This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
A miracle last-second knockout and the lack of a suitable main event for a card at "The World's Most Famous Arena" has set up a fight that wasn't on the radar of anyone (the fighters, UFC officials, fans, etc.) as recently as three weeks ago.
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 - Heavyweight Championship(C) Daniel Cormier (21-1-0, 1NC) v. Derrick Lewis (21-5-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Cormier ($9,600), Lewis ($6,600)
Vegas Odds: Cormier (-700), Lewis (+500)
Odds to Finish: -1300
Lewis was 11 seconds from a surefire decision loss to Alexander Volkov at UFC 229 less than a month ago, but he landed one of his signature right hands late, earned a stoppage win, and will now get a title shot as a reward. Lewis has developed into one of the most popular and entertaining fighters on the roster. He's a one-dimensional knockout artist with atrocious cardio and zero desire to toe the company line. He fights for the fun of it and a paycheck. It's a style that has endeared him to countless fans. A five-round fight (against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters the sport has ever seen) is basically a worst-case scenario for the "Black Beast", but the thunder in Lewis's hands gives him a chance in every single bout he competes in. He had no business seeing the final bell against Volkov, let alone winning.
DC is the current UFC Heavyweight Champion and Light Heavyweight Champion, although current plans call for him to vacate the latter so it can be contested in a rematch between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 next month. The only two losses of Cormier's career came against Jones (one was later changed to a no-contest after Jones failed his post-fight drug test) and Jones and Gustafsson have been the only two men to give DC a competitive fight. In other words, Lewis has a long road ahead of him on Saturday. Cormier is in exceptional shape for a 39-year-old, and he has already stated on numerous occasions that he plans on retiring in the near future. Everyone assumed his next fight would come against a returning Brock Lesnar, but as I mentioned earlier, this fight came together exceptionally quickly.
The fact Lewis isn't going to have a full camp for this fight means absolutely nothing because an unlimited amount of training wouldn't help him in the least. He's going to come out swinging for the bleachers with the intention of knocking Cormier out. It's not impossible (look what happened to Volkov), but DC is tough, durable (he's never been officially finished), and incredibly well-rounded. His grappling is so far ahead of Lewis's that I don't see how Lewis ever gets back to his feet if DC plants him on his back. The odds and DraftKings salaries for this fight seem about right. Lewis has only one way to win and DC is far too smart to put himself in position to get knocked out. Volkov fought foolishly late and paid for it. I don't see Cormier doing the same.
THE PICK: Cormier
Co-Main Event - MiddleweightChris Weidman (14-3-0) v. Jacare Souza (25-6-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Weidman ($8,500), Souza ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Weidman (-160), Souza (+140)
Odds to Finish: -150
A minor injury to former UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold forced multiple fights on this card to be reshuffled, and as a result, we will now get Weidman v. Jacare in the co-main event.
Weidman is on record as saying that he will receive a title shot if he wins on Saturday. It's possible, but he is 1-3 in his last four fights (although the victory was an impressive triumph over Kelvin Gastelum and the losses were mired in controversy). Also of note is the fact he has dealt with countless injuries of late. Weidman is looking at nearly 16 months on the sidelines by the time he steps into the Octagon for this one. It's an extended layoff and Jacare is an entirely different type of opponent than Rockhold. Weidman should have the advantage on the feet against Souza. What Weidman is giving up in brute strength, he should more than be able to make up for with a six-inch reach advantage.
Jacare was scheduled to fight David Branch before the Rockhold injury. It was an interesting matchup, though Souza has to be pleased with the change given Weidman's notoriety. Jacare has fought better than his 3-3 record in his last six fights would lead you to believe. Set to turn 39 years old next month, Souza remains one of the better 185 pounders on the planet. He is still in peak physical condition and his ground game is still world class. The issue for Souza is that he is getting hit on the feet at a greater clip than ever before. He's tough, fairly durable, and a great grappler. That's all well and good, but it's impossible to defeat elite competition if you spend an entire fighting serving as a punching bag for your opposition.
It will be fascinating to see how this fight unfolds. We all know Weidman's biggest strength if his wrestling, but allowing Jacare to operate on the mat, even from the bottom, is a potential recipe for disaster. Chris would be better served trying to turn this into a kickboxing match, and then going for takedowns here and there to keep the Brazilian honest. As long as his injuries are fully healed, I think Weidman wins a competitive fight. If not, Jacare has more than enough left in the tank to pull the upset as a slight underdog. Jacare makes for a reasonable DraftKings play for any owners looking for value.
THE PICK: Weidman
MiddleweightDavid Branch (21-4-0) v. Jared Cannonier (10-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Branch ($9,300), Cannonier ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Branch (-360), Cannonier (+300)
Odds to Finish: -125
While Weidman and Jacare make out just fine in this reshuffling (they both still get to fight an elite opponent in a high-profile position), Branch is the big loser in all of this. His new opponent, Cannonier, is closer to being released than he is to impacting the title conversation in any division.
I was undecided in regards to who I was picking in the Branch v. Jacare fight. Despite turning 37 years old in September, Branch is in the midst of arguably the most successful streak of his career. He is 12-1 in his last 13 fights dating back to November 2012, and his lone setback in that span came against Rockhold in a fight where Branch was in full control before being stopped in the second round. He rebounded with a KO win over Thiago Santos in April. Branch is a big, physical fighter with an underrated ground game. He is going to have the advantage over Cannonier on the feet . Having spent a good portion of his career at light heavyweight, Branch is massive for the 185-pound division.
