This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.Editor Note (9/7): The scheduled co-main event, a women's flyweight title fight between Nicco Montano and Valentina Shevchenko, has been removed from the card after Montano was admitted to the hospital Friday morning prior to weigh-ins. While Jon had originally picked Shevchenko, we will remove the preview below to avoid confusion.
The UFC struggled so much to find a headliner for this card that the main event was booked just six weeks ago, but we now have a title fight at 170 pounds. Of course, Colby Covington is the current Interim UFC Welterweight Champion – and that ends Saturday when Tyron Woodley and Darren Till step into the Octagon – but never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
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.)
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
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 - Welterweight Championship(C) Tyron Woodley (18-3-1) v. Darren Till (17-0-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Woodley ($8,100), Till ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Vegas Odds: Woodley (-110), Till (-115)
Odds to Finish: -140
When the cage doors close Saturday, it will end up being just over 13 months between title defenses for Woodley. He had shoulder surgery following his victory over Demian Maia last July, but he is good to go now. T-Wood hasn't looked particularly sharp in either of his three title defenses (Maia, Stephen Thompson x2), but he's still the champ. Woodley is a freak athlete with ridiculous explosiveness and an underrated chin. He also has power in his hands, although he tends to be too passive in the cage at times. That strategy won't play against an uber-aggressive striker such as Till. A pro since 2009, Woodley will turn 37 years old in April, so he is clearly on the back-nine of his career. If he begins to lose any of his trademark speed and athleticism, he is in trouble.
Till has come out of nowhere to post a perfect (5-0, 1NC) record in his first six bouts with the company. He most recently decisioned Thompson in May (although Till missed weight) in a back-and-forth affair. Till's calling card is his striking. He has a background in Muay Thai and excels at putting combinations together. Any fighter that can defeat Thompson in a kickboxing match is a world-class talent. Till also does a pretty good job of defending himself on the feet considering how aggressive he tends to be. His takedown defense over the early part of his UFC career is an exceptional 83 percent, but facing Woodley's takedown attempts are a different matter entirely. Till needs to stay on his feet if he hopes to win this fight.
My two biggest concerns surrounding Till heading into this fight are his takedown defense and his conditioning. He has been unable to make the 171-pound welterweight limit in two of his six fights with the company, and he won't have that extra pound to play with in a championship fight. In both instances, Till missed by a considerable amount. He weighed 176 in a fight against "Jessin Ayari" last May and 174 for the Thompson fight.
Against my better judgment, I'm picking Till. He looks to be about twice Woodley's size when the two are standing side by side and I think his ability to do offensive damage in the clinch and along the fence is underrated. His takedown defense will have to hold up because Woodley can grind him into dust if given the opportunity. I reserve the right to change my mind if he shows up on Friday morning overweight for a third time, but that's a story for another day.
THE PICK: Till
Co-Main Event - Women's Flyweight Championship(C) Nicco Montano (5-2-0) v. Valentina Shevchenko (15-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Montano ($6,600), Shevchenko ($9,600)
Vegas Odds: Montano (+825), Shevchenko (-1275)
Odds to Finish: -145
THE PICK: Shevchenko
FeatherweightZabit Magomedsharipov (15-1-0) v. Brandon Davis (9-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Magomedsharipov ($9,400), Davis ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Magomedsharipov (-1165), Davis (+750)
Odds to Finish: -195
Davis is in for an injured Yair Rodriguez on just a couple weeks' notice. It's a no-lose situation for Davis, but as a fringe talent with a shortened camp against one of the more unpredictable fighters on the roster, chances are he's in for a long (or short, depending on your point of view) night Saturday in Dallas.
Zabit (it's much easier to say) is 3-0 in the UFC with two Performance of the Night bonuses and a Fight of the Night bonus on his ledger. The 27-year-old recently signed a new contract with the company. Checking in at a massive 6-foot-1, Zabit is the largest featherweight on the roster. The Dagestani employs a highly unorthodox style of striking combined with an underrated wrestling and submission game. His ceiling is massive. A fight against Rodriguez would have been a blast. This one..... not so much.
A product of the Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, Davis is 1-2 in his first three official fights with the company. All three bouts have gone to a decision. He will earn points with the UFC brass for taking a short-notice fight against a stone-cold killer, but the good times will almost certainly end there for Davis. I've seen nothing from him that leads me to believe he is a legitimate prospect, and facing Zabit would befuddle even the most seasoned veterans.
Zabit makes sense despite his massive DraftKings salary because he should be able to land strikes at will throughout the course of the fight. Anything other than an easy win for Magomedsharipov would shock me. He's an elite, world-class talent.
THE PICK: Magomedsharipov
Women's StrawweightJessica Andrade (18-6-0) v. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Andrade ($9,100), Kowalkiewicz ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Andrade (-400), Kowalkiewicz (+325)
Odds to Finish: +185
The winner of this one would appear to be next in line for a shot at Rose Namajunas's UFC Women's Strawweight Championship. Both Andrade and Kowalkiewicz are on a roll and they have two completely different styles of fighting, so this is a highly intriguing matchup.
Andrade is 5-1 since dropping down to 115 pounds, with her only loss coming against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The Brazilian is coming off back-to-back wins over top contenders Tecia Torres and Claudia Gadelha. Andrade is hands down the strongest woman in the division. She averages well north of three (3.24) takedowns per 15 minutes, despite the fact her takedown percentage is a mediocre 59 percent. Jessica's upper-body strength allows her to drag her opposition to the mat even if her positioning isn't ideal. The vast majority of her strikes landed tend to come from top position. Andrade's fights tend to be slow-paced and grinding, but she has the ability to beat any woman in the division if she can get them to the mat.
