DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 34 Preview

DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 34 Preview

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

Two fighters with their title hopes – and potentially careers – on the line headline Saturday's card at the UFC Apex Center in Las Vegas.

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 $500k 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.

Moves Scoring
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)

Scoring Notes

  • 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

Jared Cannonier (13-5-0) v. Kelvin Gastelum (17-7-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Cannonier ($8,700), Gastelum ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Cannonier (-150), Gastelum (+130)
Odds to Finish: -125

This is the rare bout in which both men are coming off a loss to the same opponent (Robert Whittaker). 

Gastelum won't turn 30 years of age and has long been underrated, but this is essentially a must-win for him. Gastelum has lost four of five dating back to April 2019. Yes, the setbacks came at the hands of the very best the division has to offer (Israel Adesanya, Whittaker, Darren Till, Jack Hermansson), but you are what your record says you are in this sport, and Gastelum's record says his lone win in well over two years was a unanimous decision over Ian Heinisch.

Cannonier had won three straight prior to the Whittaker loss, but he is in just as perilous shape as Gastelum due to the fact he's 37 years of age. Cannonier could walk away tomorrow and his UFC run would still be considered an overwhelming success. This is a guy who began his career with the company at heavyweight before moving up to light heavyweight and then middleweight. Cannonier has real power. His striking technique isn't the greatest, but he's very explosive for an older fighter and has legitimate one-punch stopping power. 

Gastelum, a natural welterweight, has been undersized most every single time he has stepped into the Octagon. This fight will be no different. Cannonier is two inches taller and enters with a six-inch reach edge. Both are concerning numbers for Kelvin in a fight which is projected to be primarily contested on the feet.

It won't be easy, but I think Gastelum would be wise to use his wrestling game here. That has long been an underrated skill of his despite the fact he averages just 1.15 takedowns per 15 minutes. Keep in mind Cannonier defends the takedown at just a 54 percent clip.

Cannonier will enter with the size and power edge, while Kelvin is the much more technical fighter of the two. I'm worried about Gastelum's ability to fight bigger opposition. He was totally eliminated by Chris Weidman solely because he was undersized. I think he's the better fighter, but the size difference is too much for me to get past.

THE PICK: Cannonier

Co-Main Event - Lightweight

Clay Guida (36-17-0) v. Mark O. Madsen (10-0-0)
DK Salaries: Guida ($7,100), Madsen ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Guida (+145), Madsen (-165)
Odds to Finish: +165

One of the most respected veterans in MMA history, Guida will be making the walk for his 31st UFC bout. He's been fighting the best the sport has to offer for better part of two decades. Guida's record the past five plus years is below .500 (4-5), but he has more energy than fighters half his age and has always been a fan favorite. Guida still has plenty of value, although I would argue this fight isn't the best use of his services.

Madsen has all of 10 professional fights under his belt despite the fact he turns 37 years of age in late-September. One of the most highly-regarded wrestlers to join the MMA ranks in recent memory, Madsen is a former Olympic silver medalist (2016). It's fair to wonder if Madsen's advanced age combined with his inexperience will hamper him over the long term, but there is no doubt he possesses one elite, world-class skill.

Madsen last fought in March 2020. Guida has fought twice since then. Madsen is certainly the more athletic of the two men, but Guida has given countless opponents issues due to his boundless energy and constant pressure. I could most definitely see an inexperienced mixed martial artist like Madsen being baffled by what Guida brings to the table. 

The sample size is very small, but Madsen is averaging 8.33 takedowns per 15 minutes. Guida's takedown defense is a respectable 68 percent, but facing a wrestler like Madsen is a different animal entirely. Guida is experienced and crafty enough to keep this fight close, but I have a difficult time seeing him being able to stay off his back for 15 minutes. 

THE PICK: Madsen
 

Heavyweight

Parker Porter (11-6-0) v. Chase Sherman (15-7-0)
DK Salaries: Porter ($7,000), Sherman ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Porter (+160), Sherman (-190)
Odds to Finish: -200

Sherman made his UFC debut back in August 2016 and proceeded to drop five of his first seven bouts with the company. His contract wasn't renewed and he went on to pick up three wins on the regional circuit before returning to the UFC in May 2020. He knocked out Ike Villanueva in his first fight back before dropping a unanimous decision to Andrei Arlovski this past April. It should go without saying that you are in trouble if you are dropping decisions to Arlovski at this stage of your career. He can be beaten by simply circling and fighting smart, but that's not really Porter's game. 

Porter, 36 years old, has competed in countless regional promotions including something called "Reality Fighting." He arrived on the scene almost exactly a year ago and has since been knocked out by Chris Daukaus and taken a unanimous decision from Josh Parisian. Porter is severely undersized for the division at just 6-0, and he's giving up four inches in height and three inches in reach to Sherman in what figures to be a kickboxing match. It's a recipe for potential disaster.

