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Fightin’ Words: Breakdown of UFC 226: Miocic vs Cormier

By Kevin Wallace Jul 5, 2018 - 8:52 AM print


It seems like only last month I was hyping UFC 225 as one of the most anticipated cards of the year but only four weeks later the sport’s biggest promotion follows it up with another stacked show. Capping off the finale of two nights in a row of UFC cards, UFC 226 features not only a ”super fight” between light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier challenging heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic but also top ranked featherweight Brian Ortega contending for Max Holloway’s title. To go along with those two fantastic fights there are several others throughout the card that should make this one of the deepest cards in recent memory. That being said lets waste no more time and take a look at the show.

UFC Heavyweight Championship: Stipe Miocic (18-2) vs Daniel “D.C.” Cormier (20-1-1)- The term “super fight” has been used a lot in the build for this fight and although we all have differing opinions on who we view as “stars” and “superstars”, this fight pits arguably the greatest heavyweight in UFC history and perhaps even MMA history against a man who not only was undefeated fighting at heavyweight but also dominated the UFC’s light heavyweight division defeating everyone except Jon Jones. Current UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is one the most decorated and highly credentialed wrestlers this sport has ever seen and whether he fights at heavyweight or light heavyweight, he’s a problem but following a 13-0 run at heavyweight Cormier decided to cut to 205 where he’s remained for the last four years defeating top fighters such as Dan Henderson, Anderson Silva, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (twice), Alexander Gustafsson and Volkan Oezdemir just to name a few. The most important thing for Cormier is to eventually fight Jon Jones one last time to avenge the loss and no contest blemishes on his record and a win against Miocic can possibly land him that opportunity. Jon Jones may be Cormier’s top priority but he’s best to put that on the backburner at least until Sunday morning as Miocic is a very difficult opponent. Stipe Miocic defeated Fabricio Werdum only two years ago to win the UFC heavyweight championship and since then has successfully defended the championship three times leaving him in the record books as the only UFC heavyweight champion to successfully defend their championship that many times. With 14 of his 18 victories coming via knockout, Miocic is a finisher in every way , shape and form but showed an increased fight IQ in his last fight against Francis Ngannou when he repeatedly grounded him on route to a five round decision. Miocic may be a heavyweight but he does have a gas tank and isn’t someone you need to worry about gassing within the first five minutes but if an opportunity presents itself he will go all in and try to put away his opponent with his monstrous fists. Miocic has heavy hands and has knockout wins over Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, Junior Dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski all of which are not only great wins to have on your resume but also great opponents to have finished. In the wrestling department Miocic is also pretty solid and can usually rely on that to fall back on. These men are pretty evenly matched despite what the stats in comparison to height and reach will say as Cormier has fought bigger guys most of his career and had very little difficulty against them. Like a couple fights on this card, I’ve gone back and forth a few times since this fight was announced but I think the speed of Cormier and the pressure he pushes are going to be difficult for Miocic to deal with as Cormier isn’t like most UFC heavyweights looking to stand and trade and will instead only look to do so to close distance and push Miocic into the cage where he will look for the takedown in the clinch. Miocic punches with a lot more power than Cormier and isn’t exactly a slow heavyweight by any means so it’s possible for him to hurt Cormier on the feet but Cormier has shown to have a great chin and Miocic will need to land more than just one to put him away and in doing so I see Cormier having opportunities presented to land the takedown on route to a 25 minute decision victory or late submission stoppage.

