This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Three title fights headline what is projected to be the UFC's biggest card of the year in their second-ever trip to Madison Square Garden. This likely means some of the biggest DFS payouts MMA has to offer will be on the line Saturday evening.
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 - Middleweight Championship(C) Michael Bisping (31-7-0) v. Georges St-Pierre (25-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Bisping ($8,100), St-Pierre ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Bisping (-110), St-Pierre (-115)
Odds to Finish: +130
The UFC's second run at MSG will be highlighted by the return of former welterweight king Georges St-Pierre. Don't be confused, that is the focus of the main event. If GSP (and the UFC brass) have their way, the marketable current champion will play nothing more than a secondary role in the proceedings. The 36-year-old St-Pierre last fought at UFC 167 in Nov. 2013 against Johny Hendricks. He won the fight via split decision and willingly vacated the title less than a month later. Since then, GSP has bounced back and forth in regards to making a comeback, and he suffered a torn ACL while training in early 2014. St-Pierre ultimately re-signed with the UFC in February for what is believed to be a four-fight deal. GSP's last loss was the "Matt Serra Miracle" at UFC 69 in April 2007.
Bisping shockingly won the UFC Middleweight Championship from Luke Rockhold in June 2016 and successfully defended it against Dan Henderson last October. The Hendo fight wasn't an easy one. Bisping ate countless big shots and was in trouble on multiple occasions. The 38-year-old Bisping has been a good soldier and one of the company's more popular fighters for more than a decade, so it is good to see him reach the pinnacle, but I don't think there's anyone out there who thinks he is the best middleweight in the world and there are personally six or seven fighters in the division that I would pick over "The Count." Bisping is at the point where he gets by on grit, determination, and a strong chin. He has always been a brawler, but the majority of his knockouts came earlier in his career.
The great unknown here is how GSP looks after such an extended layoff. He is such a focused, driven athlete that I don't think he would ever come back if he wasn't 100 percent committed. If St-Pierre looks remotely like the guy he did before he left, I think he wins easily. The odds and DraftKings salaries reflect some type of expected rust. GSP seems to be the ultimate value play at $8,100 and I advise getting him into all lineups. If Bisping's takedown defense doesn't hold up, and it hasn't been great over the course of his career (64.5 percent), he has no chance. He might not get blown out of the water, but I don't think he wins.
THE PICK: St-Pierre
Co-Main Event - Bantamweight Championship(C) Cody Garbrandt (11-0-0) v. T.J. Dillashaw (15-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Garbrandt ($8,300), Dillashaw ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Garbrandt (-180), Dillashaw (+150)
Odds to Finish: +110
Here is another stellar fight that has been a long time in the making. Originally scheduled for UFC 213 in July, Garbrandt was forced to withdraw due to a potentially serious back injury. The fact he is ready to go less than four months later is a great sign. Garbrandt's victory over Dominick Cruz that won him the title last December was one of the best performances in the history of MMA. While virtually no one has been able to touch Cruz (Dillashaw included) in the striking game, "No Love" made it look easy. He landed with ease and regularity. He landed from all angles. He landed hard shots. It was a flawless performance in the biggest spot of Cody's career. Now he has to back it up against another top-flight opponent in Dillashaw.
Dillashaw lost his belt to Cruz (who later lost it to Garbrandt) in January 2016, but he has since rolled over two very tough opponents en route to unanimous decision wins against Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker. T.J. has crazy speed and power for a fighter who is listed at 5-foot-6. His footwork is elite and although he doesn't use his grappling skills very often, he is a terrific wrestler. In many ways, his success mirrors Garbrandt's. Dillashaw is a fighter who improved a remarkable amount over a fairly short period of time and it led him to the top of the bantamweight mountain. He gets his shot at returning to the summit on Saturday.
It's very hard to predict a winner in a fight between two guys who fight nearly identical styles. Garbrandt and Dillashaw rely on speed, power punching and footwork, and they can both wrestle. The fighter that shows the other one an unexpected wrinkle is the guy who may emerge the winner. Cruz was the quickest bantamweight I had ever seen and he couldn't come close to hitting Garbrandt. If Cruz couldn't do it, I don't see how Dillashaw does. Of course, if Garbrandt still isn't truly over his back injury, that could impact the outcome also. If "No Love" is healthy, and I have no reason to believe he's not, I think he wins.
THE PICK: Garbrandt
Women's Strawweight Championship(C) Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0-0) v. Rose Namajunas (7-3-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Jedrzejczyk ($9,200), Namajunas ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Jedrzejczyk (-600), Namajunas (+450)
Odds to Finish: +130
Having successfully defended her title on five separate occasions and sporting an undefeated professional record, Joanna now has to deal with a talented ground specialist in Namajunas. Jedrzejczyk's greatest strength as champion has been her ability to deal with different types of challengers. Her Muay Thai skills are amongst the best in the world, but she has greatly improved the other areas of her game. She's deceptively strong and competitive in areas in which many would expect her to struggle. Joanna has also shown an ability to dig deep and figure out a way to win tough, competitive fights. On the surface that may not seem like much, but it means the world when you are defending your belt in five-round fights every time out.
While I admittedly have not been the biggest Namajunas supporter over the course of her time with the company, she has shown far more good than bad in her UFC career. Her record is a strong 4-2, and all four wins have come against quality competition in Angela Hill, Tecia Torres, Paige VanZant and most recently, a dominant effort against Michelle Waterson. Rose is a mat specialist and I imagine she will do everything in her power to get this fight to the mat. Getting into a kickboxing match with Joanna is a recipe for disaster and I'm certain Namajunas knows that. Even if she is unable to land a ton of her strikes herself, it is imperative that Rose not stand directly in front of Jedrzejczyk for long stretches of time.
