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DraftKings MMA: UFC Kansas City Preview

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.

A title fight comes to network TV when the UFC heads to Kansas City on 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. Players get a $50,000 budget to select five fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:

(Please note that DraftKings has altered their scoring system. The new point values are listed below and the rosters will now expand from 5 to 6 fighters).

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 – Flyweight Championship


(C) Demetrious Johnson (25-2-1) v. Wilson Reis (22-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Johnson ($9,800), Reis ($6,400)
Vegas Odds: Johnson (-850), Reis (+575)
Odds to Finish: -110

While few are really buying Reis as a legitimate threat to Johnson's title, it's not as if there were any better options. UFC fans can only watch DJ beat up the same guys over and over so often.

Mighty Mouse was not at his sharpest in his most recent win over Tim Elliott in December, but when all was said and done, he took a clear-cut unanimous decision from The Ultimate Fighter winner. Johnson's last loss came on October 1, 2011 against Dominick Cruz. He is head and shoulders above any other fighter in the UFC's flyweight division. DJ wins with speed and pace, but he excels in every single area of the game and does a tremendous job tailoring his game plan to whomever he is facing. He is a true master strategist who is always thinking inside the cage.

Reis is 6-2 in the UFC, although other than his win over Dustin Ortiz, all the victories have come against nobodies. His two losses came against men (Iuri Alcantara, Jussier Formiga) who presented better competition. Reis is really, really strong. I can see a scenario in which he outmuscles DJ in the first or second round and keeps him pinned to the mat for extended periods of time, but he has no chance of matching DJ's pace in the championship rounds. If smaller, quicker opponents such as John Dodson, Henry Cejudo and Joseph Benavidez can't handle Might Mouse's relentless style of fighting, I don't see how a muscular guy like Reis has any chance. And while Reis is a legitimate BJJ black belt, it's nearly impossible to win ground exchanges with DJ because of his excellent body control.

DJ, while without a doubt the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, still isn't driving ratings. The main reason is because he has no competition.That's why he is fighting on a FOX card instead of a pay-per-view. Based upon Mighty Mouse's body of work, I will be picking him in every single fight until he loses. Johnson is an elite athlete, but he struggles to finish fights sometimes. He always wins, but it isn't always visually pleasing. Reis is a solid, competent opponent who I could see lasting the entire 25 minutes, but I don't see how he can pull off this monumental upset.

THE PICK: Johnson

Co-Main Event – Women's Strawweight


Rose Namajunas (6-3-0) v. Michelle Waterson (14-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Namajunas ($8,200), Waterson ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Namajunas (-135), Waterson (+115)
Odds to Finish: +105

Waterson will almost certainly get a title shot if she wins this fight. The same may be true for Namajunas, but it's a near certainty for The Karate Hottie.

"Thug" Rose dropped a split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz in her last fight in July. It was a fairly close fight, but Namajunas got outworked by Karolina and that ultimately led to her demise. Namajunas is wiry strong and very accomplished on the mat. While there have been more ups than downs in Rose's career, she remains inconsistent. Her career record in the UFC is 3-2. The number is a bit misleading because of the quality of competition she has faced, but there will be stretches during fights where she strays from her game plan. She is a good enough fighter to defeat lesser opponents even with that being the case, but that isn't going to work against the best fighters in the world.

Waterson is 2-0 in the UFC with a pair of submission wins under her belt. She made quick work of Paige VanZant in her most recent bout in December. The former Invicta Atomweight Champion, Waterson has nine wins by submission in her career. Waterson's karate skills help set up her ground attacks. Her opponents are so worried about her striking ability that they aren't set to defend themselves in other areas of the fight. Waterson is talented and marketable and I'm actually a bit surprised she isn't garnering more attention. That will change if she beats Namajunas.

Rose has the advantage of having more experience of late at the strawweight level, but I think Waterson is the better fighter. This should be a fascinating fight and one that could go the distance.

THE PICK: Waterson

Middleweight


Jacare Souza (24-4-0) v. Robert Whittaker (18-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Souza ($8,700), Whittaker ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Souza (-230), Whittaker (+190)
Odds to Finish: -230

This is by far the fight I am looking forward to most on the card. Jacare continues to defeat every single person put in front of him, yet he still can't get himself a title shot. It's one thing to accept a fight against a washed up Tim Boetsch like he did at UFC 208 in February, but accepting a fight against an elite young talent like Whittaker is a dangerous game to be playing. The return of Georges St. Pierre certainly didn't help matters for Souza, and he is uncomfortable sitting on the sidelines for an extended period of time. Jacare, at 37 years old, looks as sharp as ever. He keeps himself in terrific shape, remains an elite ground specialist and has more power in his hands than he gets credit for. He deserves a shot at the UFC Middleweight Championship, but he is putting it all at risk in this fight -- one which represents the last on his current contract.

