In the last card of 2017, the UFC will feature the best women's MMA fight they can make, one featuring two well-known names with storied careers. Cris Cyborg has seemed unstoppable to date, but few opponents have been able to pressure her with strikes the way Holly Holm expects to Saturday. This stellar card may have lost an excellent fight when Jimmie Rivera and Jon Lineker was scrapped, but it will still determine the top lightweight contender, and feature the return of former title contender Carlos Condit.
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 - Women's Featherweight Championship
(C) Cris Cyborg (18-1-0, 1NC) v. Holly Holm (11-3-0)
Cyborg ($9,300), Holm ($6,900)
Cyborg (-360), Holm (+325)
Odds to Finish: -195
It looked for quite a while like this fight would never take place, but due to the lack of other main event options for this card, the UFC was forced to hunker down and get a deal done between the two women. It's a more compelling fight on paper than I expect it to be in reality.
Clearly the best 145-pound female fighter on the planet, Cyborg has won 13 straight fights via knockout (there was one in there that was later changed to a no contest) and she defeated Tonya Evinger for the vacant UFC Women's Featherweight Championship in July. The power that Cyborg possess is laughable. She walks around well north of 165 pounds and she is one of the few fighters in the sport that has the ability to finish an opponent with every single shot she throws. No one has really been competitive against her, let alone won. Evinger did manage to see a third round, but her next-level toughness was the only reason that fight lasted so long.
As I have said repeatedly, Holm's UFC career outside of her win over Ronda Rousey has been an overwhelming disappointment. Her record with the company is barely over .500 (4-3), and there has been some poor efforts even in the victories. Holm's kickboxing background is an asset, but she wins with combinations and volume as opposed to pure power. She has her struggles in the other aspects of the sport and I don't expect any improvement at age 36. The good news for Holm is that she should get a chance to lean on her striking skills in this fight, the bad news is that it will come against Cyborg.
My guess is that any speed advantage that Holm might possess is more than negated by the power of Cyborg. Standing and trading with Cyborg is the worst thing in the world that you can do, but I don't see how Holm can even possibly contend in any other fashion. Cyborg is a solid DraftKings play despite her enormous salary because she has such a propensity for finishing fights in dominating fashion. I would wager that any cardio advantage that Holm might have will also be negated because I don't imagine she will be around to see the championship rounds. Cyborg is just too powerful and too dominant.
THE PICK: Cyborg
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0-0) v. Edson Barboza (19-4-0)
Nurmagomedov ($9,100), Barboza ($7,100)
Nurmagomedov (-280), Barboza (+240)
Odds to Finish:
The fact that Nurmagomedov has yet to fight for a UFC championship gives you an idea of just how banged up he has been over the past several years. Since joining the company in 2012 where he fought twice, he competed three times in 2013, once in 2014, not at all in 2015, twice in 2016 and his only fight in 2017 will be on the second to last day of the year. Simply put, he is a world-class fighter that has yet to overcome the injury bug. I would wager that the odds are better than 50/50 that Khabib is the best lightweight in the world, but we can't say that for certain since he doesn't fight with any regularity. There are no denying the numbers. He averages more than six takedowns per fight and he absorbs virtually no punishment (1.5 significant strikes per minute) on average. The reason that second number is so low is because he is nearly almost in top positioning controlling his opposition. To give you an idea of Khabib's dominance, he took down former UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos six times.
All that said, Barboza still has a few things going for him here. First, he has a five-inch reach advantage. He also has the power to beat up Khabib if he is able to keep the fight on the feet for an extended length of time. Lastly, and most importantly, is the fact that Barboza's takedown defense over the course of his career is a tad under 87 percent. That's a brilliant number and a necessity for any fighter than is going up against Nurmagomedov. Edson is going to have a significant advantage for as long as he is able to stay upright.
I have faith in Barboza, more than I probably should, but not enough to pick him to win. I think he makes for a strong play as an underdog because of how advanced and powerful his striking is. No one has shown any ability to defend Khabib's takedown attempts on a regular basis and I need to see someone do that successfully before I pick against him.
THE PICK: Nurmagomedov
Cynthia Calvillo (6-0-0) v. Carla Esparza (13-4-0)
Calvillo ($9,200), Esparza ($7,000)
Calvillo (-260), Esparza (+220)
Odds to Finish: +160
This fight was supposed to go down at UFC 211 in May. Cejudo was forced to withdraw due to a hand injury and the two men will run it back on Saturday.
