DraftKings MMA: UFC Utica Preview
DraftKings MMA: UFC Utica Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

The winner of Friday's main event is going to have a pretty good argument that he should be next in line for a shot at T.J. Dillashaw's (or Cody Garbrandt's) UFC Bantamweight Championship. Both Rivera and Moraes are exceptional fighters and this should be a terrific bout.

If you're hoping to turn the event into an opportunity to build your DFS bankroll, DraftKings.com has you covered with a full slate of contests. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:

(Please note that DraftKings altered their scoring system in December 2016 to add a new fighter to the lineup and adjust scoring. The most recent point values are listed below.)

Moves Scoring
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Advance (ADVC): +3 PT
Takedown (TD): +5 PTS
Reversal/Sweep (REV): +5 PTS
Knockdown (KD): +10 PTS

Fight Conclusion Bonuses
1st Round Win (1rW+): +90 PTS
2nd Round Win (2rW+): +70 PTS
3rd Round Win (3rW+): +45 PTS
4th Round Win (4rW+): +40 PTS
5th Round Win (5rW+): +40 PTS
Decision Win (WBD+): +30 PTS

Scoring Notes
Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.

Advances include: To Half Guard, To Side Control, To Mount, To Back Control

Now, on to the fights...

Main Event - Bantamweight

Jimmie Rivera (21-1-0) v. Marlon Moraes (20-5-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Rivera ($8,200), Moraes ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Rivera (-115), Moraes (-105)
Odds to Finish: +115

Rivera's story has become well known in the world of MMA. The winner of 20 consecutive fights, the 29-year-old (later this month) entered the UFC as nothing more than roster depth in July 2015 and he has since run off five straight victories with the company, including wins over Pedro Munhoz, Thomas Almeida, and the recently retired Urijah Faber. Rivera has exceptionally quick hands and excels at putting together combinations. He has just four knockout wins in his career, but he excels at beating up his opponents over the course of a fight. The guy is really, really good but this figures to be his toughest test inside the Octagon.

Long viewed as one of the best fighters in the sport outside of the UFC, Moraes finally made it almost exactly 12 months ago. His time with the company began with a controversial split decision loss to Raphael Assuncao, but he has since taken a split decision from John Dodson and knocked out Aljamain Sterling. The former long time WSOF (now PFL) Bantamweight Champion, Moraes is a black belt in both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He has nine career wins via knockout and five via submission. It's fair to say that Moraes is an elite all-around fighter.

Both these men have looked so good of late that it pains me to pick against either one of them. This appears to be a straight pick 'em with neither fighter being the incorrect choice. Moraes showed in the Dodson fight that he can be more than competitive against an opponent that relies on speed and footwork to set up his combinations. Rivera fights very similarly. I went back and forth on my selection multiple times and finally settle on Moraes. I think he can do just enough to counteract the hand speed of Rivera. It should be a terrific fight.

THE PICK: Moraes

Co-Main Event - Lightweight

Gregor Gillespie (11-0-0) v. Vinc Pichel (11-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gillespie ($9,500), Pichel ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Gillespie (-500), Pichel (+400)
Odds to Finish: -195

Gillespie has come out of nowhere to rack up four easy victories to begin his UFC career. A former four-time Division I NCAA All-American wrestler, Gillespie has racked up nearly 5.5 takedowns per 15 minutes thus far in the UFC. He moves well and has surprising pop in his hands for a lightweight. Originally born in upstate New York, Gillespie is part of an ever growing number of UFC fighters that train on Long Island.

Pichel spent more than three years on the sidelines from May 2014 to June 2017, but he has since returned with a knockout victory over Damien Brown and a unanimous decision win over Joaquim Silva. A former competitor on The Ultimate Fighter, the only loss of Pichel's professional career came at the hands of the underrated Rustam Khabilov. An ultra-aggressive striker, Pichel is going to have to pick his spots carefully against Gillespie or he is going to find himself planted on his back.

The winner here is going to have a decent argument in terms of being ranked in the back half of the top-10 of the UFC's lightweight division. Small sample size aside, Pichel's career takedown defense checks in at a paltry 16.6 percent and that is simply not going to get the job done. I expect a long, grinding fight, and ultimately one in which Gillespie's ability to rack up takedowns earns him a decision win.

THE PICK: Gillespie

Welterweight

Jake Ellenberger (31-13-0) v. Ben Saunders (21-9-2)
DraftKings Salaries: Ellenberger ($8,600), Saunders ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Ellenberger (-170), Saunders (+150)
Odds to Finish: -230

Somehow still just 33 years old, Ellenberger has all but reached the end of the line. He is sporting a 2-7 record in his last nine fights dating back to July 2013, and his chin, which was once one of his biggest strengths, has completely evaporated. Ellenberger doesn't move well enough anymore to successfully use his wrestling skills on a regular basis, and he is getting hit on the feet more than ever. It's a terrible combination in a fight in which he is giving up five inches in height and six inches in reach to Saunders.

