The Ultimate Fighting Championship is gearing up for it’s latest pay-per-view event, UFC 226, live from the T-Mobile Arena.
It’s international fight week, and the UFC are delivering one of the most stacked cards of the year. There are intriguing match-ups from top to bottom with two title fights.
On the prelims, Paul Felder moves up to welterweight on late notice to take on the popular Mike Perry. Returning to action will be Brazilian middleweight prospect Paulo Costa, looking to remain undefeated against UFC veteran Uriah Hall.
We preview and predict the main card action below…
MAIN EVENT – UFC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Heavyweight – Stipe Miocic (C) (18-2) vs Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier (C) (20-1)Embed from Getty Images
The term ‘super fight’ is coined around a lot in the world of mixed-martial-arts, but there is no better word to describe the main event of UFC 226. The most successful UFC heavyweight champion in history, Stipe Miocic, puts his belt on the line against the current light heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier.
Miocic defends his belt for the first time since beating Francis Ngannou at UFC 220, the same card where Cormier defended his light heavyweight crown against Volkan Oezdemir. In doing so, Miocic broke the record for consecutive heavyweight title defences – earning him recognition as one of the best heavyweights the UFC has ever witnessed. Beating Cormier would only further secure his status.
On the other hand, DC has the chance to put himself in the ‘greatest of all-time’ conversation if he can become a two-weight world champion. The former Olympic wrestler has endured another tough year following Jon Jones’ failed drug test which saw him reinstated as champion. The American has fought at heavyweight in the past, winning the Strikeforce heavyweight championship and remaining undefeated.
It’s a fascinating match-up between two of the best fighters on the planet. DC’s wrestling is arguably the best in the world, but Miocic is an NCAA Division I wrestler and will not be easy to take down. Miocic also possesses slick boxing and footwork and holds an 11in reach advantage.
With a huge money fight against Brock Lesnar waiting in the wings, both men will be desperate to get their hand raised. Cormier is a tough cookie, but I’m backing Miocic to retain.
PREDICTION: Miocic via third-round TKO
CO-MAIN EVENT – UFC FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Featherweight – Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway (C) (19-3) vs Brian ‘T-City’ Ortega (14-0)
Two of the most exciting featherweights in the world finally collide in the co-main event of the evening as Max Holloway defends his belt against number one contender, Brian Ortega. Holloway was scheduled to face Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 but was forced out with injury, Ortega stepped in and knocked ‘The Answer’ out to leapfrog him for a title shot.
Holloway has established himself as the best 145lb fighter on the planet, defeating Jose Aldo at UFC 212 to finally become the champion before beating Aldo again at UFC 218. Currently riding a 12-fight win streak, no-one has been able to match the Hawaiian’s relentless attack and diverse striking game.
He faces arguably the toughest test available to him in the form of Ortega. Undefeated in his professional career, the 27-year-old has finished every one of his UFC opponents including Cub Swanson and Renato Carneiro. One area where ‘T-City’ will hold the advantage is on the ground; his ground game is up there with the best in the world.
Holloway will look to overwhelm his opponent with his boxing but will be wary to avoid the clinch and grappling exchanges. Ortega will need to close the distance and look for submission opportunities. It’s an incredibly difficult fight to predict, but I’m backing ‘Blessed’ to take home a decision victory.
PREDICTION: Holloway via decision
REST OF THE MAIN CARD
Heavyweight – Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou (11-2) vs Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis (19-5)Embed from Getty Images
The rest of the main card does not disappoint, headlined by the return of Francis Ngannou in a heavyweight barnburner against Derrick Lewis. Ngannou has not featured since losing to Miocic at UFC 220. Many expected the Cameroonian to emerge with the heavyweight belt, but he was completely outclassed. Since the loss, he has changed his training camp and is expected to be a much-smarter fight against ‘The Black Beast’.
Lewis got back to winning ways against Marcin Tybura at UFC FN 126 after being knocked out by Mark Hunt at UFC FN 110. With knockouts in 15 of his 16 wins, it’s clear that the Texan will be looking for another spectacular finish against ‘The Predator’.
Whereas the main and co-main event will be technical battles, this fight will not. Both men will be trying to take the other’s head off and add another knockout to their record. Both are extremely powerful and capable of ending the fight with one shot. Ngannou’s reach advantage could prove vital as both men look to land significant strikes.
Lewis’ chances of winning increase as the rounds go on with Ngannou looking extremely tired in the later rounds of his title fight. If ‘The Black Beast’ can tire his opponent out, he could get a late finish. However, I’m backing Ngannou to return to winning ways by stoppage.
PREDICTION: Ngannou via knockout
Lightweight – Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis (20-7) vs Michael ‘Maverick’ Chiesa (14-3)Embed from Getty Images
Also featured on the main card, Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis will finally meet Michael ‘Maverick Chiesa’ in the Octagon. The pair were originally scheduled to fight back in April at UFC 223, but Chiesa was deemed medically unfit after Conor McGregor threw a dolly at a coach window causing a cut.
The bout was finally rescheduled with both men looking to put themselves in the title picture. Both men are coming off a loss – Pettis suffering defeat against Dustin Poirier and Chiesa losing to Kevin Lee back in June 2017. His lack of activity could prove to be his downfall against the former UFC lightweight champion.
Pettis is a better striker, but Chiesa will hold the grappling advantage. ‘Showtime’ has a very underrated ground game and will be comfortable if the fight does hit the mat. He desperately needs a win to keep in the hunt for another title shot. On the other hand, Chiesa also needs a win to keep him relevant in the lightweight rankings.
Again, it’s a tough one to predict given the way their two styles match up. I think Pettis may take this one.
PREDICTION: Pettis via decision
Light Heavyweight – Gokhan ‘The Rebel’ Saki (1-1) vs Khalil ‘The War Horse’ Rountree (6-2)
Kicking off the main card action is a light heavyweight tilt between Gokhan Saki and Khalil Rountree. Both men are knockout artists so the fans should be in for a treat.
Saki returned to mixed-martial-arts last year when he fought Luis Henrique da Silva at UFC FN 117 and delivered an impressive first-round knockout. After amassing an incredible 59 knockouts during his kickboxing career, Saki will be searching for another finish against ‘The War Horse’.
Rountree’s last fight was ruled a no contest after Michał Oleksiejczuk failed a drugs test following their fight at UFC 219. Previously, the 28-year-old has won his previous two bouts, finishing Paul Craig and Dan Jolly in the first round.
‘The Rebel’ is 34-years-old and could make a wave at 205 given the lack of depth in the division. For Rountree, he has the chance to add a big-name to his record and announce himself at light heavyweight.
I’m expecting these two big hitters to come out fast and seek the knockout. One of them is going down; I’m backing Saki to get his hand raised.
Let us know your predictions in the comments below!