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DraftKings MMA: UFC Pittsburgh 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.

Update: Thiago Alves has withdrawn from his co-main event matchup against Mike Perry due to an undisclosed reason, so Alves will no longer accrue any fantasy points. The UFC has found a short-notice replacement to fight Mike Perry in newcomer Alex Reyes. Reyes has been added to DraftKings contests, but Perry can still be used on DraftKings for a cool $8500.


In a middleweight division plagued by money fights, interim belts and injuries, former champion Luke Rockhold will look to begin his ascension back up the 185-pound ladder. It all starts Saturday with a showdown against former World Series of Fighting two-division champ, David Branch.

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 - Middleweight


Luke Rockhold (15-3-0) v. David Branch (21-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Rockhold ($9,300), Branch ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: Rockhold (-450), Branch (+360)
Odds to Finish: -240

This is a less than ideal situation for Rockhold, who will have gone more than 15 months between fights when he steps into the cage on Saturday. Rockhold hasn't fought since he dropped his UFC Middleweight Championship to Michael Bisping in July of last year. The result of that fight was almost certainly a fluke, but it has put Rockhold's future in the UFC's 185-pound division in limbo. Clearly one of the best middleweights in the world, Rockhold has little to gain from this fight. When he is at his best, Rockhold can win fights in a multitude of ways. His height (6-foot-3) allows him to land plenty of strikes (particularly kicks) from distance and with nine career wins by submission, Rockhold is an accomplished ground specialist. In short, he remains one of the best fighters in the world and a poor performance in the Bisping fight doesn't change that.

Branch returned to the UFC in May after six years away from the company and took a split decision from the talented, underrated Krzystzof Jotko. At the time of Branch signing his UFC contract, he was the reigning WSOF (now PFL) Light Heavyweight and Middleweight champion. His only loss in the last five-plus years came against Rumble Johnson. There is legitimate concern that the 36-year-old (in 10 days) Branch made his name beating up nobodies. He's powerful and is one of the few middleweights that can come close to matching Rockhold on the mat, but this is an awfully big ask for a guy who hasn't fought anyone remotely close to Rockhold's caliber in many years.

Branch has the brute strength to end a fight in an instant and I think that is without a doubt his best chance of winning this one. The odds of him outpointing Rockhold over the course of 25 minutes are slim. Rockhold needs to win if he wants to continue to be included in the title discussion. He should, but Branch is a live underdog and his salary is awfully low. He does a lot of things well.

THE PICK: Rockhold

Main Event - Welterweight


Mike Perry (10-1-0) v. Alex Reyes (13-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Perry ($8,500), Reyes (not listed)
Vegas Odds: Perry (-485), Reyes (+350)
Odds to Finish: TBD

The UFC was lucky to find a last minute replacement for Thiago Alves in order to keep Perry on the card. Adding any late notice fighter to your lineup is always a risk. Owners have no idea if a fighter is truly in proper shape unless they've had a full training camp. When you add in the fact that Reyes is making his UFC debut, the prudent idea would be to avoid both parties. I expect Perry to remain as aggressive as ever, but the truth of the matter is that we have no idea the true capabilities of Reyes and that makes it near-impossible to predict any type of result.

THE PICK: Perry

Middleweight


Krzysztof Jotko (19-2-0) v. Uriah Hall (13-8-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Jotko ($8,900), Hall ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Jotko (-230), Hall (+170)
Odds to Finish: TBD

As mentioned earlier, Jotko is coming off a split decision loss to Branch in May. It certainly wasn't a poor performance from Jotko, and he gets a chance to rebound here against the enigmatic Hall. Jotko is a low-heartbeat striker that takes what his opposition gives him. He will sit back and wait for whomever he is facing to make a mistake and pounce. That can make him a poor DraftKings play at times because there are periods of inactivity in his game.

Hall has lost three in a row and he doesn't have a victory in nearly two years. He is fighting for his job on Saturday. "Prime Time" is one of the purest and most athletic strikers in UFC history, but he has struggled with consistency issues his entire career. His impressive performances have become few and far between. It is anyone's guess when Hall is going to put it all together. The smart money would be on "never" at this point.

Perhaps Hall gets a bit of an added boost knowing that he is fighting for his job, but no fantasy owner can rely on him at this point. He is nothing more than a dart throw from a DraftKings perspective. Jotko is the younger, better, more well-rounded fighter. He is a clear favorite.

THE PICK: Jotko

Welterweight


Kamaru Usman (10-1-0) v. Sergio Moraes (12-3-1)
DraftKings Salaries: Usman ($9,200), Moraes ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Usman (-530), Moraes (+350)
Odds to Finish: TBD

Sporting an undefeated 5-0 record with the company and having looked dominant over the course of his brief UFC career, Usman likely deserves a better opponent that Moraes. He has easily dispatched all competition placed in front of him due to his elite athleticism and wrestling background. Usman is a former Division II wrestling National Champion and a three-time Division II All-American. He excels at keeping his opponents off balance and rarely gets hit because he spends much of his bouts controlling his opponents on the mat. He is a top-10 170-pounder right now with room for significant improvement.

Moraes is undefeated (6-0-1) in his last seven fights, so he has earned the opportunity to attempt to pull the upset on Saturday. A grappling specialist that has spent a good portion of his career fighting at middleweight, the 35-year-old has just one knockout win in his entire career, a stat that becomes increasingly concerning as the level of competition across the cage improves. You have to at least threaten on the feet in order to successfully implement your ground game.

If you want to cherry pick regarding Usman's recent performances, the only knock is the fact that his last four fights have all gone to a decision. He won them all easily and he tends to control the pace of his bouts, so Usman remains a pretty good bet to rack up plenty of fantasy points. Moraes is a capable opponent that is on a nice run, but he is facing a stone-cold killer in Usman.

THE PICK: Usman

Other Bouts


Middleweight


Hector Lombard (34-7-1, 2NC) v. Anthony Smith (27-12-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Lombard ($8,100), Smith ($8,100)
Vegas Odds: Lombard (-110), Smith (-130)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Lombard

Lightweight


Gregor Gillespie (9-0-0) v. Jason Gonzalez (11-3-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Gillespie ($9,400), Gonzalez ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Gillespie (-510), Gonzalez (+340)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Gillespie

Heavyweight


Justin Ledet (8-0-0, 1NC) v. Zu Anyanwu (14-4-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Ledet ($9,100), Anyanwu ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Ledet (-360), Anyanwu (+300)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Ledet

Lightweight


Tony Martin (12-3-0) v. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Martin ($7,800), Aubin-Mercier ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Martin (-115), Aubin-Mercier (-125)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Martin

Heavytweight


Anthony Hamilton (15-7-0) v. Daniel Spitz (5-1-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Hamilton ($8,800), Spitz ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Hamilton (-230), Spitz (+170)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Hamilton

Bantamweight


Luke Sanders (11-1-0) v. Felipe Arantes (18-7-1, 2NC)
DraftKings Salaries: Sanders ($9,000), Arantes ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Sanders (-260), Arantes (+180)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Sanders

Lightweight


Jason Saggo (12-3-0) v. Gilbert Burns (11-2-0)
DraftKings Salaries: Saggo ($7,900), Burns ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Saggo (-110), Burns (-130)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Burns

All odds taken from BestFightOdds.com on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 12.
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.
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