This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Another card is set to take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, where an emerging featherweight contender looks to place himself in the 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, including a $500k MMA Throwdown with $100k to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Control Time: +0.03 PTS/SECOND
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
Quick Win Bonus: +25 PTS
(fight is finished in 60 seconds or less)
- Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
- A Significant Strike will count as both a strike and a significant strike and will be worth a total of 0.4 Pts
- Control Time is the time spent in the dominant position on the ground or in the clinch. +0.03 points are awarded per second.
- A Knockdown is awarded to a fighter who knocks his/her opponent down due to debilitation for what the official scorers consider an appreciable amount of time.
- A Quick Win Bonus is awarded to the winning fighter if they win in the first round in 60 seconds or less.
Main Event - Featherweight
Barboza's UFC run was on life support following a recent stretch in which he lost three in a row and five out of six, but the Brazilian has since responded with back-to-back wins over Shane Burgos (KO) and Makwan Amirkhani (unanimous). The Burgos win was especially impressive. Barboza's been getting hit more than ever lately, but his chin held up in that fight against a very tough customer. I'm not particularly optimistic that Barboza is going to keep up his winning ways given how much he's getting hit and the fact he turns 36 years old this coming January, but he's looked good lately.
Chikadze deserves this opportunity after racking up wins in each of his first six UFC bouts. Four of those six victories came via decision, with two of the split variety. The only fighter of any note that Chikadze has faced is Cub Swanson, which was his most recent bout. He won that fight via knockout in 63 seconds. I've been very slow to come around on Chikadze, but he's clearly better than I first gave him credit for. He's an extremely creative striker and rarely gets hit (2.67 significant strikes absorbed per minute) for a guy who spends most of his bouts on the feet.
The obvious difference here is the competition level these two have gone up against. Barboza has faced virtually every top lightweight/featherweight on the roster, while Chikadze has fought no one other than Swanson.
I'm very interested in seeing how Barboza fights as the shorter man. At 5-foot-11, he's taller than virtually every featherweight on the roster, but Chikadze checks in a 6-foot.
Everything I see here leads me to believe this is a pick 'em and both Vegas and the people at DK agree. I greatly value Barboza's experience edge, but I remain worried about his chin despite his strong effort in the Burgos fight. I'd like to see him do it again before my concerns are alleviated completely. Toss in the modest break Chikadze provides and I'll roll with him in the smallest of upsets.
THE PICK: Chikadze
Lee was supposed to face Sean Brady here, but a foot infection suffered by the latter led to Rodriguez stepping in to take his place.
A loser of three of his past four and four of his past six, Lee is hoping a permanent move up to welterweight will change his fortunes. He's a guy who had to cut a ton of weight to get down to the 156-pound lightweight limit, and there is every reason to believe he will perform better now that he won't have to drain his body to the point of exhaustion. Despite Lee's recent struggles, it's important to keep in mind who he has been in there against. The four previously-mentioned defeats came against Charles Oliveira, Rafael dos Anjos, Al Iaquinta and Tony Ferguson. Lee's ceiling remains high in a division in which he should theoretically perform better.
Rodriguez has won five of his first six UFC bouts, with a defeat at the hands of Nicolas Dalby being his only setback. Rodriguez does have four submission wins in his career, but he has essentially proven to be a one-dimensional boxer with the UFC. He has legitimate power and an excellent chin, so Rodriguez has been successful despite a very limited offensive arsenal. It was smart for the company to give him this opportunity considering Rodriguez will be 35 years old on New Year's Eve. The UFC needs to see what they have on their hands in the California native.
Rodriguez is four inches taller, but it's Lee who enters with a three-inch reach edge. I generally don't like fighters who flip-flop between divisions, but Lee is much better suited for welterweight. He should be able to match stretch with most anyone, with his 5-foot-9 frame being the only potential drawback.
I most likely would have picked Brady over Lee, but I think this is a better matchup for "The Motown Phenom." Yes, he's the smaller man, but he's much more athletic than Rodriguez and durability has never been an issue for him. His body should be in much better shape at 170 pounds, and I think he will get the job done knowing full well what Rodriguez's game plan is.
THE PICK: Lee
Muradov has been dominant in his first three fights with the company, going undefeated including back-to-back knockout defeats of Andrew Sanchez and Trevor Smith, each of which earned him a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. Muradov is a former professional kickboxer. 17 of his 25 career wins have come via knockout and he has been stopped by strikes just a single time. We need to see how he looks against better competition, but the early returns have been positive.
A crafty veteran with nearly 50 professional fights under his belt, Meerschaert is the exact opposite of Muradov. He excels on the mat, with 24 of his wins coming via submission. Meerschaert's UFC record is barely over .500 (7-6), but four of those six defeats have come against Khamzat Chimaev, Kevin Holland, Jack Hermansson and Thiago Santos. Even his other two losses – Eryk Anders and Ian Heinisch – aren't all that bad. Meerschaert's ceiling is limited by the fact he's so reliant on his ground game, but he has a world-class skill, has been in the octagon with a ton of quality opposition and won't beat himself.
There's nothing here in terms of a breakdown that you don't already know. A ground battle favors Meerschaert, while a kickboxing match favors Muradov in overwhelming fashion.
As good as Muradov is, his DraftKings salary seems high. He's the most expensive fighter on the card and the second-biggest betting favorite. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he pays off at that price, but your margin for error is none if you use Muradov in your lineup, and Meerschaert has seen it all in this sport. Muradov is an easy pick outright, but a far more difficult one when it comes to setting your lineup.
THE PICK: Muradov
Alvey was scheduled to face Roman Kopylov late last month, but visa issues caused that fight to be cancelled. Alvey elected to get right back in the saddle, accepting this fight against Turman.
I'm legitimately shocked that Alvey is getting another opportunity with the company. He turned 35 years old this past May and is 0-5 (1NC) in his past six bouts dating back to September 2018. He hasn't won a fight in well over three years and while two of those defeats came via split decision, three of the other five came via stoppage. Alvey is a patient, power puncher who swings for the bleachers with everything he throws. He still has plenty of power, but his chin is starting to go, and he's never possessed any sort of footwork. It's the type of profile that tends to age poorly, and that's been exactly the case.
Turman is also fighting for his job on the heels of three losses in his first four UFC bouts. The Brazilian is nearly a decade younger and has a much more well-rounded game, but he has been knocked out by punches in each of his previous two fights, and that's the one and only thing Alvey does well. Turman actually had some hype upon his arrival back in July 2019, but it simply hasn't worked out.
There's no such thing as a "buy-low opportunity" on Alvey at this stage of his career, but this is the closet you will get to one. Surely he knows this is his final chance with the UFC, and it's not as if Turman has been setting the world in fire since arriving on the scene. Toss in Turman's durability issues and believe it or not, Alvey is the pick.
THE PICK: Alvey
TUF 29 Bantamweight Final
Ricky Turcios (11-2-0) v. Brady Hiestand (6-1-0)
DK Salaries: Turcios ($8,700), Hiestand ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Turcios (-160), Hiestand (+140)
Odds to Finish: +125
THE PICK: Turcios
Alessio Di Chirico (13-5-0) v. Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-4-0)
DK Salaries: Di Chirico ($8,900), Alhassan ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Di Chirico (-240), Alhassan (+195)
Odds to Finish: -145
THE PICK: Alhassan