DraftKings MMA: UFC 187 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC 187 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

UFC 187 may have lost Jon Jones, but it still features two title fights and remains arguably the best card that the UFC has produced this year. The return of the middleweight champ and an epic light heavyweight title bout make it a card that is not to be missed.

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:

Moves Scoring
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

Scoring Notes
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 – Light Heavyweight Championship

Anthony Johnson (19-4-0) v. Daniel Cormier (15-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Johnson ($9,400), Cormier ($10,100)
Vegas Odds: Johnson (+120), Cormier (-140)
I'm not ashamed to admit that this is absolutely the toughest fight on the card to predict from a fantasy standpoint. Cormier will try to get inside on Johnson and get him to the ground, but Johnson's wrestling is underrated and he's perhaps the strongest guy in the light heavyweight division. I expect Cormier to attempt to implement a similar strategy to what he tried against Jon Jones. That is, getting inside and trying to connect with many short punches, knees and elbows. When he was able to get inside against Jones it was effective, but Jones is so long that DC struggled to get near him on a regular basis. Johnson doesn't have Jones' length, so it might be a more effective strategy against him. On the other hand, Rumble has possibly the most ridiculous one-punch knockout power in all the UFC. He more or less has a rocket attached to his right hand. Cormier tired a bit in the fourth and fifth rounds of his fight against Jones, but fatigue may be an issue with Johnson too, as he hasn't been out of the first round since April of last year. Johnson was known to have conditioning problems in the past but he looks like a new man since returning to the UFC. If this fight goes the full five rounds, I expect Cormier to win. If Johnson is dominating, I don't see how Cormier can absorb five rounds of his powerful shots and still expect to win. I'm going to pick Johnson (by KO) due to his power and the momentum he has behind him right now, but I'm not particularly confident about it.
The Pick: Johnson

Co-Main Event – Middleweight Championship

(c) Chris Weidman (12-0-0) v. Vitor Belfort (24-10-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Weidman ($11,400), Belfort ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Weidman (-500), Belfort (+400)
If you have seen Belfort in the past year or so, you'll notice he's about half the size that he use to be. That's because the Nevada State Athletic Commission has banned Testoterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), so Belfort will have to go without it. He's also now 38-years-old and hasn't fought since November 2013. Weidman hasn't exactly been in the octagon on a consistent basis either. Somehow, he and Anderson Silva have fought exactly the same amount of times (once) since their December 2013 fight when Silva broke his leg. As far as this matchup goes, I don't see how Belfort can win. The old Belfort would have a clear power advantage on Weidman, but he's clearly not the same off the TRT, and I think Weidman is too crafty to get into a legitimate boxing match with him. There's no way that Belfort can handle Weidman's wrestling and although I think the Vegas odds are a bit extreme, the only way I think Belfort can win is if Weidman makes a mistake. I don't see it happening. Coach Ray Longo always has a great game plan for Weidman and although he looked a bit tired in the 5th round of his last fight against Lyoto Machida, it's tough to imagine a scenario in which Belfort would have more energy if this fight goes to the later rounds. Belfort has shown huge knockout power in the past (ex: Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping, Dan Henderson), but all of those fights were in Brazil and it won't be the same Belfort who steps into the cage this Saturday. It's a bad matchup for Vitor and one made even worse by the fact that the fight is in Las Vegas.
The Pick: Weidman


Donald Cerrone (27-6-0, 1NC) v. John Makdessi (12-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cerrone ($11,200), Makdessi ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Cerrone (-430), Makdessi (+310)
Cerrone's opponent here was originally supposed to be Khabib Nurmagomedov, but he suffered a knee injury and Makdessi took the fight on short notice. Makdessi fought just last month at UFC 186 (a 2nd round TKO win over Shane Campbell), so this will be his second fight in less than four weeks. Cerrone would easily have gotten a title shot by now if he was simply willing to wait. But as we all know, he likes to fight as often as possible and he couldn't care less who the UFC puts in there with him. It's why he's a fan favorite. Cowboy has won seven in a row dating back to November 2013, and that includes victories against some of the best in the world (Edson Barboza, Jim Miller, Eddie Alvarez, Myles Jury, Benson Henderson). Makdessi has gotten some love lately for his impressive win over Campbell, but this is a guy who has been in the UFC since 2010 and despite a 6-3 record with the company, he's never beat anyone terribly good. An argument can be made that the worst fighter that Cerrone beat during his seven fight win streak (Adriano Martins), is better than the best fighter Makdessi has ever beaten in the UFC (Daron Cruickshank). Makdessi is aggressive so the fight should at least be entertaining, but I don't think much of his chances of winning. I definitely would have picked Nurmagomedov over Cerrone had that been the fight, but I can't see Cowboy having much problem with Makdessi. As far as DraftKings goes, I would spend $8,000 on Belfort way before I would spend $8,200 on Makdessi.
The Pick: Cerrone


