This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
International Fight Week 2017 is upon us! DraftKings currently has UFC 213 contests and salaries live, while it appears they plan to offer a few contests using fights from Friday's TUF 25 Finale as well. The $100K MMA Hook, $60K MMA Takedown and $40K MMA Sprawl are currently listed with Friday start times, though they are all reservation-only at the moment. This preview will hopefully help with both, as I'll be breaking down the main card from UFC 213, as well as the main and co-main events from Friday's set of bouts.
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:
(Please note that DraftKings has altered their scoring system. The new point values are listed below and the rosters will now expand from 5 to 6 fighters).
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Advance (ADVC): +3 PT
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
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 - UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship(C) Amanda Nunes (14-4-0) v. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Nunes ($8,000), Shevchenko ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Nunes (-110), Shevchenko (-115)
Odds to Finish: -240
This will be a rematch of a March 2016 fight which Nunes won via unanimous decision. Neither woman has lost a fight since then.
It took a while for me to come around on Nunes, but I think he's clear she is the best 135-pound female in the world at this point. Nunes' power is, for lack of a better word, disturbing. She doesn't need to land a whole bunch of combinations in order to end a fight. She is smart when hunting the finish, and knows when to pounce when the opportunity presents itself. Nunes' only loss in the UFC came against Cat Zingano in September 2014 in a fight in which she had Zingano badly hurt but couldn't put her away. Nunes' conditioning now is better than it was then, and she is slowly learning how to conserve her energy for fights that are scheduled for five rounds.
Shevchenko has taken a decision from Holly Holm and submitted Julianna Pena since her loss to Nunes in their first matchup. Both performances were extremely impressive. Shevchenko battered Holm in what was essentially a kickboxing match and showed a different aspect of her game when she tapped out Pena with an armbar. Shevchenko now has quietly racked up six career wins by submission. That number might make you think that Valentina's best chance of winning this fight is on the mat, but Nunes is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and it would be a risky play to get into a ground battle with her.
There is no doubt that Shevchenko can win this fight. I think her best chance of emerging victorious would be to outpoint Nunes in a kickboxing match. That's a dangerous route to go because of the Brazilian's power, but Shevchenko's Muay Thai background is so impressive that she would probably take her chances in that scenario. I'm taking Nunes via decision, but this is an intriguing fight because it has the potential to go a number of different ways. I would probably have the DraftKings salaries flipped because of Nunes' power, but this is essentially a pick 'em.
THE PICK: Nunes
Co-Main Event - Interim Middleweight ChampionshipYoel Romero (12-1-0) v. Robert Whittaker (19-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Romero ($7,900), Whittaker ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Romero (+110), Whittaker (-130)
Odds to Finish: -325
Let's talk Whittaker first. I hopped off the "Bobby Knuckles Hype Train" for exactly one fight and paid the price. Whittaker's knockout of Jacare Souza in April was undoubtedly one of the best performances of the year by any fighter. Currently riding a seven-fight winning streak, Whittaker's last setback came more than three years ago (February 2014) against top welterweight contender Stephen Thompson. Since Whittaker's move up to middleweight shortly therafter, his career has taken off. He has retained all of his power while looking fresher and healthier with the extra 15 pounds on his frame. Most importantly, in his fight against Derek Brunson in November, he proved that he could take a beating from a high-level opponent and still dig deep and figure out a way to win.
Romero would have been a massive favorite had a title fight with current UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping come to fruition, but he gets a much tougher test in Whittaker. Romero is a perfect 8-0 during his time in the UFC, and that runs includes wins over Derek Brunson, Tim Kennedy, Lyoto Machida, Jacare Souza, and most recently, former Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman. Romero's career hasn't been without controversy. There have been PED allegations and the infamous "stool incident" in the Kennedy fight. But there is no doubt Romero, a former Olympic Silver medalist in freestyle wrestling, is a world class athlete. Romero has off-the-charts explosiveness and he is obviously a world class wrestler. I have concerns about his cardio in a five round fight, but his initial flurries are enough to finish any 185-pounder on the roster.
I think Romero is going to have to mix in at least a couple of successful takedowns in order to win. Even if he isn't able to do much with them, they will help drain the gas tank of Whittaker (not to mention score fantasy points). Although with Whittaker posting a career takedown defense of near 92 percent, that may be easier said than done. I trust Whittaker's cardio more than Romero's, and I certainly think Bobby Knuckles has more power in his hands. Yoel makes for an intriguing DraftKings play due to the fact I expect him to come out hard in search of a finish in the early stages of the fight. He may not find it, but he could earn his owners plenty of points in the right scenario. I respect Romero's athletic ability and any fighter with his explosiveness always has a chance to win, but I'm officially back on the "Bobby Knuckles Hype Train" after taking one fight (incorrectly) off.
