DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 18 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 18 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

MMA returns to Las Vegas this weekend, where DraftKings is putting up a $100k prize for first place in its $400k MMA Throwdown, along with a regular slate of offerings.

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 [title of top GPP on DK] with [aforementioned GPP's top prize] to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:

Note: Scoring has been updated during the break! Please review the scoring changes below.

Moves Scoring
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Control Time: +0.03 PTS/SECOND
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
Quick Win Bonus: +25 PTS
(fight is finished in 60 seconds or less)

Scoring Notes

  • Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
  • A Significant Strike will count as both a strike and a significant strike and will be worth a total of 0.4 Pts
  • Control Time is the time spent in the dominant position on the ground or in the clinch. +0.03 points are awarded per second.
  • A Knockdown is awarded to a fighter who knocks his/her opponent down due to debilitation for what the official scorers consider an appreciable amount of time.
  • A Quick Win Bonus is awarded to the winning fighter if they win in the first round in 60 seconds or less.

Now, on to the fights...

Main Event - Heavyweight

Alistair Overeem (48-18-0, 1NC) v. Alexander Volkov (32-8-0)
DK Salaries: Overeem ($7,600), Volkov ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Overeem (+165), Volkov (-190)
Odds to Finish: -245

Overeem is 40 years old and has barely been a .500 fighter (3-4) for the last three-plus years, but he remains extremely popular and thus finds himself headlining cards like this one that have a ton of loaded fights. 

The one certainty at this point appears to be that an Overeem fight won't see the final bell. All seven of those previous mentioned fights have ended via knockout. "The Reem" possesses legitimate power, but his hand and foot speed have understandably deteriorated over the years. His chin, which was never a strength, looks worse than ever. Overeem is still plenty effective when you take into account the guy has more than 65 professional fights under his belt, but it would be a stretch to consider him any sort of legitimate title contender in the early days of 2020.

Overeem better show up ready to go because Volkov has long been and remains one of the most underrated fighters on the roster. A former Bellator and M-1 Global Heavyweight Champion, Volkov is 6-2 in the UFC. The two losses came against Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes. Volkov dominated the Lewis fight before being caught and knocked out with 11 seconds left. In the Blaydes fight, he had zero answers for the opponent's takedowns. Volkov is a massive guy (6-foot-7) who employs a traditional kickboxing attacks. He stands at distance and throws a ton of kicks.

I expect Volkov's volume and technical skill to wear down Overeem. The big Russian should be just fine as long as he is able to avoid that one big miracle power shot from his opponent. I have little interest in Overeem as a Hail Mary play simply due to the overall durability of Volkov. 

As I mentioned earlier, I don't think Overeem is totally washed up, but I do think the UFC should be a bit more responsible regarding who they match him up against. I didn't have to think about this pick for even a second as soon as the fight was announced.

THE PICK: Volkov

Co-Main Event - Bantamweight

Cory Sandhagen (13-2-0) v. Frankie Edgar (23-8-1)
DK Salaries: Sandhagen ($9,400), Edgar ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Sandhagen (-400), Edgar (+325)
Odds to Finish: +160

With one victory in his past three bouts (and that coming via split decision), Edgar would appear to once again be in must-win mode in his second fight at 135 pounds. "The Answer" made his bantamweight debut last August, taking that previously-mentioned split decision from Pedro Munhoz. It was a perfectly reasonable effort for a then-38-year-old in his first fight in a new division, but there was nothing from Edgar to lead you to believe he's a legitimate threat to the top bantamweights the roster has to offer.

Sandhagen might not be on the same level as current UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan and top contender Aljamain Sterling, but if he isn't, he is a tier just below. Sandhagen is 6-1 in the UFC, with the one defeat being a 88-second submission loss at the hands of Sterling last June. Cory rebounded from that setback to earn a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus in knocking out Marlon Moraes about four months later. 

I love Frankie and respect all he has done for the sport, but this seems like a terrible matchup for him. Sandhagen is five inches taller, possesses a two-inch reach edge, and is more than a decade younger. The fact this is a three-rounder as opposed to a five-rounder should also favor Sandhagen. I'll still bet on Edgar's cardio over just about anyone's, but a 15-minute fight should allow Cory to empty the gas tank offensively without having to worry about the extra ten minutes.

The one great equalizer here could potentially be Edgar's wrestling game. Frankie averages 2.28 takedowns per 15 minutes, while Sandhagen defends them at a woeful 30 percent clip. Of course, Sandhagen's massive size edge should help limit plenty of those Edgar takedown attempts.

I don't think Edgar is anywhere near finished, and he certainly isn't as washed up as your typical 39-year-old we see entire this Octagon, but this is a big ask. I wasn't crazy about his decision to move down in weight this late in his career, and I'm not crazy at the matchmaking here. Bantamweight is deep enough that I feel the UFC could have found a more suitable opponent for Edgar.

Experience counts for something in this sport, and Edgar has more of that than he knows what to do with, but I don't think he gets it done here. Any slight decrease in speed on Frankie's part should allow Sandhagen to get off first in the striking exchanges between the two men.

I'm not thrilled with Sandhagen's massive price tag, but I do expect there to be a significant gap in physicality between the two. Betting on Edgar is simply hoping his experience level will help him keep this one close. It's going to be difficult in a three-round fight. 

