This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC Orlando 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 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 - Welterweight
Set to turn 40 years of age this coming February, this is last call for Thompson. "Wonderboy" has lost two in a row and four of six dating back to May 2018. It's not a surprise, quite frankly. An elite kickboxer with questionable secondary skills, Thompson was always going to be in trouble if his hand or foot speed slipped even a little bit. He keeps himself in excellent shape, and I by no means think Thompson is completely washed, but the days of him being able to compete with the top fighters at 170 pounds could very easily be over.
Holland is 2-3 in his last five results, although his most recent setback came against Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 279 in September in a 180-pound catchweight bout after Khamzat's brutal weight miss forced the entire top of the card to be reshuffled. Holland is nearly a decade younger than Thompson and has the advantage of knowing Wonderboy will engage him in the stand-up battle he is seeking. Holland's greatest struggles have come when he's struggled to defend the takedown, and that's certainly not Thompson's game.
I've long maintained there's no welterweight I would take over Thompson in a kickboxing match, and I stand by that statement. That said, given Holland's youth advantage, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Kevin has a speed edge. Holland is an excellent striker in his own right, and he's showed the ability to at least threaten his opposition with his offensive wrestling game.
The key to this fight, in my opinion, is Thompson's defense. Is he moving his feet? Is he constantly getting his head off the center line? He's been knocked out just once in 23 professional fights, so while the record of late isn't great, he's still managed to hang around and see the final bell.
Everything here seems about right. There's absolutely a chance Thompson would be able to outpoint Holland if this fight primarily remains on the feet, but Holland has the edge in secondary skills in addition to being considerably younger and almost certainly more athletic. That's enough to swing me in his direction.
UFC ORLANDO PICK: Holland
Co-Main Event - Welterweight
Having turned 38 years of age this past October, RDA continues to tread water despite bouncing between weight classes. The former UFC Lightweight Champion made his welterweight debut in June 2017 and went on to post a .500 record in eight bouts at 170 pounds. He dropped back down to lightweight for his past three bouts, going 2-1. He will return to welterweight here. I would like to see RDA pick a weight class and stick with it, especially in the latter stages of his career. He's probably better suited for 155 pounds, but that division is loaded, and only he knows how much the weight cut took out of his ability to perform on fight night.
A member of the UFC roster for nearly eight years now, Barberena enters having won three straight -- most recently a knockout of Robbie Lawler in a wild brawl this past July. Barberena has typically struggled against better competition. He's lost six fights with the company, with three of them coming against current UFC Welterweight Champion Leon Edwards and perennial contenders Colby Covington and Vicente Luque. Bryan lacks the technical skill to be quality opponents, but he's a heck of a lot of fun to watch.
Nearly every Barberena fight quickly deteriorates into a reckless brawl. Bryan has shown an ability to take a beating and keep on ticking, which is a necessity considering how much he gets hit. It's hard to put together a string of victories against quality opponents when you're absorbing 5.01 significant strikes per minute.
Dos Anjos is going to have an overwhelming edge in both technical ability and power on the feet. He's a much more fluid striker and is going to have a significant edge on the mat if the fight ends up there.
Barberena's main (and only) advantage in this fight is the fact he's four inches taller and enters with a two-inch reach edge. That theoretically should play to his advantage considering his style of fighting, but I simply don't think he has the technical skill to pull the upset.
RDA is by far the biggest favorite on the card, and backing an aging fighter at such a high price is worrisome, particularly on a card with a ton of depth, but something will have to go unexpectedly wrong in order for him to lose here.
UFC ORLANDO PICK: dos Anjos
Tuivasa had a streak of five straight knockout victories snapped this past September with a third-round knockout loss to Ciryl Gane. It was a terrible matchup for Tai, as he was facing an opponent with high-end power and an overwhelming edge in the athleticism department. Prior to those previously-mentioned five straight wins, Tuivasa suffered three straight defeats. He's a one-dimensional brawler with ridiculous power and insane toughness. It's a skill set that doesn't age well, although Tuivasa won't be 30 years of age until next March.
He'll have his hands full here with Pavlovich, who was knocked out by veteran Alistair Overeem in his company debut in November 2018 and has gone on to win four in a row since, all via knockout. Like Tuivasa, Pavlovich is entirely reliant on his power to be successful. While I would say Sergei has an athleticism edge over Tai, it's not as if he will be threatening his opponent with some unforeseen wrestling or submission skills like Gane potentially might have.
If this is the brawl many of us expect, Tuivasa could find himself in trouble. He's only an inch shorter than Pavlovich, but he will have to figure out a way to make up a whopping nine-inch reach disadvantage. I typically don't pull a whole lot of stock in an opponent's reach, but in a fight like this in which neither man projects to do any damage other than on the feet, it could make all the difference in the world.
That said, Tuivasa is an ideal punt DK play. We know he has fight-ending power, and he typically has shown an ability to take a beating, even in bouts in which he's eventually been finished. He's unquestionably a live underdog, even if his path to potential victory is entirely one-dimensional.
I'm certainly not excited to play Pavlovich at his inflated price tag, but he's a deserving favorite and getting a piece of this one in some form or fashion is probably a good idea.
UFC ORLANDO PICK: Pavlovich
Johnson has lost five of six dating back to March 2019 and has just three victories dating back to September 2016. I thought there was a real chance the UFC would have cut bait with the 36-year-old following his split decision defeat to Jamie Mullarkey in July, but Johnson pretty clearly deserved to win that fight, so I don't have a problem with giving him one more opportunity. This will almost certainly be his last bout should he come up short.
Diakiese has also been wildly inconsistent, but with back-to-back wins over Damir Hadzovic and Slava Borshchev on his resume, Diakiese will be fine regardless of the result here. Marc has traditionally handled lesser fighters and struggled against better competition. That bodes well for this bout, because Johnson is clearly in the former category in the latter stages of his career.
Johnson's biggest problem has long been his unwillingness to use his secondary skills. He has supreme confidence in his hands and prefers to stand and trade, often to his detriment. Johnson averages just half a takedown per 15 minutes, an extremely low total for a man that was an excellent wrestler back in his college days.
Johnson's 79 percent takedown defense is solid, and it will have to be given the fact Diakiese lands 3.68 attempts per 15 minutes. Takedown defense is often about balance and recognition, and it seems clear Diakiese is the better athlete given the fact he is nearly seven years younger than his opponent.
I'd really like to roll the dice with Johnson, but I simply can't do it. This is a guy that fought Edson Barboza, Beneil Dariush, Nate Diaz, Dustin Poirier, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje in a six-fight span from February 2015 to July 2017. MJ has been in there with the best, but nothing we have seen from him the past three-plus years suggests any sort of turnaround is forthcoming.
It's Diakiese by default.
UFC ORLANDO PICK: Diakiese
Matheus Nicolau (18-3-1) v. Matt Schnell (16-6-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Nicoleau ($9,400), Schnell ($6,800)
Vegas Odds: Nicoleau (-380), Schnell (+310)
Odds to Finish: -125
UFC ORLANDO PICK: Nicoleau
Jack Hermansson (23-7-0) v. Roman Dolidze (11-1-0)
DK Salaries: Hermansson ($8,700), Dolidze ($7,500)
Vegas Odds: Hermansson (-175), Dolidze (+150)
Odds to Finish: -105
UFC ORLANDO PICK: Hermansson
Yazmin Jauregui (9-0-0) v. Istela Nunes (6-3-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Jauregui ($9,300), Nunes ($6,900)
Vegas Odds: Jauregui (-305), Nunes (-255)
Odds to Finish: +150
UFC ORLANDO PICK: Jauregui
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 Orlando 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.