DraftKings MMA: UFC 259 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC 259 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

The UFC is bringing fight fans an incredibly stacked card Saturday featuring three title fights and the possibility of having multiple two-division champions. 

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 $1,000,000 259 Special with $200k 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.

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.

Main Event - Light Heavyweight Championship

(C) Jan Blachowicz (27-8-0) v. (Middleweight Champion) Israel Adesanya (20-0-0)
DK Salaries: Blachowicz ($7,000), Adesanya ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Blachowicz (+190), Adesanya (-230)
Odds to Finish: -200

This fight is for Blachowicz's UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, which essentially means Adesanya has everything to gain and nothing to lose. It's a smart decision by the UFC and one that is not particularly surprising. Israel is one of the more popular fighters in the sport and could reach that next level with a win here. UFC President Dana White and company would never admit it, but an Adesanya victory is by far what's best for business.

Adesanya made his UFC debut a little over three years ago. During that span, he has victories over Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, Marvin Vettori, Kelvin Gastelum, Anderson Silva and Derek Brunson, just to name a few. Israel has successfully defended his belt twice, and has earned a $50,000 post-fight bonus in seven of nine fights with the UFC. His kickboxing skills are elite. He can throw anything, from any stance, at any time. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise given the fact Adesanya went 75-5 as a professional kickboxer. Israel is legitimately getting better before our eyes, and I'm extremely confident he will do just fine at 205 pounds. I believe he's big enough (6-foot-4, 80-inch reach), and there's simply too much talent here for him to fail. 

Everything I just wrote would lead you to believe Blachowicz has zero chance of winning this fight. I'm not picking him, but it would be extremely foolish to write him off completely considering how far Blachowicz has come over the years. Regular readers of this column know I haven't been Jan's biggest supporter during this time with the company, but he continues to make me look like a fool. Blachowicz is 8-1 in his past nine fights dating back to October 2017. The only setback during that span was a knockout at the hands of Thiago Santos, who we will talk about shortly. Jan's last four fights have resulted in a split decision over Jacare Souza, in addition to knockout wins over Luke Rockhold, Corey Anderson and Dominick Reyes, the last of which won him the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Championship this past September on Fight Island. 

The one thing I clearly underrated about Blachowicz over the years has been his power. He doesn't strike with the fluidity or gracefulness of a guy like Adesanya, but he has shown the ability to put guys away with regularity, and he's generally been durable. I'm worried about the lack of athleticism, and he doesn't strike me as the type of guy who would hold on to the title through multiple defenses, but I never would have bet in a million years that he would make it this far. 

It's going to take a knockout or a big shot that leads to a finish in order for Jan to win here. The odds of him outpointing Adesanya over the course of 25 minutes are extremely small. Blachowicz's DraftKings price tag is cheap given his recent string of success, but I think there's a significant talent gap between the two.

THE PICK: Adesanya
 

Co-Main Event - Women's Featherweight Championship

(C) Amanda Nunes (20-4-0) v. Megan Anderson (11-4-0)
DK Salaries: Nunes ($9,600), Anderson ($6,600)
Vegas Odds: Nunes (-1165), Anderson (+750)
Odds to Finish: -500

The UFC originally booked these two at UFC 256 in December before Nunes was forced to withdraw due to injury.

This will be Nunes' second title defense of the 145-pound belt since winning it from Cris Cyborg back in December 2018. She battered Felicia Spencer en route to a unanimous decision last June and in between defended her bantamweight championship with victories over Holly Holm (knockout) and Germaine de Randamie (unanimous decision). Overall, Nunes has won 11 in a row and is without a defeat in nearly six and a half years. She hits twice as hard as any woman in either division, and her chin has held up just fine in the rare instances in which she gets popped in return. 

Quickly out of options in a division that was ill-conceived and poorly executed from the very start, Anderson is going to get a title shot despite being just 3-2 with the company. It should also be noted that two of her three victories came over Norma Dumont and Zarah Fairn. Anderson is very, very tall (6-0) and employs a traditional kickboxing base. She relies on combinations and volume as opposed to sheer power, and there is zero reason to believe she will be able to match Nunes in any area. 

I've said it before in this space many times but I'll say it again – if the Vegas odds are as lopsided as you see here in a title fight, that fight should not be happening. 

The odds of Anderson, a pure striker, outpointing Nunes in a kickboxing match are next to none. It's going to take that one, lucky shot in order for her to win. It happens now and again in this sport, but it's rare. There's a reason Nunes' DK price tag is massive. She's a much better fighter and stylistically, I like her odds of paying dividends despite the huge chunk of your budget she will cost. Of course, keep in mind, if Anderson pulls an upset or even keeps it somewhat close, you're likely sunk with Nunes in your lineup. That's also the type of wild and crazy upset that would potentially prevent a split of Saturday's $200k top prize.

