DraftKings MMA: UFC 229 Preview
DraftKings MMA: UFC 229 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

Whether you're a long-time fight fan or brand new to the sport (and associated DFS contests), Saturday's historic card is the time to try your hand at a DraftKings lineup. It will be one of the most highly-played fight cards of the year, with DraftKings offering a "Fight of the Year" GPP featuring a $300,000 prize pool and $100,000 top prize. Hopefully, we can get you off on the right track.

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 - Lightweight Championship

(C) Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0-0) v. Conor McGregor (21-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Nurmagomedov ($8,400), McGregor ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Nurmagomedov (-160), McGregor (+150)
Odds to Finish: -325

If this isn't the biggest fight in the history of the sport, it's right up there. This is the matchup that has always made sense from both a financial and rankings standpoint, and thankfully the UFC was able to get the thing booked – it's the fight that everyone wants to see.

Khabib enters as champ, so we'll cover him first. Nurmagomedov was scheduled to face Tony Ferguson (for a fourth time) for the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship at UFC 223 in Brooklyn in April. Tony injured his knee in a freak accident, and UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway agreed to step in as a last-minute replacement. To make a long story short, Holloway was unable to cut the necessary weight to make the fight and Khabib ended up facing Al Iaquinta. "Raging Al" did pretty well, and by that I mean he lasted the entire 25 minutes. It was another dominant outing for Khabib, who has yet to be truly challenged in his UFC career. Khabib is averaging well north of five (5.44) takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time, and his takedown accuracy is a respectable 45 percent. If Nurmagomedov gets his hands on you, you're going down. There's really no other way to say it.

McGregor's recent antics are well known. From his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather to the fiasco in Brooklyn that led to his arrest, Conor has managed to keep himself squarely in the headlines despite the fact he hasn't fought for the UFC since 2016. Conor remains the biggest mainstream star in the sport by a country mile, and he has the opportunity here to earn a boatload of money, along with upsetting one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Conor is the better striker of the two, there's no doubt about that. He's far more fluid on the feet and has more power. Khabib absorbs just 1.55 significant strikes per minute, but that number is misleading because he spends nearly the entirety of his fights dominating his opposition from top position. Nurmagomedov is a guy that is very hittable on the feet (just re-watch his matchup with Michael Johnson). If this fight turns into a kickboxing match for any length of time, it favors McGregor by a wide margin. The question is whether or not Conor's takedown defense will hold up. He's at nearly 74 percent over the course of his UFC career, but Khabib is arguably the best grappler in the history of the sport. Conor struggled with the takedowns of Chad Mendes in their fight in July 2015, and that has me seriously worried heading into this match.

I'm on record as saying I would pick Khabib over any 155-pounder on the planet, and I'm sticking to it. McGregor's best option is to come out swinging and hope for an early finish. The longer the fight goes, the more time Khabib has to drag Conor to the mat and score points with the judges. Conor has legitimate power and certainly has some value as a DraftKings underdog, but Khabib gets the benefit of the doubt until further notice. I have Nurmagomedov via decision.

THE PICK: Nurmagomedov

Co-Main Event - Lightweight

Tony Ferguson (25-3-0) v. Anthony Pettis (21-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Ferguson ($9,300), Pettis ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Ferguson (-360), Pettis (+300)
Odds to Finish: -120

Like fine wine, Ferguson has truly gotten better with age. The former Interim UFC Lightweight Championship is in the midst of a 10-fight winning streak. He defeated Kevin Lee for the previously-mentioned title last October, but was stripped of said belt after suffering a knee injury and being forced to withdraw from a unification bout against Khabib in April. El Cucuy's biggest weakness is the amount of damage he absorbs on the feet at times, but he's the very definition of durable (he has never been knocked out in his pro career) and Pettis isn't known as a power puncher. Ferguson should be fine as long as his knee injury is completely healed, and there's no reason to believe it isn't.

Pettis took a major step in the right direction with an impressive submission win over talented grappler Michael Chiesa in July. I'm still not convinced that Showtime is back to being the fighter he was back when he held the title, but there's no doubt it was a strong effort in a spot in which he needed a win. Supporters of Pettis will say that his 3-5 record in his last eight fights is simply the result of facing world-class competition. And while there's no doubt that those setbacks came against some of the best fighters in the sport (Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, Eddie Alvarez, Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza), Pettis still doesn't look completely right to me. He will display flashes of his trademark athleticism from time to time, but I certainly haven't seen enough to think he can compete with a fighter such as Ferguson.

