This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The UFC returns to Las Vegas on Saturday with an action-packed card that is hopeful to establish a new light heavyweight contender.
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 $400k MMA Throwdown with $100k to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 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.
Main Event - Light Heavyweight
An injury to Reyes forced this fight to be pushed back about two months.
Reyes fought Jon Jones for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in February 2020 and likely deserved to win that fight. Instead, Jones was awarded the unanimous decision. Reyes received a reprieve and second shot at gold when Jones vacated his belt shortly thereafter, but was knocked out by Jan Blachowicz last September. I picked Reyes in that fight and was supremely confident about it, but he looked nothing like the guy who pushed Jones to the limit earlier in the year. He wasn't landing consistently on the feet and his striking defense was awful. The question now is whether that was an aberration or a sign of things to come.
A former Rizin Light Heavyweight Champion, Prochazka signed with the UFC in January 2020 and made his company debut last July, knocking out Volkan Oezdemir early in Round 2. Prochazka has won 11 fights in a row, with 10 of them coming via knockout. Eight of the ten came in Round 1 (although some came after the five-minute mark due to the different rules Rizin employs). Regardless, Prochzaka's power is elite and it was on full display against Volkan.
Although he struggled offensively against Blachowicz, I'm more worried about Reyes defensively. He's talented enough that I think the combinations and offensive output will be there, but I have no idea if his chin will hold up. I've long underrated the stopping power of Blachowicz, but I think it's quite clear he can't match Prochazka in that area. That's bad news for Reyes if he's trending in the wrong direction.
Everything seems about right here in terms of odds and salaries. There is no real reason to think Reyes' skills are on the decline, but I'm worried after watching the Blachowicz fight. Worried enough that I'm taking Prochazka here. I'd advocate getting a piece of this in one form or another. I have a difficult time seeing lasting five rounds, especially with Prochazka involved.
THE PICK: Prochazka
Co-Main Event - Featherweight
Seemingly on the verge of being released following a four-fight losing streak from December 2017 to May 2019, Swanson has rebounded with back-to-back wins over Kron Gracie (unanimous decision) and Daniel Pineda (knockout). Cub has been one of the top featherweights in the world for more than a decade and a half. He made his professional debut way back in July 2004 and has fought, among others, Frankie Edgar, Brian Ortega, Max Holloway, Jeremy Stephens, Chad Mendes, Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira, Jose Aldo and Jens Pulver. The issue for Swanson at this point is that his aggressive, straight-ahead style is the type that generally ages poorly. He'll be 38 years old in early November, and both his hand and foot speed have understandably slowed in recent years.
Chikadze has taken an unconventional path to this point. He actually lost on Dana White's Contender Series back in June of 2018, but has gone on to win seven straight since, including his first five in the UFC. The main concern regarding Chikadze is that he has never fought anyone of note. Those five victories came against Jamey Simmons, Omar Morales, Irwin Rivera, Jamall Emmers and Brandon Davis. Two (Davis, Emmers) were via split decision and only his most recent win over Simmons (knockout) was a stoppage. Swanson, even at his advanced age, is miles better than anyone Chikadze has seen to date.
The main allure surrounding Chikadze is his size. It's rare to find a featherweight that stands six-foot. Cub is big for the division and fights physically, but Chikadze has him by four inches in both the height and reach department. While the size is intriguing, all of Chikadze's advanced numbers are fairly mediocre. He lands just 3.45 significant strikes per minute, averages 0.38 takedowns per 15 minutes, and offers little on the mat. In short, I don't see what all the fuss is about. I think he's a solid fighter, but unlikely to become more than that.
Everything about both the DK salaries and Vegas odds here has me baffled. Chikadze, as I mentioned, has never fought anyone of note and has never looked all that great when we have seen him. Cub is clearly not what he once was, but he has nearly gone up against as many current or former champions as Chikadze has total fights. I see more than another potential value here to roll with Swanson as an underdog.
THE PICK: Swanson
A motorcycle accident that took place in December 2018 cost Strickland more than two years worth of action. He returned this past Halloween and defeated Brendan Allen (TKO) and Jack Marshman (unanimous decision) in a span of 14 days. Strickland has long been one of the best middleweights that no one ever talks about. He has lost just three times in his UFC career and those defeats came against current UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, Santiago Ponzinibbio and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. Strickland turned just 30 years of age this past February despite all the time missed.
Jotko has been up and down in his UFC run, posting a more than reasonable 9-4 record, but with the caveat he has defeated lesser fighters and struggled when the competition level rises. Jotko has won three straight overall. He's pretty good on the feet and offers very little on the mat, but Jotko has had difficulty finishing his opposition. He averages just 2.98 significant strikes landed per minute, and that's not going to get the job done if that's your greatest attribute.
The question for me here is whether or not Jotko can up his output on the feet. And if he can, will he be able to avoid what Strickland is sending back his way? Both are legitimate concerns and more than enough to consider fading Jotko.
I imagine this fight will be fairly competitive, but I think Strickland has more power and I trust his durability just a bit more. The fact he was able to come out firing after such a long time away is a big plus. Jotko is far too up and down to trust in any big spot, despite his cheap salary.
THE PICK: Strickland
This fight was scheduled and fell apart twice within the last several months.
The most dominant wrestler in the bantamweight division, Dvalishvili has landed 54 takedowns over his first seven UFC bouts. He's averaging 7.71 takedowns per 15 minutes and has had fights in which he landed 13 (Gustavo Lopez), 12 (Casey Kenney) and 11 (Frankie Saenz) attempts. Merab's aggressiveness and pace are ridiculous, and the next opponent to remain upright against him will be the first.
Stamann is no easy mark, however, as he defends the takedown at an excellent 80 percent clip. Cody is a big, strong guy and former collegiate wrestler, but we are yet to see an opponent who can effectively limit Dvalishvili's shots. Stamann has some power but has yet to earn a stoppage victory in the UFC. He's going to have to find a way to effectively damage Merab in the striking game, because he's going to have a difficult time getting back to his feet if Dvalishvili drags him to the mat.
As impressive as Merab has been, I have concerns. The very best 135-pounder's on the planet are going to force him to do something other than wrestle. His striking is probably better than most people think, but I doubt Dvalishvili is going to beat high-end competition if he's forced into a kickboxing match. It might not be an issue here, but it's something to keep an eye on down the road.
Merab looks a tad overpriced to these eyes, but it's impossible to argue with the recent results. I like Stamann and think he's better than he has shown, but I don't like him enough to go against a guy with 54 successful takedowns in his past seven fights. I hope this fight does stay standing for a bit because I'm interested in seeing how Dvalishvili fares. I think he wins regardless.
THE PICK: Dvalishvili
Loma Lookboonmee (5-2-0) v. Sam Hughes (5-2-0)
DK Salaries: Lookboonmee ($9,400), Hughes ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Lookboonmee (-370), Hughes (+310)
Odds to Finish: +185
THE PICK: Lookboonmee
Andreas Michailidis (12-4-0) v. K.B. Bhullar (8-1-0)
DK Salaries: Michailidis ($9,100), Bhullar ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Michailidis (-250), Bhullar (+210)
Odds to Finish: -210
THE PICK: Michailidis