This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
With a three-week layoff finally behind us, the UFC is back with a card in Washington DC that features a pair of heavyweights looking to get (or return) to the top of the division.
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 - Heavyweight
Alistair Overeem (45-17-0, 1NC) v. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (9-0-0)
DK Salaries: Overeem ($8,300), Rozenstruik ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Overeem (-120), Rozenstruik (+100)
Odds to Finish: -705
This is a weird fight. but it's one that was made out of necessity. Overeem was scheduled to fight Walt Harris in this spot but Harris withdrew in early November following the tragic circumstances surrounding his missing stepdaughter. It was undoubtedly the right move for both Walt and his family, and thus Rozenstruik is in as the replacement.
Overeem is somehow 4-2 in his last six fights dating back to March 2017. I say "somehow" because it's clear to anyone watching that he has very little left in the tank. His entire offensive arsenal consists on throwing power shots in hopes of immediately knocking his opponent out. His footwork is non existent and he is getting hit more than ever. "The Reem" might still be able to finish some fringe roster fighters, but I seriously doubt he is going to beat anyone of note this late in his career. I'm a little surprised that the UFC continues to run him out there to be quite honest, but as we all know, there's no rhyme or reason regarding when they decide an over-the-hill fighter is done with the company.
I do think Rozenstruik is a better match up for Overeem than Harris would have been. Walt is an exceptional athlete with remarkable explosiveness and that's the exact type of fighter that gives Alistair problems late in his career. That being said, Rozenstruik might be legitimately good. He is a perfect 3-0 in the UFC and all three wins have come via knockout. His last fight was a 29-second demolition of an equally washed-up Andrei Arlovski in early November. The big man had to do nothing in that fight so I don't see the quick turnaround being a problem.
Overeem remains a draw among casual fans and I understand the fact the UFC wouldn't want to see him in another promotion for that very reason, but I don't think he brings a whole lot to the roster at this point. He's 39 years old and there's no way he will ever fight or win frequently enough to insert himself back in the title picture.
The obvious issue for Alistair is that Rozenstruik hits like a Mack Truck and his chin has all but evaporated. Sure, he might land a few power shots of his own, be can he eat enough strikes from his opponent to even get to that point? I'd rather take the hypothetical upside of the underdog than what we know about the favorite. The fact you get some minor salary relief on DK for using Rozenstruik is an added bonus.
THE PICK: Rozenstruik
Co-Main Event - Women's Strawweight
Cynthia Calvillo (8-1-0) v. Marina Rodriguez (12-0-1)
DK Salaries: Calvillo ($7,800), Rodriguez ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Calvillo (+110), Rodriguez (-130)
Odds to Finish: +160
I was more interested in this fight when it was scheduled to be Calvillo v. Claudia Gadelha, but the latter was forced to withdraw due to a serious ankle injury. Rodriguez is a solid replacement.
Calvillo was due to face Livia Renta Souza in July before having to withdraw due to a broken foot. Her lone loss in six UFC bouts was a unanimous decision setback to Carla Esparza. Calvillo is your prototypical grinder. She's tough, has little power, and excels in a brawl. She's also missed weight in the past and been dinged by the USADA following a positive test for marijuana. I don't think there's a ton here. Calvillo is not going to beat herself and she trains every day with Team Alpha Male, so you know she will enter with a legitimate game plan, but I think her technical skills are limited. Calvillo is 32 years old and has just nine professional fights under her belt, so time isn't exactly on her side.
Rodriguez is fresh off the best performance of her career, an easy unanimous decision win over Tecia Torres in August. Torres isn't very good, but she is a legitimate striker and Rodriguez whipped her in a kickboxing match. A product of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series Brazil, Rodriguez is 2-0-1 in her first three official UFC bouts. I have questions about Rodriguez's long-term ceiling, but I think there's something here. She's big for the division (5-foot-7) and will enter with both a three-inch height and reach edge on Calvillo.
Calvillo has already won a few fights in which I picked against her, but I'm going right back to the well. I just haven't seen enough from her technically to lead me to believe she's a legitimate threat every time she steps into the Octagon. Combine that with the fact Rodriguez looked very strong against Torres and I'm taking the Brazilian by decision.
THE PICK: Rodriguez
Stefan Struve (33-11-0) v. Ben Rothwell (36-12-0)
DK Salaries: Struve ($7,600), Rothwell ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Struve (+120), Rothwell (-140)
Odds to Finish: -160
Speaking of heavyweights, here are two more guys I think the UFC could move on from and not miss in the least.
Struve teased retirement following a second-round submission win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima in March. Not only did the "Skyscraper" not step aside, he signed a new long-term contract with the UFC in August. Struve is 1-3 in his last four fights dating back to August 2017, so I'm not exactly sure what he did to warrant a new deal, but I do acknowledge there is little depth in the division. Struve was a top-flight heavyweight at one point – he knocked out UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic in September 2012 – but health issues that resulted in prolonged stretches on the sidelines derailed his career.
