This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
With a $50,000 top prize up for grabs, 24 fighters to pick from and a handful of live underdogs, UFC 248 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting cards of 2020, even without the raw star power of the previous two pay-per-views.
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, including a $100,000 top prize in the UFC 246 special. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
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 - Middleweight Championship
(C) Israel Adesanya (18-0-0) v. Yoel Romero (13-4-0)
DK Salaries: Adesanya ($9,200), Romero ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Adesanya (-275), Romero (+235)
Odds to Finish: -160
Fresh off his dominant knockout win over Robert Whittaker last October which won him the undisputed UFC Middleweight Championship, Adesanya is set to make his first title defense against a dangerous opponent. Given what we have seen from Adesanya over the course of his first seven fights with the company, it's not a stretch to say that Israel is one of the most effective and unorthodox strikers in the history of the sport. He has a background in both boxing and kickboxing and owns an ideal 6-foot-4 frame with long limbs. Adesanya won't turn 31 years of age until late July, so there's definite staying power here.
As I mentioned earlier, Romero is a dangerous opponent. He's a dangerous opponent despite the fact he has lost back-to-back fights and has just one win in his last four bouts dating back to July 2017. Romero has changed the way he fights the past several years. Instead of going for broke in the early going and quickly gassing out, Yoel has displayed more patience, and his overall game has improved as a result. It's not a stretch to say Romero is one of the toughest human beings on the planet. We have seen him take beatings time and time again and nothing seems to phase him. His sheer durability alone makes him a threat every single time he steps into the Octagon.
I'm extremely interested in seeing how Romero goes about attacking Adesanya. Yoel is the much better wrestler (he won a silver medal in the Olympics), but he has gotten away from that of late. I think Romero is going to have to land at least a handful of takedowns in order to win this fight. Adesanya gets a bad rep as a one-dimensional striker. Yes, his striking is far ahead of his wrestling and ground game, but his takedown defense over the course of his time with the company is a surprisingly stellar 85 percent. Adesanya is deceptively strong and very difficult to control along the fence. It's a risky play given his past cardio issues, but Romero might be best served of going for a few takedowns early in hopes of racking up points with the judges. Any extended kickboxing match is going to favor Adesanya in a significant way.
I would have preferred Adesanya v. Paulo Costa, but this is a good fight and I expect it to be a competitive fight. One of the things that has impressed me most about Adesanya has been his ability to take a punch. We have seen him get popped several times and he has always handled it well. I have a difficult time believing Romero can outpoint Israel and take a decision, so it will likely take one massive flurry that ends in a stoppage in order for the Cuban to win. It's definitely not out of the question and I definitely like Romero as an underdog DraftKings play. Any fighter who can combine his athleticism with his durability is almost always worth a look. Still, I don't think he wins. Give me Adesanya by decision.
THE PICK: Adesanya
Co-Main Event - Women's Strawweight Championship
(C) Weili Zhang (20-1-0) v. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-3-0)
DK Salaries: Zhang ($8,900), Jedrzejczyk ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Zhang (-170), Jedrzejczyk (+150)
Odds to Finish: +115
The first Chinese champion in UFC history, Zhang won her title with a dominant 42-second knockout victory over Jessica Andrade last August. It was a remarkable performance in a fight in which Zhang was pretty much universally viewed as a significant underdog. Zhang entered the Andrade fight with a perfect 3-0 record during her brief time with the company, but her victories were over Tecia Torres, Jessica Aguilar and Danielle Taylor, and many thought she was getting a title shot simply because the event was held in China. Zhang is an explosive striker. We all know the power and upper-body strength Andrade possesses, and Zhang blew the doors off her. She has 10 career wins via knockout in addition to seven wins via submission. She's very good and could just be getting started at age 30.
