This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
After a three-week layoff, it's time to get back to fights with a surprisingly intriguing card Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska.
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 six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
(Please note that DraftKings altered their scoring system in December 2016 to add a new fighter to the lineup and adjust scoring. The most recent point values are listed below.)
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 - LightweightJustin Gaethje (18-2-0) v. James Vick (13-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gaethje ($7,600), Vick ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Gaethje (+130), Vick (-150)
Odds to Finish: -425
Now three fights deep into his UFC run, Gaethje remains perfect in terms of taking home $50,000 Fight of the Night bonuses. Unfortunately, his record (1-2) isn't as strong. Although he won't turn 30 years old until November, Gaethje is a smart enough guy to see the writing on the wall. He knows that no man on earth can continue to absorb the punishment that he does on a fight-by-fight basis, and thus his biggest goal is to put on a great show every time out. So far, he has been able to do just that.
Riding a four-fight win streak and subbing for Al Iaquinta, Vick is sporting a 9-1 record since entering the UFC in August 2013 and he is doing all he can to insert himself into the title conversation. Checking in at 6-foot-3, Vick is taller than just about every 155-pounder on the roster and he excels at using his long limbs to his advantage. He can clamp on submission from disadvantageous positions and his striking has improved considerably over the past few years. Vick is tough, durable, and nearly always the bigger man when he fights, and Saturday will be no different.
It will be interesting to see if Vick grants Gaethje's wish of engaging in an all-out brawl. It would seem to be a foolish course of action given Vick's submission skills, but fights against The Highlight tend get out of hand very quickly.
Gaethje's disregard for his own well being makes him virtually impossible for me to pick against any quality opponent. He is a former Division I All-American wrestler, but he hasn't used those skills in years. Gaethje's ideal opponent these days is a guy with a questionable chin. In that case, he can just absorb punishment until he can wear the other guy down. Vick has been stopped by strikes just once in his career, so he won't be an easy out. Gaethje is probably the most entertaining fighter in the sport at the moment, and he is going to continue to earn high-profile bouts no matter the end result Saturday. I have enough faith in Vick's all-around ability to pick him apart. I also think Gaethje is trending in the wrong direction. Regardless of where you stand, DraftKings players should be targeting a piece of this five-round fight.
THE PICK: Vick
Co-Main Event - FeatherweightMichael Johnson (18-12-0) v. Andre Fili (18-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Johnson ($8,700), Fili ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Johnson (-140), Fili (+120)
Odds to Finish: +110
Riding a three-fight losing streak and sporting a 1-5 record in his last six fights dating back to August 2015, Johnson could conceivably be fighting for his job on Saturday. A lightweight for his entire 10-year career until January, "The Menace" debuted in the 145-pound division with a submission loss to Darren Elkins. Johnson is still plenty effective from an offensive perspective (4.13 significant strikes landed per minute), but his defense is as poor as ever and he refuses to adjust his game plan based on whom he is fighting. Johnson's loss to Gaethje last July was a perfect example of this. Johnson had Gaethje in trouble throughout the course of the fight, but he counted to engage in a reckless brawl and he finally got knocked out.
Fili has been up and down during his nearly five years with the company, but he is in the midst of back-to-back wins for the first time in his UFC career. While Johnson is a pure striker, Fili does a better job of varying his attacks. The 28-year-old averages nearly three (2.91) takedowns per 15 minutes despite the fact his takedown percentage is an abysmal 45 percent. Fili has little power to speak of (virtually all of his knockout wins came early in his career) and he is going to be at a distinct disadvantage if this turns into an extended kickboxing match.
This is a tough one to pick. Johnson has far more power and is the better athlete, but I have far more confidence in Fili and his Team Alpha Male cronies to construct a winning game plan. I'm giving Johnson one more chance because I'm guessing he is well aware he is likely to be unemployed if he loses this fight. I have little confidence in the selection or in Johnson's fight IQ. Fili is the much better DraftKings play as a surprisingly large underdog relative to the Vegas odds.
