This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC Vegas 64 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 - Women's Strawweight
It's rarely pretty, but Rodriguez and Lemos have combined to win 10 of their last 11 bouts, leaving the winner here in good shape in a suddenly-thin 115-pound division. It's a difficult fight to breakdown because the two women employ a near identical style of fighting.
Rodriguez has just one defeat (6-1-2) in her first nine UFC bouts, and that loss came via split decision to current champion Carla Esparza in July 2020. While the record looks great on paper, Rodriguez will be 36 years of age next April and possesses an extremely limited offensive arsenal. She's a pure striker, with just a single knockout victory during her time with the company. It's a skill set which typically ages poorly.
A former bantamweight, Lemos has won six of seven, with her lone setback coming against another former champion in Jessica Andrade. Lemos is more likely than Rodriguez to grapple, but she too is extremely reliant on how much volume she can consistently land on the feet. She'll be 36 years of age next May.
When push comes to shove, I think Lemos has the power edge. Rodriguez is two inches taller, although both women enter with identical 65-inch reaches.
I still don't think it will be enough. Rodriguez's striking defense is considerably better, which should give her the edge in a fight scheduled for five rounds in which neither woman is all that adept at stopping her opposition.
Rodriguez is probably $200-$300 overpriced, but everything else seems correct. I wouldn't completely rule out a Lemos upset, but Rodriguez appears to be far better positioned to emerge victorious in a prolonged kickboxing match. If Lemos gets her to the mat, all bets are off.
THE PICK: Rodriguez
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
Rodriguez was originally scheduled to fight Kevin Holland at UFC 279 this past September. Khamzat Chimaev's massive weight miss forced the entire card to be reshuffled, and Rodriguez ended up taking on the much smaller Li Jingliang, ultimately being awarded a split-decision victory he almost certainly did not deserve. The victory improved Rodriguez's UFC record to 7-1 in his first eight bouts with the company.
Magny has hit a minor rough patch of late, going 2-2 in his past four fights. The ultimate overachiever, Magny was nothing more than roster depth upon his February 2013 arrival in the UFC. He has gone on to win 19 fights during his time with the company, including victories over Li, Carlos Condit, Kelvin Gastelum, Geoff Neal, Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks.
I have long professed that I feel Rodriguez's upside is limited due to his one-dimensional offensive arsenal, and I stand by that. Rodriguez isn't a pure striker, because that terms implies a fighter uses kicks. Rodriguez doesn't. He's a boxer, plain and simple, and he's good at it. D-Rod has fast hands and good footwork. More importantly, he has proven he can take a beating, a necessity for any competitor that employs that style. Rodriguez has yet to be knocked out in his pro career.
Magny doesn't look particularly big inside of the Octagon because he's a legitimate 6-foot-3 and fights at just 170 pounds, but he's going to have a two-inch height edge and overwhelming six-inch reach edge over Rodriguez. Both could play major factors considering Rodriguez's struggles to generate secondary offense.
On top of that, Magny is one of the best fighters in recent memory at adjusting his game plan on a fight-by-fight basis. He will adapt his style and do whatever is necessary to defeat his competition. Magny and his team are certainly well aware of their edge in both the grappling and cardio departments, and I'd be shocked if he stands and trades with Rodriguez for 15 minutes.
I think Rodriguez is a solid fighter, albeit one that isn't as good as his record would lead you to believe. The adaptability of Magny should win out here.
THE PICK: Magny
A former regular on the Russian regional circuit, Ulanbekov made his UFC debut in October 2020. He won each of his first two bouts before dropping a unanimous decision to Tim Elliott at UFC 272 this past March. Ulanbekov absorbed far too many power shots from Elliott in that bout, although he looked considerably better in the latter stages of the fight than early on.
Maness won each of his first three UFC fights before a loss to Umar Nurmagomedov in late-June. Umar is very good, so Maness gets a bit of a pass for that performance. My largest concern regarding Maness at this point is the fact he keeps bouncing between weight classes. His first UFC bout was at 140-pound catchweight fight, his last two came at bantamweight, and this one will come at flyweight.
Ulanbekov is big for the 125-pound division at 5-foot-7, but Maness, should he make weight without issue, will likely be the largest flyweight fighter on the roster. He's a legitimate 5-foot-10 and it's absolutely worth keeping an eye on Nate as he steps on the scale. This is a guy that fought as high up as lightweight (155 pounds) early in his career.
Like many Dagestani fighters, Ulanbekov is a high-end wrestler. He's averaging 3.67 takedowns per 15 minutes, while landing them at a reasonable 42-percent clip. Maness' takedown defense, albeit in a small sample, has been a solid 77 percent.
The question here is how Ulanbekov will handle the size of Maness. At 5-foot-7, Tagir is a large flyweight, but he's going to look small next to Maness.
On a card in which I don't love a ton of underdogs, Nate seems like a prime buy-low candidate. He's most definitely at risk of being overwhelmed on the mat, but he is also talented enough to pull the upset if he can remain upright. Easier said than done.
THE PICK: Maness
This was originally scheduled to be Madsen v. Drakkar Klose before the latter withdrew in late-September due to an ACL injury. As things currently stand, this may very well be the best fight on the entire card.
A former silver medalist in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Madsen is undefeated (three knockouts, three submissions, six decisions) in his first dozen professional fights. A third of those bouts have come with the UFC. Madsen is obviously a world-class athlete. The concern at this point is his age and lack of experience in mixed martial arts. The Dane turned 38 years of age in late September.
He may be taking this fight on short notice, but Dawson is no pushover. He's undefeated in his first seven UFC fights (6-0-1), with three submission wins and a knockout on his resume. Like Madsen, Dawson's offensive arsenal is based around his wrestling. He averages an impressive 3.97 takedowns per 15 minutes,.
The obvious question regarding Madsen is whether or not his secondary skills will translate to the highest level. He's averaged 3.9 takedowns per 15 minutes to date. That's impressive. What's more impressive is the fact he is landing 66 percent of his attempts. For comparison's sake, Dawson lands just 34 percent of his tries. Grant's takedown defense is a woeful 40 percent.
Any opponent of Madsen's is going to do whatever is necessary to try to keep the fight upright. Dawson looks uncomfortable at times in prolonged striking exchanges, so I'm interested in seeing if he still plans to try to implement his wrestling game or is instead comfortable standing in hopes Madsen can't get him to the mat.
I like Dawson to win, but he appears overpriced. Madsen has a clear path to victory -- as he does every single time he steps inside the Octagon -- and it's not as if Dawson has been flawless in remaining upright. In a fight scheduled for 15 minutes, Madsen may only need to land a couple takedowns in order to grind out a decision. He's a reasonably value play as an underdog even if I am not picking him outright.
THE PICK: Dawson
Darrick Minner (26-13-0) v. Shayilan Nuerdanbieke (38-10-0)
DK Salaries: Minner ($7,300), Nuerdanbieke ($8,900)
Vegas Odds: Minner (+170), Nuerdanbieke (-210)
Odds to Finish: -220
THE PICK: Nuerdanbieke
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 Vegas 64 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.