This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
MMA is back. After what felt like ages on the sidelines, the UFC will make its return to network TV (ABC), where it will feature a former champion looking to climb back up the ranks.
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 $300k Island Throwdown with $100k to first place. DraftKings is also offering a survivor contest in January for $20 which spans three Fight Island events. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
Note: Scoring has been updated during the break! 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.
Now, on to the fights...
Main Event - Featherweight
After going nearly six years (August 2013 to April 2019) without a defeat, Holloway will be looking to avoid his fourth setback in his past five fights when he takes on Kattar.
Holloway struggled massively in dropping his UFC Featherweight Championship to Alexander Volkanovski back in December 2019. The two fought in an immediate rematch seven months later, a fight in which Max looked considerably better before dropping a split decision. Holloway has been around seemingly forever, but he somehow turned just 29 years of age last month. He should have plenty of years of peak physical performance ahead of him, and I'm willing to write off his back-to-back defeats at the hands of Volkanovski as nothing more than a poor stylistic matchup for the Hawaiian.
That being said, Holloway better show up ready to fight Saturday because he's going up against an underrated, world-class opponent. Kattar joined the company back in July 2017 as nothing more than roster depth. He has gone 6-2 with the company, with the defeats coming at the hands of Renato Moicano and Zabit Magomedsharipov. Kattar has a ton of power and fast, fast hands. Both men are 5-foot-11, but Kattar's three-inch reach edge could very well come into play in what I expect to be a kickboxing match.
I'm extremely intrigued at seeing how this one plays out. Kattar clearly has more knockout power, but few featherweights in the history of the sport are able to string together combinations as consistently and creatively as we see from Holloway. Max (4.52 significant strikes absorbed per minute) also displays better stand-up defense than Calvin (5.66 significant strikes absorbed per minute).
I'd be pretty surprised if this isn't a competitive bout, and I'm stoked that it's scheduled for five rounds. I ultimately find it difficult to pick against Max in what projects as a stand-up affair, but Kattar is most certainly underpriced. Holloway is by far the most popular fighter on this card and I imagine that will depress Kattar's overall DK ownership. If you are the type to make multiple lineups – which we always suggest – I would ensure I had more than one piece of Kattar. Fighters of his skill level rarely come along at $7300. Still, I think Max wins a tight one.
THE PICK: Holloway
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
With the UFC in cost cutting mode, there is a non-zero chance that the loser of this bout between two aging veterans could either be handed his walking papers or retire, given the fact both men have openly talked about stepping away in the past.
Condit snapped a five-plus year losing streak with a unanimous decision victory over Court McGee in October. It was a fight he clearly deserved to win but there was nothing in Condit's performance that would lead you to believe any sort of rebound is coming at age 36. Carlos has been fighting the best fighters in the world for the better part of the last two decades. It's entirely possible that all the wars he has been involved in over the years are simply catching up to him. Condit's chin appears to be weakening and his ability to string together consistent offense has seemingly all together vanished. The good news is that this appears to be a winnable fight for "The Natural Born Killer".
Brown turned 40 years of age last week. He is 3-6 in his last nine bouts dating back to July 2014, with his last four setbacks coming via stoppage. Like Condit, Brown has absorbed a ton of punishment. He was always the type of fighter to eat a shot in order to land two of his own, and those are the guys who tend to age the worst. Brown's lack of durability has been a question mark for years now, and he appears to only be able to generate offense in short spurts.
In many respects, these two guys are mirror images of each other. Two fighters who were legitimately at or near the top of their division in their prime, but who also have clearly little left in the tank. I criticize UFC's matchmaking all the time, but this one actually makes sense. Condit and Brown can't be going up against younger, hungrier opposition, so let them fight each other.
I have shockingly little feel for this fight given the fact these two men have north of 35 years of combined mixed martial arts experience. I THINK Condit has a little more gas left in the tank, but the range of outcomes here would appear to be enormous. I'm going to take Condit to win but I think Brown is the better DK play. I don't see a $1200 gap in salary between these two. In fact, no outcome here would surprise me.
THE PICK: Condit
This was scheduled to be Ponzinibbio v. Muslim Salikhov before the later was forced to withdraw last month due to issues stemming from the contraction of COVID-19.
The story here, as it was before the opponent change, is the return of Ponzinibbio. Santiago has been on the sidelines since November 2018. He was scheduled to fight Robbie Lawler this past October before that one fell apart. He hasn't fought in a long, long time, but Ponzinibbio looked like a legitimate title contender at 170 pounds the last time we saw him. He began his UFC run with a 2-2 record in his first four fights but has since won seven straight, including victories over Neil Magny and Gunnar Nelson. Ponzinibbio is an all-around threat who does his best work on the feet. He's an explosive athlete with 15 career wins via knockout.
Li had a three-fight winning streak snapped last March in a unanimous decision loss at the hands of Magny. Li has shown far more good than bad since joining the company way back in May 2014 but I've always been wary of his stand-up defense. Li has the power to cover up some of his technical issues but going blow-for-blow with Ponzinibbio is a recipe for potential disaster. Li is strong enough to get in tight to win positional battles but that's an area where Ponzinibbio typically excels. All in all, this just seems like a bad matchup for Li.
The main question at this point is how all the time off impacted Ponzinibbio. It certainly hasn't impacted his DK price tag, although he's a bit cheaper in terms of Vegas odds than I expected. If this fight happened two years or even a year and a half ago, I would have been shocked to find Ponzinibbio as anything less than a -315 favorite, with the potential for more. Li's a live underdog because he has power and has never been knocked out despite being in countless brawls, but I think there is a gap in technical skill here.
THE PICK: Ponzinibbio
Middleweight Akhmedov ran off a six-fight unbeaten streak (5-0-1) from November 2016 to December 2019 before receiving a step up in competition and dropping a unanimous decision to former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman this past August. Omari may have lost that one, but he has shown far more good than bad since joining the company back in November 2013 and remains one of the company's more underrated middleweights. The same goes for Breese, who won his first three UFC bouts before alternating wins and losses in his past four fights. One of the main reasons Breese remains a virtual unknown is because just two of his 14 career bouts have taken place in the United States. He's also been banged up, having not fought at all from May 2018 to February 2020. Breese is a big, physical middleweight. While the two are even in the reach department, Breese (6-foot-3) is three inches taller. It's imperative he try to remain on the outside against Akhmedov, who averages 2.56 takedowns per 15 minutes. Breese, on the other hand, hasn't scored a successful taken in his UFC career. He will have to try to string together combinations all while remaining aware of the constant threat of the takedown from Akhmedov. This is not a particularly deep card despite the fact it is the UFC's first show on ABC under its new contract with ABC/ESPN. There aren't a ton of underdogs I love outright, but Akhmedov seems perfectly capable of pulling an upset in what essentially sets up as a pick 'em. I'll take the slight salary relief he provides. THE PICK: Akhmedov
Editor's Note: Following the publication of this article, the scheduled matchup between Akhmedov and Breese was moved to UFC Fight Island 8 on January 20.