This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Saturday's main event has the potential to be one of the most entertaining ground battles in the history of the sport if this fight ends up on the mat. It also features to competitors who are badly in need of a win in order to stay immediately relevant at 170 pounds.
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 six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
(Please note that DraftKings altered their scoring system in December 2016 to add a new fighter to the lineup and adjust scoring. The most recent point values are listed below.)
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
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 - Welterweight
Askren's first two UFC fights have not gone according to plan. He should have been finished in the early stages of his company debut against Robbie Lawler in March, but Askren somehow miraculously survived and submitted Robbie late in Round 1 with the help of referee Herb Dean. Askren wasn't so lucky his second time out, as he was knocked out by a Jorge Masvidal knee just five seconds into the fight. Askren spent years prior to his move to the UFC fighting nobodies and it's fair to wonder if he's not quite as good as we all originally envisioned. Everyone knows Askren's wrestling is his biggest strength, but since he's been in the Octagon for a grand total of 3:25, it's difficult to get a read on how his skills are translating to the company.
Maia lost three fights in a row from July 2017 to May 2018. Those three losses came against arguably the three best 170-pounders in the world – Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, and Tyron Woodley. Since then, Maia has scored impressive wins over Lyman Good and Anthony Rocco Martin. I freely admit I thought Demian was nearing the end of the line following that rough patch, but he has more than rebounded to show he has plenty left in the tank for a soon-to-be 42-year-old. Maia offers just enough on the feet to ensure his wrestling/ground game remains a threat.
I think Askren has a bit more power, but I couldn't begin to wager what would happen if this fight turns into a kickboxing match for any real length of time. The sample size is minuscule, but I've been less than impressed with Askren's striking defense thus far. As good as Maia is on the mat, his takedown defense for his UFC career is just 65 percent. That's barely average although that number is less relevant when it comes to Maia than your average competitor, simply because he's so effective off of his back.
I'm going to take Askren, but I'm neither happy nor confident about it. I could see Askren grinding his way to a victory with a bunch of takedowns, and I could also see him getting Maia to the mat and instantly finding himself in a guillotine he cannot escape. I think Maia is the better DraftKings play given the salaries, so exposure to both in the five-round main event isn't the worst idea. The discrepancy in salary between the two is a bit much for me. I would feel better about Askren if he was more like $8200 or $8300.
THE PICK: Askren
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
Johnson spent his last four fights at featherweight (2-2) but he will return to 155 pounds for this match up against Ray. "The Menace" has had a baffling career. He's a talented guy, but he has never been able to win with any consistency. Johnson is 3-6 in his last nine fights dating back to August 2015. Of course, a bunch of those setbacks came against literally the very best the sport has to offer (Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje, Nate Diaz, etc.), but Johnson has never been able to string together wins over high-level competition. Yet, he does have victories in his career over Dustin Poirier and Edson Barboza, so he's obviously talented.
Ray is 1-3 in his past four fights and could theoretically be fighting for his job on Saturday. "Braveheart" is tough as nails and a competent all-around competitor, but he's limited athletically and has struggled every single time he's been tasked with facing better competition. I'm not quite sure Johnson falls into that category these days, but he is definitely a better fighter than a couple guys Ray has faced recently – Kajan Johnson and Jessin Ayari.
My biggest knock on Johnson has always been his poor fight IQ. He has a background in wrestling and can do other things inside the Octagon, but instead prefers to stand and bang. It cost him the Gaethje fight and has lowered whatever theoretical ceiling still remains. He's a better fighter than Ray, definitely has more finishing power, and he has to be the pick, but I like Ray as a long shot DraftKings play. His price is low and getting exposure to Johnson's opposition is always a good idea considering the amount of mental mistakes he makes when he fights. Johnson needs a win no matter how it materialzies, but I highly, highly doubt he is going to change his style of fighting. I don't think he could do so even if he wanted to. It makes him a risky play at his hefty price.
THE PICK: Johnson
On the heels of a three-fight losing streak from December 2016 to March 2018, Yoder is now on search of her third-straight victory in a span of just 11 months. The results haven't always been pretty and the victories have come over lousy competition (Amanda Cooper, Syuri Kondo), but Yoder's job is no longer on the line. "The Spider Monkey" has an excellent frame (5-foot-7) for the 115-pound division and is a BJJ brown belt, but she doesn't have a single knockout victory in her entire career and lacks power despite having a significant size advantage in most every fight in which she competes.
Markos has been the very definition of roster depth since she made her UFC debut back in December 2014. Her record with the company is below .500 (5-6-1) and she too, is without a knockout victory in her career. Markos is exceedingly durable and plenty tough, but she's giving up plenty of size to Yoder. Any Markos victory will have to be of the slow, grinding variety. She would be wise to keep firing off takedown attempts even if the first few are unsuccessful.
The only thing I'm comfortable with here is saying this fight will go the distance. There aren't a ton of underdogs I like to win outright on this card, so I am going to make my stand with Yoder. Her three-inch height and six-inch reach advantages figure to play a big part in a bout in which neither woman is adept at stopping their opposition. I think Markos has a difficult time if her takedowns aren't consistently landing.
THE PICK: Yoder
This is a nice little fight and one I think is getting overlooked. As has been the case for quite a while, Dariush remains one of the most underrated fighters on the UFC roster at age 30. His fights tend to be slow paced and boring, and his finishes unspectacular. He also has a history of starting slowly. His record with the company is exceptional (10-4-1), so he's doing something right, but fans aren't exactly banging down the door to see Dariush compete. He's not changing at this point, nor should he given the success he has had.
Camacho is coming off his most impressive UFC effort – a knockout win over Nick Hein in June. Camacho made a name for himself knocking out nobodies on the regional scene, but he has struggled since the competition level has risen. He's a pure brawler. There's a zero percent chance Camacho is going to technically outpoint Dariush, so going for broke early is probably his best chance of winning. It's unlikely to happen, but Dariush has been knocked out in two of his last five fights.
This is a fight in which Dariush seemingly has nothing to gain and everything to lose and those are always dangerous, but he's a better mixed martial artist than Camacho and I imagine that will be more than enough in the long run to earn him the victory. It may not be visually pleasing, but a win is a win. He's one of my favorite plays on the card given his salary. I also expected Vegas to have him as a larger favorite. I was thinking more like (-175) or (-180) at a minimum.
THE PICK: Dariush