Previewing UFC 198: ORIGAMI WITH ARAGAMI XXXVIII
After a hard wrestling class this evening, the time seems perfect to give my verdict on the monstrous UFC 198 event set to take place in Brazil this weekend. In only the 4th stadium show in the organisation’s history, the organisation is finally exploiting the country’s football-mad culture by utilising Curitiba’s (where so many Brazilian fighting legends have come out of such as Wanderlei Silva and Shogun Rua) very own Arena de Baixada (also known as the Joaquim Americo Guimaraes). Which can hold a capacity of 40,000 fans, which is also the home of 2001 Brazilian Serie A title winners: Atletico Paranaense.
The UFC is riding on a huge wave of momentum following last weekend’s spectacular debut showing in Rotterdam, Holland. Moreover, after having presented UFC 71: Liddell vs Jackson 2, UFC 84: Ill Will, UFC 98: Machida vs Evans, UFC 146: Mir vs Dos Santos, UFC 160: Velasquez vs Big Foot 2 & UFC 187: Johnson vs Cormier; it’s safe to say that UFC saves some if it’s absolute best events for the month of May, and on paper, May 2016 is only going to continue that trend following last weekends event and the mega card we shall be previewing tonight. Headlined by Fabricio Werdum’s first defence of the UFC heavyweight title against Stipe Miocic, the card is well and truly stacked as you will see below:
UFC 198 MAIN CARD:
- UFC Heavyweight Championship: Fabricio Werdum (C) vs Stipe Miocic
- UFC Middleweight Division: Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souze vs Vitor Belfort
- Catchweight bout (140 lbs): Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos vs Leslie Smith
- UFC Light Heavyweight Division: Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs Corey Anderson
- UFC Welterweight Division: Warlley Alves vs Bryan Barberena
This tremendous main card is supplemented by Demian Maia taking on Matt Brown is a pivotal welterweight showdown, along with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira battling the rising Patrick Cummins. The only let down, was the unfortunate surgery Anderson Silva had to undergo this week which caused his super fight with Uriah Hall to be cancelled; nevertheless, we have a true super card, featuring a world-class heavyweight title fight, the UFC 198 debut of one of the most devastating fighters in the history of mixed martial arts in the form of Cris Cyborg and the presence of legends: Shogun Rua and Vitor Belfort; with that being said, let’s get this show on the road, it’s gonna be a good one!
Before we begin, I will be reviewing all of the main card bar the Alves/Barberena fight and in addition, I will be also previewing Maia/Brown and ‘Lil Nog’/Cummins.
UFC 198 Preliminary Card: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Patrick Cummins
Once a bonafide top 10 Lightheavyweight, ‘Lil Nog’, much like many top fighters of his generation, is now most likely in a decline and given the number of injuries that have blighted his near 6-year stint in the UFC; that decline may be further accelerated. A sharp boxer, with a legitimate black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the younger of the 2 Nogueira brothers owns wins over Kazushi Sakuraba.
Alistair Overeem (twice), Dan Henderson, Vladimir Matyushenko, Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans; however the last of his 21 wins which came against Evans, came in February 2013 and has only fought twice since: one of which was a brutal knockout loss to Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson in July 2014 and the other a back and forth, (however lesser quality version of their 2005 classic) with Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua last August.
Wrestling skills to dominate
In Patrick Cummins, you have a young, hungry and rapidly improving fighter with a penchant for stopping fights in as much aplomb, as he does use his excellent wrestling skills to dominate and control opponents. Moreover, if you see ‘Lil Nogs’ losses (discounting the 2 defeats to ‘Shogun’), they have come to fighters who either have a wrestling base (Vladimir Matyushenko, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis) or fighters with terrifying knockout power (Sokoudjou and Anthony Johnson);
Cummins has the ability to do both and after having now spent over half of his 11 professional fights in the UFC’s octagon, the man also known as ‘Durkin’ has nearly had as many fights in the UFC since his 2014 debut as Nogueira has since joining the organisation in 2009. Now under the tutelage of Master Rafael Cordeiro at the famed Kings MMA, he has in his corner a man who has masterminded 2 defeats over Nogueria as ‘Shogun’ Rua’s coach; this fight is ‘Durkin’s to lose provided he mixes up and his striking and takedowns and thus I expect him to defeat a game ‘Lil Nog’ over the course of a 3 round decision.
