This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC Austin 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 - Lightweight
Riding a 10-fight winning streak and without a defeat in nearly four years, Dariush finally got the high-profile bout he was looking for against Charles Oliveira this past June. He probably would have earned shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship had he won, but instead, Dariush was knocked out a little over four minutes in. It's a crushing result for an aging fighter (34 this past May) and one that will make it very difficult for Dariush to climb the ranks once again in a loaded 155-pound division.
Things get no easier here against Tsarukyan. Armen is 7-2 in his first nine UFC bouts. Those two defeats came at the hands of current UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev in his company debut back in April 2019 and in a tight unanimous decision to top-tier contender Mateusz Gamrot in June 2022. I'm a big fan and think there is an immense amount of long-term upside here.
Tsarukyan is an all-around threat. He averages 3.43 takedowns per 15 minutes. He's probably a better grappler than striker, but his power (eight career knockouts) is legitimate, and he has the ability to pile up the volume on the feet if that is what's necessary. Armen has been knocked out just once in his career and that came in his second pro fight back in December 2015. In short, I've seen nothing that would lead me to believe Tsarukyan can't have a prolonged string of success moving forward.
This is obviously a much bigger fight for Dariush, who simply cannot afford a second straight defeat. It's also important to note Beneil hadn't exactly faced high-end competition in the 10-fight winning streak I mentioned previously. Yes, he took a unanimous decision over Gamrot during that stretch, but other than that, the victories came against names such as Tony Ferguson, Drew Dober, Thiago Moises, Scott Holtzman and Drakkar Klose.
Tsarukyan is an aggressive fighter. He thrives on pressure and making his opponent uncomfortable. Dariush, who has a long history of starting slowly in fights, simply cannot be delayed getting out of the blocks in this one, even in a fight scheduled for five rounds.
I'm leaning Tsarukyan given he's the younger, more athletic fighter, but there's risk involved. I mentioned the lack of quality competition he has faced. You're also paying a premium price from a DraftKings perspective at $9,200.
So, while I'm taking Arman to win, I like the idea of using Dariush as a punt play. His salary should be closer to the $7500 mark in my opinion, as opposed to $7000. He's a live underdog, even if I'm not picking him outright.
UFC AUSTIN PICK: Tsarukyan
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
Green was scheduled to face Dan Hooker here, but the latter stepped aside about a week ago after suffering an arm injury, prompting Turner's inclusion.
The reemergence of Green over the past eight-plus month is a remarkable story and one that needs to be talked about more than it is. Now 37 years of age, Green was scheduled to retire following a fight against Jared Gordon in late-April. That fight ended in a no-contest, and Green kept going. He submitted Tony Ferguson in late-July, which obviously means little these days, before then knocking out Grant Dawson in 33 seconds this past October. Green was upwards of a +400 underdog in that bout and had just a single knockout victory in nearly a decade. Now he has worked his way into another high-profile fight, this time against Turner.
Turner has dropped back-to-back split decisions on the heels of a five-fight winning streak. The defeats came against, oddly enough, Hooker, along with rising contender Mateusz Gamrot. It sure felt as if two thirds of the judges got each of those fights correct. It's also worth noting Turner missed weight for the Hooker fight, and he's now stepping in here on extremely short notice.
At 5-foot-10, Green is a big lightweight. He's also fives inches shorter than Turner and will be giving up six inches in reach. Both figure to be key components in what figures to be a back-and-forth slugfest. The good news for Bobby is that he's also considerably smaller than Hooker, so he spent this entire training camp preparing for a larger opponent.
Both Green and Turner can wrestle in a pinch, but both have made their respective livings as volume strikers. I would say Bobby is better defensively in terms of getting his head off the center line, while Turner has considerably more one-punch knockout power.
Until proven otherwise, I'm going to assume Bobby's knockout over Dawson -- or at least how the fight ended -- was a fluke. I find it difficult to believe an aging fighter with upwards of nearly 50 professional fights under his belt is going to suddenly find added stopping power in his late-30s. More likely, it was a single punch that caught Dawson in exactly the right spot.
If Turner looks fine on the scale, he's an easy pick. Green has the ability to draw his opposition into ugly brawls, which is where he excels, but Jalin is bigger and has considerably more power. In a stand-up battle, he should be able to remain at distance and pick Bobby apart. As long as he doesn't do anything foolish, it's his fight to lose, even on short notice.