While Pettis always has value as an underdog simply because he is athletically gifted enough to do things in the cage that others cannot, I see no reason to believe that Ferguson is in any real danger here. Tony has the hand speed to beat up Pettis on the feet, and he's strong and talented enough to hold his own on the mat. I can certainly see Pettis lasting the entire 15 minutes given this is only a three-round fight, but I think Ferguson wins. If that is indeed the case and Khabib beats McGregor, the UFC will have no choice but to try to book the two for an umpteenth time.

THE PICK: Ferguson

Light Heavyweight

Ovince Saint Preux (22-11-0) v. Dominick Reyes (9-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Saint Preux ($7,300), Reyes ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Saint Preux (+185), Reyes (-225)
Odds to Finish: -515

OSP and Reyes meet in a bout between two former football players. OSP played Division I ball at the University of Tennessee,while Reyes went to Stony Brook University before getting sniffs from NFL clubs at the Draft Combine.

Saint Preux is one of the more frustrating fighters on the entire UFC roster. He will display flashes of brilliance now and then, such as his first-round armbar win over Tyson Pedro in his most recent appearance in June. More often than not, however, OSP will leave you wanting more. While Saint Preux has legitimate power (11 career wins via knockout), his does his best work on the mat. OSP is a world-class athlete whose all-around game has progressed as much as many predicted when he joined the company in April 2013.

Reyes continues to confirm his status as one of the division's brightest prospects. Sporting a perfect 9-0 career record (three of those wins with the UFC), Reyes has earned stoppage victories in eight of his nine bouts. The 28-year-old has been extremely impressive thus far, but OSP will be by far the stiffest test of his young career.

Saint Preux's inconsistency is well documented. Now 35 years old, I think it's foolish to believe he will suddenly be a title contender. He is likely to remain an above-average light heavyweight for the near future but it's anyone's guess what he will provide on a fight-by-fight basis. Reyes has youth on his side and he's one of the few opponents that can match OSP's athleticism. I think he can handle the big step up in competition.

THE PICK: Reyes

Heavyweight

Derrick Lewis (20-5-0) v. Alexander Volkov (29-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lewis ($7,500), Volkov ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Lewis (+155), Volkov (-175)
Odds to Finish: -130

Few will dispute the drawbacks of Lewis (one-dimensional brawler, no cardio, back issues), but he is still sporting an 8-1 record in his last nine fights dating back to October 2015. Lewis's back injury led to him standing around and doing nothing in his most recent fight against Francis Ngannou in July, but somehow Ngannou did even less, and Lewis emerged with just the second decision victory of his lengthy career. When "The Black Beast" is at his best, he possesses world-class knockout power and a strong chin. Lewis's lack of weapons and his physique make him an ideal candidate for three-round fights, as opposed to those scheduled for five.

Volkov, who turns 30 years old later this month, is closing in on a title shot after racking up four-straight wins to begin his UFC career. A former Bellator Heavyweight Champion, Volkov has ridiculous length at 6-foot-7, and underrated power. 19 of his wins are via knockout, and he does an excellent job of using his long limbs to pound his opposition while staying out of range of their return strikes. Volkov isn't a household name yet, but the UFC was smart to place him on the same card as his fellow countryman Nurmagomedov. It will draw attention to Volkov, and that's a good thing because he may find himself fighting for the UFC Heavyweight Championship if he is able to stop Lewis.

Lewis worries me moving forward. It sure seems as if his back issues can crop up at any moment and there's a less-than-zero chance Volkov will mimic Ngannou's inactivity in this fight. When you add in the fact Volkov has been knocked out just once 35 career fights, this is a fairly easy pick. Lewis's power always make him a DraftKings option, but Volkov is durable and he's the better all-around fighter.

THE PICK: Volkov

Women's Strawweight

Michelle Waterson (15-6-0) v. Felice Herrig (14-7-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Waterson ($7,900), Herrig ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Waterson (+110), Herrig (-130)
Odds to Finish: +300

Waterson's brief five-fight UFC run (3-2) has been a disappointment. She entered the company with a ton of hype in July 2015 following her successful run with Invicta, but she has struggled since her return to strawweight. "The Karate Hottie" did her best work at atomweight (105 pounds) and she has had difficulty with bigger, stronger opponents. That makes a matchup with the powerful Herrig particularly concerning.

