This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The UFC hit ratings gold Saturday night and will look to keep that momentum alive with a main card showcasing heavyweights Saturday in Kansas on ESPN+.
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 - HeavyweightJunior Dos Santos (20-5-0) v. Derrick Lewis (21-6-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Dos Santos ($9,400), Lewis ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Dos Santos (-220), Lewis (+180)
Odds to Finish: -320
Dos Santos, off a knockout win (Tai Tuivasa), and Lewis, off a submission loss (Daniel Cormier), get a chance to thrust themselves right back into the title picture when they meet in the main event of the UFC's first ever visit to the state of Kansas. Considering how badly Lewis just got smoked by the champion DC, this fight would appear to be more important to dos Santos. Even if Lewis wins, no one will be clamoring to see him and Cormier again any time soon.
JDS's victory over Tuivasa was an interesting one. His striking looked as good as ever, and while he still was getting hit a bit too much for my liking, his chin held up. Dos Santos's last three losses have all come via knockout. He's in excellent shape for a 35-year-old, and I have few concerns about him moving forward outside of his durability. Of course, Lewis isn't the guy you want to be in there against if your chin is starting to fade. I definitely think that this fight will tell us more about where JDS's future potential than the Tuivasa bout did.
Lewis was predictably overwhelmed by Cormier at Madison Square Garden in November and he actually made out pretty well for a fight in which he essentially no-showed. In addition to the bundle of cash he undoubtedly made, Lewis got a new contract with the company afterwards and since no one thought he had any chance of winning, his reputation didn't take a hit. All in all, not a bad night at the office. Considering he is a one-dimensional power puncher with no gas tank to speak of, it's a minor miracle that "The Black Beast" is 12-4 in 16 fights with the company. He's fought a ton since his UFC debut roughly four years ago, and he's done so lately despite a lingering back issue.
Lewis is fun to watch and entertaining as hell on social media, but it's abundantly clear that he isn't as good as Cormier, or Cain Velasquez, or Stipe Miocic or whatever other top heavyweight you want to name. Now that doesn't mean he can't beat them because his power gives him a chance in every single fight he is in, but more often then not, he is going to come up on the short end of the stick if he doesn't score an early knockout. He's an immensely attractive DraftKings play here when you combine the thunder in his hands with JDS's questionable chin, but chances are he loses if this fight lasts more than a few minutes. I'd use Lewis in my lineups without hesitation but refuse to pick him outright.
THE PICK: dos Santos
Co-Main Event - WelterweightElizeu Zaleski dos Santos (20-5-0) v. Curtis Millender (17-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Zaleski dos Santos ($8,000), Millender ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Zaleski dos Santos (+105), Millender (-125)
Odds to Finish: +130
This is a well-deserved opportunity for two guys who have combined to win 15 in a row to get a co-main event spotlight on a solid card.
Millender has won nine fights in a row, including his first three with the UFC. The competition hasn't been great (Siyar Bahadurzada, Max Griffin, Thiago Alves), but the 31-year-old has displayed a quality skill set in his brief time with the company. Millender is a fantastic athlete with some pop in his hands. He has six career wins via knockout and his cardio is strong. There are some concerns about his submission defense and his ability to stay off of his back (his takedown defense is a poor 57 percent according to FightMetric) but he has a good, strong frame for the division at 6-foot-3 and there's a lot to like about his game.
Zaleski dos Santos continues to get better and better each time out. He has won six straight, including back-to-back highlight reel knockouts of Luigi Vendramini and Sean Strickland. Like his opponent, the Brazilian does his best work on the feet. ZDS can mix in a submission attempt here and there, but that's not really his game, either. What Zaleski dos Santos (5-foot-11) gives up in size, he makes up for in quickness. He gets in and out of his combinations before his opposition can return fire.
For a pair of guys who throw a ton of strikes and hit hard, neither man has ever been knocked out. The man who's chin betrays him is likely to be the one who comes up with the short end of the stick on this one. In a fight which appears to be close across the board, I'll take the man that offers the slightly better payoff and that's ZDS.
THE PICK: Zaleski dos Santos
HeavyweightBen Rothwell (36-10-0) v. Blagoy Ivanov (16-2-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Rothwell ($7,800), Ivanov ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Rothwell (+110), Ivanov (-130)
Odds to Finish: -140
When this fight was announced in early-January, I literally forgot that Rothwell was still employed by the UFC. That's what happens when a guy spends nearly three years on the sidelines. Rothwell's last fight came against headliner Junior dos Santos (a loss) on April 10, 2016. Since then, "Big Ben" was withdrew from a fight against Fabricio Werdum due to an injury and then was suspended two years by the USADA due to a failed drug test. Rothwell just became eligible to fight again in early- February, and that my friends, is how you get to nearly three years on the sidelines. In all seriousness though, I have no idea what to expect from Ben. He's now 37 years old and the time away figures to be a serious issue moving forward.
