This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The UFC is looking to get a top middleweight contender out of Saturday's middleweight main event in Las Vegas, and DraftKings is upping its prize pools to keep up with the current trend of its big GPPs filling early.
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, including a $400k MMA Throwdown with $100k to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Control Time: +0.03 PTS/SECOND
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
Quick Win Bonus: +25 PTS
(fight is finished in 60 seconds or less)
- Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
- A Significant Strike will count as both a strike and a significant strike and will be worth a total of 0.4 Pts
- Control Time is the time spent in the dominant position on the ground or in the clinch. +0.03 points are awarded per second.
- A Knockdown is awarded to a fighter who knocks his/her opponent down due to debilitation for what the official scorers consider an appreciable amount of time.
- A Quick Win Bonus is awarded to the winning fighter if they win in the first round in 60 seconds or less.
Main Event - Middleweight
This is essentially a must-win for Brunson despite the fact he enters having recorded three-straight victories. Now 37 years of age, Brunson has a long history of being knocked out in the biggest fights of his career. Brunson's six biggest fights have come against Israel Adesanya, Jacare Souza (twice), Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero and Anderson Silva. He got shafted via decision against Silva, a fight in which he clearly won, but Brunson was knocked out in the other five bouts and his poor track record in primetime fights is clearly concerning. Holland isn't on the same level yet as some of the names I just mentioned, but he's a rising star in a deep division and Brunson needs to show well here.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic afforded Holland the opportunity to fight early and often last year, and he made the most of his opportunities. His five victories in 2020 tied the UFC record for most wins in any one calendar year. That's impressive as heck. It's even more impressive when you take into account the fact Holland didn't fight until mid-May. Those five wins came over Jacare, Charlie Ontiveros, Darren Stewart, Joaquin Buckley and Anthony Hernandez. The Stewart win was via split decision, the other four via knockout. Holland is 28 years old and appears to be genuinely improving as he fights more frequently.
Any stand-up affair should favor Holland in a major way. He has more power and a higher fight IQ. Brunson is explosive in short spurts, but it's fair to wonder when that is going to evaporate given the fact he is getting up there in age. Brunson always shows up in excellent shape and I expect him to be fine in a fight scheduled for five rounds despite the fact he's more than eight years older than Holland.
This fight figures to come down to Holland's ability to stay on his feet. The early returns aren't positive. Brunson averages north of three (3.02) takedowns per 15 minutes, and Holland defends them at just a 52 percent clip. The one positive for Holland is that Brunson connects on just 31 percent of his tries. Still, the fear of Brunson using his power wrestling to rack up control time on Holland is enough for me to take the veteran in a minor upset.
THE PICK: Brunson
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
Gillespie began his UFC run with a half-dozen victories in a row, including the final five via stoppage. He looked like a potential future star at 155 pounds before being knocked out by Kevin Lee with a head kick in his most recent fight back in November of 2019. Gillespie has been on the sidelines for well over a year and didn't appear to have a fight scheduled at any point during that span. Gillespie has made a name for himself in the UFC on the strength of his wrestling. "The Gift" is averaging a whopping 7.02 takedowns per 15 minutes, while connecting on a respectable 47 percent of his tries. His cardio is excellent, and Gillespie possesses the ability to control the duration of a bout from top position.
Riddell is 3-0 in the UFC, although the competition has been subpar (Alex da Silva, Magomed Mustafaev, Jamie Mullarkey), and all three wins have come via decision. Riddell is just 29 years of age, but he has all of 10 professional fights under his belt, and Gillespie is probably twice as good as anyone he has faced to date. Riddell is a pure striker, which isn't a surprise given the fact he is part of the City Kickboxing team under Eugene Bareman that includes Israel Adesanya, Alexander Volkanovski and Dan Hooker.
Riddell can probably hold his own here in an extended kickboxing match, but I have little faith of his ability to stay off of his back for an extended period of time. Although the sample size is small, he defends the takedown at just a 60 percent clip. Gillespie is the type of fighter who will fire off a fourth, fifth and sixth attempt if the first three fail. It's going to be a challenge for Riddell to remain upright for 15 minutes.
No reason to overthink this one.
THE PICK: Gillespie
Editor's Note (3/18): Mayes has withdrawn from this fight due to undisclosed reasons, and the UFC has replaced him with former Dana White's Contender Series fighter Harry Hunsucker. Tuisvasa is a (-385) betting favorite for the matchup, and DraftKings has yet to add a salary for Hunsucker as of Thursday afternoon.
This fight won't impact the rankings at 170 pounds in any way, but I expect a highly competitive and entertaining bout. I doubt it sees the final bell considering how aggressively both men fight.
Song is 4-1 in his past five fights, with only a unanimous decision defeat to Alex Morono on his ledger during that span. Three of the four wins have come via knockout. The 31-year-old fought UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya way back in August 2015, falling via KO in just under two minutes. Song (6-foot) has an intriguing frame for the division, but he is the type of fighter who is willing to eat a shot in order to land two of his own. While he averages 4.30 significant strikes landed per minute, he absorbs nearly as many at 4.20 per minute. Song is a ton of fun to watch, but I doubt he possesses the technical skill to make any sort of run against better competition.
Griffin has been in the UFC for nearly five years now. His record with the company is well below .500 (4-6) with his most notable win coming against Mike Perry. Griffin has faced far better competition than Song (Colby Covington, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, Alex Oliveira, Morono), but has come up short in each of those fights. Griffin is tough as nails and ridiculously durable (one career knockout defeat), so it never feels comfortable to bet against him despite his struggles.
Two things here lead me to pick Griffin. First is the fact he has a five-inch reach edge despite being an inch shorter than Song. Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that Griffin averages 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes while Song defends them at just a 45 percent clip. Wrestling isn't Griffin's first preference, but it's his clearest path to victory in this fight.
Toss in the fact Song is fighting in the United States for the first time in his pro career, and I have to go with Griffin.
THE PICK: Griffin
Cheyanne Buys (5-1-0) v. Montserrrat Ruiz (9-1-0)
DK Salaries: Buys ($9,100), Ruiz ($7,100)
Vegas Odds: Buys (-355), Ruiz (+295)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Buys