This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
A top bantamweight contender will emerge Saturday in Las Vegas, and with the addition a high-quality scrap added from UFC 262, the result is fight fans getting to see one of the best-quality free cards of the year.
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 $350k 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 - Bantamweight
This will be Font's first main event with the UFC, and he has more than earned it, collecting three straight victories over Marlon Moraes (TKO), Ricky Simon (unanimous decision) and new Bellator bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis (unanimous decision). Font remains an unknown among casual fans, but he's really good. He has extremely fast hands and is excellent at stringing together combinations. On top of that, he's exceedingly durable, having never been knocked out in his professional career. Font will be turning 34 years of age late next month, and I like the idea of the UFC pushing him to see exactly what they have here.
A former UFC Bantamweight Champion, Garbrandt was scheduled to face Deiveson Figueiredo for the UFC Flyweight Championship last November despite never having fought at 125 pounds in his pro career. A torn bicep forced Cody to withdraw, and he later tested positive for COVID-19. He has elected to stay at 135 pounds for the moment, which is probably the right decision. Garbrandt has been guilty of being way too reckless inside the Octagon in the past, but he picked his shots much better in a knockout win over Raphael Assuncao in his most recent fight last June. Cody was never going to defeat high-end competition on a consistent basis if he disregarded his defense, and I honestly didn't think he was capable of making the change. It was a pleasant surprise.
If this is a striking battle, as expected, Cody is going to have to figure out a way to make up a massive six-inch reach disadvantage. It's a real issue that is made all the more surprising by the fact the two men are the exact same height. Garbrandt, while having a background in wrestling, averages less than a takedown per 15 minutes worth of action, so I doubt that will be the route he goes.
This has the look and feel of a pick 'em. I'm not thrilled that Font, who I like just a tad better if the two men were evenly priced, costs $400 more than Cody. Ultimately, I would like to see another strong follow-up effort from Garbrandt against a quality opponent to see if his dominance of Assuncao was anything more than going up against an aging opponent. I'm about fifty/fifty as to whether it will carry over or not. That's enough for me to slightly lean in Font's direction.
THE PICK: Font
Co-Main Event - Women's Strawweight
The inaugural UFC Women's Strawweight Champion, Esparza is in the midst of her best run to date. She has won four in a row dating back to April 2019, although all four have come via decision and the past two have been of the "split" variety. Esparza has had plenty of success considering her offensive game is limited. Carla accomplishes little on the feet, averaging just 2.29 significant strikes landed per minute. On the flip side, she does average 3.44 takedowns per 15 minutes, although that comes with just a 35-percent success rate on her tries.
Yan has been brilliant in the UFC, winning all six of her bouts, all via decision. Included in that stretch are victories over Claudia Gadelha, Angela Hill and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The complete opposite of Esparza, Yan is all about volume on the feet. She has more power than Esparza, but she also lands with more consistently. Yan averages 6.42 significant strikes per minute, nearly three times Esparza's number.
Esparza's ceiling has been firmly established, while Yan still has theoretical upside. Any Esparza victory will have to be of the slow, grinding variety and that could prove difficult against an opponent in Yan who defends the takedown at a 75 percent clip. It goes without saying that Yan will have a massive advantage for as long as this fight remains standing.
If you think Esparza has a chance, then she's definitely underpriced from a DK perspective. There is clear value between her +105 Vegas odds and her $7600 salary. There's a non-zero chance she could pick up a couple takedowns and grind out a decision, but that is highly unlikely to lead to any significant fantasy production.
I would much rather bet on Yan's volume on the feet. Esparza has always been plenty tough, and it's easy to picture a scenario in which Yan lands a ton of strikes and Esparza somehow still hangs in there and sees the final bell.
THE PICK: Yan
A perfect 2-0 in the UFC, Dvorak will be searching for his sixteenth straight victory. His last lost came on May 11, 2012. Dvorak has began his run with the company with unanimous decision victories over Jordan Espinosa and Bruno Silva. Although he has yet to pick up a stoppage win with the company, Dvorak has displayed a nice mix of both power (eight knockouts) and a respectable ground game (seven submissions) over the course of his career. The competition level he has gone up against hasn't been great, but Dvorak won't turn 29 years of age until next month, and there is clear potential here given the lack of depth in the division.
Paiva represents Dvorak's best opponent to date, although he too has been up and down. He originally earned his UFC opportunity with a split decision victory on Dana White's Contender Series: Brazil. Paiva went on to drop his first two UFC bouts (Kai Kara-France, Rogerio Bontorin) before rebounding to win his last two (Mark De La Rosa, Zhalgas Zhumagulov). The obvious concern is that Kara-France and Bontorin are considerably better than De La Rosa and Zhumagulov. Paiva knocked out De La Rosa, but he has generally had difficulty stopping his competition over the course of his career. 13 of his 20 victories have been earned via decision.
Neither man has fought much in the way of high quality competition, although an argument can easily be made that Kara-France and Bontorin (who defeated Matt Schnell at UFC 262 last week) are better than anyone Dvorak has seen to date.
Still, Dvorak looks like an underrated play despite entering as a favorite. I think he is much more explosive and has a much more well-rounded game that Paiva. The lone concern is that the Brazilian is three inches taller, but Paiva's power isn't all that threatening. I like Dvorak here by a comfortable margin.
THE PICK: Dvorak
This is probably the best fight on the entire card. These two were scheduled to fight at UFC 262 last week before a minor COVID issue in Hermansson's camp led to a delay.
Widely viewed as one of the top prospects in the entire sport, Shahbazyan is coming off his first UFC main event last August, which coincidentally also resulted in his first professional defeat – a knockout at the hands of Derek Brunson. It was a significant step up in competition for Edmen, and he didn't handle it well. Shahbazyan is a pure striker. He trains with Edmond Tarverdyan in Glendale, California, who is best known for his work with Ronda Rousey. While the Brunson fight was a disaster, Shahbazyan's long-term potential at age 23 is obvious.
Hermansson is also trending in the wrong direction, having lost two of his past three. Hermansson had to endure a pair of opponent changes (Darren Till, Kevin Holland) before finally meeting Marvin Vettori in his most recent bout last December. Jack was dominated from bell-to-bell by Vettori, who will challenge Israel Adesanya for the UFC Middleweight Championship next month. Hermansson possesses elite cardio and the ability to push the pace on his competition like few others can, but Vettori was able to match him in both of those areas. I'm tempted to give Hermansson a pass given how good Vettori is, but he needs to rebound here.
I'm very concerned with how quickly the UFC is pushing Shahbazyan. Prior to the Brunson bout, his previous fights with the company came against Darren Stewart, Charles Byrd, Jack Marshman, and Brad Tavares. Brunson is miles ahead of any of those guys, and Hermansson is probably better than Brunson. Some time ago, the UFC got lazy with its booking of both Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant and lost two marketable young fighters. I'm worried that they are heading down the same road with Shahbazyan.
There would appear to be a pretty good chance this fight is contested on the feet. Edmen averages 4.44 takedowns per 15 minutes, but Hermansson defends them at a 75-percent clip. I'm confident Jack is the stronger man, and I don't think Shahbazyan will be able to get him to the mat with ease, if at all.
Should we end up in a striking battle, the technical edge goes to Shahbazyan, although Hermansson has better cardio and will enter with a three-inch reach edge despite being an inch shorter. I'm rolling with the favorite in Hermansson, but Shahbazyan provides excellent value given his talent level and how cheap he is.
THE PICK: Hermansson