This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
UFC Vegas 73 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 - Women's Strawweight
Dern v. Hill is your classic grappler vs. striker matchup, if there every was one.
Dern continues to have a rough time of things relative to expectations. She's 1-2 in her past three fights dating back to October 2021 and is struggling to generate any offense in fights in which she is unable to get her opposition to the mat. Dern's striking is never going to be on par with her grappling, and that's to be expected, but now 30 years of age, she hasn't made the necessary progress that would lead one to believe any sort of breakthrough is forthcoming.
Hill has responded with back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Emily Ducote and Lupita Godinez (who will fight each other on this card) on the heels of a three-fight losing streak. The UFC rewarded Hill with another shot given all she has done for them over the course of two stints with the company, and she answered the bell. The complete opposite of Dern, Hill is a pure striker who offers next to nothing on the mat.
As good as Dern is on the mat, she's not much of a wrestler. She averages just 0.61 takedowns per 15 minutes, and Hill is deceptively strong for her size. Mackenzie isn't going to be able to overpower her at the point of contact.
On the flip side, Dern is at risk of being obliterated on the feet. She lands just 3.02 significant striker per minute, while absorbing 4.39. Hill lands 5.68, while absorbing 4.97. Those numbers tell us Hill is perfectly content in a back-and-forth stand-up brawl, and nothing we've seen from Dern to this point tells us she would be able to compete in such a situation.
I also think a five-round fight favors Hill. Angie can stand and fire off plenty of volume on the feet for ten rounds without getting tired. We've seen Dern's pace slip in the past as fights progress.
I was excited the second I saw this fight was announced, because I assumed Dern would be favored, providing an ideal buy-low opportunity on Hill. It worked out just that way.
Angie is obviously in trouble if Mackenzie can pin her to the mat at any point, but everything else in this fight is in Hill's favor. It might not work out, but this was not a difficult pick.
THE PICK: Hill
Co-Main Event - Middleweight
A former pound-for-pound top prospect, Shahbazyan was pushed way too hard, way too fast, and the results reflected that. He won each of his first four UFC bouts, including three via stoppage, at which point the competition level he started facing increased. It led to three straight defeats (Derek Brunson, Jack Hermansson, Nassourdine Imavov), yet the company wisely decided to give Shahbazyan -- who turned just 25 years of age last November -- another chance, and he responded with a knockout win over the since-released Dalcha Lungiambula last December.
Like his opponent, Hernandez has been up-and-down over the course of his five years with the company. He began by losing two of three before picking up three straight victories. Hernandez has nowhere near the pedigree of Shahbazyan, but his roster spot appears far more secure given his recent run of success.
Hernandez has been held back by the lack of stopping power in his hands. He has just one career win via knockout compared to seven via submission, and opponents simply don't respect his stand-up skills enough to alter their entries at all. They continue to push forward with zero fear of what may be coming back their way.
Anthony's saving grace has been his wrestling. He's averaging a ridiculous 6.49 takedowns per 15 minutes. Edmen is averaging 2.31 per 15 minutes, while both men defend the takedown at about a 65 percent clip. It seems pretty clear the winner of the wrestling battle is going to be the winner of the fight.
I'm certainly not ready to say Edmen is back or anything like that, since his recent impressive performance came against a guy in Lungiambula that has since been handed his walking papers.
That said, I can't for the life of me understand these DK salaries or Vegas odds. Hernandez is the second-highest priced fighter on the entire card at $9,400. He definitely deserves to be favored over Edmen, but there's no chance whatsoever I'm paying that price. I'd much rather roll the dice on Shahbazyan at a discount. In fact, the value is so significant here that I'm going to take Edmen outright. There's only a handful of times a year that the odds and salaries appear as wacky as they do for this one.
THE PICK: Shahbazyan
A super-aggressive striker that is willing to live by the sword and die by the sword, Fialho may very well be fighting for his job on Saturday. He's lost back-to-back fights and three of his first five with the company, and more importantly, all three defeats have come via knockout. Fialho was stopped just once in 18 bouts prior to arriving in the UFC, so this sudden lack of durability has come at the worst of times for the 29-year-old.
Buckley has also been extremely inconsistent, blowing through lesser competition and really struggling against anyone of note. He won three straight from September 2021 to June 2022, only to lose his last two via knockout. It's worth noting that both of those defeats came against high-end opposition in Chris Curtis and Nassourdine Imavov.
Both of these guys hit extremely hard, and as mentioned previously, lack durability. It should be noted that Buckley is by far the more likely of the two to implement some sort of wrestling-based attack, as he is averaging 1.23 takedowns per 15 minutes. For comparison's sake, Fialho hasn't landed a single takedown during his entire run with the company.
I have long maintained it's virtually impossible to consistently rack up wins if you pay zero attention to your striking defense, and Fialho is a perfect example of that. He's landing 3.17 significant strikes per minute, while absorbing an insane 6.22 per minute. Playing that type of game against the powerful Buckley is a potential recipe for disaster.
I fully understand why Fialho is a significant underdog here. He's displayed zero ability to adapt his game plan to his opposition. He has less pure power. Fialho's not a terrible "punt" DK play simply because his price tag is so low and I expect this to be a wild brawl, but the odds are, correctly, clearly in Buckley's favor.
THE PICK: Buckley
A few weeks shy of his 37th birthday, Johnson has rebounded well from a four-fight losing streak that spanned from March 2019 to February 2021. MJ has won two of three since, with the lone setback being a split decision defeat to Jamie Mullarkey that he absolutely deserved to win. The days of Johnson hanging in there against anything approaching high-end competition have come and gone, but there's still some gas left in the tank here.
A loser of three straight and competing for the first time since December 2021, it's a near certainty the 38-year-old Ferreira will be fighting for his job on Saturday. Last time we saw Diego he was suffering a brutal knockout at the hands of rising star Mateusz Gamrot. He was due to face Drakkar Klose about a year ago before being forced to withdraw due to injury. The Brazilian's last victory came in January 2020.
Both of these guys have faced a ton of quality opponents. Johnson has been in the Octagon with the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nate Diaz, Josh Emmett and Edson Barboza. Ferreira has faced Gamrot and rising PFL star Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Both men have fought Dustin Poirier and Beneil Dariush.
The time off for Diego is a concern, as is the fact he missed weight in two of his past six bouts. I was a big fan of Ferreira a few years ago. He's a stud on the mat and an underrated athlete, with some power. Yet, we've reached the point where the cons outweigh the pros.
MJ has supreme confidence in his hands and refuses to change his style of fighting, and that's a concern, but Diego doesn't have the type of type of stand-up game to overwhelm Johnson on the feet and use his aggressiveness against him.
This is essentially a pick 'em for me. I'd probably favor Ferreira if he had been competing consistently the past few years, but he hasn't. Say what you will about Johnson, but he's fought three times since the last time we saw Diego. I'll take MJ given the value and salary relief he provides, with the caveat this fight would appear to have a massive range of outcomes for two guys we know a ton about.
THE PICK: Johnson
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (14-7-0) v. Vanessa Demopoulos (9-4-0)
DK Salaries: Kowalkiewicz ($8,500), Demopoulous ($7,700)
Vegas Odds: Kowalkiewicz (-140), Demopoulous (+115)
Odds to Finish: +175
THE PICK: Demopoulous
Ilir Latifi (17-8-0, 1NC) v. Rodrigo Nascimento (9-1-0, 1NC)
DK Salaries: Latifi ($7,200), Nascimento ($9,000)
Vegas Odds: Latifi (+145), Nascimento (-175)
Odds to Finish: -155
THE PICK: Nascimento
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 Vegas 73 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.