Whittaker has won five straight fights since moving up to middleweight. He hits like a Mack Truck and appears to have far more energy with the extra 15 pounds on his frame. Whittaker got hit too much in his last fight against Derek Brunson, but he survived Brunson's initial flurry and eventually finished him off late in the first round with his trademark power. It is going to be imperative for Whittaker to stay off of his back. His takedown defense over the course of his UFC career has been elite (93 percent).

I really don't want to pick against Whittaker. I've long been a believer in his talent and I think he has a chance to hang around the top of the division for quite a while. That being said, I'm not sure there is a middleweight on the UFC roster that I would pick over Jacare at the moment. Perhaps Luke Rockhold, but that would be it. The 26-year-old Whittaker is going to be fine in the long run, win or lose here. It's Jacare's time.

THE PICK: Souza

Featherweight


Jeremy Stephens (25-13-0) v. Renato Moicano (10-0-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Stephens ($8,600), Moicano ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Stephens (-185), Moicano (+145)
Odds to Finish: -110

Stephens' 2-4 record in his last six fights is indicative of the level of competition he has faced. The four losses came against Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson. Stephens hits as hard as any man in the division, but his willingness to take punishment to land frequently leads to his downfall. He has been around long enough that his style of fighting isn't changing now. While it's entertaining to watch and frequently leads to highlight reel finishes, it prohibits Stephens from defeating the top guys in the division.

Moicano has won his first two UFC bouts, although the quality of competition (Tom Niinimaki, Zubaira Tukhugov) has been less than ideal. He has an unrefined striking game, but he does have five career wins by submission. While he is technically undefeated as a professional, Moicano really isn't deserving at this time of a fight against someone of Stephens' caliber.

Perhaps Moicano has more to give than we have seen thus far in his brief UFC career, but at age 27, he seems unlikely to make sudden improvements. This fight seems fairly straightforward to me. As long as Stephens doesn't get overly aggressive to the point of recklessness, he should be fine.

THE PICK: Stephens

Other Bouts


Heavyweight


Alexander Volkov (27-6-0) v. Roy Nelson (22-13-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Volkov ($8,100), Nelson ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Volkov (-140), Nelson (+100)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Volkov

Bantamweight


Patrick Williams (8-4-0) v. Tom Duquesnoy (14-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Williams ($6,900), Duquesnoy ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Williams (+300), Duquesnoy (-420)
Odds to Finish: -420
THE PICK: Duquesnoy

Lightweight


Bobby Green (23-7-0) v. Rashid Magomedov (19-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Green ($7,100), Magomedov ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Green (+250), Magomedov (-350)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Magomedov

Flyweight


Louis Smolka (11-3-0) v. Tim Elliott (14-7-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Smolka ($7,200), Elliot ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Smolka (+210), Elliot (-290)
Odds to Finish: +130
THE PICK: Elliot

Light Heavyweight


Devin Clark (7-1-0) v. Jake Collier (10-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Clark ($8,300), Collier ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Clark (-140), Collier (+100)
Odds to Finish: -230
THE PICK: Clark

Middleweight


Anthony Smith (26-12-0) v. Andrew Sanchez (10-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Smith ($7,300), Sanchez ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Smith (+210), Sanchez (-290)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Sanchez

Bantamweight


Aljamain Sterling (12-2-0) v. Augusto Mendes (6-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Sterling ($8,800), Mendes ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Sterling (-215), Mendes (+165)
Odds to Finish: +160
THE PICK: Sterling

Welterweight


Zak Cummings (20-5-0) v. Nathan Coy (15-6-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Cummings ($9,400), Coy ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Cummings (-385), Coy (+265)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Coy

Women's Bantamweight


Ashlee Evans-Smith (5-1-0) v. Ketlen Vieira (7-0-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Evans-Smith ($8,500), Vieira ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Evans-Smith (-165), Vieira (+125)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Vieira

All odds taken from BestFightOdds.com on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 11.
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