UFC 198 Preview + Predictions

This Saturday night, the UFC is returning to Brazil. 45,000 fans will go to the Arena da Baixada to support their local heroes. As soon as the fights were announced, my jaw dropped. Outside of 200, this might be the best card I've seen in a minute. Specially if you're Brazilian. Sadly, the card already took a significant hit. Anderson Silva has pulled out of his bout due to severe problems with his gall bladder. I've told myself in countless occasions: "I am done getting excited about fights up until I see both warriors inside the octagon." But I get invested every time. As disappointed as I may be, there are still some amazing contests taking place. I could talk about every single matchup on the card, but I'll keep my analysis for the three fights that really have my attention.

Matt Brown vs. Demian Maia

In all seriousness, I believe this could easily be the brawl of the night. We have two veterans, on the verge of title contention, with completely different styles. That's the formula for success. Even more surprising, this is airing on FS1 (prelims). To me, this could totally headline a Fight Night event. Nevertheless, it's happening and I can't wait to see it.

Demian Maia is one of the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners in the entire UFC roster. Period. His style is extremely sticky and his technique is flawless. The way this 38-year-old can dismantle people on the mat is incredible. He has dominated some bright, young prospects like Gunnar Nelson and Neil Magny, and he's on a 4 fight winning streak. A victory over Brown could realistically get him the next title shot.

Then, we have Matt Brown. This boxer approaches challenges with that loved, old school mentality: bite on your mouthguard, strap up, and throw some bombs. He's aggressive and ferocious. Amongst the toughest guys in the Welterweight division, he's looking to crack the top 5. A win over Demian will secure him a high spot.

To be honest, I like Maia’s chances here. This is a perfect example of a “Boxer vs. Grappler” battle. On paper, Demian has a major advantage on the ground. On the feet, Brown should be able to land the better strikes. However, I think the key to the fight lays within the clinch exchanges. While both guys are extremely different, they both clinch as often as possible. Brown does it to unload vicious combinations full of elbows, hooks, and knees. Maia indulges in it to set up his takedowns. Whoever can acquire the upperhand here will get his hand raised. It's also worth pointing out that 9 out of Brown’s 13 defeats have come by way of submission. Expecting a great performance from both athletes, with the Brazilian coming out on top.

Prediction: Demian Maia

Cris Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith

Moving on, we have the debut of arguably the most popular mixed martial artist that has never been in a UFC PPV. Indeed, Christine Cyborg will go at it in her hometown of Curitiba, facing off against Leslie Smith. This is what dreams are made off, ladies and gentlemen.

So, why is Cyborg such a renowned fighter amongst the MMA community? Well, she's a savage. This girl is known for smashing her opponents. She's uncommonly powerful, and her game is well-rounded. Brutal on the feet, skillful on the ground. Nevertheless, don't get it twisted: Leslie Smith is not a walk in the park.

Straight up, you have to respect the hell out of Smith. Nobody wanted to take the Cyborg fight. But The Peacemaker did it in a heartbeat. This lady is a scrapper. She will stand in front of anybody and swing. Very versatile, she will hit you with elbows and knees. Also, she's very tough. Her ear was ripped off during her UFC 180 bout, and she wanted to keep going. Outside of her boxing fundamentals, she's a blue belt in BJJ under Cesar Gracie.

How do I see this fight playing out? As much as I appreciate Leslie's skills, I just don't think she's ready for Cyborg. She's been doing this longer, much more frequently. I predict this taking place mostly on the feet. And while Smith is a great boxer, a single punch from Cristiane will end your night.

Prediction: Cris Cyborg

Fabrício Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic

Finally, the main event will bring us one of the most interesting matchups the heavyweight division has seen in a long time. The champion, Fabrício Werdum (another hometown boy) will defend his UFC belt against striking artist Stipe Miocic.

At this point, it's hard deny that Fabrício Werdum is the best heavyweight ever once things hit the floor. A two-time BJJ world champion, he has submission victories over Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velazquez. His knowledge and abilities on the ground are a force not to be reckoned with. For years and years, striking was his kryptonite. Eventually, he decided to put an end to the theory, focusing on improving his stand up. The result? His boxing was highly ameliorated. This Saturday, he will look to solidify his legacy, and keep his title.

Looking to become a UFC champion for the first time in his career, Stipe Miocic has been trying to obtain a title shot since the beginning of mankind. This boxer/wrestler has some of the best footwork in the division. He really does move like a middleweight. His boxing fundamentals are top-notch, and his discipline is something to brag about. This guy is notably good at reading his opponents and using the right move, at the right time.

Even if I think Miocic will be one of Werdum's toughest challenges, I still see him keeping the belt. Unless he's about to get KO'd, Stipe will not attempt to take the fight to the ground. If he does, Werdum will finish it. However, Fabricio has a lot of more tools he will be able to utilize. Faking the takedown, clinching against the cage, etc. He will keep Stipe guessing, and unless his lights are turned by a wicked blow, he will end up submitting him.

Prediction: Fabrício Werdum

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