One of the best UFC cards from top-to-bottom in recent memory takes place this Saturday as UFC 198 goes down from Curitiba, Brazil. There are 12 fights on the card, and each one features a Brazilian fighter, including the heavyweight title fight main event between champion Fabricio Werdum and challenger Stipe Miocic. It’s true that it’s only May, but UFC 198 could very well end up being the best event of the year. Nearly every fight on the card – especially on the main card – is significant in some way, which makes it difficult to narrow the card down to the five most important things to watch for. With that being said, here are the biggest things you need to keep your eye on when you watch this weekend’s spectacular card.
UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum makes his first title defense when he takes on top contender Stipe Miocic in the five-round UFC 198 main event. Werdum is 6-0 since returning to the UFC in 2012, and in his most recent bout he became the first man to submit Cain Velasquez. Considering Werdum was once cut by the UFC years ago, his career turnaround has been nothing short of outstanding, as he has made his way all the way to the title despite being 38 years old. His opponent, Miocic, is 8-2 in the UFC and has won his last two fights via TKO to earn his shot at the title. Werdum and Miocic are two of the top-five heavyweights in the world, and the winner of this fight will be able to call himself the best heavyweight in the world.
Cris Cyborg, one of the top-ranked female mixed martial artists in MMA, finally makes her UFC debut when she takes on the always-tough Leslie Smith in a catchweight bout (140lbs). Cyborg has not lost in over a decade, and outside of a No Contest due to a drug test failure a few years ago, she has been perfect inside the cage. The Brazilian is currently riding a five-fight win streak with all of those wins coming by way of spectacular knockout, and she will be looking to keep that streak going against Smith, who is known for being one of the scrappiest female bantamweights on the UFC’s roster. But despite being tough to finish, Smith will be in for a short night here as she will be at a significant size disadvantage against the most powerful female striker in the sport today, Cyborg, who is a 17-1 favorite to win this fight. Look for the former Strikeforce champ to keep her win streak going, and it will be interesting to see if she calls out her rival Ronda Rousey after the fight.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua fights at UFC 198 against Corey Anderson, and there is a chance it could be the last time we see the legend in the Octagon. Rua, now 34 years old, has battled numerous injuries over the last few years and his chin is going at his advanced age. Rua will be fighting in his hometown of Curitiba, Brazil, so he’ll be sure to want to give his all since this is the last time we might see him compete. He is coming off of a decision win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but perhaps he will choose to leave the sport on a high note with a big win over Anderson. And should he lose, particularly if he’s knocked out again, the UFC will likely sit down with him and discuss his options for the future. One of the best fighters of all time, there is a good chance this is the end of the line for the former champ.
Brazilian veteran Demian Maia and perennial bonus hunter Matt Brown lock horns in a welterweight matchup that serves as the preliminary card main event. This is a fantastic fight between two 170lbers looking to break into the top-five of the division. It’s an especially important fight for Maia because the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard has never fought UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler before, while Brown has already had his chance at Lawler and lost. Maia is currently on a four-fight win streak and is 7-2 overall since dropping to welterweight. He may be 38, but he is at the top of his game right now and if he can continue his run up the ladder with an impressive win over the durable Brown, Maia could very well be fighting for the belt the next time we see him inside the Octagon.
Two of the most exciting bantamweights on the roster meet in a preliminary card battle as John Lineker fights Rob Font. Truth be told, Lineker would already be fighting for the flyweight title right now if he could consistently make 125lbs, but he missed weight four times and was forced to move to bantamweight. In his debut at 135lbs, he tapped out Francisco Rivera in one of 2015’s best fights, and now has a three-fight win streak going. His opponent, Font, recently returned from a long injury layoff to pick up another knockout win and improve to 2-0 inside the Octagon with both of his wins coming by way of KO. With a combined 17 knockout wins between these two fighters, expect Lineker and Font to bite down on their mouth pieces and go to war in what has all the makings of a classic firefight.