DraftKings MMA: UFC Kansas City DFS Preview & Picks

DraftKings MMA: UFC Kansas City DFS Preview & Picks

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

UFC Kansas City takes place Saturday, and Jon Litterine is back to break down the top fights, plus offer his DFS picks and predictions for the key matchups on the card.

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 rules are noted at the bottom of the column. Let's get to the action...

Main Event - Featherweight

Max Holloway (23-7-0) v. Arnold Allen (19-1-0)
DK Salaries: Holloway ($9,000), Allen ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Holloway (-185), Allen (+150)
Odds to Finish: -110 

The unquestioned second-best featherweight on the planet today, Holloway will once attempt to begin his climb back to the top of the 145-pound division. Max lost to Conor McGregor in August 2013. Since then, he's gone 16-4. The four defeats came against Alexander Volkanovski (three times) and Dustin Poirier, in a lightweight fight. The gap between Volk and Holloway appears to be larger than ever before, so Max is in pretty rough shape moving forward, barring something unforeseen happening with the title. 

Allen hasn't been particularly active since making his June 2015 UFC debut, fighting just ten times, but he has yet to lose and is continuously improving at age 29. Fresh off back-to-back knockout wins over Dan Hooker and Calvin Kattar, Allen has more than earned this opportunity. I'm worried it might be too much, too fast, but I zero issues with the UFC's decision to give Allen this fight.

I'm not the least bit worried about Holloway despite the three losses to Volkanovski. Daniel Cormier could never sniff Jon Jones, but that doesn't mean DC isn't one of the best light heavyweights of all time. Some guys are just bad matchups for certain fighters. 

Max wins with volume on the feet and elite conditioning. He's also crazy durable. There's no significant hole in his game, and while he rarely attempts takedowns (0.29 landed per 15 minutes), he defends them at an 84 percent clip.

Allen hits harder than Holloway does and is probably a better wrestler. He's faced nowhere near the same level of competition as Max, but everything we seen from Arnold suggests he has a shot to be competitive here. To actually win? That might be a stretch. 

My guess is this fight is primarily contested on the feet. For some reason, Max was never able to get in any sort of rhythm against Volkanovski despite being the considerably larger man. He's going to enter with a three-inch height edge over Allen, although it's Arnold who has a once-inch reach advantage. Trying to outpoint Max in a 25-minute kickboxing match seems like a recipe for disaster, so maybe Allen will attempt to lean on his wrestling. Securing a takedown and some control time could go a long way in helping to slow Holloway down. 

Holloway has been so good for so long that he essentially has to be the pick against any featherweight other than Volkanovski until proven otherwise. I like Allen and think he has a bright future, but facing Kattar and Hooker is not the same as facing Max. Give me Holloway via decision.

THE PICK: Holloway
 

Co-Main Event - Featherweight

Edson Barboza (22-11-0) v. Billy Quarantillo (17-4-0)
DK Salaries: Barboza ($7,500), Quarantillo ($8,700)
Vegas Odds: Barboza (+140), Quarantillo (-165)
Odds to Finish: -135

This sport is typically not kind to aging veterans, as Barboza is finding out of late. Now 37 years of age, Edson has lost back-to-back fights and five of his last seven. All those losses came to quality competition (Bryce Mitchell, Giga Chikadze, Dan Ige, Paul Felder, Justin Gaethje and two came via split decision (Felder, Ige), but the days of Barboza hanging with top-tier fighters has come and gone. He was due to face Ilia Topuria in late-October before withdrawing due to a knee injury. It was likely a smart move.

Quarantillo began his UFC run with three straight wins, but has predictably fallen off as the competition level he has gone up against has risen. He's 2-2 in his last four fights, with wins over Alexander Hernandez and Gabriel Benitez, in addition to losses to Shane Burgos and Gavin Tucker. Billy Q is a boatload of fun to watch and has sneaky power, but his fight IQ is lacking, and I don't ever see that changing given he's already 34 years of age. Quarantillo figures to hover around the .500 mark moving forward.

