DraftKings MMA: UFC 244 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC 244 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

It's not too often fight fans run into a UFC pay-per-view with zero traditional title fights, but the promotion still will deliver six action-packed contests to close the card, with each fight having a direct impact on its division's title picture.

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.)

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 - Welterweight aka "BMF Championship"

Jorge Masvidal (34-13-0) v. Nate Diaz (21-11-0)
DK Salaries: Masvidal ($8,800), Diaz ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Masvidal (-160), Diaz (+140)
Odds to Finish: +115

I am probably in the minority, but this fight doesn't do a ton for me. Yes, Masvidal and Diaz are both excellent fighters and I expect it to be a highly entertaining match, but I feel a bout that is the main event of a Pay Per View at Madison Square Garden should be a legitimate, high-end title fight and this isn't that. Regardless, as far as action goes, I'm looking forward to it, and I'm especially looking forward to my man The Rock placing the custom $50,000 "BMF" belt on the victor. 

Masvidal's back-to-back knockouts of Ben Askren (five seconds) and Darren Till have put him firmly in the title conversation at 170 pounds. He has lost just twice in the past three and a half years – a unanimous decision to Stephen Thompson and split decision to Demian Maia – and looks sharper than ever. Masvidal can win in a variety of ways. He wins with volume and placement, and he can stop his opposition with sheer power. He's also a good wrestler who will throw in the occasional submission attempt. Masvidal turns 35 years of age in less than two weeks and I think there is a non-zero chance that we have already seen the best he has to offer, but he has put himself in position for a fight like this and he deserves it. He's going to earn a nice paycheck at the very minimum. 

Diaz looked exceptional in a unanimous decision win over Anthony Pettis in August following three years on the sidelines. I have long maintained that both Diaz brothers enjoy fighting, training and everything that comes with it, but Nate has spent a ton of time on the sidelines for a variety of other reasons. As long as he gets his money – which he clearly is here – Diaz remains a high-level fighter at age 34. He's so tough and durable, and his cardio is so good that Nate should be able to compete with almost anyone for the foreseeable future. Any five-round five Diaz competes in immediately swings the pendulum in his favor. It's a massive advantage for Nate knowing he can get hammered in the early going and still be fresh enough to attack his opposition in the later stages of a bout. 

I'm very interested in seeing how Masvidal will go about attacking Diaz. He's an aggressive fighter by nature, but if he empties the gas tank early and doesn't inflict a ton of damage on Diaz, he will be in trouble in the later stages. I'm going to take Jorge but I'm not particularly confident about it. I think Diaz is the better DraftKings option given the discrepancy in salaries between the two. The durability of Diaz alone makes him a value play at $7400. I think it's far more likely than not that this fight sees the final bell. 

THE PICK: Masvidal

Co-Main Event - Middleweight

Kelvin Gastelum (16-4-0, 1NC) v. Darren Till (17-2-1)
DK Salaries: Gastelum ($9,200), Till ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Gastelum (-210), Till (+175)
Odds to Finish: -145

If this is anything other than excellent I will be both shocked and highly, highly disappointed. Gastelum and Till are two of the sport's brightest young stars and matching them up on the big stage of Madison Square Garden was a brilliant move by the UFC.

We'll start with Till. "The Gorilla" is coming off back-to-back losses at the hands of Tyron Woodley (title fight) and Masvidal. UFC President Dana White stated in June that perhaps the company pushed Till too quickly. Giving him this fight suggests they are either ignoring that fact or have changed their mind. I would lean towards to the former. Till began his career at middleweight but spent the past five years at welterweight. He returns to 185 pounds on Saturday. Till is a big, strong guy and he looked drained – both mentally and physically – trying to make the 171-pound welterweight limit. His striking power should play just as well in the higher weight class and he should be fresher as a result. I like the move for the 26-year-old.

Gastelum returns following a tight unanimous decision loss at the hands of Israel Adesanya in an interim UFC Middleweight Championship fight in April. Adesanya has since defeated Robert Whittaker to become the undisputed UFC Middleweight Champion. Kelvin gives up a ton of size and strength to most everyone he faces at 185 pounds, but no fighter on the roster other than Daniel Cormier is any better at negating a height and size differential than Gastelum. He consistently gets into boxing range against taller opponents, smashes them and gets out of range before they can return fire. Add in the fact he is the very definition of durable (Kelvin has never been knocked out in his career), and you have one of the sport's brightest young fighters. 