Kowalkiewicz is 5-2 in the UFC including a victory over Namajunas. That will only help her case for a title shot if she can win this one. Karolina is your typical Muay Thai specialist. She wins with volume and placement over power. Kowalkiewicz has just one knockout win in her entire career. Her style is similar to that of Jedrzejczyk in the sense that she can overwhelm you in short spurts, but it doesn't lead to finishes.
The key to this fight will be Karolina's takedown defense. It has been exceptional (87 percent) throughout her time with the company, but facing Andrade is a different animal entirely. If Kowalkiewicz ends up on her back, she's going to have a difficult time getting back up to her feet. Ultimately, I think Andrade's strength is just too much for Karolina to overcome. That being said, I think Kowalkiewicz has considerable value as a DraftKings underdog. Even though I don't think she's going to win, I see no reason for the line on this fight to be as lopsided as it is.
THE PICK: Andrade
Women's StrawweightCarla Esparza (14-5-0) v. Tatiana Suarez (7-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Esparza ($7,000), Suarez ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Esparza (+415), Suarez (-525)
Odds to Finish: +155
The first UFC Women's Strawweight Champion in company history, Esparza has been up and down since she won the gold against Namajuans in December 2014. Her record is just .500 (3-3), and she has struggled against better competition. Esparza looked a bit better against Gadelha in her last fight in June before dropping a split decision.
The winner of Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, Suarez looks like a potential future star. The 27-year-old remains undefeated as a professional, and she is averaging a ridiculous 6.2 takedowns per 15 minutes over the course of her brief run with the company. Some people have gone as far to call her "the female Khabib Nurmagomedov". That might be a stretch, but there's no doubt that Suarez is a terrific grappler and has a nice frame for the division.
This appears to be a terrible matchup for Esparza. Her background is also in wrestling, but I don't see any way she can match the skills of Suarez. Carla's career takedown defense is an abysmal 57 percent and she doesn't have the striking ability to consistently threaten Suarez on the feet. Suarez's fights tend to be boring because it's a lot of mat work, but she's darn good at what she does. I think she wins this fairly easily.
THE PICK: Suarez
BantamweightJimmie Rivera (21-2-0) v. John Dodson (21-9-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Rivera ($8,400), Dodson ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Rivera (-150), Dodson (+130)
Odds to Finish: +225
In the midst of a 20-fight win streak and given his first main event showcase with the UFC, Rivera was promptly knocked out by Marlon Moraes in 33 seconds in early-June. He immediately stated his intentions to get right back into the Octagon, and here he is 13 weeks later against another tough customer in Dodson. The Moraes fight ended so quickly that there wasn't nothing to breakdown from a technical standpoint. Rivera got caught with a couple huge shots and his night was over. It can happen to anyone and it's highly unlikely to impact his outlook moving forward. "El Terror" has lightning-quick hands and plenty of power. He is going up against an opponent here with a similar skill set.
One of the top flyweights in the company for years, Dodson moved back to bantamweight in April 2016. He has alternated wins and losses in his first five fights (3-2) since returning to 135 pounds. Dodson's biggest asset at flyweight was his power. It still plays at the higher weight class, but it doesn't have quite the same zip it did at 125 pounds. Dodson is arguably the quickest fighter in the company outside of UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson, and his footwork will have to be on point if he hopes to emerge from this one victorious.
The only way you can beat Dodson on the feet is to match him punch for punch. and I think Rivera has the speed and footwork to do that. He is also the slightly bigger man. If Rivera is able to use that physicality to his advantage and continue to pepper Dodson in bunches, I like his chances of taking a decision.
THE PICK: Rivera
WelterweightAbdul Razak Alhassan (9-1-0) v. Niko Price (12-1-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Alhassan ($8,300), Price ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Alhassan (-150), Price (+130)
Odds to Finish: -300
THE PICK: Price
BantamweightAljamain Sterling (14-3-0) v. Cody Stamman (17-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Sterling ($8,500), Stamman ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Sterling (-130), Stamman (+110)
Odds to Finish: +255
THE PICK: Price
MiddleweightCharles Byrd (9-4-0) v. Darren Stewart (8-3-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Byrd ($8,900), Stewart ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Byrd (-220), Stewart (+180)
Odds to Finish: -300
THE PICK: Byrd
WelterweightDiego Sanchez (29-11-0) v. Craig White (14-8-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Sanchez ($7,400), White ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Sanchez (+185), White (-225)
Odds to Finish: -240
THE PICK: White
LightweightJim Miller (28-11-0, 1NC) v. Alex White (12-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Miller ($7,600), White ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Miller (+130), White (-150)
Odds to Finish: -105
THE PICK: White
Women's BantamweightIrene Aldana (8-4-0) v. Lucie Pudilova (8-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Aldana ($8,200), Pudilova ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Aldana (-115), Pudilova (-105)
Odds to Finish: +280
THE PICK: Pudilova
FlyweightRoberto Sanchez (8-1-0) v. Jarred Brooks (13-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Sanchez ($7,200), Brooks ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Sanchez (+275), Brooks (-335)
Odds to Finish: +100
THE PICK: Brooks
WelterweightGeoff Neal (9-2-0) v. Frank Camacho (21-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Neal ($8,700), Camacho ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Neal (-175), Camacho (+155)
Odds to Finish: -150
THE PICK: Neal