This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
$75,000 is up for grabs in this week's $8 MMA Hook, as the UFC makes their first trip to Atlantic City since the summer of 2014.
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 - LightweightEdson Barboza (19-5-0) v. Kevin Lee (16-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Barboza ($7,800), Lee ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Barboza (+125), Lee (-145)
Odds to Finish: -180
Barboza and Lee are both coming off losses and the depth of the UFC's lightweight division doesn't allow for any fighter to suffer back-to-back setbacks if they hope to remain in the title conversation in the coming months.
Barboza looked excellent in victories over Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez and Beneil Dariush before a meeting with UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov sent him crashing back down to earth in late December. The Brazilian's takedown defense is normally exceptional, but he allowed Khabib to easily drag him to the mat on four separate occasions, and Barboza was clearly broken and defeated by the time the final bell rang. It was one of the most lopsided 15-minute fights that you will ever see. That is due to Khabib's greatness as opposed to anything Barboza did wrong, but he can't afford another poor performance against Lee. All the things that make Barboza a great fighter: pressure, leg kicks, movement, disappeared against Nurmagomedov. I expect him to rebound in this one.
Lee fought Tony Ferguson for the Interim UFC Lightweight Championship in October and lost in Round 3 via submission. He did his fair share of damage prior to the stoppage and it certainly wasn't as poor of an effort as Barboza put forth against Khabib. Lee has a wrestling background and eight career wins via submission. He is also very powerful for a 155-pounder, although his striking is nowhere near as fluid as Barboza's. As good as Lee is, I never really got the sense he was a legitimate title contender. He won't turn 26 years old until September, so there remains room for growth.
As bad as the Khabib fight was for Barboza, and it was awful, his takedown defense still checks in at an excellent 83.3 percent. I'm assuming that performance was an aberration and he will get back to his winning ways against Lee. I don't see how Lee wins if he can't get to the fight to the mat and there's no way he is going to control Barboza like Nurmagomedov did. Khabib is the exception, not the rule. Lee may be the betting favorite with the higher DraftKings salary, but I think the Brazilian gets back to pressuring the opposition and pulls out a win.
THE PICK: Barboza
Co-Main Event - FeatherweightFrankie Edgar (21-6-1) v. Cub Swanson (25-8-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Edgar ($9,000), Swanson ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Edgar (-230), Swanson (+190)
Odds to Finish: +225
Coming off the first stoppage loss of his career less than six weeks ago, Edgar gets right back at it on Saturday. Frankie and Swanson fought in November 2014, a fight Edgar won via submission in the fifth round with a neck crank. This will be a three-round fight.
Edgar's loss to Brian Ortega in early March was shocking. Sure, Ortega is young and extremely talented, but Frankie has proven to be one of the most durable men in the sport and there was no reason whatsoever to believe that Edgar would be knocked out. Until I see otherwise, I'm willing to chalk it up as a fluke more than anything else.
Swanson's last fight was in December, also against Ortega, and it also resulted in a loss. Cub has been prone to the submission over the course of his career and T-City got him with a guillotine choke. Swanson is as aggressive as ever on the feet and there is zero chance, at age 34, that he will ever change his style of fighting. It has served him well in the past for the most part, but Swanson isn't quite on the level of the top fighters in the division.
As long as Edgar's chin doesn't become an ongoing concern, he should win this fight. Frankie possesses the speed and footwork to counter Swanson's aggressiveness. He also is going to have a significant advantage on the mat. Cub would be smart to blitz Edgar early in hopes of scoring a quick knockout. It's unlikely to materialize, but so is Swanson outpointing Frankie over the course of 15 minutes.
THE PICK: Edgar
MiddleweightDavid Branch (21-4-0) v. Thiago Santos (17-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Branch ($7,300), Santos ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Branch (+190), Santos (-230)
Odds to Finish: -195
This right here is good, quality matchmaking. Santos is in the midst of a four-fight winning streak. All four victories have come via knockout and a two of the four resulted in the Brazilian earning a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. Santos is 8-2 in his last ten fights dating back to early 2015. None of this comes as a surprise. Santos is what he is – a guy with insane, fight-ending power that will struggle to win if he isn't consistently landing big shots on the feet. He never wrestles and he will be in trouble if this fight ends up on the mat.
Branch is coming of a disappointing loss to Luke Rockhold in December. Disappointing in the fact that despite entering as a significant underdog, Branch was doing very well prior to the stoppage in Round 2. A jiu-jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, Branch is the former WSOF (now PFL) Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Champion. While Santos prefers to strike, Branch prefers to grapple. He's a solid wrestler, sporting seven career wins via submission. He doesn't get hit all that much for a guy that turned 36 years old in September, and he has shown no signs of slowing down despite his advanced age.
Branch winning this fight is entirely dependent on him avoiding combinations for Santos. He can eat a power shot here and there, but if Branch has to absorb four and five in a row over and over, he's toast. The odds and DraftKings salaries for this fight were quite shocking. As hot as Santos has been of late, Branch is a darn good fighter and proficient in a multitude of areas. This was an easy pick for me given the payout if Branch pulls the upset.