THE PICK: Nunes
 

Bantamweight Championship

(C) Petr Yan (15-1-0) v. Aljamain Sterling (19-3-0)
DK Salaries: Yan ($8,400), Sterling ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Yan (-115), Yan (-105)
Odds to Finish: -145

The one has been scheduled for a while. Yan and Sterling were originally supposed to get it on at UFC 256 in December before the bout had to be pushed back. 

Undefeated for about the past five years and a perfect 7-0 in the UFC, Yan gets set to make his first title defense after winning the vacant belt in a fight against Jose Aldo last July on Fight Island. Yan also has a knockout win over Urijah Faber and decision victories over Jimmie Rivera and John Dodson on his UFC resume. Yan is very good, there's no denying that. He lands a staggering 6.32 significant strikes per minute. For comparison's sake, Sterling lands 4.82 per minute and even that is an extremely high number. Yan has lightning quick hands and strings together combinations with ease. He can wrestle when necessary (1.46 takedowns per 15 minutes) and tends to get stronger a fights progress. Oh, he also turned just 28 years of age about three weeks ago. 

With all due respect to the names mentioned above, this is clearly the biggest test of Yan's career. Sterling enters raging hot. The Serra/Longo product has won five in a row, including a 88-second submission win over Cory Sandhagen in his most recent bout last June. If you're wondering how good Sandhagen is, go to YouTube and check out what he did to Frankie Edgar a couple weeks ago. Aljo is fighting with a physicality we didn't see from him early in his time with the company. He's in peak condition and is one of the strongest fighters in the division. Sterling possesses the upper-body strength to dominate in tight and control a fight along the fence. The biggest improvement in Sterling's game has been to his striking. Once considered a weakness, he is at least solid-to-average in that area. I can't imagine he wants to get involved in a 25-minute kickboxing match with Yan, but it's reassuring to know he can at least hold his own in that area.

This is the fight I'm looking forward to most on a stacked card by a healthy margin. Both of these guys are excellent and I expect it to be a highly competitive bout. 

Perhaps I'm slightly biased given the fact Sterling trains around the corner from where I'm writing this right now, but he seems to be legitimately improving each time he steps into the Octagon, and I'm a believer. If Sterling can hang in there on the feet, I think his physicality with which he fights can get him a win. The $600 break in salary is also a nice bonus given I view this as a pick 'em.

THE PICK: Sterling
 

Lightweight

Islam Makhachev (18-1-0) v. Drew Dober (23-9-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Makhachev ($9,400), Dober ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Makhachev (-335), Dober (+275)
Odds to Finish: +125

It's been an extremely long layoff for Makhachev, who hasn't fought since September 2019. He was due to face Alexander Hernandez last April before visa issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused that to fall apart. Then Makhachev was scheduled to fight Rafael dos Anjos in both October and November. RDA tested positive for COVID and withdrew in October, and Makhachev bailed in November, citing a staph infection. 

Overall, Makhachev has won six fights in a row and is without a defeat dating back to October 2015. He's one of the most underrated fighters on the roster regardless of division, but it would be nice to see him fight with some sort of regularity. Of course, the issues this past year were beyond his control. Makhachev is massive for the division (5-foot-10) and fights physically. He averages 3.4 takedowns per 15 minutes and connects on them at a ridiculous 68 percent clip. His motor is strong and he won't turn 30 years of age until late October. I see no reason he can't make a legitimate run at the top-five in a loaded division.

Never one to turn down a fight, Dober has won three in a row (Hernandez, Nasrat Haqparast, Marco Polo Reyes), all via knockout. The last two earned him $50,000 Performance of the Night bonuses. What you see is what you get with Dober. Although he does have six career wins via submission, his entire offensive arsenal is based around his striking. Dober's technique is strong, and he knows when to pressure his opposition on the feet and when to back off. I worry about the secondary aspects of his game, but he clearly can hang with any man in the division on the feet. He's also in the midst of his best stretch with the company, a company he joined nearly seven years ago.

I'm slightly worried about Makhachev's long layoff given how effective Dober has been of late, but I think there's a pretty significant gap in overall talent between the two. There's no way Makhachev is going to stand there and allow Dober to dictate the pace of a kickboxing match. The takedown attempts are going to come, and when they do, Dober defends them at a 58 percent clip. Not great. This is Makhachev by decision for me in a pretty easy call, although the price tag is concerning considering the layoff (as well as the liklihood this one goes the distance).

