We are back for another exciting weekend of combat sports for UFC Vegas 31 in Las Vegas. This card is lower level and not as many big names after a PPV card but still packed with action and most of these matchups should end inside the distance which is always exciting.
As always, I give my analysis and DraftKings strategy based on how I see each fight matchup playing out. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter or in the MMA DFS Discord with any questions that you have leading up until fight night Saturday.
Rodrigo Nascimento vs. Alan Baudot
Nascimento, -340; Baudot, +280
Nascimento is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Chris Daukaus his last time out in October. He is 8-1 professionally with six of his eight wins coming by submission. I would still consider him a middling heavyweight prospect, but he does have some decent skills. He will throw in volume while the fight plays out on the feet, but it is his ground game that is his best skillset. He averages 2.7 takedowns per 15 minutes and holds a black belt in BJJ. Baudot is simply not a UFC-caliber fighter. He made his UFC debut against Tom Aspinall in October and was knocked out within 95 seconds. He has typical heavyweight knockout power but outside of landing a big shot early, he is drawing stone dead in this matchup. Nascimento coming off a knockout is worrisome, but he typically looks to shoot for takedowns early and I expect him to do so here with little resistance. He will have a massive grappling advantage once he gets the fight down and should find a finish on the mat. Nascimento by submission is the official pick.
Francisco Figueiredo vs. Malcolm Gordon
Figueiredo, -310; Gordon, +255
Figueiredo is coming off a decision victory over Jerome Rivera in January. He is 12-3 professionally with seven wins coming by submission. He is getting a ton of respect, but that is mainly because he is former flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo’s older brother. However, he is not even remotely the same fighter as his brother. Figueiredo does not have a ton of power and is more so looking to chop away at the legs and clinch up while looking for sweeps and trips to ride top position. Similar to his brother, his cardio seems to be a concern and he slowed down significantly against Rivera in his debut to the point where he could have been finished. He is getting way too much respect in the betting market and for the life of me I do not see why. His opponent, Gordon, is coming off a first-round knockout to Su Mudaerji his last time out in November and is 0-2 in the UFC with first-round losses in both of those bouts. I have given Gordon little respect thus far, but he is clearly the value side in this matchup. If Gordon can avoid getting hurt early (might be a big “if”), he is going to be the one moving forward and landing more volume. Additionally, Gordon is a black belt in BJJ and should be able to hold his own in the grappling exchanges and get the better of the scrambling on the mat as well. Gordon is typically someone I want to fade because he is very fragile, but Figueiredo does not present much of a threat and rarely even looks to land power shots to the head. Figueiredo’s only path to victory is clinching up and landing takedowns and even in that scenario I still think the fight plays out much closer than the betting odds suggest. Figueiredo is not very defensively sound even in top position and Gordon will be live for submissions from bottom and reversals to get himself out of bad positions. Gordon by submission is the official pick and he is a good underdog to target this week on DraftKings.
Miles Johns vs. Anderson Dos Santos
Johns, -170; Dos Santos, +150
Johns is coming off a third-round knockout victory over Kevin Natividad in October. He is 11-1 professionally with six of his 11 wins coming by decision. He is a former Dana White Contender Series winner and comes from a wrestling background. He has shown improvements with his boxing the last couple fights, but his cardio is still a significant concern for me as he noticeably slows down and becomes too hittable for comfort later in the rounds. Additionally, he does not wrestle as much as I would like to see, as he has a wrestling advantage over many opponents in this division but seems to think he is a striker, which does not make much sense to me. Dos Santos is coming off a first-round submission victory over Martin Day in November, his first UFC win. Dos Santos is not the most skilled or technical fighter by any means, but he is willing to go for it and I love to see that. He is clearly more comfortable in the grappling realm as 12 of his 21 career wins have come by submission. On the feet, he likely carries more power than Johns and could land some powerful overhands while threatening the takedown. Eventually, I see this fight hitting the mat and while I think Johns could be fine in top position, Dos Santos is the better submission grappler and is crafty enough to make things interesting, even on bottom. Lastly, I favor Dos Santos more as the fight goes on as he should have the cardio advantage and never gives up in fights, which is the ideal underdog candidate in the right matchup. Dos Santos by submission is the official pick.
