DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 26 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 26 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

While a scheduled main event matchup between TJ Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen has been dropped from the card, UFC matchmakers have been able to scrap together a strong event with multiple long-time veterans of the sport.

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.

Moves Scoring
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)

Scoring Notes

  • 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 - Women's Flyweight

Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) v. Michelle Waterson (18-8-0)
DK Salaries: Rodriguez ($9,200), Waterson ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Rodriguez (-200), Waterson (+170)
Odds to Finish: +175

This was the expected main event for this card for a while, but it wasn't made official until Tuesday. 

Rodriguez is fresh off her best performance to date, a knockout win over Amanda Ribas this past January. It earned her a $50,000 Performance of The Night bonus in a fight in which most everyone expected her to lose. The Brazilian is 3-1-2 in her first half dozen UFC bouts. Rodriguez is very good on the feet, but struggles most everywhere else. Her movements are fairly mechanical, and her offense is one-dimensional. She hits harder than your average female fighter, but Rodriguez also turned 34 years of age last week, and it's difficult to see her adding new tricks to her arsenal at this point. Her success is entirely tied to the amount of volume she is landing in the striking game.

Waterson's UFC run has been a slight disappointment relative to initial expectations. Her 6-4 record is no better than fair, and Waterson has always had difficulty against better competition. Although she owns a black belt in karate, Michelle has proven to be far more effective on the mat than the feet. Waterson is very athletic and deceptively durable, but she is now 35 years old and there is real risk of this turning ugly quickly if her athleticism wanes even just a little bit. 

I have long maintained that the vast majority of Waterson's struggles are because she's undersized. She's a natural atomweight (105 pounds) and the UFC doesn't have an atomweight division. Waterson has been competing at strawweight with mixed results, and on Saturday she will be fighting at flyweight. So to recap, Waterson, who is best at 105 pounds and occasionally struggles at 115 pounds, will be fighting at 125 pounds against Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez owns a three-inch edge in both height and reach. Even though her grappling skills are limited, I expect her to appear to be twice Waterson's size on Saturday, and that could very well be enough to eliminate Michelle's entire offensive arsenal. I don't love Rodriguez long term, but the size different is far too much for me to ignore. I think she takes care of Waterson fairly easily.

THE PICK: Rodriguez
 

Co-Main Event - Welterweight

Neil Magny (24-9-0) v. Geoff Neal (13-3-0)
DK Salaries: Magny ($7,200), Neal ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Magny (+165), Neal (-190)
Odds to Finish: +100

These two were supposed to fight way back in August of last year before Neal withdrew due to pneumonia and was replaced by Robbie Lawler

A member of the UFC roster for well over eight years now, Magny could walk away tomorrow and his run would be considered a massive success. He's fought considerably better than his 17-7 record would lead you to believe. That said, Magny needs a bounce back effort on the heels of his unanimous decision main event loss to Michael Chiesa this past January. He hasn't lost two in a row since August-November 2013.

Neal won his first five UFC bouts and was pushed to a main event matchup with Stephen Thompson last December. He ended up being routed by Wonderboy from bell-to-bell, not winning a single round on any of the judges' scorecards. Neal relies on his power and striking to be successful, and Thompson is the worst possible matchup for any pure striker in the welterweight division. I'm willing to give Neal a pass for that one and expect a strong rebound effort here.

I do think there is a clear gap in physical skill and athleticism between the two. Neal possesses power and explosiveness that Magny cannot match, but Magny is one of the most dependable fighters in the sport. He always comes in in excellent shape and excels at tailoring his game plan to his opposition. When most fighters refuse to change their style of fighting, Magny will do whatever is necessary to win. 

None of this is enough for him to pick Magny outright, but I think he's a quality value play given his cheaper salary. He is competitive just about every single time he steps into the Octagon, and his $7200 salary opens up a lot of possibilities.

THE PICK: Neal
 

Women's Strawweight

Amanda Ribas (10-2-0) v. Angela Hill (13-9-0)
DK Salaries: Ribas ($8,800), Hill ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Ribas (-175), Hill (+155)
Odds to Finish: +125

There's room for immediate advancement in the 115-pound female division these days, and Ribas and Hill would appear to be in prime position to potentially take advantage of the opening. 

Hill is one of the most respected fighters in the sport. She will fight anyone at any time. She's been the victim of a couple bad judges' decisions over the years and that has negatively impacted her status with the company over the course of two separate runs. Her most recent fight was a dominant unanimous decision win over Ashley Yoder this past March. Hill is an exceptional kickboxer. Her technique is flawless, and she's tough as nails. It's volume over power, but she hits hard.