A loser of two fights in a row, Cannonier tries to get back into the win column Saturday. The 33-year-old won two of his first three bouts with the company before dropping three of his last four. Cannonier, who spent most of his career fighting at heavyweight, will be making his middleweight debut. No one expects Cannonier to win and even if he does lose, the UFC will almost certainly give him another fight since he was willing to take this one on short notice.
Branch is in a tough spot here. He has to win and do so impressively in order to get a top guy his next time out. I like his chances of pulling it off, but he's facing an opponent he had very little time to prepare for in a fight in which there's a ton of pressure on his shoulders. Cannonier doesn't interest me in the least despite his miniscule salary. He simply isn't very good.
THE PICK: Branch
MiddleweightKarl Roberson (6-1-0) v. Jack Marshman (22-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Roberson ($8,700), Marshman ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Roberson (-270), Marshman (+230)
Odds to Finish: -205
This is a strange fight to put on the main card of a Pay-Per-View. Roberson is a reasonable prospect, but he is already 29 years old and is coming off a first-round submission loss to Cezar Ferreira in May. He's athletic and moves fairly well, but there's nothing in Roberson's background that screams future star.
Marshman has alternated wins and losses in his first four UFC bouts. His wins came over nobodies (Ryan Janes, Magnus Cedenblad), and his losses came against a pair of talented opponents in Antonio Carlos Junior and Thiago Santos. Marshman's overall talent level reflects a fighter who should be battling in the opening card of an international event, not the main card of a PPV at Madison Square Garden. Marshman gets by on grit and determination and little else.
Roberson is the pick given his athleticism edge and Marshman's lack of overall skills, but this is a bout that I would avoid at all costs if possible. It's a strange matchup in a strange position on the card with a seemingly large range of potential outcomes.
THE PICK: Roberson
MiddleweightDerek Brunson (18-6-0) v. Israel Adesanya (14-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Brunson ($7,100), Adesanya ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Brunson (+260), Adesanya (-320)
Odds to Finish: -225
Brunson's 2-3 record in his last five fights is nothing to write home about, but a closer look reveals a different story. Brunson had UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker in massive trouble in November 2016 before gassing out and allowing Whittaker to take control of the fight. He also clearly defeated Anderson Silva less than eight weeks later, but the judge's awarded Anderson a joke of a unanimous-decision victory. Brunson then scored back-to-back knockout wins over Dan Kelly and Lyoto Machida before being knocked out himself in the first round by Jacare last January. Brunson is a freak athlete with the ability to go from 0-to-60 in the blink of an eye. He has a ton of power but tends to fight too emotionally at times.
A former member of the Glory roster, Adesanya finished his pro kickboxing career with a record of 57-5. His unorthodox style of striking is unlike anything we have seen in the world of MMA in recent memory. Adesanya has 12 career knockouts in 14 pro MMA fights, with his two decisions victories coming in his two most recent bouts. Israel has a long, lean frame, and as one would expect given his background, he throws a ton of kicks. While Brunson relies on power, Adesanya relies on combinations and placement. His ceiling is ridiculously high, but he's inexperienced, and Brunson is by far the best opponent he has ever faced.
It's easy to see why Adesanya is favored. His style of fighting is extraordinarily unique and virtually impossible to train for. Opponents simply can't find sparring partners who can do the things inside the cage that Adesanya does. That being said, I'm picking Brunson in an upset. I feel he's being slightly underrated because of the Jacare result and I think he's definitely the more explosive fighter, especially in short spurts. A three-round fight favors Brunson. A five-round fight would favor Adesanya. Brunson's fight IQ isn't the greatest, but he has immense physical gifts.
THE PICK: Brunson
FeatherweightJason Knight (20-5-0) v. Jordan Rinaldi (13-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Knight ($8,800), Rinaldi ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Knight (-260), Rinaldi (+220)
Odds to Finish: -140
THE PICK: Knight
Women's FlyweightSijara Eubanks (4-2-0) v. Roxanne Modafferi (22-15-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Eubanks ($9,400), Modafferi ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Eubanks (-475), Modafferi (+380)
Odds to Finish: +225
THE PICK: Eubanks
FeatherweightJulio Arce (15-2-0) v. Sheymon Moraes (10-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Arce ($9,200), Moraes ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Arce (-325), Moraes (+275)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Arce
WelterweightLyman Good (19-4-0, 1NC) v. Ben Saunders (22-10-2)
DK Salaries: Good ($9,500), Saunders ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Good (-600), Saunders (+450)
Odds to Finish: -350
THE PICK: Good
LightweightMatt Frevola (6-0-0) v. Lando Vannata (9-3-1)
DK Salaries: Frevola ($7,300), Vannata ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Frevola (+250), Vannata (-300)
Odds to Finish: -215
THE PICK: Vannata
FeatherweightShane Burgos (10-1-0) v. Kurt Holobaugh (17-5-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Burgos ($9,000), Holobaugh ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Burgos (-310), Holobaugh (+255)
Odds to Finish: -165
THE PICK: Burgos
BantamweightBrian Kelleher (19-9-0) v. Montel Jackson (6-0-0)
DK Salaries: Kelleher ($7,900), Jackson ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Kelleher (+110), Jackson (-130)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Kelleher
Light HeavyweightAdam Wieczorek (10-1-0) v. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (15-6-1)
DK Salaries: Wieczorek ($8,600), Rogerio de Lima ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Wieczorek (-220), Rogerio de Lima (+180)
Odds to Finish: -365
THE PICK: Wieczorek
Odds last updated Oct. 31 at 5:00 PM ET.