This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
It took some reshuffling and it wasn't what we expected, but with two title fights, UFC 189 remains primed to be one of the biggest events of the year.
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 five fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Advance (ADVC): +1 PT
Takedown (TD): +2 PTS
Reversal/Sweep (REV): +2 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +3 PTS
Fight Conclusion Bonuses
1st Round Win (1rW+): +100 PTS
2nd Round Win (2rW+): +70 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rW+): +50 PTS
4th Round Win (4rW+): +40 PTS
5th Round Win (5rW+): +40 PTS
Decision Win (WBD+): +25 PTS
Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
Advances include: To Half Guard, To Side Control, To Mount, To Back Control
Now, on to the fights.
Main Event – Interim Featherweight ChampionshipChad Mendes (17-2-0) v. Conor McGregor (17-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Mendes ($9,600), McGregor ($10,100)
Vegas Odds: Mendes (+130), McGregor (-150)
We were expecting to see McGregor v. Jose Aldo, but unfortunately the wrath of the MMA gods stuck again. This is still a terrific fight, just not the one we thought we'd see. I was leaning towards McGregor over Aldo if that fight actually took place. McGregor does his best work on the feet and I thought his unorthodox style would cause problems for Aldo. The matchup against Mendes is completely different. Mendes' best asset is his wrestling and that is thought to be the weakest aspect of McGregor's skill set. We've never actually seen McGregor have to wrestle anyone good in the UFC, so we don't really know much about that part of the game. Experts in the MMA industry believe McGregor's wrestling game is underrated, but even if it is, it's hard to believe it's on the level of Mendes' (who was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American and has a second-degree black belt in wrestling). I think McGregor's best chance of winning is to get in the head of Mendes and get him into a boxing match. It would seem unlikely, but as we all know, Conor has this tremendous ability to drive people crazy. If Mendes just wrestles for 25 minutes, I think he wins a decision. If McGregor is able to box for any significant period of time, I think he has a distinct advantage, despite the power of Mendes. This is truly a pick-em fight. I'm going to take Mendes because he's been in there against better fighters, but I'd have no problem with anyone who thinks McGregor will win this.
The Pick: Mendes
Co-Main Event – Welterweight Championship(C) Robbie Lawler (25-10-0, 1NC) v. Rory MacDonald (18-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lawler ($9,100), MacDonald ($10,300)
Vegas Odds: Lawler (+165), MacDonald (-190)
These two mixed martial artists met in the Octagon back in November 2013, and Lawler ended up leaving with a split-decision victory that led to his reemergence in the welterweight division. This time around, it's admittedly a difficult bout to try to break down. There's no question Lawler is going to have a power advantage. He has that one-punch knockout ability that MacDonald simply doesn't possess. Rory is more athletic, but he isn't as aggressive. This bout will probably feature Lawler constantly trying to move forward, and MacDonald trying to counter him. I think the fact it's a five-round fight favors MacDonald. Both guys keep themselves in great shape, but MacDonald is eight years younger. I think MacDonald's greatest chance of winning this fight is pulling out a decision. A lot of people are under the impression that this will be the crowning of MacDonald as an elite fighter in the UFC. The way I see it, Lawler is being overlooked, despite the fact that he's the reigning champion. I have no idea how or why Lawler's DK salary is so low. I think he's going to win outright, and even if you think MacDonald is going to win, Lawler is still a value play at that price.
The Pick: Lawler
FeatherweightDennis Bermudez (15-4-0) v. Jeremy Stephens (23-11-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Bermudez ($10,400), Stephens ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Bermudez (-210), Stephens (+175)
Bermudez's seven-fight winning streak (which included victories over Max Holloway and Clay Guida) came to an end against Ricardo Lamas in his last bout. It's worth noting, however, that Bermudez looked fine in that fight until he got caught with a submission early. Stephens has lost two straight, but those losses came against quality opponents in Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson. I think Stephens has a power advantage, but that's about it. Bermudez is a far better wrestler and he should be able to control the fight if it ends up on the mat. Much like the situation in the Mendes/McGregor fight, Stephens' best chance would seem to be if Bermudez acts stubborn and gets into a boxing match with him. I don't see it happening. Even though Stephens has a 2008 win over current lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, he's struggled against tougher competition. I expect that to continue on Saturday. Bermudez has far more ways to win this bout.