Saunders is in as a late notice replacement for the injured Bryan Barberena. It's a pretty good deal for "Killa B". He faces an opponent that still has some name recognition (for no good reason) and it's a fight that he should win. Saunders is riding a two-fight losing streak of his own. His biggest asset is his ground game, but I see no reason for him to do anything other than try to beat up Ellenberger on the feet. Jake has shown no ability to avoid combinations and Saunders can stand on the outside and pepper Ellenberger from distance given his height advantage.

There is a better than even chance that the loser of this fight is sent packing, especially if it's a lopsided, one-way affair. There is more than enough talent floating around in regional organizations that I don't understand the UFC's obsession with keeping fighters on their roster that are clearly washed up. I have zero idea how Ellenberger can be favored over anyone at the moment. It seems extremely short-sighted, and gives DraftKings owners a chance to score big with an underdog.

THE PICK: Saunders

Light Heavyweight

Gian Villante (16-9-0) v. Sam Alvey (32-10-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Villante ($7,700), Alvey ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Villante (+120), Alvey (-140)
Odds to Finish: -105

Following his recent-first round knockout win over Marcin Prachnio in February, Alvey, because he's the best and such a likeable fella, politely called out Villante in a fun, friendly way. Never one to turn down an opportunity to get punched in the face repeatedly, Villante accepted and here we are.

Friday will be Alvey's 15th UFC bout. He has shown more good than bad (10-4 record) during his time with the company, but he remains extremely limited from an athletic standpoint and has trouble winning fights if his power punches aren't landing. Alvey has legitimate thunder in his hands. The shots he throws are rarely pretty, but they always seem to do big time damage if he connects. If his opposition is foolish enough to stand and trade with him, and that fits Villante to a tee, Alvey can turn your lights out.

Almost the exact opposite of Alvey, Villante is a world class athlete that has shown zero ability to put those skills to use inside the Octagon. 12 fights into his UFC career, Villante is sporting a .500 record. He hits like a Mack Truck and has an iron chin, but his brawling style combined with his cardio issues have derailed his career. Villante SHOULD be better than what we have seen, but he will turn 33 years old in August and there's no chance he will change his style of fighting at this point. The fact he has a wrestling background is meaningless because he refuses to use it, even though it would be his clearest path to victory in this fight.

Villante has the size, strength, and athleticism to give Alvey trouble. He has proven he can take a stupid amount of punishment and Alvey doesn't possess the footwork to get out of the way of his shots. On the other hand, Villante is going to grant Alvey's wish of engaging in an all-out brawl and that gives Alvey a shot. I always hate to pick against Smile 'N Sam, but this is one of the rare matchups that favor Villante from a stylistic standpoint.

THE PICK: Villante

Other Bouts

Heavyweight

Walt Harris (10-7-0) v. Daniel Spitz (6-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Harris ($9,300), Spitz ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Harris (-330), Spitz (+270)
Odds to Finish: -380
THE PICK: Harris

Featherweight

Julio Arce (14-2-0) v. Daniel Teymur (6-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Arce ($8,800), Teymur ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Arce (-175), Teymur (+155)
Odds to Finish: -135
THE PICK: Arce

Women's Flyweight

Sijara Eubanks (3-2-0) v. Lauren Murphy (10-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Eubanks ($8,400), Murphy ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Eubanks (-160), Murphy (+140)
Odds to Finish: +185
THE PICK: Murphy

Lightweight

Nik Lentz (30-8-2, 1NC) v. David Teymur (7-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lentz ($7,100), Teymur ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Lentz (+250), Teymur (-300)
Odds to Finish: +165
THE PICK: Teymur

Welterweight

Belal Muhammad (13-2-0) v. Chance Recountre (12-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Muhammad ($9,400), Recountre ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Muhammad (-410), Recountre (+330)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Muhammad

Lightweight

Des Green (20-6-0) v. Gleison Tibau (40-13-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Green ($9,000), Tibeau ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Green (-260), Tibeau (+220)
Odds to Finish: +185
THE PICK: Green

Women's Strawweight

Jessica Aguilar (19-6-0) v. Jodie Esquibel (6-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Aguilar ($8,300), Esquibel ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Aguilar (-130), Esquibel (+110)
Odds to Finish: +260
THE PICK: Aguilar

Bantamweight

Johnny Eduardo (28-11-0) v. Nathaniel Wood (13-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Eduardo ($7,000), Wood ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Eduardo (+245), Wood (-290)
Odds to Finish: -230
THE PICK: Eduardo

Flyweight

Jarred Brooks (13-1-0) v. Jose Torres (7-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Brooks ($7,500), Torres ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Brooks (+165), Torres (-190)
Odds to Finish: +120
THE PICK: Torres

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon Litterine
Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.
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