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UFC 258 Main Card Picks: Kamaru Usman, Rodolfo Vieira Predictions, Preview, Betting Odds, DraftKings MMA DFS Picks

Timothy Finnegan breaks down UFC 258, giving DraftKings fantasy MMA picks along with bets to consider on DraftKings Sportsbook.

Saturday’s UFC 258 card is headlined by a title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and challenger Gilbert Burns. Usman and Burns were originally supposed to fight for the welterweight title back at UFC 251 in July, but a positive COVID-19 test for Burns delayed the matchup. Jiu jitsu monster Rodolfo Vieira is also on the card and will headline the prelims in a showcase matchup on ESPN right before the pay-per-view gets underway.

DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 258 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $600K in guaranteed prizes, including $150K to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $600K 258 Special [$150K to 1st].

DraftKings Sportsbook will also be featuring UFC bets that can be placed for UFC 258. Place your UFC bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page and bet online by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.

Below, we will break down UFC 258 and examine some of the UFC betting offerings for the event by DraftKings Sportsbook. In addition, we will take a look at the DraftKings UFC 258 fantasy MMA slate and make some picks.

UFC 258 Profit Boost

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Biggest DraftKings Sportsbook Favorite: Rodolfo Vieira (-400; $9,300)

Vieira is a jiu jitsu legend who has some of the best pressure passing the sport has ever seen. In MMA, once Vieira gets his opponent on his back, it’s like fighting a shark in the water. In Vieira’s most recent UFC fight against Saparbek Safarov, he took a punch early in the fight that closed his eye shut, but finished a blast double-leg takedown shortly after and ended the fight in the first round with an arm-triangle choke from top position. This is Vieira’s A game—get the fight to the ground with a takedown, pass the guard, and submit the opponent. This has been his game plan in each of his two UFC fights, and we can expect the same game plan for his UFC 258 fight.

Vieira’s top game is terrifying, and if he gets Anthony Hernandez ($6,900) on his back with gas in the tank, the fight is probably going to end inside the distance. The key for Vieira will be finishing takedowns so that he can execute his devastating top game. Vieira has had success generating takedowns in his two UFC fights, averaging about six takedowns per 15 minutes, an excellent rate. Vieira has superhuman squeeze strength which makes his chokes especially lethal once he passes the guard. Because Vieira’s jiu jitsu is so lethal, there’s a good chance he wins this fight by submission (-200).

Biggest DraftKings Sportsbook Underdog: Anthony Hernandez (+300; $6,900)

The other side of the Vieira matchup is Hernandez, who is the cheapest fighter on the fantasy MMA slate. Hernandez is the cheapest fighter for a reason—he is not expected to win. That said, there are some reasons to consider him as a salary relief play in fantasy MMA tournaments at the nice salary of $6,900.

Vieira made his MMA debut in 2017, so he is still fairly new to MMA, and while his grappling is out of this world elite, his striking is not advanced. Vieira has absorbed more significant strikes than he has landed in two UFC fights, which isn’t a great sign. Most of this occurred in his UFC debut against Oskar Piechota, where Piechota generally outstruck Vieira during the standup portions of the fight. In both of Vieira’s UFC fights, he walked away with noticeable damage on his face from strikes absorbed.

Vieira’s still-developing striking game is notable because if he is unable to take Hernandez down, Vieira could be vulnerable on the feet. Hernandez has been effective at stopping takedowns in the UFC, stopping 85% of opponent takedown attempts. If Hernandez is able to stuff Vieira’s takedowns and keep the fight standing, he is very much a live underdog, especially given how exhausting hunting constant takedowns could be for Vieira. Vieira’s takedown attempts have generally been of the blast variety, which uses a lot of energy. Hernandez’s best method to win is to stop Vieira’s takedown attempts and outstrike a gassed Vieira on the feet as the fight wears on. Obviously, Hernandez is a risky play because of Vieira’s monstrous grappling skills, but Hernandez could be worth consideration in DraftKings tournaments.

Main Event: Kamaru Usman (-278; $9,000) vs. Gilbert Burns (+220; $7,200)

Usman has been a big beneficiary of recent changes to the DraftKings fantasy MMA scoring system, which now includes control time and non-significant strikes in the scoring criteria. Usman records a lot of striking volume that is not classified as significant due to these strikes taking place from a close-range either in the clinch or on the ground rather than at distance. Usman also records a lot of control time due to his strong wrestling background and general fighting style, which involves controlling his opponents in the clinch and on the ground.

In Usman’s most recent fight against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 in July 2020, Usman originally finished with a healthy 108 DKFP under the old scoring system, but under the new criteria, he has seen a massive surge in fantasy production and is now listed with 156 DKFP for that fight. The difference can be attributed to the huge discrepancy between his total striking volume and significant striking volume, along with a lot of control time. Only 36% of Usman’s strikes landed in the fight were classified as significant strikes, but he landed 263 total strikes, 169 of which did not count under the old scoring. Usman also recorded a heavy control time of 16:38, resulting in another 30 DKFP, which far outweighs the fantasy points he received for advances.

Usman’s general fighting style fits right into this new scoring system, and he has massive fantasy potential on Saturday night. Usman is averaging a ridiculous 162 DKFP over his last four fights and has peaked at 195 DKFP, which would break the slate. Usman is an outstanding play in DraftKings fantasy MMA contests because his style fits the new scoring system like a glove.

As for the matchup with Burns, Usman is the rightful favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, but these two are former training partners who have sparred many rounds together. Burns likely knows Usman’s biggest strengths and weaknesses, which could help close the gap. We saw this to some degree recently with Devonte Smith, who just fought on last week’s UFC card. Smith closed as a titanic -1000 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook against former training partner Khama Worthy at UFC 241 but got knocked out in a stunning upset.

Burns has knockout power, high level jiu jitsu and excellent submissions, which makes him a live underdog. Burns most recently showcased his power by knocking out Demian Maia with a short left hook, and he has slept multiple opponents with brutal KOs. Burns has also finished multiple armbars and is a submission threat if the fight hits the ground.

Usman is the superior wrestler, so he will likely dictate where this fight goes. Usman has won nine of his last 11 UFC fights by decision, so the most likely outcome of this fight is Usman recording a lot of control time over the course of a 25-minute fight and winning a decision (+115). However, Burns’ striking power, jiu jitsu and familiarity with Usman through their training sessions makes him a legitimate threat to pull off the upset, and Burns to win by KO, TKO or DQ (+750) or by submission (+700) are higher-payout bets that can be considered on DraftKings Sportsbook if looking for an underdog bet.

Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $600K 258 Special [$150K to 1st].

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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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