The UFC heads to Curitiba, Brazil for the first time, bringing an event to a soccer stadium that promises around 45,000 strong for UFC 198 headlined by UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum defending against Stipe Miocic. Despite the loss of Anderson Silva, it is still a deep card on Saturday. Below are our studs, value plays and fighters to avoid when setting your fantasy line-ups for the event.
Cris Cyborg ($11,600)
Cris Cyborg makes her UFC debut and she is obviously the biggest play on the fight card. She is just a vicious knockout artist and fighting her is likely leading to a devastating finish. She is fighting at 140 pounds, the first time in a very long time she has fought below 145 pounds, but she is also going against Leslie Smith, a natural 125-pound fighter who fights at 135 to be in the UFC, and is now going up even more in weight. Cyborg will be cutting to make 140, Smith won't be cutting so much. This is a showcase fight for Cyborg to get the fans in her hometown a fighter to cheer for, and it becomes an even bigger deal now that Anderson Silva is now off the card. She should make quick work of Smith and you will maximize your points in picking her. The salary is high and you will have to do some good work with the other four selections, but Cyborg is a must own.
Warlley Alves ($10,800)
Warlley Alves enters Saturday's UFC 198 event with a perfect 10-0 record, and with Anderson Silva now being out, he gets the main card slot on pay-per-view to showcase his skills. Alves has scored stoppage wins in seven of his ten wins, including in three of his four wins inside the Octagon. He is coming off an impressive and dominant submission win over Colby Covington, who was also undefeated at the time. Alves will be facing Bryan Barberena, who is looking to build on the momentum he has as the man to hand young rising star Sage Northcutt his first career loss. Barberena is 2-1 in his young UFC career, but has just fought three times over the course of two years, and Alves is a huge step up in competition for him. Barberena may not be ready for the challenge, and this is made for Alves to score another impressive win as they work to build him up. I expect another stoppage win for Alves, and he will be a good play on Saturday night.
Stipe Miocic ($9,100)
The challenger for the UFC Heavyweight Championship in the main event of UFC 198, Stipe Miocic, presents some very solid value at a $9,100 price tag. He lands a lot of strikes, especially over the course of 25 minutes, if it were to go the distance. Miocic is a man on a mission to win the gold, and he has a very good chance as he matches up well against Werdum. Werdum has shown improved boxing, but Miocic is better on the feet, so it will be up to Werdum to try and get the fight down. Miocic has good takedown defense, but he hasn't had to show off a lot of his grappling. That is Werdum's world. As long as Miocic keeps the fight on the feet, he is going to score points. He also has excellent conditioning. Werdum has a lot of pressure on him, and Miocic has nothing to lose as he goes for the gold. He has an excellent chance at scoring the upset, and his salary makes him very good value.
Renato Moicano ($9,000)
Renato Moicano is another solid value play on Saturday's fight card. He hasn't fought since December 2014, but he is undefeated in his ten career fights. Five of his nine wins (he has a draw) have come by submission, including his UFC debut win over Tom Niinimaki. He has very solid skills and is a rising Brazilian prospect at 145 pounds. However, he won't have an easy bout as he takes on another tough rising prospect in Zubaira Tukhugov in the opener of the event. Tukhugov is a perfect 3-0 in the UFC and has won nine straight fights. The big knock on him, despite an impressive 18-3 record, is that he is more of a points fighter as eleven of his 18 wins are by decision, including two of his three UFC wins. He is also coming off a close split decision win against Philippe Nover. Moicano has a good shot at scoring an upset and getting a finish, and he has good value for those looking for their underdog pick.
FIGHTERS TO AVOID
Mauricio Rua ($9,200)
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is a legend in the sport of MMA, but also one who has seen better days in his career. Saturday night will be a big night for Rua as he fights in his hometown of Curitiba for the first time in 13 years, and that is why he was eager to get on this card. However, he does not have an easy task in front of him in the form of Corey Anderson. Anderson sports an 8-1 record and has won three straight, showing off some impressive wrestling skills and improving striking. However, he does tend to eat some good punches, and he was put down in his most recent loss. Rua has trouble taking punches these days, and his takedown defense hasn't been at top levels in recent years. Rua can always have a vintage Shogun performance, and perhaps fighting in his hometown will give him that added edge, but his recent performances leave a lot to be desired, though he is coming off a win. As hard as it is to avoid him, with the match-up in front of him, I recommend avoiding Rua.
