DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 53

DraftKings MMA: UFC Vegas 53

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

Rob Font takes on Marlon Vera as the headlining fight on Saturday's card with two of the underrated Bantamweight fighters squaring off in the octagon. Jon Litterine breaks down his approach to the card on DraftKings with his best plays to target. 

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 UFC $400K 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 - Bantamweight

Rob Font (19-5-0) v. Marlon Vera (18-7-1)
DK Salaries: Font ($8,300), Vera ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Font (-135), Vera (+115)

This is an excellent main event between two of the most underrated fighters on the entire UFC roster, let alone the bantamweight division.

Font has established himself as a high-end fighter despite the fact he is coming off a lopsided unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Jose Aldo last December. The defeat snapped a four-fight winning streak for Font and he simply cannot afford back-to-back losses if he wishes to remain competitive in such a deep division. 

Vera has won two straight (Frankie Edgar, Davey Grant), with his last defeat also coming at the hands of Aldo. "Chito" is closing in on eight years with the UFC. He's typically had all sorts of difficulty defeating better competition, and a win over Font would be arguably his biggest to date.

Font is an excellent boxer with extremely fast hands. Not only does he land 5.64 significant strikes per minute, but he absorbs just 3.55 per minute. In short, although Font trusts his stand-up, he's not a reckless brawler. He should enter with a massive speed and power edge over Vera.

Vera's numbers say he's a respectable all-around fighter who is solid everywhere but doesn't have that one single elite skill to fall back upon in the event of trouble. I would agree with that, although there is theoretically room for improvement in Vera's game since he is somehow just 29 years old. I'm a fan, but I still need to see more before I can confidently pick him against top-tier competition.

Font's struggles tend to come when he gets lazy with his defense and over-aggressive on the feet, but I don't think Vera has the power to take advantage of it. Given this stylistic matchup, I'd rather wager on what we've seen from Font compared to what we might see from Vera. It's probably more likely than not Vera sees the final bell, but I think Font wins.

THE PICK: Font

Co-Main Event - Heavyweight

Jake Collier (13-6-0) v. Andrei Arlovski (33-20-0, 2NC)
DK Salaries: Collier ($7,800), Arlovski ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Collier (+120), Arlovski (-140)

Arlovksi was scheduled to face Justin Tafa here before the latter was forced to withdraw and Collier stepped in.

If this Arlovski breakdown sounds like all the other ones I have written, I apologize in advance. I still have zero answers as to how Arlovski – now 43 years old – has won three in a row and five of six dating back to May 2020. Part of the reason is because the UFC has been exceedingly careful regarding who they match him up against, but I still never would have guessed in a million years he would be capable of this. All five of those previously mentioned wins have come via decision and I still firmly believe the roof is going to cave in here sooner rather than later.

The very definition of roster depth, Collier has alternated wins and losses in his first ten UFC bouts. That was apparently enough for the UFC, however, as the company just handed him a fresh, new four-fight contract. If that streak holds, he's in trouble on Saturday because Collier is fresh off a submission win over the since-released Chase Sherman this past January. Collier is primarily a brawler, but he has better secondary skills than he gets credit for. It's impossible to pick him to win anything other than a slugfest, but he probably has a better ground game that Arlovski at this stage of his career. 

Although these two men are exactly the same size, there should be a slight physicality edge for Arlovski. Collier is primarily a boxer, while Andrei attempts to mix it up here and there. 

I can't believe I'm going to do this, but I'm taking Arlovski. Obviously, this means Collier will win. Andrei has proven he can take three-round bouts from fringe-roster competitors and Jake certainly falls into that category.

THE PICK: Arlovski

Lightweight

Jared Gordon (18-4-0) v. Grant Dawson (17-1-1)
DK Salaries: Gordon ($7,500), Dawson ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Gordon (+145), Dawson (-165)

Gordon has won four of five dating back to June 2019, with his one setback in that span being an 86-second knockout at the hands of current UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira. While the 4-1 mark looks good on paper, each of the victories came against lesser competition (Joe Solecki, Danny Chavez, Chris Fishgold, Dan Moret) and all came via decision. Gordon has fought at both featherweight and lightweight and is far more interesting at 145 pounds, but he has had difficulty making weight in the lower class on multiple occasions and now appears to be destined to continue his career at 155 pounds moving forward.

A product of Dana White's Contender Series, Dawson has quietly racked up an undefeated record (5-0-1) in his first half dozen UFC bouts. Three of those five victories (two submissions, one knockout) have come via stoppage. Similar to Gordon, Dawson also had issues making the 146-pound featherweight limit at times and is now firmly entrenched as a lightweight.

