This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Two light heavyweights will look to fight their way back into title contention Saturday in the Czech Republic in a card that will be broadcast on ESPN+.
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 - Light HeavyweightJan Blachowicz (23-7-0) v. Thiago Santos (20-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Blachowicz ($7,700), Santos ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Blachowicz (-110), Santos (-110)
Odds to Finish: -425
Although we are less than two months into 2019, Blachowicz will easily go down as one of 2019's most unlikely main event headliners. The 36-year-old (the day after the event) was in the midst of a 1-4 stretch from April 2015 to April 2017 and seemingly on the verge of being released. He then ran off four straight victories, including an impressive arm-triangle submission of a returning Nikita Krylov in September. I have never been particularly high on Blachowicz and I'm still not, but I acknowledge that he is probably a bit more talented than I originally gave him credit for. He has fairly average skills across the board, and he is durable. In a division where virtually no man has been able to gain separation, that is enough to put Blachowicz in the title conversation.
Santos has some of the craziest power in the division. He is 35 years old and does nothing else all that well, but there's zero doubt he can turn your lights out in an instant. The Brazilian is 7-1 in his last eight bouts, and he has knocked out Eryk Anders and Jimi Manuwa in his two fights since moving up to light heavyweight. Santos has the height (6-foot-2) and frame to succeed in the higher weight class. He kind of got lost in the shuffle at middleweight and it's scary to think he at one time fought as low as welterweight.
The concerns regarding Santos are that he is a one-dimensional power puncher and his defense can be suspect at times. I'm not entirely convinced that Blachowicz has the arsenal to take advantage of Santos's shortcomings, but Thiago will have to pick his spots carefully. I'm going with the athleticism of Santos over the durability of Blachowicz, but I acknowledge this is a pick 'em that could go either way. I'm picking Santos to win, but Blachowicz is the better DraftKings play given the shocking discrepancy in salaries relative to the Vegas odds.
THE PICK: Santos
HeavyweightMarcos Rogerio de Lima (16-5-1) v. Stefan Struve (28-11-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Rogerio de Lima ($8,400), Struve ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Rogerio de Lima (-130), Struve (+110)
Odds to Finish: -270
My apologies in advance if this is more of a rant than a breakdown, but I see zero reason for the UFC to continue to run Struve out there. Now 30 years old and without a win in well over two years, Struve enters Saturday's bout on a three-fight losing streak. Still having displayed zero idea how to use his massive height to his advantage, Struve appears to be just about done. He never seems to have fully recovered from the heart issue he suffered in 2013.
De Lima hasn't been a picture of recent success in his own right. The Brazilian has alternated wins and losses in his last seven bouts and he failed to make weight in his final two fights at light heavyweight. De Lima has lots of power and no gas tank. The terrible cardio is going to be a serious issue moving forward, but it doesn't take much to beat Struve these days. If de Lima floors it from the moment the opening bell rings, I imagine he can overwhelm Struve.
Struve is almost certainly fighting for his job. The UFC's heavyweight division is painfully thin, and as a result, there are plenty of fighters with the company who probably shouldn't be. Struve falls into that category these days, and that's a little hard to believe given the fact he owns a win over former UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic. Struve isn't usable from a DraftKings perspective until he shows some signs of life. My pick of de Lima is in reality, nothing more than a pick against "The Skyscraper".
THE PICK: De Lima
BantamweightJohn Dodson (20-10-0) v. Peter Yan (11-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dodson ($6,900), Yan ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Dodson (+230), Yan (-270)
Odds to Finish: +240
After a run in which he was one of the company's most successful flyweight fighters for years, Dodson hasn't looked quite as good since moving back to bantamweight a little less than three years ago. His record is just .500 (3-3) during that span, and he is having a hard time against better competition. Dodson's trademark power and speed don't play quite as well at 135 pounds as they did at 125. Sure, he still has the skills to be a threat, but expecting "The Magician" to challenge for bantamweight gold is probably a stretch. Dodson will turn 35 years old in September and time isn't on his side.
Fresh off an obliteration of the talented and underrated Douglas Silva de Andrade in late-December (in which de Andrade's corner threw in the towel after Round 2), Yan returns to action Saturday with a new four-fight contract in his back pocket. The 26-year-old has quickly established himself as one of the division's brightest prospects. Yan holds a Russian Master of Sport in boxing and mixed martial arts, and he's a blue belt in Brazilian BJJ. He's known for his punching power, but the guy is a legitimate all-around threat.
