This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Heads up – we have afternoon MMA this Saturday, with the UFC Newark prelims scheduled to begin at noon EST on the main ESPN. To lively up the daytime fights, DraftKings is putting up a $30,000 top prize in this week's $15 MMA Throwdown.
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 - Welterweight
Colby Covington (14-1-0) v. Robbie Lawler (28-13-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Covington ($9,000), Lawler ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Covington (-235), Lawler (+195)
Odds to Finish: -130
Riding a six-fight win streak and undefeated for the past 4.5 years, Covington appeared to be next in line for Kamaru Usman's undisputed UFC Welterweight Championship, but he instead decided to accept this fight against a dangerous opponent in Lawler after 14 months on the sidelines.
Colby is coming off a victory over Rafael dos Anjos in June 2018 in a bout in which he won the Interim UFC Welterweight title. He never defended his belt and was instead stripped of the championship just over a month later when it became clear the nasal surgery he had undergone would prevent a fight between he and then-champion Tyron Woodley.
Context aside, It's not a stretch to say Covington is one of the very best wrestlers in the sport. A former state champion in high school, All-American and two-time Pac-10 champion in college at Oregon State, Colby has averaged a ridiculous 5.63 successful takedowns per 15 minutes over the course of his time with the company. Covington's striking is nowhere near as effective as his grappling, but he spends the vast majority of every single fight in top position and he rarely is forced to engage in an extended kickboxing match.
Lawler is coming off a heartbreaking submission loss to a debuting Ben Askren in March. Robbie had Askren dead to rights just seconds into the bout but he was unable to close the show. Askren (helped by a rare poor job of officiating by referee Herb Dean) managed to end the contest with a bulldog choke. Lawler turned 37 years old in March and has lost three of his last four fights dating back to June 2016, but he displayed his trademark explosiveness in the Askren bout and I think he can still compete with the best in the world for another couple years.
This fight, as is the case whenever Covington competes, will come down to Lawler's takedown defense. Robbie's takedown defense for his career is a more-than-respectable 69 percent, but he has found himself on the mat at least once in each of his past three bouts and none of those opponents (Askren, dos Anjos, Cowboy Cerrone) were/are the world-class wrestler Covington is. I like Robbie, but I truly believe Covington is neck-and-neck with Usman for the ranking of best 170-pounder on the planet. He gets a lot of flack for his brash and abrasive personality, but Colby always gets the job done when he gets into the Octagon. I think this is just a poor set of circumstances for Lawler and one in which he will have a difficult time overcoming.
THE PICK: Covington
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
Jim Miller (30-13-0, 1NC) v. Clay Guida (35-18-0)
DK Salaries: Miller ($8,900), Guida ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Miller (-175), Guida (+155)
Odds to Finish: +125
The UFC rightfully catches plenty of shade for their matchmaking when it comes to past-their-prime vets, but this bout is one that makes plenty of sense. Two fighters with nearly 100 professional fights between them, Miller and Guida will battle to stay on the fringes of the top-15 in arguably the company's deepest division.
Miller, who turns 36 years old later this month, is 2-5 in his last five fights dating back to February 2017. All five losses have come against some of the best fighters the sport has to offer (Dustin Poirier, Anthony Pettis, Francisco Trinaldo, Dan Hooker, Charles Oliveira), but it's has become abundantly clear over the past few years that Miller is going to struggle in anything other than a prolonged ground battle. His submission game (16 career wins) remains excellent, but Miller is mostly getting by on grit and determination these days, and that's a dangerous combination.
Much of what I just said about Miller applies to Guida also. While Miller relies on his ground game, "The Carpenter" relies on his wrestling and insane gas tank. Guida never gets tired and could quite literally fight a 10-round bout without any issue. Clay's takedown accuracy is poor (37 percent), but he sticks with it even if his first few attempts aren't successful. He looked quite poor in a unanimous decision victory over the washed up B.J. Penn in his most recent fight this past May, but Guida is somehow sporting a 3-1 record in his past four contests dating back to June 2017.
I'm not crazy about either man moving forward, but what I saw from Guida against Penn was highly, highly concerning. B.J. is the most washed up fighter in the sport and Clay barely got by him. Not to mention, his biggest strength – his wrestling – will play right into Miller's biggest strength – his submission game. I wouldn't touch Miller at that price tag, but I think he wins, likely via decision.
THE PICK: Miller
Joaquim Silva (11-1-0) v. Nasrat Haqparast (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Silva ($7,100), Haqparast ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Silva (+205), Haqparast (-245)
Odds to Finish: +120
This should make for a nice little underrated bout between two fighters who have combined to go 6-2 in their first eight combined UFC bouts.