Neither of these fighters does much for me over the long-term. Both ceilings are very low, but this is a thin card and I advise DK players get a portion of this one considering it might end quickly.

Sherman has to be the pick give his size advantage and the fact he has gone up against better competition, but I'm not overly confident about it. I'd have no issue with a sprinkling of Porter in my lineups. The talent discrepancy between the two is miniscule.

THE PICK: Sherman
 

Flyweight

Alexandre Pantoja (23-5-0) v. Brandon Royval (12-5-0)
DK Salaries: Pantoja ($8,900), Royval ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Pantoja (-165), Royval (+145)
Odds to Finish: -110

Outside of the main event, this is the fight I'm looking forward to the most. It should be a high-paced, action-packed affair.

Pantoja is one of the best fighters in the UFC that no one seems to really know about. He's 5-2 in his past seven bouts dating back to May 2018, with the two defeats come against a former title holder in Deiveson Figueiredo and a sure-fire future title challenger in Askar Askarov. Oh, included in that stretch is a win over current UFC Flyweight Champion Brandon Moreno. Pantoja is active on the feet and very good on the mat. He might not be on the same tier as the top flyweights on the roster, but he's not far off.

A long-time LFA standout, Royval joined the UFC in May 2020 as a late-notice replacement. He went on to submit Tim Elliott and Kai Kara-France in his first two company bouts, earning a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus for each performance. Royval then went on to be knocked out by Moreno in his most recent bout this past November. That seemed like a concerning loss at the time, as nobody seemed to have any idea how tough and talented Moreno truly is. Now, it doesn't look all that bad.

Pantoja averages less than a takedown per 15 minutes (0.94), but Royval defends the takedown at just a 53-percent clip, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Brazilian tried to implement his wrestling game in some form or fashion.

I don't think there's a $1600 gap in salary between these two, but all the salaries on this card are wacky because there are very few big betting favorites in terms of the Vegas odds. Royval isn't a pushover by any means, but I like Pantoja a lot. I'll take him by decision.

THE PICK: Pantoja 
 

Other Bouts

Lightweight
Vinc Pichel (13-2-0) v. Austin Hubbard (13-5-0)
DK Salaries: Pichel ($8,200), Hubbard ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Pichel (-115), Hubbard (-105)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Pichel

Featherweight
Austin Lingo (8-1-0) v. Luis Saldana (15-6-0)
DK Salaries: Lingo ($7,900), Saldana ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Lingo (+105), Saldana (-125)
Odds to Finish: -110
THE PICK: Lingo

Bantamweight
Brian Kelleher (22-12-0) v. Domingo Pilarte (8-2-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Kelleher ($9,000), Pilarte ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Kelleher (-180), Pilarte (+155)
Odds to Finish: -175
THE PICK: Kelleher

Women's Bantamweight
Bea Malecki (4-0-0) v. Josiane Nunes (7-1-0)
DK Salaries: Malecki ($8,600), Nunes ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Malecki (-155), Nunes (+135)
Odds to Finish: +110
THE PICK: Malecki

Light Heavyweight
William Knight (9-2-0) v. Fabio Cherant (7-2-0)
DK Salaries: Knight ($9,400), Cherant ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Knight (-190), Cherant (+160)
Odds to Finish: -200
THE PICK: Knight

Lightweight
Roosevelt Roberts (10-2-0, 1NC) v. Ignacio Bahamondes (11-4-0)
DK Salaries: Roberts ($8,400), Bahamondes ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Roberts (-145), Bahamondes (+110)
Odds to Finish: +105
THE PICK: Bahamondes

Welterweight
Sasha Palatnikov (6-3-0) v. Ramiz Brahimaj (8-3-0)
DK Salaries: Palatnikov ($7,700), Brahimaj ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Palatnikov (+110), Brahimaj (-130)
Odds to Finish: -160
THE PICK: Brahimaj

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Jon Litterine plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: JLitterine.
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only MMA Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire MMA fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon Litterine
Jon Litterine is RotoWire's lead MMA Writer and MMA Editor. He has covered numerous MMA events live. He's also RW's NHL Prospect Analyst. Jon has been writing for RotoWire since 2005. He is a graduate of U Mass-Lowell.
RotoWire MMA Podcast: UFC 266 Preview
RotoWire MMA Podcast: UFC 266 Preview
DraftKings MMA: UFC 266 Preview
DraftKings MMA: UFC 266 Preview
The MMA Mashup: UFC Vegas 37 Preview
The MMA Mashup: UFC Vegas 37 Preview
Drake's Takes:  UFC Fight Night Smith vs. Spann
Drake's Takes: UFC Fight Night Smith vs. Spann
MMA Best Bets: UFC Vegas 37
MMA Best Bets: UFC Vegas 37
DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 37 Preview
DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 37 Preview