THE PICK: Makhachev
 

Light Heavyweight

Thiago Santos (21-8-0) v. Aleksandar Rakic (13-2-0)
DK Salaries: Santos ($7,600), Rakic ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Santos (+135), Rakic (-155)
Odds to Finish: -195

Santos' performance against Jon Jones in a UFC Light Heavyweight Championship fight back in July 2019 was epic. The Brazilian took Jones to a split decision (he may very well have deserved to win) in a fight in which he sustained a torn ACL, MCL and PCL, in addition to other injuries. It was the stuff of legends. That's not the issue. The issue is the fact Santos was submitted by Glover Teixeira in his return to competition this past November. The obvious question is whether or not his knee was fully healed. Santos spent 16 months on the sidelines and Octagon rust is real, despite what Dominick Cruz might tell you. This should give us a better idea of where Santos stands, but he's facing a terrific opponent. There isn't a lot of high-end depth at light heavyweight these days, but Santos, at age 37, would essentially be eliminated from title contention with a third-straight defeat.

Fresh off singing a new six-fight contract with the company about this time a year ago, Rakic went out and hammered Anthony Smith in a unanimous decision victory in his most recent fight last August. It was an excellent rebound effort on the heels of Rakic's split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir in his prior bout. Our exposure to Rakic has been minimal, but the 29-year-old is 5-1 in the UFC. My main question at this point is how Rakic will fair against better competition. Oezdemir is fair at best while Smith is clearly on the downswing, and they represent the two best fighters he has faced to date.

Both of these guys can mix in a takedown in a pinch, but I expect this to be a stand-up brawl between two power punchers. Rakic is two inches taller and has a two-inch reach edge, something that could come into play if they do remain on the feet. 

The winner of this fight will be the man who controls the center of the Octagon and pushes forward consistently. For two guys who do virtually all their damage on the feet, neither get hit much. Santos absorbs just 2.32 significant strikes per minute, while Rakic is even better than that at 1.99. Positioning and volume should rule the day in a fight in which both competitors possess similar skill sets. 

I'm tempted to roll with Santos one more time given the $1000 savings in salary. He very nearly beat Jones and I can easily overlook one bad effort since then given how serious the damage to his knee was. I'd probably take Rakic, all things being equal, but I'll give Santos one more chance to prove he's fully healthy.

THE PICK: Santos

Other Bouts

Bantamweight
Dominick Cruz (22-3-0) v. Casey Kenney (16-2-1)
DK Salaries: Cruz ($8,100), Kenney ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Cruz (+110), Kenney (-130)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Cruz

Bantamweight
Yadong Song (16-4-1, 1NC) v. Kyler Phillips (8-1-0)
DK Salaries: Yadong ($8,800), Phillips ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Yadong (-140), Phillips (+120)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Song

Flyweight
Joseph Benavidez (28-7-0) v. Askar Askarov (12-0-1)
DK Salaries: Benavidez ($7,900), Askarov ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Benavidez (-105), Askarov (-115)
Odds to Finish: +150
THE PICK: Benavidez

Flyweight
Rogerio Bontorin (16-2-0, 1NC) v. Kai Kara-France (21-9-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Bontorin ($7,700), Kara-France ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Bontorin (+120), Kara-France (-140)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Kara-France

Flyweight
Tim Elliott (17-11-1) v. Jordan Espinosa (15-8-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Elliott ($8,200), Espinosa ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Elliott (+105), Espinosa (-125)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Elliott

Light Heavyweight
Kennedy Nzechukwu (7-1-0) v. Carlos Ulberg (5-0-0)
DK Salaries: Nzechukwu ($7,200), Ulberg ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Nzechukwu (+185), Ulberg (-225)
Odds to Finish: -185
THE PICK: Ulberg

Welterweight
Sean Brady (13-0-0) v. Jake Matthews (17-4-0)
DK Salaries: Brady ($9,300), Matthews ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Brady (-210), Matthews (+175)
Odds to Finish: +155
THE PICK: Brady

Women's Strawweight
Livinha Souza (14-2-0) v. Amanda Lemos (8-1-1)
DK Salaries: Souza ($7,500), Lemos ($8,700
Vegas Odds: Souza (+175), Lemos (+210)
Odds to Finish: +180
THE PICK: Lemos

Lightweight
Uros Medic (6-0-0) v. Aalon Cruz (8-3-0)
DK Salaries: Medic ($8,900), Cruz ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Medic (-165), Cruz (+145)
Odds to Finish: -245
THE PICK: Medic

Bantamweight
Mario Bautista (8-1-0) v. Trevin Jones (12-6-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Bautista ($9,100), Jones ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Bautista (-235), Jones (+195)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Bautista

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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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