This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
While we're still a few days away from weigh-ins, two fights have already been scrapped for UFC 256, while Tecia Torres got a recent opponent change. Stay tuned to @RotoWireMMA for all the latest on newly-announced bouts and additional cancellations.
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 $600k UFC 256 Special with $150k 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 - Flyweight Championship
It feels as if we just broke down fights for both Figueredo and Moreno because, well, we did. Both men will be competing for the second time in three weeks after each secured a first-round stoppage victory at UFC 255 on November 21.
Figueredo successfully defended his title for the first time that evening, submitting Alex Perez via guillotine choke in 117 seconds. The Brazilian has shown off his power in his recent fights, but his ground game earned him the victory against Perez. To say Figueredo is an all-around threat is the understatement of the century. He has far more thunder in his hands than you're average flyweight and he's very clearly plus in both the submission and wrestling department. Figueredo has the look of a long-term champion.
Moreno more than earned this opportunity with three straight victories (Brandon Royval, Jussier Formiga, Kai Kara-France), in addition to a five-fight (4-0-1) unbeaten streak. My one major knock on Moreno has always been his lack of stopping power. Yes, he knocked out Royval in his most recent bout but any Moreno KO will be on the strength of volume as opposed to sheer power.
I've clearly undervalued Moreno in what is a thin division but this seems like another positive matchup for Figueredo, who is clearly improving with age and experience. Moreno is solid on the mat and a strong wrestler but I'd probably give a very slight edge to Figueredo in both areas because of his upper-body strength. The power gap between the two is massive. If this turns into a prolonged kickboxing match, Moreno is in deep, deep trouble.
Figueredo is talented enough to end a fight in an instant in a variety of different ways and that's the difference-maker for me. I think Moreno is going to have to really work here to generate any sort of consistent offensive pressure and I don't see him being able to do so.
Overall, I'm probably a tad too high on Figueredo and a tad too low on Moreno here, but this was a clear-cut pick for me that I didn't think about for an instant.
THE PICK: Figueredo
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
You can't help but feel for Ferguson. He was due to face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC Lightweight Championship on countless occasions, and the fight constantly fell apart for one reason or another. Hoping to stay active, Ferguson fought Justin Gaethje this past May and was shockingly finished in Round 5. It was Tony's first defeat in nearly six years, but it immediately placed him in must-win territory heading into this fight. Ferguson can't afford another setback in a loaded 155-pound division, and Oliveira is no easy mark.
Oliveira is red hot. He enters on a seven-fight winning streak and is without a defeat in over three years. Quite a few of those victories are over fringe competition, but Charles looked brilliant in his most recent bout, a submission victory over Kevin Lee this past March. People forget how young Oliveira is. He's been with the UFC for over a decade but it still just 31 years old. It's entirely possible his best days are ahead of him, and that's scary to think for a guy who already has upwards of nearly 40 pro fights under his belt.
I wish I knew what type of Ferguson is going to show up on Saturday. Everything that made Tony successful in his long winning streak – pressure, creativity, getting off first in striking exchanges – was nowhere to be found in the Gaethje fight. Gaethje tailored his game plan for Ferguson and Tony fell right into the trap. We have no idea how he's going to bounce back because we hadn't seen him lose a fight since May 2012.
As good as Ferguson is on the ground, any submission battles favors Oliveira in a major way. "Do Bronx" is literally one of the most talented mat specialists in company history. He has 19 career wins via submission and is a major threat both off his back and from top position. Oliveira's striking – while never on the level of his grappling – appears improved. He's so good on the mat that he's a legitimate title contender if he is just average on the feet.
This is an excellent fight and one I expect to be close and competitive. I understand why Ferguson is favored. He hadn't lost in years prior to the Gaethje bout and one poor effort – especially against an elite opponent – shouldn't impact his standing much. That being said, Oliveira feels like a safer pick in what, for some reason, is still a prime buy-low spot. In addition to the salary relief he provides, Charles is in the midst of an excellent run and appears to be getting stronger every time out. This is a selection that could easily blow up in my face, but I'm on Oliveira as an underdog.
THE PICK: Oliveira
This is a huge fight for Moicano, as it appears to be a bout in which he has a ton to lose and not a whole lot to gain. A long-time featherweight, Moicano won four of his first five UFC fights, including victories over Jeremy Stephens, Calvin Kattar and Cub Swanson. Moicano then suffered back-to-back knockout losses at the hands of Jose Aldo and The Korean Zombie in 2019 and decided to move up to lightweight. He submitted Damir Hadzovic in 44 seconds in his first fight at 155 pounds this past March.