THE PICK: Johnson
Women's StrawweightCortney Casey (7-5-0) v. Angela Hill (8-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Casey ($7,700), Hill ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Casey (+110), Hill (-130)
Odds to Finish: +325
Casey is in for an injured Alexa Grasso on roughly a month's notice. Having last fought in April, Casey is coming off back-to-back split decision losses against a pair of tough customers in Michelle Waterson and Felic Herrig. Widely viewed as nothing more than roster depth when she joined the company in July 2015, Casey has performed far better than anyone could have expected in her three-plus year run despite her 3-5 record with the UFC. The 31-year-old has a solid all-around game and she isn't going to beat herself.
Hill is widely respected despite her mediocre record of (3-4) over two separate UFC runs. Angie's strength is her kickboxing. She's a pinpoint striker and excels at putting together combinations, but she has little finishing power. All three of her wins with the company have come via decision and she hasn't earned a stoppage victory in more than three and a half years.
Hill is the more fluid and more technical fighter and I think she has better cardio. Casey has the advantage of having faced better competition of late. Both women are durable. Fights like this are tricky because a lot of things can happen when two competitors seem likely to go the distance. I'm going to take Hill because of her striking skills, but Casey is a live underdog. She continues to show well against better competition.
THE PICK: Hill
FlyweightJohn Moraga (19-6-0) v. Deiveson Figueiredo (14-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Moraga ($7,800), Figueiredo ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Moraga (+125), Figueiredo (-145)
Odds to Finish: +160
This is an underrated fight, albeit one that will have no immediate impact on the UFC Flyweight Championship conversation.
A former title challenger in his own right, Moraga is coming off an extremely impressive decision win over Wilson Reis in April. A pro since 2009 and perennially underrated and underappreciated, Saturday will be Chicano John's 14th UFC bout. He has shown more good than bad during his run (8-5) but his inconsistent nature makes it difficult to trust Moraga in DK lineups. He doesn't have any true standout skill and he will turn 35 years old next March.
Undefeated as a pro and having earned two knockout wins in his first three UFC fights, Figueiredo has the considerably higher ceiling of the two. The Brazilian has a boatload of power in his hands despite checking in at just 5-foot-5. Moraga will be Figueiredo's most difficult task to date and it will be interesting to see how he attacks his veteran opponent.
Figueiredo should have the power and speed advantage, but Moraga is crafty enough to make his opposition pay if they make a mistake. The Brazilian is the pick given his immense physical gifts, but Moraga has some appeal as an underdog play given Figueiredo's inexperience against high-level competition.
THE PICK: Figueiredo
WelterweightJake Ellenberger (31-14-0) v. Bryan Barberena (13-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Ellenberger ($6,700), Barberena ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Ellenberger (+375), Barberena (-470)
Odds to Finish: -240
THE PICK: Barberena
MiddleweightEryk Anders (10-1-0) v. Tim Williams (15-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Anders ($9,700), Williams ($6,500)
Vegas Odds: Anders (-1000), Williams (+650)
Odds to Finish: -350
THE PICK: Anders
WelterweightJames Krause (23-8-0) v. Warlley Alves (13-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Krause ($6,900), Alves ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Krause (+550), Alves (-440)
Odds to Finish: -140
THE PICK: Alves
BantamweightCory Sandhagen (8-1-0) v. Iuri Alcantara (35-9-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Sandhagen ($9,000), Alcantara ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Sandhagen (-245), Alcantara (+205)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Alcantara
MiddleweightAndrew Sanchez (10-4-0) v. Markus Perez (10-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Sanchez ($8,000), Perez ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Sanchez (-110), Perez (-110)
Odds to Finish: +110
THE PICK: Sanchez
WelterweightMickey Gall (4-1-0) v. George Sullivan (17-6-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Gall ($9,200), Sullivan ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Gall (-320), Sullivan (+260)
Odds to Finish: -245
THE PICK: Gall
Women's FlyweightJoanne Calderwood (11-3-0) v. Kalindra Faria (18-7-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Calderwood ($8,800), Faria ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Calderwood (-170), Faria (+150)
Odds to Finish: +310
THE PICK: Calderwood
LightweightDrew Dober (19-8-0, 1NC) v. Jon Tuck (10-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dober ($8,900), Tuck ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Dober (-210), Tuck (+175)
Odds to Finish: +130
THE PICK: Dober
BantamweightRani Yahya (25-9-0, 1NC) v. Luke Sanders (13-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Yahya ($8,300), Sanders ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Yahya (-120), Sanders (+100)
Odds to Finish: -150
THE PICK: Sanders