THE PICK: Branch
BantamweightAljamain Sterling (14-3-0) v. Brett Johns (15-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Sterling ($8,100), Johns ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Sterling (-105), Johns (-115)
Odds to Finish: +175
Sterling and Johns are two exceptional wrestlers, and the winner of this one will likely be the man that does more than his opponent on the feet.
Coming off a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Marlon Moraes in December, Sterling had very little choice other than to accept this fight that is going to do little for him even if he wins. Johns is a talented opponent, but he is far from a household name and that makes this a risky spot for The Funk Master. Sterling is better than his 6-3 record with the company would indicate. The Serra/Longo product is aggressive and moves well inside the octagon. Knowing he is facing a man that does little other than wrestle, it will be interesting to see if Sterling mixes up his attack to maximize the damage he can do in the striking game.
Undefeated as a professional, the 26-year-old Johns has run off three straight victories to begin his UFC career, although facing Sterling is quite a step up from being in there against Joe Soto, Albert Morales, and Kwan Ho Kwak. Johns has scored with 14 takedowns in those three bouts, although 11 of them came against Kwak alone. I'm very interested in seeing how Johns looks against a legitimate top-ten bantamweight in Sterling.
My advice is to avoid this fight from a DraftKings perspective, regardless of who you think will win. The unknown factor regarding Johns remains high and Sterling hasn't exactly been a picture of consistency throughout his career. I'm going to take Johns' theoretical upside over what we have seen from Sterling of late, but it's close.
THE PICK: Johns
Light HeavyweightCorey Anderson (10-4-0) v. Patrick Cummins (10-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Anderson ($8,300), Cummins ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Anderson (-120), Cummins (+100)
Odds to Finish: +170
Anderson and Cummins are a group of about a half dozen or so light heavyweights that always seem to fight each other and no one else. They all win a few fights here and there, then lose a few here and there, and nothing ever gets accomplished.
We'll begin with Anderson since he is the one riding a 2-fight losing streak and potentially fighting for his job. 25/8 (I refuse to call him 'Overtime') has suffered back-to-back knockouts at the hands of Ovince Saint Preux and Jimi Manuwa. Anderson is 3-3 in his last six fights and the three victories came against Sean O'Connell, Tom Lawlor, and Fabio Maldonado. That's not exactly a murder's row of opposition. Anderson's biggest strength is his wrestling but when you dig deeper into the numbers you begin to realize that he isn't even very good in that area. Sure, he averages north of four takedowns per fight (4.4), but his takedown accuracy (48 percent) is lousy and his takedown defense (33 percent) is even worse. The later number is a huge problem against a former two-time Division I All-American wrestler.
Cummins figures to lean on the takedown early and often and I expect him to have success with it. He should have very little trouble keeping Anderson to the mat if he is able to get him there. Cummins remains stupidly strong for a 37-year-old man. His cardio would charitably be termed as "average" and he gets hit far too much on the feet, but his grappling is legitimate.
I have more confidence in Cummins than Anderson to construct and execute a smart game plan. I've been burned by Durkin more times than I can count, but I simply (and never have) don't see the fascination surrounding Anderson. Sure, he won a season of The Ultimate Fighter, but that means virtually nothing in today's day and age. Maybe Anderson gets a boost because he realizes he might be fighting for his job, but I haven't liked what I have seen from him for quite a while and there's little guarantee it gets better moving forward.
THE PICK: Cummins
HeavyweightJustin Willis (6-1-0) v. Chase Sherman (11-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Willis ($9,300), Sherman ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Willis (-350), Sherman (+290)
Odds to Finish: -230
THE PICK: Willis
LightweightJim Miller (28-11-0, 1NC) v. Dan Hooker (16-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Miller ($7,000), Hooker ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Miller (+285), Hooker (-345)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Hooker
WelterweightRyan LaFlare (13-2-0) v. Alex Garcia (15-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: LaFlare ($8,600), Garcia ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: LaFlare (-145), Garcia (+125)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: LaFlare
FlyweightMagomed Bibulatov (14-1-0) v. Ulka Sasaki (20-5-2)
DraftKings Salaries: Bibulatov ($9,400), Sasaki ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: DBibulatov (-340), Sasaki (+280)
Odds to Finish: +115
THE PICK: Lombard
WelterweightSiyar Bahadurzada (23-6-1) v. Luan Chagas (15-2-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Bahadurzada ($8,200), Chagas ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Bahadurzada (-110), Chagas (-110)
Odds to Finish: -270
THE PICK: Chagas
Women's BantamweightLeslie Smith (10-7-1) v. Aspen Ladd (6-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Smith ($7,700), Ladd ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Smith (+125), Ladd (-145)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Smith
BantamweightMerab Dvalishvili (7-3-0) v. Ricky Simon (10-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dvalishvili ($7,500), Simon ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Dvalishvili (+150), Simon (-170)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Simon
WelterweightTony Martin (12-4-0) v. Keita Nakamura (33-8-2, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Martin ($8,800), Nakamura ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Martin (-230), Nakamura (+190)
Odds to Finish: +185
THE PICK: Martin