DraftKings MMA: UFC 274 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC 274 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

Two title fights headline Saturday's pay-per-view card, one of which will be contested in arguably the most difficult and deepest division in the sport.

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 274 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.

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 - Lightweight Championship

(C) Charles Oliveira (32-8-0, 1NC) v. Justin Gaethje (23-3-0)
DK Salaries: Oliveira ($8,500), Gaethje ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Oliveira (-165), Gaethje (+145)
Odds to Finish: -600

One of the best and most underrated fighters in recent memory, Oliveira has finally gotten his just due since winning the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship with a knockout of Michael Chandler 51 weeks ago. "Do Bronx" then defended his title with a third-round submission of Dustin Poirier this past December. Oliveira's 15 submission victories and 18 stoppage wins are the most in UFC history. 

Gaethje's 5-3 record in his past eight fights isn't anything to write home about, but he's won five of his past six, with four of those via knockout. The one defeat in that span came against Khabib Nurmagomedov, who literally defeated everyone he faced prior to retiring. I am the first to admit Gaethje has proven me wrong during his time with the UFC. I thought he would have significant issues defeating better competition due to his one-dimensional brawling style, but he's fought considerably smarter of late than I gave him credit for originally, and he's just so damn tough that he can absorb a ridiculous amount of punishment before his offense kicks into gear.

The biggest improvement in Oliveira's game in recent years as come in the stand-up. He's one of the best mat specialists in the world and has been for years, but his striking is at least solid/average these days, and that has forced his opposition to respect his abilities on the feet, thus opening up opportunities for him to excel on the mat. 

Gaethje doesn't have a single takedown in his UFC career, which is mind blowing because he's am All-American wrestler. There is zero chance he attempts to flip the script in this one, as rolling around with Oliveira on the mat is a recipe for disaster. It goes without saying that Gaethje will be in trouble if Charles ends up in a dominant position on the mat, but that would be the case for any opponent against Oliveira on the ground.

Charles absorbed a ton of punishment on the feet against both Chandler and Poirier, and there were instances in both bouts in which it appeared he would be stopped. He managed to survive, but Gaethje is literally the last guy on the roster you want to face in a battle of durability. 

I'm not crazy about going against Charles considering how hot he's been and the obvious improvements in his game, but there's just too many value here on the Gaethje side for me to pass. He's been submitted just once in 26 professional fights, and I am willing to wager that his durability and conditioning can win out, even against an elite opponent in Oliveira. It should be extremely entertaining regardless of who emerges victorious.

THE PICK: Gaethje

Co-Main Event - Women's Strawweight Championship

(C) Rose Namajunas (12-4-0) v. Carla Esparza (19-6-0)
DK Salaries: Namajunas ($8,900), Esparza ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Namajunas (-195), Esparza (+165)
Odds to Finish: +145

Namajunas and Esparza fought for the inaugural UFC Women's Strawweight Championship way back in December 2014, with Esparza winning via second-round submission.

Rose has been the more successful fighter since the first meeting. She's won nine of 11 fights, with the two defeats being a split decision against Karolina Kowalkiewicz and a fluky knockout against Jessica Andrade in which she was slammed on her head and knocked unconscious. A two-time UFC champion, Namajunas has greatly evolved since the early portion of her career. She started as a high-energy, mat-oriented submission specialist, and has since developed into an above-average striker who has displayed the ability to defeat multiple opponents who excel in the stand-up. I don't think Rose has the skill set to be a dominant, long-term champion, but she is almost certainly the best bet of any women in the division in the short term.

Esparza has won four in a row, so she probably deserves this opportunity, but two of those wins have come via split decision. Unlike Rose, Carla's future outlook isn't particularly inspiring. For starters, she will be 35 years of old this coming October and is nearly five years older than Namajunas. While Rose has greatly improved her striking, Esparza remains extremely reliant on her wrestling game. Yes, she is coming off a knockout win over Yan Xiaonan last May, but that was Esparza's first knockout victory in 13 UFC bouts, and I will continue to believe it was a fluke until proven otherwise.

Namajunas is deceptively strong. She's also four inches taller than Esparza. Rose is going to be in trouble if Esparza – who lands 3.35 takedowns per 15 minutes – is able to consistently control her from top position, but I expect Rose to have a significant advantage in the striking exchanges between the two women. The issue for her will be remaining upright, as her takedown defense is a paltry 51 percent. Zhang Weili got her to the mat five times in her most recent title defense.