Preliminary Card: Demian Maia vs Matt Brown
It is tragic that this fight was never on the main card in the first place and an even bigger insult that this fight wasn’t bumped up to the main card after the cancellation of Uriah Hall and Anderson Silva’s fight; such is the value of defeating a golden cow (figuratively) like Sage Northcutt, that Bryan Barberena got the lucky spot. On the bright side, if Ariel Helwani is to be believed, then the prelims. receive more viewers than the pay per view portion of the card, and given that Bellator 154 will be running side by side with the UFC preliminary card;
This may have in fact been a tactical ploy on the part of the UFC to damage their competitor’s viewership. In one of the more divisionally relevant fights on the card, you have 6th ranked Maia going up against 8th ranked Brown in a criminally underrated match up of styles. Since moving to the welterweight division in July of 2012, Maia is an amazing 7-2, taking the scalps of Dong Hyun-Kim, Rick Story, Jon Fitch, Neil Magny and Gunnar Nelson,
What is more astonishing, is that for a seemingly one-dimensional fighter (as his critics have always suggested), he has been in the UFC for nearly 9 years now and boasts an insane 15-6 record, with his defeats coming to Nate Marquardt, Anderson Silva, Mark Munoz, Chris Weidman, Jake Shields & Rory MacDonald; men who were in the top 10 of their respective division’s, at the time of fighting.
It seems that he will always be remembered for getting knocked senseless by Marquardt at UFC 102 and for his infamous title shot against Anderson Silva at UFC 112 than his wins over the likes of Chael Sonnen, the back and forth classic with Jason MacDonald, the blood squirting submission of Rick Story or when he ‘fitched’ Fitch at UFC 156, and that is truly a shame. Nevertheless, against Brown, he has the perfect chance to stake a claim at being the new number one contender after Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler collide in July.
Brown vs Lawler fireworks
One thing is always for sure when ‘the Immortal’ Matt Brown takes to the octagon; he is guaranteed fireworks. While he probably peaked as a fighter during his exceptional 7 fight win streak between 2012 – 2014, he came up just short against Robbie Lawler in their July 2014 war, before being outwrestled by Johny Hendricks at UFC 185. Although he rebounded with a submission victory over Tim Means at UFC 189, he hasn’t been seen since.
Furthermore, it should be worth noting that as impressive as his streak was, he defeated no one in the top 10, which probably explains why he never got his title shot amidst that run. The intangible in this fight is Maia’s ability to control the fight against Brown’s relentless pressure; Maia who previously fought at middleweight, is a giant at this weight class and bar Rory Macdonald, has effortlessly dragged each and every one of his adversaries to the mat and controlled them, irrespective of their style.
It’s no surprise that the only other competitive fight at welterweight for Maia was against Shields, who is also an elite grappler and a former middleweight.
That Thai Style
In the standing quarters, Brown uses long, straight punches and leg kicks at range and an excellent Thai style clinch and knees in close quarters. His top game is punctuated by violent ground and pound more than positional dominance, however where he will have an advantage, is in the cardio department, he comes forward relentlessly and never lets up with the volume of his strikes; making his opponents wilt under that pressure.
Maia has slowly developed a steady boxing game that is built around getting the fight into his domain, which is the ground game; while he risked falling into the trap of becoming a mediocre stand-up base fighter neglecting his ground game, he since developed a game that accentuates all of his avenues of getting the fight to the ground.
On the mat, Maia is still in the top 5 if not top 3 in the world at controlling an opponent, and the fact he was able to drag to the ground and dominate Neil Magny, Gunnar Nelson, Dong Hyun-Kim, Rick Story, Jorge Santiago, Dan Miller and Chael Sonnen, implies that his wrestling game is to be respected and the fact that Matt Brown has shown a propensity in the past to fall to wrestler-grappler types, makes me think that Maia will either take a 3 round decision or secure a 2nd round submission victory.
Shogun Rua vs Corey Anderson
TUF 19 winner Corey Anderson is a young man on the rise in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division and against Shogun Rua, he has the opportunity to have his signature break-out victory at the expense of the former Pride Middleweight Grand Prix winner and UFC light heavyweight champion. Since defeating Matt van Buren to win ‘the Ultimate Fighter’ he has gone 4-1.
With his only defeat coming to Gian Villante, where it was probably a case of it being too soon for a man who only started his career as a professional in 2013 to be fighting a veteran of Villante’s stature. Since that aberration, Anderson has defeated Jan Blachowicz, Fabio Maldonado and Tom Lawlor in succession all by way of unanimous decision.
An ever-improving and well-rounded fighter, Anderson is probably the favourite in this fight given ‘Shogun’s recent decline, moreover the 2016 version ‘Shogun’ struggles against large and athletic fighters with knock out power, which we know Anderson is at least the former. What more can be said about the career of Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua? The man exploded into the MMA mainstream, by challenging Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson to a fight after ‘Rampage’ had just defeated his brother.
