This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC San Diego 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 $500k 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
My view of Vera has long been that he's a solid bantamweight, a clear top-10 guy in a loaded division, but probably not a legitimate title contender. He's coming off three straight wins over Rob Font, Frankie Edgar and Davey Grant. It hasn't all been roses, however, as he dropped a unanimous decision to Jose Aldo prior and was on his way to losing to Sean O'Malley before O'Malley suffered a foot injury and Vera took advantage. Vera has a ton of high-level experience for a guy who won't turn 30 years of age until this coming December, but I'm not fully bought in just yet.
On the flip side, these are the type of bouts that the soon-to-be 37-year-old Cruz needs to win. Dom has lost three times in his professional career and they all came in title fights. The first was against Urijah Faber in the WEC in March 2007, while the other two came back-to-back against Cody Garbrandt and Henry Cejudo in late-2016 and mid-2020. That is not a misprint. Cruz missed more than three and a half years, and while it may not have been the direct cause of the result, it certainly didn't help.
Blessed with perhaps the best footwork in the history of the sport, Cruz has a unique ability to damage his opponent and get out of range before they return fire. That's one of the first things that tends to go on an aging fighter, so it will be interesting to see if Cruz -- who keeps himself in exceptional shape -- will be able to continue to use that to his advantage moving forward. Vera absorbs 4.99 significant strikes per minute, so there should be room for Dom to do damage on the feet.
My main concern about Cruz as this point is his age. He doesn't have much room for error given the style with which he fights, so any dip in athleticism or his ability to move laterally is a potential significant issue. If that is indeed the case, I could see Vera giving him fits for five rounds without accomplishing a whole heck of a lot.
That said, there's still more then enough here for me to take Cruz outright as an underdog. I think he's being severely disrespected from both a DraftKings and Vegas odds standpoint. I have this as a pick 'em. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Vera did indeed win, but there's just too much value to roll with Cruz.
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Cruz
Co-Main Event - Featherweight
This has the making of a wild brawl between two men who are more than happy to eat a strike in order to land two of their own.
Landwehr arrived on the scene in January 2020 and has alternated losses and wins in his four bouts with the company.The two defeats came via knockout (Herbert Burns, Julian Erosa), while the victories came via unanimous decision (Darren Elkins) and submission (L'udovit Klein). Landwehr was originally scheduled to face Zubaira Tukhugov a week ago in the even headlined by Jamahal Hill and Thiago Santos, but Tukhugov was forced to withdraw due to visa issues, pushing Landwehr back a week against a different opponent.
Onama spent his entire brief career on the regional circuit before making his UFC debut in October 2021. This will be his fourth fight in well under a year, which is the type of usage you want to see from a guy hoping to move up the rankings. Onama dropped a unanimous decision to Mason Jones in his company debut, but has picked up back-to-back stoppage victories over Gabriel Benitez (knockout) and Garrett Armfield (submission) since. Onama is just 28 year of age, so there could be something here.
The sample size is small, but both of these men fire off a ton of volume on the feet. Landwehr lands 6.51 significant strikes per minute, while absorbing 5.96, while Onama lands 5.61 and eats 5.58. Onama seems the more likely of the two to mix in a takedown, but I expect this to be a brawl.
I don't hate the idea of using Landwehr as a punt DK play simply because I could see this fight ending quickly one way or another. That said, I think Onama is the better overall fighter, with more ways to win if this dissolves into something other than the expected brawl.
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Onama
This fight will be the ultimate clash of styles between two fighters who go about their business in completely different ways.
Silva racked up three straight knockout victories to begin his UFC run. The power is legitimate, and he's an underrated athlete, but he met future title contender Alex Pereira this past March and didn't fare particularly well. Pereira is a stud and may very well be a champion in the not-too-distant future, so Silva gets a pass there and should have an excellent chance of getting right back in the win column here.
