This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
After a week on the sidelines, the UFC will be filling the calendar with an event every weekend through March, starting with a clash of top middleweight contenders Saturday.
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 $400k 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 - Middleweight
It's nice to see Strickland rewarded here considering all the success he has had since being forced to miss to years worth of action from October 2018 to October 2020 due to a motorcycle accident. Strickland has returned with a vengeance, picking up four dominant victories over Uriah Hall, Krzysztof Jotko, Brendan Allen and Jack Marshman. He looks better than ever, with his exceptional striking game leading the way. It's important to remember that Strickland won't turn 31 years of age until late this month, so it's not as if he still doesn't have a ton of runway ahead of him.
Hermansson has been inconsistent of late, alternating wins and losses in his past five bouts. "The Joker" has typically come up short when tasked with facing better competition, which is admittedly concerning as he attempts to get back on track in this one. Hermansson is a solid all-around fighter but doesn't have a single, elite standout skill. His greatest attributes are his constant pressure on the feet and excellent cardio, but he'll need to be careful with that aggressiveness here as Strickland possesses the striking ability to pick him apart with counter shots.
Hermansson should have a theoretical advantage in the grappling department. He averages 2.09 takedowns per 15 minutes, but he connects at just a 36-percent clip, and Strickland defends the takedown at a stellar percentage of 82 percent. Jack is going to have to fight at a ridiculous pace in order to keep Strickland off balance. It's not impossible, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Strickland has looked so comfortable for a guy who hasn't spent all that much time inside the Octagon of late. He picks his spots well and seems to recognize when to pressure his opposition and when to hold back. Hermansson is better than Hall, Jotko, Allen and Marshman, but Strickland deserves to be favored here.
I don't love the price tag – I would feel better about if if he was a couple hundred bucks cheaper –but I'm giving Strickland the benefit of the doubt given his recent run. I need to see a strong effort from Hermansson against a high-level opponent before I buy back in completely.
THE PICK: Strickland
Editor's Note: The middleweight matchup between Alvey and Hawes has been canceled following the withdrawal of Hawes due to undisclosed reasons. Brendan Allen has stepped up to face Alvey on short notice – the second time Alvey has had an opponent switch. Alvey lines up to be roughly a (+300) betting underdog, which is similar to the number he would have been against Hawes, so there isn't much actionable change in his outlook with respect to his low salary.
For a full breakdown of Alvey/Allen and all other preliminary fights, check out Drake's Takes, a column posted every Thursday with notes to consider from each matchup, all the way down to the prelims.
Dawodu's 5-2 career mark with the UFC is quite impressive, but a deeper dive into the numbers reveals some reason for concern moving forward. Three of those five previously-mentioned victories have come via split decision. Dawodu is also coming off a unanimous decision defeat to Movsar Evoloev last June. Hakeem's power is legitimate, and he has a strong chin, the latter of which is a necessity considering he typically finds himself involved in a brawl. The big issue here is a lack of secondary offensive skills. Dawodu offers nothing in the grappling game, and any worthwhile opponent is going to do whatever is necessary to make him uncomfortable on the feet.
No stranger to controversy himself, Trizano has won three of his first four UFC bouts, with two of those coming via split decision. The lone victory that didn't come via that method was a unanimous decision win over L'udovit Klein last May in which it appeared for all the world that Klein deserved to win. Unlike Dawodu, Trizano has no above-average offensive skill to fall back upon in the event of trouble. He has two knockouts and two submission victories in his pro career, and he's going to be in trouble if he finds himself behind on the scorecards in the early portion of this bout.
Perhaps Trizano's three-inch height edge can negate Dawodu's power edge on the feet some, but Hakeem enters with a two inch reach advantage, which could prove a death sentence for Trizano in a prolonged kickboxing match.
Dawodu's significant power edge is enough to swing me in his direction, but Trizano is a live underdog on a card in which I can't find many I have any interest in.
THE PICK: Dawodu
Almost certain to be cut after going winless in his first four UFC bouts (0-3, 1NC), Barriault was given another chance with the company and has responded with back-to-back wins over Abu Azaitar (TKO) and Dalcha Lungiambula. Barriault's power led to a ton of success on the Quebec regional circuit early in his career, but he has struggled to make that same type of impact since joining the UFC. His offensive arsenal is extremely basic and boxing heavy. Barriault is going to have difficulty if he is unable to vary his attacks, and it seems doubtful that will suddenly happen consider he will be turning 32 years of age just 13 days after this event takes place.
With almost 30 professional fights and nearly 15 years worth of professional experience under his belt, Njokuani will be making his official UFC debut on Saturday. He earned his opportunity with a TKO win on Dana White's Contender Series this past September. While Njokuani will be a new name for UFC fans, those who watch Bellator will recognize him, as Njokuani fought eight times for that promotion (5-3) from November 2015 to July 2019.
Like Barriault, Njokuani is a one-dimensional brawler with 12 knockout victories on his resume and just one submission. This is a fight between two aging fighters who are miles and miles from the title picture, but it's smart matchmaking. It should be an action-packed bout that seems highly unlikely to got he distance which makes it an intriguing one from a DFS standpoint.
This is a pick 'em if there ever was one. There is probably a very minor edge for Barriault in the pure power department, but not enough for me to have a strong feeling about the result one way or the other. When I'm undecided I take the fighter with the better payoff – however minor it is – and in this case that is Njokuani.
THE PICK: Njokuani
Alexis Davis (20-11-0) v. Julija Stoliarenko (9-6-1)
DK Salaries: Davis ($8,700), Stoliarenko ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Davis (-220), Stoliarenko (+180)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Davis