THE PICK: Whittaker
HeavyweightFabricio Werdum (21-6-1) v. Alistair Overeem (42-15-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Werdum ($7,800), Overeem ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Werdum (+105), Overeem (-125)
Odds to Finish: -145
This here is a rematch of a May 2006 Pride fight which Werdrum won via kimura. Due to the current state of the UFC's heavyweight division, the winner of this fight could find himself no more than one or two victories away from another title shot.
Werdum has won seven of eight with his only setback being a a knockout at the hands of Stipe Miocic in which he lost the UFC Heavyweight Championsip last May. Werdum rebounded with an easy unanimous decision win over Travis Browne in September. A wizard on the mat, the 40-year-old (later this month) Brazilian has a chance against any opponent if his striking holds up. Surely he knows he cannot stand in front of Overeem and allow him to fire off combinations at will.
The Reem got his shot at UFC gold against Miocic last September, lost the fight via KO, and then rebounded to knock out Mark Hunt in March. Overeem turned 37 years old in May. The biggest concern surrounding The Reem these days is his chin. He still hits like a Mack Truck and he moves well for a guy his size when he doesn't get lazy. The issue is when he gets his back pinned up against the cage and his opponent can unload combinations on him. Thankfully for Overeem, that isn't the style of fighting that Werdum prefers.
My first thought when I saw this fight announced was that it would be a good matchup for Overeem, but the more I think about it, the more I like Werdum. He should have a slight cardio advantage, and outside of the fluke Miocic loss (the fact he lost wasn't a fluke, the fact Stipe ended the fight with a one-punch KO while on his back foot was), Werdum hasn't been knocked out since UFC 90 in October 2008. I think it would be smart for Overeem to try to go for broke early. Werdum should have an advantage if the fight gets to the later stages.
THE PICK: Werdum
LightweightAnthony Pettis (19-6-0) v. Jim Miller (28-9-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Pettis ($8,900), Miller ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Pettis (-240), Miller (+200)
Odds to Finish: +115
Pettis was gifted a chance at the Interim UFC Featherweight Championship in his last fight against Max Holloway in December, and he proceed to miss weight, thus making him ineligible to win the belt. A loser in four of his last five fights, this figures to be last call for Pettis if he ever plans on making another run at a UFC championship. The four losses have come against former UFC Lightweight Champions Rafael dos Anjos and Eddie Alvarez, the current UFC Featherweight Champion in Holloway and a top contender in Edson Barboza. There's no shame in losing to any of those guys, but Pettis' lack of explosiveness is highly concerning. He looks nothing like the guy whose athletic ability made him one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world not all that long ago. He appears to be second guessing every single moves he makes inside the Octagon.
Miller is coming off a majority decision Fight of the Night loss to Dustin Poirier in February. He is 3-3 in his last six fights and also appears to be trending towards the finish line. While Pettis was known as a world-class athlete, Miller gets by on grit, determination and his ground game. Miller can win a grappling battle with most anyone, but he is in serious, serious trouble if he is involved in a kickboxing match.
Both men are poor DraftKings plays. Pettis has been struggling of late and Miller has little power in his hands. I would wager that this fight goes the distance. To make matters worse, I don't think either man is going to overwhelm the other. That alone makes it unlikely that either fighter racks up plenty of fantasy points.
I wish I had an explanation for Pettis' sudden downfall. At age 30, he still should have plenty left in the tank. He may very well be done as is, but if he can't beat a subpar athlete in Miller, he's definitely done. I'm surprised the downfall of Pettis hasn't been talked about more. It's one of the more shocking stories in the sport over the past two-plus years. I'm taking Showtime in a must-win fight, but I'm not confident about it.
THE PICK: Pettis
HeavyweightDaniel Omielanczuk (19-7-1, 1NC) v. Curtis Blaydes (7-1-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Omielanczuk ($6,700), Blaydes ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Omielanczuk (+550), Blaydes (-800)
Odds to Finish: -185
The loser of back-to-back fights, this is another opportunity for Omielanczuk to raise his status in the UFC's thin heavyweight division. Known as a ground specialist for the early portion of his career, Omielanczuk has nine career wins via submission. The bad news is that he doesn't have much finishing power in his hands and he is giving away a ton of size to Blaydes. I always worry when a heavyweight has difficulties finishing fights, because the vast majority of them never see the final bell.
Blaydes is going to have a four-inch height advantage and a six-inch reach advantage in this fight. As long as he can manage to stay on his feet, I think he will be able to batter Omielanczuk without issue. The only loss of Blaydes' career came against top prospect Francis Ngannou. Blaydes destroyed Adam Milstead in February, but the fight was changed to a no-contest when Blaydes tested positive for marijuana in his post-fight drug test. Blaydes has a lot of power and he's averaged an insane 9.78 takedowns per fight over the course of his UFC career. That number is going to drop as he begins to face better competition, but he is a solid wrestler.
