DraftKings MMA: UFC 302 DFS Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC 302 DFS Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

UFC 302 DraftKings DFS Preview and Picks

UFC 302 takes place Saturday, and Jon Litterine is back to break down the top fights, plus offer his DFS picks and predictions for the key matchups on the card.

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 $700k UFC 302 Special with $200k to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring rules are noted at the bottom of the column. Let's get to the action...

Main Event - Lightweight Championship

(C) Islam Makhachev (25-1-0) v. Dustin Poirier (30-8-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Makhachev ($9,500), Poirier ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Makhachev (-650), Poirier (+470)

The UFC reportedly offered this fight to Arman Tsarukyan (who lost to Makhachev in his UFC debut back in April 2019), but he was unable to make the quick turnaround after competing at UFC 300 this past April, so Poirier, who fought in March, gets the call. 

Dustin's win over Benoit Saint-Denis at UFC 299 was a classic performance. He was battered a good portion of the opening frame, only to survive and find the finish midway through Round 2. Poirier turned 35 years of age this past January and is 2-2 in his past four fights. He has victories in his UFC run over the likes of Michael Chandler, Conor McGregor (twice), Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje, but is 0-2 all time in bouts for the undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship. It's a near certainty this will be Dustin's final shot at undisputed gold.

This will be Makhachev's third defense of his title. The first two came against Alexander Volkanovski, a natural 145-pounder. The first fight was close, but the second was not. Islam looked as good as ever, and Volk, who accepted the bout on short notice, looked rusty. The end result was Makhachev winning via first-round knockout midway through the opening frame. Given the list of killers in the lightweight division, this looks like a very favorable matchup for Islam.

The reason it looks so favor is that Islam's greatest strength -- his wrestling game -- plays directly into Poirier's greatest weakness, his inability to defend the takedown. Islam lands 3.17 takedowns per 15 minutes. The reason that number isn't higher is because the second he gets you to the mat, you aren't getting back up. He sticks to you like glue and grinds on you the remainder of the round. To give you an idea of Dustin's struggles, he's given up multiple takedowns in four of his past eight bouts. Khabib Nurmagomedov got him seven times, Dan Hooker four, Michael Chandler and Saint-Denis, three apiece. 

On the feet, Poirier might hit harder than Islam, but Makhachev has zero durability issues. The only way I see Dustin finishing him on the feet is a one-punch knockout, or one big punch which leads to a flurry and the stoppage.

Simply put, I'm having a very tough time finding a path of victory for Dustin. Islam isn't going to gas out like Saint-Denis did, and he's not foolish enough to leave a limb exposed on the mat. In fact, I see Poirier generating next to no offense once he's grounded. 

No two fights are exactly the same, but Poirier gave up 7-of-8 takedowns to Khabib for 8:52 worth of control time before finally being choked out midway through Round 3. I think he's looking at a similar fate here. Dustin would have a hard time no matter who the champion is, but he would have a theoretical path to victory against other opponents. I just don't see it here. I think this is a rout. The lone positive I can say for Poirier is that he's the cheapest fighter on the slate. If you think he can remain competitive, it allows you to get very creative with the rest of your lineup. 

THE PICK: Makhachev
 

Co-Main Event - Middleweight

Sean Strickland (28-6-0) v. Paulo Costa (14-3-0)
DK Salaries: Strickland ($8,800), Costa ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Strickland (-245), Costa (+200)

This looks like a pretty soft landing spot for Strickland on the heels of his split decision defeat to Dricus Du Plessis this past January which cost him his middleweight title. Sean didn't look great in that fight, but still could have won. He worked behind his jab, as usual, but gave up six takedowns, which was an extremely poor visual that likely cost him the fight. He's not going to have to worry about that type of grappling from Costa.

I'll give Costa credit, he looked better in his unanimous decision loss to Robert Whittaker in February than I expected. He was competitive the entire way, generated a bunch of offense and never tired. It was as strong of an effort as you could reasonably expect in what was a clear cut loss. He's being given a golden opportunity to shoot back up the rankings against Strickland.

It must be noted that this fight is scheduled for five rounds despite not being a main event nor a title fight. That's a huge deal, and in my opinion, a massive edge for Strickland.

We've seen Sean fight a million times, and his game plan never changes. He continues to push forward and is completely content with countering whatever is thrown his way. It's a style of fighting he can employ for 10 rounds if he had to. He simply doesn't expend a ton of energy. He wins on volume, and that volume rises considerably with the extra ten minutes on the board.

Strickland isn't going to go in there and slug it out with Costa. He's also one of the most durable fighters in the history of the sport, having never been knocked out in 34 pro bouts. 

We've seen Paulo have cardio issues in the past. He's a big, muscular guy. Even if he's improving in that area, there's zero chance he's going to be able to use it as an advantage against Strickland. Only the opposite is possible.

