This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
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 $100,000 top prize in the UFC 246 special. 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 - Light Heavyweight Championship
It's rare I ever say this, but Jones needs a rebound performance. The champ is coming off a split decision win over Thiago Santos in July. I thought Jones won at the time, but it was definitely close and it's amazing it got that far considering Santos was fighting with a torn ACL, MCL, PCL, and meniscus in his left knee. He underwent surgeries on both knees just days later. In other words, he nearly took Jones's belt on one leg. Yet as we all know, the sign of a great champion is a fighter who can retain his gold on days he isn't at his best, and Jones has displayed the ability to do that time and time again. As good as Reyes has looked so far, I think this fight is a pretty good matchup for Jones.
There weren't really any other realistic options, but it's hard to say Reyes hasn't earned this opportunity. A member of the UFC roster for less than 2.5 years, Reyes is a perfect 6-0 with the company, and four of the six wins (three knockout, one submission) have come via stoppage. Reyes is a tall (6-foot-4), long, athletic kickboxer. He wrestled when he was younger and played college football at Stony Brook University on Long Island. He has a whole bunch of power and has displayed solid footwork for a fighter who hasn't been at this all that long. Going back to February 2017, Reyes had just four pro fights under his belt.
I like Reyes and there's a chance he's the second-best light heavyweight in the world, but I don't see any way you can pick him against Jones. Although the two men are the same height, Jones has a massive seven-inch reach advantage. Jon should be able to control the fight in tight, and he's the much more accomplished mat fighter. Reyes's best chance of winning is to employ the same method Alexander Gustafsson did on Jones on their first fight, that being standing at distance and trying to do to Bones what he does to everyone else. The only difference there is that Gus has a two-inch reach edge on Reyes, and while that may not sound that significant, it's much, much easier to negate five-inch reach advantage than a seven-inch one.
I'm semi-interested in Reyes as a punt DK play given how cheap he is. I would probably be less interested had Jones not struggled against an injured Santos. I'm not as interested in Jones at such a high salary. Reyes is a legitimately talented kickboxer and I could see a scenario in which he makes this fight somewhat competitive despite coming up short.
THE PICK: Jones
Co-Main Event - Women's Flyweight Championship
Let me start of by saying that this fight does nothing for me. The 125-pound UFC women's division has had difficulty getting off the ground simply because the company is unable to find anyone to give Shevchenko a fight. I don't think that changes here.
Valentina is fresh off a beat down of since-released Liz Carmouche in August. She didn't drop a single round on the judge's scorecards (50-45 x3) en route to the unanimous-decision win. While it may not have been as dominant as the head kick knockout of Jessica Eye in her fight prior, Valentina was in full control the entire way. Shevchenko does everything well. She's good on the feet, good on the mat, can wrestle and is very powerful. She's an easy top-10 pound-for-pound fighter for me at this point, and it's going to take a shocking, Herculean effort from someone to get the belt off her at 125 pounds.
Since dropping her UFC debut to Carmouche in November 2016 via split decision, Chookagian has run off five wins in her past six bouts. The wins have come over Jennifer Maia, Joanne Calderwood, Alexis Davis, Mara Borello and Irene Aldana, while the loss came to Eye via split decision. That's not exactly a murderer's row of competition, and the fact all of Chookagian's wins came via decision also bodes poorly for her future. I really think this is nothing more than a fighter beating up on lousy competition. Sure, Chookagian might be better than Carmouche, and she's definitely better than Eye, but that doesn't mean she deserves a title shot.
I rarely advocate using a fighter in a DraftKings lineup with a salary as high as Shevchenko's is here, but I don't see how she doesn't dominate here. Chookagian doesn't have the requisite skill set to turn this into anything other than a kickboxing match, and she clearly doesn't have the power to match Valentina. For the record, Chookagian has yet to score a takedown in her UFC career. Katlyn has nothing to lose in a fight in which no one – myself included – is giving her any chance to be competitive, let alone win, but I imagine we will all be shaking our heads when this is over and thinking "there had to be a better option."
THE PICK: Shevchenko
This is a weird fight and an especially strange one to have on the main card of a Pay-Per-View. Adams and Tafa have combined to lose three in a row and have just a single UFC victory between them, but both are heavy-handed power punchers who rarely see the final bell, and there is definite viewer value in that.
Adams defeated Chris de la Rocha in his UFC debut in December 2018 before dropping his past two bouts. His most recent fight was a 45-second knockout at the hands of Greg Hardy last July. Adams is a massive human being (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) with legitimate power, but an opponent who is able to avoid those shots should be able to handle him without issue. He has no ground game to speak off and doesn't use his wrestling skills despite having a background in the discipline. Adams is so big and strong that he would be wise to attempt a takedown every now and then.
