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UFC Fight Night DraftKings DFS Preview, Picks, Predictions, Odds

Timothy Finnegan previews UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Till and looks at DraftKings DFS salaries and DraftKings Sportsbook betting odds. The contest locks at 5:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 25.

“UFC Fight Island” continues from Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, and Saturday’s card is jam-packed with fights. A whopping 15 fights are being held, including seven fights on the main card, giving DraftKings users the potential for more variety and less ownership overlap in their lineup construction. The main event is a middleweight fight between former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and former title challenger Darren Till. The card also has a classic old-school fight between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio “Minotouro” Nogueira, whose rivalry dates back to the PRIDE Fighting Championships promotion in Japan in the mid-2000s. The card gets underway at 5:00 p.m. ET on July 25.

DraftKings is offering multiple ways for mixed martial arts fans to get in on the UFC action. DraftKings users can enter for their chance to win big prizes in Saturday’s fantasy MMA $500K Throwdown Special contest, which pays out a guaranteed $500,000, including $100K to first place. Set your DraftKings MMA lineups here: MMA $500K Throwdown Special [$100K to 1st].

DraftKings users can also get in on the UFC action by betting on DraftKings Sportsbook or by downloading the DK Sportsbook app.

DraftKings released fantasy MMA salaries for the event earlier in the week and below, we will take a look at the slate with a preview and some picks, predictions and betting odds. But first, here’s a look at the DraftKings fantasy MMA scoring criteria for mixed martial arts fans who may be new to fantasy MMA.

Scoring Criteria


  • A significant strike is worth 0.5 DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP). A significant strike is defined as any distance strike or clinch/ground strike that is considered a “power strike” by official scorers.
  • Advances on the ground are worth 3.0 DKFP. Advances include to half guard, to side control, to mount and to back control.
  • A takedown is worth 5.0 DKFP.
  • A reversal or sweep is worth 5.0 DKFP.
  • A knockdown is worth 10.0 DKFP. 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.

Fight Conclusion Bonuses

DraftKings fantasy points (DKFP) are awarded based on how quickly a fighter is able to finish the fight. Here’s a round-by-round breakdown:

  • 1st round win: 90 DKFP
  • 2nd round win: 70 DKFP
  • 3rd round win: 45 DKFP
  • 4th round win: 40 DKFP
  • 5th round win: 40 DKFP
  • Decision win: 30 DKFP

Biggest Favorite: Khamzat Chimaev ($9,800)

As a gigantic -1250 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, Chimaev is one of the biggest favorites on any UFC card in 2020. No other favorite on this card is even close to that, making Chimaev far and away the biggest favorite on this slate. Chimaev is fighting on a ridiculously quick turnaround, as he just fought on the July 15 Fight Island card, which took place only 10 days prior to this event. Chimaev was highly impressive in the fight, recording a second-round submission via a D’Arce choke.

In that fight, Chimaev showcased outstanding timing on takedowns, recording a perfectly set up takedown five seconds into the fight after hiding the takedown attempt behind a body kick. Chimaev shot in for the takedown while his opponent was committing to a strike, which made defending the takedown incredibly difficult because his opponent was off-balanced. This elite timing can make takedown attempts very high percentage, and Chimaev had a perfect 100% takedown accuracy in the fight, going 2-for-2 on takedown attempts.

While Chimaev had his opponent on the ground, he was highly active with strikes and guard passing attempts, which is very helpful for fantasy output. The high activity translated to Chimaev landing just under seven significant strikes per minute, an excellent number. Chimaev also officially passed the guard twice in the fight, including passing to mount and then getting full back control with both hooks in. This is a dominating position where opponents are basically helpless, and many fights are ended from this position.

Chimaev ultimately finished the fight with a D’Arce choke after his opponent turtled to his knees, sliding his arms underneath his opponent’s armpit and sinking in a tight choke, cutting off the blood flow to the artery. The performance earned Chimaev a strong 107.5 DKFP, and even if he isn’t able to secure a finish this time around, Chimaev’s high activity level with strikes and passing attempts gives him fantasy volume upside as his fight time increases.

Laying a -1250 bet on anybody in a mixed martial arts fight is a tall order because the small gloves can make the sport unpredictable at times, but Chimaev is the safest play on the DraftKings DFS slate and carries huge upside with his skills and activity level.

Bargain Bin: Fabricio Werdum ($6,900)

At $6,900, Werdum has been given the nice salary and is the fourth cheapest fighter on this slate. Werdum did not look good in his most recent fight in May, but he attributed his poor performance due to being unable to train properly, as COVID-19 significantly impacted his ability to put together a full training camp to prepare for the fight. Werdum said he has had a complete training camp for this fight and expects to be in much better condition.

While Werdum is advanced in age and mileage and does not move well, he is still extremely skilled and was once one of the premier fighters in the division. Werdum has one of the best submission backgrounds in the sport and has the best BJJ credentials in the heavyweight division. This makes him a very dangerous threat if he is able to get the fight to the ground.