Felice ran off four-straight wins before dropping a split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz in April. A former professional kickboxer, Herrig has shockingly little finishing power in her hands. She has just one knockout in her career and that came nearly eight years ago. What she does possess is ridiculous upper-body strength and the ability to outmuscle her opposition from virtually any position. It's a massive advantage for a fighter who displays questionable technique at times.

I'm worried about Waterson. I thought she would be by far one of the best 115 pounders on the roster at this point, and it just hasn't happened. Her ground game remains as sharp as ever, but she is struggling virtually everywhere else. I have little confidence in her ability to get off of her back if Herrig plants her there. I would fade this fight if at all possible from a DraftKings perspective, but if forced to pick, I'm taking Herrig via decision. I think she can grind her way to victory in a fight that is likely to be far from visually pleasing.

THE PICK: Herrig

Flyweight

Sergio Pettis (17-3-0) v. Jussier Formiga (21-5-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Pettis ($8,600), Formiga ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Pettis (-160), Formiga (+140)
Odds to Finish: +230

With Henry Cejudo having dethroned Demetrious Johnson for the UFC Flyweight Champion in August, there is suddenly room for immediate advancement in the division. The winner of this fight will be in prime position to take advantage of that opportunity.

Pettis is 5-1 in his last six fights dating back almost exactly three years, with his only loss during that time span coming against Cejudo. The 24-year-old is coming off the biggest victory of his career – a split-decision win over perennial contender Joseph Benavidez in June. Pettis has shown significant improvement since he first entered the company in November 2013. He moves well, is a good athlete and his striking is at least solid-average, albeit it without any finishing power. He has a tendency to struggle for extended periods at times, but it's a pretty complete package for such a young kid.

Formiga remains one of the best and more underrated fighters in the division. He has fought considerably better than his 6-4 record with the company would lead you to believe, and all four of his setbacks have come against opponents that have fought for the UFC Flyweight Championship at one time or another (Cejudo, Benavidez, Ray Borg, John Dodson). Formiga's biggest strength is his ground game, with 10 of his 21 career wins coming via submission. He is talented enough to clamp on all different kinds of holds from a variety of different positions.

In a combined 46 professional fights, Pettis and Formiga have exactly three knockout wins between them, all of which have come from Pettis. That stat alone makes it quite likely this bout sees the final bell, which limits the DFS upside of both men. Pettis is younger and more athletic, while Formiga is the better mat wrestler and has a higher fight IQ. On a card with very few underdogs I like, Formiga gets the slight edge.

THE PICK: Formiga

Other Bouts

Welterweight

Vicente Luque (13-6-1) v. Jalin Turner (6-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Luque ($9,400), Turner ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Luque (-750), Turner(+525)
Odds to Finish: -325

THE PICK: Price

Women's Bantamweight

Aspen Ladd (6-0-0) v. Tonya Evinger (19-6-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Ladd ($8,200), Evinger ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Ladd (-165), Evinger (+145)
Odds to Finish: +165

THE PICK: Evinger

Women's Bantamweight

Lina Lansberg (8-3-0) v. Yana Kunitskaya (10-4-0, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Lansberg ($7,700), Kunitskaya ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Lansberg (+160), Kunitskaya (-185)
Odds to Finish: +180

THE PICK: Kunitskaya

Lightweight

Scott Holtzman (11-2-0) v. Alan Patrick (15-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Holtzman ($7,100), Patrick ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Holtzman (+210), Patrick (-250)
Odds to Finish: +260

THE PICK: Patrick

LightWeight

Gray Maynard (14-7-1, 1NC) v. Nik Lentz (30-9-2, 1NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Maynard ($7,200), Lentz ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Maynard (+180), Lentz (-220)
Odds to Finish: +180

THE PICK: Lentz

Welterweight

Ryan LaFlare (13-2-0) v. Tony Martin (12-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: LaFlare ($8,800), Martin ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Laflare (-150), Martin (+130)
Odds to Finish: +275

THE PICK: Laflare

Odds last updated Oct. 1 at 3:00 PM ET.

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. Jon Litterine plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: JLitterine.
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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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