This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
A UFC Fight Pass card featuring a lightweight championship bout is set to kick off International Fight Week 2016 in Sin City.
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 – Lightweight ChampionshipRafael Dos Anjos (C) (25-7-0) vs. Eddie Alvarez (27-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dos Anjos ($11,000), Alvarez ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Dos Anjos (-350), Alvarez (+290)
Although he certainly deserves to be here, this is a bad matchup for Eddie Alvarez at this point in his career. Rafael Dos Anjos has been impressive in his last four octagon appearances. He knocked out Benson Henderson in the first round, dominated Nate Diaz for three rounds, completely outclassed a red-hot Anthony Pettis to gain the UFC lightweight title and knocked out Donald Cerrone in his first title defense. Dos Anjos is certainly in the prime of his career, and his style will give Alvarez a myriad of problems. First, when looking at common UFC opponents, Dos Anjos has been much more successful than Alvarez. Both fighters have fought Anthony Pettis, and Dos Anjos cashed in a dominating victory, while in Pettis's next fight, Alvarez beat him by a razor-thin split decision. Both fighters also fought Donald Cerrone, and Cowboy outpointed Alvarez by unanimous decision, but Dos Anjos knocked out Cerrone in the first round. In those fights, Dos Anjos dominated Pettis in every aspect of mixed martial arts, and he soundly outstruck Cerrone in their title fight. In comparison, Alvarez was outstruck by Cerrone, and was basically even with Pettis in the grappling department. Alvarez didn't even register a single takedown against Pettis until the third round. Dos Anjos has proven himself to be a dominant grappler over the course of his last few fights, and he's owned a black belt in Brazlian jiu-jitsu for over 10 years, proving he is a dominant fighter once the contest gets to the ground. Moreover, Dos Anjos's striking has greatly improved over the last few years, and he has a quick outside leg kick, which he showcased in both the Pettis fight, and when he made mincemeat of Nate Diaz's leg in their 2014 fight. This will be important, as Alvarez has shown he is susceptible to leg kicks because of how heavy he stays on his front foot while striking. Cerrone had great success against Alvarez with leg kicks, and it did not allow Alvarez to utilize any movement in the last round and a half. Pettis also had success with leg kicks against Alvarez in his losing effort. Dos Anjos seems to have the advantage standing up, in grappling, and on the ground.
Alvarez faces an uphill challenge, but his power definitely gives him a puncher's chance. The 32-year-old is known for being a fast starter, and his best chance is to get on Dos Anjos early. Alvarez had early success against Donald Cerrone when he used dirty boxing to land big shots, and that may be a good strategy for Alvarez to adopt against Dos Anjos. In his fight with Pettis, Alvarez had success in controlling the fight by applying heavy pressure to Pettis and grinding him up against the fence. However, that will likely not work in this fight, as Dos Anjos is a much bigger lightweight and will probably hold a strength advantage over Alvarez. Alvarez's best chance is to come out with urgency and turn the fight into a brawl by using dirty boxing to negate Dos Anjos's athleticism.
Ultimately, I expect dos Anjos to soundly beat Alvarez. After watching tape, he will undoubtedly look to use leg kicks to weaken Alvarez's front leg and limit his movement. Even though Alvarez has excellent recovery skills and stamina, it is difficult for any fighter to keep up with Dos Anjos's pace and constant landing of significant strikes. Dos Anjos will most likely pick apart Alvarez at the beginning of the fight to tire out the challenger, and then use his takedowns late in the fight where he will hold a distinct advantage on the ground. I expect Dos Anjos to submit Alvarez in either the fourth or fifth round.
THE PICK: Dos Anjos
Co-Main Event – HeavyweightRoy Nelson (22-12-0) vs. Derrick Lewis (15-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Nelson ($9,800), Lewis ($9,600)
Vegas Odds: Nelson (-130) Lewis (+110)
There isn't much traditional analysis that can paint a clear picture of who will win this fight. Both fighters are brawlers with devastating knockout power. They will meet in the center of the octagon and throw until somebody drops. Nelson may have the advantage here, as he is arguably the most durable fighter to ever enter the octagon. The 40-year-old has proven time and time again that he can absorb shots, while still finding a way to land his vaunted overhand right and end the night early for his opponent. Nelson has only been knocked out just once in 16 octagon appearances, and that came at the hands of Mark Hunt, who is arguably the heaviest hitter in all of mixed martial arts. The ace in the hole for Nelson is his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. His grappling skills are what led to him winning season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, as he generally would take his opponents down, get them in the mounted crucifix, and ground-and-pound them until the referee stopped the match. Over the course of his UFC career, Nelson has turned into a fan-pleasing brawler, but Lewis is ripe for this strategy. Lewis is a brawler as well, but the 31-year-old is inexperienced. First and foremost, his ground game is nowhere near the level of Nelson's. Big Country's best strategy would be to secure the body lock he favors, bring Lewis to the ground, and either submit him or get him in the crucifix and pound him out.
