This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
If Saturday's main event is anything less than exceptional and highly, highly entertaining, I will be shocked. It is one of the most intriguing matches the UFC can make right now, and the outdoor venue will make it that much better. Throw in a $30,000 top prize up for grabs in the $15 MMA Throwndown, and you have yourself an evening.
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 - Middleweight Championship
(C) Robert Whittaker (21-4-0) v. (IC) Israel Adesanya (17-0-0)
DK Salaries: Whittaker ($8,200), Adesanya ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Whittaker (-105), Adesanya (-115)
Odds to Finish: -175
Whittaker is fighting for the first time since a June 2018 split decision win over Yoel Romero. He had been scheduled to defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum in February, but hernia surgery put a halt to those plans. Our regular readers know I've been the conductor of the "Bobby Knuckles" hype train from the get-go. The winner of nine fights in a row and without a loss in more than 5.5 years, Whittaker turned his career around with his move from welterweight to middleweight. He has above-average power, but he wins with effort and volume. He works the body brilliantly and is an underrated mat wrestler. The 28-year-old is also one of the toughest men on earth. Adesanya is going to have to close the show, because Whittaker isn't going to give it up and he isn't going to beat himself.
Israel won the interim UFC Middleweight Championship with a unanimous decision victory over Gastelum in April. One of the most unique and unorthodox competitors in the sport, Adesanya is a former professional kickboxer who excels at throwing all sorts of strikes from odd angles. He throws a ton of kicks and is impossible to train for because there simply isn't anyone else who fights like he does. Israel has earned the reputation of being a one-dimensional striker, but he stuffed 8-of-9 takedown attempts in the Gastelum fight and proved he's more than just a one-trick-pony. His ground game will obviously never be anywhere near the level of his stand-up, but all he needs to do is a keep a fight on the feet in order to be successful.
Adesanya enters with a four-inch edge in height, and a whopping seven-inch edge in the reach department. Whittaker is very good at doing damage from in tight, but Adesanya's length could create a real problem for his smaller opponent. As both the Vegas odds and DraftKings salaries indicate, this fight is essentially a pick 'em. I've gone back and forth on my pick multiple times, but I eventually landed on Whittaker because we have seen him get pounded in the past and somehow survive and win fights. That's a trait that cannot be taught, and while I'm not saying Adesanya doesn't also have that in his arsenal, he hasn't shown it yet during his time with the UFC. If these two guys fight ten times, they both probably win five. It's that close.
THE PICK: Whittaker
Al Iaquinta (14-5-1) v. Dan Hooker (18-8-0)
DK Salaries: Iaquinta ($7,700), Hooker ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Iaquinta (+135), Hooker (-155)
Odds to Finish: +155
This right here is top-flight matchmaking. It's a fight that had been talked about for a while, and the UFC did an excellent job of getting it done.
"Raging Al" is fresh off a unanimous-decision loss to Cowboy Cerrone in a main event slot in May. Iaquinta looked fine in the early portion of the fight before Cerrone started to pound him in the feet and began to pull away. Any normal human being would have either quit or been stopped, but Al has displayed next-level toughness time and time again. Despite his struggles against Cowboy, Iaquinta's striking has improved immensely over the years. His wrestling game remains his biggest strength, but through hard work, Iaquinta has turned his striking skills from a weakness into a moderate strength. He's technical on the feet and does a nice job of keeping his hands up. Hooker has the power to overwhelm his competition, so it's imperative Iaquinta's striking defense is on point here.
Hooker rebounded from his nightmare performance against Edson Barboza last December to obliterate James Vick in just 2:33 this past July. Hooker is built like a tank and massive for the lightweight division. Not only is Hooker one of the tallest fighters (6-0) around at 155 pounds, he fights physically. He does an excellent job of pushing his opposition around and he has legitimate, fight-ending power. Hooker's striking defense is up and down, but his toughness often masks any struggles he has in that area.
As I mentioned earlier, Iaquinta is a good wrestler. That being said, he averages just 0.69 takedowns per 15 minutes, so it will be interesting to see if he is content keeping this fight on the feet. I definitely think Hooker has more power of the two. Other than the Barboza fight, Hooker has looked mostly unstoppable for the better part of the past couple years. I think he has to be the pick due to the physicality in which he fights with, but Iaquinta is a live underdog. I wouldn't be surprised if this thing ended up going the distance. If you are the type to make a ton of lineups, or make more conservative ones for cash games, stacking Al and Hooker in a lineup together might not be the worst play. They can both absorb a ton of damage and keep on ticking.
THE PICK: Hooker
Tai Tuivasa (10-2-0) v. Sergey Spivak (9-1-0)
DK Salaries: Tuivasa ($9,300), Spivak ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Tuivasa (-380), Spivak (+315)
Odds to Finish: -445
Tuivasa gets the call to fight in his home country for the second time in his past three fights, and he better pray he performs better this time than he did against Junior dos Santos last December. "Bam Bam" enters the loser of two in a row, and a third straight setback would essentially be a death sentence for the 26-year-old "contender". Tuivasa hits like a Mack truck, but he has very little professional MMA experience and there are legitimate questions regarding his all-around game. He's a true brawler, and those type of guys rarely have success over an extended period of time.
