DraftKings MMA: UFC San Antonio Preview & Picks

DraftKings MMA: UFC San Antonio Preview & Picks

This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.

UFC San Antonio 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 - Bantamweight

Marlon Vera (20-7-1) v. Cory Sandhagen (15-4-0)
DK Salaries: Vera ($7,600), Sandhagen ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Vera (+140), Sandhagen (-165)
Odds to Finish: -115

There's a real chance the winner of this one fights for the UFC Bantamweight Championship at some point in the next 12 months. The stakes couldn't be higher at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Saturday.

It's become abundantly clear I was too light on Vera from the very start. I saw a good, but not great, fighter that I felt was unlikely to compete with the best the 135-pound division has to offer. Vera has been around for seemingly ever, but he turned just 30 years of age last December. His power is underrated, and he's always had a high fight IQ. Marlon enters having won four in a row over solid competition (Dominick Cruz, Rob Font, Frankie Edgar, Davey Grant). He looked quite poor at times in the Cruz fight before knocking Dom out with a vicious head kick late in Round 4. 

Sandhagen snapped two-fight losing streak with a knockout win (doctor's stoppage) over Song Yadong last September. The two prior defeats were a unanimous decision loss to Petr Yan in an interim title fight and a split decision loss to TJ Dillashaw which Cory absolutely deserved to win. In short, Sandhagen's only two "legitimate" losses with the company came against Yan and current UFC Bantamweight Championship Aljamain Sterling

While both men enter with an identical 70-inch reach, Vera is going to have to figure out a way to get inside against Sandhagen, who is taller by three inches. I expect this to be a stand-up brawl. I think that favors Cory, but the fact I'm not entirely certain tells you have far Vera has come. Both men are exceedingly durable, and I'd be shocked if this wasn't close and competitive throughout. 

I'm interested in seeing if this seemingly new-found finishing power from Vera carries over against a high-end opponent in Sandhagen. Cory has never been knocked out in 19 professional fights, while five of Marlon's last eight wins have come via KO. It would be tough to predict a Vera stoppage given Sandhagen's durability, but constant pressure from "Chito" could be the difference in a fight scheduled for five rounds. 

I like Cory to win, but the price on Vera seems right from a value standpoint. He's performed exceptionally well against quality competition and seems to be the rare fighter that is legitimately improving as he's aged. He's clearly a live underdog regardless of whether or not you think he will actually win. This should be an excellent fight.

THE PICK: Sandhagen
 

Co-Main Event - Women's Bantamweight

Holly Holm (14-6-0) v. Yana Santos (14-6-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Holm ($9,000), Santos ($7,200)
Vegas Odds: Holm (-250), Santos (+200)
Odds to Finish: +200

Now 41 years of age, Holm needs to find a way to rebound from an extremely bad break her last time out. She entered having won back-to-back unanimous decisions over Irene Aldana and Raquel Pennington and could have pushed for a title shot with another solid performance, only to fall victim to a horrific judges call in a split decision loss to Ketlen Vieira last May. It was Holly's first fight in more than a year and a half, and it goes without saying she can't afford to drop too many close ones the rest of her career.

Now married to fellow UFC fighter Thiago Santos, Yana, the former Yana Kunitskaya, will be stepping into the Octagon for the first time since July 2021 following the birth of their child. Yana has had a bit of a weird run with the company. Her 4-3 record isn't all that inspiring, and all three of the defeats have come via knockout. She does have a unanimous decision win over Vieira and each of her last two opponents -- Vieira and Aldana -- have missed weight. Santos is 33 years of age and a former Invicta Bantamweight Champion, so she's by no means a total pushover.

Santos lacks ideal athleticism, but she's tough and gritty and tends to fight aggressively. She's a better grappler than Holm, averaging 1.53 takedowns per 15 minutes. In a three-round fight, Yana would be wise try and rack up some control time en route to a boring decision win.

The issue for Santos figures to be the length of Holm. Holly is two inches taller and will enter with an inch-edge in reach. Toss in the fact -- even at age 41 -- she is lightyears ahead of Yana in terms of technical striking skills, and Yana is at real risk of being totally outpointed on the feet. It's the path the vast majority of Holm's UFC victories have followed. 

Holm is at the point in her career that I'm typically afraid to back her. Her movements have understandably slowed, and although she might be able to land a takedown here and there, her success is based upon her ability to land plenty of volume on the feet. However, I'm not convinced Santos possesses the athleticism necessary to drag Holly out of her comfort zone.

I've have little interest in Holm given her DK price tag, but I think she probably wins a decision.

THE PICK: Holm
 

Featherweight

Austin Lingo (9-1-0) v. Nate Landwehr (16-4-0)
DK Salaries: Lingo ($6,800), Landwehr ($9,400)
Vegas Odds: Lingo (+200), Landwehr (-250)
Odds to Finish: -160

This was scheduled to be Landwehr v. Alex Caceres before the latter withdraw for undisclosed reasons, and Lingo accepted the bout on very short notice. 

Landwehr has had a middling start to his UFC run, going 3-2 in his first five bouts with the company. Nate is a high-energy fighter and one of the tougher guys in the sport. He's had some durability issues, suffering two first-round knockouts in his two UFC defeats. Landwehr is a legitimately tough guy whose greatest attributes are his grit and determination. You get an honest effort from him each and every time out, but that only goes so far at this level.

Lingo has been better, albeit in a smaller sample. He rebounded from a unanimous decision loss to Youssef Zalal in his company debut to pick up back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Luis Saldana and Jacob Kilburn. A native of Mesquite, Texas, each of Lingo's first seven professional fights took place in Dallas, six of which came under the LFA. 

