DraftKings MMA: UFC on ESPN 13 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC on ESPN 13 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

Just days after three exciting title fights at UFC 251, fight fans will be treated to the rare Wednesday evening card featuring a pair of featherweight brawlers.

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 $500,000 GPP titled "The MMA Throwdown Special" with $100,000 to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:

Moves Scoring
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

Scoring Notes
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 - Featherweight

Calvin Kattar (21-4-0) v. Dan Ige (14-2-0)
DK Salaries: Kattar ($9,100), Ige ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Kattar (-300), Ige (+250)
Odds to Finish: -185

Ige has been on quite the roll since dropping a unanimous decision to Julio Arce in his company debut back in January 2018. He has won six fights in a row, including back-to-back split decisions over Mirsad Bektic and Edson Barboza. I thought he won the Bektic fight but was fortunate to get the call against Edson. Regardless, Ige is a much improved fighter. He's quick, athletic and underrated on the mat. He's also durable, having never been knocked out in his professional career. Ige has already exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. I wouldn't be shocked if we have already seen the best he has to offer, but he has already proven me wrong on multiple occasions.

Kattar still doesn't get a ton of recognition, but he's really good. He was competitive in a unanimous decision loss to uber-prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov last November and rebounded from that fight with an extremely impressive knockout win over Jeremy Stephens in May. Stephens missed weight for that bout by a healthy margin, and Kattar still had zero issues with him. Kattar has a background in wrestling but rarely uses those skills. He has displayed solid takedown defense (77 percent) during his time with the company. Kattar hits very hard and is very good at doubling up on power shots. He doesn't telegraph his strikes and never seems to have any issues handling whatever his opposition sends back the other way. 

I would wager the majority of this fight will be spent on the feet. Both men have very fast hands, but I think Kattar enters with a fairly significant power advantage. He's also four inches taller than Ige, although he enters with just a single inch edge in the reach department. I expect a competitive fight that seems likely to see the final bell, especially considering neither man have been stopped via strikes in their respective careers. In the end, I believe in Kattar's long-term potential just a bit more. Ige does make for a reasonable Hail Mary selection in the event you need to shed salary.

THE PICK: Kattar
 

Co-Main Event - Flyweight

Tim Elliott (16-11-1) v. Ryan Benoit (10-6-0)
DK Salaries: Elliott ($8,500), Benoit ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Elliott (-120), Benoit (+100)
Odds to Finish: +120

Things are trending in the wrong direction for Elliott. The former Titan FC Flyweight Champion has fought three times since last October, dropping each of the bouts. The first one was against Deiveson Figueiredo, so that one is understandable, but he has since dropped fights to Askar Askarov (unanimous decision) and a debuting Brandon Royval (submission). The Royval fight, Elliott's most recent, took place at the end of May. Elliott has already been released once by the UFC, and a loss to Benoit will seemingly all but ensure he is handed his walking papers for a second time.

Benoit was due to face Tyson Nam a few weeks ago but was forced to withdraw the week of the fight. The reason was undisclosed, but the fact he is ready to go in such short order suggests the issue was minor. The definition of roster depth, Benoit has some how managed to alternate wins and losses in his past ten bouts. If that trend continues, Benoit will walk away a victor on Saturday. Benoit signed a four-fight contract with the UFC back in January 2018 but has fought just once since. Benoit has a victory over Sergio Pettis on his resume, but he's never been able to win back-to-back fights so he hasn't been taken seriously in the 125-pound division.

Benoit has more power than your average flyweight, with eight career wins coming via knockout. He's also durable, having never been stopped via strikes in his pro career. Elliott is two inches taller, but it's Benoit who will enter with a two-inch reach advantage. Of course, Benoit's power will be negated if he spends a good portion of the fight on his back. Elliott averages 4.31 takedowns per 15 minute and Benoit defends them at a 64 percent clip. That's not a terrible number, but it's not good, either. In general, you would like to see a fighter have takedown defense north of 70 percent. I think there's a pretty decent chance Elliott's grappling is too much for Benoit to overcome. Give me the veteran via decision.

THE PICK: Elliott
 

Featherweight

Jimmie Rivera (22-4-0) v. Cody Stamann (19-2-1)
DK Salaries: Rivera ($8,400), Stamann ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Rivera (-140), Stamann (+120)
Odds to Finish: +240

This fight was booked just days ago, but an argument can be made that it is the best bout on the entire card. It's the one I personally am looking forward to the most.

A loser of back-to-back fights and sporting just one win in nearly two years, this is essentially a must win for Rivera if he wishes to continue to fancy himself a contender. The fact Rivera will be fighting at featherweight for the first time in his UFC career wouldn't appear to help matters. Of course, Rivera's last two losses came against newly-crowned UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan and future 135-pound challenger Aljamain Sterling. There's no shame in coming up short against either of those men, but that doesn't change the fact Rivera needs a rebound effort in a major way here.