Prediction: Cormier by unanimous decision

UFC Featherweight Championship: Max “Blessed” Holloway (19-3) vs Brian “T-City” Ortega (14-0-1)- What a fight! Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this actually goes down as we still have a couple days to go. Only the third UFC featherweight champion in UFC history, Max “Blessed” Holloway is on the hottest streak of his career winning his last 12 fights including defeating Jose Aldo for the championship and then defeating him once again only six months later. “The Pride of Waianae”, Holloway is only 26 years old and still has a lot of career to go but has begun to show signs of greatness. At 5’11 Holloway is one of the biggest featherweights in the division but size and dimensions only matter when you know how to use them and Holloway knows his range and how to use it. Being able to put away opponents on the feet is always a good trait and Holloway can do that as he finished Aldo in both fights but if the fight goes to the mat Holloway is also talented using his long limbs to tie up opponents. Looking to end not only Holloway’s winning streak but also his title reign, Brian “T-City” Ortega steps into the octagon in the biggest fight of his career. Ortega put together four victories in a row inside the UFC with third round finishes which gained him some eyeballs as third round finishes aren’t exactly the most common finish and to do so four times in a row made him someone to watch. Following that Ortega faced off with top ten Cub Swanson and dispatched of the veteran with relative ease submitting him via guillotine in the second round. With all the hype Ortega stepped in to face number one contender Frank Edgar at UFC 222 and absolutely dismantled the former UFC lightweight champion finishing Edgar for the first time in his career by knockout in only the first round. UFC 222 was the perfect time for a submission specialist to show off his hands but to finish Edgar means you’re on another level. A standout trainee of one of my favorite trainers Rener Gracie, Ortega can finish anyone if given the chance to slap on a submission but he isn’t one to just try for anything, the grappling level of Ortega’s is in the mold of once it’s on you tap that’s the only way out and everyone from Diego Brandao, Clay Guida, and Cub Swanson will agree. Every once and a while a young guy comes up and climbs his way up the division all the way to the top, this division has seen that rise with Conor McGregor and recently Max Holloway however Ortega may be the next guy. Saturday will prove who the greatest fighter in this division is and where the future is for each guy. No matter what goes down this weekend I think both of these guys are future champions whether it be at featherweight or lightweight where both guys have expressed interest in moving to at some point in their career. I like Holloway’s movement and his speed and I think that may give Ortega problems early but I see a mild upset here and think if Ortega fights as calm and cool as he did against a legend like Frank Edgar then he gets a third or fourth round stoppage in an incredible fight of the year contender when all is said and done.

Prediction: Ortega by submission

Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (11-2) vs Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (19-5-1)- Google both of these men right now if you aren’t familiar with them and tell me that this fight doesn’t excite you. Go ahead and do that, I’ll wait. Big dudes right? In a division where only one or two wins in a row can put you into title contention and with marketability oozing from both men’s giant fists, the winner of this is likely to put themselves on the short list for a title shot at the winner of the main event between Miocic and Cormier. Francis Ngannou entered the UFC at the end of 2015 and in just over two years found himself challenging for the UFC heavyweight championship earlier this year. A loss to champion Stipe Miocic in January ended a ten fight winning streak for Ngannou which featured knockout victories over top heavyweights like Curtis Blaydes, Andrei Arlovski and Alistair Overeem. In his fight with Miocic, the champion was able to take advantage of Ngannou’s limited gas tank and takedown defense exposing a hole not seen in his earlier octagon appearances. Only one fight removed from one of the greatest knockouts the UFC has ever seen when he uppercutted Alistair Overeem off his feet, Ngannou has some explosive striking power and only one strike away from winning a fight at any moment. Facing off against Ngannou is someone equally as dangerous on the feet and with a 10-3 record inside the UFC, another veteran who would look good on a fight resume. Derrick Lewis or more affectionately known as “the Back Beast”, holds notable wins over Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson and Travis Browne as well as most recently a third round knockout over Marcin Tybura. With 19 career wins and 17 of those coming by knockout, Lewis is just as deadly with his strikes as Ngannou. This is a difficult fight to call as Ngannou fights tall and relies mostly on fighting opponents from a distance while Lewis fights more in the mold of getting inside and boxing you up from close. Unlike Chiesa/Pettis, this fight I’ve gone back and forth on since its announcement and I don’t particularly have a strong feeling towards either but Lewis’ wrestling may be something he looks to fall back on in this one as he has the wrestling background to likely hold an edge in that category and with Miocic having had some success using that against Ngannou then the smart bet would be for Lewis to try and take him down. That being said, Lewis isn’t known for his submission skills and even though his ground and pound is pretty good I don’t see him knocking out Ngannou on the mat. With only 5 fights going the distance in a combined 37 appearances between both, this one is likely to end early where I see Lewis catching Ngannou on the feet in the second round.