Tafa made his UFC debut in October and was promptly knocked out in just over two minutes by Yorgan de Castro. Tafa turned 26 years of age in December but has just four pro fights under his belt. He has never seen a third round. It's difficult to view Tafa as a legitimate threat given both is inexperience and the lack of background information we have on him. It generally takes an elite attribute to pick up the sport at such a late age, and there's zero evidence Tafa possesses that.
It's a wise idea for DraftKings players to get a piece of this fight in one form or another. The odds of it ending quickly are extremely, extremely high, the issue is picking the man who will win. If you're the type of player to make multiple lineups – which is really the only way to achieve consistency in MMA DFS – I would advise getting a piece of both men somewhere. Just don't stack them. A stack is always tough to pull off and it's an especially poor idea in a fight that shouldn't last long. Give me Adams for the victory but try to get Tafa into lineups in which you're seeking some salary relief.
THE PICK: Adams
Once viewed as one of the top prospects in the sport and potential future champion, it's put up or shut up time for Bektic. Sporting a 2-2 record in his past four fights dating back to March 2017, Bektic is coming off a knockout loss at the hands of Josh Emmett last July. While blessed with elite physical attributes, Bektic has been consistently banged up over the years and simply doesn't fight often enough to be able to survive another setback. There's some power here, but Bektic's biggest strength is his wrestling. He averages 3.38 takedowns per 15 minutes and has yet to be taken down himself over the course of his eight-fight UFC run. I have questions about his chin and there are obviously consistency issues to work through, but Bektic has the ability to grind out a decision against most men in the division.
The complete opposite of Bektic, this will be Ige's sixth UFC bout since debuting in January 2018. Ige's run has to be considered a success, all things considered. Little was expected of the Hawaiian when he arrived on the scene, but Ige has run off four-straight victories (one knockout, one submission, two decisions) since dropping his debut to Julio Arce. The issue for Ige is that Bektic is infinitely better than any of the four men (Mike Santiago, Jordan Griffin, Danny Henry, Kevin Aguilar) he has recently defeated. Ige is a competent all-around fighter who doesn't figure to be overwhelmed by the moment.
Ige's biggest advantage here is his durability. He has never been stopped as a pro and the longer this fight goes the better shape he will be in. I think there's a very good chance we see Bektic at his best here. He's been hurt and inconsistent of late, but his physical gifts are immeasurable. It's always a good idea to bet on talent in this sport and Bektic has more of that than he knows what to do with. That being said, Ige is a legitimate threat and I understand why both the odds and salaries are close here.
THE PICK: Bektic
Getting set to make his heavyweight debut, this was a fight that Latifi had to take, but it seems like a bad, bad match up for him. A member of the UFC roster dating back to April 2013, Latifi has been a thoroughly mediocre fighter during his time with the company. He probably has a bit more ability than his 7-4 record would lead you to believe, but Latifi isn't the type to overwhelm his opposition with damaging offensive flurries. He greatest asset WAS his pure strength. The problem is that strength figures to be seriously negated in the higher weight class. Perhaps Latifi was having problems with the weight cut or he felt there was a quicker path to contention than staying at 205 pounds.
Entering November's fight against Blagoy Ivanov on a two-fight losing streak, Lewis emerged with a much needed split-decision win. Lewis looked fairly strong in the fight and probably would have emerged victorious quite a bit earlier had it not been for Ivanov's super-human toughness. Ivanov is legitimately one of the toughest men on earth, so it's no surprise he lasted as long as he did. I'm not as convinced Latifi will be able to survive the onslaught that is coming from Lewis.
The breakdown of this fight is fairly simple and direct in my mind. Yes, Lewis's cardio is a concern – although it appears to have improved slightly – as is the fact he's a one-dimensional power puncher who doesn't defend himself well, but his power is a legitimate game changer. It's not quite on the level of a guy like Francis Ngannou, but it's massive. I have questions regarding Latifi's chin and it's a near certainty he is going to have to absorb a number of power shots from Lewis. Combine that with the fact I don't think Latifi has the one-punch knockout power to finish Lewis and you're left with an easy pick.
I think Latifi will have to wrestle to win this fight. Every single second he stands on the feet, the momentum swings to Lewis. Latifi might have enough talent to remain a fringe top-10 guy at heavyweight for a while, but he gets hit too much on the feet and that's a big, big no-no against a fighter like Lewis.
THE PICK: Lewis