[Editor’s note: this post has been updated as of April 26 to add Cyborg Santos v. Leslie Smith odds and prediction]
UFC 198 is on Saturday May 14th in sunny Curitiba, Brazil, at the Arena da Baixada. In what is considered one of the biggest and stacked cards of the year, Fabricio Werdum will be looking to defend his UFC Heavyweight Championship versus Stipe Miocic.
Since it all takes place in Brazil, the card is chalk full of not only Brazilian fighters, but legends. With the likes of Demian Maia, Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and Fabricio Werdum (to name just a few), from top to bottom, this is one of the greatest UFC cards ever brought to the country.
Expect this UFC event to have a ton of action with some potential upsets. Will the biggest upset happen in the main event? Below, I give you my main card picks and a brief explanation on why I’m choosing each winner.
Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (-170) vs Stipe Miocic (+145)
Miocic (14-2) comes into this fight after dispensing of Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski with two punishing TKO victories. The Ohio native has some of the best striking in the heavyweight division, and if he can keep the fight standing, he could give Werdum problems.
The X-factors in this bout are Werdum’s world-class jiu-jitsu and chin. The man they call “Vai Cavalo” has been improving with age, and at 38-years-old, he has shown that he is far more well-rounded than he was when he first walked into the Octagon.
With six straight wins over the last five years, Werdum (20-5-1) has proven that he can both submit opponents and stand and bang with the best of them. If he can work his jab and avoid taking too many power shots from Miocic, he should eventually get this fight to the ground.
That said, Miocic’s takedown defence is a strong 70-percent, and if he can take this fight into the championship rounds, we might have ourselves a new heavyweight champion.
This fight could go either way, but Werdum is just too well-rounded, and defending his title in Brazil will provide a huge boost. Take Werdum by submission in what could easily be a Fight of the Night candidate.
Winner: Fabricio Werdum
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (+250) vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (-300)
In the co-main event of the evening, we have a fierce striker in Belfort (25-11) going toe-to-toe with one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the sport, “Jacare” Souza (22-4). It’s your classic striker versus grappler, but Souza’s overall game has improved immensely.
Belfort has KOed his way to the top of the middleweight division, but we could be seeing the beginning of the end for the 38-year-old. Without PEDs/TRT, Belfort has been sporting the “dad bod” and tends to gas out after an aggressive first round. Since this fight is in Brazil, though, all bets are off in regards to PED usage. :s
In this fight, Souza needs to weather the early storm and control the Octagon. A patient and conservative approach will be the key to success for “Jacare.” There is a reason why he has gone eight years without being stopped by way of strikes.
At some point, Souza will look to get the fight to the ground, but even if he isn’t able to submit his fellow Brazilian, he can control the fight on the canvas and score points. If Belfort can’t get the job done in the first five to ten minutes, look for Souza to take over and earn himself a victory via decision.
Winner: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Anderson “The Spider” Silva (-165) vs. Uriah “Primetime” Hall (+135)
I don’t think we’ve seen Silva (33-7) not in a main event slot since he first broke into the UFC. But the 40-year-old, who just competed back in February, wanted to fight in his hometown and the UFC granted him that wish. This isn’t shocking when I say that Silva is on the downward slope of his career.
Having lost four fights in a row – yes I count the no contest (PED use) as a loss at UFC 183 – and looking rather human lately, a fight with another ferocious striker might be just what the doctor ordered for Silva’s potential resurrection.
Against Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 84, Silva had moments where he looked like his vintage self, but “The Count” was able to be patient and pick his shots. When “The Spider” is aggressive and goes for it, he is an absolute killer. However, far too often, we see him playing around in the cage, and the counter-puncher approach doesn’t always work for him anymore.
If Hall (12-6) comes out too eager or aggressive, that will play right into Silva’s hands. At 31-years-old, Hall is facing one of his stiffest challenges, and if he makes a mistake, he’ll be sleeping. Downward slide or not, Silva will be looking to make a huge statement in front of his friends and family. He’s not only fighting for a win but he’s also fighting for his legacy.