Till is young and has power, so that alone makes him a theoretical value play given his price tag, but I don't see how Gastelum isn't the pick in this fight given the fact he can eat a punch better than just about any fighter on the current UFC roster. I also think the fact this is a three-round fight favors Gastelum. He can unload early knowing he has the durability edge.

THE PICK: Gastelum


Stephen Thompson (14-4-1) v. Vicente Luque (17-6-1)
DK Salaries: Thompson ($8,500), Luque ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Thompson (-130), Luque (+110)
Odds to Finish: +130

Thompson returns for the first time since his shocking knockout loss at the hands of Anthony Pettis in March. I had maintained for quite a while that no 170-pounder in the world could defeat Thompson in a kickboxing match and I have now been proven wrong on back to back occasions. "Wonderboy" fought Tyron Woodley to a draw for the UFC Welterweight Championship in November 2016 and is since sporting a 1-3 record. That win however, was over Masvidal, so it's quite clear Thompson can still defeat high-end competition. This will be the third time Thompson is fighting at Madison Square Garden.

The winner of six fights in a row and sporting a 10-1 record in his past 11 bouts, Luque finally gets the big fight he has been seeking for seemingly ever. Five of those six victories have come via stoppage and four of those five have come via knockout. I don't think this is a great matchup for him on paper, but he has certainly earned this opportunity. Luque can mix in a takedown here and there and he has some submission skills, but he makes his living as a power puncher. He lands a ton (5.19 significant strikes per minute) and gets hit a ton (4.72 significant strikes per minute). By comparison, Thompson eats just 2.54 per minute.

I like Luque and think he has real potential at age 27, but as I mentioned earlier, I think this is a bad matchup for him. Luque is most comfortable in a brawl and displays questionable striking defense, and I think both of those traits could become problematic against Thompson. Thompson is an excellent counter striker and throws a ton of kicks, and I think he picks Luque apart if the latter is overaggressive. Luque's power gives him a chance in any fight he is in, but I think "Wonderboy" returns with a strong effort and takes a decision.

THE PICK: Thompson


Kevin Lee (17-5-0) v. Gregor Gillespie (13-0-0)
DK Salaries: Lee ($7,100), Gillespie ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Lee (+155), Gillespie (-175)
Odds to Finish: +135

A loser of back-to-back fights and sporting a 1-3 record dating back to October 2017, Lee returns to lightweight following one unsuccessful foray into the welterweight division. Lee is a difficult fighter to figure out. He's a terrific athlete, tough, durable, and a very strong wrestler, but his cardio is questionable and I don't trust his fight IQ. I thought the move to welterweight was a smart one at the time given the fact Lee has had issues cutting down to 155 pounds in the past, but "The Motown Phenom" wasn't the least bit competitive in a loss to Rafael dos Anjos in May. 

Gillespie has quickly developed into one of the lightweight division's best up-and-coming fighters. Very, very few fighters in the sport – Colby Covington comes to mind – can keep the ridiculous pace that Gillespie displays every time he steps into the Octagon. He is averaging a whopping 7.44 takedowns per 15 minutes worth of action over the course of his first six UFC bouts. That number is obviously entirely unsustainable and will drop moving forward, but Gillespie is a former four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler in addition to being a national champion in 2007. In other words, Gillespie's wrestling pedigree combined with his cardio and the fact he has legitimate power (six career knockouts) in his hands make this sudden, unexpected hot streak appear to be entirely legitimate.

I don't think this is a great matchup for Lee. Yes, he is going to have a significant size advantage over Gillespie, but Gregor isn't the type of opponent who gets outmuscled at the point of attack very often. Lee doesn't have a prayer in the world of matching Gillespie's cardio, so unless he scores an early knockout – Gillespie has never been stopped (or lost, period) – I think he's in trouble. A bet on Lee as an underdog is nothing more than a bet on his pure athleticism. 

THE PICK: Gillespie


Derrick Lewis (21-7-0, 1NC) v. Blagoy Ivanov (18-2-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Lewis ($8,000), Ivanov ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Lewis (+105), Ivanov (-125)
Odds to Finish: -145

In the midst of the first two-fight losing streak of his career, Lewis needs a rebound effort in the worst way. Lewis is in no danger of being released even if he comes up short against Ivanov, but he needs to emerge victorious if he wants to continue to consider himself a title contender. Lewis' two setbacks were a submission loss to Daniel Cormier in a title fights and a knockout loss at the hands of Junior Dos Santos in March. Lewis had no chance in the Cormier fight, but his performance against JDS was disappointing. "The Black Beast"' has never changed his style of fighting and never will. He's a brawler who puts everything he has into every single shot. The rest of his game is questionable at best and he's going to struggle to win if he isn't racking up knockouts. 

