This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Many see a future champion when they look at the 28-year-old Mackenzie Dern, but standing in her way Saturday is a tough test in Marina Rodriguez, who is coming off back-to-back wins against high-caliber strawweights.
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 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 Strawweight
A dozen fights deep into her MMA career, Dern looks more and more comfortable each time she steps into the Octagon. She's won four in a row dating back to May 2020, and it's clear watching her that she is beginning to trust her instincts as opposed to thinking about her next move. Dern won via armbar submission in three of the previously-mentioned four bouts, with the best win of the bunch being a unanimous decision triumph over fellow mat specialist Virna Jandiroba. Dern is so good on the ground that she has a real chance at future MMA stardom as long as she can get the other parts of her game to an average level. I'm still worried about her in a kickboxing match against a high-level striker, but she has improved in that area as well.
This is going to be a real good test for Dern because Rodriguez does all of her best work on the feet. She has considerably more power than your typical 115-pounder. The Brazilian is fresh off wins over Michelle Waterson (decision) and Amanda Ribas (knockout). Rodriguez has never been submitted in her pro career, which is obviously key when your opponent is one of the most decorated female BJJ specialists in history.
A striking battle is going to be a big advantage for Rodriguez. Dern's improvements on the feet should allow her to remain competitive for as long as the fight remains standing, but I have a difficult time seeing her winning if she is unable to get Rodriguez to the ground.
There's an obvious technical edge in Dern's favor. She has mat skills Rodriguez could only dream of, and should be able to end the fight quickly if it ends up there.
I would be worried about Dern from a betting standpoint because -170 leaves little room for error, but I think she's a strong DK play at just $200 more than Rodriguez. Her striking has undoubtedly improved, and her edge on the mat makes it more likely than not she prevails here.
THE PICK: Dern
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
Brown hasn't been the picture of consistency over the course of his UFC run, but he's managed to win three of his last four, including arguably his most impressive performance to date his last time out -- a submission win over Alex Oliveira in just under three minutes this past April. Brown has plenty of positive traits. He's big (6-foot-3), athletic and possesses a solid all-around game. Maybe I'm being stubborn, but I still think there is more here than what we've seen thus far.
Gooden began his UFC run with two-straight defeats, but likely saved his job with a 68-second knockout win over Niklas Stolze this past July. Gooden has proven to be a pure brawler during his brief time with the company, landing 5.04 significant strikes per minute while eating 7.55 per minute. The former is nice, but the latter is a major, major concern. No fighter, I don't care how talented you are, is going to to achieve long-term success if they are consistently absorbing that much punishment.
Gooden has looked explosive at times, but only in short spurts. Brown is the much better athlete and has more ways to win. I'm curious how Gooden is going to generate consistent offense if this deteriorates into something other than an all-out brawl.
Brown's technical edge makes this an easy pick. It figures to take some sort of sustained pressure from Gooden in order to pull the upset, and I'm not sure he has the ability due to his lack of defensive awareness.
THE PICK: Brown
Set to turn 35 years of age on Christmas Eve, Elliott has been up and down since returning to the company back in December 2016. His record is just 4-5, although he's fought some high-end competition during that stretch and has performed better than that number would lead you to believe. Elliott is a solid all-around fighter who has seen and done it all. He's not going to be overwhelmed inside the Octagon, and he isn't going to beat himself. Elliott's ceiling is non-existent at this point, but there's no reason he can't remain somewhat competitive at 125 pounds for the next couple years. He's currently ranked as a top-10 flyweight, but that says more about the division as opposed to Elliott at this stage of his career.
Elliott better come ready to fight, as Nicoleau is no easy mark. The Brazilian is 6-1 in his first seven UFC bouts, although his most recent -- a split decision win over Manel Kape this past March -- was highly controversial, as virtually everyone though his opponent deserved the victory. Nicoleau has spent the vast majority of his career at bantamweight. He and Elliott are virtually identical in size, but I expect Nicoleau to have a significant strength edge come fight night.
Elliott's greatest asset it his wrestling. He averages north of four takedowns per 15 minutes, but Nicoleau has yet to be taken down in his UFC career. I have no idea how Elliott is going to win if he is unable to successfully implement his wrestling game.
I look at the risk/reward factor when making this pick. We have certainly already seen the best Elliott has to offer. Nicoleau, at least theoretically, has another level to go to. Whether or not he ever gets there is a different story entirely, but he should have enough to get past Elliott.
THE PICK: Nicoleau
These two were scheduled to fight in July before a rib injury to Winn forced its rescheduling.
Hawes has been flawless since earning his UFC opportunity with a knockout win on Dana White's Contender Series in September 2020. He has had three official fights with the company and won them all, knocking out Jacob Malkoun, in addition to taking decisions from Nassourdine Imavov and Kyle Daukaus. Hawes has a bunch of power, but I've been pleasantly surprised with his wrestling. He has six takedowns in his past two fights, which are really the only two we can consider because he won his UFC debut in 18 seconds.
Winn made his company debut in June 2019 with just five professional fights under his belt. Taking that into consideration, his 2-2 mark with the UFC isn't all that bad. Yet a deeper dive into Winn's record reveals a couple majors concerns. First is the fact Winn missed weight for his split decision loss to Darren Stewart in October 2019. He then tested positive for amphetamines following a submission loss to Gerald Meerschaert about five months later. That stunt earned Winn a nine-month USADA suspension. He's impossible to trust at this point.
The only real positive we have seen from Winn is his 4.98 takedowns landed per 15 minutes. That's all well and good, but Hawes has yet to be taken down in his UFC career. I don't see how Winn wins this fight if he can't get Hawes to the mat on a consistent basis.
$9,000 is a hefty price tag, but this is a thin card and I don't love a ton of the underdog plays, so it's probably worth paying up for Hawes if you confident he's going to emerge victorious.
THE PICK: Hawes
Lupita Godinez (5-1-0) vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez (10-2-0)
DK Salaries: Godinez ($8,600), Gomez Juarez (TBD)
Vegas Odds: Godinez (-210), Gomez Juarez (+170)
Odds to Finish: TBD
THE PICK: Godinez