This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
International Fight Week typically brings the biggest card of the year, and DraftKings isn't messing around with its UFC 239 offerings. On a card headlined by two title fights, the one and only place for MMA DFS has a $100,0000 top prize up for grabs in its $323.9K UFC 239 special.
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 - Light Heavyweight Championship
The UFC is out of options when it comes to finding challengers for Jones at 205 pounds and as a result, we get another bout in which "Bones" enters as a massive favorite.
Jones's most recent domination of Alexander Gustafsson proved once again that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and arguably the best of all time. The only person who can knock Jones off his path to greatness is Jones himself. He followed up his win over Gus with a 25-minute dissection of an overmatched Anthony Smith in March. Jones gave neither man an opening in either bout, effortlessly combining offense, defense, and footwork. Someone is going to beat Jones eventually because that's just how this sport works, but good luck guessing who that will be or when it will happen.
Santos deserve his title shot, but the UFC almost certainly would have gone in a different direction if it had a better option, and it quickly became crystal clear that they did not. For his part, Santos is 8-1 in his last nine fights dating back to February 2017, and seven of those wins have come via knockout. The Brazilian has some of the most insane knockout power in the sport, and he can end a fight in an instant. That's the good news. The bad news is that this will be just Santos's fourth fight at light heavyweight and he accomplishes very little offensively when those power shots aren't landing. Color me skeptical that a fighter who is relatively new to the weight class and fairly one-dimensional is going to end the streak of the greatest 205-pounder of all time.
As I said earlier, Santos has earned his shot and he will get a nice payday regardless of the result, but I certainly think the good times are about to end for the Brazilian. There is no need to overthink this, just pick Jones in this fight (and every other fight until he loses) and move on.
THE PICK: Jones
Co-Main Event - Women's Bantamweight Championship
Like the men's 205-pound division, the UFC is running out of options in terms of challengers in the 135-pound female division. Holm is popular among casual fans and she is a former champion in her own right, so this fight does make some sense. There were really no other options for Nunes in terms of a legitimate challenger.
Nunes's story is remarkable. She entered the company a virtual unknown in August 2013 and is now the UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion AND Featherweight Champion. She won the 145-pound belt after destroying Cris Cyborg in 51 seconds in December. It was one of the most shocking and dominant performances I have ever seen in all my years covering MMA. Nunes is what I would term a calculated brawler. Her power is by far her biggest greatest weapon, and she's comfortable standing and trading, but she does so in an educated manner. She takes her time when she has her opposition hurt and she doesn't leave many openings for her opponent to return fire. Still just 30 years old, Nunes is undoubtedly one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Her transformation and growth has been truly remarkable.
Our regular readers know that I haven't been the biggest Holm supporter over the years. I've always found her to be a tad overrated and one-dimensional. She is, however, coming off an exceptional performance in an unanimous decision victory over a debuting and overmatched Megan Anderson last June. Holm's kickboxing background is well documented and she is a terrific striker, but her knockout power is limited. She's durable on the feet and excels at putting together combinations, but I would take Nunes over Holm in a second in an extended kickboxing match.
Since there is zero reason to believe this will be anything other than a stand-up affair, I guess I'm picking the champion. I just think the power difference between the two women is so massive that Holly's attempts to land a ton of volume strikes won't make up the difference. Nunes has been virtually flawless for the past five years and Holm is 2-3 in her past five fights. She also turns 38 years old in October. I'll pass.
THE PICK: Nunes
Giddy up! This is a fight between two guys who legitimately do not like each other. Of course, when Askren is involved, that always seems to be the case.
Now one fight into his UFC career, Askren remains undefeated, but he's extremely fortunate to still be in that position. Askren found himself on life support just seconds after his bout against Robbie Lawler in March began, but the combination of Lawler being unable to finish the fight and Askren's super-human toughness allowed "Funky" to hang on long enough to eventually win the fight via first-round submission. Known as a world class wrestler, Askren landed 1-of-2 takedowns against Lawler. Masvidal is another opponent with exceptional (77 percent) takedown defense. Yet the thing about Askren is that it only takes one. He's so shifty and so heavy from top position that he's difficult to buck off if he has you on the mat.
