The heavyweight title is on the line as Fabricio Werdum battles Stipe Miocic, Cyborg makes her long-awaited UFC debut and legends Shogun Rua and Vitor Belfort return to the Octagon. Let’s break down the stacked UFC 198 card.
Stipe Miocic ($9,100) vs Fabricio Werdum ($10,300)
Both Werdum and Miocic are finishers and that’s what you need in your lineup to win. Werdum has added a dynamic striking game thanks to famed instructor Rafael Cordeiro, and his ground game is world-class. He has out struck every opponent in his second UFC stint, and that includes Cain Velasquez and Travis Browne, who both have high-volume output. Miocic is a great fighter, but he hasn’t had to worry about his opponent’s ground game in years. This time he will, which makes Werdum even more dangerous on the feet. I think Werdum is too good defensively, and he will out-land Miocic, eventually putting him down in the latter rounds.
Pick: Werdum by KO/TKO
Vitor Belfort ($8,800) vs Jacare Souza ($10,600)
Belfort is a legend and a very dangerous striker, but his last two losses have come against Chris Weidman and Jon Jones. While Weidman got the TKO win, don’t forget that almost every strike he landed was on the ground. Jon Jones also landed the majority of his strikes on the ground, then submitted Belfort. Jacare will follow that road map to success. He will secure the takedown and then unleash a brutal ground and pound and submit Belfort.
Pick: Jacare by submission
Cris Cyborg ($11,600) vs Leslie Smith ($7,800)
Leslie Smith took an insane 202 significant strikes from Sarah Kaufman back in 2014. Cyborg is non-stop terror, averaging over eight significant strikes per minute. Cyborg will administer a vicious beatdown on Smith, and will likely finish her in the first round. If Smith somehow pulls this off, it will be the biggest upset in MMA history. The only drawback on Cyborg is the high price tag, but it will be worth the 120 or so DKFP she can easily rack up.
Pick: Cyborg by KO/TKO
Corey Anderson ($10,200) vs Mauricio “Shogun” Rua ($9,200)
Anderson doesn’t have the nickname “Beastin 25/8” for nothing. He averages just over five significant strikes per minute and almost four takedowns per 15 minutes. He’s the new breed of MMA fighter: an exceptional athlete that has developed into a solid all-around fighter, with his best skill being wrestling. I don’t see Shogun — who is just 7-8 in the UFC — being able to keep that pace. Anderson will get him to the ground and beat him up there, then put Shogun away when he is gassed in the third. Shogun is a legend, but he’s just not the same guy he once was, nor is he fighting similar athletes.
Pick: Anderson by KO/TKO
Bryan Barbarena ($8,600) vs Warlley Alves ($10,800)
Barbarena made the hype train slam the brakes when he choked out Sage Northcutt in January, and now at UFC 198 he gets another exciting prospect to face off against in Warlley Alves. While Barbarena was able to beat Northcutt up on the ground, I don’t think he’ll be able to do that with Alves. In fact, I think it will be the other way around, with Alves keeping Barbarena on the ground and doing damage there, eventually taking his back and choking him out.
Pick: Alves by submission
Matt Brown ($8,900) vs Demian Maia ($10,500)
Maia has gone back to his roots in his last few fights, putting on grappling clinics against Neil Magny and Gunnar Nelson, who himself is an outstanding grappler. Maia can take down anyone, but beyond that he can keep them there. He methodically beats up his opponents on the ground, all the while maintaining position and keeping his opponent right where he wants them. From there he will chain together submission attempts, but unlike some fighters, Maia rarely loses position when going for a sub. So even if he doesn’t catch one, he maintains position and wins the round. Matt Brown has been submitted nine times in his career, and Maia is the supreme being when it comes to jujitsu in MMA. It might not be early in the fight, but I think he will make Brown tap out.
Pick: Maia by submission
Nate Marquardt ($8,500) vs Thiago Santos ($10,900)
Marquardt has looked more gatekeeper than contender the past few years, but then he came back with an amazing performance against C.B. Dollaway, knocking him out in the second round. Marquardt made a great decision to go to 185 and no longer has to put himself through a dramatic weight cut. He’s also back with coach Trevor Wittman. I absolutely love Marquardt here as my upset of the night. I think most people will be all over Santos, and adding Marquardt to your squad is a great way to separate your lineup from the pack.
Pick: Marquardt by KO/TKO
Yancy Medeiros ($9,400) vs Francisco Trinaldo ($10,000)
Trinaldo seems to fly under the radar with fight fans, but he has won five straight, including impressive wins over Chad Laprise and Ross Pearson. Initially considered a grappler, Trinaldo has out struck all his opponents in this current winning streak. Medeiros is very hittable, absorbing over four significant strikes per minute. He won’t be able to continually take shots from Trinaldo without hitting the deck.
Pick: Trinaldo by KO/TKO
John Lineker ($9,700) vs Rob Font ($9,700)
Rob Font is a prospect to watch, but John “Hands of Stone” Lineker has brutal power in his hands. Yes, Font will enjoy substantial height and reach advantages, but that didn’t matter when Lineker beat Francisco Rivera in his last fight. Font is 2-0 in the UFC, but now he meets a legit power-puncher in Lineker, and I think he’s getting KO’d.
Pick: Lineker by KO/TKO
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira ($9,600) vs Pat Cummins ($9,800)
Sadly I think this is the end of the line for Little Nog. Cummins is too fast and strong for Nogueira. He averages an insane 7.29 takedowns per 15 minutes, and he also puts forth a high-volume striking game while taking little punishment in return. I think Cummins will get him to the ground and have his way with strikes before the ref steps in to wave it off. And it will probably be the last time we see Little Nog, at least in the UFC.
Pick: Cumnmins by KO/TKO
Sergio Moraes ($10,700) vs Luan Chagas ($8,700)
Moraes benefits here by a late opponent change, getting Chagas instead of hard-hitting Kamaru Usman. Chagas is making his UFC debut, and Moraes is the wrong guy to do that against. Moraes has a serious ground game, demonstrated by his quick submission win over Neil Magny in 2013. I think he submits Chagas here in short order.
Pick: Moraes by submission
Renato Moicano ($9,000) vs Zubaira Tukhugov ($10,400)
Moicano was great in his UFC debut against Tom Niinimaki, scoring with both his striking and ground games. Save for his KO win against Ernest Chavez, Tukhugov has been in some slow-moving affairs. Moicano will land more, especially with a nice reach advantage. I think he’ll do enough to win the rounds and find the favor of the judges as this one goes the distance.
Pick: Moicano by decision