This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
One of the UFC's rising stars in Derrick Lewis must get through heavyweight gatekeeper Mark Hunt in order to continue his ascension up the rankings. Lewis is a heavy hitter with the power to take down Hunt, but the experienced "Super Samoan" has been known to withstand a lot of punishment when faced with a striker. These heavyweights will duke it out for the win this Saturday in Auckland, New Zealand.
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 - HeavyweightDerrick Lewis (18-4-0, 1NC) v. Mark Hunt (12-11-1, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Lewis ($8,200), Hunt ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Lewis (-135), Hunt (+115)
Odds to Finish: -675
Anyone who is expecting a technical masterpiece here is going to end up disappointed. Lewis is the winner of six straight fights, with five of them coming via KO. You know exactly what you are going to get from "The Black Beast": a lot of swinging for the fences and little else. Lewis entered the UFC as an afterthought nearly three years ago, but he has since earned wins over names such as Roy Nelson, Travis Browne, and Gabriel Gonzaga. A five-round fight is technically a detriment to Lewis, who probably needs to cut weight to get to the 265-pound heavyweight limit. The odds of him ever seeing the final bell, however, are slim to none. He has shown no interest in furthering the other aspects of his game, because to this point, he hasn't really needed to. I don't think this fight will be any different.
Hunt has lost two in a row, although the first one, his UFC 200 setback against Brock Lesnar, was later changed to a no contest (he's actually in the midst of a lawsuit against the UFC for their handling of Lesnar's drug testing, making an awkward situation here for both parties). Long known as one of the more durable men in the sport, Hunt's chin has slowly evaporated with age. He has been knocked out three times in his last nine fights and has never had the foot speed to land consistently while standing up. The "Super Samoan" continues to look for big shots on the feet, and despite a decent takedown defense of 67 percent, he doesn't have other major skills to fall back on. Hunt, at age 43, might consider retirement if he's handed another bad loss here.
Lewis is going to land -- the question is how many of those bombs can Hunt eat. I think both men could be decent DraftKings plays because of the "odds to finish" marks, but daily fantasy players risk a small scoring output if they elect the fighter on the losing end of the early stoppage, and that can be detrimental to a lineup. If you think Hunt has a shot to win (I personally do not), then a case can be made that he is worth inserting into your lineup because the odds of this fight lasting 25 minutes are miniscule. You may be able to use Hunt to differiante yourself in a GPP, though his name recognition might limit the overall benefit. The safer pick, as indicated by early betting odds, is the younger Lewis.
THE PICK: Lewis
Co-Main Event - MiddleweightDerek Brunson (16-5-0) v. Daniel Kelly (13-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Brunson ($9,000), Kelly ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Brunson (-280), Kelly (+240)
Odds to Finish: -145
Let's start with Brunson. He has lost two fights in a row following a five-fight winning streak, but there have been positives during the brief skid. He looked fantastic early on in his November fight with top contender Robert Whittaker before getting crazy on the feet and getting knocked out. Brunson then dropped a split decision to Anderson Silva in February in a fight that, at least in my eyes, he clearly won. Brunson is an explosive athlete who has shown no sign of slowing down at age 33. He needs to learn how to pace himself better, but Kelly is a guy who tends to fight at a slower pace. That should help Brunson considerably.
Kelly's UFC run has been a rousing, surprising success. A four-time Olympian in judo, Kelly has won six of seven UFC fights including a decision victory over Rashad Evans in March. His striking is a bit rough, but he's tough as nails and seems to know his limitations. He isn't going to overwhelm anyone at age 39, so it's imperative that he fights smart if he is going to compete against top competition. This appears to be a poor matchup for Kelly. He has no chance to match the speed and movement of Brunson and I think he is going to have a difficult time defending himself on the feet.
Now, if Brunson decides to fight foolishly like he did in the Whittaker fight, all bets are off. Kelly is talented enough and experienced enough to make you pay for your mistakes, but I think it will take an error from Brunson for him to win the fight. It isn't impossible, but I would deem it unlikely to happen.