Like something out of a martial arts movie, the younger brother of ‘Ninja’ upset the odds and destroyed ‘Rampage’ in the first round of the legendary Pride Middleweight Grand Prix of 2005, before going on to defeat Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona to win the prestigious tournament.
The Reign of Shogun Rua
That run made the young fighter from Curitiba the pound for pound best fighter on the planet at the time; however like most super explosive athletes, knee injuries and consequent surgeries have robbed Rua of his best years. A struggle for consistency is the best way to describe his UFC run, entering the organisation with a 16-2 record, he is now 23-10, with a 7-8 split; never winning more than 2 fights in a row.
Despite those less than impressive numbers, he still won the light heavyweight title, inflicting Lyoto Machida’s first career defeat, as well as being the man credited with solving the puzzle of ‘the Dragon’.
He also stopped Chuck Liddell in devastating fashion, erased the memory of that shock defeat to Mark Coleman, got revenge over Forrest Griffin by knocking him out cold in Brazil no less, engaged in Fight of the Year contenders with Lyoto Machida, Dan Henderson twice and with Brandon Vera, knocked out James Te Huna in 67 seconds and defeated ‘Lil Nog’ again; so his UFC run hasn’t been a total disappointment.
The question is, will the Shogun who fought Nogueira, Te Huna, Vera, Henderson, Griffin (in the second fight) and Machida arrive in Brazil this weekend, or will we see the sagging, tiring and depreciated Rua turn up who fought against Ovince Saint Preux, Chael Sonnen and Alexander Gustafsson?
While either way, I expect Anderson to win, an inspired Shogun is always capable of knocking anyone out or going to war with anyone in the division, whereas when he’s not on his A-game, he could very easily get stopped in the first round. Given that the fight is taking place in Brazil, I will suggest that Anderson will win a competitive contest by way of a unanimous decision.
Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos vs Leslie Smith
In one of the most eagerly anticipated debut’s in the UFC’s history, Brazilian berserker Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos will be making her debut, albeit at a catchweight of 140 lbs, against the perfect opponent, the super tough and durable Leslie Smith. ‘Cyborg’.
The reigning Invicta Fighting Championships featherweight champion and the former Strikeforce featherweight champion is a true force of nature, easily the most terrifying fighter in the history of women’s MMA is unbeaten in 11 years and last went to do a decision in 2008 when she defeated Yoko Takahashi under the Elite XC banner. The burning question is going to be how she will be affected by the weight cut and IV ban.
However if news this week is to be believed, her nutritionist has stated that the weight cut has been going swimmingly and that she will have no issue making weight on Saturday night. Just how much that will stand to be correct will unfold in front of our eyes on Saturday evening and given her explosive and aggressive style; this could be pivotal should the fight go into the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
Smith faces Cyborg
Leslie Smith has competed as both flyweight and bantamweight, which automatically puts her at a size disadvantage, but then again ‘Cyborg’ is probably the most physically imposing female fighter in the world up to 145 lbs, so in that sense, she is at no disadvantage than anyone else would be, however, what I fear for Smith is what could be described as her gift and her curse which is her toughness.
Smith is mostly renowned for her cauliflower ear-splitting against Jessica Eye and her willingness to continue fighting despite her ear effectively hanging off of her head at UFC 180. While that is a testimony to her toughness and her heart as a fighter, this could also be the same stubbornness that causes her to take a prolonged beating at the hands of ‘Cyborg’. Despite never being finished to strikes or submission, I expect a Cyborg 1st round TKO or in the worst-case scenario, ‘Cyborg’ takes a brutally one-sided unanimous decision victory.
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza vs Vitor Belfort
Despite having his latest (and failed) UFC title shot just 12 months ago, the ultimate opportunist, Vitor Belfort could be on the cusp of a 4th title shot in 5 years if he is able to defeat the man known as ‘Jacare’. The likelihood, however, of such a victory is as likely as a Belfort upset over Weidman last year; virtually non-existent. Although Belfort is only 3 years older than Jacare, the post-TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) ban edition of ‘the Phenom’.
Looked significantly deflated and downsized against Weidman, and while he seemed healthier against Dan Henderson this past November, he will most likely be at a size disadvantage against Souza on Saturday night. A lot of credit should go to Belfort however for the changes he has made to his style over the years, no longer a flat-track bully, predictable for folding after the first round, he has since become much more methodical, while adding a terrifying kicking game to an already destructive boxing game.
Jacare Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt
While he has been a long term black belt in Jiu-Jitsu under the late Carlson Gracie, he will want no part of the ground with ‘Jacare’ as the former BJJ world champion is one of the pound for pound best fighters on the ground in all of MMA. Moreover, 12 of his 22 career wins have come by way of submission (not including any submission to strikes victories).