Ivanov, a former WSOF (now PFL) Heavyweight Champion, made his UFC debut in July in a main event spot and lost to dos Santos via unanimous decision. Ivanov looked solid enough in taking one of the better heavyweights in the world the distance in a five-round fight. Ivanov is fairly young (32), has respectable power, a respectable submission game, and most important for a heavyweight, is durable. Ivanov has never been knocked out in his professional career in a division in which guys seemingly go down every other time out. Ivanov's story is well known. He nearly died after being stabbed outside of a bar in Bulgaria in 2012, but he managed to pull through despite seemingly impossible odds. Given his background, it's no surprise that no one has been able to finish him inside the cage.
I would avoid this fight at all costs. Rothwell is the ultimate unknown considering how long he's been away. Common sense says to take Ivanov given Ben's hiatus, and that's what I'm going to do, but Rothwell looked pretty darn good in his last few fights before he left us. This one could end in a variety of different ways.
THE PICK: Ivanov
LightweightBeneil Dariush (15-4-1) v. Drew Dober (20-8-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Dariush ($9,000), Dober ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Dariush (-185), Dober (+160)
Odds to Finish: +120
Traditionally a slow starter, Dariush did more than enough to take an easy unanimous decision from overmatched newcomer Thiago Moises in November. The victory snapped a brief three-fight winless (0-2-1) streak for Dariush. Beneil is an above-average 155-pounder who has always come up short in the biggest fights of his career. He has plenty of quality wins (James Vick, Rashid Magomedov, Michael Johnson, Jim Miller) on his resume, but that one career-defining win has always eluded him. The 29-year-old has a respectable all-around game despite not excelling in any one area.
Dober is a striking specialist who is in the midst of the first three-fight winning streak of his UFC career. The former two-time Amateur World Muay Thai Champion wins with volume and placement, as opposed to raw power. Dober also has nine career wins via submission, although that number is misleading given the fact that virtually all of those victories came early in his career against nobodies. Dober has always been a guy who has struggled to put all his massive physical gifts together, but it appears as if he is finally on the right path.
As I mentioned earlier, one of Dariush's biggest problems is that is tends to take him a while to get going in a fight. If that takes place in this one, he's probably going to lose. Dober tends to come out extremely aggressively and push the pace. I'm interested in Dober as an underdog and I much prefer him to Dariush in my DK lineup, but it's probably going to take a mistake from Beneil (like a slow start) for Dober to emerge victorious. It could happen.
THE PICK: Dariush
Tim Means (28-10-1) v. Niko Price (12-2-0)
DK Salaries: Means ($8,800), Price ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Means (-190), Price (+165)
Odds to Finish: -230
THE PICK: Means
Tim Boetsch (21-12-0) v. Omari Akhmedov (17-4-1)
DK Salaries: Boetsch ($7,700), Akhmedov ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Boetsch (+115), Akhmedov (-135)
Odds to Finish: -185
THE PICK: Akhmedov
Anthony Rocco Martin (15-4-0) v. Sergio Moraes (14-3-1)
DK Salaries: Martin ($9,200), Moraes ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Martin (-190), Moraes (+165)
Odds to Finish: -145
THE PICK: Martin
Marion Reneau (9-4-1) v. Yana Kunitskaya (11-4-0)
DK Salaries: Reneau ($7,300), Kunitskaya ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Reneau (+155), Kunitskaya (-175)
Odds to Finish: +165
THE PICK: Reneau
Grant Dawson (12-1-0) v. Julian Erosa (22-6-0)
DK Salaries: Dawson ($8,700), Erosa ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Dawson (-170), Erosa (+150)
Odds to Finish: -245
THE PICK: Dawson
Maurice Greene (6-2-0) v. Jeff Hughes (10-1-0)
DK Salaries: Greene ($6,900), Hughes ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Greene (+175), Hughes (-210)
Odds to Finish: -110
THE PICK: Hughes
Louis Smolka (15-5-0) v. Matt Schnell (12-4-0)
DK Salaries: Smolka ($8,300), Schnell ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Smolka (-115), Schnell (-105)
Odds to Finish: -110
THE PICK: Schnell
Alex Morono (15-5-0) v. Zak Ottow (17-6-0)
DK Salaries: Morono ($9,100), Ottow ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Morono (-185), Ottow (+160)
Odds to Finish: +150
THE PICK: Moron
Alex White (12-5-0) v. Dan Moret (13-4-0)
DK Salaries: White ($8,600), Moret ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: White (-155), Moret (+135)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: White