UFC 268 takes place on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the card is headlined by two title fight rematches. The first title fight features women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas defending the title against Zhang Weili. This fight is an immediate rematch after Namajunas knocked out Weili in April at UFC 261.
The main event is a rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington for the UFC welterweight title. Usman beat Covington by TKO at UFC 245 in December 2019 and has defended his title three times since then.
- Kamaru Usman (-320) vs. Colby Covington (+250)
- Rose Namajunas (-105) vs. Zhang Weili (-115)
- Justin Gaethje (-200) vs. Michael Chandler (+175)
- Billy Quarantillo (+170) vs. Shane Burgos (-200)
- Frankie Edgar (+145) vs. Marlon Vera (-165)
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DraftKings Sportsbook Favorite to Build Around: Kamaru Usman ($9,300)
Usman has traditionally been a huge fantasy producer on the back of heavy volume, including control time, total strikes and takedowns. Usman is an elite wrestler and grappler, which allows him to dictate where the fight takes place and rack up a ton of control time. In many of his fights, Usman has gone to work inside with clinching, close-distance strikes and takedowns over a prolonged period of time, which spiked his fantasy scoring in those fights. Usman has peaked at 195 DKFP, which is slate-breaking type of upside. However, Usman largely fought Covington from distance in their first fight, so he didn’t generate his usual control time or takedown volume to aid his fantasy scoring. Usman still finished with a strong 130 DKFP in his first fight against Covington after throwing 340 strikes from distance and landing 175 significant strikes.
Something noteworthy for the rematch is that Usman’s striking from distance has improved substantially recently, especially his jab. Usman has knocked out each of his last two opponents and has not utilized much clinch work, only throwing four total strikes from the clinch in his last two fights combined. His most recent knockout of Jorge Masvidal was especially impressive and sent Masvidal’s head into orbit:
Statistically, this matchup is close on paper. Both Usman and Covington have each landed around 4.5 significant strikes per minute and both have absorbed about 2.5 significant strikes per minute. Both Usman and Covington have strong wrestling and each has averaged over three takedowns per 15 minutes, with Covington’s number at a heavy 4.6 per 15 minutes.
However, despite the stats being close, this is a poor matchup for Covington. Usman is a better wrestler and better striker, so Covington will likely struggle to out-point Usman on the feet and struggle to get the fight to the ground. In their first fight, Covington generated no control time and no takedowns, which sheds light on how strong Usman’s wrestling is. Covington has very few paths to victory in this matchup.
Usman has a four-inch reach advantage, which is especially notable for his improved jab, as Usman can throw this jab from a safe range that Covington will have a difficult time returning fire from.
In their first fight, Usman out-landed Covington 175 to 143 in total significant strikes and Usman’s striking has improved since that fight. Usman knocked Covington down twice in their first fight and will have a good chance to finish this fight again with strikes on the feet with his improved striking.
On the flip side, Covington has been an elite fantasy scorer, averaging 108 DKFP per fight, second-most on this slate, so it might be tempting to play Covington given his nice salary of $6,900. However, Covington generates a lot of his fantasy scoring through takedowns and control time, which will be incredibly difficult to generate against Usman. This matchup is not primed for Covington to be a high fantasy scorer despite his excellent fight log. Covington finished with 57 DKFP in his first fight against Usman after recording no control time and no takedowns.
Zhang Weili ($8,000)
In Weili’s first fight against Namajunas in April 2021, Namajunas stunned Weili with a high kick early in the fight and won via KO/TKO to take the belt. Namajunas’ head kick came from her lead leg, which is a little unusual, and it caught Weili by surprise in a blind spot. Weili should be more prepared this time around and is in a good position to rebound.
Playing Weili in DraftKings DFS contests is appealing. Weili is a high-volume striker, landing over six significant strikes per minute, and this is a five-round title fight, which can potentially create 10 more minutes for Weili to accumulate fantasy scoring. Weili has more appealing striking metrics, posting a better strikes landed to absorbed ratio—Namajunas’ strikes landed to absorbed ratio is unimpressive at about 1:1. Weili could realistically out-point Namajunas over five rounds and win a decision based on striking volume.
Michael Chandler ($7,300)
Chandler’s opponent, Justin Gaethje ($8,900), is currently about a -200 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, but this fight is probably closer to 50/50 than the odds and salaries indicate, which potentially creates some value on Chandler at just $7,300.
Despite this only being his third UFC fight, Michael Chandler is one of the most experienced lightweights in the sport. Chandler is one of the greatest fighters in the history of the Bellator promotion and was the promotion’s lightweight champion for large portions of the last decade. Chandler is an excellent wrestler who is fast, athletic and has big power in his hands. Chandler’s wrestling credentials include being an All-American in college, and he has one-punch knockout power, which he has showcased recently. All three of his most recent wins have been first-round knockouts, and Chandler was very close to knocking out UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira in his last fight before losing via KO/TKO. Chandler’s skills match up very well against Gaethje, and this has the looks of a fairly even matchup.
An appealing DraftKings Sportsbook bet to consider is taking this fight to be finished by KO/TKO. Both Chandler and Gaethje are strong wrestlers who have big power in their hands and like to go headhunting. Chandler and Gaethje’s wrestling appears primed to offset each other and turn this into primarily a striking match on the feet. If that happens, there’s a good chance that someone will end this fight via KO/TKO.
Gaethje has historically been fine with trading punches and has absorbed a ton of strikes, taking roughly eight significant strikes per minute, an extremely high number. Gaethje has also been finished via strikes twice. If Gaethje is content to let Chandler tee off on him in exchanges, Chandler has the KO power to put his lights out. On the flip side, Chandler does not have the best chin and has been knocked out four times in his career, including in his most recent fight.
Billy Quarantillo ($7,200)
Quarantillo is the underdog, but some statistics point towards fantasy upside in this matchup. Both Quarantillo and Burgos are high-volume strikers, each landing about seven significant strikes per minute. Burgos’ high activity has contributed to him absorbing a ton of strikes, absorbing about six significant strikes per minute. Quarantillo’s high-volume output combined with Burgos absorbing a ton of strikes could work synergistically to create a lot of fantasy volume.
In addition, taking Quarantillo by KO/TKO (+600) at big plus money is an option on DraftKings Sportsbook. Burgos has been finished by KO/TKO twice in three UFC losses, and Quarantillo has the power to finish this fight via strikes. Quarantillo has won three of his six UFC fights by KO/TKO and more than half of his UFC wins are by KO/TKO.
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All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests. The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups.
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