Masvidal had lost back-to-back fights prior to a brilliant performance in March in which he earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus for his knockout of Darren Till in enemy territory. Masvidal's game is built around pressure. He throws a lot and lands a lot. He's also an underrated grappler, although I can't imagine he wants any piece of Askren on the ground. Masvidal has some big wins in his career (Till, Donald Cerrone, Michael Chiesa), but he hasn't beaten better competition with any consistency. He needs to put together another solid performance against Askren in order to be taken seriously at welterweight.
Askren's striking looked terrible in the Lawler fight. He's never going to be as good on the feet as he is on the mat, but what he showed in the stand up against Robbie was concerning. He's going to be at a definite disadvantage if this thing ends up a kickboxing match for any real length of time. All things considered, I would probably take Askren here, but there are very few underdogs on this card that I think will win outright, and $7,500 is a ridiculously cheap price for a talented fighter in Masvidal, I'm taking the upset.
THE PICK: Masvidal
After spending his entire eleven-year career at middleweight, Rockhold will move up to 205 pounds for the first time on Saturday. Given the crowd at the top of the 185-pound rankings and the lack of depth at light heavyweight, it's a move that make sense. Rockhold has the size (6-foot-3) and physique to excel in a higher weight class. The former UFC Middleweight Champion is coming off a knockout loss at the hands of Yoel Romero in February 2018, so it has been an extended layoff for Rockhold. The 34-year-old is an excellent kickboxer with an exceptional ground game. Rockhold's striking defense is a bit up and down and he has been susceptible to one-shot knockouts, but he is truly a talented fighter and one who should be successful for several more years.
With me picking against him most every single fight, Blachowicz is on the best run of his career. Sure, he was knocked out by Santos in February, but prior to that Blachowicz had won four in a row. His fights are rarely a thing of beauty. Blachowicz tends to be very calculating and methodical inside the Octagon. He's not a great athlete, but he has a background in kickboxing, and like Rockhold, is a quality mat specialist. Blachowicz fights at a slow pace, and that can be an issue in a typical three-round fight.
I try not to pick fighters who are competing in a new weight class for the first time (especially given how long Rockhold spent at middleweight), but I think you have to take Luke here. He has the length and kicking game to keep Blachowicz honest on the feet, and Rockhold's biggest struggle – the one shot knockout – isn't really an issue against Blachowicz, who has won seven of his last 11 fights via decision. Jan is certainly better than I have given him credit for the past several years, but I still don't think he wins here.
THE PICK: Rockhold
Arguably the toughest human being walking God's green earth, Sanchez, who has looked totally washed up on more than a few occasions, somehow enters this bout on a two-fight win streak. His most recent performance was a shocking Performance of the Night knockout win over young Mickey Gall in March. His recent hot streak aside, Sanchez isn't primed for long-term success. His footwork is non existent and he's a below-average athlete despite being a BJJ black belt. On the other hand, Sanchez is one of the best brawlers in the history of the sport, and he has a unique ability to get his opposition off their game and into a fist fight. If that's the case, given his ability to absorb punishment, Sanchez has a chance to compete in most every bout.
Chiesa, a lightweight, moved up to welterweight last December and easily submitted a well-past-his-prime Carlos Condit. Checking in at a massive 6-foot-1, Chiesa certainly has the frame for 170 pounds. He's one of the better submission specialists in the sport (11 career wins via tapout) and his long limbs are a major asset on the ground. Chiesa's biggest flaw is his inability to finish fights on the feet. He somehow doesn't have a single knockout victory in his near 11-year pro career – a stunning and almost-unbelievable statistic.
Both of these men are durable, so don't be surprised if this fight goes the distance. I'm not crazy about Chiesa moving forward because sooner or later you will have to stop your opposition with strikes, but he should be able to handle Sanchez. I expect your typical Diego fight in the sense that it's back and forth and both men land their fair share of shots, but it's difficult to pick Sanchez against any talented opponent these days given how limited his offensive arsenal is.
THE PICK: Chiesa
Ismail Naurdiev (18-2-0) v. Chance Rencountre (13-3-0)
DK Salaries: Naurdiev ($9,300), Rencountre ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Naurdiev (-525), Rencountre (+415)
Odds to Finish: -120
THE PICK: Naurdiev