Travis Browne (17-2-1) v. Andrei Arlovski (23-10-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Browne ($11,300), Arlovski ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Browne (-440), Arlovski (+350)
Not much was expected of Arlovski when he returned to the UFC last summer after a six-year absence, but he has won his first two bouts since he's been back. Granted, one was a split-decision against Brendan Schaub in a fight most people think Arlovski lost, and the second was a TKO against Antonio Silva, who may very well be finished. Now that he's due to face a better opponent, I expect Arlovski's brief winning streak to go right out the window. Browne is currently the #3 ranked heavyweight by UFC.com. I think that's a bit high, and I would give him no chance to ever defeat someone like Cain Velasquez, but he still should have more than enough in the tank to defeat the 36-year-old Arlovski. Arlovski's DraftKings salary is low enough that he may be worth a flier if you are looking for someone cheap to fill out your roster, but this seems like a bad matchup for him.
The Pick: Browne


Joseph Benavidez (21-4-0) v. John Moraga
DraftKings Salaries: Benavidez ($11,700), Moraga ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Benavidez (-600), Moraga (+450)
Benavidez has the highest salary amongst all fighters on the card on DraftKings and is the biggest betting favorite according to the Vegas odds. When you think about it, it's not surprising. Benavidez has lost four times in his career. Twice to current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and twice to former UFC champion Dominik Cruz. That's it. No one else has ever beaten him. He's that good. He trains with one of the top camps in the world at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento and his game has no weaknesses. Moraga is tough, scrappy and will bust his tail for as long as the fight takes. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the well-rounded game that Benavidez has and I expect that will become evident in this bout rather quickly. If I were going to throw a bet on an underdog and hope for a home run, it wouldn't be on Moraga.
The Pick: Benavidez


John Dodson (17-6-0) v. Zach Makovsky (19-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dodson ($11,200), Makovsky ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Dodson (-400), Makovsky (+280)
Dodson hasn't fought in almost a year due to a torn ACL and MCL, and Makovsky is legitimately good, which makes the big money coming in on Dodson a bit of a surprise. This will be a battle between Dodson's speed and power versus Makovsky's wrestling. Many people (myself included) think that Dodson is the biggest (and possibly only) threat to current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. It would be virtually impossible to beat Johnson in a five-round decision, which means you're probably going to have to knock him out. Dodson has the power to do it, and he'll probably get a second title shot if he wins. Makovsky's striking is improving but he still leans on his wrestling to win fights. He's been in four UFC fights, boasting 3-1 and all have gone the distance. It would seem to be the only chance he has in this bout. I think Dodson is simply too fast for Makovsky but I would take a shot on Makovsky over many of the other underdogs on this card. I would cross my fingers and just hope he could keep Dodson planted on his back for the majority of the match. I don't see it happening, but it isn't totally out of the realm of possibility.
The Pick: Dodson


Dong Hyun Kim (19-3-1, 1NC) v. Josh Burkman (28-11-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Kim ($10,800), Burkman ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Kim (-290), Burkman (+210)
Kim got knocked out by Tyron Woodley in his last fight last August, but he's been in the UFC since 2008 and has some awfully impressive wins on his resume (John Hathaway, Erick Silva, Nate Diaz, TJ Grant, Matt Brown). Both Kim and Burkman rely on the takedown as a major part of their game plan, but Kim is bit better at both landing them and defending them. Burkman returned to the UFC in January after more than six years away from the company, and lost by decision to Hector Lombard, although the decision was overturned after Lombard failed his post-fight drug test. Burkman is as tough as they come, but doesn't have the natural athletic ability that the other top fighters in the division have. Kim is one of the better fighters in the UFC that very few people talk about.
The Pick: Kim

Other Bouts


Urijah Hall (11-4-0) v. Rafael Natal (19-6-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Hall ($11,000), Natal ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Hall (-290), Natal (+210)
The Pick: Hall

Women's Strawweight

Rose Namajunas (3-2-0) v. Nina Ansaroff (6-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Namajunas ($10,900), Ansaroff ($8,500)
The Pick: Namajunas


Mike Pyle (26-10-1) v. Colby Covington (7-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Pyle ($8,700), Covington ($10,700)
Vegas Odds: Pyle (+200), Covington (-280)
The Pick: Pyle


Islam Makhachev (11-0-0) v. Leo Kuntz (17-1-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Makhachev ($11,000), Kuntz ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Makhachev (-300), Kuntz (+220)
The Pick: Makhachev


Justin Scoggins (9-2-0) v. Josh Sampo (11-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Scoggins ($11,100), Sampo ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Scoggins (-365), Sampo (+255)
The Pick: Scoggins

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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