This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The UFC continues to push through this pandemic, as the second of two UFC Fight Night events at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville is set to take place this Saturday on ESPN/ESPN+. DFS sites are once again rolling out the red carpet with MMA being one of the only shows in town.
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 MMA Throwdown Special, which features $500,000 in guaranteed prizes. 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 - Heavyweight
These two men were scheduled to headline a December event in Washington DC, but Harris was forced to withdraw due to the tragic circumstances regarding the disappearance of his stepdaughter.
Overeem remained on the card against Jairzinho Rozenstruik and ended up suffering one of the worst losses of his long pro career. Up on all three judge's scorecards with time expiring, "The Reem" was knocked out with just four seconds left in the fifth round. It was a crushing loss for a fighter who really needed a victory in order to continue to fancy himself a contender in the heavyweight division. Overeem brings very little to the table at this point in his career. He will turn 40 years old next month. He continues to get high-profile bouts because he's popular with casual fans and because nine of his past ten fights have ended via knockout one way or another. He is 6-4 in those ten bouts.
It's impossible to discuss Harris without referencing the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of his stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, so I'll keep these comments brief. Blanchard went missing in late-October and was found deceased a little over a month later. Her disappearance resulted in Harris withdrawing from the originally-scheduled bout against Overreem, and he has been on the sidelines since.
Inside the Octagon, Harris is in the midst of the best run of his UFC career. He has scored back-to-back knockout wins over Sergey Spivak and Aleksei Oleinik and did so in a combined 1:02. He earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus for both of his efforts. Harris has always been long on talent and short on performance, but he finally appears to have figured things out at age 36. He's an exceptional athlete with remarkable explosiveness for such a big man. His power is legitimate.
On paper, this matchup is worse-case scenario for Overeem. He's going up against a high-end athlete with the ability to turn his lights out. Alistair's footwork has all but evaporated in the later stages of his career, and his only chance of winning appears to be if he is able to land a one-punch knockout. I'm not even going to attempt to dissect the mindset of Harris coming into the fight. If he accepted this bout, I believe we have to take that at face value and assume he's ready to fight. If he is, I think he picks up the biggest win of his career in a main event spot.
THE PICK: Harris
Co-Main Event - Women's Strawweight
There's room for immediate advancement in the 115-pound women's division, and both Gadelha and Hill are prime candidates to make a significant jump forward if they are able to earn an impressive victory here.
Gadelha, in particular, needs a strong showing. Claudia has alternated wins and losses in her last five bouts dating back to July 2017. The victories came over Randa Markos, Carla Esparza and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, while the setbacks were against former champion Jessica Andrade and Nina Ansaroff. The Andrade loss is understandable, but the Ansaroff loss was crushing. It was one of Gadelha's worst performances with the company and all but ruined any potential momentum she may have been building. She better come ready to fight Saturday against the uber-tough Hill.
Angie is 6-5 over her course of two runs with the company. She's considerably better than that record would leave you to believe. Her cardio is exceptional and she is a legitimate Muay Thai specialist. She's also tough as all heck. Hill's power manifests itself in short spurts as opposed to consistently, but she has displayed the ability to knock out her competition.
Gadelha's biggest edge here is her wrestling game. She averages 3.34 takedowns per 15 minutes and the vast majority of them are the result of sheer upper-body strength. Hill is deceptively strong and boats an impressive 72 percent takedown defense rate during her time with the UFC, but she is going to be at a serious strength and positioning advantage if these two end up on the mat.
I think Gadelha's UFC run has been viewed as a bit of a disappointment because more was expected of her from the beginning. Claudia and Joanna Jedrzejczyk were viewed as the future of the division when it began, and while Joanna had an epic run at the top, Gadelha has never gotten to that level. She needs a win over Hill if she wants to continue to fancy herself a contender. I think she gets it but it won't come easy. I'd be very hesitant to use Gadelha at that hefty price and I'd be all over Hill as a value underdog play. There is not a $2K gap between these women.
THE PICK: Gadelha
Sporting a 1-4 record in his past five fights dating back to December 2017, Barboza is dropping down to 145 pounds after spending his first decade in the sport at lightweight. Barboza's four losses over that span came against Paul Felder, Justin Gaethje, Kevin Lee, and current UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, so it's difficult to get on him for any of the setbacks, but it's easy to see why he thinks a change may be needed.
In addition to having an awesome nickname – "50K" – Ige is a good, underrated fighter. He arrived on the scene after a victory on Dana White's Contender Series. He dropped his first official bout with the company to Julio Arce in January 2018 and has won five in a row since. Ige is a solid all-around competitor. He may not overwhelm his competition in any one single area, but he's calm and composed in the Octagon and won't beat himself. Ige also has youth on his side. He won't turn 29 years of age until early August, while Barboza turned 34 years of age this past January.
The way I see it, Ige has two major issues to overcome here. The first is the quality of competition each man has faced. I mentioned earlier the guys Barboza has gone up against lately. By comparison, Ige's five-fight winning streak have come against Mirsad Bektic, Kevin Aguilar, Danny Henry, Jordan Griffin and Mike Santiago. No disrespect to those guys, but they obviously aren't Khabib, Gaethje, etc..
Second, is the size differential between the two. Barboza was a big lightweight, and he's going to be a massive featherweight. He's 5-foot-11, while Ige checks in at 5-foot-7. That's an issue for Ige when you take into consideration how many kicks Barboza throws.
I like Ige and think there's potential there, but I can't pick him here. Barboza is bigger, stronger, and has faced much, much better competition over the past many years. I try to avoid fighters competing in a new division if at all possible, but the pros outweigh the cons with Barboza here. That being said, I would keep an eye on how he looks in the scale on Friday morning. This is going to be a serious weight cut for him. If he makes it through without issue, I think Barboza wins in his featherweight debut.
THE PICK: Barboza
Anders' near-three-year run with the UFC has been an interesting one. His record is barely over .500 (5-4) but there's a three-fight losing streak in there. Much like Ovince Saint Preux, the vast majority of Anders' success is the result of sheer athleticism. Like OSP, Anders played Division I college football (University of Alabama) but unlike OSP, Anders won a BCS National Championship back in 2009. Anders possess a bunch of power and will display the explosiveness of a former high-end Division I college athlete, but his cardio is suspect and his overall MMA game unrefined.
I had pretty high hopes for Jotko at one point, but that horse left the barn long ago. Jotko began his UFC run with an impressive 6-1 streak. The issue was that all of those victories came against poor competition (Bruno Santos, Tor Treong, Scott Askham, Bradley Scott, Tamdan McCrory, Thales Leites) and once the competition level had risen, Jotko quickly dropped three in a row. He has since rebounded with back-to-back decision victories over Marc-Andre Barriault (split) and Alen Amedovski (unanimous). Unlike Anders, Jotko's movements are stiff. He struggles to generate consistent offense. The vast majority of Jotko's knockouts came earlier in his career and he has never possessed any submission game whatsoever. It's a bad combination.
Anders is way behind where he should be at age 33 because he started late due to his football career, but he should still have enough in the tank to defeat Jotko. I'll be highly concerned if he can't. Anders' explosiveness and athleticism edge is massive and he should be just fine as long as he doesn't fight foolishly. The DraftKings salaries here are baffling to me. I would have expected them to have been reversed. This pick is more about me being down on Jotko as opposed to being in love with Anders moving forward.
THE PICK: Anders