The Pick: Bermudez
WelterweightGunnar Nelson (13-1-1) v. Brandon Thatch (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Nelson ($9,200), Thatch ($10,200)
Vegas Odds: Nelson (+155), Thatch (-180)
Nelson won his first four UFC bouts, but once he faced a step up in competition (Rick Story last October), he got obliterated. Nelson is going to have a massive advantage in the submission game, but he's going to be at a colossal disadvantage on the feet. Thatch lost to Benson Henderson via submission (rear naked choke) in the fourth round of his last fight in January, but he fared well in the early parts of that five-round bout before it got away from him late. Nelson isn't the most exciting to watch, and his best chance of winning will be to ride out a decision. Thatch is extremely aggressive and it's highly unlikely that he's just going to stand there and allow Nelson to slow down the pace. I expect to see Nelson move down a division if he loses this fight.
The Pick: Thatch
BantamweightBrad Pickett (25-10-0) v. Thomas Almeida (18-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Pickett ($8,200), Almeida ($11,200)
Vegas Odds: Pickett (+650), Almeida (-1000)
Pickett is one of the toughest men in the world, but he's already 36 years old and has lost three of his last four fights. Almeida is only 22, and is widely regarded as one of the brightest pound-for-pound prospects in all of MMA. Pickett's biggest advantage is going to be his experience, as he's faced some of the best fighters in the world (Demetrious Johnson, Renan Barao, etc.). Experience is great, but it doesn't do a ton of good when you're in the octagon against a younger and much more athletic fighter. It's extremely hard to see Pickett winning this fight, but with that being said, both Almeida's DK salary and the Vegas odds are ridiculous. Pickett is gritty, has a ton of heart and this will only be Almeida's third UFC bout (he hasn't faced anyone good in the first two). I'd be shocked if Almeida didn't win, but his DK salary is enormous for a fighter this inexperienced. I'd use him if I could somehow safely fit him into my roster, but will likely pass in an effort construct a better team from top to bottom.
The Pick: Almeida
WelterweightMatt Brown (21-13-0) v. Tim Means (24-6-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Brown ($10,500), Means ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Brown (-185), Means (+160)
This is a terrific, underrated bout. Brown has lost two in a row following a seven-fight winning streak, but those defeats came against Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks. Nonetheless, he's a fan favorite because of his brawling style. He loves to stand and trade, and always arrives in outstanding shape. Means has gone from an afterthought in the welterweight division to being on the verge of emerging as a contender. He lost three in a row from April 2013 to May 2014, but has won four straight since then. Means is another guy who keeps himself in terrific shape, so neither fighter figures to have much of an edge in that area. My concern about Brown has always been that he's not a great athlete. He can beat anyone if they stand and trade with him, but he struggles against fighters who bring a diverse game plan into the cage. Even during his long winning streak, I never saw him as a title threat because of his limited athleticism. I'm going to pick Brown to win, but I don't see all that much separating the two fighters. I wouldn't hesitate to use Means in my DK lineup. That salary is extremely reasonable.
The Pick: Brown
WelterweightMike Swick (15-5-0) v. Alex Garcia (12-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Swick ($8,500), Garcia ($10,900)
Vegas Odds: Swick (+325), Garcia (-400)
The Pick: Garcia
WelterweightCathal Pendred (17-3-1) v. John Howard (22-11-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Pendred ($10,000), Howard ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Pendred (-120), Howard (+100)
The Pick: Pendred
BantamweightCody Garbrandt (6-0-0) v. Henry Briones (19-4-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Garbrandt ($11,000), Briones ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Garbrandt (-600), Briones (+450)
The Pick: Garbrandt
FlyweightNeil Seery (15-10-0) v. Louis Smolka (8-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Seery ($9,500), Smolka ($9,900)
Vegas Odds: Seery (-105), Smolka (-115)
The Pick: Seery
LightweightYosdenis Cedeno (10-4-0) v. Cody Pfister (11-4-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Cedeno ($10,400), Pfister ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Cedeno (-190), Pfister (+165)
The Pick: Cedeno