This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC Vegas 59 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 - Light Heavyweight
Thiago Santos (22-10-0) v. Jamahal Hill (10-1-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Santos ($7,200), Hill ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Santos (+220), Hill (-260)
Odds to Finish: -450
This is last call for Santos, who has lost four of five dating back to his miraculous performance in July 2019 in which he nearly stole the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship from Jon Jones despite serious injuries in both of his knees. It's unfortunate, but that Jones bout may have been Santos' last stand. He's now 38 years old and his explosiveness, aggressiveness and overall effectiveness have essentially vanished his past few bouts. It could be residual effects from the injury, or it could be simple aging, but the odds are strongly against the Brazilian making another legitimate run at 205 pounds.
Hill's momentum was stopped following a shocking knockout loss at the hands of submission specialist Paul Craig in June 2021, but he has since rebounded with back-to-back knockout wins over Johnny Walker and Jimmy Crute. I have serious concerns regarding Hill's ability to generate consistent offense if his power punches aren't landing, but he is a legitimate knockout threat each and every time he steps inside the Octagon.
I don't know this for a fact, but I imagine a prolonged fight would favor Santos some. Hill saw the final bell in his UFC debut, but hasn't seen a third round in five fights since. Four of those bouts ended in Round 1. Here, he's scheduled for 25 minutes. Santos, on the other hand, has gone 25 minutes in his last two bouts and three of his past five.
Of course, all of this remains irrelevant if Santos continues to be passive throughout the course of the bout. He simply cannot allow Hill to constantly push forward and dictate the pace of the bout. The "old" Santos would seemingly be in good shape if he were to engage Hill in a back-and-forth brawl, but the guy we've seen lately seems far too passive to defeat anyone by any method other than knockout.
Everything seems about correct here. $7,200 seems like a pretty fair price for Santos on the surface, and I don't totally hate the idea of using him as a punt play, but you certainly can't pick him outright given what we have seen lately. That said, this could be a good matchup for Santos from a stylistic standpoint if he is able to turn back the clock some. I have my doubts.
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Hill
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
Vicente Luque (21-8-1) v. Geoff Neal (14-4-0)
DK Salaries: Luque ($8,500), Neal ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Luque (-165), Neal (+140)
Odds to Finish: -140
Luque appeared to be in really good shape following a four-fight streak from May 2020 to August 2021 in which he racked up submission victories over Michael Chiesa, Tyron Woodley, Randy Brown and Niko Price, but all that good work went out the window when Luque dropped a lopsided unanimous decision to Belal Muhammad in a main event spot this past April despite entering as a healthy -210 favorite. He cannot afford a second-straight defeat.
Neal snapped a two-fight losing streak last December with a split decision win over Santiago Ponzinibbio. It was a close fight, but one in which Neal probably deserved to emerge victorious. Neal faded in Round 2 in that one following a fast start but picked up the pace late to take the decision. Geoff will be 32 years of age in late August and lacks secondary offensive skills, so I doubt his next eight UFC bouts will go as well (6-2) as the first eight have.
This has the look of an unquestioned kickboxing match. Luque has eight career wins via submission (Neal has two), but both men are most comfortable in reckless brawls, Luque in particular. Neal is going to have the edge in terms of pure power, but Vicente is a volume guy who lands 5.30 significant strikes per minute. Of course, he absorbs 5.18 per minute. The winner here figures to be the man who is most durable, which has not been an issue for either fighter to date.
One thing to keep an eye on here is how many leg kicks Luque throws. Neal had all sorts of problems with that in the Ponzinibbio fight, and it will be interesting to see if Vicente and his team recognize that and go to the well.
I think there's a better than even chance Neal made his name beating up on lesser competition. His best win in the UFC other than Ponzinibbio came against Muhammad, but that was way back in January 2019. Neal's a live 'dog, but I'd like to see him convincingly defeat a quality opponent before jumping on board.
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Luque
Augusto Sakai (15-4-1) v. Sergey Spivac (14-3-0)
DK Salaries: Sakai ($7,400), Spivac ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Sakai (+200), Spivac (-240)
Odds to Finish: -160
Sakai won his first four UFC bouts, but it's been all downhill of late, with three straight knockout defeats dating back to September 2020. I'm kind of surprised he's getting another opportunity here, but he is a product of Dana White's Contender Series (Brazil) and a long-time competitor in Bellator, so it's not as if it's some guy who joined the company with zero pedigree. I'd be shocked if a fifth chance if forthcoming if he doesn't win here.
Spivac has won four of five, so he's in no immediate danger of going anywhere, but the the victories have come against less than subpar competition (Greg Hardy, Jared Vanderaa, Aleksei Oleinik, Carlos Felipe), while the defeat came against top heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall. It came back in October 2019, but Spivac has a submission win over Tai Tuivasa on his resume and that looks pretty good right about now. Other than that, it's been mostly wins over fringe-roster fighters for Spivac.
