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UFC Fight Night Cheat Sheet: DraftKings MMA DFS Picks, Predictions for January 16

Stephie Haynes preps you for Saturday’s UFC slate with key factors and winning trends for your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups.

The UFC will finally be back in action this Saturday with a fantastic card to officially kick off their 2021 year. Headlined by what many are considering a featherweight title eliminator between Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar, the event will showcase a number of compelling bouts, including a certified banger between Santiago Ponzinibbio and Li Jingliang, as well as the long-awaited clash between veterans Carlos Condit and Matt Brown. From one side to the other, UFC Fight Fight: Holloway vs. Kattar is chock-full of violent delights for even the most discerning fan.

We’ve put together a handy guide of facts and figures to help you when selecting your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Each category will feature the standout fighter for his/her achievements in said category. Let’s get started!


DraftKings users can enter to win big prizes in Saturday’s MMA $300K Island Throwdown contest, which pays out a guaranteed $300,000, including $100K to first place. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $300K Island Throwdown [$100K to 1st].

Place your UFC bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page and bet online by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.



Side Notes

  • 2,000 fans will be in attendance at the Etihad Arena
  • This card will air on ABC and it bears the alternate title of “UFC on ABC 1”

SUPER STRIKERS

Max Holloway, $8,900

Max Holloway is the epitome of a volume striker. Fighting from the orthodox stance, he layers beautiful combos to the head and body, he counters well, and has a brand new, phenomenal kicking game. With an average of 6.47 strikes per minute, it will be difficult for his opponent, Calvin Kattar ($7,300), to stay out of harm’s way, even with his own technical striking expertise. “Blessed” absorbs around 4.52 strikes per minute—not great, but not terrible either, especially considering his high output. Holloway has plenty of hand speed, and despite his many wars, he doesn’t seem to have lost a step in that regard. His footwork is also smooth as silk, allowing him to navigate from clinch to range easily.

What’s also impressive about Max is his second wind. While he dropped his last two fights to current champ Alexander Volkanovski, his performance in the last two rounds of the first fight was remarkable, and many believe he won both times. I personally had Volkanovski winning the first, but the second fight was much closer, and it wouldn’t have bothered me one bit if they’d given Max the nod. He came on strong much earlier in the fight, with a whole slew of adjustments that were clearly designed specifically for Alexander. That careful planning might not have won him the fight officially, but it certainly didn’t go unnoticed.

Calvin Kattar is a phenomenal striker, one of the top 5 in the sport. His technical expertise is a joy to watch, from body work to surgically precise stingers that rack up damage. His elbow knockout of Jeremy Stephens was positively nasty, and it showed how easily he adjusts his strategy on the fly. Kattar doesn’t start off hot, but he does start quicker than Holloway, who typically uses all of round one and sometimes most or all of round two to feel out his opponents. Holloway should employ a similar strategy used on Volkanovski in the second fight, and get his momentum going earlier in the fight. This is a close call, but it will make for an absolute banger.

KNOCKOUT KINGS

Santiago Ponzinibbio, $9,300

Santiago Ponzinibbio is a very well-rounded, orthodox fighter with an incredibly hot hand. He averages a respectable 4.27 strikes per minute, but also takes some punishment in the same time frame, to the tune of 4.02 strikes per minute. The philosophy of “you’ve got to take some to give some” definitely applies here. When speaking of “The Argentine Dagger,” the image of Neil Magny crumpling under that right is what immediately pops into mind. Then the image of him kicking Magny’s legs to pieces immediately follows. The Ponz is a masterful adjuster and opportunist, making the most of just about any opening, and as if that weren’t enough to win you over, he’s also a great grappler, too, holding six submission wins on his excellent record.

But his grappling isn’t the topic at hand. It’s his immense power. In his fight with Gunnar Nelson, a right staggered Nelson, but it was the hammer of a left that floored him. The follow-up shots were just the icing on the cake. Nelson wasn’t rushing in, and his hands were up, but the sneaky right that got through went right over the top of Gunnar’s left arm, even though it was held up fairly high. He dipped ever so slightly, and Santiago capitalized immediately.

Ponzinibbio does have his own weaknesses—namely wild aggression and a tendency to drop his own hands, something Lorenz Larkin was able to capitalize on. Li Jingliang ($6,900) is no slouch in the power department, and his wrestling could be the counterpoint to Ponz’s power. One important thing to note is that Santiago has been out of action for more than two years. Some look at this as an opening for cage rust, but I tend to look at it as an extended period of healing and recuperation.

GRAPPLING GODS

Carlos Condit, $8,700

Carlos Condit and Matt Brown ($7,500) is a fight many years in the making. Perhaps it’s a smidge past their respective primes, but it still has the potential to be a great fight. Condit is known for his knockout ability, his knack for snagging victory from the jaws of defeat, and a very gnarly submission game. One must bear in mind it’s been a long time since he nailed a sub, but the potential is there. More so with him than any other fighter on the entire card. He holds submissions over Frank Trigg, John Alessio and Carlo Prater, to name a few of his 13 submission victims. He is an active submission hunter, too, constantly looking to improve position.

Condit averages .55 takedowns per 15-minute fight with a 55% accuracy rate and averages 1.1 submission attempts. Matt Brown has some submissions to his name, as well, but both men seem to prefer to keep the fight standing. Something to note: While Condit has great jiu-jitsu, he has subpar wrestling and has difficulty stopping takedowns. Matt Brown has also experienced this, so bearing that in mind, one should expect this to be a standup war. That said, if this fight hits the ground, I give the edge to Condit.

Side Note: Condit has a crazy durable chin, having suffered only a single defeat by TKO, a freak leg injury at the hands (actually foot) of Tyron Woodley.

GAS GUZZLERS

Vanessa Melo, $7,100

Vanessa Melo is in a win or leave situation, one might think. She’s dropped her last three fights and to make matters worse, she missed weight in her last fight by five pounds. To make matters worse, she’s slow, averaging just 3.4 strikes per minute, and her defense is terrible, allowing for an absorption rate of a whopping 7.20 strikes in that same minute.

She is a good counter puncher, but again, she is slow and takes a ton of punishment in the process of trying to land effective counters. She also keeps her hands super low, resulting in accumulation. When you’re constantly getting pummeled, mounted and pummeled again, your stamina flies right out the window. Unless she’s undergone hypnotherapy and changed her entire fight style and replaced her leaky gas tank, I can’t imagine the outcome against a very aggressive Sarah Moras ($9,100) will bode well for her.

Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $300K Island Throwdown [$100K to 1st].

Place your UFC bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page and bet online by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is crooklyn949) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.

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