The UFC returns to Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 3rd with a hastily put together heavyweight championship main event between reigning two-division king Daniel Cormier and fan-favorite knockout machine Derrick Lewis. In the co-main event, New York’s own former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman looks to inch closer to a title shot against dangerous submission specialist Jacare Souza.
UFC 230 has no doubt been injury-riddled for both the main and preliminary card, so the current lineup of fights isn’t as strong as previous MSG outings. Still, many of the bouts that have been booked have high potential for entertainment for the fans. Before Saturday night arrives, let’s take a look at some of the night’s competitors who could produce high scores for your DraftKings teams.
Daniel Cormier ($9,600) vs. Derrick Lewis ($6,600)Cormier added to his legacy as one of the sport’s all-time greats by knocking out Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, thus becoming a simultaneous champ at light heavyweight and heavyweight. Only Jon Jones has beaten him in MMA competition, and the second one was of course nullified due to Jones’ drug test failure. Standing in his way is Derrick Lewis, one of the sport’s most entertaining personalities and hardest hitters. He’s won nine of his last ten fights, including a miraculous comeback KO vs. Alexander Volkov at UFC 229 literally last month, as well as a comeback TKO vs. Marcin Tybura in February. As last-minute as this main event booking was, Lewis’ title shot is not without merit!
I know I’ve picked against Lewis the last two times and it’s backfired, but my jaw would hit the floor if Cormier also fell victim to The Black Beast’s power. Lewis has a puncher’s chance, but nothing more. Cormier knows he has a massive wrestling advantage, superior cardio, and is a master at top control and smothering his opponents. He also showed against Miocic that he packs a punch at HW, and Lewis isn’t difficult to hurt. Surely Lewis can’t pull off another miracle again, can he? The pick is Cormier by domination.
Number of Note: 57. Derrick Lewis’ takedown defense is 57% (32 defended shots out of 56), and he’s been put on his back at least once in 9 of his 15 UFC appearances.
Chris Weidman ($8,500) vs. Ronaldo Souza ($7,700)It’s another home fight for “The All-American” Weidman, who snapped his three-fight losing skid last year with a third-round submission of soon-to-be title challenger Kelvin Gastelum. Injuries have prevented him from fighting sooner, which has been a problem throughout his UFC tenure Weidman was supposed to be taking on Luke Rockhold in a rematch of their 2015 title fight, which saw Weidman lose his title by TKO. In his place is Jacare, a decorated grappler who has also shown flashes of knockout power. The ex-Strikeforce champion is coming off a split decision loss to Gastelum, but prior to that bout he had knocked out Derek Brunson in a UFC on FOX main event in January. Only three men have beaten him in the UFC, and both Gastelum and Yoel Romero had to eke out split decisions.
We may have lost Weidman-Rockhold II, but this is a great substitute. Both men are extremely talented on the ground, with Weidman doubling as both an outstanding wrestler and grappler. We’ve seen their respective chins compromised as of late, but the difference to me is Jacare has worse cardio, and Weidman is the more well-rounded fighter with more diverse striking, plus the ability to neutralize Souza’s jiu-jitsu wizardry. I see Weidman catching Souza with a big shot late and putting him away from there.
Number of Note: 4. Don’t expect the winner of this one to need the judges, as both Weidman (14 wins) and Jacare (25 wins) have each only gone the distance four times in their combined 39 professional victories.
Israel Adesanya ($9,100) vs. Derek Brunson ($7,100)“The Last Stylebender” may not be getting top or second billing, but he’s one of the must-watch attractions on this card. A talented striker with high-level kickboxing experience, Adesanya is undefeated in MMA, and has recorded three wins inside the Octagon. Against veteran Brad Tavares, Adesanya dominated his opponent on the feet and displayed great takedown defense. Brunson is a quality wrestler with Division II All-American credentials, but he’s established himself as a heavy-handed puncher who can end proceedings with one shot. While he is coming off that KO to Jacare, Brunson knocked out Lyoto Machida in Brazil, and dusted Uriah Hall in less than two minutes.
This is a fascinating step-up in competition for Adesanya, who has superstar potential. He has superb timing, command of distance, and strike selection, but Brunson is both a more powerful puncher and explosive wrestler than Tavares. However, Brunson has questionable striking defense, sloppy technique when trading blows, and may react poorly to Adesanya’s pressuring footwork. It’s a dangerous fight for Adesanya, but one I think he’ll win by knockout, furthering his rise up the middleweight ranks.
Number of Note: 120. Adesanya has outlanded his three UFC opponents by 120 significant strikes, including a 119-40 disparity against Tavares.
Shane Burgos ($9,000) vs. Kurt Holobaugh ($7,200)
Burgos is a quality prospect from New York who will look to get back in the win column after losing a back-and-forth thriller with Calvin Kattar at UFC 220, but he did take Fight of the Night honors. It was the first defeat of his career, but he does hold UFC wins over Charles Rosa, Tiago Trator, and Godofredo Pepey. Holobaugh engaged in his own Fight of the Night TKO loss to Raoni Barcelos in July. He was signed to a UFC contract the previous summer after a KO win vs. Matt Bessette on Dana White’s Contender Series, but he was handed a nine-month USADA ban for illegal IV use.
This could very well be your Fight of the Night. Holobaugh has done very well to get himself back on the UFC roster, and he’ll likely be more than willing to throw down with Burgos. However, I back Burgos because he has more technical striking, a commitment to body attacks, and great combination punching. I’m predicting fireworks in the cage and a Shane Burgos TKO to the delight of the New York crowd..
Number of Note: 85. Burgos has averaged 85 landed significant strikes over his four UFC fights, including five knockdowns in his three victories.
Jason Knight ($8,800) vs. Jordan Rinaldi ($7,400)
Affectionately known as “Hick Diaz,” Knight’s in must-win territory after suffering a controversial split decision defeat to Makwan Amirkhani, his third loss in a row. Knight had figured to be a potential top-10 fighter when he rattled off four straight victories from 2016-2017, but the fan-friendly grappler was totally overmatched against Ricardo Lamas, losing by TKO. Rinaldi is moving back down to featherweight after his previous three UFC contests were at lightweight. Ideally he’ll find more success at 145, because his UFC record thus far is just 1-2, having lost to Abel Trujillo and Gregor Gillespie, but he did snatch a Von Flue choke win vs. Alvaro Herrera in August 2017.
Expect plenty of mat scrambles and wild grappling exchanges. Knight’s got sneaky power in his hands, and although Rinaldi figures to be the better wrestler, Knight has the grappling edge that should be the deciding factor. I’m going with Knight to end his slide and get a much-needed W.
Number of Note: 21. Knight and Rinaldi have a combined 33 professional wins, and 21 of them (13 of 20 for Knight, 8 of 13 for Rinaldi) have come via submission.
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