The UFC is hosting its 22nd “Vegas” card at their APEX Center in Las Vegas this Saturday night. Action-packed fights fill out the 12-bout card that features a middleweight thriller between Kevin Holland and Derek Brunson in the headlining position. The winner of this ends up in the enviable position of being even closer to contendership. Both men are surging with multi-fight win streaks, and both are coming off knockout finishes. Brunson last fought in August, Holland in December. Bearing that in mind, it would seem that there’s been plenty of time for recuperation from the insane pace of 2020 (Holland fought five times). That also allots plenty of time for preparation, as well.
It’s an excellent contest that will be fully complemented by an undercard of fun, intriguing fights, some of which feature an octagon debut (I’m looking at you Cheyanne Buys and JP Buys). The exquisite matchmaking that brings us Kenan Song vs. Max Griffin and Roman Dolidze vs. Trevin Giles deserves credit for thinking outside the box. And let us not forget that Gregor Gillespie is finally returning after a hiatus that stretches back to November of 2019. Has he shaken off that devastating knockout loss to Kevin Lee? Will his confidence be back to normal levels? It’s one of my more anticipated returns to action and I am looking forward to seeing how he bounces back against a very tough Brad Riddell.
We’ve selected four fighters from the event that will illustrate why they are worthy of their lofty or budget-conscious price tags in an effort to help you select your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Let’s get started.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC Fight Night fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $400K in guaranteed prizes, including $100,000 to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $400K Throwdown [$100K to 1st].
Kevin Holland, $8,400
It’s hard to pick against Holland in this matchup. He hits like a truck, can knock out his opponent from positions most people couldn’t even imagine, much less accomplish (Jacare, anyone?), he’s durable and he can grapple, too. Does he make boneheaded decisions that jeopardize his progress in fights? Yes he does, but he’s made great strides towards improvement. Derek Brunson has also made similar strides towards improvement, especially in his defense, taking far fewer risks than we’ve seen from him in the past.
Historically, Brunson would be winning a fight and then get impatient, throwing caution to the wind, and then finding himself counting the rafter beams in the ceiling. Of Brunson’s seven losses, five of them are knockouts. Kevin Holland hits entirely too hard for Brunson to abandon his defense in hopes of hanging tough with a guy that knocked out Jacare while enacting a scene that looked as if it were snatched straight out of a scene from The Matrix. Side Note: The pricing on this fight is perfect.
Gregor Gillespie, $9,000 Gregor Gillespie is returning after his first loss. The catch is that it’s been more than two years since that unfortunate occurrence. That’s plenty of time to refine his game, shore up defensive gaps and weaknesses, regain the confidence level he was at prior to the loss and get to know Derek Brunson’s strongest and weakest points. Cage rust is a real thing, I’m pretty sure of that, but not all are prone to it, and I’m hoping that’s the case with Gregor. Gillespie’s bread and butter is his elite-level wrestling. He’s an excellent scrambler, too, making smooth transitions and showing positional dominance. Perhaps the thing that is most convincing about Gillespie being the “real deal” is his power, and make no mistake, he has legitimate knockout power. Of his 13 wins, Gregor has knocked out six of those 13 opponents. Brad Riddell has great striking, as well, but I think Gillespie is on another level, and we all know that there’s levels to this sport. The pricing is just fine for this contest.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Gregor Gillespie-Brad Riddell bout has been pulled from tonight’s UFC Fight Night card due to COVID-19 protocols.
Song Kenan, $7,700
I honestly had to scratch my head when I saw the pricing for this fight. I mean, both men are what I consider a mixed bag, with inconsistent results on both sides, but Kenan has something that Griffin doesn’t—a good gas tank. And while both men pack power, each having eight knockouts to their credit, I feel Song may be the owner of the more diverse skill set. He’s a strong grappler and has six submission wins. Griffin is a capable grappler, too, but I think Song may have the upper hand in that regard. Both are coming off knockout wins, but Kenan has lost just one fight from his last five while Griffin has three losses over his last five.
It’s a close one, really close, but I like Kenan in this one, mainly because Griffin has cardio issues and also tends to get frustrated, leading him to make questionable decisions and leave himself wide open. He does have a strong chin, but every chin gets cracked at some point. The pricing is odd but the gap between the two is sound. I’d just have reversed their prices.
Leonardo Santos, $7,600
This is my super steal of the week. Santos hasn’t lost a fight since 2009! He is undefeated inside the octagon. He’s beaten legitimate competition, too. Just ask Anthony Rocco Martin, Kevin Lee and Stevie Ray—all of which were mercilessly finished inside eight minutes. Yes, he’s 41 years old, however, he’s a youthful 40, largely owing to his inactive schedule. Since 2013, he’s only fought eight times. Now, some might think that’s a bad thing, but clearly not in this case. No matter if he’s fighting 6 months from his last contest or three years from the last, he always looks fresh to death in there, and has maintained a 100% win rate in the UFC.
Now let’s get to the nuts and bolts. While Santos is a stud on the ground, he has an extra potent weapon—a heat-seeking missile in his right hand, and he launches it with impunity. Stevie Ray had no idea what hit him when a single punch cleaned his proverbial clock. Kevin Lee got to taste that power, too. Grant Dawson is a blue-chip wrestling standout with 11 submission wins, but he has subpar standup. He does have a few knockout wins, but they are over regional level competition, nowhere near the caliber of Santos’ finishes. His submission chops are great, and he can absolutely hang on the ground, but I think Santos will be just fine no matter where this fight ends up. One thing is for sure, this is a great fight. Once again, the pricing is on point.
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