This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The next welterweight title contender is likely to emerge from Saturday's main event in Ottawa as the UFC heads north of the border.
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 – WelterweightRory MacDonald (18-3-0) v. Stephen Thompson (12-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: MacDonald ($9,600), Thompson ($9,800)
Vegas Odds: MacDonald (-105), Thompson (-115)
This is such an intriguing fight on so many levels. Still ranked as the No. 1 welterweight by UFC.com, this will be MacDonald's first fight since his war with Robbie Lawler last July. The Lawler fight was voted Fight of the Year by several different publications, and people are forgetting that MacDonald may very well have pulled out a win and walked away with the UFC Welterweight Championship if he hadn't been stopped with just one minute left in the bout. Rory took such a beating in the Lawler fight that it came as a surprise to few that he ended up taking nearly a full year between fights.
Thompson enters Saturday's matchup riding a six-fight winning streak, his most recent one being the most dominant performance of his career, a first-round TKO win over Johny Hendricks in February. Wonderboy has gone from a fringe top-ten 170-pounder to a guy who is looking at a title shot if he can get past MacDonald. The question about Thompson remains how will he defend against an opponent who spends an entire fight trying to take him down? Everyone figured that would be the route that Hendricks employed, but Johny decided to stand and trade with Wonderboy, and he paid for it with his consciousness. Thompson's takedown defense for his UFC career stands at 80 percent, a more than respectable number. Like the vast majority of his TriStar teammates, MacDonald tends to fight cautiously and methodically before turning up the energy in spurts. One would certainly think that MacDonald (and every other man on earth) is smart enough not to get into a kickboxing match against Wonderboy, but I said that very same thing before the Hendricks fight and look how that turned out.
I have long thought Thompson had far more potential than most, but even I am surprised by this sudden, dominant run. Rory has shown he can take a beating, which is going to be a necessity if he hopes to win this fight. Unless MacDonald gets off to a quick start and overwhelms Thompson early, I think Wonderboy is going to wear him down over the course of the 25-minute bout. Rory's style of fighting tends to lead to repeated striking exchanges, and we all saw what happens when an elite fighter, even one with massive power, decides to stand and trade against Wonderboy. My guess is that Thompson fights for the UFC Welterweight Championship before the end of the year, or early 2017 at the very latest.
THE PICK: Thompson
Co-Main Event – WelterweightDonald Cerrone (29-7-0, 1NC) v. Patrick Cote (23-9-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cerrone ($10,200), Cote ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Cerrone (-160), Cote (+140)
Although it hasn't come at the expense of terrific competition, the reemergence of Cote is one of the more underrated stories in all of MMA over the last three-plus years. Cote is 6-1 in his last seven fights, and his only loss during that span came against Thompson, who will be fighting in Saturday's main event. Although he is coming off back-to-back TKO wins, Cote is getting by on grit and determination at this point. He is a good athlete, but his movements are predictably slowing at age 36.
Cerrone is 9-1 in his last ten fights dating back to November 2013, but the only fight during that time span that truly mattered, his Lightweight Championship fight against Rafael dos Anjos in December, he was blasted in 66 seconds. On paper, this appears to be a good matchup for Cowboy. He is facing an aging opponent who doesn't possess great striking defense (49 percent) or takedown defense (45 percent). To be perfectly honest, Cote wouldn't be getting this co-main event spot if this card wasn't in Canada, but he deserves credit for fighting well enough of late to put himself in position for a big fight. Cote is durable (he has only been knocked out once in his entire career), so Cowboy's best chance of earning a stoppage win here is via submission.
Ultimately, I expect Cerrone to throw a lot of kicks and beat Cote up on the feet over the course of the three-round bout and earn a decision victory. Cote is going to have the crowd behind him, but Cerrone is considerably better than anyone Cote has faced in the past seven-plus years other than Thompson. It's a tall task for The Predator.
THE PICK: Cerrone
Women's StrawweightValerie Letourneau (8-4-0) v. Joanne Calderwood (10-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Letourneau ($10,100), Calderwood ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Letourneau (-175), Calderwood (+155)
Letourneau took one of the most vicious beatings in recent memory at the hands of UFC Women's Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk last November, but she managed to last the entire five rounds and earned countless new fans in the process. Eating 220 significant strikes from Jedrzejczyk and living to tell about it is quite the accomplishment. No one is doubting Letourneau's toughness, but there are real questions as to her skill level as a fighter. She doesn't have a lot of power, has struggled whenever she has been tasked with facing better competition, and at age 33, she has just 12 professional fights under her belt.
Calderwood was undefeated and seemingly on the verge of title implicating fights when she met a debuting Maryna Moroz in April 2015, only to be submitted by an armbar in 90 seconds. Calderwood rebounded to defeat Cortney Casey in her native Scotland last July, but she looked sluggish once again despite earning the win. The truth regarding JoJo lies somewhere in the middle. She isn't the title contender that she appeared to be for quite a while upon entering the UFC, but she is better than the fighter we saw in the Moroz and Casey fights. That being said, she just doesn't have the power of the champion.
