work in his favor. 

Hill's reckless style of fighting makes it difficult to have any sort of confidence in him on a bout-by-bout basis, but as I mentioned earlier, he has big time power, and $7,000 is an awfully cheap price tag for a guy who can end a fight in an instant. I don't think it will happen, but Crute costs a bunch of money and I feel Hill is the better fantasy play, even if I don't expect him to ultimately emerge victorious. 

THE PICK: Crute
 

Welterweight

Alex Morono (20-7-0, 1NC) v. Mickey Gall (7-3-0)
DK Salaries: Morono ($9,500), Gall ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Morono (-220), Gall (+180)
Odds to Finish: +120

In what is expected to be the ultimate grappler v. striker battle, Morono – the striker – will be seeking his third straight win and fourth in his past five fights. Morono's stand-up skills are remarkable. He's ridiculously durable for a fighter who typically finds himself in senseless brawls, and although he's more volume over power, he has displayed the ability to stop his opposition of the opportunity presents itself. Morono isn't a top-ten welterweight or anything like that, but he's a solid fighter with an elite skill to fall back upon in the event of trouble.

The very definition of roster depth, Gall – who turns 30 years of age next month – has alternated wins and losses in his past seven bouts. If that streak holds, he's in trouble here. Gall is very tall (6-foot-2) for the welterweight division, and those long limbs help him in the submission game, but Gall tends to struggle in prolonged kickboxing matches, in addition to being a poor defensive wrestler. We have seen enough from Gall that I feel safe in projecting that there is no significant winning streak forthcoming.

Gall's $6,700 salary is the second-lowest on the card, which is a bit surprising. Yes, he faces an uphill climb in this fight simply due to the overwhelming edge Morono has on the feet, but Gall is a solid wrestler and excellent on the mat, and Morono defends the takedown at just a 52 percent clip. There is a non-zero chance Gall is able to get him to the mat and tap him out. Again, I wouldn't bet on it, but I don't hate sticking Gall at the tail end of a couple lineups considering how cheap he is.

THE PICK: Morono
 

Other Bouts

Lightweight
Clay Guida (36-18-0) v. Leonardo Santos (18-5-1)
DK Salaries: Guida ($7,400), Santos ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Guida (+155), Santos (-180)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Santos

Middleweight
Brendan Allen (17-4-0) v. Chris Curtis (27-8-0)
DK Salaries: Allen ($9,600), Curtis ($6,600)
Vegas Odds: Allen (-365), Curtis (+280)
Odds to Finish: -165
THE PICK: Allen

Welterweight
Bryan Barberena (15-8-0) v. Darian Weeks (5-0-0)
DK Salaries: TBD
Vegas Odds: Barberena (-195), Weeks (+160)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Barberena

Middleweight
Maki Pitolo (13-8-0) v. Dusko Todorovic (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Pitolo ($7,600), Todorovic ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Pitolo (-140), Todorovic (-160)
Odds to Finish: -145
THE PICK: Todorovic

Flyweight
Manel Kape (16-6-0) v. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-5-0)
DK Salaries: Kape ($9,400), Zhumagulov ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Kape (-250), Zhumagulov (+200)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Kape

Welterweight
Jake Matthews (17-5-0) v. Jeremiah Wells (9-2-1)
DK Salaries: Matthews ($9,100), Wells ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Matthews (-180), Wells (+155)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: Matthews

Women's Strawweight
Cheyanne Buys (6-2-0) v. Mallory Martin (7-4-0)
DK Salaries: Buys ($9,000), Martin ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Buys (-190), Martin (+160)
Odds to Finish: +180
THE PICK: Buys

Light Heavyweight
William Knight (10-2-0) v. Alonzo Menifield (11-2-0)
DK Salaries: Knight ($7,500), Menifield ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Knight (+130), Menifield (-150)
Odds to Finish: -190
THE PICK: Knight

Lightweight
Claudio Puelles (11-2-0) v. Chris Gruetzemacher (15-4-0)
DK Salaries: Puelles ($8,000), Gruetzemacher ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Puelles (-110), Gruetzemacher (-110)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Puelles

Heavyweight
Jared Vanderaa  (12-6-0) v. Azamat Murzakanov (10-0-0)
DK Salaries: TBD
Vegas Odds: Vanderaa (+175), Murzakanov (-225)
Odds to Finish: -260
THE PICK: Murzakanov

Bantamweight
Louis Smolka (17-7-0) v. Vince Morales (10-5-0)
DK Salaries: Smolka ($8,500), Morales ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Smolka (-145), Morales (+125)
Odds to Finish: +100
THE PICK: Smolka

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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