Ribas was due to face Michelle Waterson in late-January. Waterson withdrew and Marina Rodriguez stepped in late. Rodriguez went on to knock out Ribas in Round 2, putting the Brazilian in a tough spot entering this one. Ribas is a mat specialist by trade, but she's going to have to find a way to remain somewhat competitive for as long as this one remains standing or else Hill is going to blast her on her way to a decision victory. Ribas won her first four UFC fights prior to the Rodriguez bout, but three of the four came against subpar competition in Paige VanZant, Jessica Penne and Emily Whitmire. Her unanimous decision win over Mackenzie Dern does look pretty good right about now.

Nothing about these salaries and odds make the least bit of sense to me. Ribas remains a young, developing fighter and Hill is really good and extremely underrated. I like Hill so much in this matchup that I am picking her outright. 

THE PICK: Hill
 

LIGHTWEIGHT

Diego Ferreira (17-3-0) v. Gregor Gillespie (13-1-0)
DK Salaries: Ferreira ($7,300), Gillespie ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Ferreira (+155), Gillespie (-175)
Odds to Finish: +120

The UFC's 155-pound division is absolutely loaded and neither Ferreira or Gillespie, who have both been excellent of late, can afford a second straight defeat.

Gillespie won six straight fights to begin his UFC run before being knocked out by Kevin Lee in his most recent bout back in November 2019. He was due to face Brad Riddell this past March before COVID got in the way. Little was expected from Gillespie upon his arrival in the company, but his wrestling has put him firmly in lightweight contention. Gillespie averages a whopping 7.02 takedowns per 15 minute and connects on a very reasonable 47 percent of his tries. He can get lazy on the feet at times, but I think that's simply the result of a fighter who is used to spending most of his time inside the Octagon on the mat.

The only real concern regarding Ferreira is a lack of activity. He's 8-3 in the UFC, with the defeats coming against Beneil Dariush (twice, including via split decision in his most recent fight) and Dustin Poirier. Ferreira is a BJJ wizard with underrated striking skills. Like Gillespie, his striking will never be on par with his best skill, but Ferreira has shown enough to believe he can remain competitive in an extended kickboxing match. 

This fight should be getting talked about more than it is. I'm a big fan of both men and expect a competitive, back-and-forth affair. Ferreira's takedown defense is a reasonable 68 percent, but he hit the mat five times against Dariush in his past fight and three times against Dariush in the first fight between the two. Beneil is bigger and stronger than Gillespie, but Gregor is infinitely more accomplished when it comes to wrestling. I'm worried about Ferreira's ability to stay off his back. 

I would advocate sprinkling in Ferreira in some of your lineups because he has far too much talent to be just $7300, but I imagine Gillespie's wrestling wins out in the end. Ferreira isn't a finisher on the feet and that's by far the easiest way to inflict damage on Gillespie. 

THE PICK: Gillespie
 

OTHER FIGHTS

Welterweight
Donald Cerrone (36-15-0, 1NC) v. Alex Morono (18-7-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Cerrone ($8,400), Morono ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Cerrone (-165), Morono (+145)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Morono

Heavyweight
Maurice Greene (9-6-0) v. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (17-8-1)
DK Salaries: Greene ($7,100), Rogerio de Lima ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Greene (+165), Rogerio de Lima (-190)
Odds to Finish: -300
THE PICK: Rogerio de Lima 

Heavyweight
Ben Rothwell (38-13-0) v. Philipe Lins (14-5-0)
DK Salaries: Rothwell ($8,200), Lins ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Rothwell (-115), Lins (-105)
Odds to Finish: +110
THE PICK: Lins

Middleweight
Phil Hawes (10-2-0) v. Kyle Daukaus (10-1-0)
DK Salaries: Hawes ($7,900), Daukaus ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Hawes (+105), Daukaus (-125)
Odds to Finish: -200
THE PICK: Hawes

Featherweight
L'udovit Klein (17-2-0) v. Mike Trizano (9-1-0)
DK Salaries: Klein ($9,400), Trizano ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Klein (-250), Trizano (+210)
Odds to Finish: -125
THE PICK: Klein

Flyweight
Ryan Benoit (10-7-0) v. Zarrukh Adashev (3-3-0)
DK Salaries: Benoit ($8,700), Adashev ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Benoit (-140), Adashev (+120)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Benoit

Middleweight
Jun Yong Park (12-4-0) v. Tafon Nchukwi (5-0-0)
DK Salaries: Park ($7,700), Nchukwi ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Park (+120), Nchukwi (-140)
Odds to Finish: -125
THE PICK: Nchukwi

Welterweight
Christian Aguilera (14-7-0) v. Carlston Harris (15-4-0)
DK Salaries: Aguilera ($7,600), Harris ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Aguilera (+135), Harris (-155)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Harris 

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Jon Litterine plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: JLitterine.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon Litterine
Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.
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