THE PICK: Brunson
FlyweightTim Elliott (15-7-1) v. Ben Nguyen (16-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Elliott ($8,700), Nguyen ( $7,500)
Vegas Odds: Elliott (-210), Nguyen (+175)
Odds to Finish: +145
This was supposed to be Nguyen v. Joseph Benavidez, but Joe B had to withdraw after suffering a torn ACL. It makes Nguyen's job slightly easier, although not by much. Elliott has looked sensational since winning Season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter. He gave pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson all he could handle in their title fight and he was very impressive in his most recent unanimous decision win over Louis Smolka in April. Elliott's entire offensive game is based around his wrestling. He has averaged 4.4 takedowns per fight over the course of his UFC career and he has a unique ability to control body position on the mat. Elliott never should have been cut in the first place a couple of years ago. The 30-year-old clearly posesses the skills necessary to stick around with the promotion.
Nguyen is a natural bantamweight who has competed at flyweight since his 2015 UFC debut. He's been impressive at times, but he isn't on the level of the top fighters in the division. Nguyen's striking is solid, but Elliott is hard to hit because he spends so much time keeping his opposition pinned to the mat. Nguyen's career takedown defense during his UFC career is 66 percent. Not a bad number, but Elliott has the ability to finish takedowns even when his technique isn't perfect. If Nguyen can't manage to stay off of his back, he's done.
I've always been a big fan of Elliott, but his style of fighting isn't always visually pleasing. He tends to grind out a lot of decisions and while DraftKings has placed an increased emphasis on grappling, quick finishes remain the ultimate goal for owners. Nguyen is a solid fighter, but Elliott is better.
THE PICK: Elliott
LightweightDan Hooker (14-7-0) v. Ross Pearson (21-13-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Hooker ($8,300), Pearson ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Hooker (-145), Pearson (+125)
Odds to Finish: +120
Hooker and Pearson both have the same issue - they get hit too much. While Pearson takes hits as the result of his brawling style, Hooker gets lazy on the feet at times. They are a combined 2-6 in their last eight fights (Pearson has lost three straight), so both men are in desperate need of a victory.
I see little separating the two men. Pearson has the distinct advantage of having fought in bigger fights over the course of his career. That counts for something when you're trying to break down a close fight. Hooker's biggest advantage is the fact that he is from Auckland. He hasn't fought in his home country since his UFC debut in June 2014. I wonder if Pearson will try and mix in a takedown here and there. He isn't a bad wrestler, but he refuses to attempt to incorporate that skill into his game.
The only reason that I'm picking Hooker is because I have more confidence in him than Pearson to not get into a total brawl. In other words, I think Hooker has the willingness to tinker his game plan if needed. It's probably best to avoid this fight. It's an awkward one to try to predict.
THE PICK: Hooker
Light HeavyweightIon Cutelaba (12-3-0, 1NC) v. Henrique da Silva (12-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cutelaba ($8,900), Silva ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Cutelaba (-310), Silva (+255)
Odds to Finish: -160
THE PICK: Cutelaba
FeatherweightAlexander Volkanovski (14-1-0) v. Mizuto Hirota (19-7-2)
DraftKings Salaries: Volkanovski ($9,300), Hirota ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Volkanovski (-470), Hirota (+375)
Odds to Finish: +115
THE PICK: Volkanovski
LightweightDamien Brown (17-9-0) v. Vinc Pichel (9-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Brown ($8,400), Pichel ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Brown (-125), Pichel (+105)
Odds to Finish: -120
THE PICK: Brown
WelterweightLuke Jumeau (11-3-0) v. Dominique Steele (14-8-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Jumeau ($7,700), Steele ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Jumeau (+125), Steele (-145)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Jumeau
FlyweightJohn Moraga (16-6-0) v. Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Moraga ($9,200), Mokhtarian ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Moraga (-165), Mokhtarian (+145)
Odds to Finish: -120
THE PICK: Moraga
WelterweightKiichi Kunimoto (18-6-2, 1NC) v. Zak Ottow (14-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Kunimoto ($7,100), Ottow ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Kunimoto (+285), Ottow (-345)
Odds to Finish: -105
THE PICK: Ottow
Women's StrawweightJJ Aldrich (4-2-0) v. Chan-Mi Jeon (5-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Aldrich ($8,600), Jeon ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Aldrich (-220), Jeon (+180)
Odds to Finish: +140
THE PICK: Aldrich
LightweightDong Hyun Kim (14-8-3) v. Thibault Gouti (11-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Kim ($8,800), Gouti ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Kim (-115), Gouti (-105)
Odds to Finish: -135
THE PICK: Gouti