Barboza fights have become increasingly difficult to project as he has aged. His durability has waned, and his athleticism is all but gone. There's no reason he can't stand there and fire off his trademark leg kicks over and over, but he simply may not be able to consistently put himself in advantageous offensive positions these days. 

That said, this seems like a reasonable stylistic matchup for him. Edson has always been an underrated grappler, and although Quarantillo is averaging 1.55 takedowns per 15 minutes, he's not a pure wrestler in the traditional sense.

The main concern regarding Edson here is his lack of durability. Billy tends to drag his opposition into a fire fight, and Barboza could easily fold under the pressure given what we have seen of him lately. If he is somehow able to remain upright, I think Edson can win. 

There's enough value here to roll with the underdog, especially from a DK standpoint, but there's zero doubt Billy is the safer play. It's just really difficult to trust Edson at this stage of his career.

THE PICK: Barboza
 

Light Heavyweight

Tanner Boser (20-9-1) v. Ion Cutelaba (16-9-1, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Boser ($7,800), Cutelaba ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Boser (+105), Cutelaba (-125)
Odds to Finish: -260

A loser of three of four dating back to November 2020, Boser may need a victory in order to extend his time with the company. His 4-4 mark with the UFC, while by no means great, is a tad misleading, and not in a positive way. Boser's victories have come against lesser competition (Daniel Spitz, Philipe Lins, Raphael Pessoa, the corpse of Ovince Saint Preux). In fact, he doesn't have a single notable win in his near 11-year career. Boser has spent his entire UFC run at heavyweight. He will be moving to 205 pounds for this one. I'm not expecting much of a difference.

Cutelaba is in even worse shape than Boser, if you can believe that. He's lost three in a row (Kennedy Nzechukwu, Johnny Walker, Ryan Spann) -- all via stoppage -- and is 1-5-1 in his last seven dating back to February 2020. I'm extremely surprised the UFC is granting Cutelaba another shot here. The only thing he really has going for him is his youth, as he won't be turning 30 years of age until this coming December.

It should be mentioned that Cutelaba is a pretty good wrestler. He averages 4.7 takedowns per 15 minutes while also connecting on 57 percent of his tries. Both are excellent numbers and about the only reason to ever consider playing him in DFS. Boser's takedown defense is a medicore 64 percent. Considering Ion will almost certainly be released if he loses, it's essential he do whatever is necessary to emerge victorious. That will almost certainly consist of a takedown-heavy approach.

At 6-foot-2, Boser was often giving up plenty of size to his opponents at heavyweight. He theoretically is much better suited to fight at 205 pounds, but it may be too late in his career to make a meaningful impact regardless.

Anyone saying they have a good feel for this fight is selling you a bag of goods. Cutelaba is the much better wrestler and has faced considerably better competition. He's also one of the least durable fighters in the entire sport. Boser is deceptively athletic and much more durable. He's also fighting in a new weight class. 

I'll take the $600 discount and hope Cutelaba's lack of durability once again rears its ugly head, but it's probably equally likely Boser is pinned to the mat for 15 minutes and drops a lopsided decision.

THE PICK: Boser
 

Bantamweight

Pedro Munhoz (19-7-0, 2NC) v. Chris Gutierrez (19-3-2)
DK Salaries: Munhoz ($6,800), Gutierrez ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Munhoz (+140), Gutierrez (-165)
Odds to Finish: +135

Munhoz has been fighting the best the loaded bantamweight division has to offer the past three years, and it's reflective in his record. Pedro is just 1-4 (1NC) in his past half-dozen bouts. The losses have come against Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar (split decision) and current UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling. The win was a unanimous decision over Jimmie Rivera, and the no-contest came in his most recent bout against Sean O'Malley last July in which Munhoz suffered an eye poke which left him unable to continue. You are what your record says you are in this sport, and set to turn 37 years of age this coming September, Pedro probably needs a win in order to extend his run with the company.

