This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
A former champion seeks redemption, and an up-and-comer seeks his first opportunity at UFC gold in the main event from Mexico City on Saturday night.
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 five fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
(Please note that DraftKings has altered their scoring system. The new point values are listed below and the rosters will now expand from 5 to 6 fighters).
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 – BantamweightRafael Dos Anjos (25-8-0) v. Tony Ferguson (22-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dos Anjos ($8,300), Ferguson ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Dos Anjos (-145), Ferguson (+125)
This fight figures to be one of the best matchups of the year. Dos Anjos is coming off his shocking KO loss at the hands of Eddie Alvarez in July – the one that cost him his UFC Lightweight Championship. RDA was so dominant prior to that fight that I am willing to label that loss, or at least the way it went down, a fluke. Dos Anjos has won 10 of his last 12 fights, with his only losses in that period coming against Alvarez and top contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. RDA has wins in that span over fighters such as Anthony Pettis, Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Evan Dunham, and Cowboy Cerrone (twice). The amount of top-tier fighters that Dos Anjos has defeated in the last three-plus years is insane. RDA is at the point in his career where his power and brute strength are his biggest assets. The Alvarez fight not withstanding, he appears to be faster on his feet than ever before, and he is making quicker decisions inside the cage. He is a dedicated, committed athlete and I am not worried in the least about the loss to Alvarez impacting his mindset moving forward.
Ferguson is currently riding an eight-fight winning streak, although his last performance, a second-round submission win over the debuting Lando Vannata in July, was far from his best effort. El Cucuy got hit far too much in that fight, and it appeared as if Vannata would end the fight with strikes on multiple occasions. Ferguson survived, but it was a poor performance in a fight in which he was a massive favorite. Ferguson is two inches taller and has a six-inch reach advantage on RDA, so it would be in his best interest to try to remain on the outside in any striking exchanges between the two men. Dos Anjos is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but I would give Ferguson the edge on the mat. I think his length advantage can make a big difference in that area.
I've gone back and forth repeatedly in regards to my pick for this fight. I would be far from surprised if either man won. It's easy to see why both the DK salaries and the Vegas odds are so close. In the end, I'm taking Dos Anjos because I was terrified from what I saw from Ferguson in the Vannata fight. If he leaves himself so exposed on the feet against RDA, he is going to get knocked out. This is an exceptional fight.
THE PICK: Dos Anjos
Co-Main Event – LightweightDiego Sanchez (28-9-0) v. Marcin Held (22-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Sanchez ($7,200), Held ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Sanchez (+230), Held (-270)
Few things in this world are as exciting as a Diego Sanchez fight, and virtually nothing in this world figures to be as exciting as a Diego Sanchez fight in Mexico. The 34-year-old Sanchez won Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter and has been around ever since. There have been ups and downs over the course of Sanchez's UFC career, the vast majority of which have been the result of his having no desire to change his style of fighting. Sanchez stands and slugs with every single opponent he faces. It has worked at times in the past, but as he has gotten older and his movements have slowed, he has predictably struggled. Diego is 2-4 in his last six fights dating back to almost exactly three years ago. Sanchez may literally be the toughest man on the planet, but he isn't a great athlete and that has become more and more noticeable as he has aged.
Held will be making his UFC debut on Saturday after a long, successful run in Bellator. He went 11-3 during his time with the organization, and two of the three losses came against current Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler and former Bellator Lightweight Champion Will Brooks, who has since signed with the UFC as well. Held's biggest strength is his submission game. 12 of his 22 career wins have come via tap out, compared to just four via KO/TKO. Any combinations that Held throws on the feet are simply in hopes of setting up his submission attempts. He isn't a particularly physical fighter, so getting into a wild, crazy slugfest with Sanchez is not the way to go here.
As long as Held doesn't get overwhelmed by the moment in his UFC debut, he should be fine here. He's the better athlete, a decade younger than Sanchez and has more ways to win a fight when considering where each fighter is at in their respective careers. You can never count Sanchez out because he has the heart of a warrior, but it's difficult to pick him against talented fighters later in his career.
THE PICK: Held
FeatherweightRicardo Lamas (16-5-0) v. Charles Oliveira (21-6-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Lamas ($8,100), Oliveira ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Lamas (-105), Oliveira (-115)
It's amazing that this fight has gotten virtually no press. Lamas is coming off a June loss to Max Holloway in which he was thoroughly dominated, particularly in the striking game. Lamas' performances against top competition have become a huge concern. He has just three losses in the past five-plus years, but they have come against Holloway, Chad Mendes, and Jose Aldo. A fighter isn't going anywhere in this promotion if they can't beat the top guys in their division. At age 34, Lamas cannot afford back-to-back losses. Lamas still shows flashes of the explosiveness that earned him a title shot against Aldo, but we are starting to see less and less of it as he gets older. His biggest asset at this point in his career is his wrestling game.
