Here's some advice for who to pick in your DraftKings lineup for Saturday's UFC Fight 96 in Portland, Oregon, headlined by John Lineker vs. John Dodson on FOX Sports 1.
Before we get into it, though, DraftKings made some changes to Fantasy MMA this week that come into effect on this card. Line-ups will now consist of six fighters instead of five. Line-ups will still have a salary cap of $50,000, so overall salaries will be lower.
A new points system was introduced as well, with significant strikes getting 0.5 points, advances on the mat getting 3 points, takedowns getting 5 points, guard reversals and sweeps getting 5 points, and knockdowns getting 10 points.
Wins inside the first round are now worth 90 points, inside the second round worth 70 points, inside the third round worth 45 points, inside the fourth and fifth rounds worth 40 points, and decision wins now worth 30 points.
Top Target: Louis Smolka ($9,400)
Louis Smolka comes into UFC Fight Night 96 riding an impressive four-fight win streak with three finishes in that span. He is 5-1 overall in the UFC, and he is on the brink of breaking into the title picture with another win. He was scheduled to fight Sergio Pettis, but Pettis pulled out due to injury, and Smolka now fights late replacement Brendan Moreno, who is on the current season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Moreno has already been defeated on the show, but still gets a UFC shot at just 22-years-old. Moreno is a tall flyweight, but he is still raw and needs a lot of seasoning, and a debut against Smolka on short notice is a tough task. Smolka has grown into a more complete fighter since coming into the UFC, and he is an aggressive, yet smart, fighter. He has good striking and excellent submissions. He will be looking to take Moreno down, and he has excellent ground-and-pound. At a $9,400 salary, Smolka has the highest salary on the card, but with the changes in the scoring system, he is the top play on the card.
I expect him to finish Moreno in the first round, but even if that doesn't happen, I don't see it lasting much longer than that. Roll with Smolka as your top play.
Value Target: John Lineker ($8,100)
John Lineker is in his second straight main event as he takes on John Dodson. Both men have the same salary at $8,100, but I like Lineker's value more there. He is one of the hardest hitting fighters at 135 pounds, and we have all seen his finishing abilities. He also has excellent overall skills and is a threat to anyone in the division. Dodson has the speed edge over Lineker, but if Lineker can connect, even Dodson will go down.
Dodson is a range fighter as he uses his speed to keep a distance, but he isn't a particularly great striker. He can finish opponents when he has them in trouble, but Lineker has a chin. Dodson would be best served keeping Lineker out of the pocket and looking to land the perfect punch, but Dodson's speed starts to play with his cardio, and he has been known to gas out in fights. The betting odds favor Dodson, and this is a perfect set-up for Lineker. This is a tough fight to predict on how it will go, whether it goes the distance or someone scores a finish. The odds of a finish are higher for Lineker, and he does have good takedowns should Dodson pressure him in the clinch. Dodson won't wanna go strike-for-strike with Lineker.
I like Lineker to win this fight and I think his value is excellent at his salary.
Target To Avoid: Alex Oliveira ($7,200)
With the new line-up rules of six fighters on your roster, it is hard to wanna avoid some lower-level salaried fighters. If you are looking to pass up one fighter on this card, I recommend that being Alex Oliveira. Oliveira is a skilled fighter, without question, and he has a good 4-2 record in the UFC. He has bounced between the lightweight and welterweight divisions, and after fighting at 170 pounds for his last two fights, he is going back down to 155 pounds for Saturday.
He has a tough task in front of him in the form of Will Brooks, the former Bellator Lightweight Champion making his second Octagon appearance. Brooks won a decision over Ross Pearson in his first UFC fight, a bout he took on short notice. Brooks now has had a full training camp to prepare for this fight, and he has shown to be one of the best 155-pound fighters in the world. Brooks likes to take his opponents down, but he is a quality striker as well. Oliviera has some talent, but Brooks' skill should be the difference in this fight.
I don't like Oliveira to score the win, and with this new scoring system, a win is very valuable. I recommend avoiding Oliveira, especially after him missing weight.
Underdog Target: Jonathan Wilson ($7,500)
Even with the new six-fighter system, you still need some underdogs to come through and score wins if you wanna place in the money in these contests. I like Jonathan Wilson as an underdog with the potential for a finish victory. Wilson will be taking on Ion Cutelaba on Saturday as both look to bounce back from knockout losses in their last fights.
It was the first loss for Wilson, ending his perfect 7-0 record. In those seven wins, six have come by knockout for Wilson, and many of those have come inside the first round. He is a powerful striker with good speed and good takedown defense, but he has shown to be a one-round fighter for most of his career. He got tired quickly in the second round before being finished in his last fight. However, for that one round, he is very dangerous, especially at range with his left hand.
I like Wilson at his salary as Cutelaba may be overmatched in this one.
Ryan Frederick: Louis Smolka ($9,400), Will Brooks ($9,000), John Lineker ($8,100), Nate Marquardt ($8,000), Andre Fili ($7,700), Jonathan Wilson ($7,500)
I have Louis Smolka, John Lineker and Jonathan Wilson on my roster with my reasons stated above as I like all three to get wins. Rounding out my team is Will Brooks, Nate Marquardt and Andre Fili. Brooks is going to win his fight against Alex Oliveira, and there is extra motivation there for Brooks as he was visibly upset about Oliveira missing weight. I think it motivates him to a finish.
Nate Marquardt was on the first UFC card in Portland, and he knocked out Demian Maia in less than a minute. It is a perfect spot for him to bounce back against Tamdan McCrory. Andre Fili is taking a tough fight against Hacran Dias on short notice, but it is his chance to break out with a solid performance. Dias missed weight and Fili is a sneaky pick to get a win.
Paul Fontaine: Louis Smolka ($9,400), Walt Harris ($8,800), John Lineker ($8,100), Nate Marquardt ($8,000), Cody East ($7,900), Jonathan Wilson ($7,500)
Smolka is terribly underrated. Dude is 11-1 with the only loss coming by split decision He's also got KO power at flyweight. Jump on this dude. "The Big Ticket" Walt Harris can KO anyone with one punch and he's going to turn Shamil's lights out when the big Russian goes in for a takedown. I've gotta go with Lineker in the main event. That fight could end early or they could go balls to the wall for five rounds. Either way, lot of points unless Dodson finishes him early which I don't think will happen.
Nate The Great's best days are behind him but he still can knock people out, as evidenced by his finish win over CB Dollaway. McCrory is vulnerable to getting hit by that kind of shot that floored CB and we're getting a good price. Cody East is like Walt Harris in that he usually wins by finish and it's usually early. This time he's up against Curtis Blaydes, a wrestler. If he catches him early, it's over and that's what I think will happen. Lastly, I'm going with Jonathan Wilson, who lost to unbeaten Luis Henrique da Silva in his last fight. He should rebound here with his first UFC win and send Ion Cutelaba back to Moldova to fight in regionals.
Peach Machine: Louis Smolka ($9,400), Will Brooks ($9,000), Curtis Blaydes ($8,300), John Dodson ($8,100), Andre Fili ($7,700), Zak Ottow ($7,300)
Dodson is too fast, and Lineker is slow. The Magician will win and probably drag it out for 5 rounds. POINTS! Brooks is awesome and Oliveira is on his way out. Fili is a sleeper pick. Same with Ottow. I love Smolka, as in, I want to marry him. He's also an excellent fighter. Blaydes is a pick against East. I think he gets the KO.