On Saturday, May 14, Brazil will host UFC 198, which is stacked from top to bottom with important fights. Headlining the event is a heavyweight title fight between champion Fabricio Werdum and No. 3-ranked contender Stipe Miocic. The fight will mark Werdum’s first defense of the title he won when he defeated Cain Velasquez by second-round submission in June.
The co-main event features No. 2-ranked middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and No. 3-ranked Vitor Belfort. The winner of this bout will likely face the winner of the upcoming title fight between current champion Luke Rockhold and former champion Chris Weidman. One of the highlights of the card is the fact that longtime women’s MMA competitor Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino will make her debut in the UFC. Justino will meet Leslie Smith in a catchweight contest.
Sadly, UFC 198 lost one of its more intriguing bouts earlier this week when former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva was removed from the event due to illness. Silva, who was booked to face Uriah Hall, had to undergo gallbladder surgery.
In all, UFC 198 features 12 fights. The main card will be broadcast on pay-per-view while the preliminary fights will begin on UFC Fight Pass before moving to Fox Sports 1. Read on for our UFC 198 preview and predictions.
5. Warlley Alves vs. Bryan Barberena
Warlley Alves is a young, up-and-coming fighter in the welterweight division, and the hype surrounding him seems justified. Alves has fought four times for the UFC, finishing three of those fights by making his opponents tap to guillotine chokes. However, he is not a one-trick fighter; Alves can also handle himself well in the striking department.
Bryan Barberena’s claim to fame is that he put a stop to the Sage Northcutt hype train, submitting the younger fighter by arm triangle choke in January. But don’t expect Barberena to surprise the more experienced and well-rounded Alves in this fight.
Prediction: Alves by submission in the second round
4. Mauricio Rua vs. Corey Anderson
Corey Anderson may be the most talented light heavyweight on the UFC roster. He has a solid wrestling base and his striking improved in each of his six UFC fights. Anderson may not be the most skilled fighter in the division, but he works hard in the gym. In his last three fights, Anderson matched up against veteran fighters whose best days are behind them. UFC 198 is no different as Anderson faces former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua.
Rua is a tough fighter with a good striking game, but he’s proven that he is hittable as of late. Rua won’t go down, but he will get touched up. Anderson will need to work the distance in this one, staying away from Rua’s kickboxing game if he wants to find success. This fight could put Anderson in the rankings with a win.
Prediction: Anderson by unanimous decision
3. Cristiane Justino vs. Leslie Smith
For Justino, the hardest part of this fight may be making the 140-pound catchweight limit. The Invicta FC featherweight champion has never fought as low as 140 pounds. She has, however, defeated 13 of her 17 professional opponents by knockout, including the last five women she faced.
Justino is, without hyperbole, the most feared striker to ever fight in women’s mixed martial arts. The word on the street is that Smith took this fight when no one else would. It’s hard to decide whether or not this promoter hyperbole is true, but it does make for a believable story.
If Cyborg can make the weight, this fight will be quick and violent, and hopefully one day set her up to face former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, a fighter who Justino says has been dodging her for a long while.
Prediction: Justino by knockout in the first round
2. Ronaldo Souza vs. Vitor Belfort
Belfort has always relied on his speed and power to end his opponent’s night. He enters the fight looking for an opening in the first round and when he finds that opening, he swarms, bombarding his opponent with strikes. The downside of that strategy is that if Belfort fails to get the knockout in the first round, he’s quick to fade, opening himself up to be finished in later rounds.
Souza is considered the best submission fighter in the UFC’s middleweight division, but he is more than that; he’s also a fighter who can end his opponent’s night with his hands. The expectation is that Souza will be able to keep his distance from Belfort during the early part of the fight and take advantage of Belfort when his cardio falters.
Prediction: Souza by submission in the third round
1. Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic
There is one place that Miocic does not want to compete with Werdum — on the ground. Werdum is one of the best jiu-jitsu players in the sport today, and if Miocic, a solid wrestler, does tangle with Werdum on the ground, it will not go well for the challenger. In this fight, Miocic’s best chance is to keep the contest standing and at distance. A clinch with Werdum will favor the champion, too.
The more we think about this fight, the more it’s hard to see Werdum losing. He may not get the submission win, but he’ll get the win in the end, and in doing so, the talk about Werdum being the best heavyweight the UFC has ever seen will begin to dominate the conversation.
Prediction: Werdum by unanimous decision
Statistics via UFC.com