This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC Vegas 31 was supposed to be headlined by Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez before the former was forced to withdraw due to injury. It's a bummer that we won't get to see that fight for a while, but this new main event has all sorts of potential.
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 - Lightweight
Makhachev is probably the best fighter in the UFC that the casual fan does not know about. This is a guy with legitimate world title potential, and it could happen sooner rather than later. He's 8-1 in his first nine UFC bouts, with the one setback being a fluky knockout at the hands of Adriano Martins back in October 2015. Makhachev enters having won seven straight. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on Makhachev's schedule. He fought Davi Ramos in September 2019 and then found himself on the sidelines until March of this year. In between, fights against both Alexander Hernandez and Rafael dos Anjos were cancelled.
Moises is also hot, entering have won three in a row against decent competition (Hernandez, Bobby Green, Michael Johnson). A product of Dana White's Contender Series: Brazil, Moises is still just 26 years old. He's shown a bunch of potential thus far and still has plenty of runway ahead of him regardless of the result here.
Neither of these guys accomplish much on the feet, as both average less than three significant strikes landed per minute. It's Makhachev's grappling game that will likely be the key to the entire fight. Islam averages 3.46 takedowns per 15 minutes and lands them and an eye-popping 68-percent clip. Moises defends the takedown at 63 percent, which is fine, but not great. As good as Moises is on the mat, he's at risk of being pinned to the ground for rounds at a time if he lets Makhachev get on top of him.
$9,400 is a massive salary and I'm always extremely hesitant to roster anyone at that price tag because the margin for error is zero, but Makhachev stands an excellent chance of becoming a UFC champion one day – he's that good. I don't have all that much interest in Moises as an underdog play simply because his opponent is so damn talented.
THE PICK: Makhachev
Co-Main Event - Women's Bantamweight
This is the end of one era and beginning of another, as Reneau is scheduled to retire following this bout, while Tate returns for the first time since November 2016.
Reneau has been a good soldier and I'm happy the UFC is giving her one final opportunity. Yes, she has lost four fights in a row, doesn't have a victory dating back to February 2018 and turned 44 years of age last month, but has fought everyone put in front of her since arriving on the scene back in January 2015 and has never once complained. She deserves credit for making it this far considering she was splitting her time between training and working as a Phys Ed. teacher in a California high school.
Tate last fought on November 12, 2016 – a unanimous decision loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. She intended to take some time off following that fight, but opted for retirement instead. Tate had two children during her time away before announcing her plans to return this past March. Tate is going to be 35 years of age next month, so she's well past her prime from an athletic standpoint.
I openly admit I have less than no idea what to expect from Tate moving forward. She wasn't exactly setting the world on fire before stepping aside. She keeps herself in good shape and is talented enough on the mat to remain competitive, but it's a reach to expect her to remain competitive against the top bantamweights on the roster. I imagine the UFC brass will have to be fairly careful regarding who they match her up against moving forward.
I know the time away is a major concern, but I'm pretty surprised Tate isn't an even bigger favorite for this one. She's definitely a "name" and Reneau, by her own admission, is headed out the door. You have to take Tate to win here, but I couldn't begin to tell you how it's going to happen. Anything from a dominant effort to a grinding slog would appear to be on the table.
THE PICK: Tate
I can say with near certainty this is last call for Stephens. He is winless in his past five fights (0-4, 1NC) and hasn't won a bout since February 2018. Stephens was due to face Drakkar Klose in April before Klose suffered a spinal injury after Stephens pushed him at the weigh-in, and the fight had to be cancelled. You can't make this stuff up. Stephens made his living as a power puncher with an iron chin, but his durability has faded in recent years, and it's fair to wonder if his body has simply given out on him. It's an eerily similar situation to what we have seen from guys like Donald Cerrone and Frankie Edgar lately. Stephens turned 35 years old this past May.
Gamrot spend his entire pro career on the European regional circuit before arriving in the UFC last October. He dropped a split decision to Guram Kutateladze in his company debut before knocking out Scott Holtzman this past April. Our exposure to Gamrot is very small, but he looks like an athletic fighter with a solid all-around skill set.
Stephens' biggest advantage will be the level of competition he has faced. He has been in the Octagon with the likes of Calvin Kattar, Yair Rodriguez (twice), Zabit Magomedsharipov, Jose Aldo, Edgar, Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Charles Oliveira, and many others. Gamrot's best opponent is probably former UFC fighter Norman Parke, who he has fought three times, going 2-0 (1NC) against him.
I'm hesitant to write off a veteran like Stephens when he has to know full well his back is up against the wall, but "Lil Heathen" looks totally shot. The hope is that he lands one big shot that leads to a finish, but I imagine he's going to struggle to connect consistently against Gamrot. This is a clear choice.
THE PICK: Gamrot
This was originally scheduled to be Quarantillo vs. Herbert Burns before the latter was forced to withdraw.
The picture of inconsistency, Benitez is 6-4 in the UFC, including a 1-2 mark in his past three bouts. It should be noted that he is coming off an impressive knockout win over Justin Jaynes last December. Benitez has always been a well-rounded fighter. He has eight career wins via knockout and ten via submission. He's not the most durable guy in the world, and he's generally performed poorly against better competition, but Benitez has more talent than your typical fringe featherweight/lightweight (he has fought in both divisions) fighter.
"Billy Q" began his UFC run with three straight wins before a lopsided unanimous decision loss to Gavin Tucker, suffered a week after Benitez stopped Jaynes. Quarantillo racked up a bunch of stoppage wins on the regional circuit prior to his arrival on the scene and has already picked up both a knockout and submission win in his first four bouts with the UFC. The Tucker fight was ugly, but on the whole, Quarantillo has performed better than expected in the early going.
I have a problem getting behind Quarantillo over the long term simply because he's reckless to a fault. He lands 7.03 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 4.37 per minute. Both of those are huge numbers and massive compared to what Benitez averages (4.38 landed/3.26 absorbed).
I'd term Quarantillo a live underdog here, but I still can't pick him to win outright. He hasn't shown any ability to tailor his game plan to specific opposition and Benitez has some talent.
THE PICK: Benitez