DraftKings UFC 222 DFS MMA Picks & Preview
On Saturday, the UFC returns to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for its third pay-per-view offering of the year. This action-packed card will feature some big-money contests for the event over at DraftKings.
Now, stop us if you’ve heard this before, but UFC 222 features a main event pieced together at the last moment by the promotion. The original main event featured rising star Max Holloway defending his 145-pound title versus former 155-pound champion Frankie Edgar. The UFC first made the match for UFC 218 but scrapped it after Edgar suffered an eye injury. Then, less than a month before UFC 222, Holloway pulled out of rescheduled bout with a leg injury.
Instead, UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg will defend her title versus UFC rookie Yana Kunitskaya. To his credit, Edgar stays on the card in the co-main event slot and will face unbeaten featherweight Brian Ortega.
With fight week upon us, there are several UFC fighters worth considering for your UFC 222 DraftKings lineup. Read on for our DraftKings analysis of the main card, plus three undercard fighters who may be underpriced.
Before you get into the picks, be sure and sign up for our email list at the top of this page. You’ll get our free DFS picks directly to your inbox so you never miss out!
UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship: Cris Cyborg (c) vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Only two months removed from headlining UFC 219, Cris Cyborg ($9.7k) has still yet to be seriously challenged in her UFC career. With no UFC fights to her name, Yana Kunitskaya ($6.5k) faces a towering test on a giant stage.
Holding a respectable, but not spectacular 10-3 record in the sport, Kunitskaya is by far the biggest underdog on Saturday night according to DraftKings. A respected taekwondo striker, the 28-year-old Kunitskaya has seen seven of her 10 career wins come by KO/TKO. Kunitskaya also trains at the same gym as Cyborg’s last opponent, Holly Holm. The coaches at Jackson Wink MMA Academy may give her a glimmer of hope.
Cruising to a five-round decision win over Holm in December, Cyborg failed to stop her opponent for the first time in over nine years and 13 fights. This weekend, Cyborg holds the power, technique, athleticism, and experience advantages over her opponent. If for some reason the fight hits the floor, Cyborg’s grappling credentials also trump Kunitskaya’s.
Maybe coming in on short notice is the best time to catch Cyborg off guard? Regardless, Cyborg is the pick where ever the fight goes. It would take one of the largest MMA upsets of all-time for Kunitskaya to have her hand raised on Saturday night.
Featherweight: Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
If nothing else, Frankie Edgar ($8.7k) and Brian Ortega ($7.5k) both show guts in taking such a dangerous fight on short notice.
There’s a lot at stake. The 36-year-old Edgar was slated for a title shot not once, but twice and now may give it all away with a loss at UFC 222. With a 5-0 start to his UFC career, 13-0 overall, the 27-year-old Ortega appeared to be in line to face the winner of Holloway vs. Edgar. If Ortega loses to Edgar, he may never get that title opportunity again.
Edgar is a tough style matchup for anyone at 145 or 155 pounds. The former UFC lightweight champion’s strength at featherweight are his powerful takedowns. Edgar also has the ability to stop most opponents from taking him down. On the feet, the jiu-jitsu black belt has a precise boxing game.
Ortega is also a black belt in jiu-jitsu. On the ground, Ortega is an all-world talent, but his wrestling and striking games have yet to catch up. So far in his MMA career, Ortega has leaned on his submission skills to win fights, often in highlight fashion.
In a battle of youth versus experience, Edgar is the pick, but he has to be careful not to fight Ortega’s fight on the ground or underestimate him standing up.
EXCLUSIVE BONUS & FREE ENTRIES AT DRAFTKINGS!
Bantamweight: Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath
An under-the-radar, 135-pound clash between Sean O’Malley ($8.0k) and Andre Soukhamthath ($8.2k) has all the makings of a fight that will steal the show.
O’Malley is a charismatic undefeated striker at 9-0 who’s making a big jump up in competition when he takes on Soukhamthath. Still only 23 years old and 1-0 in the UFC, O’Malley has won six of his nine MMA fights by KO/TKO. A solid regional MMA champion before he was signed by the UFC, Soukhamthath has seen eight of his 12 career wins come by KO/TKO.
This is a big test for O’Malley, but his unorthodox striking style coupled with his athleticism edge should be enough for him to pull off a minor upset.
Heavyweight: Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski
Despite losing his last fight by TKO, Stefan Struve ($8.8k) is the second-biggest favorite on the UFC 222 main card per DraftKings. At 39 and having lost five of his last six UFC fights, Andrei Arlovski’s ($7.4k) MMA career has to be close to its end.
A kickboxer by trade, the seven-foot Struve has always relied on his striking to set the pace. Offense has never been the 30-year-old’s problem, but major defensive lapses have cost him throughout his UFC career.
On the other side, Arlovski snapped a brutal five-fight losing streak in November with a decision victory. The smell of Arlovski losing five fights in a row, four by stoppage, will follow him for the remainder of his MMA career. If Arlovski loses to Struve by knockout, it may very well mark the end to a great heavyweight MMA career.
Even if Struve decides to engage in a fire fight standing up with Arlovski, at this point in his career it should be enough to put away the 19-year MMA pro.
Women’s bantamweight: Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira
Walking into the cage after almost two years away from it, Cat Zingano ($7.9k) was once a budding star in the women’s bantamweight division. Beginning her career 9-0, Zingano lost to Ronda Rousey in February 2015 in just 14 seconds. It would take her 16 months before returning to the cage and losing her next fight by decision.
At UFC 222, 26-year-old Ketlen Vieira ($8.3k) will stand opposite Zingano. A submission specialist out of Brazil, Vieira is 9-0 to start her MMA career and is already 3-0 in the UFC.
Firing on all cylinders, Zingano was a violent striker with the ability to out-wrestle opponents if she needed to. Now 35 and with a grand total of two fights during the last fours years, Zingano is a complete mystery as to what quality of fighter will show up on Saturday.
She may be worth an underdog look, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Vieira out-grapples a tired, rusty fighter. Still, Zingano is the pick, with a lighting-in-a-bottle KO win on the table.
FOLLOW DFSREPORT ON TWITTER & LIKE DFSREPORT ON FACEBOOK
Three underdogs for UFC 222 DraftKings lineups
C.B. Dollaway ($7.8k): Despite holding a wrestling and size advantage over Hector Lombard ($8.4k), C.B. Dollaway is the underdog in their middleweight bout. Lombard comes in with four losses in a row, three by KO, and may be living off his reputation at this point. If Dollaway can avoid getting caught in prolonged striking exchanges, he possesses the tools to out-wrestle Lombard to a decision win.
Bryan Caraway ($7.7k): Coming off a nearly two-year layoff, Bryan Caraway returns to the cage in a favorable booking versus grinder Cody Stamann ($8.5k). Caraway is the underdog in large part due to his potential ring rust. Caraway’s grappling and submission skills give him a great shot at beating Stamann, who is mostly known for his wrestling.
Mike Pyle ($7.3k): After a career closing in on 20 years, 42-year-old Mike Pyle proclaimed UFC 222 will be his final fight. Matched up with journeyman Zak Ottow ($8.9k), Pyle is in prime position to end his MMA career on a high note. Versus a fighter without much KO power, look for Pyle to lean on his wrestling and striking edge to pick up a win.