This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
The 205-pound division has been a bit convoluted since the (permanent?) removal of Jon Jones from the title picture, but Saturday's main event should help map out the division's top-contender fights for the fourth quarter of 2021.
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 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 - Light Heavyweight
It's last call for Santos, as he has seen things fall apart since dropping a split decision to Jon Jones in a UFC Light Heavyweight Championship fight back in July 2019. I know I've mentioned it in this space before, but it bears repeating every single time Santos fights. He probably should have gotten the judges' call against Jones, and did so fighting with a torn left ACL, PCL, MCL, meniscus and cracked tibia, in addition to a partially torn right meniscus. In short, he almost took out the greatest of all time with about half a working leg. Since then, Santos has been knocked out by Glover Teixeira and dropped a decision to Aleksandar Rakic, making this a must-win for the Brazilian.
Walker is in far less immediate danger than Santos, as he is coming off a first-round knockout win over Ryan Spann on the heels of back-to-back losses to Corey Anderson and Nikita Krylov. The Anderson loss – Walker's first in the UFC – was the big setback. Walker began his run with three straight first-round knockout wins in less than a four-month span before being stopped early by Anderson, who has since moved on to Bellator. Walker's power is legitimate, but his chin is questionable. Three of his five losses have come via knockout.
I'm interested in seeing how Santos fares as the much smaller man. Walker – who is gigantic for light heavyweight – enters with a four-inch edge in height and a six-inch edge in reach. Both are massive numbers in what I expect will quickly dissolve into a kickboxing match.
Walker was pushed too quickly. He's talented, but I never viewed him as any sort of true contender. He's too inconsistent and struggles to make in-fight adjustments. That second part is the main reason I'm going with Santos here, but I'm not confident about it. Santos seems overpriced from a DK perspective. I'd almost rather roll the dice with Walker as an underdog. I have no real problem with the Vegas odds, but Santos appears a good $300-$400 overpriced on DK. I still think he wins.
THE PICK: Santos
Co-Main Event - Middleweight
The unquestioned MVP of the UFC's pandemic programming, Holland won five straight fights from May to December 2020. There were three knockouts and a submission win in there, in addition to a split decision victory. Holland was then pushed to the moon, headlining cards against Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori in a three week span earlier this year. Both of those bouts were disastrous for Holland, as he was routed from bell-to-bell while dropping a pair of lopsided unanimous decisions. I don't think he's anywhere near as bad as we saw against Brunson and Vettori, but I also don't think he's a legitimate contender at 185 pounds.
Daukaus is no easy mark, however, and Holland better come ready to fight, or he's going to find himself saddled with three straight defeats. Daukaus has alternated wins and losses in his first three UFC bouts, although he's looked a tad better than his 1-2 record with the company would indicate. Daukaus is a pure submission specialist despite checking in at 6-foot-3. In fact, Daukaus doesn't have a single knockout victory in his pro career, and the lack of stopping power in his hands will certainly end up hurting him down the line.
It became quite clear in both the Brunson and Vettori fights that Holland can't wrestle. Brunson took him down 11 times, and Vettori got him to the mat on six separate occasions. It's a hole in Holland's game the size of the Atlantic Ocean, and I expect Daukaus – who has averaged 1.75 takedowns per 15 minutes – to be aggressive in trying to get Holland to the mat. Holland has displayed bad body language on the grown and looked generally overwhelmed at times when involved in anything other than a kickboxing match.
This is an easy pick. Daukaus has proven he can wrestle at least a bit, and Holland has proven he can't wrestle at all, which means it's worth rolling with Daukaus as an underdog. Any opponent who faces Holland and doesn't try to get him to the mat repeatedly deserves whatever fate is coming their way.
THE PICK: Daukaus
One of the toughest men on the UFC roster, Price will be looking to snap a three fight winless streak. Price is barely over .500 (6-5, 2NC) since arriving on the scene about five years ago, but his fights are always entertaining. Price has predictably struggled whenever tasked with facing better competition. He's a one-dimensional brawler who is willing to eat a shot in order to land two of his own, and that style of fighting typically becomes less and less effective when the opposition becomes more and more talented.
Oliveira fights frequently and can do so in multiple weight classes, making him highly appealing to a company which holds an event most every single week. The UFC thought enough of the Brazilian to hand him a new four-fight contract despite the fact Oliveira is now 33 years of age and 2-5 in his past seven bouts dating back to December 2018.
It's honestly shocking Price's UFC record is above .500 considering he absorbs a whopping 5.87 significant strikes per minute. They're different fighters from a stylistic standpoint, but Oliveira absorbs just 2.23 per minute. It's going to be virtually impossible for Price to go on any sort of sustained run unless he pays more attention to defense, and I doubt that will happen at this stage of the game.
I'm interested in seeing if Price can remain upright. Oliviera is a good wrestler, averaging 2.37 takedowns per 15 minutes, and Price's takedown defense is a mediocre 66 percent.
This is one of those cases in which I have no strong lean and thus am taking the salary relief Oliveira provides. Going against Price is always risky because he's tough as nails, but the Brazilian is at least as talented from a technical standpoint.
THE PICK: Oliveira
Long on raw physical talent and short on actual production inside the Octagon, Cirkunov enters having alternated losses and wins in his past five fights. Cirkunov's offense comes in extremely short spurts. In many ways, he fights just like Yoel Romero did back in his prime. Cirkunov can be explosive if you catch him on the right night, and he averages 4.28 takedowns per 15 minutes, but his chin has always been a major, major weakness, and he is typically overwhelmed if forced to stand and trade for any real length of time. I'm not optimistic there is a breakthrough coming for Cirkunov at age 34.
Jotko had a three-fight winning streak snapped by Sean Strickland this past May. Strickland is really good, so I won't hold that one against Jotko. Over the course of his UFC run, Jotko has had two winning streaks of at least three fights, including one in which he won five in a row. He also had a streak of three-straight losses. Jotko is a tough guy to figure out. He doesn't wrestle much (1.16 takedowns per 15 minutes), and tends to be very inactive on the feet. It's a lousy combination from a fantasy perspective, and one that makes Jotko a typical fade.
This entire fight comes down to whether or not Jotko can remain standing. His takedown defense is a stellar 87 percent, but Cirkunov is a big, strong guy and doesn't need perfect positioning in order to get his opposition to the mat. I will say that I trust Jotko's fight IQ quite a bit more than Cirkunov's.
Jotko is going to have his work cut out for him because it's going to be difficult for him to remain upright given the brute strength advantage Cirkunov possesses, but Cirkunov also has a tendency to be overwhelmed on the feet, and Jotko should be able to pick him apart if he can up his volume output just a bit. I would still sprinkle in some Cirkunov if you are the type to make multiple lineups.
THE PICK: Jotko
Antonina Shevchenko (9-3-0) v. Casey O'Neill (7-0-0)
DK Salaries: Shevchenko ($7,200), O'Neill ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Shevchenko (+180), O'Neill (-220)
Odds to Finish: -125
THE PICK: O'Neill
Douglas Silva de Andrade (26-4-0, 1NC) v. Gaetano Pirrello (15-6-1)
DK Salaries: Silva de Andrade ($9,200), Pirrello ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Silva de Andrade (-250), Pirrello (+200)
Odds to Finish: +100
THE PICK: Silva de Andrade