This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Check your DraftKings accounts – if you played last week, there's a good chance you have a ticket for a free roll awarding entries to the $1 million UFC 252 contest. Hopefully, we're in store for less chaos on the scales (and on fight night) this week.
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, including a $400,000 MMA Throwdown Special with $100,000 to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
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
I didn't think this fight made a ton of sense for Lewis when I first saw it announced, but then I realized he's not a legitimate contender at heavyweight to begin with. Yet, it gets him another massive payday in a main event spot, and I quickly became okay with it. This will be Lewis' sixth main event with the UFC. It's a remarkable number and is directly related to the popularity of "The Black Beast" with the casual fan. Lewis dropped back-to-back fights to Daniel Cormier (title fight) and Junior dos Santos back in late 2018 and early 2019, but has since rebounded to take a pair of decisions from Ilir Latifi (unanimous) and Blagoy Ivanov (split).
Oleinik – now 43 years old – is fresh off victories over Fabricio Werdum (split decision) and Maurice Greene (submission). Prior to that, Oleinik had been knocked out by both Walt Harris and Alistair Overeem. This will be Oleinik's 74th professional fight. He has twice as many submission victories (46) than Lewis has total wins (23). Oleinik is going to have his ups and downs considering his advanced age, and the fact he's so reliant on his ground game. Nonetheless, the fact he is 8-4 with the UFC has to be considered a massive success.
I have written up hundreds and hundreds of fights since RotoWire began covering MMA, but this is by far this easiest breakdown to date. I can't ever remember a fight in which each participant is so reliant on one single skill, Lewis throws haymakers from the bleachers with every single shot he attempts, while Oleinik's offensive success is the result of his elite ground game. That's it. That's all there is to each man. The cardio advantage goes to Oleinik, but the odds of this thing seeing the championship rounds are small. Look for ownership of both fighters to be high, but give me Lewis to record the finish.
THE PICK: Lewis
The downfall of Weidman hasn't been as swift and shocking as Renan Barao or even Johny Hendricks, but it's still inconceivable that Weidman is fighting Ahkmedov here, and that's not a knock on Omari. Weidman won the UFC Middleweight Championship from Anderson Silva in July 2013. He defended it against Silva, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort before facing Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 in December 2015. Chris was in full control of that fight before going for a foolish spinning attack that changed the course of the bout. He was eventually knocked out by Rockhold and has gone on to drop four of five fights since, being knocked out in each and every one of them. It's a disaster any way you slice it.
Weidman better show up ready to fight on Saturday because Akhmedov is no pushover. He's 5-0-1 in his past six fights with the lone draw coming against rising middleweight standout Marvin Vettori. There are to major knocks on Akhmedov. The first is that each of those five victories have come via decision. He's not stopping anybody, and that's a problem when you go up against better fighters. The second is the level of competition he has faced to date. Vettori is solid and so is Ian Heinisch – who Akhmedov defeated in his most recent bout last December – but the other four victories in that previously mentioned span came against Zak Cummings, Tim Boetsch, Abdul Razak Alhassan, and Kyle Noke.
Something will have to give here. You have a guy in Akhmedov – who can't knock anyone out – against an opponent in Weidman who gets knocked out by everybody these days.
I had a very difficult time with this pick. The fact I was even considering picking Akhmedov over Weidman tells you how far Chris has fallen. Weidman has a poor chin, has suffered a ton of injuries and turned 36 years of age this past June. Even if he does get by Akhmedov, the odds of him ever making another significant run is almost nonexistent. Chris is a smart, well spoken guy. He's married with three kids and co-owns the gym at which he trains alongside Ray Longo. He has to know this is his last chance.
Weidman is the pick, but I expect him to be popular as a $8,000 betting favorite. I think he gets it done, but don't overlook Akhmedov if you're looking for leverage in GPPs.
THE PICK: Weidman
Dariush continues to go about his business. The 31-year-old has won four fights in a row, with the last three of those earning him a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. His most recent triumph over Drakkar Klose in March ended with a highlight-reel one-punch knockout. Dariush is a low-heartbeat fighter. He's passive inside the Octagon and generally prefers to let his opposition lead the dance. He's a good counter puncher and very effective on the mat. I wish Dariush would fight with a bit more pace at times, but you can't argue with the results.
Holtzman is far more aggressive than Dariush. He's the type of fighter who is willing to eat a shot in order to land two of his own. That's generally a bad idea, and it's an even worse idea against an opponent like Dariush who excels at picking his spots. That being said, Holtzman is giving up a ton on the mat, so I expect him to do whatever is necessary to keep this fight on the feet. A ground battle favors Dariush in a major way.
This seems to be another fight in which Dariush doesn't have a ton to gain. This is seemingly the case every single time he fights. Holtzman is a legitimate opponent and has enough ability to pull the upset, but a win here for Dariush won't significantly propel him up the rankings in any significant way.
Dariush is the second most expensive fighter on the slate, but he has a great chance to hit value given the variety of ways in which he can score points. He's averaged 105.0 on DraftKings over his last three fights, which puts him squarely in play despite the price tag.
THE PICK: Dariush
This was slated to be Kunitskaya v. Ketlen Vieira before the latter withdrew for undisclosed reasons about a week before the fight.
Kunitskaya is a former Invicta Bantamweight Champion. She vacated the tittle in order to sign with the UFC to challenge Cris Cyborg for the UFC Women's Featherweight Championship in March 2018. That fight went as expected (Kunitskaya was knocked out in the first round), and she as gone 2-1 since, with unanimous decision wins over Lina Lansberg and Marion Reneau in addition to a knockout loss to Aspen Ladd in her most recent bout last December. Kunitskaya is an underrated athlete with legitimate striking skills. She wins with volume as opposed to sheer power, but she can mix in a knockout here and there. She's also been in a relationship with top light heavyweight contender Thiago Santos for quite a while – a fact that can only help to improve her success on the feet.
From the former Invicta Bantamweight Champion to the current Invicta Bantamweight Champion. That would be Stoliarenko. A native of Lithuania, Stoliarenko was a cast member on Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter. She dropped a a unanimous decision to Pannie Kianzad in the house before dropping a split decision to Leah Letson in the finale. She then went and won four fights in the regional circuit before defeating Lisa Verzosa via split decision to win the vacant Invicta Bantamweight Championship in March. Unlike Kunitskaya, Stoliarenko is a pure mat specialist. Eight of her nine career wins have come via submission, with only the Verzosa fight seeing the final bell.
I like Kunitskaya. I don't think she's a title contender or anything, but I do think she's underrated, and I thought she had a pretty good chance of giving Vieira some trouble despite being a roughly +225 underdog (in that proposed matchup). Her big issue will be staying off her back. Kunitskaya has defended takedowns at just a 20 percent clip during her time with the company, a truly abysmal number. Still, I think she has enough on the feet to get it done here.
THE PICK: Kunitskaya