In a way it's a shame that this fight is happening overseas because this could be a breakout spot for Yan, and not as many people are going to see it as probably should. Yan's last fight against de Andrade, which took place in Los Angeles, was his first outside of Europe. Not only will Dodson be dealing with a four-inch height disadvantage, but I think he will struggle to match the physicality of Yan. Yan has shown more than enough for me to take him extremely seriously moving forward, even against high-level competition. If you are the type to make several lineups, throwing Dodson in at the tail end of one or two of them isn't the worst idea in the world because the price is right, but I don't think he wins. He might keep it close – for a little while.
THE PICK: Yan
LightweightRustam Khabilov (23-3-0) v. Carlos Diego Ferreira (14-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Khabilov ($8,700), Ferreira ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Khabilov (-135), Ferreira (+115)
Odds to Finish: +175
It's painful to watch more often than not, but Khabilov will still enter this one on a six-fight winning streak dating back to February 2016. All six of the victories have come via decision and Khabilov is without a stoppage victory in nearly six years. As a result, there is no one clamoring to see Khabilov fight despite his recent string of successes. Saturday included, Khabilov's last eight fights have come on international cards. While the 32-year-old has a respectable all-around game, sooner or later he is going to have to finish someone.
Ferreira is your class Brazilian mat specialist. A 3rd degree BJJ black belt, Ferreira has six career wins via submission. Unlike Khabilov, however, he has knocked out his last two opponents (Kyle Nelson, Jared Gordon). A former Legacy Lightweight Champion, Ferreira's only two career setbacks came back-to-back against Dustin Poirier and Beneil Dariush more than four years ago. In other words, Ferreira is quite good and perennially underrated.
This is easily one of the more intriguing fights on the card. In a "what have you done for me lately" business, Khabilov's inability to close the show is going to cost him sooner or later, and Ferreira has the skills to take advantage of that. I'm picking the Brazilian outright and he's obviously a great value given his DraftKings salary. Khabilov is overpriced even if you think he's going to win.
THE PICK: Ferreira
Gian Villante (17-10-0) v. Michal Oleksiejczuk (12-2-0)
DK Salaries: Villante ($7,300), Oleksiejczuk ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Villante (+165), Oleksiejczuk (-195)
Odds to Finish: +130
THE PICK: Oleksiejczuk
Liz Carmouche (12-6-0) v. Lucie Pudilova (8-3-0)
DK Salaries: Carmouche ($8,300), Pudilova ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Carmouche (-140), Pudilova (+120)
Odds to Finish: +255
THE PICK: Carmouche
Magomed Ankalaev (9-1-0) v. Klidson Abreu (14-2-0)
DK Salaries: Ankalaev ($9,100), Abreu ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Ankalaev (-235), Abreu (+195)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Ankalaev
Carlo Pedersoli (11-2-0) v. Dwight Grant (8-2-0)
DK Salaries: Pedersoli ($8,200), Grant ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Pedersoli (-130), Grant (+110)
Odds to Finish: +100
THE PICK: Grant
David Teymur (6-2-0) v. Chris Fishgold (17-2-1)
DK Salaries: Teymur ($7,200), Fishgold ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Teymur (+210), Fishgold (-250)
Odds to Finish: -210
THE PICK: Fishgold
Veronica Macedo (5-2-1) v. Gillian Robertson (5-3-0)
DK Salaries: Macedo ($7,600), Robertson ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Macedo (+115), Robertson (-135)
Odds to Finish: -145
THE PICK: Robertson
Damir Hadzovic (12-4-0) v. Marco Polo Reyes (8-4-0)
DK Salaries: Hadzovic ($7,400), Reyes ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Hadzovic (+100), Reyes (-120)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Hadzovic
Michel Prazeres (26-2-0) v. Ismail Naurdiev (17-2-0)
DK Salaries: Prazeres ($9,400), Naurdiev ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Prazeres (-420), Naurdiev (+335)
Odds to Finish: -195
THE PICK: Prazeres
Damir Ismagulov (17-2-0) v. Joel Alvarez (15-1-0)
DK Salaries: Ismagulov ($9,200), Alvarez ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Ismagulov (-250), Alvarez (+210)
Odds to Finish: -110
THE PICK: Ismagulov