Allow me to start this by saying I don't believe Jedrzejczyk deserves a title shot right now. I understand that she's the most popular fighter in the history of the division and a former champion, but she is also sporting a 2-3 record in her past five fights dating back to November 2017. Following her back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas, Joanna rebounded with a unanimous decision win over Tecia Torres in July 2018. She was then dominated by Valentina Shevchenko in a UFC Women's Flyweight Championship fight before returning to strawweight and taking a unanimous decision from Michelle Waterson in a main event spot in October. Jedrzejczyk hasn't looked like herself for the better part of the last couple years. She's still comfortably above-average, but the days of Joanna being one of the sport's most dominant fighters appear to have come and gone.
On paper, this looks like a bad matchup for Joanna. While she has both the hand and foot speed to compete with Zhang, she most certainly cannot match her in the power department. Jedrzejczyk has always relied upon volume and placement in order to be successful and Zhang doesn't strike me as the type of opponent you wish to attack in that matter. If you stand on the feet for an extended period of time, she will make you pay.
I'm moderately interested in Joanna as a punt DraftKings play given her cheap salary, but I expect here to be heavily owned in tournaments due to her popularity and that takes away some of the shine. Zhang is also very, very good and I think she is the clear pick here. As strong as Joanna looked early in her UFC run, I think part of that was due to the lack of high-end opposition she was facing at the time. She's still an excellent fighter, but I don't think she's a top fighter.
THE PICK: Zhang
Beneil Dariush (17-4-1) v. Drakkar Klose (11-1-1)
DK Salaries: Dariush ($8,700), Klose ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Dariush (-170), Klose (+150)
Odds to Finish: +100
These two men were scheduled to fight last July before Dariush withdrew due to injury. Both have fought once since that cancellation, winning their respective bouts.
Watching Dariush fight isn't always a visually pleasing experience, and I firmly believe he is underrated because of it. He's methodical and prefers to either wait for his opposition to make a mistake or pick his spots offensively. He's a notoriously slow starter who tends to get stronger as his fights progress. Although undefeated, Dariush has faced poor competition (Frank Camacho, Drew Dober, Thiago Moises) over the past two years. Dariush has seemingly been around forever but he won't turn 31 years of age until July. He's possesses a solid all-around game, although he is much better on the mat than on the feet. I think he's better than the casual observer believes, but it's hard to tell because he hasn't really fought anyone of note in years.
Klose is a surprising 5-1 in his first six UFC bouts, with all six fights seeing the final bell. That statistic is mind boggling to me considering Klose is one of the most aggressive fighters in the entire company. He fights at an extremely high pace and can mix in a takedown (1.67 per 15 minutes) here and there. My big concern regarding Klose is the lack of stopping power in his hands. He racked up a whole bunch of knockouts early in his career on the regional circuit, but that power has disappeared once he reached the UFC. If you're calm and patient in there against him – and that's Dariush's game – I think he can be exploited.
Dariush is the much more technical fighter and that means Klose will probably have to score a knockout in order to win. Given the fact his power seems to have evaporated, that's a difficult ask.
THE PICK: Dariush
Neil Magny (21-8-0) v. Li Jingliang (17-5-0)
DK Salaries: Magny ($7,600), Li ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Magny (+145), Li (-165)
Odds to Finish: -130
Magny had one of the most unexpected successful runs in the sport over the past decade, but he has leveled off of late. He is 3-3 in his past six fights dating back to March 2016 and is coming off an ugly knockout loss at the hands of Santiago Ponzinibbio in November 2018. Always one of the more active fighters on the roster, Magny's year-plus on the sidelines was due to testing positive for a banned substance. Magny is limited athletically and will turn 33 years of age this coming August, so it seems unlikely his next six fights will go better than his previous six.
Li continues to go about his business with little fanfare. He has won seven of his past eight fights dating back to July 2016. Four of his past six victories have come via knockout and Li earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus for three of them. His power is totally legitimate. He's also underrated on the mat. Perhaps most importantly, he's durable. Li has never been knocked out in his 12-plus year MMA career. I'm not quite sure how high his long-term ceiling is because we have had limited looks at Li against top competition, but he has been impressive thus far.