THE PICK: Sandhagen


Beneil Dariush (19-4-1) v. Diego Ferreira (17-2-0)
DK Salaries: Dariush ($8,000), Ferreira ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Dariush (+100), Ferreira (-120)
Odds to Finish: -115

This is a darn good fight and one that is getting nowhere near the recognition it should. This is a rematch of an October 2014 fight in Rio de Janeiro in which Dariush took a unanimous decision.

Immediately following the first fight between the two, Ferreira was knocked out by Dustin Poirier. That came in April 2015. He hasn't lost since. The Brazilian enters on a six-fight winning streak. Ferreira appears to be the rare fighter who has legitimately improved as he has aged. Like many Brazilians, Diego is a traditional submission specialist. He's always been excellent in that area, although his striking has noticeably improved of late. It was a weakness earlier in his career, but I'd rate Ferreira's stand-up as solid-to-average right now. I'm a believer in the total package.

Dariush continues to go about his business. By that, I mean winning fights while generating little fanfare. He's won five in a row, including four straight via stoppage. Dariush is what I term a "sleepy" fighter. He's traditionally a slow starter and prefers to let his opposition lead the dance. He excels at counter-punching and capitalizing on his opponent's mistakes. Dariush is really good on the mat and has long possessed sneaky power. He's been with the UFC for more than seven years but is still just 31 years old. I'm not sure we've seen the best we have to offer from him yet.

I'm torn here. Both men enter red hot. If I picked this fight ten times, I'd take both men five. I'm going to go with Dariush because of the slight salary relief he provides, but this fight is the very definition of a pick 'em. I'm really looking forward to this one.

THE PICK: Dariush


Michael Johnson (20-16-0) v. Clay Guida (35-17-0)
DK Salaries: Johnson ($8,800), Guida ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Johnson (-220), Guida (+180)
Odds to Finish: +155

This will be the first meeting between Johnson and Guida, something that is rather difficult to believe considering how long these two have been with the company in addition to how frequently each of them tend to fight. It's also quite likely that the loser will be handed his walking papers.

While both men are in a dire situation right now, things would appear to be slightly worse for Johnson. "The Menace" has lost three straight and is 2-6 in his last eight fights dating back to November 2016. Part of those struggles are undoubtedly due to the fact Johnson is wiling to face any opponent at any time. That's admirable, but sooner or later you have to actually win your fights. There's little reason to believe that Johnson is totally washed up at age 34, but his fight IQ has always been questionable, and he's not exactly the type to tailor his game plan to his opposition.

I'm more worried about Guida than I am Johnson. Clay is now 39 years old and has just a single victory dating back to November 2017. That win came against B.J. Penn. Nothing else needs to be said. A professional since 2003, Guida has long been underrated in terms of his contributions to the sport. He keeps himself in excellent shape and has twice as much energy as men half his age, but he's getting hit on the feet more than ever, and there simply appears to be no path to prolonged offensive success here in the later stages of his career. 

I know he's been terrible lately, but I'll be highly, highly concerned if Johnson doesn't win this fight. Guida has never been known as offering much on the feet and Johnson should possess the necessary hand speed to give Clay trouble. I imagine Johnson would go right back to struggling once the competition level across from him rises a bit, but he needs to win this fight to save his job, and it looks like a good match up for him.

THE PICK: Johnson

Other Fights

Alexandre Pantoja (22-5-0) v. Manel Kape (15-4-0)
DK Salaries: Pantoja ($8,300), Kape ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Pantoja (-130), Kape (-110)
Odds to Finish: -180

Cody Stamann (19-3-1) v. Askar Askar (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Stamann ($9,200), Askar ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Stamann (-420), Askar (+335)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Stamann

Light Heavyweight
Mike Rodriguez (11-5-0, 1NC) v. Danilo Marques (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Rodriguez ($9,000), Marques ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Rodriguez (-245), Marques (+205)
Odds to Finish: -365
THE PICK: Rodriguez

Timur Valiev (16-2-0, 1NC) v. Martin Day (8-5-0)
DK Salaries: TBD
Vegas Odds: Valiev (-345), Day (+285)
Odds to Finish: -155
THE PICK: Valiev

Catchweight (160 Pounds)
Devonte Smith (10-2-0) v. Justin Jaynes (16-6-0)
DK Salaries: TBD
Vegas Odds: Smith (-300), Jaynes (+250)
Odds to Finish: -380

Women's Bantamweight
Karoline Rosa (13-3-0) v. Joselyne Edwards (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Rosa ($8,700), Edwards ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Rosa (-240), Edwards (+220)
Odds to Finish: +175

Women's Flyweight
Molly McCann (10-3-0) v. Lara Procopio (6-1-0)
DK Salaries: McCann ($8,500), Procopio ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: McCann (-155), Procopio (+135)
Odds to Finish: +240
THE PICK: Procopio

Seungwoo Choi (8-3-0) v. Youssef Zalal (10-3-0)
DK Salaries: Choi ($7,100), Zalal ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Choi (+205), Zalal (-245)
Odds to Finish: +110

Ode Osbourne (8-3-0, 1NC) v. Jerome Rivera (10-4-0)
DK Salaries: Osbourne ($7,800), Rivera ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Osbourne (-205), Rivera (+165)
Odds to Finish: -110
THE PICK: Rivera

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Jon Litterine plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: JLitterine.
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Jon Litterine
Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.
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