This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Though this card lost an intriguing matchup between Ilir Latifi and Ovince Saint-Preux (hence the shorter write-up this week), Saturday's main event still has high potential to be an action-packed showdown that provides clarity in the second tier of the middleweight division. There's also enough upset potential to keep fight fans on the edge of their seats, and give DraftKings players plenty of lineup options.
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 - MiddleweightJacare Souza (24-5-0, 1NC) v. Derek Brunson (18-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Jacare ($8,400), Brunson ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Jacare (-155), Brunson (+135)
Odds to Finish: -490
Following last November's middleweight title matchup between Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping, the 185-pound class has turned into a bit ofa mess. With St-Pierre having relinquished the UFC Middleweight Championship to Robert Whittaker, and Whittaker since dealing with an illness of his own, Yoel Romero is set to fight Luke Rockhold for the interim belt in two weeks. In the meantime, both Souza and Brunson – Souza in particular – are in need of a win here if they wish to stay in immediate title contention. These two fought more than four and a half years ago under the Strikeforce banner – a fight that Jacare won via KO in 41 seconds. Times have changed.
Jacare is coming off an knockout loss at the hands of Whittaker last April. Perhaps Souza took Whittaker too lightly or perhaps everyone was simply underestimating how good Whittaker truly was. It was likely a combination if the both. The issue is that Jacare, at age 38, can't afford a two-fight losing streak at this point of his career. The Brazilian remains one of the most talented mat specialists in the world and he keeps himself in terrific shape. I don't think the Whittaker loss was anything more than an off night for Jacare, but I acknowledge that an explosive athlete like Brunson isn't the best type of opponent for Souza these days.
Brunson is the rare fighter that has gotten considerably better as he has aged. Now 34 years old, Brunson's only losses since the first fight between the two came against Whittaker, Yoel Romero and Anderson Silva. He got screwed by the judges in the Silva fight and all but stopped Whittaker before he got too wild and gassed himself out. Brunson has power, moves well, and closes the distance on his opposition with shocking ease. And most importantly, he has yet to be taken down in his UFC career. It will be imperative that he stays off of his back Saturday.
I expect a competitive fight in which both men have their moments. Theorertically, the five-round fight should benefit the younger, quicker Brunson, but that will only be the case if he conserves his energy at times. Jacare is the better all-around mixed martial artist, but Brunson's explosiveness and finishing ability make him my pick, albeit with little confidence. I also think Brunson is the better DraftKings play regardless of who you think is going to win. His takedown defense and athletic ability should allow him to remain upright and thus land on the Brazilian with regularity.
THE PICK: Brunson
Co-Main Event - FeatherweightDennis Bermudez (17-7-0) v. Andre Fili (17-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Bermudez ($8,600), Fili ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Bermudez (-155), Fili (+135)
Odds to Finish: +135
A knockout at the hands of The Korean Zombie and a split decision loss to Darren Elkins have somehow left Bermudez outside the top 10 of the UFC's featherweight division. A third straight loss is not an option for the 31-year-old. As has been the case throughout his entire career, Bermudez has a hard time if he isn't landing takedowns. He only scored with one in the Elkins fight, and that isn't going to get the job done Saturday. Remember, this is a guy that has a win over current UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway (even if it was a split decision over four years ago).
Fili's inability to win two fights in a row has essentially eliminated him from the title picture. He has alternated wins and losses in his nine UFC bouts and based upon that track record, he's due for a setback on Saturday. His height (5-foot-11) is negated by the fact he isn't a particularly strong striker. Fili has actually averaged nearly three takedowns per fight in his UFC career, but I highly doubt he will be interested in a wrestling match with Bermudez.
Despite some impressive performances here and there, there is really no reason to believe that Fili will suddenly put together the winning streak that he has been seeking his entire career. My guess is that Bermudez has also hit the high-water mark of his career but at least he has built a foundation for some sort of potential rebound. He is my pick by decision and if he loses I will be highly concerned (I'm already a bit worried). Bermudez is marked at a reasonable $8,600 in a fight in which he should be able to grind Fili into dust.
THE PICK: Bermudez
LightweightErik Koch (15-5-0) v. Bobby Green (23-8-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Koch ($7,700), Green ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Koch (+135), Green (-160)
Odds to Finish: +110
Always long on potential and short on actual performance, Koch has only one win in just about four years. Granted, he spent nearly two years in there on the sidelines, but you can't win fights if you can't get into the cage. The Roufusport product is a good athlete, has eight career wins by submission and has earned a pair of Knockout of the Night bonuses during his time with the company. In short, he should be in a better position than he is at this point.
If it's been bad for Koch of late, it's been even worse for Green. "King" is approaching nearly four years without a victory, and his last two setbacks were of the split decision variety. The UFC's lightweight division is so deep that Green could theoretically be looking at a release if he no-shows on Saturday. He has quick hands and a strong chin, and that combination often causes Green problems. He prefers to stand and trade with his opponent as opposed to implementing a specific game plan, and that has been a problem that has plagued Green in the past. Simply put, he needs to fight smarter.
This should be a fast-paced fight in which both men have ample opportunity to land pretty of offense. Koch's inability to get into any sort of rhythm over the course of his career is a serious concern and while I think he has some value as underdog play given his still untapped potential, the fact Green needs this one to possibly save his job makes him the pick.
THE PICK: Green
LightweightJordan Rinaldi (13-5-0) v. Gregor Gillespie (10-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Rinaldi ($6,700), Gillespie ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Rinaldi (+440), Gillespie (-580)
Odds to Finish: +105
THE PICK: Gillespie
LightweightDrew Dober (18-8-0, 1NC) v. Frank Camacho (21-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Dober ($8,900), Camacho ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Dober (-175), Camacho (+155)
Odds to Finish: -155
THE PICK: Dober
FeatherweightMirsad Bektic (11-1-0) v. Godofredo Pepey (14-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Bektic ($9,400), Pepey ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Bektic (-620), Pepey (+480)
Odds to Finish: -205
THE PICK: Bektic
Women's FlyweightKatlyn Chookagian (9-1-0) v. Mara Romero Borella (12-4-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Chookagian ($8,700), Borella ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Chookagian (-160), Borella (+140)
Odds to Finish: +140
THE PICK: Chookagian
Women's StrawweightRanda Markos (7-6-0) v. Juliana Lima (9-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Markos ($8,800), Lima ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Markos (-160), Lima (+140)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Lima
Women's FlyweightJustine Kish (6-1-0) v. Ji Yeon Kim (6-1-2)
DraftKings Salaries: Kish ($9,200), Kim ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Kish (-335), Kim (+275)
Odds to Finish: +180
THE PICK: Kish
LightweightVinc Pichel (10-1-0) v. Joaquim Silva (10-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Pichel ($8,100), Silva ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Pichel (-110), Silva (-110)
Odds to Finish: +100
THE PICK: Silva
WelterweightNiko Price (10-1-0, 1NC) v. George Sullivan (17-5-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Price ($9,000), Sullivan ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Price (-235), Sullivan (+175)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Price
FeatherweightAustin Arnett (14-3-0) v. Cory Sandhagen (6-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries:Arnett ($7,900), Sandhagen ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Not Listed
Odds to Finish: Not Listed
THE PICK: Arnett