Spivak made his UFC debut in May and was promptly knocked out by Walt Harris in 50 seconds. I wish I could provide some type of technical analysis regarding his performance, but Spivak was on the defensive moments after the opening bell rang and was never able to recover. Spivak has had more success on the mat than the feet in his MMA career and would be wise to try to get Tuivasa to the ground, despite the fact he enters with a one-inch height and three-inch reach edge.
I'm not particularly high on Tuivasa long-term, but Spivak didn't appear to be a UFC-caliber fighter in his lone, brief appearance. I'm really, really hesitant to use a one-dimensional power puncher like Tuivasa at such a high salary, but you have to make your stand somewhere on such a thin card and Spivak looks like a weak opponent. I wouldn't second guess anyone who plugs Tuivasa into their lineups in hopes of scoring a quick knockout finish. It could very easily happen.
THE PICK: Tuivasa
Luke Jumeau (13-4-0) v. Dhiego Lima (16-7-0)
DK Salaries: Jumeau ($7,800), Lima ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Jumeau (+130), Lima (-150)
Odds to Finish: +155
A winner in eight of his previous nine bouts dating back to May 2014, Jumeau will look to improve to 3-1 in his brief time with the company. The 31-year-old Kiwi has legitimate power and a decent ground game, but has always struggled when tasked with facing better competition. Jumeau's two best opponents to date have been Jake Matthews and Li Jingliang, and he was submitted in both those matches. Jumeau made a name for himself on the regional circuit by stopping his opposition, but that trait has vanished since joining the UFC. Unless something changes, he looks like nothing more than roster depth to me.
Currently in the midst of his second run with the company, Lima has won his past two fights (Court McGee, Chad Laprise) after dropping his previous two (Jesse Taylor, Yushin Okami). A former two-time competitor on The Ultimate Fighter, Lima has spent the vast majority of his career beating the guys he was supposed to handle and struggling mightily whenever the competition level has risen. In many aspects, he's much like Jumeau in that respect. All told, Lima is 3-5 in eight UFC bouts, and virtually all his stoppage victories came early in his career. Heck, he has just one stoppage win in the past 6.5 years!
I have no idea whatsoever why this fight is on the main card of a pay-per-view. Neither man is particularly entertaining to watch, and it certainly has no impact on the rankings at 170 pounds. I'm trying to find value wherever I can here and Jumeau seems to be a nice plug-and-play option at $7800. I don't think he's particularly good, but neither is Lima and Jumeau is cheaper. When all else fails, go with the option that provides the best payoff.
THE PICK: Jumeau
Jake Matthews (14-4-0) v. Rostem Akman (6-1-0)
DK Salaries: Matthews ($9,100), Akman ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Matthews (-280), Akman (+240)
Odds to Finish: +105
Viewed by some as a potential future title contender at lightweight when he began his UFC career back in June 2014, Matthews' UFC run has been decidedly up-and-down despite his 7-4 record. He has been stopped by every single legitimate opponent he has faced, and has yet to make the necessary adjustments that would lead anyone to believe he is even a top-10 guy at 170 pounds, let alone a title contender. Matthews still has youth on his side, as he turned just 25 years of age this past August, but sooner or later he is going to have to go out and put forth a stellar performance against high-level competition.
Akman made his UFC debut in June and dropped a unanimous decision to Sergey Khandozhko. He will turn 28 years old in December and has just seven professional bouts under his belt. Akman has displayed some power in the past, but those fights were against nobodies on the regional scene in his native Sweden.
This is a very, very thin card once you get past the first three bouts, and this is another perfect example of that. The struggles of Matthews aside, I'm not sure what this fight accomplishes. Four of Jake's last five fights have taken place in his native Australia, so it's not as if he had to be on this card. I also don't see how/why including Akman in this mix helps anyone. Matthews is supposed to win and I think he will, but he gains nothing by beating a no name and Akman doesn't have the pedigree to capitalize on future earnings should he pull the upset. I've long been a believer in Matthews' natural ability, but he's so up-and-down that he worries me at this price tag. I have zero interest in Akman as an underdog.
THE PICK: Matthews
Khalid Taha (12-3-0) v. Bruno Silva (11-3-1)
DK Salaries: Taha ($8,900), Silva ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Taha (-240), Silva (+200)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Taha
Justin Tafa (3-0-0) v. Yorgan De Castro (5-0-0)
DK Salaries: Tafa ($8,300), De Castro ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Tafa (-125), De Castro (+105)
Odds to Finish: -400
THE PICK: De Castro
Callan Potter (17-8-0) v. Maki Pitolo (12-4-0)
DK Salaries: Potter ($7,200), Pitolo ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Potter (+225), Pitolo (-265)
Odds to Finish: -315
THE PICK: Pitolo
Megan Anderson (9-4-0) v. Zarah Fairn dos Santos (6-2-0)
DK Salaries: Anderson ($9,400), dos Santos ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Anderson (-500), dos Santos (+400)
Odds to Finish: -185
THE PICK: Anderson
Brad Riddell (6-1-0) v. Jamie Mullarkey (12-2-0)
DK Salaries: Riddell ($8,600), Mullarkey ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Riddell (-150), Mullarkey (+130)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Riddell
Nadia Kassem (5-1-0) v. Ji Yeon Kim (8-2-2)
DK Salaries: Kassem ($7,500), Kim ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Kassem (+150), Kim (-170)
Odds to Finish: +250
THE PICK: Kim