That being said, Lewis certainly has a chance to win this fight. Even though grappling may be Nelson's clearest path to victory, that is really no longer his style. Nelson will almost certainly agree to have a stand-up war and let the chips fall where they may. Lewis has proven he has the power to knock out any heavyweight in the world, and he will have the confidence that his power will be able to overcome the great chin of Big Country. Even if the fight does go to the ground, Lewis has grown as a mixed martial artist each time we have seen him in the octagon, and has shown great improvement in the ground. This was showcased in his last fight with Gabriel Gonzaga, who is an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Gonzaga had him in real trouble on the ground in the first round, even taking Lewis's back, but Lewis found a way to get back to his feet and eventually earned a first-round knockout. Gonzaga is coming to the end of his career, but it was nonetheless impressive to see Lewis remain calm in a bad position and get back to his feet. He needs to be prepared to grapple on the ground, but his best chance will be if the fight is a brawl, where he will test whether his power and chin can match up against Nelson's.
In the end, I expect Nelson to knock out Lewis in the first round. Nelson always seems to come out on top in slugfests, with the exception of the Hunt fight. This fight represents a huge step up in competition for Lewis, as he has fought mostly gatekeeper-type fighters up to this point. This will be his first voyage into the top-10 of the division, and the increase in skill level can be an eye-opening experience for young fighters. This is a bad matchup for Lewis, as Nelson has more experience, a slight edge in striking ability and a major advantage in grappling. Furthermore, "Big Country" possesses a granite chin that could lead to Lewis becoming exhausted if he doesn't have enough power to knock out Nelson.
THE PICK: Nelson
WelterweightAlan Jouban (13-4-0) vs. Belal Muhammad (9-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Jouban ($10,000), Muhammad ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Jouban (-130), Muhammad (+105)
This fight will most likely stay standing up. Both fighters are known for their striking, albeit different technical styles. Alan Jouban is known for his power and explosiveness, as 10 of his 13 professional victories have come by way of knockout, and he has seven first-round finishes. Even though he has success with striking, Jouban is known to eat strikes too. He has shown a good ability to recover (see his fight with Matt Dwyer), but he has also shown he can be knocked out (see his fight with Albert Tumenov). An advantage Jouban has in this fight is his grappling ability. He owns a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Eddie Bravo, while Muhammad is only a blue belt. If things are not going Jouban's way on the feet, he may look to take the fight to the ground to take advantage of Muhammad's inexperience in jiu-jitsu. That appears unlikely, however, as Jouban has only attempted one takedown in six octagon appearances. Jouban will likely come out quickly and try to put pressure on the UFC newcomer, and it will be interesting to see if that strategy pays off.
Opposite of Jouban is Belal Muhammad. This will be Muhammad's first foray into the octagon, and Jouban will prove to be a tough test. Their striking styles are different, because while Jouban looks to finish the fight early and possesses a lot of power, Muhammad is more of a volume striker. He uses slick boxing and technically sound footwork to land multiple shots and tire out his opponent. This style has proven effective, as Muhammad is undefeated in nine professional bouts. In his last fight, Muhammad captured the Titan FC welterweight title. Muhammad has faced stiff competition outside of the UFC, and passed with flying colors in each fight. In order to be successful, he will have to use his footwork to avoid the power shots of Jouban and break him down over the course of the fight.
My prediction for this fight is Muhammad will be able to avoid Jouban's early flurry and keep the fight standing. As long as he can avoid the UFC jitters and fight up to the ability he has shown in his first nine fights, he should be able to stay on the outside and pick apart Jouban. This fight will probably be kept standing and go to the judges' scorecards. A fight of that style will favor Muhammad, and based on his past performances, I expect Muhammad to win by decision. Look for him to land a large number of strikes with his volume boxing style, effectively taking advantage of Jouban's questionable defense.
