This Saturday, the UFC is putting forth its most stacked card of the year to date with UFC 259. Bursting at the seams with 15 fights (as of this writing), the matchmaking brass pulled out all the tricks from their magic bags. The top three fights are all title bouts, starting with the bantamweight showdown between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling. That is followed up by the women’s featherweight title bout between Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson. Finally, in the headlining position, the superfight we’ve been waiting for, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya takes on current light heavyweight champ, Jan Blachowicz.
And that’s just the top three fights. There are still 12 outstanding contests that will lead you into the trio of title fights. And most of the supporting bouts have real contender implications and/or movement for some to shed their prospect skin to make way for the much more desirable contender status they’ve been working towards. Islam Makhachev vs. Drew Dober is an excellent bout with a stylistic clash that should make for some insane action. Aleksandar Rakic vs. Thiago Santos is another firecracker fight. And let us not overlook some battle-tested veterans like Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez making their octagon returns, as well. I can’t imagine how this card doesn’t have the potential to go beyond satisfying and straight into euphoria.
We’ve selected four fighters from the event that will illustrate why they are worthy of their lofty or budget-conscious price tags in an effort to help you select your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Let’s get started.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 259 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $1 million in guaranteed prizes, including $200,000 to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 5:15 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $1M 259 Special [$200K to 1st].
Amanda Nunes, $9,600
The “Lioness” is the biggest favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook on the card, and with good reason. She’s the best there is in two divisions, although featherweight is obviously not a talent-rich division. That said, Megan Anderson has put together a couple wins and is now here, challenging Nunes for her belt. The tall Australian clocks in at six-foot even, with a 72-inch reach. Nunes, on the other hand, is 5’8” with a 68-inch reach. That is where Anderson’s advantages stop.
While Amanda is not what you’d deem a volume striker, she does maintain a respectable output, averaging around 4.44 strikes per minute whilst absorbing only 2.53 strikes in that same period. She’s a pressure fighter, launching barrages of strikes straight down the middle while still managing to avoid taking much damage in the process. She hits hard, as 13 of her past foes can attest to.
Nunes is also quite active with her takedowns (average of 2.53 takedowns per 15 minutes) and has a keen sense of when to throw a wrench into her opponent’s game plans with crafty level changes, and she’s good from top position, with plenty of ground-and-pound to keep sketchy referees from interfering.
I am never one to actually say “never” but this is as close as I can get. Megan is not nearly as good on the ground as Amanda, and she does not have the strength in her sprawl to stop the takedown that Nunes will no doubt bring to the party. Not to mention how incredibly inactive she is, averaging just 1.82 strikes per minute, yet absorbing 2.94 in the same 60 seconds. Any way you look at it, Amanda holds all the cards.
Islam Makhachev, $9,400
Islam Makhachev vs. Drew Dober is a certified banger. Full stop. Outside the title fights, I think this is my favorite pairing on the card. Styles make fights and the power wrestler that is Makhachev will face the brick thrower that is Drew Dober. And they both have some crafty side tricks that seem to dip into their opponent’s arsenal. For instance, Islam is the vaunted wrestler/grappler, but Dober also has some ground savvy, even boasting six submission wins on his resume. And Makhachev sports three knockouts on his record, so therein lies the crossover of skills. And that is also where the buck stops.
I don’t know if the huge gulf in pricing is warranted, but Makhachev should certainly be the favorite here. An elite wrestling talent, Islam is as strong as an ox, durable and will spam those takedowns until Dober is spent. Islam averages 3.40 takedowns per 15 minutes, but with Dober being a real threat on the feet, I’d be willing to bet that number is much higher when it’s all said and done. He’s a lead blanket from the top, and another busy one from that position, working constantly towards submissions and peppering shots throughout.
Dober certainly has the power to make a short night for anyone in the division, but I’m pretty sold on the Dagestan sensation.
Jan Blachowicz, $7,000
Jan Blachowicz at $7,000 is a steal. I think I can hear the sirens coming for those of us that can’t look an underdog in the eye without throwing in our lots with them. “Polish Power” definitely lives up to the moniker, having launched eight men onto a different plane of consciousness. He’ll be the shorter man with the shorter reach, but that’s not new, as several of his past opponents have had those advantages and still lost to him.
He’s also got ground skills with nine submissions to his credit. He’s certainly going to have his plate full with Adesanya, whose well-rounded skill set has seen him victorious in all his fights. But no one is infallible, and Adesanya can be pressured. Both Kelvin Gastelum and Marvin Vettori experienced periods of success when they faced Izzy, mainly due to forcing him to stay in the pocket and trade. While he can do that for a while, if Jan can move him up against the cage and work from there, limiting his movement and ability to get off those zippy counters, there’s room for an opportunist to land a bomb and come away with a full plate of gold plate and leather for their effort.
Joseph Benavidez, $7,900
Askar Askarov is a great wrestling talent, of that, there is no doubt. That said, Joseph Benavidez is an OG wrestler with tons of high-level experience and the added bonus of having stopping power. He’s going to have to deal with Askarov’s youth and possibly a strength advantage (negligible since JB is pretty strong too), but Joe’s wealth of knowledge, activity and his durability (his fight against Deiveson Figueiredo notwithstanding), should all see him to winning results, in my very humble opinion.
Askarov came into the UFC with a lot of hype, and while he doesn’t have a loss on his record yet, he does have a draw with Brandon Moreno from late 2019. His next fights with Tim Elliott and Alexandre Pantoja were solid wins, but he had to fight hard to get those wins—harder than he should have considering the amount of lip service he’s gotten along the way. Against UFC level competition, Askar gets put through his paces, and I’m have a notion that Benavidez still has the wherewithal to be a high-level gatekeeper who will keep Askarov out, at least for the time being. This time next year, who knows, but for now, I think Joe can keep the young Russian at the entry level of the rankings.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is crooklyn949) 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.
21+ (18+ NH). CO/IL/IN/IA/NH/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/MI only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.