This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
It's a historic moment for the UFC, as it will be celebrating a brand new ESPN deal with several key names being featured on the ESPN+ platform. To further add to the intrigue, the trend of fighters looking to be two-division champions will continue in Saturday's main event.
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 - Flyweight Championship(C) Henry Cejudo (13-2-0) v. (Bantamweight C) T.J. Dillashaw (16-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cejudo ($7,300), Dillashaw ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Cejudo (+175), Dillashaw (-210)
Odds to Finish: +105
With long-time division king Demetrious Johnson off to ONE FC in the Ben Askren trade, many of the flyweights on the UFC roster will be either released or reassigned to bantamweight. It's entirely possible a victory by Dillashaw on Saturday could spell the end of the UFC's 125-pound division.
Cejudo's first (and maybe only) defense of his championship won't be an easy one. The former Olympic gold medalist fought a near-perfect fight in taking the belt from Johnson via split decision in August. Cejudo did what many people (myself included) thought was impossible, and that was outpointing Mighty Mouse over the course of 25 minutes. While his wrestling skills are obviously world-class, Henry's striking game has improve by leaps and bounds. He still doesn't have much finishing power, but he has shown an ability to keep opponents honest on the feet and that is all he needs to create openings for scoring takedowns. Cejudo announced in November that he signed a new six-fight contract with the UFC. Given his past weight cutting issues, he would probably welcome a full-time move back up to 135 pounds. It's conceivable that this is the end of the flyweight division no matter who wins this fight.
Dillashaw makes out pretty well here. He gets to keep his bantamweight belt, and gets opportunity to fight for a second piece of gold. TJ is coming off his second-straight TKO win over Cody Garbrandt in August. That fight took place on the same card as Cejudo/Johnson. Dillashaw's hand and foot speed overwhelmed the challenger. TJ has a ton of power for a guy his size and he excels at putting together combinations. Dillashaw is also an elite wrestler and his game truly has no weaknesses. TJ has legitimately developed into one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
TJ is more than two inches taller and has a three-inch reach advantage. More importantly, his career takedown defense is an exceptional 86 percent. Granted, trying to stuff takedown attempts from Cejudo is a different animal entirely, but Dillashaw has proven he is adept at staying off of his back and he should have a massive advantage on the feet. I think any Cejudo victory would almost certainly have to come via decision. I'd term the chances of him outpointing Dillashaw over 25 minutes small, but I never thought he could do it against Johnson and he showed otherwise. It could happen again, but I'd bet against it. Cejudo's underdog value is entirely tied up in the fact that a fighter of his ability should rarely cost this little. That price tag also tells you all you need to know about how good T.J. is.
THE PICK: Dillashaw
Co-Main Event - LightweightYancy Medeiros (15-5-0, 1NC) v. Gregor Gillespie (12-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Medeiros ($6,800), Gillespie ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Medeiros (+405), Gillespie (-510)
Odds to Finish: -245
A knockout loss to Cerrone last February aside, Medeiros has turned himself into a solid asset for the UFC. The 31-year-old is 6-3 in his last nine fights and has displayed an ability to fight in multiple weight classes. The loss to Cowboy came at welterweight, while this fight will take place at 155 pounds. Yancy is a brawler. He is most comfortably in an all-out war. He's willing to eat shots in order to land them and that's not a recipe for success when you start going up against better competition. Medeiros is better than I originally gave him credit for, but I think it's more likely than not that we have already seen the best he has to offer.
Gillespie, on the other hand, continues to take advantage of his opportunity. The former Ring of Combat lightweight champion remains undefeated as a professional (5-0 in the UFC) and he has earned stoppage wins in his last four fights. A former four-time Division I All-American wrestler at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, Gillespie is now training with Keith Trimble and the crew at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy on Long Island. That has helped him compile a ridiculous 7.01 takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC. I'm not comparing Gregor to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov or anything like that, but he does have that unique ability to drag guys to the mat from seemingly any position.
Medeiros's takedown defense throughout his time with the company is an excellent 83 percent, but the next guy to consistently stave off Gillespie's attempts will be the first. I'm all-in on Gregor's long-term potential and I think he secures the biggest win of his young career on Saturday.
THE PICK: Gillespie
Light HeavyweightGlover Teixeira (27-7-0) v. Karl Roberson (7-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Teixeira ($8,300), Roberson ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Teixeira (-130), Roberson (+110)
Odds to Finish: -275
Having alternated wins and losses in his last six fights and coming off a dreadful performance in which he dropped a unanimous decision to Corey Anderson in July, this is essentially last call for the 39-year-old Teixeira. After that loss, Glover was then scheduled to fight Jimi Manuwa in September prior to withdrawing due to injury. Teixeira will still show flashes of his trademark power now and then, but those shots that were landing with regularity during the early portion of his career are now few and far between. Glover is strong and keeps himself in good shape, but he doesn't move all that well anymore and he has difficulty with athletic opponents. I'm not optimistic that things will turn around for him.