My guess is this plays out similarly to fights we've seen from Strickland in the past. Costa attempts to push forward and lands a handful of heavy blows, but Sean counters well, piles up a significant edge in terms of total strikes landed and wins a decision. I'd feel a heck of a lot better if Costa had some grappling to fall back upon in the event of trouble, or if Strickland had durability issues, but neither are the case. 

THE PICK: Strickland
 

Middleweight

Kevin Holland (25-11-0, 1NC) v. Michal Oleksiejczuk (19-7-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Holland ($9,000), Oleksiejczuk ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Holland (-265), Oleksiejczuk (+215)

Holland took on Michael "Venom" Page in his UFC debut that night and didn't look good. He was outworked and outpointed on the feet to the point that Holland, who is about the furthest thing from a grappler the middleweight division has, attempted to lean on his wrestling. He managed two takedowns and north of four minutes worth of control time and still dropped a unanimous decision. I'm not convinced getting right back into the Octagon is the best course of action for a guy who has fought a ridiculous eight times since March 2022.

Michal has made legitimate improvements over the years, but he's still rocking a 5-5 record in his past ten bouts. His three most recent wins, all via knockout, are over Chidi Njokuani, Cody Brundage and Sam Alvey. He was non-competitive the two times during that stretch he faced high-end opposition, getting submitted by both Pereira and Caio Borralho.

Oleksiejczuk has a theoretical power edge over Holland, who relies on volume. Michal's average UFC bout has lasted 6:11. Holland, on the other hand, goes 11:14 on average. Kevin figures to have a big edge in the cardio department. I don't often advocate going for broke early, but I have a hard time seeing Oleksiejczuk outpointing Holland over the course of 15 minutes, especially because he has virtually no grappling game. 

Could Michal knock Holland out? Sure, but it's unlikely. For starters, Holland has been stopped via strikes once in nearly 40 pro bouts. That came against Stephen Thompson and was a corner stoppage. Then there's the fact Oleksiejczuk is going to have to find away to negate a three-inch height disadvantage combined with the fact he's giving up a massive seven-inch edge in reach. 

I think the most likely scenario is that Holland survives some early pressure and starts to pull away late. I also wouldn't be surprised if he attempts to mix in a takedown or two knowing that is far from Oleksiejczuk's greatest strength. Michal defends the takedown at just a 48-percent clip. Give me Holland via decision.

THE PICK: Holland
 

Heavyweight

Jailton Almeida (20-3-0) v. Alexandr Romanov (17-2-0)
DK Salaries: Almeida ($9,100), Romanov ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Almeida (-280), Romanov (+225)

Almeida was originally due to face Alexander Volkov in this fight, but the UFC decided to scrap that matchup and put Romanov in Volkov's place. 

Almeida quickly made a name for himself as a potential dominant force in the heavyweight division by beating up on overmatched competition early in his UFC run, but it's been a struggle of late. He looked awful in a boring unanimous decision victory over Derrick Lewis last November and was knocked out by Curtis Blaydes early in Round 2 at UFC 299 this past March. The Blaydes performance is the real issue. Jailton landed an insane nine takedowns in the opening round of that bout and appeared to be in full control before getting caught and finished. 

In many ways, Romanov's UFC run has been similar to Almeida's. He also got out of the gate on fire, winning six five straight fights (three submissions, one knockout) to begin his time with the company, only to drop a unanimous decision to Marcin Tybura and get knocked out by Volkov. He has since rebounded with a decision win over the since-released Blagoy Ivanov last July. The obvious concern is that Romanov's two losses -- Tybura and Volkov -- came against by far the two best opponents he has seen to date.

Romanov certainly has more pure power, while Almeida is about the best athlete the heavyweight division has to offer. The former is going to have a big edge on the feet, and Romanov is no slouch in the grappling department himself.

Everything Almeida does inside the Octagon is just background noise in an attempt to get his grappling game going. He's averaging an insane 6.88 takedowns per 15 minutes while defending 75 percent of the attempts that come his way. Romanov is no slouch himself, averaging 4.32 per 15 minutes, but he defends the takedown at a woeful 20 percent clip. Jailton is also going to have the grappling edge if the two end up rolling around on the mat. 

I have time for Romanov as an underdog because Almeida's cardio hasn't looked great, and Romanov's salary is so low, but by far the most likely scenario is Jailton doing just enough in the grappling department to remain in a dominant position the vast majority of the fight, either leading to a submission or decision win.

THE PICK: Almeida
 

Welterweight

Randy Brown (18-5-0) v. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (24-7-1)
DK Salaries: Brown ($8,500), Zaleski dos Santos ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Brown (-175), Zaleski dos Santos (+145)

Regular readers of this column know that I am a supporter of Brown and have been for quite a while. He's not a title contender of anything like that, but I think he's a legitimate fringe top-ten welterweight. Randy has awarded my faith in him of late, winning six of his last seven, with the lone setback in that stretch coming against a fringe top-five guy in Jack Della Maddalena

A member of the UFC roster for more than nine years, Zaleski dos Santos should get more respect than he does. Yes, he'll be 38 years of age this coming November and his best days are clearly behind him, but he's undefeated in his last three bouts (2-0-1) and is sporting a 10-2-1 mark in his past 13 appearances. This is a guy that has knocked out Sean Strickland and has a unanimous decision win over Benoit Saint-Denis on his ledger. Impressive stuff.

