This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC 282 takes place Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena, and Jon Litterine is back to break down the top fights, plus offer his DFS picks and predictions for the key matchups on the card.
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, including a $350k Throwdown with $100k to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring rules are noted at the bottom of the column. Let's get to the action...
Main Event - Light Heavyweight Championship
The backstory here is well known. This card was scheduled to be headlined by Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira in a rematch of their epic title clash this past June which Jiri won via fifth-round submission. Prochazka ended up suffering a serious shoulder injury and was forced to withdraw and vacate the title. Glover was offered a fight against Ankalaev for the undisputed belt and declined. Thus, here we are.
Blachowicz is the big winner here, as he now has a chance to become a two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Jan defeated Dominick Reyes for the interim belt in September 2020 and then defended it against Israel Adesanya a little less than six months later before dropping it to Glover. He has fought once since, defeating Aleksandar Rakic via third-round TKO when Rakic suffered a knee injury.
Ankalaev has won nine fights in a row (five via knockout) since being submitted by Paul Craig in his UFC debut in March 2018. Assuming Jon Jones is truly done at 205 pounds, Ankalaev is the one guy in the division, Prochazka and Teixeira included, with the potential skill set to hold onto the belt for an extended period of time.
Jan will be 40 years of age this coming February. He probably has to win here in order to remain in the title picture. I have been woefully light on Blachowicz over the years, particularly regarding the power in his hands. This is a guy that lost four of five from April 2015 to April 2017 and looked like a legitimate release candidate. The fact he eventually won UFC gold is a testament to his hard work. Jan could walk away tomorrow and his UFC run would be considered nothing but an overwhelming success.
Ankalaev is an inch taller, although it's Blachowicz with a three-inch reach edge. Jan is a deceptively good wrestler despite averaging just 1.08 takedowns per 15 minutes, and that might be the route to go in this fight considering the power Ankalaev has shown in the past. You don't want to get into a standing brawl with Magomed.
Ultimately, I think the physicality of Ankalaev wins out. That said, I expect Jan to make it competitive.
Blachowicz has pulled enough upsets over the years that he's absolutely worth considering as an underdog DK play here. I don't see $2,200 worth of salary difference between these two. I like Ankalaev to win, I think there's just a bit more in terms of all-around upside with him, but I'd feel much, much better about the entire thing if he was priced in the $8,700-$8,800 range. He still should be able to get the job done, regardless.
UFC 282 PICK: Ankalaev
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
Love him or hate him, Pimblett has parlayed a three-fight win streak to begin his UFC run into the co-main event slot of a pay-per-view. That's saying something considering 99 percent of MMA fans have never heard of a single fighter he has defeated.
Paddy's time with the company has consisted of a knockout of Luigi Vendramini and submission wins over Kazula Vargas and Jordan Leavitt. The results are impressive, but quite frankly, I haven't been particularly impressed with the process of how Pimblett got there. He's reckless. Far better on the mat than the feet, but nothing I have seen thus far suggests he's a fighter with legitimate future high-end potential.
A member of the UFC roster for more than five years now, Gordon has been up and down during his time with the company. He's won four of his last five on the heels of a stretch where he dropped three of four. Gordon has no significant holes in his game but also no elite skill to fall back upon in the event of trouble. Given the fact he turned 34 years of age this past October, I expect the New Yorker to hover around the .500 mark moving forward.
There's far less to break down here from a technical standpoint than a typical co-main of a pay-per-view. Paddy has excellent size for the division, which is amazing considering he fought at bantamweight in the early portion of his career. He's only an inch taller, but he will enter with a five-inch reach edge over Gordon -- a massive number considering the latter's durability issues in the past.
I have faded Paddy consistently thus far and will continue to do so moving forward. He's probably a better fighter than Gordon all things considered, but his massive popularity has resulted in Pimblett's DK salary and Vegas odds both getting steamed up to an area I consider unacceptable. I would much rather roll the dice on Gordon as an underdog considering the payoff. I don't think there's a huge difference between the two from a pure talent standpoint.
UFC 282 PICK: Gordon
Catch Weight - 180 Pounds
This was scheduled to be Ponzinibbio v. Robbie Lawler before Lawler was forced to withdraw due to an undisclosed injury.
Ponzinibbio, fresh off back-to-back split decision losses to Michel Pereira and Geoff Neal, desperately needs a win. He pretty clearly lost the Neal fight, while the Pereira bout could have gone either way. Santiago missed more than two years from November 2018 to January 2021 due to a staph infection. He had won seven straight at the time and was on the verge of title-implicating fights at 170 pounds. He's lost three of four since. The "old" Ponzinibbio would have been in good shape in this fight. Now? I'm not so sure.
Morono has won four straight, so he has earned this opportunity. Morono was very inconsistent early in his UFC career, but he seems to have gotten on track later in his career. He turned 32 years of age this past August, so time isn't on his side, but he's going to put himself in position to earn additional meaningful fights if he is able to emerge victorious here.
Santiago has appeared tentative and hesitant of late, as if he's thinking inside the Octagon instead of simply reacting. That's a huge problem. I seriously doubt Lawler would have been able to take advantages of the openings, but Morono, as a high-end Muay Thai specialist should be able to capitalize on Ponzinibbio's indecisiveness. Santiago simply gets hit too much to outpoint his opposition these days.
Ponzinibbio enters with an inch edge in both height and reach. Morono is more volume than power on the feet, but he's also been exceedingly durable. I have more confidence in him than Santiago to survive a back-and-forth fire fight.
