On Saturday night, the UFC returns to the APEX Center for the 31st installment of their “Vegas” series. The card, while light on name value, doesn’t lack for compelling matchups. With just 11 fights on deck, thanks to a last-minute rescheduling of Phil Hawes vs. Deron Winn, fans will bear witness to a card that doesn’t feature much in the way of upper end contendership, but it will shake out the mid-point of the rankings for the lightweight division with the main event between Islam Makhachev and Thiago Moises.
The rest of the card, including the co-main event, is a series of contests that should provide plenty of entertainment, with the focus on a few select fights that I’m looking forward to most. First on that list is the absolute banger that is Gabriel Benitez vs. Billy Quarantillo. Both men are exciting, but it will be interesting to see how Quarantillo rebounds from his first UFC loss. Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jeremy Stephens will most likely turn out to be a barn-burner and we cannot forget that Miesha Tate is making her return to the octagon after a lengthy absence.
As we move farther down the card, we get the standard lower-tier and entry-level contests, but there are some really good ones to consider. Deiveson Figueiredo’s brother, Francisco, is facing off against the wildly aggressive Malcolm Gordon. We also get another really good bantamweight prospect showdown when Miles Johns squares up with Anderson Dos Santos. Daniel Rodriguez is likely to get another highlight reel finish over late replacement newcomer Preston Parsons, and Amanda Lemos’ contest with Montserrat Conejo should be a fun battle. This event has all the looks of a sleeper hit.
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!
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Billy Quarantillo, $7,700
Billy Quarantillo is facing a battle-tested veteran in Gabriel Benitez, and make no mistake, Benitez is as tough as they come. Billy is coming off his first octagon loss after a sensational start to his UFC career with a trio of back-to-back wins before taking a three-round trouncing at the hands of Gavin Tucker. There’s no shame in that loss, as Tucker is no slouch, but that fight is a bit of a blueprint for “Moggly”, who is coming off a TKO win over Justin Jaynes. Benitez is a tough brawler, but can be finished, both on the feet and the ground. And Gabriel’s losses are to a mix-mash of competition levels, ranging from Enrique Barzola to Omar Morales. This is an interesting bout, and the one likely to deliver the most action, but Quarantillo has more to lose in this one considering his highly lauded entry to the promotion. Benitez’s “win some, lose some” record won’t suffer much if he loses to a high-level prospect, but Billy’s only had a single defeat in four UFC bouts and a fifth fight on the Contender Series also saw him successful, so the onus is on him to prove he belongs in future contender conversation.
Jeremy Stephens, $7,600
Jeremy Stephens at 35 years old has 16-plus years of professional fight experience, dating back to January 2005. During that time, he’s been in some real wars, but he’s also knocked out a lot of men along the way—19, to be exact. It’s been three years since we last saw that kind of action from him, and while our memories might be a little hazy on his stopping power thanks to a string of losses and a no-contest, Josh Emmett will never forget, as he was on the receiving end of a brutal knockout thanks to some hellbows from Jeremy. Since that night, Stephens has faced a veritable Murderer’s Row of talent at the top end of the division without much success. The challenge he faces in Poland’s Mateusz Gamrot is a tough one, and a litmus test to see whether he can still hold down the fort as a mid-level gatekeeper. Gamrot has real stopping power and a good grappling game. His cardio is up to speed and he seems composed under pressure. This is a great test for both and should provide plenty of exciting exchanges for fans.
Anderson Dos Santos, $7,800
Anderson Dos Santos might not be the most decorated grappler on the card—that unique distinction goes to Rodolfo Vieira—but for the purposes of the stats, he holds the most in-cage submission victories. He’s paired off with a very promising prospect in Miles Johns, a man who has a solid wrestling game with good takedowns, but with enough defensive foibles to give Dos Santos a good chance at victory. Anderson is a jack-of-all-trades but hasn’t really found true mastery in any one area outside his submission game, and even there, his wins are over regional and lower level competition. This fight is most certainly in Johns’ favor, but Dos Santos is a live dog in every sense of the term and could be the apple that upsets the cart.
Rodolfo Vieira, $8,700
Vieira being the world-class grappler that he is, should be looking to erase the stain of his last fight, a humiliating submission loss to Anthony Hernandez. Why was it humiliating, you ask? When you’re as decorated a grappling star as Vieira is, you have a reputation to uphold, and that doesn’t include tapping because you gassed out—in the first round. That’s right, Rodolfo was winded literally two minutes in. He could barely stay upright. To put it into perspective, Hernandez by submission was a +3000 prop bet. Am I saying Rodolfo can’t win? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, he’s the favorite here, and with good reason. That said, he’s also a known gas hog, so we must keep that at the forefront of our minds when selecting fantasy teams.
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