This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The path for both the men's and women's flyweight division will be laid out for months to come after UFC 255 on Saturday, where both belts will be on the line and several top-contender fights are scheduled.
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$700k UFC 255 special with $150k to first place. 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 - UFC Flyweight Championship
Figueiredo was scheduled to make his first title defense against Cody Garbrandt before Cody suffered a torn bicep and was forced to withdraw. I imagine that matchup would have done a better pay-per-view buy rate than this one will, but Perez is a far more deserving choice considering Garbrandt is 1-3 in his past four bouts and has never fought at flyweight in his entire pro career.
Perez has spent his career bouncing back and forth between flyweight and bantamweight. He's missed weight upwards of a half dozen times in his professional career, including once with the UFC. That seriously concerns me, but the UFC must have felt it didn't have a better option for Figueiredo's first title defense. When he steps into the Octagon, Perez is excellent. He's 6-1 in the UFC, with his only loss in that span being a knockout at the hands of Joseph Benavidez. Overall, Perez has won 11 of his past 12 bouts.
Perez has a tough task ahead of him on Saturday because Figueiredo is a stone-cold killer. The Brazilian first fought Benavidez this past February for the vacant UFC Flyweight Championship. Unfortunately for Figueiredo, he missed weight and was thus ineligible to win the title. Still, he knocked Joe B out in just over a round. The two fought again in July, at which point Figueiredo submitted Benavidez in just under a round to take home the gold. Figueiredo has it all. He's quick, has legitimate power in his hands for a smaller fighter and is excellent on the mat. He has the look of a fighter who might be able to hold onto the championship for a considerable period of time.
Perez is a inch taller, but Figueiredo possesses a three-inch reach advantage. That's something that could easily come into play given the fact Figueiredo has more power. Perez would be smart to try to rely on his wrestling to win here. He lands just over three (3.03) takedowns per 15 minutes while Figueiredo defends them at just a 61 percent clip. Of course, if he succeeds, Perez is then at risk of having to deal with Figueiredo's submission game.
As I mentioned earlier, both these guys have missed weight in the past. It's been a reoccurring issue for Perez, while it happened to Figueiredo just the one time. If this fight ends up in the later rounds, it could go to the guy who shows up in better shape.
I imagine Perez puts forth a better showing than Benavidez did in either of his fights against Figueiredo, but I still can't pick him. Figueiredo appears to be legitimately improving at age 32 and I'm always partial to smaller guys with big-time power. I'm not overly interested in Perez as an underdog DraftKings play because I think his pathway to victory is miniscule outside of his wrestling.
THE PICK: Figueiredo
Co-Main Event - Women's Flyweight Championship
I apologize in advance if this sounds like most of the other UFC Women's Flyweight Championship breakdowns I write up. Shevchenko is just on another level than the rest of the division, so it's wash, rinse and repeat.
Valentina was scheduled to defend her belt against Joanne Calderwood at UFC 250 in June. Shevchenko was forced to withdraw due to a leg injury. Calderwood, wishing to remain active, fought Maia a little over a month later and was submitted. Thus, he we are.
A truly unstoppable force at 125 pounds, Valentina continues to destroy everything put in her path. With Khabib Nurmagomedov retired, I truly believe Shevchenko is the most dominant fighter in the sport today. Valentina won the vacant title from Joanna Jedrzejczyk in December 2018 and has since blown past Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche and Katlyn Chookagian in three successful title defenses. The Carmouche fight was the most difficult of the three, and Shevchenko still barely broke a sweat in that one. Shevchenko is flawless. She does everything at an elite level. Trying to find a vulnerability is next to impossible.
A long-time member of the Invicta roster, Maia has UFC victories over Calderwood, Roxanne Modafferi and Alexis Davis on his resume, in addition to losses to Carmouche and Chookagian. Maia is a reasonable all-around fighter, with a black belt in both BJJ and Muay Thai. She's a perfectly competent flyweight – probably top-five given the total lack of depth in the division at the moment – but there's nothing to suggest she's remotely on the same level as Shevchenko.