Rose looks slightly overpriced here from a DraftKings standpoint, especially on a card with 15 fights. I'd feel much better if she was closer to $8500 or $8600. I think she wins, but I'm not entirely confident she will rack up a ton of fantasy points in the process. It's just extremely difficult to pick Esparza against high-end competition because her offensive arsenal is so one-dimensional.

THE PICK: Namajunas


Michael Chandler (22-7-0) v. Tony Ferguson (26-6-0)
DK Salaries: Chandler ($9,600), Ferguson ($6,600)
Vegas Odds: Chandler (-410), Ferguson (+310)
Odds to Finish: -210

To say this is last call for Ferguson is the understatement of the century. I'm actually shocked Tony is getting this opportunity considering he is coming off three-straight lopsided defeats, but he remains extremely popular among fans and we all know that is what the UFC looks at when booking fights. I wish I had a good explanation to summarize Ferguson's decline. This is a guy who won a dozen fights in a row from October 2013 to June 2019. He never got to fight for undisputed UFC gold because the company's attempt to book he and then champion Khabib fell through approximately 492 times. Part of it is almost certainly due to aging – Ferguson turned 38 years old this past February – but Tony looks like a shell of his former self inside the Octagon. The confidence, creativity and durability have all but vanished.

Chandler also enters in a funk, having dropped two straight. The difference is that his two setbacks have come against Oliveira and Gaethje – the two men fighting for the title in the headliner of this card. Chandler looked reasonably strong in both fights, particularly the Oliveira bout. A former three-time Bellator Lightweight Champion, Chandler has proven he is unquestionably one of the top 155-pound fighters in the world today. He gassed out following a quick start in the Oliveira fight, but I still trust him to turn it around infinitely more than I do Ferguson at this stage of their respective careers.

The Ferguson we have seen of late wouldn't be able to beat top-15 lightweights, let alone a clear cut top-five guy like Chandler. I suppose it's possible all the violent wars Tony has been in over the years simply took their toll over time, but same can be said of Chandler, and he has shown zero signs of slowing down.

I think we're going to get the wild brawl everyone is hoping for here, and if that's the case, I don't see how Ferguson can be the pick. I can't come up with a single positive thing to say about this three recent losses, and he's again going up against arguably the third-best fighter in a loaded division. 

I understand why people will be hesitant to invest such a massive chunk of their budget on Chandler, but Ferguson literally looks done. I wouldn't take Tony against a fringe top-ten fighter at this point, let alone a legitimate top-five guy like Chandler. I highly recommend getting a piece of Mike in some form or fashion. This could get ugly in a hurry. 

THE PICK: Chandler

Light Heavyweight

Mauricio Rua (27-12-1) v. Ovince Saint Preux (25-16-0)
DK Salaries: Rua ($7,000), Saint Preux ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Rua (+200), Saint Preux (-250)
Odds to Finish: -210

This is a rematch of a November 2014 fight which Saint Preux won via knockout in 34 seconds.

Things are trending downward for OSP at the moment, and there is a realistic chance he is fighting for his job on Saturday. He's lost back-to-back fights via knockout (Tanner Boser, Jamahal Hill) and is just 2-5 in his last seven fights dating back to October 2018. OSP is a high-level athlete who never learned the finer points of mixed martial arts. He recently turned 39 years of age, so any athleticism edge he had over his opposition in the past has come and gone. Toss in the fact OSP's chin is a sudden concern, and it looks bleak for the former Division I college football player.

Shogun is 4-2-1 in his last seven, although I openly admit I have no idea how. Two of those wins are via split decision and the two losses have come via knockout, so it hasn't been as rosy of a picture as just looking at the record would lead you to believe. Rua will be 41 years of age this coming November. He's a pure stand-up brawler with no ground game to speak of, so he's only going to be effective for as long as his chin holds up. It could go at any time, and I'm honestly shocked he's been as effective as he has for as long as he had. Three or four years ago I would have bet good money that he would no longer be on the roster. 

OSP has dabbled at heavyweight recently, but given he's never had issues making the 206-pound light heavyweight limit, it's clear he should be fighting in the lower weight class. This is a winnable fight for him, but we have seen so many stinkers from Saint Preux over the years that I am not as confident as I should be given the fact he still will have a significant athleticism edge over Shogun.

