This article is part of our DraftKings MMA series.
Following the rare mid-week fight card, the third of four events held at Fight Island is upon us.
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 $600,000 GPP titled "The Island Throwdown" with $150,000 to first place. Players get a $50,000 budget to select six fighters, and the scoring is distributed as follows:
Significant Strikes (SS): +0.5 PTS
Advance (ADVC): +3 PT
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
Significant Strikes are any Distance Strike or Clinch/Ground Strikes that are considered "Power Strikes" by official scorers.
Advances include: To Half Guard, To Side Control, To Mount, To Back Control
Now, on to the fights...
Main Event - UFC Flyweight Championship
It's impossible to discuss this fight without delving into the backstory between these two. Benavidez and Figueiredo fought for the vacant UFC Flyweight Championship back in February. Figueiredo won the fight early in the second round via knockout, but was ineligible to win the title because he missed weight by 2.5 pounds the day before.
For the moment, I'm giving Figueiredo the benefit of the doubt regarding the weight cutting issues. It was the first time in his professional career that he missed. If he is unable to hit the mark once again, we have a problem. As far as the fight itself goes, Figueiredo was dominant. Benavidez is one of the quickest fighters in the history over the division, and the Brazilian made him look slow. He got off first in all the striking exchanges between the two men and exhibited far more power. Figueiredo doesn't have the resume of Joe B simply because he hasn't faced the same level of competition, but he's legit.
The big winner here is Benavidez, as he was routed in the first matchup and gets another shot – his third – at UFC gold. Joe B has lost six times in his career despite being a professional for more than 14 years. Those losses came against Demetrious Johnson (twice), Dominick Cruz (twice), Sergio Pettis (split) and Figueiredo. Joe B built his career around having excellent cardio and an impressive all-around game. He has far more power than your average flyweight and is quicker than most men in the division. He also has nine career wins via submission. He's one of the better smaller fighters in the history of the sport but has always had problems winning the "big" fight. He's won just about every other fight he's participated in, so I'm starting to wonder if it's some sort of mental block that is causing Benavidez to perform poorly in championship fights.
There is also the matter of Joe B's advanced aged. Benavidez will turn 36 years of age on July 31 and it's obvious his best days are behind him. The Benavidez who showed up in the first fight between the two isn't going to beat Figueiredo. The gap between the two appeared massive on that particular night, but the resumes of the two men indicate that shouldn't be the case. In fact, Benavidez was favored in the first fight.
I saw enough from Figueiredo the first time around to go with him for the rematch, but his status on the scale on Friday bears watching. Joe B is firmly in the conversation as an underdog DK play. I don't see an $1800 gap in salaries between the two men, regardless of what happened in their first bout.
THE PICK: Figueiredo
Co-Main Event - Middleweight
Hermansson was closing in on a potential title shot at 185 pounds before being knocked out by Jared Cannonier in a main event spot last September. Prior to that loss, Hermansson had won four in a row, with three of those victories coming via stoppage. Viewed as nothing more than roster depth when he entered the company back in September 2016, Hermansson has been active, and for the most part (7-3), effective. Hermansson's cardio is ridiculous, and the Swede possess a solid all-around game. He has been able to give his opposition all sorts of problems due to the remarkable pace he can keep throughout the course of the bout. It's a major advantage when you can fight in the later stages of Round 3 exactly the same way you do in Round 1.
A loser of back-to-back fights, Gastelum needs a victory in the worst way if he wishes to remain in the title conversation at 185 pounds. Gastelum's two setbacks came via decision against Darren Till (split) and current UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya (unanimous). Gastelum has been around seemingly forever, but he won't turn 29 years of age until late October. He's been in the Octagon against multiple current or former UFC champions, and that experience is invaluable.
The common knock on Gastelum is his size. He's just 5-foot-9 and almost always the smaller man whenever he competes at middleweight. Hermansson has a four-inch edge in the height department and a massive six-inch advantage in the reach department. Those are significant numbers considering Gastelum does his best work on the feet. Kelvin excels at throwing combinations, particularly to the body, and he's generally successful despite giving up plenty of size to his opposition. The only fight in which I can remember him really struggling to get anything going was against Chris Weidman back in July 2017 and that was simply because Weidman – who's next fight will be at light heavyweight – was too big.
Gastelum also has a background in wrestling, although he rarely uses those skills. This is a close fight, as both the DraftKings salaries and Vegas odds indicate. Hermansson is going to have an edge in the cardio department, but Kelvin's fitness level has improved substantially over the years. Ultimately, I have faith in Kelvin's boxing and his ability to remain competitive against bigger opponents. He gets the nod in a fight that could clearly go either way.
THE PICK: Gastelum
Diakiese is an interesting, underrated fighter. He's a tall Muay Thai specialist in the mold of UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya. He excels at putting together combinations and has underrated power. Diakiese's length (5-foot-10) is particularly intriguing for a lightweight. The 27-year-old began his UFC career with three-straight victories before following that up with three-straight defeats. He has since won his last two bouts against pretty decent competition in Joe Duffy and Lando Vannata. Diakiese was originally scheduled to face Alan Patrick here before the Brazilian withdrew due to undisclosed reasons.
Fiziev will be making his third UFC appearence. He was knocked out by Magomed Mustafaev in just 86 seconds in his company debut in April 2019 before taking a unanimous decision from Alex White in October. A native of Kyrgyzsyan – the same country that produced UFC Women's Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko – Fiziev is another fighter who relies on his striking in order to be successful. Our exposure to the 27-year-old has been small, but he tends to be aggressive on the feet and has been durable outside of the loss to Mustafaev. The issues for Fiziev is that he has faced low-end competition over the course of his pro career, and Diakiese is significantly better than anyone he has seen to date.
This fight won't be impacting the rankings at 155 pounds any time soon, but it has the chance to be pretty entertaining if expectations are in check. Both men are aggressive and possess power in their hands. This sets up as a back-and-forth slug fest. The advantage there goes to Diakiese until further notice. Fiziev is young enough (27) to make improvements in his all-around game, but I'd have to see him beat someone of note before I consider picking him against an underrated, talented opponent like Diakiese.
THE PICK: Diakiese
This is my "sleeper" prediction for Fight of the Night. It's rarely been talked about but I think this is a heck of a bout and one that may very well get people talking.
Johns has lost two of his past three fights, but those setbacks came against future-title-challenger Aljamain Sterling and top 135-pound contender Pedro Munhoz. Johns has extremely limited power (two career knockouts) in his hands, but he's excellent on the mat (six are submission wins) and a talented wrestler. Johns averages 4.29 takedowns per 15 minutes, while his average fight time is 12:14. In other words, his fights generally see the final bell. Johns went the distance against both Sterling and Munhoz and that alone is an accomplishment.
The issue for Johns here is that he's facing an opponent who can match most everything he brings to the table. While Johns (5-foot-7) is tall for the division, Jackson checks in at 5-foot-10. Jackson also enters with a four-inch edge in the reach department. He averages nearly five (4.84) takedowns per 15 minutes and absorbs just 1.51 significant strikes per minute. That's an amazing and entirely unsustainable number, but it shows how dominant Jackson can be when his takedowns are landing. He picked up 11 successful takedowns in his most recent bout, a unanimous decision win over Felipe Colares in January.
I don't love a ton of underdogs on this card and the gap in salaries between these two is too much for me to get past. Give me Johns in an upset.
THE PICK: Johns