Ivanov dropped a unanimous decision to Dos Santos in his company debut in July 2018 and has since run off back-to-back decision wins over Ben Rothwell and Tai Tuivasa. As I have mentioned in this space multiple times in the past, Ivanov is legitimately one of the toughest men on earth. His personal background is well known and Ivanov has somehow never been knocked out in 21 professional fights despite facing some of the most dangerous men in the sport. Offensively, Ivanov gets by on grit and determination. He's not a great athlete and he doesn't have a ton of one-punch knockout power, but he throws shots in bunches and can handle anything thrown his way.

This fight is fascinating to me. Ivanov is giving up four inches and height and six inches in reach to Lewis. Ivanov also tends to get hit a ton on the feet and that's the last thing you want in a fight against "The Black Beast". Of course, Ivanov has never been stopped by anyone via strikes and he spent quite a while in a medically induced coma following a bar fight in his native Bulgaria and is still back fighting, so who are we to bet against him? On a card in which I don't see a ton of underdogs I like to win outright, I'm taking Lewis. I'm just worried about how many strikes Ivanov tends to absorb. You can get away with that against some opponents, but Lewis isn't one of them.


Light Heavyweight

Corey Anderson (13-4-0) v. Johnny Walker (17-3-0)
DK Salaries: Anderson ($7,200), Walker ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Anderson (+145), Walker (-165)
Odds to Finish: -230

The UFC's light heavyweight division has been looking for legitimate young contenders since the beginning of time, and Walker is probably its best bet to date. The 27-year-old Brazilian is a perfect 3-0 in the UFC, with all three wins coming via knockout. The three wins have come in a combined 2:48, with the last two coming in a combined 51 seconds. All three victories earned Walker a Performance of the Night bonus. Yes, the competition wasn't great (Khalil Rountree, Justin Ledet, Misha Cirkunov), but few fighters in recent memory have started their UFC careers as impressively as Walker. Following the Cirkunov win in March, Walker dislocated his shoulder while celebrating. Thankfully, he should be 100 percent for Saturday.

Regular readers know I have never been Anderson's biggest supporter, but he is in the midst of his best run with the company. He has won three fights in a row (Ilir Latifi, Glover Texiera, Patrick Cummins) – all via decision – and is quietly moving up the rankings at 205 pounds. Given the fact that virtually all of Anderson's success revolves around his wrestling game, his margin for error is extremely small. Corey averages a whopping 4.96 takedowns per 15 minutes worth of action, but he is going to have a difficult time winning if he isn't dragging his opposition to the mat. And while the sample size is small, Walker's takedown defense with the company is a perfect 100 percent in the early going.

I'm picking Walker without hesitation, but his massive price tag scares me a bit. Anderson is better than your average 205-pounder, and he theoretically – via his smothering wrestling game – has a path to victory in this fight. I'm curious to see how Walker responds to the biggest fight of his young career. He could get a title shot if he finishes Anderson in short order.

THE PICK: Walker

Other Fights

Shane Burgos (12-1-0) v. Makwan Amirkhani (15-3-0)
DK Salaries: Burgos ($9,300), Amirkhani ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Burgos (-250), Amirkhani (+210)
Odds to Finish: +170
THE PICK: Burgos

Brad Tavares (17-6-0) v. Edmen Shahbazyan (10-0-0)
DK Salaries: Tavares ($7,900), Shahbazyan ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Tavares (+100), Shahbazyan (-120)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Shahbazyan

Andrei Arlovski (28-18-0, 2NC) v. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (8-0-0)
DK Salaries: Arlovski ($7,500), Rozenstruik ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Arlovski (+135), Rozenstruik (-155)
Odds to Finish: -185
THE PICK: Rozenstruik 

Women's Flyweight
Katlyn Chookagian (12-2-0) v. Jennifer Maia (17-5-1)
DK Salaries: Chookagian ($8,900), Maia ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Chookagian (-160), Maia (+140)
Odds to Finish: +290
THE PICK: Chookagian

Lyman Good (20-5-0, 1NC) v. Chance Rencountre (14-3-0)
DK Salaries: Good ($8,400), Rencountre ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Good (-130), Recountre (+110)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Rencountre

Julio Arce (16-3-0) v. Hakeem Dawodu (10-1-1)
DK Salaries: Arce ($7,600), Dawodu ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Arce (+110), Dawodu (-130)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Dawodu

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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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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