THE PICK: Muhammad
LightweightJoseph Duffy (22-12-0) vs. Mitch Clarke (15-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Duffy ($11,100), Clarke ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Duffy (-400), Clarke (+300)
Joseph Duffy and Mitch Clarke will be an another intriguing clash of styles. Duffy is a former undefeated professional boxer, and even though nine of his 14 wins have come by way of submission, he will likely look to keep the fight standing against a grappler like Clarke. In his last two fights, Clarke has been rocked on the feet by both Al Iaquinta and Michael Chiesa. Both of those fighters have decent stand-up skills, but they are nowhere near the level of the former boxer Duffy. Duffy has 12 first-round finishes overall, and if Clarke walks into one of his power shots, it could turn into a short night for the Canadian lightweight. Duffy is a sound grappler, but he will likely look to take advantage of his boxing experience and keep the fight standing. Along with his boxing, Duffy has shown he can throw devastating kicks as well, much like in his first-round knockout of Jake Lindsey. If he is able to keep the fight on the feet, it will be difficult for Clarke to come out on top.
Clarke will undoubtedly look to take the fight to the ground. This is generally his strategy, as he tries to put his opponent up against the fence in an effort to get them to the mat. In this case, even though Duffy is no slouch on the ground, Clarke might even welcome a takedown from Duffy and look to fight off of his back if it comes to that. He showed he has the ability to snatch up a submission from his back when he was being beaten by Iaquinta, but got him in a D'Arce choke and made Iaquinta go unconscious. It will be difficult to submit a high level grappler like Duffy, but a fight on the ground gives Clarke his best chance to defeat him. Duffy's takedown defense is very average at only 56 percent in the UFC, but Clarke has only been successful on 19 percent of his takedowns himself, which means it will be hard for him to get the fight to the ground. If Clarke is unable to get the fight to the ground, he will be in big trouble against a striker of the caliber of Duffy.
I see this fight going Duffy's way. Clarke has had a difficult time taking his opponents down in the octagon, and if he is unable to get a takedown on Duffy, he will be at a significant disadvantage standing up. After seeing the holes in Clarke's stand-up defense against Iaquinta and Chiesa, it is hard to believe he will survive for a long time against Duffy. I expect a first-round knockout from Duffy to get him back on the winning track.
THE PICK: Duffy
WelterweightAlberto Mina (12-0-0) v. Mike Pyle (27-11-1)
DraftKings Salaries:Mina ($9,500), Pyle ($9,900)
Vegas Odds: Mina (+105), Pyle (-125)
THE PICK: Mina
LightweightMehdi Baghdad (11-3-0) v. John Makdessi (19-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Baghdad ($8,900), Makdessi ($10,500)
Vegas Odds: Baghdad (+120), Makdessi (-140)
THE PICK: Baghdad
BantamweightAnthony Birchak (12-3-0) v. Dileno Lopes (13-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Birchak ($10,700), Lopes ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Birchak (-250), Lopes (+210)
THE PICK: Lopes
BantamweightRussell Doane (14-5-0) v. Pedro Munhoz (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Doane ($9,000), Munhoz ($10,400)
Vegas Odds: Doane (+200), Munhoz (-240)
THE PICK: Doane
BantamweightFelipe Arantes (17-7-1) vs. Jerrod Sanders (15-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries:Arantes ($10,600), Sanders ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Arantes (-155), Sanders (+130)
THE PICK: Arantes
LightweightGilbert Burns (10-1-0) v. Lukasz Sajewski (13-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Burns ($10,800), Sajewski ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Burns (-250), Sajewski (+205)
THE PICK: Burns
BantamweightMarco Beltran (7-4-0) v. Reginaldo Vieira (14-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Beltran ($9,200), Vieira ($10,200)
Vegas Odds: Beltran (+125), Vieira (-140)
THE PICK: Vieira
WelterweightAlvaro Herrera (9-3-0) v. Vicente Luque (8-5-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Herrera ($8,500), Luque ($10,900)
Vegas Odds: Herrera (+345), Luque (-425)
THE PICK: Herrera