Khalid Taha vs. Sergey Morozov
Taha, -155; Morozov, +135
Taha is coming off a decision loss to Raoni Barcelos in November. He is 13-3 professionally, with nine of his wins coming by knockout. He is an exciting prospect with big power for this division and is capable of knocking anyone out that they put in front of him. The concern with Taha is that he is not a great minute winner, so he will need those big moments or finishes to secure wins. Meanwhile, Morozov is coming off a second-round submission loss to Umar Nurmagomedov in his UFC debut in January. Morozov showed some good heart in that fight despite being there to showcase Nurmagomedov. He is not a bad fighter in terms of the lower-level bantamweight division as he previously put together a decent win streak over in M-1 Global. He is a striker as well and seems to struggle against grapplers, but I expect this to be a striking match. This has the makings of being a banger for as long as it lasts. Both guys have power and I think they meet in the middle until someone drops. I would get exposure to both sides of this one, but I prefer Taha as he carries more power and is slightly more durable as well. Taha by knockout is the official pick.
Amanda Lemos vs. Montserrat Ruiz
Lemos, -500; Ruiz, +400
Lemos is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Livinho Souza her last time out in March. She is 9-1 professionally with her only loss coming up a weight class on 15 days’ notice against Leslie Smith. Lemos is a serious problem at 115 pounds, as she is one of the most powerful fighters in the division. Six of her nine wins have come by knockout and while that is not something to bank on in this weight class, Lemos is just different. Ruiz is coming off an impressive meme victory over Cheyanne Buys in her UFC debut in March. She literally just closed distance and put Buys in a headlock for 15 minutes and repeatedly dragged her to the ground. Good luck doing that against Lemos, who is going to punish her while closing the distance and will have a clear strength advantage as well. Lemos by decision is the official pick, but she is not a strong play without a first-round finish so being underweight to her is best this week even though I think she steamrolls.
Daniel Rodriguez vs. Preston Parsons
Rodriguez, -280; Parsons, +240
Rodriguez is coming off a decision victory over Mike Perry his last time out in April. He is 14-2 professionally and should be 5-0 in the UFC if it was not for the absolute robbery against Nicolas Dalby in 2020. Anyway, Rodriguez is a legitimately good boxer with speed and endurance to throw volume for 15 minutes if he needs to. He has also shown off some good durability despite being rocked a couple times previously. Parsons is making his UFC debut on short notice. He is 9-2 professionally and currently on a four-fight win streak. Of his 11 professional fights, just two of them have reached the second round and none of them have reached the third. Parsons is a good grappler and all nine of his wins have come by submission. However, I do not trust his wrestling to be able to get Rodriguez to the ground and even if he did Rodriguez is well-rounded enough to be okay on the mat. More than likely, Rodriguez will keep the fight standing and box up Parsons for as long as he last. Rodriguez by knockout is the official pick and he is a high floor play this week on DraftKings with one of the best inside distance lines on the slate.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Billy Quarantillo
Benitez, -160; Quarantillo, +140
Benitez is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Justin Jaynes his last time out in December, snapping a two-fight losing streak. He is one of the most technical kickboxers in the division with nasty leg kicks and excellent striking defense. Meanwhile, Quarantillo is coming off a decision loss to Gavin Tucker in December that snapped an eight-fight win streak. Quarantillo is not even remotely on the same level of striking as Benitez. However, he does push a relentless pace and will continuously move forward even if he is eating shots on the way in. Additionally, he may look to mix in some takedowns in this matchup as he is an okay wrestler and Benitez does not have the best takedown defense. For him to win this fight, he will need to close distance and make this an ugly fight with a lot of clinch work and wrestling. But more than likely I could see Benitez clearly winning the striking exchanges and beating up the legs of Quarantillo as he tries to close distance. Benitez by decision is the official pick but I do not have a ton of interest in this fight on DraftKings.