Silva rebounded from his first professional loss (Vinc Pichel, January 2018) to knock out Jared Gordon last December. Silva tends to engage in wild, reckless brawls on the feet despite being a BJJ black belt. He's proven to be tough and durable, but his striking game could generously be termed as 'unrefined'. It's rare you see a fighter who lands (4.04) and absorbs (4.50) as many significant strikes per minute as the Brazilian.
A newcomer to the company, Haqparast dropped his UFC debut to Marcin Held in October 2017, and has since bounced back with back-to-back unanimous decision victories over Marc Diakiese and Thibault Gouti. A native of Afghanistan, Haqparast is your traditional power puncher, with eight of his 10 career wins having come via knockout. The fact Haqparast has not been able to stop any of his first three UFC opponents is a concern. It's entirely possible he fattened up his record by beating up on lesser competition on the regional circuits. I like Haqparast's aggressiveness, and the fact he won't turn 24 years old until later this month certainly bodes well for his future. He's young enough to add new wrinkles to his game.
I'm worried about Silva's fight IQ. He's giving up a whole bunch of power to Haqparast, and he will almost certainly come up short if this turns into an extended kickboxing match. Silva has a path to victory if this one ends up on the mat, but I've seen nothing in his game that leads me to believe he has the smarts to realize that's the game plan he must employ to win.
THE PICK: Haqparast
Antonina Shevchenko (7-1-0) v. Lucie Pudilova (8-4-0)
DK Salaries: Shevchenko ($8,600), Pudilova ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Shevchenko (-145), Pudilova (+125)
Odds to Finish: +260
In part because she is quite good herself, and in part because her sister is the UFC Women's Flyweight Champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighter's in the world today, Shevchenko, a product of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, has entered the UFC under the weight of massive expectations. She began her official run with the company by taking a unanimous decision from Ji Yeon Kim before suffering her first pro loss (split decision) to Roxanne Modafferi in April. Like her more famous younger sister, Antonina is a Muay Thai specialist who went 39-1 in her professional kickboxing career. She wins with pace, volume, and placement, as opposed to sheer power.
The loser of back-to-back fights and sporting a 2-3 record in the UFC, Pudilova could very easily be fighting for her job on Saturday. The 25-year-old gets hit way too much (4.21 significant strikes absorbed per minute) on the feet, and doesn't possess the power to win an all-out brawl. Five fights into Pudilova's UFC run, I am yet to see anything – offensively or defensively – that would lead me to believe she can be a successful UFC fighter.
The only thing Pudilova has going for her here is the fact she's nearly a decade younger than Shevchenko. I would be very surprised if that ended up being enough to get the job done. Antonina isn't her sister, and expectations need to be kept in check every single time she steps inside the Octagon, but I would be surprised if she isn't able to handle roster depth like Pudilova with relative ease. If she can't, then we all need to reevaluate her potential moving forward.
THE PICK: Shevchenko
Trevin Giles (11-1-0) v. Gerald Meerschaert (28-11-0)
DK Salaries: Giles ($8,500), Meerschaert ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Giles (-165), Meerschaert (+145)
Odds to Finish: -230
THE PICK: Giles
Scott Holtzman (12-3-0) v. Dong Hyun Ma (16-9-3)
DK Salaries: Holtzman ($9,300), Ma ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Holtzman (-350), Ma (+290)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: Holtzman
Darko Stosic (13-2-0) v. Kennedy Nzechukwu (6-1-0)
DK Salaries: Stosic ($8,400), Nzechukwu ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Stosic (-130), Nzechukwu (+110)
Odds to Finish: -265
THE PICK: Nzechukwu
Mickey Gall (5-2-0) v. Salim Touahri (10-3-0)
DK Salaries: Gall ($7,900), Touahri ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Gall (+105), Touahri (-125)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Touahri
Jordan Espinosa (14-5-0) v. Matt Schnell (13-4-0)
DK Salaries: Espinosa ($8,200), Schnell ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Espinosa (-105), Schnell (-115)
Odds to Finish: +155
THE PICK: Schnell
Lauren Murphy (10-4-0) v. Mara Romero Borella (12-5-0)
DK Salaries: Murphy ($7,500), Borella ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Murphy (+145), Borella (-165)
Odds to Finish: +260
THE PICK: Borella
Claudio Silva (13-1-0) v. Cole Williams (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Silva ($9,400), Williams ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Silva (-410), Williams (+330)
Odds to Finish: -245
THE PICK: Silva
Hannah Goldy (2-0-0) v. Miranda Granger (4-0-0)
DK Salaries: Goldy ($8,800), Granger ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Goldy (-165), Granger (+145)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Goldy