There are very few fighters that I will pick continuously until they lose. Demetrious Johnson is one. Dominick Cruz was another until he lost to Garbrandt. Joanna is approaching that territory. Perhaps most importantly, I have zero concerns in regards to her cardio. She is in great shape and she has shown the ability to excel in the championship rounds. I expect Rose to be a game challenger in a fight that I expect to go for an extended period of time, but give me Joanna to retain. Then again, if Namajunas can get Jedrzejczyk to the mat, all bets are off. Namajunas is tough and gritty and $7,000 is a pretty small price if you feel she has a realistic chance of pulling the upset.
THE PICK: Jedrzejczyk
WelterweightStephen Thompson (31-1-1) v. Jorge Masvidal (32-12-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Thompson ($8,600), Masvidal ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Thompson (-185), Masvidal (+150)
Odds to Finish: +165
On a card full of terrific fights, this is one of the most intriguing matchups. You have a pair of kickboxers that are hoping to avoid back-to-back losses in order to stay relevant in the welterweight title picture.
Thompson got two cracks at gold against Tyron Woodley and came up short in both instances. "Wonderboy" had his moments in both fights, but for the most part looked out of sync. What he did show, particularly in the first fight, was an ability to absorb an insane amount of punishment. It was nice to see considering Thompson rarely seems to get hit in many of his fights. Now he gets an opponent in Masvidal who figures to be comfortable standing and trading with him. If that is indeed how the fight plays out, it's a best-case scenario for "Wonderboy."
Masvidal has been given a second lease on life since he move back to welterweight. He seems to have more energy with the extra 15 pounds on his frame, and his power certainly plays at 170 pounds. "Gamebred" is 3-1 in his last four fights and the only setback was via split decision against the resurgent Demian Maia. Masvidal has been a pro for nearly 15 years despite the fact he will only turn 33 years old next week. He can wrestle when needed, and it might be needed against Thompson.
I am on record as saying that I would pick Thompson over any fighter in the division in a kickboxing match and since that is what I expect this to be, he's my pick. I expect the fight to go the distance. Masvidal would be best served to try to change the pace of the fight any way he can. Throw a new wrinkle at "Wonderboy" in hopes of confusing him. If "Gamebred" lets his pride get the better of him and he tries to knock Thompson out, he's in trouble.
THE PICK: Thompson
MiddleweightJohny Hendricks (18-7-0) v. Paulo Borrachinha (10-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Hendricks ($7,300), Borrachinha ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Hendricks (+200), Borrachinha (-250)
Odds to Finish: -285
A loser in four of his last five fights and coming off a shocking KO loss at the hands of Tim Boetsch in June, this is last call for the former UFC Welterweight Champion. Hendricks' struggles over the past 2.5 years are mind boggling. It almost seems as if Johny has never recovered from his loss to Robbie Lawler at UFC 181 in December 2014 in which he lost his title. He looks considerably slower than ever before, and it's painfully obvious that Hendricks is suffering from a lack of confidence. In hopes of regaining his previous form, Hendricks moved to New Mexico to train with the Jackson-Wink camp for this fight. Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn are two of the best coaches in the business and if they can't get Hendricks straightened out then he is probably beyond repair.
Undefeated in his professional career and having won both of his UFC fights by knockout, Borrachinha gets the opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin of Hendricks. Nine of Borrachinha's 10 career victories are via KO and he has never seen the final bell. He is extremely explosive and he is young enough (26) to expect continued improvement. The Brazilian isn't a household name yet, but he might be when this fight is said and done.
Facing an opponent with massive power would seem to be a worse-case scenario for Hendricks at this point. He is getting hit more than ever before, and the Brazilian has the power to end a fight in an instant. I wish I could pinpoint exactly what led to Hendricks' sudden, drastic downfall, but it is a perplexing case. If he loses to Borrachinha, and I think he will, he may very well be looking at a release or retirement. While $7,300 is a small salary, Hendricks has been so bad lately that he is unusable, even at the cheap price.
THE PICK: Borrachinha
LightweightJames Vick (11-1-0) v. Joe Duffy (16-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Vick ($7,700), Duffy ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Vick (+145), Duffy (-165)
Odds to Finish: -160
THE PICK: Vick
HeavyweightWalt Harris (10-5-0) v. Mark Godbeer (12-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Harris ($8,800), Godbeer ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Harris (-375), Godbeer (+280)
Odds to Finish: -380
THE PICK: Harris
Light HeavyweightIon Cutelaba (13-3-0, 1NC) v. Michael Oleksiejczuk (12-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cutelaba ($9,100), Oleksiejczuk ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Cutelaba (-525), Oleksiejczuk (+370)
Odds to Finish: -550
THE PICK: Cutelaba
WelterweightRandy Brown (9-2-0) v. Mickey Gall (4-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Brown ($7,800), Gall ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Brown (-110), Gall (-115)
Odds to Finish: -260
THE PICK: Gall
HeavyweightAleksei Oleinik (52-10-1) v. Curtis Blaydes (7-1-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Oleinik ($8,200), Blaydes ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Oleinik (+275), Blaydes (-355)
Odds to Finish: -215
THE PICK: Blaydes
Light HeavyweightOvince Saint Preux (21-10-0) v. Corey Anderson (10-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Saint Preux ($9,000), Anderson ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Saint Preux (-165), Anderson (+145)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: Saint Preux
BantamweightAiemann Zahabi (7-0-0) v. Ricardo Ramos (10-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Zahabi ($8,700), Ramos ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Zahabi (+155), Ramos (-190)
Odds to Finish: -120
THE PICK: Zahabi