One of the divisions breakout stars in 2017, Calvillo will go for her fourth UFC victory in less than 10 months on Saturday. After earning back-to-back submissions wins over Amanda Copper and Pearl Gonzalez, Calvillo picked up the biggest win of her young career after taking a unanimous decision from Joanne Calderwood in July. Despite her quick start and the fact she trains with an elite camp (Team Alpha Male), I remain far from convinced that Calvillo is a true title threat in the women's strawweight division. She has limited experience and is already 30 years old. She also has commendable toughness and generally does a good job of pushing the pace of a fight. Calderwood was essentially just a kickboxer. Here against Esparza, she gets an opponent whose strength is her wrestling. If Calvillo's takedown defense doesn't hold up, she could be in a world of trouble.
While Esparza hasn't been the picture of consistency throughout her career, she does have one elite trait to fall back on in her wrestling. She has averaged nearly five (4.79) takedowns per fight over the course of her UFC career, although her takedown percentage (38.8) is lousy. Because she tends to accomplish so little on the feet, I don't have much hope for Esparza returning to the top of the heap of the division any time soon. There is too much depth to take her seriously as a title contender.
Probably against my better judgment, I'm picking Esparza. I think she has the ability to grind out a victory due to her wrestling. She will have to remain vigilant to Calvillo's submission attempts and make sure she doesn't spend too much time standing in front of her opponent on the feet, but she has a larger body of work to her name and has fought better competition over the course of her career.
THE PICK: Esparza
Carlos Condit (30-10-0) v. Neil Magny (19-7-0)
Condit ($8,500), Magny ($7,700)
Condit (-165), Magny (+145)
Odds to Finish:
-115 (Pick em')
The Natural Born Killer is back. Condit returns to action on Saturday after nearly a year and a half on the sidelines. He talked openly about retirement following his first-round submission loss to Demian Maia in August 2016, but ultimately decided to give it one more go. It was a smart call, as there is no reason to believe that Condit is done as an effective fighter. Injuries and a split decision aside, Condit has just won win since August 2013. He has fought considerably better than his 1-3 record in his last four fights would indicate, but Condit needs a win here in the worst way.
Magny has come out of nowhere to develop into one of the better fighters in the UFC welterweight division. He was torched by Rafael dos Anjos in early September, but there has been far more good than bad from Magny of late. His resume includes wins over Johny Hendricks, Hector Lombard and Erick Silva, and he is sporting an 11-3 record in has last 14 fights. While competent in all areas, Magny isn't a great athlete and Condit is the rare opponent that can match his cardio and pace. One silver lining for Magny is that he has averaged more than 2.6 takedowns per fight throughout his UFC career, and Condit's takedown defense is below 40 percent (39.3). Of course, Condit is terrific on the mat so that might not be the best “weakness” for Magny to attempt to exploit.
Magny has burned me enough the past several years that I view his fights differently now than ever before. Not all that long ago I would have said that he had no chance to beat Condit, but now I expect it to be a close fight. I'm still picking Condit, however. I think he just does too much things well and I expect him to be refreshed by the time off, but Magny is a real threat. He has pulled off enough upsets that we have to take him seriously every single time he steps into the Octagon.
THE PICK: Condit
Khalil Rountree (7-2-0) v. Michal Oleksiejczuk (12-2-0)
Rountree ($9,400), Oleksiejczuk ($6,800)
Rountree (-290), Oleksiejczuk (+245)
Odds to Finish: -600
THE PICK: Rountree
Dan Hooker (15-7-0) v. Marc Diakiese (12-1-0)
Hooker ($7,500), Diakiese ($8,700)
Hooker (+155), Diakiese (-175)
Odds to Finish:
THE PICK: Diakiese
Myles Jury (16-2-0) v. Rick Glenn (20-4-1)
Jury (-240), Glenn (+200)
Jury ($8,800), Glenn ($7,400)
Odds to Finish:
Louis Smolka (11-4-0) v. Matheus Nicolau (12-2-1)
Smolka (+250), Nicolau (-300)
Smolka ($7,300), Nicolau ($8,900)
Odds to Finish: +160
Tim Elliott (15-8-1) v. Mark De La Rosa (9-0-0)
Elliott (-220), De La Rosa (+180)
Elliott ($9,000), De La Rosa ($7,200)
Odds to Finish:
Marvin Vettori (12-3-0) v. Omari Akhmedov (17-4-0)
Vettori (-225), Ahmedov (+185)
Vettori ($8,600), Ahmedov ($7,600)
Odds to Finish:
-120 (Pick em')
All odds taken from BestFightOdds.com on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 27.
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