This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
One quick note before I begin the preview. This is the thinnest card I can remember in RotoWire's four-plus years of covering MMA. Of the 22 fighters on the card, more than half are total unknowns. My advice, more so than ever, is for anyone participating in this event on DraftKings is to make multiple lineups to help cover a wide array of potential outcomes. As in, if your budget is $15 this week, play 15 $1 entries instead of entering the Throwdown. Given the fact seemingly anything can – and will – happen here, it's virtually impossible to expect to make one lineup and emerge victorious. Now, on to the preview.
Editors Note: Please note that the prelims begin at 3 a.m. EST, so be sure to have your lineups set before going to bed Friday night.
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 Strawweight Championship
This one comes as a surprise. Most predicted Andrade's first title defense would come against former champion Rose Namajunas or perhaps rising star Tatiana Suarez, but instead the UFC has inserted Zhang into the picture. She's a worthy challenger and a darn good opponent, but most everyone is in agreement that Zhang would not be getting this opportunity if this card wasn't taking place in her native China.
Andrade's win over Rose was something to behold. She was getting whipped for nearly the entire fight before she dropped Namajunas right on her head and knocked her out cold. The finish was impressive, but the way it happened was a bit fluky. Andrade hits hard and is remarkably strong, but I'm worried about her striking defense. It was non-existent against Rose, and she is going to be in trouble moving forward if she doesn't clean up that area of her game.
Zhang lost her first professional fight in November 2013 and hasn't tasted defeat since. She is a perfect 3-0 in the UFC, including a strong effort in a unanimous decision win over Tecia Torres her last time out in March. Zhang has legitimate power (nine career knockout wins) and a quality ground game (seven career submission wins), but she has little experience against high-level competition. Zhang will turn 30 years old next month, so she's not a kid, but the company seems to be rushing her development. Still, it's not as if she could pass up the opportunity to potentially make history in her home country.
As good as Andrade is, she doesn't strike me as the type of dominant champion who will hold onto the belt for an extended period of time. It takes a remarkably well-rounded mixed martial artist to make multiple title defense these days and I'm not sure Andrade offers that. Zhang is the wild card in the equation. I was impressed with her effort against Torres, but Tecia is a one-dimensional kickboxer who could potentially be looking at a release. Andrade brings more to the table than that. I think you have to pick Andrade to win, but this card is a mess and requires all DraftKings players to be a bit more creative than ever before. Taking Andrade at $8,700 and counting on the finish could be a dangerous game to play.
THE PICK: Andrade
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
One of the welterweight division's most diverse and underrated talents, Zaleski dos Santos enters on a seven-fight win streak, with the last three coming via stoppage. While the 32-year-old Brazilian does his best work on the feet, his ground game is underrated and he remains a threat wherever the fight goes. ZDS absorbs shockingly little punishment (2.86 significant strikes per minute) for a power puncher. By comparison, he lands 4.27 significant strikes per minute. The top-10 of the UFC's 170-pound division is loaded, but Zaleski dos Santos is on the verge of crashing the party, if he's not there already.
Li continues to show far more good than bad inside the Octagon. The 31-year-old has won back-to-back fights, and is sporting a 6-1 record in his last seven bouts dating back to July 2016. Never much of a knockout artist early in his career, four of Li's past six wins have come via stoppage. That's all well and good, but Li has been selling out for power and engaging his opposition in brawls in search of the finish, and that will almost certainly come back to bite him when the competition level rises. Zaleski dos Santos most certainly falls into that category.
The appeal surrounding Li as an underdog is obvious – he is going to have the massive crowd firmly behind him, and he doesn't have to fly halfway around the world to get to the arena. Those are legitimate factors to take into consideration in a bout that would project as a coin flip, but I don't think that is the case here. Zaleski dos Santos has a much better track record and is a clear favorite for a reason. I'm a believer.
THE PICK: Zaleski dos Santos
A relative newcomer to the UFC, de da Rosa joined the company in December 2017 and has posted a 2-2 record in his first four fights. A longtime BJJ practitioner and coach, de la Rosa is a legitimate threat on the mat, with six of his 11 career victories having come via submission. His problems are on the feet. De la Rosa is an awkward and uncomfortable striker, and struggles massively when forced to engage in a kickboxing match for any length of time. It's an issue that projects to be a big, big problem against an opponent with the power of Kara-France.
The aforementioned KKF enters on a seven-fight win streak. He's aggressive and hits massively hard for a guy standing 5-foot-5, 125 pounds. After all, you better be able to rack up the knockouts if your nickname is "Don't Blink". Kara-France isn't the type to be rolling around on the mat, but his takedown defense is an exceptional 90 percent. He should have no issues for as long as he can keep this fight standing.
De La Rosa needs to stay committed to the takedown to have any chance of winning this. Even if he fails on the first couple attempts, he needs to ensure there is a third and fourth and fifth try forthcoming. Kara-France will probably shut most of those tries right down, but it only takes one successful entry to give De La Rosa the significant edge on the mat. It could happen. I don't think it will, but it could. At least De La Rosa has some reasonable path to victory.
THE PICK: Kara-France
From here on out, it's slim pickings. I suggest all DraftKings players get a piece of the above three fights in one form or another, because at least you know what you're getting into.
Soukhamthath (we'll call him 'Andre' from now) has alternated wins and losses in his last five bouts dating back to August 2017. A striker by trade, Andre racked up a whole bunch of stoppage wins on the regional circuit and then saw his finishing power evaporate once he reached the UFC. He has some pop, puts together solid combinations and his wrestling is underrated, but Soukhamthath's striking defense is lousy (3.96 significant strikes per minute eaten as opposed to 3.00 landed). That's a definite concern.
Su announced his UFC arrival last November with a second-round submission loss to Louis Smolka. He spent his entire three-year MMA career on the regional circuit in China before his debut. Eight of Su's nine career wins have come via knockout – six in the first round – but he's never faced anyone of note besides Smolka so I don't know how to accurately quantify his potential. I do know that his submission defense is lousy and that's an area in which Soukhamthath, even those it's not his strength, could potentially take advantage.
I'm going to pick Soukhamthath, but with far less confidence than I probably should have. I don't think he's all that good, but Su is a total unknown.
THE PICK: Soukhamthath