Both men will slug it out, but Silva is just too fast and experience should rule the day here. Although Hall could win the fight with one spinning kick to the head, something tells me that “The Spider” pulls this one out via TKO. At some point Silva is going to win a fight, he’s just too good to be losing this much.
Winner: Anderson Silva
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (+145) vs. Corey “Beastin 25/8” Anderson (-185)
This is another fantastic matchup and a tough fight to call. Like Anderson Silva, Rua (23-10) is fighting in his hometown, and that kind of boost could provide him some extra momentum as the fight grinds along.
The younger Corey Anderson (8-1) comes in with the reach advantage, and if he can work the jab early and keep Rua at a distance, this fight has a chance to go the distance.
Out of Anderson’s eight wins, five have gone to the judges, so this bout could easily be decided on points. The thing is, Rua gets better as a fight goes along, and if he can avoid taking hard shots on an aging chin, the veteran’s experience could come into play. Rua has struggled inside the Octagon in recent years and has not won back-to-back bouts since 2009.
Although Anderson is the favorite, I’m taking Shogun via split decision. (I do have legitimate reasons for picking Shogun but, on top of those, Anderson’s nickname is too stupid to back.)
Winner: “Shogun” Rua
Demian Maia (-300) vs. Matt “The Immortal” Brown (+265)
Demian Maia (22-6) has won four in a row and will look to continue his winning ways against Matt Brown (20-13). The Brazilian looked outstanding at UFC 194 when he dominated a tough Gunnar Nelson, and that kind of performance against Brown should seal the victory.
“The Immortal” Brown has looked pretty mortal of late, as he’s been on the shelf due to injuries since last July when he beat Tim Means at UFC 189. Face a hot Maia in his comeback bout is a very tall order.
Maia, 38, is eyeing a shot at the welterweight title, and a win against Brown definitely puts him in the mix. He has come so close to a title fight before; I don’t think he’ll let a gritty Matt Brown get in the way of finally getting that shot.
Brown likes to throw a lot of punches and get into the clinch game. Maia’s standup has improved over the years, but mainly it’s used to set up the takedown. In fact, Maia’s significant strike defence (the percentage of opponents’ strikes that don’t land) is at a solid 62-percent; he can avoid getting hit.
Playing the clinch game up against the cage would be playing right into the Brazilian’s hands. Once Maia gets his hands on Brown, the fight will go to the ground and that will be all she wrote.
Winner: Demian Maia
Cris “Cyborg” Santos (-1200) vs. Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith (+700)
[Updated and added on April 26, 2016]
We finally get to Cris Cyborg in a UFC Octagon. Unfortunately, Leslie Smith must have drawn the short straw as she’s the lamb who has been sent to slaughter.
If you’ve been around MMA for a while, you’ve probably heard of Cyborg. Her name has always been mentioned when people talk about Ronda Rousey. Why? Many believe, including yours truly, that Rousey is the 2nd best fighter in the world behind the Brazilian. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that fight play out, mostly due to Cyborg’s issues with dropping down to the 135lbs women’s bantamweight division.
This fight is a catchweight (140lbs) as Cyborg slowly works her way down to the weight class that allows her to fight some of the best women in the promotion.
This is an easy fight to call. Although Smith is scrappy, she is an undersized 135-pounder, and is going up against a very violent and oversized 145-pounder. So expect “The Peacemaker” to be thrown around, outmuscled and out classed. Think re-enactment of Bear vs. Leo in The Revenant.
I’m calling complete domination as Cyborg looks to make a statement that she not only belongs in the UFC, but she’s coming for Rousey, Holm, Tate, and the Women’s Bantamweight Title in no specific order.
Winner: The fans! and Cyborg Santos
(Feature photo credit: Bruno Massami (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-3xjUooHkU).)