This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Saturday's main event is a smart bit of booking by the company and the winner here -- especially if it happens impressively -- would seem to be in line for a title-implicating fight his next time out.
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 $100,000 top prize in the UFC 246 special. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
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 - Lightweight
Kevin Lee (18-5-0) v. Charles Oliveira (28-8-0)
DK Salaries: Lee ($8,300), Oliveira ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Lee (-145), Oliveira (+125)
Odds to Finish: -460
The winner of six fights in a row -- all by stoppage -- Oliveira continues to roll through anyone put in his way. The BJJ wizard has suddenly found some power in his hands. "Do Bronx" has won back-to-back bouts (Jared Gordon, Nik Lentz) via knockout. Prior to that, Oliveira's last KO win came way back in February 2010. This sudden injection of power at age 30 feels a bit fluky, but even the threat of power strikes from Oliveira will keep his opposition off balance given how good he is on the mat. As good as the Brazilian has been over the years, his downfall is the fact he has generally struggled against high-level competition. Oliveira's eight career losses have come against Paul Felder, Ricardo Lamas, Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller. Pettis, Miller and Swanson were considered some of the very best fighters in the sport at the time those bouts took place.
Following a brief, unsuccessful foray into the welterweight division, Lee returned to 155 pounds in November and knocked out Gregor Gillespie with a beautifully placed head kick. It was on the short list for Knockout of the Year in 2019 and immediately put Lee back in the hunt at lightweight. Lee has always been a much better wrestler than striker, so it will be interesting to see if he attempts to get Oliveira to the mat. The Brazilian is brilliant off of his back, so Lee will have to ensure his positioning on the ground is impeccable at all times. Lee's cardio has also been questioned. That concern never materialized itself against Gillespie because the fight ended in under three minutes, but this fight is scheduled for five rounds and I'm curious to see Lee's conditioning if it gets that far.
This fight is close, probably closer than the odds would lead you to believe. It's essentially a pick 'em for me. I went back and forth but eventually settled on Oliveira for two reasons. First, the payoff for using him is a bit better. Second, I feel just a tad more comfortable betting on the consistency of Oliveira. Lee might be a more physically gifted fighter, but he's also been up and down. This one is close enough that it might be a good idea to get a piece of both fighters if you're the type to make multiple lineups.
THE PICK: Oliveira
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
Demian Maia (28-9-0) v. Gilbert Burns (17-3-0)
DK Salaries: Maia ($7,200), Burns ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Maia (+160), Burns (-185)
Odds to Finish: +155
Left for dead in May 2018 following three-straight setbacks to arguably the three best fighters in the welterweight division (Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, Tyron Woodley), Maia has since run off three-straight wins. Ben Askren, Anthony Rocco Martin and Lyman Good are all good/excellent opponents, and Maia handled each without issue. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by any of this. While not on the same tier as the top 170-pounder's on the UFC roster, Maia has long been one of the sport's better welterweights. Maia is legitimately one of the most decorated ground specialists in the history of the sport, and he retains the ability to grind unprepared or unqualified opponents into dust.
He's gone about it quietly, but Burns deserves this opportunity. The winner of four in a row, Burns is 6-1 in his past seven fights dating back to September 2017, and his one loss during that time period came against top contender Dan Hooker. Burns spent the vast majority of his UFC run at lightweight before moving up to welterweight last August. Burns had difficulty with the cut down to 155 pounds and looks far bigger and fresher at 170 pounds. "Durinho" is a second-degree BJJ black belt in his own right, but he has to do whatever is necessary to keep this fight standing. He has a big power edge over Maia, and should be in good shape if this fight isn't contested on the mat.
Maia is so dangerous from his back that I expect Burns to abandon his wrestling game. That's a shame given the fact he averages 2.43 takedowns per 15 minutes worth of action, but probably a smart move. If Maia gets this thing to the mat, then all bets are off.
I'm all over Maia at his price tag and although I'm not picking him to win outright, I think he's clearly the better DraftKings play. Maia has an elite world-class skill and those type of guys rarely check in at $7200. It won't be an easy task, however. Burns is just now finally getting the recognition he deserves. If he rolls through Maia his stock will go through the roof. I think he wins a tight one.
THE PICK: Burns
Johnny Walker (17-4-0) v. Nikita Krylov (26-7-0)
DK Salaries: Walker ($8,600), Krylov ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Walker (-145), Krylov (+125)
Odds to Finish: -560
Walker, in all likelihood, would have been challenging Jon Jones for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship had he gotten by Corey Anderson in November at Madison Square Garden. Instead, he was knocked out in 127 seconds by a fighter who hadn't won a stoppage via strikes in nearly three years. Now he has to defeat Krylov just to stay on the fringes of the title conversation at 205 pounds. Prior to the Anderson loss, Walker had racked up three straight first-round knockout victories. He earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus for each of them. The concern was how he would fare if he didn't land that one big strike. Truth is, we never really got to see his all-around game in the Anderson fight because he never got in a rhythm. One thing we did see is a poor chin. Walker has now been knocked out in three of his four losses and that's a major concern moving forward for a guy who does his offensive work on the feet.