Rothwell returned from a three-year hiatus in March to drop a unanimous decision to Blagoy Ivanov. I didn't have an issue with that. Ivanov is about the toughest man on earth and Rothwell was away forever, so I gave him a pass. His unanimous decision loss to Andrei Arlovski in July is another story entirely. Arlovski is one of the worst fighters in the division at this point and Rothwell had nothing for him. He was swept on the judge's scorecards and looked awful doing so. "Big Ben" turned 38 years old in October and I simply think the game passed him by in his time away. He decided to return to Roufusport in Milwaukee to train for this fight.
Struve and Rothwell have both been around forever, but this is a fight I would fade if at all possible. Both men are well past their primes and I have zero idea what is going to happen when they meet in the center of the Octagon. I will say, I remain concerned about Struve's ability to use his size to his advantage. He's the tallest fighter in UFC history and he still hasn't grasped the concept that his best chance of success is standing far away from his opposition so he can pound them with kicks and they can't hit you. I guess I just have to accept he will never learn at this point.
Unfortunately, my highly-priced contract with RotoWire says I have to pick a winner here. I'm going to take Rothwell – I think he's less washed up than Struve – but I would stay away from this fight at all costs. The range of outcomes in this bout seems extreme. Neither man has displayed any consistency whatsoever for many years.
THE PICK: Rothwell
Aspen Ladd (8-1-0) v. Yana Kunitskaya (12-4-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Ladd ($8,700), Kunitskaya ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Ladd (-155), Kunitskaya (+135)
Odds to Finish: +145
The UFC unnecessarily rushed Ladd into a main event fight against Germaine de Randamie in July in her native California, and the end result was a 16-second knockout loss. There's no shame in losing to GDR – she is a former UFC Women's Featherweight Champion and will fight Amanda Nunes for the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship next week at UFC 245 – but Ladd clearly wasn't ready for the opportunity. She's just 24 years old and her game needs plenty of work. Ladd has a bunch of power but she's reckless. Her striking defense is poor and a seasoned Muay Thai specialist like de Randamie picked her apart with ease. I was, quite frankly, baffled, that Ladd was favored in that fight. I picked GDR to win the second that one was announced and didn't hesitate for a second.
Kunitskaya fought for the UFC Women's Featherweight Championship against Cris Cyborg in her company debut (hint: she didn't win) and has since run off back-to-back unanimous decision victories over Marion Reneau and Lina Lansberg. Kunitskaya is tough, has some power, and has faced some decent competition over the past several years. She's already 29 years old and I don't think there's a ton here, but I think the Russian is better than quite a few other 135-pound females on the UFC roster.
I remain conflicted regarding Ladd. On one hand, I see some of the things that have made her a so-called "top prospect". On the other, I see holes in her game that could very easily limit her long-term ceiling. I think the technical holes in her game are really going to give her some issues moving forward. She's done enough to be favored over Kunitskaya and while I think the Vegas Odds look right, her salary is a bit inflated for my liking. Even though I'm taking her to win, I'd be hesitant to use her at that price. I'd feel a whole lot better if Ladd was more like $8300 or $8400. Kunitskaya might not win, but she's no easy mark.
THE PICK: Ladd
Cody Stamann (18-2-0) v. Song Yadong (15-4-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Stamann ($7,300), Song ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Stamann (+170), Song (-200)
Odds to Finish: +100
THE PICK: Song
Rob Font (16-4-0) v. Ricky Simon (15-2-0)
DK Salaries: Font ($8,500), Simon ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Font (-140), Simon (+120)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Font
Thiago Alves (28-14-0) v. Tim Means (28-11-1, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Alves ($7,200), Means ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Alves (+225), Means (-265)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: Means
Bryce Mitchell (11-1-0) v. Matt Sayles (8-2-0)
DK Salaries: Mitchell ($8,000), Sayles ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Mitchell (-105), Sayles (-115)
Odds to Finish: +130
THE PICK: Mitchell
Billy Quarantillo (12-2-0) v. Jacob Kilburn (8-2-0)
DK Salaries: Quarantillo ($9,200), Kilburn ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Quarantillo (-320), Kilburn (+260)
Odds to Finish: -150
THE PICK: Quarantillo
Joseph Solecki (8-2-0) v. Matt Wiman (16-8-0)
DK Salaries: Solecki ($9,300), Wiman ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Solecki (-320), Wiman (+260)
Odds to Finish: +140
THE PICK: Solecki
Virna Jandiroba (14-1-0) v. Mallory Martin (6-2-0)
DK Salaries: Jandiroba ($9,100), Martin ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Jandiroba (-265), Martin (+225)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Jandiroba
Makhmud Muradov (23-6-0) v. Trevor Smith (15-9-0)
DK Salaries: Muradov ($9,400), Smith ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Muradov (-420), Smith (+335)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: Muradov