This is very much a "what have you done for me lately?" sport. Ponzinibbio is a good fighter, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he puts forth a vintage performance, but I've long been a Morono fan and have liked what I have seen from him of late. He's my pick.
UFC 282 PICK: Morono
A loser of four of his last five, Till, a former title challenger, is probably fighting for his job. Till's best moments in the UFC came at welterweight. He moved up to middleweight in November 2019 and took a split decision from Kelvin Gastelum before dropping a unanimous decision to Robert Whittaker and being submitted by Derek Brunson. Darren has fought high-end competition for virtually his entire run with the company, but nothing we have seen of late suggests the guy we saw early in his time with the UFC will be returning anytime soon.
Du Plessis has made three UFC appearances, knocking out Markus Perez and Trevin Giles in addition to taking a unanimous decision from Brad Tavares. I've had a difficult time getting a good read on Du Plesiss. He's a big, physical guy with legitimate power and a reasonable ground game, but he's reckless at times, particularly on the feet, and that has made me question his future ability to defeat better opponents.
I'm not crazy about the fight IQ of either man, and it's certainly worth noting that Till, even at this stage of his career, is probably the best fighter Du Plessis has faced to date.
Neither man uses their wrestling game much, with Du Plessis averaging 1.2 takedowns per 15 minutes while Till is at only half a takedown during that same span. If both men are throwing bombs, a well-timed takedown could be the difference in the fight. Two of Till's past four defeats have come via submission, so Dricus should have room to work if he can get this fight to the mat.
Till doesn't have a knockout victory in more than five years. His fight-ending power will likely have to re-emerge in order to pull the upset here.
Both the DK salaries and Vegas odds for this fight seem correct. Till is a live underdog, especially if Du Plesiss continues to push forward recklessly, but we've also seen Dricus emerge victorious after slow starts and survive at times he's appeared to have been in trouble. He should be fine as long as he doesn't make a foolish mistake that allows Till an opening to pull the upset.
UFC 282 PICK: Du Plessis
This is probably the most intriguing fight on the entire card, the main event included. Topuria was scheduled to face Edson Barboza in late October before the latter withdrew with a knee injury. Mitchell was due to face Movsar Evloev in a main event a week later, before Evloev bailed. Instead, they'll face each other here.
A 28-year-old native of Arkansas, Mitchell has won each of his first half-dozen UFC bouts, with five decisions and a submission on his ledger. An high-end mat specialist and excellent wrestler, Mitchell has nine career submission wins, but not a single knockout. I typically worry about fighters who are unable to threaten to finish their opposition on the feet, but it hasn't hampered Mitchell as of yet.
Just 25 years of age, Topuria is a perfect 4-0 in the UFC, with his last three wins coming via knockout. Ilia is athletic, can wrestle, and the power is obviously legitimate. There's long-term, high-end staying power here, and it's just a matter of time before Ilia becomes a household name. Mitchell is no pushover, however.
While both of these men are excellent wrestlers, two things are swaying me in Topuria's favor.
First is the fact he's going to have a massive edge in both power and technical skill on the feet. Mitchell is likely to find himself in all sorts of trouble in a prolonged kickboxing match.
Second is the fact Mitchell's takedown defense is just 33 percent. He's always using his offensive wrestling to his advantage, so it's rare he finds himself on his back. Topuria averages 3.15 takedowns per 15 minutes and has yet to be taken to the mat in his UFC run.
This seems like weird matchmaking simply because one of these fighters is likely to be "burned" by a defeat here, but both are young enough to recover from a setback.
Ilia seems like a value play given the circumstances, and if he impresses, this could be your last chance for perhaps years to get him at any sort of a discount moving forward.
UFC 282 PICK: Topuria
Jair Rozenstruik (12-4-0) v. Chris Daukaus (12-5-0)
DK Salaries: Rozenstruik ($8,700), Daukaus ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Rozenstruik (-170), Daukaus (+145)
Odds to Finish: -500
UFC 282 PICK: Rozenstruik
Edmen Shahbazyan (11-3-0) v. Dalcha Lungiambula (11-5-0)
DK Salaries: Shahbazyan ($9,400), Lungiambula ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Shahbazyan (-280), Lungiambula (+255)
Odds to Finish: -250
UFC 282 PICK: Shahbazyan
Billy Quarantillo (16-4-0) v. Alexander Hernandez (13-5-0)
DK Salaries: Quarantillo ($8,600), Hernandez ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Quarantillo (-165), Hernandez (+140)
Odds to Finish: +130
UFC 282 PICK: Hernandez
Note: All odds accurate as of time of posting, and taken from the DraftKings Sportsbook, if available, before searching elsewhere. Stay up to date for UFC 282 with more MMA betting content.
DraftKings MMA Scoring
Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.2 PTS
Control Time: +0.03 PTS/SECOND
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
Quick Win Bonus: +25 PTS
(fight is finished in 60 seconds or less)
- Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
- A Significant Strike will count as both a strike and a significant strike and will be worth a total of 0.4 Pts
- Control Time is the time spent in the dominant position on the ground or in the clinch. +0.03 points are awarded per second.
- A Knockdown is awarded to a fighter who knocks his/her opponent down due to debilitation for what the official scorers consider an appreciable amount of time.
- A Quick Win Bonus is awarded to the winning fighter if they win in the first round in 60 seconds or less.