Roberson is in for Ion Cutelaba on roughly a week's notice. "Baby K" is coming off a unanimous decision victory in a hard-fought bout against Jack Marshman in November. Roberson, a former kickboxer, moves well and has some pop in his hands. Teixeira will be by far the toughest test of his young career, and I'm interested to see how he handles the step up in competition. I wouldn't call Roberson an elite prospect, but I think he's worth keeping an eye on.
Teixeira is clearly trending in the wrong direction and is having difficulty winning fights unless he lands a big shot that leads to a knockout, but I'm still picking him to win here. The main reason is simply the fact we haven't seen Roberson defeat anyone of note yet. Marshman is tough as nails, but he is the furthest thing from a "technical fighter" that you will ever see. I was planning on picking Cutelaba to beat Glover, so this last-minute opponent change might be a blessing in disguise for Teixiera. We'll see if Roberson can come through with a short training camp in a big spot.
THE PICK: Teixeira
LightweightDonald Cerrone (34-11-0) v. Alexander Hernandez (10-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cerrone ($7,600), Hernandez ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Cerrone (+165), Hernandez (-190)
Odds to Finish: -195
Never one to back down from a fight, Cerrone will take on a young, rising start in Hernandez in hopes of making one final push into the lightweight title picture. "Cowboy" was 1-4 in his previous five fights prior to a first-round submission win (armbar) over Mike Perry in November. Cerrone's biggest issue of late has been the fact he is getting hit more than ever, and he managed to shockingly avoid that in the Perry fight. It was a strong effort, but I'm not convinced he's over the hump just yet. I also don't think fighting twice in nine weeks is a great idea for a 35-year-old, but that's Cerrone. His activity is one of the reasons he is amongst the most popular fighters on the UFC roster.
Hernandez was scheduled to face Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 233 later this month before the UFC's inability to find fights for this cards forced them to move everything around. He made his UFC debut on short notice in March and he promptly knocked out Beneil Dariush in 42 seconds. He then went out and steamrolled Olivier Aubin-Mercier in a unanimous decision victory in July. It's early, but Hernandez has superstar potential. He has displayed power, excellent cardio, and the ability to score takedowns. Combine all that with the fact he turned just 26 years old in April and the future is extremely bright for Hernandez.
Cerrone is far too good to term him a "Gatekeeper" at this point in his career, but this has the feel of the grizzled veteran being fed to the up-and-coming lion. On the flip side, Cerrone is four inches taller and knows every trick in the book. This is a clear cut pick 'em for me. It's the experience of Cowboy against the youth and athleticism of Hernandez. I'm actually going to take Cerrone in an upset, but I acknowledge that Hernandez has the skill set to potentially run him out of Barclay's. Regardless of who you think will win, Cowboy makes a ton of sense as a DraftKings value play.
THE PICK: Cerrone
Greg Hardy (2-0-0) v. Allen Crowder (9-3-0)
DK Salaries: Hardy ($9,500), Crowder ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Hardy (-510), Crowder (+405)
Odds to Finish: -900
THE PICK: Hardy
Joseph Benavidez (26-5-0) v. Dustin Ortiz (19-7-0)
DK Salaries: Benavidez ($9,00), Ortiz ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Benavidez (-235), Ortiz (+195)
Odds to Finish: +190
THE PICK: Benavidez
Paige VanZant (7-4-0) v. Rachael Ostovich (4-4-0)
DK Salaries: VanZant ($8,400), Ostovich ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: VanZant (-155), Ostovich (+135)
Odds to Finish: +150
THE PICK: Ostovich
Joanne Calderwood (12-3-0) v. Ariane Lipski (11-3-0)
DK Salaries: Calderwood ($7,400), Lipski ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Calderwood (+175), Lipski (-210)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Lipski
Alonzo Menifield (7-0-0) v. Vinicius Castro (9-1-0)
DK Salaries: Menifield ($9,100), Castro ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Menifield (-260), Castro (+220)
Odds to Finish: -170
THE PICK: Menifield
Cory Sandhagen (9-1-0) v. Mario Bautista (6-0-0)
DK Salaries: Sandhagen ($9,300), Bautista ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Sandhagen (-485), Bautista (+385)
Odds to Finish: -185
THE PICK: Sandhagen
Dennis Bermudez (17-9-0) v. Te Edwards (6-2-0)
DK Salaries: Bermudez ($8,000), Edwards ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Bermudez (+115), Edwards (-135)
Odds to Finish: -150
THE PICK: Bermudez
Belal Muhammad (14-2-0) v. Geoff Neal (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Muhammad ($7,700), Neal ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Muhammad (+155), Neal (-175)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Muhammad
Chance Recountre (12-3-0) v. Kyle Stewart (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Recountre ($7,500), Stewart ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Recountre (+165), Stewart (-215)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Stewart