Krylov has alternated wins and losses in his past three bouts. His most recent fight was a split-decision setback to Glover Teixeira in September. Shockingly, it was the first fight in Krylov's seven-plus year career that went to the judge's scorecards. Other than a couple highlight reel submission wins, Krylov has looked like an up-and-down fighter throughout two stints with the company. He's solid on the mat and generally durable, but his submission defense isn't great and he would likely have a difficult time making an impact if he was in a division that featured more depth. It's been one step forward, two steps back for Krylov for quite some time, and I think that will continue.
This fight on the whole doesn't do a ton for me, but I am interested in seeing how Walker bounces back from the Anderson loss. Did he come in overconfident? Or did he just get beat? If he comes out and starches Krylov like he did his previous three opponents, he will find himself right back in potential title-implicating fights. He probably isn't as good as many were making him out to be, but that doesn't mean he can't beat Krylov, who is just too inconsistent for my liking.
THE PICK: Walker
Amanda Ribas (8-1-0) v. Randa Markos (10-8-1)
DK Salaries: Ribas ($9,300), Markos ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Ribas (-325), Markos (+265)
Odds to Finish: +250
This was originally scheduled to be Ribas v. Paige VanZant, but the perpetually-injured PVZ was forced to withdraw and Markos stepped into replace her. I don't expect the opponent change to effect either woman given the fact Markos accepted this bout more than six weeks before the scheduled event.
Ribas is coming off an easy unanimous decision win over another popular young fighter in Mackenzie Dern. Ribas entered that fight as a baffling +175 underdog. I picked her to win outright because I thought she had both the hand and foot speed to give Dern problems on the feet, and that turned out to be exactly the case. Ribas wins with placement in the striking game. She is also a solid wrestler. Ribas averages 2.71 takedowns per 15 minutes, while Markos' takedown defense is just 57 percent. Ribas should have a significant athleticism advantage in addition to possessing the better and more creative all-around offensive arsenal.
In one of the most baffling statistics I have ever come across in this sport, not counting her draw against Marina Rodriguez in September 2018, Markos has alternated wins and losses in her past 14 fights dating back to January 2014. If that holds true, Markos is in trouble on Saturday, because she is coming off a split-decision victory over Ashley Yoder last October. Markos is limited athletically and gets by on grit and determination. She's tough, but she has literally no power to speak of (zero career knockout wins) and I find it difficult to believe her next half dozen fights will go better than the previous half dozen.
Ribas came through for me last time and I'm doubling down on her again. Markos really struggles to generate consistent offense and I expect that to continue against an opponent who can end a fight in multiple ways. Markos may see the final bell due to both her durability and her experience against high-level competition, but I don't think she wins.
THE PICK: Ribas
Renato Moicano (13-3-1) v. Damir Hadzovic (13-5-0)
DK Salaries: Moicano ($9,400), Hadzovic ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Moicano (-320), Hadzovic (+260)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Moicano
Francisco Trinaldo (24-7-0) v. John Makdessi (17-6-0)
DK Salaries: Trinaldo ($8,900), Makdessi ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Trinaldo (-165), Makdessi (+145)
Odds to Finish: +180
THE PICK: Trinaldo
Jussier Formiga (23-6-0) v. Brandon Moreno (16-5-1)
DK Salaries: Formiga ($8,800), Moreno ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Formiga (-165), Moreno (+145)
Odds to Finish: +205
THE PICK: Formiga
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (21-6-0) v. Aleksei Kunchenko (20-1-0)
DK Salaries: Zaleski dos Santos ($8,400), Kunchenko ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Zaleski dos Santos (-130), Kunchenko (+110)
Odds to Finish: +130
THE PICK: Kunchenko
Rani Yahya (26-10-0, 1NC) v. Enrique Barzola (17-5-1)
DK Salaries: Yahya ($7,500), Barzola ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Yahya (+155), Barzola (-175)
Odds to Finish: +140
THE PICK: Barzola
Mayra Bueno Silva (6-0-0) v. Maryna Moroz (9-3-0)
DK Salaries: Silva ($8,500), Moroz ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Silva (-130), Moroz (+110)
Odds to Finish: +240
THE PICK: Silva
Bruno Silva (10-4-1) v. David Dvorak (17-3-0)
DK Salaries: Silva ($8,200), Dvorak ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Silva (-120), Dvorak (+100)
Odds to Finish: -180
THE PICK: Dvorak
Veronica Macedo (6-3-1) v. Bea Malecki (3-0-0)
DK Salaries: Macedo ($9,100), Malecki ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Macedo (-175), Malecki (+155)
Odds to Finish: -195
THE PICK: Macedo