Moicano (5-foot-11) is a big, tall guy. He was massive for featherweight and he's big for lightweight. Offensively, Moicano is a pure mat specialist. He's actually halfway decent all the feet, albeit with zero power. The Brazilian doesn't have a knockout win in his pro career, with seven coming via submission and seven via decision. Moicano, at least in my eyes, appeared to be much more interesting at featherweight given his size, but I imagine he will be plenty competitive at lightweight. He's a talented guy.
While Moicano is a submission artist, Fiziev is a pure striker. He's a former professional kickboxer who picked up five knockouts in six fights prior to debuting in the UFC. His power hasn't translated since joining the company, but any prolonged stand-up affair clearly tilts this fight in Fiziev's favor.
This is a pick 'em for me. Regardless of who you think is going to win, I think Moicano is being undervalued. Ultimately his cheaper price tag is enough for me to roll with another underdog here.
THE PICK: Moicano
Holland was originally scheduled to fight Jack Hermansson last week, while Jacare was due to fact Marvin Vettori on this card. Holland tested positive for COVID-19 and needed some extra time, so he and Vettori swapped opponents.
Holland fought Halloween night (a TKO win over Charlie Ontiveros) so I imagine he's still in perfectly fine shape and will be ready to go for this one. Holland has been one of the UFC's biggest, most unexpected breakout stars of 2020. He's 4-0 this calendar year, with all four wins coming since mid May. The challenge for Holland at this point will be sustaining this type of success against better competition. Jacare – even at his advanced age – is infinitely better than the four men (Ontiveros, Darren Stewart, Joaquin Buckley, Anthony Hernandez) Holland has defeated in recent months. There's no doubt Holland has improved and is a considerably better fighter than when he first joined the UFC back in August 2018, but he still has to prove himself against high-level competition. Whether or not Souza falls into the category in the final days of 2020 is open to interpretation.
Jacare has been on the sidelines for nearly 13 months, something that's far from ideal for a guy who turned 41 years of age earlier this week. Souza was due to face Uriah Hall at UFC 249 in April. That fight was eventually pushed back to May, at which point Souza tested positive for COVID before it was cancelled indefinitely.
A long-time middleweight standout, Jacare made his light heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz last November and lost via split decision. As we all know, Blachowicz has since won the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. I wasn't thrilled with Souza's decision to move up. His struggles come on the feet and I didn't see how jumping up a weight class would help him in that matter.
This fight is pretty straight forward. Holland is three inches taller and has a whopping nine-inch reach edge. He also lands more than two (4.68 to 2.54) more significant strikes per minute than Jacare. On the other hand, Souza averages 2.46 takedowns per 15 minute and Holland defends them at just a 54 percent clip. I like Holland and think he has a bright future but Jacare is an entirely different type of opponent than Hermansson, who Holland was originally preparing for. Give me the veteran. I think Souza can use his wrestling to emerge victorious. If he engages Holland in a kickboxing match, look out.
THE PICK: Souza
With UFC President Dana White openly admitting there will be dozens and dozens of company cuts in coming months, this is almost certainly a must-win for Dos Santos. He has been knocked out in three straight fights (Jair Rozenstruik, Curtis Blaydes, Francis Ngannou) and has just a single victory since March 2019. Dos Santos' skill set is the type that generally ages very poorly. He's a one-dimensional power puncher with a questionable chin and zero footwork to speak of. There's zero upside here for a fighter who turns 37 years old in late January.
Gane has all of six professional fights under his belt at age 30. He's 3-0 in the UFC, with submission wins over Raphael Pessoa and Don'Tale Mayes in addition to a unanimous decision victory over Tanner Boser in his most recent bout last December. Although he has made a statement with a few submissions in the UFC, Gane is a former kickboxer and striker by trade. While both men are 6-foot-4, Gane has a four-inch reach edge, something that could very well come into play in a kickboxing match.
I think most everyone knows where this is heading. Gane is a legitimate prospect with legitimate skills, while JDS entered into gatekeeper status long ago. Any dos Santos win will almost certainly have to come via knockout, and it's much, much more likely his chin will cost him before that happens.
The UFC will never admit this, but it feels as if the company is well aware Dos Santos' time has come and gone, and it is trying to give a prospect a notable win before sending him on his way. Whether that's the case or not, this pick is clear-cut and not in dispute.
THE PICK: Gane