These are two big guys. Dawson is 5-foot-10, while Gordon is just an inch shorter. Both also rely on their wrestling games to be successful, as Gordon averages 2.54 takedowns per 15 minutes, while Dawson is at 3.36 during that same time frame. Neither defends the takedown all that well, with Gordon at a mediocre 50 percent and Dawson at a paltry 40 percent, and it seems quite likely the victor here will be whichever man will be able to remain upright.

If this is a close fight, I trust the technical skills of Dawson just a tad more. Gordon can get reckless at times, particularly on the feet, and Dawson will plant him on his back and keep him there if Jared attempts some sort of wild striking combination. I don't see a ton of upside in Gordon as an underdog play. The only way he seems likely to win is a boring ground battle in which he would score limited fantasy points.

THE PICK: Dawson 

Middleweight

Krzysztof Jotko (23-5-0) v. Gerald Meerschaert (34-14-0)
DK Salaries: Jotko ($8,800), Meerschaert ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Jotko (-170), Meerschaert (+150)

Meerschaert doesn't get talked about much, but he's one of the more underrated mat specialists in the sport today. This is a guy who has 26 submission victories in his professional career, including three straight in his past three bouts. Meerschaert struggles at times in prolonged striking exchanges, but he's pulled off a couple of miraculous submissions during his time with the company and his exploits on the mat give him a chance in every fight in which he competes.

Jotko has been with the UFC for nearly eight and a half years now, which is nearly impossible to believe. He's been notoriously streaky during that time. He won five in a row from October 2014 to November 2016, before losing three straight from May 2017 to April 2018. I thought the UFC would cut their losses following that run, but they gave Jotko another opportunity and he has responded with wins in four of his last five, although all came via decision and two were of the "split" variety. 

Jotko is a difficult fighter to figure out. He has no ground game to speak of and very little power in his hands. I'm honestly surprised his career record is as good as it is. He lands just 2.92 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 2.24 per minute. Those low numbers are typical of fighters who employ a wrestling-heavy style, but Jotko barely lands a single takedown (1.15) per 15 minutes. In short, I'd be shocked if Jotko's winning streak continues much longer.

Arguably the most impressive part of Jotko's game is his takedown defense. He stuffs 83 percent of the tries his faces, and that trend better continue in this one or he's at risk of being run out of the UFC Apex by Meerschaert. Gerald's cardio is exceptional and he will be smart enough to recognize the massive edge he holds over Jotko on the mat.

The lack of stopping power in Jotko's hands and the lack of volume he throws on the feet make him a poor DK play, especially at what I view as an inflated salary. He may have a technical edge over Meerschaert in the stand-up, but his style of fighting isn't conducive to him taking advantage of any potential openings. I'm quite surprised Meerschaert is an underdog here and like him to win outright.

THE PICK: Meerschaert 

OTHER BOUTS

Featherweight
Andre Fili (21-8-0, 1NC) v. Joanderson Brito (12-3-1)
DK Salaries: Fili ($9,300), Brito ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Fili (-260), Brito (+210)
THE PICK: Fili

Featherweight
Darren Elkins (27-10-0) v. Tristan Connelly (14-7-0)
DK Salaries: Elkins ($8,600), Connelly ($7,600)
Vegas Odds: Elkins (-160), Connelly (+140)
THE PICK: Connelly 

Flyweight
Daniel Da Silva (11-2-0) v. Francisco Figueiredo (12-4-1, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Da Silva ($8,200), Figueiredo ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Da Silva (-120), Figueiredo (+100)
THE PICK: Figueiredo

Heavyweight
Alexandr Romanov (15-0-0) v. Chase Sherman (15-9-0)
DK Salaries: N/A
Vegas Odds: Romanov (-2000), Sherman (+900)
THE PICK: Romanov

Welterweight
Gabriel Green (10-3-0) v. Yohan Lainesse (8-0-0)
DK Salaries: Green ($8,500), Lainesse ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Green (-150), Lainesse (+130)
THE PICK: Green

Lightweight
Natan Levy (6-1-0) v. Mike Breeden (10-4-0)
DK Salaries: Levy ($9,000), Breeden ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Levy (-200), Breeden (+170)
THE PICK: Levy

Women's Flyweight
Gina Mazany (7-5-0) v. Shanna Young (8-5-0)
DK Salaries: Mazany ($8,900), Young ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Mazany (-160), Young (+140)
THE PICK: Mazany

Flyweight
Tatsuro Taira (10-0-0) v. Carlos Candelario (8-1-0)
DK Salaries: Taira ($9,200), Candelario ($7,000)
Vegas Odds: Taira (-240), Candelario (+195)
THE PICK: Taira

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.
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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.
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