The UFC’s first pay-per-view of 2018 is a top-heavy card. Not one, but two title fights anchor UFC 220 live from the TD Garden in Boston on Saturday and there are some big money contests for the event over at DraftKings.
In the main event, UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic defends his title versus rising knockout artist Francis Ngannou. Miocic will defend his title for the third time while Ngannou has finished his last six UFC opponents.
Slotted in the co-main event, UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier looks to rebound from a devastating defeat at the hands of Jon Jones in his last outing. With only three UFC fights to his credit, Volkan Oezdemir is a relatively unknown challenger but a live dog if there ever was one.
The rest of the 11-fight card is filled with a lot of New England area fighters up against a host of outsiders.
With fight week upon us, there are several UFC fighters worth considering for your UFC 220 DraftKings lineup. Check out our analysis for the main card and three additional undercard fighters who may be underpriced.
UFC Heavyweight Championship: Stipe Miocic (c) vs. Francis Ngannou
The UFC’s heavyweight division has always been the sport’s most volatile. When skilled strikers hovering around 265 pounds are allowed to fight in four-ounce gloves, violent ends are often the outcome. Priced at $7.3k, UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will walk to the cage as a sizable underdog on DraftKings. Opposite Miocic, Francis Ngannou checks in at $8.9k.
Despite riding a five-fight win streak, all five by KO/TKO, Miocic is up against it, facing a bigger, stronger, and faster opponent. How can a reigning UFC champion be the underdog versus an opponent with less than five years of pro experience?
The answer may again go back to their weight class. Six-foot-four, 265-pound fighters with the power and speed of Ngannou are not plentiful on this planet. Miocic is a solid champion and will likely one day retire with a top five resume for his weight class, but Ngannou is being tabbed as an once-in-a-generation talent.
If you want to compare common opponents, both men easily knocked out former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski in under 90 seconds. The only other shared opponent is Alistair Overeem. While Miocic briefly struggled with Overeem before knocking him out in September 2016, Ngannou scored one of the best KOs in MMA history when won back in December.
Anything can happen at heavyweight, and Stipe Miocic is too talented and experienced to be taken lightly by anyone. Francis Ngannou remains untested in the UFC. If he runs into any kind of adversity, Miocic may win at UFC 220 going away.
Ngannou is still the pick, but the UFC 220 main event leans close to a toss-up.
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Cormier (c) vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Thanks to former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones being busted for steroids after his knockout win over Daniel Cormier in July, the promotion awarded the belt back to the former champion. Mental title lineage gymnastics aside, despite losing his last fight by knockout, Cormier is still the UFC’s 205-pound champ.
Priced at $9.2k, Cormier is the biggest DraftKings favorite at UFC 220. A skilled kickboxer with only three UFC fights under his belt, challenger Volkan Oezdemir checks in at $7.0k and is still a relatively unknown commodity.
With a 19-1-1 (no contest) record at light heavy and heavyweight, Cormier’s mix of Olympic wrestling credentials and powerful hands make him a worthy champion by any measure. If you remove the two decisive losses to Jones, Cormier has rarely been tested in his other 19 pro performances.
At 15-1 in his MMA career, the 28-year-old Oezdemir won all three of his UFC fights. Plus, he knocked out his previous two opponents in under 45 seconds of cage time. Oezdemir is a dangerous striker, but holes in his wrestling and submission defense is why he is the biggest underdog at UFC 220.
If there ever was a time to catch the 38-year-old Daniel Cormier, it would be coming off a six-month layoff and a devastating KO defeat. This may be Oezdemir’s best opportunity to catch Cormier with a early knockout strike.
The overall talent and experience attributes still greatly favor Cormier, so the champ remains the pick.
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Featherweight: Calvin Kattar vs. Shane Burgos
A key upset opportunity comes on the main card in the form of Massachusetts featherweight Calvin Kattar ($7.8k) versus undefeated prospect Shane Burgos ($8.4k). With a MMA record of 17-2, 1-0 in the UFC, Kattar is the more experienced fighter. He’ll also be competing in front of his hometown fans.
The 26-year-old Burgos is unbeaten in MMA at 10-0, 3-0 in the UFC, but his level of competition has yet to really ramp up. Burgos has the athletic and submission game edge over Kattar. Yet everywhere else, the 10-year vet holds the advantage.
If the 29-year-old Kattar can push the pace and carry Burgos into deep waters, he has a real chance to pull off the minor upset. Due to his striking, wrestling, and stamina to go the full 15 minutes, Calvin Kattar is worth a dart throw over Shane Burgos.
Light Heavyweight: Gian Villante vs. Francimar Barroso
Here’s the rare UFC main-card fight where both competitors come in on losing streaks. The UFC’s light heavyweight division is kind of a mess, but both Gian Villante ($8.8k) and Francimar Barroso ($7.4k) have great shots of moving up the ranks with an impressive win.
A loser of two straight, Villante, with his size, striking, and experience, is the favorite. The 37-year-old Barroso has not finished a fight since 2013. Still, he has proven durable during his 4-3 UFC run that began that same year.
Villante also joined the UFC in 2013 but holds a 5-6 mark under the promotion and a 15-9 MMA record overall.
The 32-year-old Villante holds all the physical advantages over Barros. Yet his lack of defense makes him a very risky pick. This is much closer to a pick ’em than the DraftKings prices suggest.
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Bantamweight: Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font
Competing in the second-closest priced fight at UFC 220, both Thomas Almeida ($8.2k) and Rob Font ($8.0k) have a chance to take home a victory.
At only 26, Almeida entered the UFC as a highly touted 135-pound prospect. A local Massachusetts fighter, Font began his 14-3 MMA career at 155 pounds. Then, he slowly worked his way down to the 135-pound limit. Font holds a 4-2 record in the UFC but is 0-2 versus top 15 fighters thus far. Pedro Munhoz choked out Font in the latter’s last outing.
With a MMA mark of 21-2, Almeida has his only two UFC losses versus bantamweights currently ranked in the division’s top five. His last fight, in July 2017, saw Almeida lose a 15-minute decision to boxer and wrestler Jimmie Rivera. Almeida will hold a significant striking and athletic edge over Font when the two step in the cage.
This is a “pick me up” fight for Thomas Almeida, whose exciting striking style is still something the UFC would like to promote. The longer the fight goes, the greater chance Font has to turn it into a gritty grappling battle.
Despite the close price, Almeida has the talent to end the fight quickly by knockout and produce another highlight win.
Three Underdogs for UFC 220 DraftKings Lineups
Brandon Davis ($8.1k): Carrying a four-fight win streak into UFC 220, featherweight Brandon Davis is priced dead even with his opponent Kyle Bochniak ($8.1k). A plus-side grappler and submission artist, this will be Davis’ first fight in the UFC. Still, he should pick up the win versus Bochniak. With a 1-2 record in the UFC, Bochniak has struggled versus grapplers.
Dustin Ortiz ($7.7k): With a 6-5 record in the UFC, Dustin Ortiz is a headache for any flyweight. Booked as the underdog versus 18-2 prospect Alexandre Pantoja ($8.5k), Ortiz, with his wrestling and power, will give Pantoja problems. If Ortiz can turn the fight into a messy grappling affair, it would not surprise anyone if he walked away with his seventh win in the UFC.
Dan Ige ($7.6k): Holding an 8-1 MMA record and riding a six-fight winning streak, Dan Ige is a surprising underdog to Julio Arce ($8.6k). Arce steps into the fight on short notice. He had only had three weeks to train for Ige. A 26-year-old striker with four pro wins via submission, Ige comes into UFC 220 in a really good spot to upset Arce.
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