UFC AUSTIN PICK: Turner
One of the best flyweights in recent memory, Figueiredo will be moving up to bantamweight here to make his 135-pound debut at age 35. He'll be 36 years of age in late-December. I typically don't advocate for fighters switching weight classes so late in their career, but Figueiredo doesn't currently have much left to prove or gain staying at 125 pounds. Each of his last four (!!!) fights have come against Brandon Moreno. Each was for a title. Deiveson went 1-2-1 during that stretch. The first fight between the two was a majority draw. The second a Moreno submission win, the third a Figueiredo unanimous decision win, and the fourth, and by far the most conclusive, was a Moreno TKO win via doctor's stoppage this past January.
The UFC didn't do Figueiredo any favors in his bantamweight debut, as Font is a tough customer despite struggles of late. Rob snapped a brief two-fight losing streak with an emphatic knockout win over Adrian Yanez in April. He then accepted a late-notice main event bout against Cory Sandhagen in early-August and was trounced, allowing Cory to land all seven of his takedown attempts for a ridiculous 19:38 worth of control time -- an insane number for a 25-minute bout. Font is a pure boxer who throws few kicks. He's always going to have trouble with grapplers, but the striking skills are legitimate.
Figueiredo was a big flyweight and is deceptively strong for a guy that checks in at 5-foot-5. Although he's giving up three inches in height to Font, Figgy should be fine in terms of strength, particularly in tight.
My main concern is that Deiveison's striking seems to be going in the wrong direction. It feels as if he is absorbing more damage on the feet than everm and that is going to be a major, major problem if it continues at the higher weight classes where guys hit harder.
Yes, Font was obliterated by Sandhagen on the mat, and that's always going to be a concern when he's facing high-end wrestlers, but do we really think an opponent in Figgy, who is considerably smaller and debuting in a new weight class, is going to be able to ground Font for 15 minutes? I doubt it.
That leaves us with what projects as a primarily a stand-up battle, and Font -- who averages 5.71 significant strikes landed per minute -- is always a guy you want to back in those scenarios.
UFC AUSTIN PICK: Font
Brady has been sidelined for the past 13-plus months. He was scheduled to face Michel Pereira last March and Jack Della Maddalena in July and ended up withdrawing from both fights due to injury. When we last saw Brady inside the Octagon, he was knocked out by Belal Muhammad. That setback doesn't look all that bad at the moment, but it would be nice to see Brady respond with a strong effort here.
Gastelum probably saved his job with a unanimous decision win over Chris Curtis in April. Kelvin entered having lost five of his prior six, and although his roster spot should be safe here regardless, it's far from a guarantee. Gastelum was scheduled to return for a mid-September bout against Shavkat Rakhmonov before withdrawing due to a facial fracture. Considering how dominant Rakhmonov has been, that was likely a wise move on Kelvin's part.
Kelvin hasn't fought at welterweight since 2016. He's much better suited for 170 pounds because he's way too undersized (5-foot-9) for middleweight, but he's had issues with weight cutting in the past, and I don't love the idea of a guy dropping down a weight class at age 32.
Brady is extremely reliant on his wrestling for success. Averaging 2.8 takedowns per 15 minutes and landing exactly half his attempts, Sean has the potential to rack up a ton of control time if he can get his opposition to the mat. He's heavy on top, and I expect an undersized opponent like Gastelum to have all sorts of difficulty getting back to his feet if he finds himself grounded.
Gastelum is the crisper striker and is also tough as nails. He's never been knocked out in 26 pro bouts, and we have seen him take a ton of punishment time and time again and continue to push forward. He always makes a concerted effort to go to the body, and I would think he'd have a reasonable chance of winning this fight for as long as it remains standing.
Kelvin's 62 percent takedown defense isn't great, but that number is skewed by a few lousy performances. He gave up four to Robert Whittaker, seven to Chris Weidman, three to Tim Kennedy and six to Neil Magny. It's worth noting neither of Gastelum's two most recent opponents -- Curtis and Jared Cannonier -- even attempted a takedown.
Gastelum is at risk of being grounded by Brady for long stretches at a time, but he's always been a better grappler than he gets credit for, and I expect him to have the edge on the feet. As long as he makes weight without issue, that's enough to swing me in his direction as a very, very slight underdog.
UFC AUSTIN PICK: Gastelum
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 Austin 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.