Prediction: Lewis by TKO

Michael “Maverick” Chiesa (14-3) vs Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (20-7)- With a 2-5 record in his last seven fights, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis has looked anything but the flashy superstar he did early in his UFC career over the last three years. A former WEC lightweight and UFC lightweight champion, Pettis’ decline since losing the championship has been notable but at 31 years of age he can still remain relevant in the sports most competitive division with a win over opponent, number nine ranked Michael Chiesa. Winner of season 15 of TUF, Chiesa has put together a 7-3 record inside the octagon with notable wins over Al Iaquinta, Francisco Trinaldo and Beneil Dariush just to name a few. At 6’1, Chiesa is a large lightweight who will enjoy a three inch reach advantage against Pettis and most likely look to keep Pettis out of his range. Chiesa’s striking is good but his bread and butter has always been his wrestling which he will look to use in this fight given how much success opponents have had as of late with keeping Pettis on his back. If this fight stays standing then Pettis’ chances at getting his hand raised improve but even then Pettis has seemed more hesitant to pull the trigger in fights over the last several years and what was once a flashy style that ended in impressive knockouts has changed into a more point fighting style designed to win decisions. Since this fight was announced I’ve favored Chiesa and that hasn’t changed. Expect Chiesa to be the aggressor and ground Pettis for the better part of three rounds to get his hand raised here.

Prediction: Chiesa by unanimous decision

Gokhan “The Rebel” Saki (1-1) vs Khalil “The War Horse” Rountree (6-3)- Very good pay per view opening fight here between two strikers with heavy hands in a division where one or two impressive performances could see you propelled into title contention. It’s funny to think that Gokhan Saki steps into the octagon for only the second time in his career on Saturday given the level of combat sports he’s competed in throughout his highly credentialed career. A two time Muay Thai champion, former Glory light heavyweight champion and 2008 K-1 Grand Prix winner, Saki has some deadly striking skills and displayed that in his UFC debut against Henrique da Silva whom he dispatched of with a beautiful combination last year. Despite the 1-1 record in MMA, Saki has competed in the highest levels that kickboxing can offer but it is yet to be determined what Saki’s level is at if the fight can get to the mat. A runner up on season 23 of TUF, Khalil Rountree much like Saki, prefers his fights to take place on the feet. With a 2-2 record with one no contest inside the octagon, Rountree hits hard and looks to finish his opponents within the first five minutes of the fight which he’s done successfully on four occasions. Both of these guys are finishers and start their fights fast so I don’t anticipate this one going long and with both having been on the receiving end of knockouts before I think we’re likely in store for a highlight reel knockout. I think Rountree’s striking defense let him down in his last fight where he was knocked out by Michal Oleksiejczuk who isn’t a striker the level of Saki and I think Saki repeats that formula here to get his hand raised.

Prediction: Saki by TKO

Prelims

Paulo “Borrachinha” Henrique Costa (11-0) vs Uriah “Primetime” Hall (13-8)- Prediction: Costa by knockout

Yancy “The Kid” Medeiros (15-5-1) vs “The Irish Dragon” Paul Felder (15-3)- Prediction: Felder by unanimous decision

Raphael Assuncao (26-5) vs Rob Font (15-3)- Prediction: Assuncao by unanimous decision

“Curtious” Curtis Millender (15-3) vs Max “Pain” Griffin (14-4)- Prediction: Griffin by unanimous decision

Lando “Groovy” Vannata (9-2-1) vs Drakkar Klose (8-1-1)- Prediction: Klose by unanimous decision

Daniel “The Hangman” Hooker (16-7) vs Gilbert “Durinho” Burns (13-2)- Prediction: Burns by unanimous decision

Jamie Moyle (4-2) vs Emily “Spitfire” Whitmire (2-2)- Prediction: Moyle by unanimous decision

That’s all for this month everyone so enjoy the fights and check back in August for UFC 227: Dillashaw vs Garbrandt 2.



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