There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about both fighters here. For Magny, he has struggled to made adjustments against better opponents. When he was in the midst of 10-1 run from February 2014 to August 2016, Magny varied his game plan on a fight-by-fight basis and excelled at taking advantage of his opposition's weaknesses. He has not been able to do that of late. The concern about Li is the fact he hasn't fought in the United States since January 2017. Since then, Li has fought three times in his native China, twice in Singapore, and once in Australia.
Magny could never win another fight with the company and I'd argue his run went far better than anyone could have ever expected. He's not the worst play in the world at $7600, but I always take ceiling over floor and if that's the case, the pick is Li all day long.
THE PICK: Li
Alex Oliveira (19-8-1, 2NC) v. Max Griffin (15-7-0)
DK Salaries: Oliveira ($8,400), Griffin ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Oliveira (-150), Griffin (+130)
Odds to Finish: +100
Having these two fighters open the pay-per-view is an interesting call by the UFC. The numbers for both are ugly of late. Oliveira and Griffin have combined to go 2-7 in their last nine fights and it's entirely reasonable to think that BOTH men could be fighting for their respective jobs on Saturday.
Oliveira's recent struggles are particularly surprising, because he went on such a strong run for such a long time, and he's not old (32). Prior to his current three-fight losing streak, Oliveira was 9-3-1 in his first 13 UFC bouts. He's beaten some quality opponents (Carlos Condit, Will Brooks) and headlined an event against Donald Cerrone that was infamously dubbed "Cowboy v. Cowboy". Oliveira never goes into the Octagon with much of a game plan, but he has some power and is an underrated grappler. He's probably not as good as we saw earlier in his time with the company, but also isn't as bad as he has appeared to be of late.
Griffin is somehow still employed and getting shots on the main card of a PPV despite rocking a 3-6 record in nine career fights with the company. His last seven fights (2-5) have all ended via decision. Griffin is an uber-aggressive brawler whose power has dried up since reaching the UFC. His greatest attribute is his durability. Griffin's UFC debut against Colby Covington back in August 2016 was the only time in his career he has been knocked out. It's next to impossible to be successful employing the style of fighting Griffin does unless you are able to stop your opposition.
I would probably stay away from this fight if at all possible. I definitely think Oliveira is the better competitor, but his recent struggles worry me because they are unexplained. In Griffin's case, I simply don't think he's all that good. The Brazilian fights often and can fight in multiple weight classes, so he has some value despite the setbacks. I'm not sure what Griffin is bringing to the company at this point. I imagine the days of Oliveira as a potential contender are over. That being said, I will also be highly concerned if he can't put together a strong performance against a fringe fighter like Griffin.
THE PICK: Oliveira
Sean O'Malley (10-0-0) v. Jose Quinonez (9-3-0)
DK Salaries: O'Malley ($9,100), Quinonez ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: O'Malley (-380), Quinonez (+315)
Odds to Finish: -150
THE PICK: O'Malley
Mark Madsen (9-0-0) v. Austin Hubbard (11-3-0)
DK Salaries: Madsen ($9,200), Hubbard ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Madsen (-200), Hubbard (+170)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Madsen
Rodolfo Vieira (6-0-0) v. Saparbek Safarov (9-2-0)
DK Salaries: Vieira ($9,300), Safarov ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Vieira (-800), Safarov (+550)
Odds to Finish: -420
THE PICK: Vieira
Gerald Meerschaert (29-12-0) v. Deron Winn (6-1-0)
DK Salaries: Meerschaert ($7,900), Winn ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Meerschaert (+125), Winn (-145)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: Winn
Emily Whitmire (4-3-0) v. Polyana Viana (10-4-0)
DK Salaries: Whitmire ($8,100), Viana ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Whitmire (-105), Viana (-115)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Whitmire
Danaa Batgerel (6-2-0) v. Guido Cannetti (8-5-0)
DK Salaries: Batgerel ($8,200), Cannetti ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Batgerel (-140), Cannetti (+120)
Odds to Finish: -125
THE PICK: Cannetti
Jamall Emmers (17-4-0) v. Giga Chikadze (8-2-0)
DK Salaries: Emmers ($8,500), Chikadze ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Emmers (-165), Chikadze (+145)
Odds to Finish: -120
THE PICK: Emmers