This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
A former champion and former title contender take the main stage for one of the final cards in Las Vegas before the UFC hits the road to again start filling packed arenas.
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 $400k MMA Throwdown with $100k to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
Note: Scoring has been updated as of early-2021! Please review the scoring changes below.
Strikes: +0.2 PTS
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 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.
Main Event - Middleweight
This was originally scheduled to be Whittaker v. Paulo Costa. That would have been awesome, but Costa was forced to withdraw due to the flu. Enter Gastelum, who was due to fight Whittaker for the UFC Middleweight Championship way back in February 2019 before the latter was forced to withdraw due to emergency hernia and intestine surgery.
Whittaker made his middleweight debut in November 2014. He is 10-1 since then, with victories over, among others, Jared Cannonier, Yoel Romero (twice), Darren Till, Jacare Souza, Derek Brunson and Uriah Hall. Whittaker is elite, has gotten better with experience and is still just 30 years of age. "Bobby Knuckles" lost his title to Israel Adesanya in October 2019 and has since gone on to blow past Cannonier and Till in a pair of unanimous decision victories.
Gastelum has been one of the more underrated fighters on the UFC roster for years. He dropped three in a row to Adesanya, Till and Jack Hermansson from April 2019 to July 2020 before rebounding and taking a decision from Ian Heinisch this past February. This is a very quick turnaround for Kelvin, but he didn't have to work all that hard in the Heinisch fight, and there's no way he would ever turn down this opportunity.
To say I'm looking forward to this fight would be a monumental understatement. Whittaker and Gastelum employ similar styles. Both hit extremely hard, but rely on placement and volume over sheer power. Both make a concerted effort to damage the bodies of their opposition and both are as tough as nails.
I'm thrilled this is a main event. This should be an exceptional bout and it would be a shame if it wasn't scheduled for five rounds. Kelvin looks like a solid DraftKings value play and reasonable Vegas bet as an underdog. I don't think he wins, but I also don't think the gap between the two is all that gigantic.
I think the size advantage of Whittaker wins out in the end in a fight in which both men land a ton of strikes. Buckle up.
THE PICK: Whittaker
Co-Main Event - Lightweight
Winless in his past five fights (0-4, 1NC) and without a victory in more than three years, Stephens is likely fighting for his job on Saturday. The UFC has been cutting the fat of late regarding aging fighters, and Stephens would appear to be on the chopping block. The fact he fights in arguably the deepest division in the company doesn't help matters. He has been on the UFC roster since September 2007, but the soon-to-be 35-year-old – who has always struggled against high-level competition – appears to be a shell of his former self.
Stephens is a decent wrestler and has at least a clue on the mat, but his complete inability to defend himself on the feet has been his downfall of late. He's aggressive to the point of recklessness, and there's zero reason to expect that to change as he gets older. Stephens needs to sell out and do whatever is necessary to win here.
The good news for Stephens is that Klose fights in an identical manner, and that's a stylistic matchup that should theoretically play to Stephens' strengths. The difference between the two at this point is that Klose has had success of late. The Michigan native is 5-2 in the UFC despite a loss to Beneil Dariush in his most recent bout last March. The one major concern at this point has been Klose's inability to stop his competition. He has four career knockout victories in his career and they came in his first five fights on the Arizona regional circuit. He's a volume over power guy, and that's an issue when you fight as aggressively as Klose does.
The main advantage for Stephens is that he has faced much, much better competition over the course of his career than Klose. Heck, Jeremy's past five fights have come against Jose Aldo, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez (twice). He is going to have to lean on that experience.
I'm giving Stephens a slight bump because I expect a strong effort with his job on the line. That said, I trust the durability of Klose a bit more in a wild brawl. The fact Klose provides some minor salary relief is just an added bonus.
THE PICK: Klose
Arlovski will be stepping in for Parker Porter (undisclosed) on extremely minimal notice. It's a risky move, albeit one that makes sense for the 42-year-old given he is nearing the end of the line.
Sherman's UFC run has been highly unconventional. He lost his first two bouts with the company before winning his next two. He followed that up with a three-fight losing streak and was not re-signed when his contract expired. He went on to pick up three straight knockout wins on the regional circuit before returning to the UFC last May and scoring a knockout win over Ike Villanueva. Sherman was then dinged with a nine-month USADA suspension. It's been quite the ride for a fighter who has a 3-5 record in eight career UFC bouts.
Arlovski somehow still has a job despite posting a 5-10 (1NC) mark in his past 16 fights dating back to January 2016. A good portion of the losses early in that streak came against top-flight competition (Francis Ngannou, Stipe Miocic, etc.), but even a novice MMA fan would be able to tell Arlovski is trending in the wrong direction. He maintains some of his trademark power, but doesn't possess the athleticism or footwork to properly set up his shots. That leads to him absorbing too much punishment on the feet, and well, the rest is history. He suffered a second-round submission loss to Tom Aspinall in his most recent bout this past February.
Sherman would have been favored over Porter, but finds himself a very slight underdog against Arlovski. I'm still taking him. I may very well get burned here, but I just can't bring myself to pick Arlovski against most anyone as we push towards the middle months of 2021. Sherman should be fine if he moves his feet and doesn't allow Arlovski uncontested combinations.
THE PICK: Sherman
This has a chance to be an interesting fight because it features a considerable clash in styles.
Although he has six career submission victories, Algeo, who lost on Dana White's Contender Series, has proven uber-aggressive on the feet over the course of his first two (1-1) UFC bouts. He is landing a whopping 6.8 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 5.31 per minute. The latter is the concerning long-term number, but Algeo may be able to get away with those antics again here because Ramos is a pure mat specialist. This fight should favor Algeo for as long as it remains on the feet.
Ramos is 5-2 in the UFC, although just 2-2 in his past four bouts. The good news for the Brazilian is that time is on his side considering he won't turn 26 years of age until August. Ramos tends to be cautious on the feet, which is understandable considering how good he is on the mat. He has seven career submission wins and is averaging 1.99 takedowns per 15 minutes over the course of his UFC run. Algeo defends the takedown at just a 62 percent clip. Like Algeo on the feet, Ramos is going to have a major edge if this fight ends up on the mat.
I'm torn here. The fight is as close for me as both the Vegas odds and DK salaries would lead you to believe. In the end, I'm taking Algeo simply because it's much easier to predict a knockout than a submission. If Ramos is able to get it to the ground, all bets are off, however.
THE PICK: Algeo
Bartosz Fabinski (15-4-0) v. Gerald Meerschaert (31-14-0)
DK Salaries: Fabinski ($8,300), Meerschaert ($7,900)
Vegas Odds: Fabinski (-130), Meerschaert (+110)
Odds to Finish: -130
THE PICK: Meerschaert