Gutierrez isn't as well known as the names Munhoz has faced of late, and he's not as talented, but he's no pushover, however. Gutierrez -- who turns 32 years of age exactly one week after this event takes place -- is unbeaten in eight fights (7-0-1) since dropping his UFC debut to Raoni Barcelos in November 2018. Chris has gone up against and handled names such as Andre Ewell and Vince Morales, in addition to knocking out Edgar in just over two minutes in the latter's retirement bout last November at Madison Square Garden.

Munhoz hits hard and is exceedingly durable. His biggest issue is the fact he is willing to eat a strike in order to land two of his own. Pedro lands 5.4 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 5.96. The latter number is way, way too high for Munhoz to consistently compete against better competition. For comparison's sake, Gutierrez absorbs 2.58 significant strikes per minute.  

I don't understand the salaries here at all, especially when you take into account neither man is likely to grapple. 

Gutierrez is the third-highest priced fighter on a card with 14 scheduled fights. He's been quite good, but the competition gap between the two is real, and it seems as if Pedro is being unfairly docked for those difficult setbacks.

Relative to the Vegas odds, you don't want to be spending $9,400 of you budget on a fighter that is only -165 to win. When investing that chunk of cash, you want a guy that is at least -300, if not more. There's too much value on the Munhoz side to pass it up.

THE PICK: Munhoz
 

Other Bouts

Light Heavyweight
Dustin Jacoby (18-6-1) v. Azamat Murzakanov (12-0-0)
DK Salaries: Jacoby ($8,900), Murzakanov ($7,300)
Vegas Odds: Jacoby (-165), Murzakanov (+140)
Odds to Finish: -145
THE PICK: Murzakanov

Lightweight
Clay Guida (38-19-0) v. Rafa Garcia (15-3-0)
DK Salaries: Guida ($6,700), Garcia ($9,500)
Vegas Odds: Guida (+185), Garcia (-225)
Odds to Finish: +140
THE PICK: Garcia

Featherweight
Bill Algeo (16-7-0) v. TJ Brown (17-9-0)
DK Salaries: Algeo ($8,800), Brown ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Algeo (-165), Brown (+135)
Odds to Finish: +140
THE PICK: Algeo

Flyweight
Brandon Royval (14-6-0) v. Matheus Nicolau (19-3-1)
DK Salaries: Royval ($7,100), Nicolau ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Royval (+165), Nicolau (-200)
Odds to Finish: -140
THE PICK: Nicolau

Light Heavyweight
Zak Cummings (24-7-0) v. Ed Herman (27-15-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Cummings ($9,600), Herman ($6,600)
Vegas Odds: Cummings (-250), Herman (+200)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Cummings

Women's Strawweight
Gillian Robertson (11-7-0) v. Piera Rodriguez (9-0-0)
DK Salaries: Robertson ($8,200), Rodriguez ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Robertson (-115), Rodriguez (-105)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Rodriguez

Lightweight
Lando Vannata (12-6-2 ) v. Daniel Zellhuber (12-1-0)
DK Salaries: Vannata ($7,700), Zellhuber ($8,500)
Vegas Odds: Vannata (-105), Zellhuber (-115)
Odds to Finish: +135
THE PICK: Vannata

Women's Strawweight
Bruna Brasil (8-2-1) v. Denise Gomes (6-2-0)
DK Salaries: Brasil ($9,300), Gomes ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Brasil (-225), Gomes (+180)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Brasil

Bantamweight
Aaron Phillips (12-4-0) v. Gaston Bolanos (6-3-0)
DK Salaries: Phillips ($7,000), Bolanos ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Phillips (+155), Bolanos (-190)
Odds to Finish: -170
THE PICK: Bolanos

Women's Bantamweight
Joselyne Edwards (12-4-0) v. Lucie Pudilova (14-7-0)
DK Salaries: Edwards ($7,600), Pudilova ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Edwards (+115), Pudilova (-140)
Odds to Finish: +190
THE PICK: Pudilova

Note: All odds accurate as of time of posting, and taken from the DraftKings Sportsbook, if available, before searching elsewhere. Stay up to date for UFC Kansas City with more MMA betting content.

DraftKings MMA Scoring

Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.

Moves Scoring
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.2 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.

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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