There's zero doubt Spivac has more long-term upside in addition to a more well-rounded game. Sakai has power and nothing else. Spivac has six submission victories and is a much better wrestler, averaging 3.29 takedowns per 15 minutes. With a takedown defense of 68 percent, Sakai is at risk of being pinned to the mat for long stretches at a time in this fight.
Sakai will probably swing for the bleachers with every single shot, which honestly isn't that bad a plan, because I'd be shocked if he has the technical to skill to outpoint Spivac over the course of 15 minutes. He'll have to be careful he doesn't leave openings for Spivac to throw him to the mat, however.
A punt DK play on Sakai is simply nothing more than praying for a knockout. If you plan on betting Sakai, certainly go with his knockout prop as opposed to the outright win to improve your odds. I think the most likely scenario is Spivac takes a dull, grinding decision -- a method of victory he should easily be able to obtain as long as he doesn't get caught on the feet.
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Spivac
Sam Alvey (33-17-1, 1NC) v. Michal Oleksiejczuk (16-5-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Alvey ($6,900), Oleksiejczuk ($9,300)
Vegas Odds: Alvey (+450), Oleksiejczuk (-600)
Odds to Finish: -160
I can never remember a fighter being given as many chances as Alvey has. He's been a good soldier for many years, always willing to fight whoever they put in front of him at a drop of a hat, but he just turned 36 years of age and is 0-7-1 in his last eight fights. That is not a misprint. The UFC has given Alvey eight fights dating back to September 2018 and he hasn't won a single one. Granted, there are two split decision defeats and a split draw in there, but there is no way to defend the record.
Oleksiejczuk is in far better shape than Alvey, because it's impossible not to be. His 2-3 record in his last five fights is nothing to write home about, but Oleksiejczuk is still just 27 years of age, so if he wins here, he should be good for a couple more fights. Oleksiejczuk is two inches smaller than Alvey and giving up an inch in reach, but any size edge Alvey has is negated by the style in which he fights.
The playbook for defeating Alvey is the same as it has ever been, even when he was in his prime -- you make him move his feet, avoid his power shots, and if possible, get him to the mat. Oleksiejczuk averages less than a takedown per 15 minutes, so that last part may be difficult, but there is no question who the faster fighter will be.
The fact Oleksiejczuk is such a massive DK favorite and has such overwhelming odds on the Vegas line are because of his opponent. Everything is just a giant bet against Alvey as opposed to a giant bet on Oleksiejczuk. In some ways, I get it. Why would this be the fight in which Alvey's losing streak is snapped? On the other, Oleksiejczuk hasn't shown a ton, and that scares me.
I'll probably pass on this fight altogether, but Alvey obviously can't be the pick to win outright.
UFC on ESPN 40 Pick: Oleksiejczuk
The Ultimate Fighter 30 - Heavyweight Final
Mohammed Usman (8-2-0) v. Zac Pauga (6-0-0)
DK Salaries: Usman ($7,300), Pauga ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Usman (+195), Pauga (-230)
Odds to Finish: -125
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Pauga
The Ultimate Fighter 30 - Women's Flyweight Final
Brogan Walker (8-2-0) v. Juliana Miller (3-1-0)
DK Salaries: Walker ($7,900), Miller ($8,300)
Vegas Odds: Walker (+105), Miller (-125)
Odds to Finish: +250
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Walker
Ariane Lipski (14-7-0) v. Priscila Cachoeira (11-4-0)
DK Salaries: Lipski ($8,400), Cachoeira ($7,800)
Vegas Odds: Lipski (-175), Cachoeira (+150)
Odds to Finish: +135
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Lipski
Terrance McKinney (12-4-0) v. Erick Gonzalez (14-6-0)
DK Salaries: McKinney ($9,500), Gonzalez ($6,700)
Vegas Odds: McKinney (-850), Gonzalez (+600)
Odds to Finish: -500
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: McKinney
Bryan Battle (8-1-0) v. Takashi Sato (16-5-0)
DK Salaries: Battle ($8,700), Sato ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Battle (-230), Sato (+195)
Odds to Finish: +125
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Battle
Jason Witt (19-8-0) v. Josh Quinlan (5-0-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Witt ($7,600), Quinlan ($8,600)
Vegas Odds: Witt (+180), Quinlan (-210)
Odds to Finish: -270
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Quinlan
Miranda Granger (7-2-0) v. Cory McKenna (6-2-0)
DK Salaries: Granger ($7,100), McKenna ($9,100)
Vegas Odds: Granger (+190), McKenna (-225)
Odds to Finish: +200
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: McKenna
Mayra Bueno Silva (8-2-1) v. Stephanie Egger (7-2-0)
DK Salaries: Silva ($8,200), Egger ($8,000)
Vegas Odds: Silva (+100), Egger (-120)
Odds to Finish: TBD
UFC Vegas 59 Pick: Egger
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 277 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.