Matt Brown ($8,900)
Matt Brown holds the record for most knockout wins in UFC welterweight history, and he's long been one of the most exciting fighters at 170 pounds. He has never been able to make that next leap into a title shot, but he gets a big opportunity to make an impact when he takes on Demian Maia on Saturday. It is a fight that Brown asked for, and it may be a huge mistake. Maia excels in the grappling, and he made Gunnar Nelson, arguably the second-best grappler at 170 pounds, look like a novice on the mat. Brown's biggest problem has always been defending the takedown, and Maia is going to be looking to get the fight to the mat almost immediately. Brown has never been knocked out in his career, but nine of his 13 losses have come by submission. He has a tall task in front of him, but Brown is coming to bring the fight to Maia. He will be tempting to use, but I recommend passing on Brown in your line-ups on Saturday.
RYAN FREDERICK- Cris Cyborg ($11,600), Warlley Alves ($10,800), John Lineker ($9,700), Stipe Miocic ($9,100), Nate Marquardt ($8,500)
I have Cris Cyborg as my top pick, and it is a no-brainer. Unless she has a huge adrenaline dump or the weight cut takes a drastic toll on her, she should run right through Leslie Smith, and pretty quickly. I like Warlley Alves to submit Bryan Barberena with relative ease. John Lineker is another solid pick. He has exciting fights and is a finisher, and 135 pounds suits him better. He has a tough opponent in Rob Font, but Font hasn't fought someone like Lineker, and I think Lineker gives him a good beating. I'm confidently picking Stipe Miocic to become the new UFC Heavyweight Champion on Saturday, and he should rack up some points whether he finishes Fabricio Werdum or goes the distance. Nate Marquardt is my final pick, and one I'm not overly confident on. He is cheap and is coming off a knockout win, and his opponent, Thiago Santos, can be finished. It is my hail mary pick.
PAUL FONTAINE- Cris Cyborg ($11,600), Fabricio Werdum ($10,300), John Lineker ($9,700), Renato Moicano ($9,000), Matt Brown ($8,900)
I like the champion to retain in the main event. It could be a long fight as both guys can take a lot of punishment but even if it goes the distance, Werdum will rack up a lot of points in five rounds. Cyborg is a no-brainer. That fight has first round finish all over it. The only question is if she loses any power fighting at 140. Brown is a bit of a risk but I just can’t see him giving up and at some point, I think Brown breaks him and scores a TKO win. Lineker/Font should be a great fight. Lineker’s the type of fighter who should be spurred on by the Brazilian crowd and he should put together a flurry that hands Font his first UFC loss. Moicano is a bit of an unknown but he submitted the tough Tom Niinimaki in his first UFC fight. The only time he hasn’t won in his career, he went to a draw with Felipe Froes, who is one of the top Featherweights outside of North America.
PEACH MACHINE- Cris Cyborg ($11,600), Fabricio Werdum ($10,300), Patrick Cummins ($9,800), Yancy Medeiros ($9,400), Vitor Belfort ($8,800)
Another perfect use of 50k but a few things have to happen for this to be a winning hand. I think they will. Werdum finds a way to win. I don't care what Miocic has in his hands because he has nothing on the ground, and Werdum is a smart fighter. I had Uriah Hall, but switched to Yancy Medeiros after the Silva injury as I see him defeating Trinaldo. Cyborg is a guaranteed first round KO. Cummins has to score a lot of points and beat Lil Nog. He should be able to, unless Nog gets lucky. Vitor is going to be extremely motivated and he's got KO potential always looming. Also, I had to take a significant dog to get Cyborg. I think Belfort is a steal. He may get beat but I don't think it will be in the first round. Souza will respect the phenom and take it slow.