I openly admit that Letourneau looked better in the Jedrzejczyk fight than I expected (I thought she would last about two minutes), but I still see a fighter who is nothing but roster depth here. I think there are at least a dozen strawweights on the current UFC roster who are better than Letourneau. My opinion would change a bit if she can find a way to beat Calderwood, but just because a fighter is able to survive until the final bell in a fight in which they got annihilated doesn't necessarily make them a good fighter.
THE PICK: Calderwood
MiddleweightTamdan McCrory (14-3-0) v. Krzysztof Jotko (17-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: McCrory ($10,600), Jotko ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: McCrory (-240), Jotko (+200)
Following a five-year break and two wins in Bellator in a combined 87 seconds, McCrory returned to the UFC in December and submitted Josh Samman. McCrory's biggest strength is his ground game, which combined with his 6-foot-4 frame, makes him a threat during every exchange on the mat. Jotko has flown under the radar because all five of his UFC bouts up to this point have taken place in Europe. He has tallied four decision wins and a submission loss in those five contests. Both McCrory and Jotko tend to be fairly inactive on the feet and as a result, both get hit frequently. The difference between the two men is if McCrory is able to get this fight to the ground, he is going to have a clear advantage. Jotko's takedown defense throughout his UFC career has been elite (89 percent), but McCrory is tricky in exchanges along the fence and he often wins grappling exchanges that one would think he would lose. Jotko is a competent middleweight, but I think his success of late has primarily been the result of facing poor competition. McCrory's submission skills are considerably better than any aspect of Jotko's game. Jotko also makes for a poor DraftKings play because if he wins, it seems almost certainly to be via decision.
THE PICK: McCrory
MiddleweightElias Theodorou (11-1-0) v. Sam Alvey (25-7-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Theodorou ($10,300), Alvey ($9,100)
Vegas Odds:Theodorou (-300), Alvey (+250)
Avley's three-fight winning streak from November 2014 to May 2015 that includes three first-round KO wins appeared to have fluke written all over it, and not surprisingly, the good times came to an end when he faced the talented Derek Brunson last August. Theodorou, a former Ultimate Fighter: Nations winner was rolling along with an undefeated professional record before he ran into Thiago Santos in Las Vegas in December. Long known as a fitness fanatic, Thedorou's cardio betrayed him in the Santos fight. Alvey's biggest issue is that he lacks the athletic ability to defeat any of the better fighters on the UFC roster. Sure, he can win a fight if he lands a perfect power shot, but that's the case for every fighter. Alvey is yet to land a takedown in his UFC career, so if Theodorou is content to keep this fight standing, it figures to be a kickboxing match. Alvey has shown enough power in the past to make him an intriguing DraftKings play for those looking for a potential quick knockout, but the technical skills aren't there for him to succeed for any real length of time. I admit to being a bit worried about Theodorou (that's how bad his effort against Santos was), but he is clearly a better fighter than Alvey and he will have the crowd behind him in his native Canada.
THE PICK: Theodorou
Light HeavyweightSteve Bosse (11-2-0) v. Sean O'Connell (17-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries:Bosse ($10,700), O'Connell ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Bosse (-160), O'Connell (+140)
THE PICK: Bosse
LightweightOlivier Aubin-Mercier (8-2-0) v. Thibault Gouti (11-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Aubin-Mercier ($11,000), Gouti ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Aubin-Mercier (-400), Gouti (+325)
THE PICK: Aubin-Mercier
LightweightJason Saggo (11-2-0) v. Leandro Silva (19-2-1, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Saggo ($9,900), Silva ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Saggo (-190), Silva (+165)
THE PICK: Saggo
Light HeavyweightMisha Cirkunov (11-2-0) v. Ion Cutelaba (11-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cirkunov ($10,900), Cutelaba ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Cirkunov (-185), Cutelaba (+160)
THE PICK: Cirkunov
BantamweightChris Beal (10-2-0) v. Joe Soto (15-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries:Beal ($10,000), Soto ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Beal (-120), Soto (+100)
THE PICK: Beal
Women's StrawweightRanda Markos (5-4-0) v. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Markos ($10,500), Jones-Lybarger ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Markos (-185), Jones-Lybarger (+160)
THE PICK: Markos
WelterweightColby Covington (8-1-0) v. Jonathan Meunier (7-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Covington ($10,400), Meunier ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Covington (-300), Meunier (+250)
THE PICK: Covington
FlyweightAli Bagautinov (13-4-0) v. Geane Herrera (9-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Bagautinov ($10,800), Herrera ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Bagautinov (-265), Herrera (+225)
THE PICK: Herrera