Werdum has submitted the likes of Cain Velasquez, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem, who have all been ridiculously difficult to catch in submissions in their careers. He’s also displayed quality striking at times, with his most notable knockout coming on a flying knee against previously iron-chined kickboxer Mark Hunt.

Werdum has also been able to win lengthy stand up battles at times, most recently winning a five-round decision over Marcin Tybura in Nov. 2017 where Werdum landed a heavy 155 significant strikes in the fight and recorded 119 DKFP. 152 of those 155 significant strikes came on the feet.

Werdum is facing a beefed-up Alexander Gustafsson, who is coming out of a brief retirement and moving up to the heavyweight division after spending most of his career at light heavyweight. Gustafsson has been very difficult to take down and famously gave peak Jon Jones the toughest fight of his career. He also took Daniel Cormier to a split decision in a very close title fight, so he’s given some of the best fighters in the history of the sport scares. There’s very good reason that Gustafsson is a large -335 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook. However, if fantasy owners are looking for a salary relief play, Werdum’s all-world BJJ skills and lengthy experience makes him a threat if he can find a way to get the fight to the ground.

Curious about when major leagues and events will return? Check out our DraftKings Sports Calendar for the latest updates.

Throwback Fight: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua ($9,000) vs. Antonio Rogerio “Minotouro” Nogueira ($7,200)

“Shogun” Rua was once one of the premier fighters in the sport, dominating the PRIDE FC promotion in Japan in the mid-2000s, which at the time was the biggest MMA promotion in the world. During this period, the UFC was still badly struggling to gain mainstream traction in the United States and PRIDE was routinely putting on massive fight cards in huge arenas. “Shogun” Rua went 12-1 in 13 fights in PRIDE, and his only loss was a freak accident due to a dislocated arm, which occurred after posting his arm on the mat while attempting to defend a takedown.

One of those wins was a unanimous decision win over Nogueira in 2005. While Nogueira had his moments in the fight, including badly staggering Rua with a punch in the first round, Rua recorded seven takedowns, four guard passes and threw a heavy 215 total strikes in the fight to take the decision win. Rua was successful on 7-of-9 takedown attempts, mostly via a clinched body lock, so Nogueira wasn’t able to muster much takedown defense. Rua also recorded a knockdown in Round 3. This high-output performance would have netted Rua over 120 DKFP had fantasy MMA been around back then, although the judging criteria and rules in PRIDE were a little different than the current UFC rules and judging criteria.

Rua’s dominance ended a few years later, as multiple injuries contributed to his body breaking down, and he has not been the same fighter since PRIDE was bought out by the UFC in 2007.

The two fought again in 2015, and while Rua won another unanimous decision, he didn’t have the same degree of output. Rua was successful on only 2-of-5 takedown attempts, down from 7-of-9 in their first fight. He was also outstruck in the significant striking metrics after doubling up Nogueira in significant strikes in their first fight. Despite the win, Rua only recorded 73 DKFP due to low output, which isn’t the type of fantasy output you are looking for with a $9,000 fighter.

Both of these fighters are now way past their primes. The 44-year old “Little Nog” has been knocked out in both of his most recent UFC losses, including his last fight in May 2019. Rua has also slowed down considerably but still has pop in his hands and is capable of a TKO/KO finish. The DraftKings Sportsbook odds support that, as “Shogun” Rua to win by KO, TKO or DQ (+162) is the most likely outcome of this fight.

Full Salary list with DraftKings Sportsbook Moneyline

All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.

  • Robert Whittaker (-120; $8,300) vs. Darren Till (+100; $7,900)
  • Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (-190; $9,000) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (+150; $7,200)
  • Alexander Gustafsson (-335; $9,300) vs. Fabricio Werdum (+260; $6,900)
  • Carla Esparza (+145; $7,600) vs. Marina Rodriguez (-182; $8,600)
  • Paul Craig (-137; $8,000) vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov (+110; $8,200)
  • Khamzat Chimaev (-1250; $9,800) vs. Rhys McKee (+700; $6,400)
  • Jai Herbert (+108; $7,700) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (-134; $8,500)
  • Nicolas Dalby (-265; $9,200) vs. Jesse Ronson (+205; 7,000)
  • Alex Oliveira (-182; $8,700) vs. Peter Sobotta (+145; $7,500)
  • Tom Aspinall (-225; $8,800) vs. Jake Collier (+175; $7,400)
  • Movsar Evloev (-200; $9,100) vs. Mike Grundy (+161; $7,100)
  • Tanner Boser (-265; $8,900) vs. Raphael Pessoa (+209; $7,300)
  • Bethe Correia (+131; $7,800) vs. Pannie Kianzad (-162; $8,400)
  • Ramazan Emeev (-400; $9,400) vs. Niklas Stolze (+300; $6,800)
  • Nathaniel Wood (-455; $9,500) vs. John Castaneda (+320; $6,700)

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

Place your UFC bets here: DraftKings Sportsbook MMA UFC Fight Island page

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is timfinn521) 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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