This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
On a card that rivals some pay-per-views, a showdown between top heavyweight contenders will set the stage for the division's direction in 2021.
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 $400k MMA Throwdown with $100k 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 as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
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)
- 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.
Main Event - Heavyweight
Blaydes might not be Stipe Miocic or Francis Ngannou, but he's clearly the third-best heavyweight on the roster at the moment, and I don't think it's particularly close. A freak athlete with the ability to keep a remarkable pace, Blaydes averages a whopping 6.98 takedowns per 15 minutes. In his last four fights, all wins, Blaydes has racked up 26 takedowns. Blaydes looks awkward on the feet at times, but that isn't his game. The majority of his offense comes from ground-and-pound. Blaydes has lost just twice in the UFC – both to Ngannou, and both via knockout.
Lewis continues to go about his business, earning high-profile fights and winning far more than he loses. Lewis has picked up three straight victories since dropping back-to-back fights to Daniel Cormier and Junior dos Santos. Lewis' 11 career knockouts are the most in UFC heavyweight history. Lewis will be 36 years of age next February, and he certainly isn't changing his style of fighting at this point. He steps into the Octagon with the hope of knocking his opponent out cold and picking up a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. Lewis will do everything he can to make that happen and then let the chips fall where they may.
This fight would appear to be a worse-case scenario for Lewis. His cardio, while improved, has long been a concern. Toss in the fact he defends takedowns at just a 52 percent clip, and Blaydes has the potential to turn this fight into a rout quickly.
I rarely advocate this, but Lewis has to come out swinging here in hopes of securing an immediate knockout. If this fight lasts more than even a couple minutes, Lewis' chances of winning are miniscule. I expect Blaydes to rack up plenty of takedowns and land plenty of strikes from top position, and I like him as a DK play despite the hefty salary.
Fans aren't exactly clamoring to see Blaydes compete because his style of fighting isn't what we are used to seeing from top heavyweights, but an impressive win over Lewis would seemingly ensure Blaydes an opportunity at the winner of the upcoming title bout between Miocic and Ngannou. That is, unless Jon Jones has something to say about that.
THE PICK: Blaydes
Co-Main Event - Women's Bantamweight
One of the few legitimate prospects left in a division that has seemingly lost much of its depth over recent time, Vieira will looked for a second straight victory in a fight she has to have. While the Brazilian's 5-1 record with the UFC appears strong on the surface, two of Vieira's wins came via split decision (Cat Zingano, Kelly Faszholz) and two of her other victories came against Sijara Eubanks and Ashlee Evans-Smith. Simply put, we haven't seen Viera perform against high-level competition, and a dominant victory here still wouldn't tell us a heck of a lot about her ultimate ceiling.
On the flip side, I've always found Kunitskaya to be a tad underrated. The former Invicta Bantamweight Champion, Kunitskaya is 3-2 in her first five UFC bouts. She's been fine against fringe fighters and been hammered by better competition. My guess is that Vieira falls somewhere in between. Yana is a pure striker. She is currently engaged to UFC light heavyweight Thiago Santos, a man known as one of the most vicious strikers in the sport. Kunitskaya wins with volume, as virtually all of her knockouts came early in her career on the regional circuit.
I think there's a decent chance Kunitskaya out-performs her cheap DraftKings price tag in this fight, but her style of fighting isn't particularly conducive to racking up a ton of fantasy points.
I also think there's a pretty decent chance Kunitskaya spends a good portion of this fight on her back given the fact Vieira averages just over two takedowns per 15 minutes and Yana defends them at just a 33 percent clip. I'd like Kunitskaya's chances in a kickboxing match, but my heart tells me Vieira uses her wrestling to grind out a decision.
THE PICK: Vieira
Arlovski has fought surprisingly well of late, taking unanimous decisions over Tanner Boser and Philipe Lins in his past two bouts. They haven't been masterpieces, but Arlovski performed better in both fights than anyone could have reasonably expected. Of course, I'm still picking against him. Arlovski turned 42 years of age earlier this month. I have little confidence in his ability to take a punch and even less confidence in his ability to land consistent offense. The fact he is going up against a pure knockout artist in the smaller Octagon at the UFC Apex are both extreme red flags for Arlovski.
Our exposure to Aspinall has been very small. He has all of two UFC fights under his belt and they both came against subpar competition in Jake Collier and Alan Baudot. Of course, Aspinall knocked both of them out in a combined 2:20. What you see is what you get with Aspinall. He's huge (6-foot-5) and has a ridiculous amount of power. I have concerns about his all-around arsenal and I'm not convinced he's good enough to defeat anyone of note, but a guy who hits hard and applies constant pressure on the feet is arguably a worse-case scenario for Arlovski these days.
There's no way you can pick Arlovski to win here. His best chance of pulling the upset is if Aspinall goes for broke and gets lazy with his defense. Even if that happens I'm not convinced Arlovski can generate enough offense to stop Aspinall via strikes. The Brit has lost twice in his career, once via submission and once via decision.
I'm not going to overcomplicate this one. Give me Aspinall via stoppage.
THE PICK: Aspinall
In for Jai Herbert, Pena accepted this fight on just over a week's notice.
Pena had a lot of hype coming off Season 27 of the Ultimate Fighter, but he has been a .500 fighter (3-3) with the UFC. Two of the losses have come via split decision, so his record could look better than it does. The obvious attraction with Pena is the size. Good luck fighting another lightweight on the roster who checks in at 6-foot-3. Despite his large frame, Pena doesn't accomplish a ton offensively. He doesn't land much on the feet (3.26 significant strikes per minute) and doesn't get hit much (2.74 per minute). My gut tells me he's capable of more than we have seen thus far, but the numbers don't really back that up.
Seven fights into his UFC career, Klose has looked better than most would have thought. His record with the company is 5-2, including wins over Bobby Green, Lando Vannata, and Marc Diakiese. Klose is coming off a knockout loss at the hands of Beneil Dariush last March. The Dariush loss aside, Klose is insanely durable and performs best in a wild brawl. I'm not convinced Klose's physical gifts are much better than average, but many fighters in the sport struggle because they lack aggressiveness, and that's never an issue for Drakkar.
The question here is how Klose handles the size difference between the two. Pena is six inches taller and enters with a five-inch reach edge. That would normally be highly concerning, but Pena isn't exactly known for being a tough, physical fighter despite his size. I imagine Klose will push forward with reckless abandon despite being the much smaller man.
Klose appears to be overpriced from a DK perspective – I'd feel better about him if he was more like $8500 – but the combination of durability and aggressiveness is intriguing. I expect Pena to have a standout performance eventually, but it's anyone's guess when it will come. I'll take Klose with the caveat Pena could provide value at $7000 to help you fill out your lineup.
THE PICK: Klose