Neither of these guys are spring chickens -- Brown will be 34 years of age in July -- but both appear to have gas left in the tank. ZDS in particular has proven to be very adept in thriving in wild, back-and-forth brawls.

Brown is the bigger man most every single time he steps into the Octagon, and this is no exception. At 6-foot-3, he is four inches taller than the Brazilian, and more importantly, he will enter with a five-inch reach edge. Randy does a nice job of fighting at distance and using his length to his advantage. He has a little less power than you'd prefer from such a big welterweight, but he should have an edge over ZDS in terms of technical striking.

The striking numbers are nearly identical between the two, and both men average less than a takedown per 15 minutes, so expect a stand-up affair. 

ZDS is ridiculously tough and rarely gets overwhelmed inside the Octagon, so while I expect him to keep things close, I just think Brown is a better all-around fighter. He should also have the crowd behind him as an East Coast guy.

THE PICK: Brown
 

Middleweight

Cesar Almeida (5-0-0) v. Roman Kopylov (12-3-0)
DK Salaries: Almeida ($8,000), Kopylov ($8,200)
Vegas Odds: Almeida (-110), Kopylov (-110)

A virtual unknown in the world of MMA, Almeida has five professional bouts under his belt at age 36. He has fought once in the UFC, a second-round knockout of Dylan Budka this past April. The reason Almeida has so little experience is because he's spent the vast majority of his adult life as a professional kickboxer. He's competed in multiple promotions, including Glory, and is sporting a record of 47-8-1 in that discipline. Almeida has been ranked by multiple publications as one of the very best 185-pound kickboxers in the world today. Heck, he defeated Alex Pereira back in December 2013.

Kopylov has been up and down with the UFC. He lost his first two fights but then ran off a four-fight winning streak. That was snapped this past February in a loss to Anthony Hernandez. Now, Hernandez is quite good, and Roman's grappling is questionable, so it was the expected result. This fight against Almeida should allow Kopylov to fight in his comfort zone, but it's going to be tough sledding given the quality of the striker standing across the Octagon from him.

I mentioned Roman not being much of a grappler. He's averaging 0.42 takedowns per 15 minutes. He's taken down just two of his seven opponents, and in both those instances landed just one. That said, if Kopylov has been holding something in reserve regarding his grappling game, now is the time to use it. You definitely don't want to be slugging it out with Almeida if you don't have to be. 

It's also worth noting that Almeida gave up three takedowns to Budka and three to Lucas Fernando in his unanimous decision win over him on Dana White's Contender Series. To give you an idea of how talented a striker Cesar is, he gave up those three takedowns for 5:53 worth of control time to Budka and still out-landed him 87-6 in terms of total strikes. In other words, he was controlled for nearly six minutes of a fight which lasted a shade over seven minutes and STILL managed to pile up that massive strike differential. 

This is a pick 'em in every sense of the word. Almeida's inexperience worries me, but he theoretically has a much higher ceiling than Kopylov, who we may very well have already seen the best of. Assuming Roman doesn't have quality grappling skills we have  yet to see, I'll save $200 and roll with the underdog.

THE PICK: Almeida
 

OTHER BOUTS

Lightweight
Grant Dawson (20-2-1) v. Joe Solecki (13-4-0)
DK Salaries: Dawson ($9,300), Solecki ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Dawson (-410), Solecki (+320)
THE PICK: Dawson

Welterweight
Phil Rowe (10-4-0) v. Jake Matthews (19-7-0)
DK Salaries: Rowe ($7,900), Matthews ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Rowe (+135), Matthews (-165)
THE PICK: Matthews

Welterweight
Niko Price (15-7-0, 2NC) v. Alex Morono (24-9-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Price ($7,300), Morono ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Price (+195), Moreno (-240)
THE PICK: Morono

Welterweight
Mickey Gall (7-5-0) v. Bassil Hafez (8-3-1)
DK Salaries: Gall ($7,000), Hafez ($9,200
Vegas Odds: Gall (+260), Hafez (-325)
THE PICK: Gall

Women's Bantamweight
Ailin Perez (9-2-0) v. Joselyne Edwards (13-5-0)
DK Salaries: Perez ($8,700), Edwards ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Perez (-200), Edwards (+165)
THE PICK: Perez

Flyweight
Andre Lima (8-0-0) v. Mitch Raposo (9-1-0)
DK Salaries: N/A
Vegas Odds: Lima (-220), Raposo (+180)
THE PICK: Lima

Note: All odds accurate as of time of posting, and taken from the DraftKings Sportsbook, if available, before searching elsewhere. Stay up to date for UFC 302 with more MMA betting content.

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DraftKings MMA Scoring

Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.

Moves Scoring
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.2 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)

Scoring Notes

  • 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.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Jon Litterine plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: JLitterine.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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