A deeper dive into the numbers doesn't help Maia's cause. The two women are almost exactly the same age (Shevchenko is seven months older) while Valentina is an inch taller and possesses a two-inch reach advantage.
I've said in this space before and I still believe that if one fighter is as big of a favorite as Valentina is here, the fight shouldn't be happening. Shevchenko's massive DraftKings salary is prime Ronda Rousey and Demetrious Johnson territory, and there's actually reason to believe Valentina is far more dominant at this weight class then either of those two ever were.
Pretty much everyone in this sport – other than Khabib – loses eventually, but a Matt Serra over GSP result is termed a "miracle" for a reason. They come around but once in a lifetime. Looking for a Hail Mary play, I'd much rather spent the extra $600 and roster Perez instead of Maia.
THE PICK: Shevchenko
Perry was scheduled to face Robbie Lawler here before Lawler withdrew due to an undisclosed injury.
Clearly trending in the wrong direction, Perry snapped a two-fight losing streak with an impressive unanimous decision win over Mickey Gall in late June. Perry has gotten some meaningful fights over the course of his four-plus year UFC run, but his record with the company is barely over .500 at 7-6. Perry is an excellent boxer. He has legitimate power, and more importantly, he's durable. That's the good news. The bad news is that Perry's fight IQ is well below average. He is a pure brawler who is willing to eat a punch in order to land two of his own, and that doesn't work against better competition.
Not to be outdone, Means has been even more inconsistent than Perry. The soon-to-be 37-year-old has alternated wins and losses in his past six fights. Means can mix in a submission here and there, but he too, at this stage of his career, is a stand-up fighter. Means has a clear edge in the experience department, as he has more than twice as many professional fights than Perry. Means has been a professional for well over 16 years and has fought the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Neil Magny, Matt Brown and plenty of others.
I expect this to be a kickboxing match. On the surface, that would appear to favor Perry. He's got more power, much quicker hands and is much more durable. On the flip side, Means has a four-inch edge in both the height and reach department. He's going to need to use it, because he will be in trouble if he stands in front of Perry for any significant length of time.
Ultimately, I expect Perry's inconsistent ways to continue moving forward, but I think this is a good matchup for him. Means doesn't possess fight-ending power, and Perry's durability should allow him to generate plenty of offense of his own. Means would be smart to try to get this fight to the mat. If he does, all bets are off. If not, give me Perry.
THE PICK: Perry
This will be Chookagian's fourth fight of 2020 and her fifth in just over 15 months. She's 2-2 in the previous four, with a loss to Shevchenko in the previously-mentioned title fight, in addition to a knockout loss at the hands of Jessica Andrade in her most recent bout in October. The victories came against Shevchenko's younger sister, Antonina (who also fights Saturday), and Maia.
The state of the women's flyweight division these days means Chookagian is comfortably in the top-five and still competing in title-implicating bouts. That's all well and good, but a deeper dive into the numbers suggest Chookagian is closer to roster depth than a legitimate championship contender. She's 7-4 with the company, and all seven victories have come via decision. Chookagian has no power and no ground game to speak of. Her biggest asset is her 5-foot-9 frame. She also turns 32 years of age in late December. I'd be willing to bet a significant amount that Katlyn's next 11 fights won't go as well as the prior 11.
A longtime strawweight, Calvillo returned to flyweight this past June and took a unanimous decision from Jessica Eye in a main event spot. Eye can't defend herself on the feet, and Calvillo is tough and well-conditioned, so anyone could have seen that result coming from a mile away. I'm interested in seeing how Calvillo fares against a slightly better opponent in Chookagian. I definitely believe Calvillo is the better mixed martial artist, but Chookagian is five inches taller and has been in the Octagon against significantly better competition.
Calvillo – who averages about two (1.97) takedowns per 15 minutes – would be wise to try to implement her wrestling game given the fact Chookagian defends the takedown at just a 48 percent clip. Although I expect she wins regardless.