Rodolfo Vieira vs. Dustin Stoltzfus
Vieira, -225; Stoltzfus, +185
Vieira is coming off a second-round submission loss to Anthony Hernandez in February, his first career loss. He gassed super hard and was basically a walking corpse in the second round before getting submitted. Regardless, he is one of the highest credentialed grapplers the UFC has ever seen and will always be extremely dangerous on the mat. Stoltzfus is coming off a decision loss to Kyle Daukaus in his UFC debut in November that snapped a 10-fight win streak. He is a decent kickboxer but too comfortable grappling for someone that is not very sound defensively. That is going to be a major problem in this matchup against a high-level black belt in Vieira. Vieira is always likely to gas out if he does not get the first-round submission but the first-round submission victory in this matchup is very likely. Vieira by submission is the official pick and he is one of the best DraftKings picks this week.
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jeremy Stephens
Gamrot, -220; Stephens, +180
Gamrot is coming off a second-round knockout win over Scott Holtzman in April. He is 18-1 professionally with 10 of those wins coming inside the distance. His first career loss came in his UFC debut against Guram Kutateladze in October. He has a wrestling base and has a well-rounded skillset, but it is clear he needs to get his wrestling going in most matchups. Stephens is coming off a second-round knockout loss to Calvin Kattar in May of last year. Stephens has now lost four in a row not counting the eye poke no contest against Yair Rodriguez. He is an exciting fighter who will always fight for your money, and you have to respect that. However, it is clear to me that his skills along with his durability are diminishing. He will likely need to get a knockout here to win, and Gamrot has proven to be durable over the course of his career. That does not mean it’s not possible, but I do not think it is very likely especially because I see Gamrot landing multiple takedowns and banking control time in top position. Gamrot by decision is the official pick and he is a solid spend up option due to the wrestling upside.
Miesha Tate vs. Marion Reneau
Tate, -135; Reneau, +115
This is a fight I do not need to spend much time on. Tate is coming off a nearly a five-year layoff from the sport as she has been retired for quite some time. She last fought in November of 2016 where she lost a decision to Raquel Pennington. It’s tough to know what to expect from her at this point, but she gets a very winnable matchup in Reneau. Similar to Tate, Reneau probably should not be fighting either at 44 years old, but here we are. The biggest factor in this matchup is that Reneau has historically struggled heavily at defending takedowns. She has been taken down at least once in all but two of her UFC fights and one of those she was knocked down and submitted within minutes by Jessica Andrade. While Tate may be rusty, she likely still has a clear wrestling advantage and should be able to land multiple takedowns and control Reneau on the mat. This is mostly a pass, but I do have some interest in Tate because she is affordable and should land multiple takedowns here with control time. Tate by decision is the official pick.
Islam Makhachev vs. Thiago Moises
Makhachev, -600; Moises, +450
Makhachev is coming off a dominant performance over Drew Dober his last time out in March, winning by third-round submission. He is 19-1 professionally and undefeated in the octagon with eight of his 19 wins coming by submission. It is no secret he has close ties with the Nurmagomedov family and showcases the infamous Dagestan wrestling skills on the mat. He is a very difficult matchup for anyone as he is so good at getting the fight where he wants it to be. As for his opponent, Moises, he is currently on a three-fight win streak and most recently defeated Alexander Hernandez in February. Six of his 15 career wins have come by submission, and he holds a black belt in BJJ. However, his striking has improved by leaps and bounds since entering the UFC as a pure grappler. He will have a striking advantage over Makhachev and should look to keep the fight standing. However, as I mentioned, Makhachev is so good at closing the distance and initiating the wrestling exchanges that I do not expect this to play out on the feet for very long. Moises has shown in previous fights that he can be taken down and controlled for extended periods of time and Makhachev is very good at maintaining control on the mat. Makhachev should land takedowns repeatedly and bank a ton of control time, which makes him a great play on DraftKings. Makhachev by decision is the official pick as he is not much of a finisher and Moises has a good enough ground game to stay alive despite being on his back.
Jon Kelly is a savvy daily fantasy sports player with years of experience across all major sports. He has over a dozen GPP wins across multiple sports and is ranked in the top 100 in MMA on RG rankings. He is an MMA contributor to FadeTheNoise and owner of FightNumbers.com where he provides free resources for MMA DFS players and sports bettors.