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UFC 254 Predictions: Magomed Ankalaev, Alexander Volkov Highlight DraftKings MMA DFS Fighter Picks

Mookie Alexander lists the fighters he thinks could produce high scores for your UFC 254 DraftKings lineups. The fantasy MMA contest takes place at 11:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, October 24.

The UFC’s Fight Island finale for 2020 is one that you won’t want to miss. On October 24 in Abu Dhabi, lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov faces feared striker and interim champion Justin Gaethje in the absolutely mouthwatering UFC 254 main event. As for the co-main event, former middleweight king Robert Whittaker takes on Jared Cannonier in a matchup that likely decides who will face Israel Adesanya for the belt next.

While this card has lost a couple of pivotal and intriguing fights like Rafael dos Anjos vs. Islam Makhachev and Cynthia Calvillo vs. Lauren Murphy, UFC 254 is still a fantastic show and you just know there will be fireworks in that main event regardless of who wins. Before the special Saturday afternoon event arrives, let’s look at some of the fighters on this card who are poised to deliver high scores for your DraftKings teams.


DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 254 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $500K in guaranteed prizes, including $100K to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 11:00 a.m. ET on Saturday morning with the start of the prelims. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $500K 254 Special [$100K to 1st].

DraftKings Sportsbook will also be featuring bets that can be placed throughout the day for the duration of UFC 254. See all the available bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page or by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.


Khabib Nurmagomedov ($9,200) vs. Justin Gaethje ($7,000) - Lightweights

Khabib is not just an undefeated champion, but he’s rarely been challenged in his entire career and has only lost one round in the UFC. Having famously submitted bitter rival Conor McGregor in 2018, Nurmagomedov’s sole 2019 appearance ended in a dominant third-round finish of Dustin Poirier for his second successful title defense. His next challenge is “Mr. Highlight” himself, Justin Gaethje. The former WSOF champion has brilliantly recovered from his consecutive losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier to win four straight, all by knockout or TKO. His last outing saw him dispatch Tony Ferguson by fifth-round stoppage to claim the interim belt and end Ferguson’s 12-fight unbeaten run.

This is going to be epic. Gaethje is known for his striking (and ridiculous chin) but he has a wrestling background and has historically been hard to take down. However, he hasn’t fought someone with the chain wrestling and sheer strength of Nurmagomedov, not to mention we know little about Gaethje’s game off of his back. It’s evident that Khabib cannot outstrike Gaethje, so if Justin can stay off the fence, keep his pace, and do his damage in open space, then he’ll be the new champion. If Khabib can consistently get Gaethje down and keep him there then it’s his fight to lose. I’ve picked against Khabib over the past two fights and been proven very wrong, so I am not going to doubt him this time. What I do envision is Gaethje gives Khabib his toughest fight to date, but he’ll come up just short on the scorecards.

Number of note: 57. Nurmagomedov has the most completed takedowns in UFC lightweight history with 57. In contrast, Gaethje has been taken down once but has only spent 17 seconds of his entire UFC run in a bottom position.


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Alexander Volkov ($8,600) vs. Walt Harris ($7,600) - Heavyweights

Former Bellator champion Alexander Volkov was simply unable to cope with Curtis Blaydes’ wrestling, losing by unanimous decision despite a late rally. After prevailing his first four UFC fights, including a KO of Fabricio Werdum, he’s dropped two of his last three and it’s must-win territory for the Russian if he wants to stay in title contention. Harris was a name on the rise in the heavyweight ranks with his KOs of Sergey Spivak and Aleksei Oleinik last year. Sadly, due to the murder of his stepdaughter and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, he did not return to action to action until May against Alistair Overeem. An emotional Harris nearly put Overeem away in round one, only to tire and lose by TKO in round two.

Harris has the power to knock Volkov out much like Derrick Lewis miraculously did two years ago. Unfortunately for him, he’s not known for tremendous cardio, his ground game is a liability, and Volkov is the more technical striker who can pick him apart with volume. Harris has to win early or else he won’t win at all. I’m going with “Drago” to get back on track with an impressive stoppage victory.

Number of Note: 13. All 13 of Walt Harris’ wins have come via knockout or TKO, although technically his decision win over Andrei Arlovski was overturned to a no contest. He’s also been knocked out in three of his eight career losses.

Magomed Ankalaev ($8,900) vs. Ion Cutelaba ($7,300) - Light Heavyweights

Ankalaev suffered an unbelievable last-second loss to Paul Craig in his UFC debut, but has rattled off four straight wins since then. He TKO’d Cutelaba back in February, but controversy arose due to the referee’s early stoppage. Multiple attempts to book the rematch have fallen through, but hopefully this time is the charm. Cutelaba, who likes to play the role of “The Incredible Hulk,” has been one of the UFC’s premier action fighters at light heavyweight. Preceding the Ankalaev bout, the Moldovan put away Khalil Rountree with elbows in just 2:35. He also had Glover Teixeira in early trouble before fading and tapping to a rear-naked choke in round two.

For however long this lasts, this should be extremely fun and wild. Cutelaba always goes for the finish, for better or worse. Ankalaev has dangerous kicks (as Cutelaba knows all too well) and Ion’s tendency to throw caution to the wind causes him to fatigue easily and leave him susceptible to takedowns, which is Ankalaev’s wheelhouse. Expect a more conclusive win for Ankalaev this time around.

Number of Note: 16. Of Cutelaba’s 21 professional fights, 16 of them have ended in round one, including the prematurely stopped first meeting with Ankalaev.


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Casey Kenney ($8,700) vs. Nathaniel Wood ($7,500) - Bantamweights

Kenney is a busy man down in Abu Dhabi. It was not even a full month ago that he battered Alateng Heili with brutal body kicks on his way to a one-sided decision. The former LFA champion has only been defeated by rising contender Merab Dvalishvili in his five-fight UFC career. Wood is a promising prospect who began his UFC stint with three straight submission wins. The Englishman was beaten by TKO at the hands of John Dodson in February, but bounced back with a decision win over late replacement John Castaneda.

This is the most underrated contest on the card, and it’s buried on the early prelims. Don’t let Wood’s submissions fool you — he won all of his Cage Warriors bouts (including the bantamweight title) by knockout. Conversely, don’t let Kenney’s last performance fool you into thinking he’s predominantly a striker! Kenney has really good wrestling and grappling, and his durability is better than Wood’s. It’s a difficult fight to call as both men are well-rounded but ultimately I believe Kenney will win this with his outstanding scrambling abilities and his grueling pace.

Number of Note: 109. Kenney landed a UFC career-high 109 significant strikes in his win over Alateng Heili, including 41 damaging blows to the body.

Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $500K 254 Special [$100K to 1st].

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mookiealexander) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.


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