This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC Vegas 61 takes place Saturday, and Jon Litterine is back to break down the top fights, plus offer his DFS picks and predictions for the key matchups on the card.
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 rules are noted at the bottom of the column. Let's get to the action...
Main Event - Women's Strawweight
One of the most talented and gifted BJJ specialists in the sport today, Dern will be looking for her sixth win in her past seven fights. While the record looks great on paper, Dern's stand-up is well behind her ground game. It's understandable, and she's shown improvement on the feet at times, but there is still inconsistency in that area. It's fair to wonder if she will ever get to the level to allow Dern to compete with the best fighters in the division.
There's a non-zero chance Yan could be fighting for her job following back-to-back losses to Marina Rodriguez (split decision) and Carla Esparza (TKO). Yan won each of her first six fights with the company via unanimous decision, but she turned 33 years of age this past June and hasn't displayed any of the stopping power she showed prior to her arrival with the company. I'd wager the odds are quite high we have already seen the best Yan has to offer.
As great as Dern is on the mat, she isn't much of a wrestler. She averages a measly 0.46 takedowns per 15 minutes. With this fight scheduled for five rounds and Yan defending the takedown at a mediocre 65 percent clip, Dern would be wise to attempted repeated shots in hopes of limiting her opponent's openings on the feet. Even the ones that don't connect will have value.
In my opinion, the fact this is a five-round fight favors Dern. Yes, Yan may theoretically have the edge in a prolonged striking battle, but her lack of stopping power means Mackenzie should be able to survive any difficult moments. As long as Dern doesn't get reckless, she should win without issue.
In what will be a theme on this card, I don't love the salary, but Dern has a clear, overwhelming path to victory. She should be able to work Yan to the mat for long stretches at a time and take a decision. Her fantasy value will likely be tied to whether or not she can land plenty of ground-and-pound from a dominant position.
THE PICK: Dern
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
Always long on talent and at times short on production, Brown is in the midst of arguably his best run with the company. He's won three in a row and five of six dating back to June 2019, with his only defeat during that span coming at the hands of perennial contender Vicente Luque. Brown has excellent size for the division at 6-foot-3 and is an underrated athlete. I'm a fan.
The fact Trinaldo is still going strong at age 44 doesn't get the coverage it should. The fact he has won five of six fights dating back to November 2019 is nothing short of a miracle. Of course, four of the five victories have come via decision, but that's fine. Trinaldo is one of the most durable fighters in the history of the sport. He's never been stopped via strikes despite the fact we have seen him in significant trouble on countless occasions. This could all fall apart at any moment, but it hasn't yet.
Brown is going to enter with an overwhelming edge in both size and athleticism. He's six inches taller than Trinaldo and enters with a massive eight-inch reach edge. Francisco has this unique ability to draw his opposition into brawls, which almost always works in his favor. It's imperative he does it in this fight as well, because Randy is going to have an edge most everywhere else.
I think this is going to me a far more competitive fight than the DK salaries and Vegas odds would lead you to believe. Trinaldo's ability to take a beating and come back gives him significant value as a $6,900 punt play. As I mentioned earlier, he's at risk of seeing it all fall apart in an instant cause of his age, but I'll back Francisco at such a cheap price until I see it happen.
On the flip side, I think betting on Brown's athleticism to win is the way to go. Trinaldo isn't going to be a pushover, and Brown can't make any significant mistakes along the way, but "Rude Boy" should take this one.
THE PICK: Brown
At age 35 and the loser of back-to-back fights, it's last call for Barcelos. The Brazilian emerged victorious in each of his first five UFC bouts, but doesn't have a victory dating back to November 2020, and his wins -- Khalid Taha, Said Nurmagomedov, Carlos Huachin, Chris Gutierrez, Kurt Holobaugh -- have primarily come against lesser competition.
Jones is likely in even worse shape, also losing two in a row and with just one win (1-2, 1NC) in his first four fights with the company. The New Orleans native looks like an above-average athlete at times but appears to lack the technical skill to run off a prolonged winning streak in arguably the deepest division in the sport.
Barcelos has eight knockout victories in his pro career compared to just two via submission, but I actually like him better when he tries to work his ground game. He averages 1.66 takedowns per 15 minutes while absorbing 5.64 significant strikes per minute, making it difficult to succeed in wild brawls. Very few fighters on the roster can get away with the old "eat a strike to land two of your own" routine. Barcelos isn't one.
If there's a saving grace for Raoni here, it's that Jones' stand-up defense is even worse than his own. Jones lands 2.9 significant strikes per minute, while eating five. It's an absolutely impossible ratio to succeed with over the long term, making it imperative Jones -- who does have four career submission wins -- mix up the program here.
I like Barcelos to win, but his DK salary is way too high for my liking. He simply hasn't produced enough to give me confidence he is worth his $9,000 price tag. This is more a pick against Jones than a vote of confidence for Barcelos
THE PICK: Barcelos
This fight was scheduled to take place this past March, and then the following month before it fell apart on both occasions.
Oleinik has been trending downwards for the better part of the past four years. He has just one win in his past four fights dating back to December 2018, and that was a split decision against Tanner Boser in his most recent bout in June 2021. Latifi is extremely undersized at 5-foot-10, and his durability is questionable. It's a bad combination for the heavyweight division.
Oleinik is closing in on his 80th professional fight. It's a truly astronomical number for any competitor, let alone a guy who turned 45 years of age in late June. Oleinik has lost three of his last four. The recent struggles aren't a surprise given Oleinik's advanced age. Even a .500 record moving forward would have to be considered a victory.
Oleinik is going to have an overwhelming size advantage. He's four inches taller than Latifi in addition to possessing a massive seven-inch reach edge. While the numbers look great on paper, Aleksei doesn't have a knockout win since November 2014. Engaging Latifi in a reckless brawl is not the way to go about it in this fight.
I don't love Latifi, but he's younger and considerably more athletic. It would appear that Oleinik's only path to victory would be to clamp on one of his trademark submissions. That might be easier said than done considering Ilir has yet to be taken down in the UFC. Latifi surely knows that, so expect him to do whatever is necessary to remain upright.
Latifi has struggled enough that I don't think using Oleinik as a pure punt DK play is the worst thing in the world, but it's going to take a mistake from the former in order for the latter to emerge victorious.
THE PICK: Latifi
Note: All odds accurate as of time of posting, and taken from the DraftKings Sportsbook, if available, before searching elsewhere. Stay up to date for UFC Vegas 61 with more MMA betting content.
DraftKings MMA Scoring
Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.2 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.