Much like Lamas, Oliveira has consistently struggled against top featherweights. The difference is that he is seven-years younger than his opponent. Oliveira has never had much power, but he's a great athlete, and he is as talented a submission specialist as there is in the UFC's 145-pound division. Oliveira's ceiling is immense, but I'm not entirely convinced that he will ever reach it. He doesn't have the power in his hands to keep his opponent's off balance on the feet, which is almost a requirement for any fighter at the top of any division.
Fights like this one and the main event are exciting because they are impossible to predict. Lamas' takedown ability would seem to play right into Oliveira's submission skills, but Lamas has always been good at tailoring his game plan to his opposition. Oliveira is younger and likely more physically gifted, but Lamas needs the win more. I think that's key in a close fight like this, and no one has been a bigger supporter of Oliveira over the years than I have.
THE PICK: Lamas
LightweightBeneil Dariush (13-2-0) v. Rashid Magomedov (19-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dariush ($7,800), Magomedov ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Dariush (+115), Magomedov (-135)
This card is full of quality, underrated fights, but this one might be right at the top of the list. Dariush has won six of his last seven fights, and his only setback during that period of time was a submission loss to the talented Michael Chiesa. Dariush has racked up wins over talented fighters like Michael Johnson and James Vick, and he is constantly improving each time he steps into the octagon. Dariush is known for his takedown ability and his submission game, so he is certainly aware that getting into a kickboxing match with Magomedov is a recipe for disaster.
Magomedov is 4-0 in the UFC. He has racked up three easy unanimous decision victories and one TKO stoppage win. A top-flight striker who relies on constant pressure on the feet, Magomedov trains with American Top Team in South Florida. It would have been encouraging to see Magomedov displaying more finishing ability on the feet in his previous fights, but that's my only complaint about his performances of late. This will be by far the biggest test of Magomedov's UFC career, so we should have a clearer picture on the long-term potential of the 31-year-old following the fight.
Dariush may have more ways to win a fight, but virtually all of them are based upon his ability to get a fight to the mat. That will be no easy task against an opponent in Magomedov who has exhibited elite takedown defense (82.3 percent) over the course of his UFC career. My pick of Magomedov is more the result of me being a huge believer in him as opposed to not thinking highly of Dariush. I would be shocked if this wasn't a close, competitive fight.
THE PICK: Magomedov
TUF: Latin America Lightweight FinalMartin Bravo (11-0-0) v. Claudio Puelles (8-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Bravo ($8,200), Puelles ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Bravo (-105), Puelles (-115)
THE PICK: Bravo
Women's StrawweightAlexa Grasso (8-0-0) v. Heather Jo Clark (7-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Grasso ($9,300), Clark ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Grasso (-500), Clark (+400)
THE PICK: Grasso
BantamweightErik Perez (16-6-0) v. Felipe Arantes (18-7-1, 2NC)
DraftKings Salaries:Perez ($8,700), Arantes ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Perez (-185), Arantes (+160)
THE PICK: Perez
BantamweightMarco Beltran (8-4-0) v. Joe Soto (16-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Beltran ($7,700), Soto ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Beltran (+105), Soto (-125)
THE PICK: Soto
WelterweightErick Montano (8-4-0) v. Max Griffin (12-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Montano ($7,400), Griffin ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Montano (+140), Griffin (-160)
THE PICK: Griffin
BantamweightHenry Briones (19-5-1) v. Douglas Silva de Andrade (23-1-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Briones ($7,600), Silva de Andrade ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Briones (+140), Silva de Andrade (-160)
THE PICK: Silva de Andrade
MiddleweightSam Alvey (28-8-0, 1NC) v. Alex Nicholson (7-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Alvey ($9,100), Nicholson ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Alvey (-200), Nicholson (+170)
THE PICK: Nicholson
LightweightMarco Polo Reyes (7-3-0) v. Jason Novelli (11-2-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Reyes ($8,900), Novelli ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Reyes (-175), Novelli (+155)
THE PICK: Reyes
FeatherweightEnrique Barzola (11-3-1) v. Chris Avila (5-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Barzola ($9,500), Avila ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Barzola (-600), Avila (+450)
THE PICK: Barzola