Nate pushes the pace immediately every single time out and knows no other way to fight. It's evident by the fact he lands 6.37 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 5.56. He's not without talent, and I would love to see how he would fare if he employed a bit smarter, more calculated game plan. It's highly unlikely to ever happen, and his record will almost assuredly suffer as a result.

Lingo is six years younger than Landwehr and also a better athlete. He should have the edge in overall technical ability, but his takedown defense is a concern. He was taken down six times by Zalal and once by Kilburn. Landwehr has some wrestling in his game, landing 1.3 takedowns per 15 minutes. Overall, Lingo's 80 percent defense is more than solid, but one successful attempt from Nate in a wild, back-and-forth brawl could be the difference between winning and losing.

I have no idea if Lingo is actually better than Landwehr, probably not, but I am certain there should never be this much of a gap in DK salary between the two. Nate is the highest-priced fighter on the entire card at $9400, but this isn't your average short-notice opponent. That a salary that's typically reserved for someone who is upwards -500 favorite, at a minimum. Toss in the fact Landwehr lacks elite athleticism, and this becomes a very easy pick.

THE PICK: Lingo
 

Flyweight

Alex Perez (24-7-0) v. Manel Kape (18-6-0)
DK Salaries: Perez ($7,300), Kape ($8.900)
Vegas Odds: Perez (+145), Kape (-175)
Odds to Finish: -175

The flyweight division isn't exactly flush with depth, but a three-fight losing streak would be difficult to overcome for any competitor that fancies themselves a contender. That is what Perez will be looking to avoid here. It's important to note that each of those defeats came against some of the very best the division has to offer in former champion Deiveson Figueiredo and a likely future title contender in Alexandre Pantoja. The Figueiredo fight was a championship bout. Both of the losses came via first-round submission, and the fact Perez wasn't the least bit competitive in either is highly concerning moving forward.

A former bantamweight champion in multiple organizations including Rizin, Kape has competed exclusively at flyweight with the UFC. He dropped a unanimous decision to Pantoja and a split decision to Matheus Nicolau in his first two bouts with the company before winning his last three, two via knockout. Kape is certainly better-suited to make a run at 125 pounds, as opposed to 135 pounds, but he missed weight in his win over Ode Osbourne, and how he looks on the scale will be something to monitor prior to every one of his fights moving forward.

Like Kape, Perez has competed at both flyweight and bantamweight. He doesn't have the power to consistently threaten his opposition in the higher weight class, and his high-level wrestling game would be somewhat negated against bigger foes.

Perez is averaging 2.84 takedowns per 15 minutes. He failed to get both Figueiredo and Pantoja to the mat in their abbreviated bouts, and you saw the end result. I simply don't feel there's enough here in terms of secondary skills in order for Perez to consistently win if his wrestling game is nowhere to be found. 

Kape is going to enter with a power edge. He's comfortable in a fire fight, having never been knocked out. Half of his four professional defeats have come via submission, making it all the more imperative Perez try to get this one to the ground. 

Manel's 69 percent takedown defense is middling, and he's going to be in trouble if Perez is able to pin him to the mat for an extended period of time, but as long as he avoids that, he should be fine. He's a quality flyweight and a dark-horse contender to make a run at the top of the division in the next year-plus. 

THE PICK: Kape
 

Other Bouts

Women's Flyweight
Andrea Lee (13-6-0) v. Maycee Barber (11-2-0)
DK Salaries: Lee ($7,100), Barber ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Lee (+220), Barber (-275)
Odds to Finish: +190
THE PICK: Barber

Middleweight
Chidi Njokuani (22-8-0, 1NC) v. Albert Duraev (15-4-0)
DK Salaries: Njokuani ($8,800), Duraev ($7,400)
Vegas Odds: Njokuani (-165), Duraev (+135)
Odds to Finish: -115
THE PICK: Njokuani

Featherweight
Daniel Pineda (27-14-0, 3NC) v. Tucker Lutz (12-2-0)
DK Salaries: Pineda ($7,000), Lutz ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Pineda (+230), Lutz (-300)
Odds to Finish: -210
THE PICK: Lutz

Featherweight
Steven Peterson (19-10-0) v. Lucas Alexander (7-3-0)
DK Salaries: Peterson ($8,700), Alexander ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Peterson (-165), Alexander (+130)
Odds to Finish: +105
THE PICK: Alexander

Welterweight
Trevin Giles (15-4-0) v. Preston Parsons (10-3-0)
DK Salaries: Giles ($8,200), Parsons ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Giles (-105), Parsons (-115)
Odds to Finish: -190
THE PICK: Giles

Flyweight
C.J. Vergara (10-4-1) v. Daniel Lacerda (11-4-0)
DK Salaries: Vergara ($9,300), Lacerda ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Vergara (-275), Lacerda (+210)
Odds to Finish: -650
THE PICK: Vergara

Lightweight
Manuel Torres (13-2-0) v. Trey Ogden (16-5-0)
DK Salaries: Torres ($8,500), Ogden ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Torres (-145), Ogden (+120)
Odds to Finish: -220
THE PICK: Torres

Flyweight
Victor Altamirano (11-2-0) v. Vinicius Salvador (14-4-0)
DK Salaries: Altamirano ($7,900), Salvador ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Altamirano (-105), Salvador (-115)
Odds to Finish: -200
THE PICK: Altamirano

Women's Bantamweight
Hailey Cowan (7-2-0) v. Tamires Vidal (7-1-0)
DK Salaries: Cowan ($8,400), Vidal ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Cowan (-140), Vidal (+115)
Odds to Finish: +145
THE PICK: Vidal

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 286 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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