Chookagian doesn't interest me in the least as a potential value play. Her style of fighting simply isn't condicuve to DK productivity. She averages just 50.9 DraftKings points per fight. By comparison, Calvillo is at 86.4 DK points per bout.
THE PICK: Calvillo
This is a rematch of a November 2019 fight which was declared a split draw. Shogun probably deserved that fight, but it was close, and neither man looked particularly strong.
Seemingly left for dead following a stretch from December 2012 to November 2014 in which he went 1-4, Shogun has somehow rebounded to post a 5-1-1 record in his past seven bouts. It's rarely been pretty, with his most recent bout – a split decision victory over Lil Nog this past July – being the perfect example. Rua will be turning 39 years of age just four days after this event takes place. His stand-up skillset is the type that tends to age poorly, but Shogun has proven he still has some power left in his hands despite his advanced age. I'd be willing to be a significant amount that his next seven bouts will go considerably worse than the prior seven, but I also thought there was an overwhelming likelihood he would be out of the company by now.
Craig has been with the UFC for about four years, posting a record barely above .500 (5-4-1) during that time frame. He is excellent on the mat (12 career submission victories) but has very little power and a questionable chin. Craig is big for the division (6-foot-3) and fights physically, but his inability to threaten his opposition on the feet has long been an issue. Craig is going to be in bad shape in any fight that turns into an extended kickboxing match.
Craig fared surprisingly well on the feet in the first fight between the two. You would think Rua would have a significant edge in that area, but Craig matched him punch-for-punch. If that happens again, Shogun is in trouble.
The biggest issue here for both men is that their respective path to victories is so small. Someone has to win this one (obviously) but the odds of either going on an extended run are exceedingly small.
I can't believe I'm doing this, but I'm going with Shogun. The value looks right and I generally prefer to take a striker over a mat specialist because it's much easier to predict a knockout as opposed to a submission.
THE PICK: Rua
This was scheduled to be Moreno v. Alex Perez before Garbrandt withdrew from the main event and Perez was pushed into a title shot.
Inconsistent throughout the early portion of his UFC run but raging hot of late, Moreno enters on a four-fight unbeaten streak (3-0-1). Included in that stretch are impressive victories over Jussier Formiga and Kai-Kara France. I've never viewed Moreno as a legitimate title contender simply because of the lack of power in his hands. He had just two knockout victories in 23 career fights. Moreno is a decent enough wrestler (1.75 takedowns per 15 minutes) and solid on the mat (ten career submission victories), but I simply think he would be overwhelmed on the feet by a guy like Figueriedo. He's within shouting distance of a title shot as we speak, but I still think the vast majority of Moreno's future potential is tied to his youth. He won't turn 27 years old until early next month.
This is a gigantic opportunity for Royval to thrust himself into the title picture despite being with the company for less than six months. Royval made his UFC debut in May as a late-notice replacement and submitted Tim Elliott in Round 2. Royval looked lousy in that fight prior to the stoppage and admitted as much after it was over. He was much better in late-September, submitting Kara-France in the second round. A long-time staple of the LFA roster, like Moreno, Royval's offensive arsenal is almost entirely reliant on his ground game. He does have three career wins via knockout, but just once since March 2016.
This is an interesting fight simply because we have gotten so few looks at Royval. I toss the Elliott fight out completely – both how Royval looked prior to the stoppage and the stoppage itself – because he took it on short notice and obviously wasn't ready for it. Thus we have essentially six minutes worth of fight time in which to evaluate the 28-year-old Colorado native.
I will say that I think Royval has a better chance of winning this fight than both the DK salaries and Vegas odds would lead you to believe. Moreno has just never struck me as a guy to go on any type of prolonged winning streak. I just don't think he has that type of offensive arsenal. In fact, I'm going to Royval outright simply because of the value he provides.
THE PICK: Royval
Antonina Shevchenko (8-2-0) v. Ariane Lipski (13-5-0)
DK Salaries: Shevchenko ($8,400), Lipski ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Shevchenko (-160), Lipski (+140)
Odds to Finish: +185
THE PICK: Shevchenko