I would be very, very hesitant to invest heavily in OSP here, even though I think he's going to win. He's simply impossible to trust at this point, and his salary is massive. Simply put, I just have even less faith in Shogun at this stage of his career. 

THE PICK: Saint Preux


Donald Cerrone (36-16-0, 2NC) v. Joe Lauzon (28-16-0)
DK Salaries: Cerrone ($8,800), Lauzon ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Cerrone (-165), Lauzon (+145)
Odds to Finish: -160

This is a bout between two of the most highly respected fighters in recent memory. It would appear to be extremely likely that the loser of it will be done with the company – especially if it's Cerrone – and I wouldn't be totally shocked if either or both men decide to call it quits regardless of the result.

Cowboy enters on a six-fight losing streak (0-5, 1NC). His last victory was a unanimous decision over the since-retired Al Iaquinta in May 2019. At his best, Cerrone was a highly aggressive, creative striker, but he has been in so many wars over the years that it's fair to wonder if all the damage he has absorbed has started to take its toll. He seems more fragile than ever, which is understandable at age 39. Four of those previously-mentioned five defeats came via knockout, and simply put, Cowboy has no value if his durability is shot.

Although he never officially retired, Lauzon has rarely fought the past few years. After fighting three times in 2017, he stepped into the Octagon once in 2018 and once in 2019, and we haven't seen him since. It will be roughly 26 months on the sidelines by the time he faces Cerrone, and that's not a positive for the soon-to-be 38-year-old.

Two of Lauzon's last three wins have come via knockout, but he remains a mat specialist at this late stage of his career. A prolonged kickboxing match should be a significant edge for Cowboy, but given how fragile Cerrone has been of late, that's no guarantee, either. On the flip side, Cowboy has been submitted just once in his storied career, so Lauzon is going to have issues exceling in that area.

This would seem to be a fight with a wide range of outcomes despite how much we know about each man. I'm fading this one completely. Between Cerrone's recent struggles, Lauzon's time off and the advanced age of both men, I have zero confidence in accurately predicting a winner. Cowboy's edge in the stand-up is the difference for me, but I'm not paying $8,800 in salary to find out if I'm correct.

THE PICK: Cerrone

Other Bouts

Andre Fialho (15-4-0, 1NC) v. Cameron VanCamp (15-5-1, 1NC)
DK Salaries: TBD
Vegas Odds: Fialho (-360), VanCamp (+280)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Fialho

Randy Brown (14-4-0) v. Khaos Williams (13-2-0)
DK Salaries: Brown ($7,900), Williams ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Brown (-105), Williams (-115)
Odds to Finish: -160

Women's Featherweight
Macy Chiasson (8-2-0) v. Norma Dumont (7-1-0)
DK Salaries: Chiasson ($7,100), Dumont ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Chiasson (+190), Dumont (-235)
Odds to Finish: +165
THE PICK: Dumont

Brandon Royval (13-6-0) v. Matt Schnell (15-5-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Royval ($9,300), Schnell ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Royval (-255), Schnell (+205)
Odds to Finish: -170
THE PICK: Royval

Blagoy Ivanov (18-4-0, 1NC) v. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (19-8-1)
DK Salaries: Ivanov ($8,400), Rogerio de Lima ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Ivanov (-145), Rogerio de Lima (+125)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Ivanov

Francisco Trinaldo (27-8-0) v. Danny Roberts (18-5-0)
DK Salaries: Trinaldo ($8,200), Roberts ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Trinaldo (-110), Roberts (-110)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Roberts

Women's Flyweight
Tracy Cortez (9-1-0) v. Melissa Gatto (8-0-2)
DK Salaries: Cortez ($8,700), Gatto ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Cortez (-165), Gatto (+145)
Odds to Finish: +170
THE PICK: Cortez

Kleydson Rodrigues (7-1-0) v. C.J. Vergara (9-3-1)
DK Salaries: Rodrigues ($9,400), Vergara ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Rodrigues (-290), Vergara (+230)
Odds to Finish: -125
THE PICK: Rodrigues

Women's Strawweight
Ariane Carnelossi (14-2-0) v. Lupita Godinez (7-2-0)
DK Salaries: Carnelossi ($7,200), Godinez ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Carnelossi (+155), Godinez (-180)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Carnelossi

Journey Newson (9-3-0, 1NC) v. Fernie Garcia (10-1-0)
DK Salaries: Newson ($7,600), Garcia ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Newson (+135), Garcia (-155)
Odds to Finish: +115
THE PICK: Garcia

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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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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