Meerschaert has been up and down, picking up three straight victories from April 2021 to December 2021 before dropping a unanimous decision to Krzysztof Jotko this past April. Meerschaert's last half-dozen wins have all came via submission, giving him an extremely low floor. He's excellent on the mat, obviously, and averages 2.25 takedowns per 15 minutes, but "GM3" finds himself at risk of being overwhelmed on the feet in any prolonged kickboxing match, and that's a massive concern against a fighter like Silva.
The sample size is small, but Silva has defended the takedown at a 68-percent clip thus far. I'm sure Gerald and his team are well aware of the danger the Brazilian presents, and I expect a wrestling-heavy attack as a result.
Meerschaert is as tough as they come and has displayed an ability to rebound in fights in which he isn't performing well, but this is a tough ask. Predicting any submission is also notoriously more difficult than a knockout. He's giving up so much on the feet in terms of power and overall skill to Silva that it's impossible to pick him to win. This is an easy one.
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Silva
Calvillo and Nunes were scheduled to fight about a month ago before the latter suffered an illness just before the event, forcing the bout to be pushed back.
Calvillo got some hype early in her UFC run, but the truth of the matter is that she's shown no consistent skills during her time with the company outside of plenty of toughness. Calvillo has lost three fights in a row dating back to November 2020, including the last two via knockout. She's completely finished if her durability is legitimately starting to wane, and there's a case to be made she might be done regardless. I'd be shocked if she gets another opportunity with the company is she comes up short here.
Nunes hasn't been much better of late, coming off back-to-back losses to Mackenzie Dern (submission) and Tatiana Suarez (unanimous decision) on the heels of a four-fight winning streak. Nunes falls into the same category as Calvillo in the sense that she brings plenty of toughness to the table and not a heck of a lot else. Nunes doesn't have a knockout win since 2013, but unlike Calvillo, she has never been stopped via strikes in her pro career.
Calvillo would be smart to just fire repeated takedowns at Nunes in hopes she is able to use her upper-body strength to win at the point of attack. She's been so bad on the feet that trying to keep Nunes pinned to the mat for long stretches at a time might be her best chance of winning.
I view this as the very definition of a pick 'em. The tiny advantage Calvillo possesses in terms of physical skills are negated by her poor fight IQ. Say what you will about Nunes, but she doesn't beat herself.
This looks like a prime opportunity to back an underdog. Neither woman tends to accomplish a ton from a DraftKings scoring perspective, and I imagine that will continue here, but Calvillo has been a chronic underachiever, and Nunes can probably win this fight.
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Nunes
Devin Clark (13-6-0) v. Azamat Murzakanov (11-0-0)
DK Salaries: Clark ($7,800), Murzakanov ($8,400)
Vegas Odds: Clark (+130), Murzakanov (-150)
Odds to Finish: -175
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Murzakanov
Yazmin Jauregui (8-0-0) v. Iasmin Lucindo (13-4-0)
DK Salaries: Jauregui ($8,700), Lucindo ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Jauregui (-210), Lucindo (+180)
Odds to Finish: +130
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Jauregui
Women's Catch Weight (120 pounds)
Angela Hill (13-12-0) v. Lupita Godinez (8-2-0)
DK Salaries: Hill ($7,000), Godinez ($9,200)
Vegas Odds: Hill (+280), Godinez (-340)
Odds to Finish: +205
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Godinez
Gabriel Benitez (22-11-0) v. Charlie Ontiveros (11-8-0)
DK Salaries: Benitez ($9,300), Ontiveros ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Benitez (-345), Ontiveros (+285)
Odds to Finish: -350
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Benitez
Youssef Zalal (10-5-0) v. Da'Mon Blackshear (12-4-0)
DK Salaries: Zalal ($8,200), Blackshear ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Zalal (-130), Blackshear (+110)
Odds to Finish: +125
UFC SAN DIEGO PICK: Blackshear
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 San Diego with more MMA betting content.
DraftKings MMA Scoring
Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
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)
- 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.