It won't be easy against the surging Stamann. This will be Stamann's second fight in just over a month. He is coming off a dominant unanimous decision victory over Brian Kelleher at UFC 250. That performance was made all the impressive due to the fact Stamann's 18-year-old brother had tragically passed away just two weeks earlier. Stamann has clearly improved over the course of his three years with the company. He fights often, and more often than not, effectively. Cody's only loss with the UFC was a submission setback to Sterling back in September 2018.

This is an interesting matchup for a stylistic standpoint. Stamann is two inches taller, but Rivera has a four-inch reach advantage. I would term Rivera the more fluid striker of the two, but Stamann has more one-punch knockout power. That being said, I believe this fight is going to come down to grappling. Stamann is very strong and averages 3.34 takedowns per 15 minutes, while Rivera defends the takedown at a remarkable 95 percent clip. Something is going to have to give in that area. Cody is big enough to grind his way to a victory if he spends a good portion of the bout in top position. I'm going with Stamann in a minor upset.

THE PICK: Stamann

Women's Flyweight

Molly McCann (10-2-0) v. Taila Santos (15-1-0)
DK Salaries: McCann ($8,200), Santos ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: McCann (-110), Santos (-110)
Odds to Finish: +225

Set for her fifth UFC bout, McCann has shown more good than bad with the company. She has run off three straight unanimous decision victories (Diana Belbita, Ariane Lipski, Priscila Cachoeira) on the heels of her submission loss to rising start Gillian Robertson is her company debut back in May 2018. I'm been fairly impressed with what I've seen from McCann. She won't overwhelm her opposition with athleticism, but she rarely gets rattled inside the Octagon and has some power in her hands. It's not a particularly attractive recipe for long-term success, but McCann has displayed enough to believe she can defeat fringe roster fighters.

A product of Dana White's Contender Series Brazil, Santos made her UFC debut in February, dropping a split decision to Mara Romero Borella. Santos started that fight very slowly before picking up the pace in Round 3. By then, it was too little, too late. It was a disappointing effort considering Santos entered her company debut as a (-210) favorite. Her first fight with the company aside, Santos looks like a legitimate prospect. She won her first 15 professional fights prior to the Borella loss, with 10 of those coming via knockout. Yes, the competition she faced has been poor, but Santos has legitimate power and turned just 27 years of age this past June.

I would stay away from this fight at all costs. Neither woman has faced much quality competition and the range of outcomes here would appear to be massive. When undecided on a pick, I almost always take the fighter that provides the most salary relief and in this case, that is Santos.

THE PICK: Santos
 

Other Fights

Welterweight
Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-1-0) v. Mounir Lazzez (9-1-0)
DK Salaries: Alhassan ($9,200), Lazzez ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Alhassan (-335), Lazzez (+275)
Odds to Finish: -510
THE PICK: Alhassan

Middleweight
John Phillips (22-9-0, 1NC) v. Khamzat Chimaev (6-0-0)
DK Salaries: Phillips ($7,300), Chimaev ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Phillips (+265), Chimaev (-325)
Odds to Finish: -400
THE PICK: Chimaev

Featherweight
Ricardo Ramos (14-2-0) v. Lerone Murphy (8-0-1)
DK Salaries: Ramos ($8,800), Murphy ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Ramos (-165), Murphy (+145)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Ramos

Women's Flyweight
Diana Belbita (13-5-0) v. Liana Jojua (7-3-0)
DK Salaries: Belbita ($8,600), Jojua ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Belbita (-165), Jojua (+145)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Belbita

Light Heavyweight 
Modestas Bukauskas (10-2-0) v. Andreas Michailidis (12-3-0)
DK Salaries: Bukauskas ($9,000), Michailidis ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Bukauskas (-245), Michailidis (+205)
Odds to Finish: -300
THE PICK: Bukauskas

Featherweight
Jared Gordon (15-4-0) v. Chris Fishgold (18-3-1)
DK Salaries: Gordon ($8,300), Fishgold ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Gordon (-145), Fishgold (+125)
Odds to Finish: -180
THE PICK: Fishgold

Bantamweight
Jack Shore (12-0-0) v. Aaron Phillips (12-3-0)
DK Salaries: Shore ($9,400), Phillips ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Shore (-650), Phillips (+475)
Odds to Finish: -230
THE PICK: Shore

Light Heavyweight
Jorge Gonzalez (16-5-0) v. Kenneth Bergh (8-0-0)
DK Salaries: Gonzalez ($7,500), Bergh ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Gonzalez (+125), Bergh (-165)
Odds to Finish: -350
THE PICK: Bergh

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Jon Litterine plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: JLitterine.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon Litterine
Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.
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