This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
A battle between a surging star looking for a title shot and a veteran looking to make one more run highlights Saturday's main even in Raleigh.
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 $100,000 top prize in the UFC 246 special. 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 - Heavyweight
Junior dos Santos continues to get high-profile fights despite the fact he has looked pretty mediocre for the better part of the past 3-4 years. Dos Santos is coming off a knockout loss at the hands of Francis Ngannou in June in a fight in which he lasted all of 71 seconds. Of course, there's no shame in being knocked out by "The Predator", but dos Santos' game has been trending in the wrong direction for quite a while. Dos Santos, like most heavyweights, is a knockout artist. He actually retains a good portion of the power that made him successful in the earlier stages of his career, but struggles to get to it. Dos Santos's foot speed has all but evaporated and he is really having issues getting his head off the center line. I think JDS can hang around for quite a while if the UFC is careful regarding who they match him up against. There's a near 100 percent chance that his next four fights are going to go worse than the previous four did.
Sporting a 7-1 (1NC) record in his past nine fights dating back to October 2016, Blaydes is doing all he can to earn a title shot. Simply put, Blaydes is one of the heavyweight division's most dangerous fighters. The reason for that, first and foremost, is his wrestling game. Blaydes averages a whopping 7.05 takedowns per 15 minutes. It's an insane, totally unsustainable statistic, but you could cut that number in half and you would still have one of the greatest threats in the division. Blaydes also has power. He might not have your prototypical kickboxing base, but his ground-and-pound is vicious. Blaydes' only two UFC setbacks have come against Ngannou via knockout.
Dos Santos' takedown defense over the course of his long UFC run has been solid (80 percent), but he's an aging fighter and Blaydes may very well represent his biggest threat to date. He's certainly the best opponent JDS has seen in the past couple years.
JDS struggles with explosiveness at this point in his career, and while Blaydes is far more likely to finish this fight on the mat than on the feet, the fact he moves so well should be enough to tire out Dos Santos and thus limit his power. Any JDS victory will almost certainly have to come via knockout and I have a difficult time predicting that against a younger opponent with with more weapons.
THE PICK: Blaydes
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
This is a good fight between a pair of aggressive fighters who both need a win if they plan on staying on the fringes of the title conversation at 170 pounds.
RDA, the former UFC Lightweight Champion, moved up to welterweight back in June 2017 and the results have been mixed. His record is barely over .500 (4-3), and although he has some impressive wins in that span (Kevin Lee, Robbie Lawler, Neil Magny), dos Anjos has been run out of the building in all three of the losses. Of course, those setbacks came against Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Leon Edwards, so that must be taken into account as well. The issue for dos Anjos is simply the fact he is undersized at 170 pounds. He's a big, muscular guy, but he stands just 5-foot-8 and is giving up size to most everyone he faces. Chiesa, by comparison, is 6-foot-1.
Chiesa made the move up to welterweight just over a year ago and has responded with a wins over Carlos Condit (submission) and Diego Sanchez (unanimous decision). I've long been concerned about Chiesa's inability to threaten his opposition on the feet – he doesn't have a single knockout win in his entire career – but he's durable and so effective on the mat that he can have success despite being nothing more than an average striker.
Chiesa will enter with a five-inch edge in both the height and reach department. He clearly doesn't have the power RDA possesses, so it's imperative he keeps all the striking exchanges between the two men at distance. Dos Anjos is also going to have to figure out a way to keep this fight standing. Chiesa averages 3.55 takedowns per 15 minutes and RDA's takedown defense is a shockingly poor 60 percent.
I think this fight should be considered closer than the Vegas odds and DraftKings salaries would lead you to believe, but I think RDA wins. He fights with remarkable physicality for a man who is undersized most every single time he steps into the Octagon. I'm also not holding losses to Usman, Covington and Edwards against him. If RDA struggles against Chiesa, I'll be officially concerned. Chiesa needs to stick with his wrestling game even if the first couple takedown attempts fail, because he's not going to overwhelm RDA with strikes. It's not an impossible scenario but I think it's unlikely. Still, I have some interest in Chiesa as an underdog play to provide salary relief.
THE PICK: dos Anjos
Cifers has rebounded nicely from a knockout loss to rising star Maycee Barber in her UFC debut in November 2018. She has since taken a pair of decisions from Polyana Viana (split) and Jodie Esquibel (unanimous). Cifers' biggest strength is her durability. She has proven she can take a punch and she won't be overwhelmed inside the Octagon. Her offensive game is fairly limited and she offers nothing on the mat, so Cifers' margin for error is extremely small. Thankfully for Cifers, Hill is also a pure striker. Cifers has struggled every single time she has been tasked with facing better competition and although Hill might not be on the level of Barber, she's definitely better than Viana and Esquibel.
I've long been a fan of Hill's and think she has considerably more ability than she has shown during her two stints with the company. Hill's record with the UFC is below .500 at 5-7, but she has been fighting some of the best the division has to offer the past many years. Over the course of her career, Hill has fought a pair of former UFC Strawweight Champions in Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade along with highly-ranked fighters Cortney Casey, Tecia Torres, Nina Ansaroff and Livinha Souza. Hill's background is in kickboxing and while her one-punch knockout power is limited, she is very good at stringing combinations together. She also has a two-inch edge on Cifers in both the height and reach department.
Hill should be able to overwhelm Cifers with her Muay Thai skills. She relies on volume and placement and Cifers – while tough – doesn't have the necessary offensive arsenal to return fire consistently and effectively. I like Cifers to see the final bell, but Hill to win.
THE PICK: Hill
McMann will have spent upwards of two years on the sidelines by the time she steps into the Octagon for this bout. She hasn't fought since February 24, 2018 and is without a win dating back to February 19, 2017. McMann originally took a year off due to the birth of her child. She was set to return against Nicco Montano last July but was forced to withdraw due to injury. She has been on the sidelines ever since. McMann has an uphill battle on her hands to once again become relevant in the 135-pound female division. Although very physically strong, McMann is a below-average mixed martial artist in every area other than her wrestling. She was trending in the wrong direction prior to her hiatus and it's difficult to believe things will improve at age 39.
A one-dimensional brawler with exceedingly little margin for area every single time she steps inside the octagon, Lansberg has somehow pulled back-to-back upsets over Tonya Evinger and Macy Chiasson. The Chiasson fight in particular was an especially surprising result. Lansberg has won multiple World Muay Thai Championships over the years and she's exceedingly tough. She's extremely comfortable in a brawl and should have a distinct advantage over McMann for as long as this fight stays on the fight. The question surrounding Lansberg is her takedown defense. It stands at just 52 percent over the course of her seven-fight UFC run and she stands to be in serious trouble if she can't stay off of her back here.
This might be a good fight to avoid. Both women possesses one-dimensional offensive arsenals and with McMann at age 39 and Lansberg at age 37, both are getting up there. I think McMann's wrestling game will be enough to overwhelm Lansberg and grind out a decision, but I'm not positive about that. McMann hasn't fought in a long time and looked lousy prior to her hiatus. I think she's the pick, but use her at your own risk.
THE PICK: McMann