This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
A former champion on a comeback tour headlines Saturday's fight card in Las Vegas.
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 Bantamweight
Tate returned from a 4.5-year hiatus this past July, quickly dispatching of a since-retired Marion Reneau via knockout in Round 3. She looked as good as could reasonably be expected and earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus for her effort, but a victory over Reneau tells us nothing moving forward. This one could go either way because there isn't a lot of depth at 135 pounds, but if forced to choose, I would remain on the pessimistic side regarding Tate's comeback. She turned 35 years old this past August and looked lousy prior to her sabbatical, which, of course, is why she walked away in the first place.
Vieira was scheduled to fight Sara McMann a couple months ago before an injury caused the latter to withdraw. A loser of two of her past three fights, Vieira might need a win more than Tate. Vieira's last bout this past February was a complete disaster. She missed weight by two pounds for her fight against Yana Kunitskaya and then proceeded to drop a unanimous decision. There's not much to be excited about here outside of the fact Vieira is very strong for the division.
All that said, Vieira is better than Reneau, and this should give us a better idea of what to expect from Tate moving forward. Vieira is two inches taller and has a three-inch reach edge. Tate is most effective when she is using her physicality, and those opportunities may very well be limited against a bigger opponent in Vieira.
If this turns into a wrestling match, the Brazilian should have the edge. Both women average just over two takedowns per 15 minutes, but Vieira defends the takedown at a brilliant 92 percent clip, while Tate's takedown defense stands at a woeful 52 percent. Tate is in trouble if Vieira ends up on top of her for an extended period of time.
Although I'm not very high on Vieira over the long term, all in all, this seems like another prime spot to fade Tate. I could very well be wrong about that, but if you toss the Reneau fight out the window, Tate's last prior victory was against Holly Holm on March 5, 2016. I need to see more from her before I invest with any sort of confidence.
THE PICK: Vieira
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
Chiesa is coming off a devastating first-round submission defeat at the hands of Vicente Luque this past August. "Maverick" entered that bout having won four in a row and was borderline dominant in the early portion of the fight before exposing his neck and paying for it. Chiesa may have very well been closing in on a title shot if he could have closed the show. Instead, he failed to last four minutes and is now essentially in must-win territory against an undefeated opponent in Brady.
The sample size is very small, but Brady is an undefeated 4-0 in the UFC and has looked terrific thus far. His wins over Court McGee, Ismail Naurdiev and Christian Aguilera were middling, but Brady submitted the very talented and underrated Jake Matthews this past March in an excellent effort. UFC commentator and former fighter Paul Felder, who like Brady is from Philadelphia, has been raving about Brady forever, saying he has legitimate high-end potential. Felder is one of the smartest analysts in the sport today, and I trust his judgment.
Chiesa is about as good on the mat as any man in the welterweight division, but Brady is going to have a big, big power advantage in this fight, and Michael is going to be in danger as long as the two are standing. Chiesa still doesn't have a knockout victory in his professional career, which remains one of the craziest stats I can remember.
This is smart matchmaking right here. Chiesa is still a significant step up for Brady, but it's also a fight in which he should be competitive, if not win.
I think Chiesa has some value as a significant underdog simply due to his craftiness and experience edge, but I ultimately can not get past the overwhelming edge Brady has in the power department. He should dominate as long as this fight remains standing, making him the clear selection. It's nearly impossible to see Chiesa winning via anything other than submission, and those are notoriously difficult to predict.
THE PICK: Brady
This fight was scheduled to take place back in July before Yahya tested positive for COVID-19 and forced its postponement.
One of the most decorated mat specialists in the history of MMA, Yahya enters having lost just once (4-1-1) in his past half-dozen bouts. A professional since 2002, 21 of Yahya's 27 career victory have come via submission. On the the flip side, Yahya doesn't have a single knockout victory in his career, and the lack of power in his hands has most certainly limited his ceiling. Opponents can step into the Octagon knowing they have a terrific chance of winning if they are able to remain upright against Yahya. Of course, that's easier said than done considering he averages 2.89 takedowns per 15 minutes.
Kang has been with the UFC since March 2013, but fought just nine times since then and not at all since December 2019. He is 6-1 in his past nine seven fights, but a deeper dive into the numbers reveals some concern. Of those six wins, three of them were via split decision. The other three were via submission. Kang is bigger, more physical and three inches younger than Yahya, but he too is a mat specialist and rolling around with the Brazilian on the mat is a dangerous, dangerous game. Surely Kang knows this.
It's rare these days to find a fight in which both competitors generate all their meaningful offense in the submission game. Those type of fighters typically struggle over the long term because everyone knows what is coming, and their opposition sells out to ensure those submission opportunities don't present themselves.
This is a true pick 'em, with Yahya getting the call for the very minor value he provides.
THE PICK: Yahya
Formerly Joanne Calderwood, JoJo recently married Syndicate MMA head coach John Wood and took his name. We'll see if the change makes a difference for Wood, as she has been maddingly inconsistent of late, alternating wins and losses in her past half-dozen bouts. That didn't stop the UFC from handing Wood a new multi-fight contract. She was due to fight Alexa Grasso here before Grasso withdrew and Santos stepped in.
Wood's last fight was a split decision loss to Lauren Murphy in June. I've always thought JoJo had far more potential than what we have seen, but she turns 35 years of age just a couple days before Christmas, and it seems quite unlikely any sort of run is coming. It's too bad, but Wood's stand-up skills are legitimate.
The sample size is small and the competition she has faced hasn't been great, but Santos has won three in a row (Roxanne Modafferi, Gillian Robertson, Molly McCann) since dropping a split decision to Mara Romero Borella in her UFC debut back in February 2019. Wood and Santos are the same size, but there is a clear physicality edge for Santos, as Wood much prefers standing at distance and engaging in a kickboxing match. I expect Santos to attempt to get in tight and take this to the mat, which certainly seems possible given the fact she averages 2.60 takedowns per 15 minutes.
This is a difficult fight to get a feel for. Santos has never beaten anyone of note, but she's nearly a decade younger than Wood and has shown all sorts of power on the Brazilian regional circuit, although it should be noted all of her UFC victories are via decision.
I would be hesitant to use Santos at her DK price tag, as she is the second-highest priced fighter on the entire card behind Luana Pinheiro, but nothing in Wood's background suggest there is any type of breakthrough forthcoming, so the pick here isn't in doubt.
THE PICK: Santos
Loma Lookboonmee (6-2-0) v. Lupita Godinez (6-2-0)
DK Salaries: Lookboonmee ($7,400), Godinez ($8,800)
Vegas Odds: Lookboonmee (+130), Godinez (-150)
Odds to Finish: +240
THE PICK: Lookboonmee
Shayilan Nuerdanbieke (19-7-0) v. Sean Soriano (14-7-0)
DK Salaries: Nuerdanbieke ($7,200), Soriano ($9,200)
Vegas Odds; Nuerdanbieke (+220), Soriano (-275)
Odds to Finish: -125
THE PICK: Soriano