Blaydes is a clear pick for me in terms of winning, but his DraftKings salary is outlandish. While he is a deserving heavy favorite, $9,500 is a monumental salary to pay for any single fighter. I would only advocate using Blaydes if you plan on submitting multiple lineups.
THE PICK: Blaydes
HeavyweightTravis Browne (18-6-1) v. Aleksei Oleinik (51-10-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Browne ($8,600), Oleinik ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Browne (-220), Oleinik (+180)
Odds to Finish: -610
THE PICK: Oleinik
WelterweightChad Laprise (12-2-0) v. Brian Camozzi (7-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Laprise ($9,300), Camozzi ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Laprise (-550), Camozzi (+425)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: Laprise
MiddleweightThiago Santos (14-5-0) v. Gerald Meerschaert (26-8-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Santos ($8,500), Meerschaert ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Santos (-145), Meerschaert (+125)
Odds to Finish: -435
THE PICK: Meerschaert
WelterweightJordan Mein (29-11-0) v. Belal Muhammad (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Mein ($8,100), Muhammad ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Mein (+140), Muhammad (-160)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Muhammad
BantamweightRob Font (13-2-0) v. Douglas Silva de Andrade (24-1-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Font ($9,200), Silva de Andrade ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Font (-320), Silva de Andrade (+260)
Odds to Finish: -105
THE PICK: Font
FeatherweightCody Stamann (13-1-0) v. Terrion Ware (17-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Stamann ($9,100), Ware ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Stamann (-275), Ware (+235)
Odds to Finish: +170
THE PICK: Stamann
Light HeavyweightTrevin Giles (9-0-0) v. James Bochnovic (8-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Giles ($9,000), Bochnovic ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Giles (-335), Bochnovic (+275)
Odds to Finish: -265
THE PICK: Giles
TUF 25 Finale
Main Event - LightweightMichael Johnson (18-11-0) v. Justin Gaethje (17-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: TBD
Vegas Odds: -475
Odds to Finish: -140
This is a very intriguing bout that is highlighted by the UFC debut of Gaethje, who was the former WSOF Lightweight Champion, but let's start with Johnson. MJ is 1-3 in his last four fights and he is coming off an embarrassing loss at the hands of Khabib Nurmagomedov in November. The setbacks have come against three quality fighters in Khabib, Nate Diaz and Beneil Dariush, but Johnson's career has been plagued by inconsistencies. MJ is a tough guy, a terrific athlete, and has a background in wrestling, so his game has no apparent weaknesses. He is a solid, competent lightweight.
Gaethje has built quite a reputation during his undefeated run with the former WSOF. His fights are entertaining as hell, but he is a one-dimensional brawler. I have been on record for quite a while now as stating that I think he is going to have huge issues against the top fighters in the UFC and my opinion hasn't changed. Gaethje knows only one way to fight. He has no interest in tailoring his game plan to a specific opponent. That might work against lesser opponents, but it isn't going to work against the world's best 155 pounders. Unless he changes his style of fighting, this isn't going to work.
I like MJ to win and even if he doesn't, I would not pick Gaethje against any opponent currently ranked in the top-ten of the UFC's lightweight division. A one-dimensional fighter just can't succeed at the highest level.
THE PICK: Johnson
LightweightMarc Diakiese (12-0-0) v. Drakkar Klose (6-0-1)
DraftKings Salaries: TBD
Vegas Odds: Diakiese (-275), Klose (+235)
Odds to Finish: -110
Diakiese was highly regarded when he made his UFC debut last October and with three straight wins to begin his tenure with the company, the hype has only increased. A native of the Congo who fights out of Manchester, England, Bonecrusher has crazy power in his hands. Half of his 12 career wins have come via KO including a first-round starching of an overmatched Teemu Packalen in his last fight in March. While Diakiese has earned the reputation as a knockout artist, his wrestling is underrated. The 24-year-old is a talented fight with room for growth.
The opposite of his opponent, Klose entered the UFC with virtually no hype in January. He responded with an easy unanimous decision win over Devin Powell in his company debut and he has now earned himself a meaningful fight in the company's lightweight division. Klose is tough and a well-rounded fighter, but standing and engaging Diakiese in a brawl is a recipe for disaster.
Klose is going to have to lean on his wrestling and stay out of striking range if he hopes to win this fight. It's not impossible, but it's unlikely to happen. Diakiese is an explosive athlete and his tendency to rack up quick finishes over the course of his career (six first- round stoppages) make him a clear favorite.
THE PICK: Diakiese