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UFC 198 Observer Panel Picks: Werdum vs Miocic; Souza vs Belfort

UFC is back on PPV tonight with the biggest show to ever take place in Brazil. This show took a hit with the loss of Anderson Silva but is still a very deep card with big names all the way down to the Fight Pass prelims: Werdum, Souza, Belfort, Shogun, Cyborg, Maia, Little Nog and much more. Even the future of Brazilian MMA is on hand with Warlley Alves and Renato Carneiro (both unbeaten) on the card.

Our panel weighs in with picks from four of the main card fights, along with the featured FS 1 prelim.

Here’s our panel with the 2016 records in parenthesis. We’ve also added a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks

  • John Pollock (28-12; .700) – Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • Josh Nason (27-13; .675) – Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com , WON Twitter guy
  • Mike Sawyer (25-15; .625) – Tough Talk MMA
  • David Bixenspan (25-15; .562) – Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host
  • Consensus picks (23-14; .622)
  • Mike Sempervive (24-16; .600) – Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Ryan Frederick (24-16; .600) – WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
  • Favorites (24-16; .600)
  • Dave Meltzer (23-17; .575)– Wrestling Observer founder
  • Steve Juon (23-17; .575) – MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
  • Front Row Brian (21-19; .525) – MMA newsbreaker, Beloved internet personality, Podcast host
  • Paul Fontaine (19-21; .475) – MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer

UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1) vs Stipe Miocic (14-2)

Werdum is thought by many to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, and his last eight years stack up against just about anyone in the history of the division. Since a first round KO at the hands of Junior Dos Santos at UFC 90, he’s only suffered one loss, a decision defeat to Alistair Overeem. Along the way, he’s beaten Fedor Emilianenko, Cain Velasquez, Mark Hunt, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, all by finish.

Miocic earned the shot by scoring a KO over former champion Andrei Arlovski and also holds wins over Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson, among others. This should favor Miocic slightly if it stays on the feet but should it go to the ground, Werdum will have the huge advantage. This is the best fight that can be currently made in the division. Our panel is split right down the middle for this one.

  • Werdum (slight favorite) – Juon, Fontaine, Pollock, Nason, Bix
  • Miocic – FRB, Frederick, Sawyer, Sempervive, Meltzer

Jacare Souza (22-4) vs Vitor Belfort (25-11)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS

Souza was expecting his next fight to be his long-awaited title shot but he suffered a controversial decision loss to Yoel Romero in December which stopped that. He’s up against a true legend that’s been around since UFC 12 and both Brazilian favorites hope to impress enough to face whomever emerges from the Luke Rockhold-Chris Weidman match at UFC 199 for the belt.

Prior to the Romeo loss, Souza had 8 straight wins, with 7 coming by stoppage.  Belfort, meanwhile, is a big question mark due to the fact that he can no longer use TRT and at the weigh-ins yesterday, he did not look the same as he had in the past. Still, he’s shows the kind of power that can knock out anyone.

  • Souza: Pollock, Nason, Sempervive, Meltzer, Bix, Juon, Fontaine, Frederick, Sawyer 
  • Belfort: FRB

Cris Cyborg (15-1) vs Leslie Smith (8-6-1)
CATCHWEIGHT 140 LBS

Cyborg makes her long-awaited UFC debut in her hometown and Smith seems to be the lamb being led to slaughter. Nothing short of a quick KO win for the former Mrs. Santos would please the fans in attendance. Her management has already indicated that a further 5 lb weight cut is impossible for Cyborg so it’s hard to see where she goes from here unless a top bantamweight is willing to come up in weight to fight her and UFC is willing to sanction it.  She did make the 140 lb catchweight with one pound to square and looked just as muscular as ever.

Cyborg (massive favorite): FRB, Juon, Fontaine, Frederick, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Sempervive, Meltzer, Bix

Shogun Rua (23-10) vs Corey Anderson (8-1)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS

Rua is the former champion and another Brazilian legend who will be a big favorite. Years of tough fights have made him a shell of his former self but he is coming off a win against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – who also fights on this card – last August at UFC 190. Prior to that, he’d lost 5 of his previous 7 fights and looked progressively worse in each one. Anderson is a rising contender in the division but was the beneficiary of what many thought was a gift decision over Tom Lawlor in his last fight. He will solidify his place in the top 10 with a win here, which would be the biggest of his young career.

  • Anderson: Juon, Fontaine, Frederick, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Sempervive, Meltzer, Bix 
  • Rua - FRB

Demian Maia (22-6) vs Matt Brown (20-13)
WELTERWEIGHTS

This is the featured prelim on FS 1 and to show the depth of this card, it would not be out of place as a Fight Night Main event or 3rd from the top on a big PPV. Maia has been very vocal about wanting a title shot and has four straight wins since losing a tough decision to Rory McDonald in 2014. Brown asked for this fight on enemy soil and will probably be the biggest heel on the entire show, especially after flipping the double bird to the fans during yesterday’s weigh-ins.

He seems to relish in the negative heat and this should be a great fight. It’s Maia’s submission grappling skills against the power and determination of Brown. It’s notable that the only two losses that Brown has since 2011 were decisions against Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks, the current and former champions in the division.

  • Maia (sizable favorite) – FRB, Juon, Frederick, Pollock, Nason, Meltzer, Bix
  • Brown – Fontaine, Sawyer, Sempervive

Action begins with the Fight Prelims at 6:30 pm eastern, followed by the FS 1 portion at 8. The main card kicks off at 10 pm on PPV and Ryan Frederick will have play by play coverage of the card.

While you’re waiting, check out the following content, also related to the show: