This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Having fallen out of the title picture in recent years, Holly Holm may be set up for a bounce-back opportunity Saturday in Las Vegas, despite turning 40 since the last time she entered the Octagon.
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 UFC 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 - Women's Bantamweight
As difficult as it is to believe, Holm is just 4-5 since knocking out Ronda Rousey with a head kick and winning the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship in November 2015. What's even scarier is that she was 2-5 at one point before back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Irene Aldana and Raquel Pennington in her past two bouts. Holly will have been on the sidelines for more than a year and a half by the time fight night rolls around. She last fought in October 2020. Holm had a pair of fights scheduled since then (Julianna Pena, Norma Dumont), but withdrew from one due to illness and the other due to injury. She'll be 41 years of age this coming October, so there is zero chance the prolonged layoff served her well.
Vieira has alternated wins and losses in her last four fights. She looked competent in a unanimous decision win over Miesha Tate last November, but a knockout defeat at the hands of Irene Aldana and a unanimous decision defeat to Yana Kunitskaya were highly discouraging, to say the least. Ketlen is very physically strong. The majority of the 1.71 takedowns per 15 minutes she averages is the result of sheer upper-body strength. The Brazilian theoretically has some upside considering she is still just 30 years old, but I don't see an extended winning streak forthcoming here.
The issue for Holm is that outside of the Aldana fight, the volume on the feet has dried up of late. She's not going to win anything other than a kickboxing match, and that's difficult to if striking exchanges have become a 50/50 proposition. Holly has never been much of a grappler, but she does deserve credit for employing her wrestling game when going up against an opponent with a noticeable weakness in that area. I don't expect her to employ that type of game plan against Vieira.
I theoretically understand why Holly is so heavily favored. She's going to have a massive technical edge over Vieira on the feet and should be able to easily outpoint her opponent as long as she is able to remain upright. Still, Holm looks significantly overpriced from a DraftKings perspective simply because her ceiling is so limited. From a betting standpoint, I'd much rather roll the dice on Holly winning via decision than picking her outright.
THE PICK: Holm
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
From a personal standpoint, this is the fight on the card I am looking forward to the most by a considerable margin.
A serious staph infection cost Ponzinibbio more than two years worth of action. He was sidelined from November 2018 to January 2021. Hoping to make up for lost time he fought three times last year, with a unanimous decision win over Miguel Baeza and losses to Geoff Neal (split) and Li Jingliang (KO) on his resume. The obvious concern is that both Neal and Li are light years better than Baeza. Santiago didn't look particularly comfortable in any of those three fights, and this is a guy who had won seven straight – four via knockout – before his long layoff.
Pereira has been hot of late, winning four in a row. One of the most athletic and entertaining fighters on the UFC roster today, the 28-year-old Brazilian presents an intriguing all-around skill set. Pereira has a black belt in both karate and BJJ. He's fought at both middleweight and welterweight during his pro career, although Periera is much more equipped for success at 170 pounds.
While the physical edge may be in Pereira's favor, Ponzinibbio has faced far better competition during the course of his run with the company. Among the fighters Santiago has faced over the course of his UFC run include, Li, Neal, Gunnar Nelson, Neil Magny and Sean Strickland.
I know that Ponzinibbio has picked up a win and a tight split decision defeat against a talented opponent in his last couple fights, but he still looks nothing like the guy who ran off that long winning streak. I'm not sure if it's due to the injury or the limited reps in the Octagon of late, but Pereira is one of the most unique fighters in the sport today, and I have a difficult time picking Santiago against that time of opponent until we see a more complete effort from him.
I expect a close, competitive fight and I have no issues working both men into DK lineups at their respective prices, but I think Pereira wins.
THE PICK: Pereira
Fighting for countless different promotions over the course of his near 15-year professional career, Njokuani got an opportunity on Dana White's Contender Series last September and was rewarded a UFC contract following a knockout victory over Mario Filipe de Sousa. He made his official company debut the past February and knocked out Marc-Andre Barriault in just 16 seconds. Njokuani is a one-dimensional power puncher. 13 of his 21 victories have come via knockout, and I have a difficult time seeing him being able to string together victories unless he is racking up knockouts.
Another product of the Contender Series, Todorovic is 2-2 in his first four UFC bouts. Both wins have come via knockout, while the setbacks were a knockout and a unanimous decision. Todorovic will turn 28 years of age just days before this event, but he has fought extremely weak competition over the course of his career. He, too, leans on his power for success, with seven career knockout victories.
Todorovic isn't a small man at 6-foot-1, but Njokuani is massive for the middleweight division. He's 6-foot-4 and enters with a whopping six-inch reach edge, something that could play a massive role in what projects as a stand-up brawl.
It's imperative that Todorovic – who is five and a half years younger and the better athlete – is constantly moving in the striking exchanges between the two men. He simply cannot allow Njokuani to fire off repeated combinations and hope to remain standing for any significant period of time.
This card only has 11 fights on it, so I'd encourage DK owners to get a piece of this one in some form or fashion. $8700 is a hefty price tag for Njokuani considering we've have seen him in the Octagon for all of 16 seconds, but Todorovic has had some uneven performances during his brief time with the company, and Njokuani certainly has a significant power edge. He could very well pay off despite the price tag.
THE PICK: Njokuani
A high-end athlete with limited MMA skills and a sustained record of uneven performances with the UFC, Anders enters with a 3-5 (1NC) record in his past nine bouts dating back to September 2018. Anders is a natural middleweight who has dabbled at light heavyweight in the past, but he's undersized for 205 pounds and is much, much better suited for 185 pounds.
Park is 3-2 in his first five UFC bouts and had a nice three-fight winning streak snapped in a knockout defeat to Gregory Rodrigues last October. While Park hasn't faced much quality competition with the UFC, he fought some highly-rated fighters prior to his arrival. He submitted PFL mainstay Ray Cooper III in May 2017 and was submitted by rising star Shavkat Rakhmonov in an August 2016 fight which took place in South Korea.
There is a size and athleticism edge here for Anders, but Park is about four years younger and most certainly has a better all-around game.
I'm curious to see how much Park – who averages 2.62 takedowns per 15 minutes – attempts to lean on his wrestling. Anders is a big guy and defends the takedown at a reasonable 74-percent clip, but his cardio has been a significant issue at times in the past, and it feels as if Park can wear him down over time. Even attempts that fail will force Anders to move his feet and potentially drain his gas tank in the process.
Again, this is a fight in which I like the favorite (Park) but don't like his price tag. I could easily see him picking up a couple takedowns and keeping Anders pinned to the mat for rounds at a time. Anders has had a notoriously difficult time working his way back to his feet at times, but Eryk is also the bigger man and has a significant experience edge in terms of both UFC fights and quality competition he has faced over the course of his career. He's a live underdog at $7200 even if I don't think he'll win.
THE PICK: Park