What separates Souza from his contemporaries as ‘just another elite grappler’ is first, his athleticism, the man is a physical specimen, capable of picking up and dumping his opponents with ease, and more importantly, has genuine knock-out power as evidenced by his brutal stoppages of Yushin Okami and Derek Brunson.
Since joining the UFC in 2013, he has gone 5-1, with his sole blemish coming against Yoel Romero, who was consequently caught in a failed drug test shortly after the fight. That loss was his first defeat since losing the Strikeforce middleweight title to Luke Rockhold in September 2011, and given that Rockhold is now the UFC middleweight champion, there has never been a greater incentive for ‘Jacare’ to stake his claim to be next challenger for the winner of Rockhold and Chris Weidman’s rematch at UFC 199.
Vitor Belfort Making history
Belfort himself has a history with the UFC middleweight champion after his legendary spinning heel kick knockout of Rockhold in June 2013, and you gotta know that Rockhold is dying to erase the memory of that defeat to ‘the Phenom’, and thus if he is able to upset Souza and Rockhold defeats Weidman, it’s not inconceivable that they could meet again, this time with the title on the line.
Going back to Jacare and Belfort’s clash, in order for Belfort to win, he may have to resort back to the Belfort of old and come to blitz Jacare; make no mistake if Belfort connects with one of those flurries or uncorks one of those left high kicks from hell, he could very easily stop this fight, the likelihood however of a savvy veteran like Jacare falling into those traps is near impossible.
A patient and cerebral fighter, waiting to uncork a powerful overhand when standing or equally at ease in the clinch, Jacare leaves very few holes in any facet of the game and by not playing into Belfort’s game, he significantly reduces Belfort’s avenues to victory, and therefore I believe he will stop Belfort in the first round by way of arm-triangle choke, to make himself the number 1 contender for the middleweight title.
UFC Heavyweight Championship: Fabricio Werdum (C) vs Stipe Miocic
All of those fun and games lead us to the main event, which pits the UFC’s heavyweight champion: Fabricio Werdum defending the title against the Croatian-American number 1 contender: Stipe Miocic. First of all, you can read my in-depth look at these fighters prospects here in my last blog: Origami with Aragami XXXVII:
The state of the UFC’s Heavyweight Division… So for those of you that have read that blog, I’m going to try my best not to rehash the same points again. In short, Werdum is currently riding a 6 fight win streak since his return to the UFC, with his ledger reading: Roy Nelson, Mike Russow, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Travis Browne, Mark Hunt and finally Cain Velasquez.
The manner in which he has won these fights has stood out as he has registered 4 stoppages, including the submissions of Velasquez and Nogueira, the TKO’s of Mark Hunt and Russow, and his 2 decision wins over Browne and Nelson where totally comprehensive.
Alistair Overeem Heavyweight great
His magnificent record of 20-5, also includes wins over Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio ‘Big Foot’ Silva, Brandon Vera, Gabriel Gonzaga (twice), Alexander Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem. By adding Miocic and possibly Overeem again and dos Santos could make him arguably the greatest heavyweight fighter in the history of MMA, at least as far as his legend is concerned.
Ability wise, he has transitioned from being ‘Mirko Cro-Cop’s Jiu-Jitsu instructor’ to a deadly Thai stylist, adept at using his clinch and knees from the clinch to devastating effect backed up clean punches and an educated defence, all the while retaining his devastating ground game. What he lacks in outright athleticism, he makes up for in fight IQ and being crafty with the resources he has at his disposal.
Interestingly, Miocic is the taller fighter, with a greater reach and is actually heavier, not that stopped Werdum when he met Browne who also fulfilled that same criterion. Miocic is one of the fittest fighters at heavyweight, with a tank serving him well enough to apply the same volume of striking and pressure from the first round to fifth.
Stipe Miocic Challenging Fabricio Werdum
He is a very accurate boxer, capable of fighting at range and equally adept at brawling in the pocket and like Mark Hunt, Roy Nelson and Gabriel Gonzaga found he will run rings around a stationary target while mixing in effective takedowns. Sadly for him, Werdum is a cut above those men, his chin will not capitulate like Arlovski’s nor will he be a human punching bag for Miocic as evidenced by his willingness to meet Velasquez head-on.
It’s hardly going to be the easiest thing to get him on his back, but even if taken down, Miocic will want nothing to do with Werdum on the ground, leaving his best chance of winning standing up. The fall out of all these factors as well as the home crowd leads me to think that although this fight will be competitive, Werdum will eventually pull away and take a 5 round unanimous decision over a game Miocic, setting up the trilogy bout with Alistair Overeem.
Images courtesy of mixedmartialarts.com & mma.uno