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UFC 226 predictions, preview, and analysis

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back in action this Saturday night (July 7, 2018) with its UFC 226: “Miocic vs. Cormier” pay-per-view (PPV) mixed martial arts (MMA) event, held inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, with select “Prelims” undercard bouts coming to you by way of FOX Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass digital network. Hey, I know you care about those too, so go ahead and see read our comprehensive breakdowns of those cards here.

UFC 226 is headlined by the heavyweight “super fight” pitting 265-pound kingpin Stipe Miocic opposite reigning light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. Taking over for Max Holloway and Brian Ortega, who were benched when “Blessed” was felled by medical issues, is the heavyweight slug-a-thon pitting Francis Ngannou opposite Derrick Lewis. The winner could very easily be in the discussion for the next crack at the 265-pound crown.

Let’s worry about that later. We have work to do.

265 lbs.: UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic (18-2) vs. UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier (20-1, 1 NC)

Before clearing a path for Cain Velasquez and setting his sights on Jon Jones, amateur wrestling deity Daniel Cormier was 13-0 in the heavyweight division, finishing off his last 265-pound foe (Roy Nelson) back in late 2013. By his logic, he will remain undefeated when he returns simply because he’s already proven he belongs and now, he’s more experienced and training even smarter.

You know who else was undefeated in late 2013? Fellow Olympian Ronda Rousey, and well ... let’s just say that nothing lasts forever. When “DC” set sail for leaner pastures both Bigfoot Silva and Travis Browne were top five contenders and clearly a lot has changed between then and now.

I don’t need to spend a lot of time deconstructing Miocic. He’s got a five-inch height and an eight-inch reach advantage, has outstanding wrestling and much better boxing than Cormier, who at 39, is not the speeding bullet he was once. His supporters will tell you that as an Olympic wrestler, Cormier can take anyone down, even Miocic, and while that may be true, why was he just 1-8 on takedown attempts against Jones at UFC 182 and 0-3 against “Bones” in their UFC 214 rematch?

The takedown is not a foregone conclusion.

Cormier does not have one-punch knockout power. He wins his fights by controlling his opponents and beating them to a pulp. Against much larger opponents, that becomes problematic, and we can look to the Alexander Gustafsson fight as proof that no, it’s not just Jones that gives him pause. “DC” was a mere 1-5 on takedown attempts against “The Mauler” and barely squeaked by with a split decision because of it.

I know it sounds like I’m dogging Cormier but I’m not. He’s the second best light heavyweight in the UFC and most likely a top-five heavyweight. But Miocic presents all the same problems that Jones and Gustafsson did, then adds even more knockout power. If Cormier can’t get this fight to the floor and keep it there, which I believe he can’t, what else can he do? Outbox a killer like Miocic for 25 minutes and not get dry cleaned?


Final prediction: Miocic def. Cormier by technical knockout

265 lbs.: Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (11-2) vs. Derrick “Black Beast” Lewis (19-5, 1 NC)

I think it’s fair to say that Francis Ngannou got exposed during his heavyweight title fight against Stipe Miocic, and one of the people who knew that going into the bout was top heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes, who fell to “The Predator” earlier in his career by way of nasty cut.

“Razor” argued that Ngannou really isn’t that great of a striker. He has clumsy footwork and terrible cardio, but is able to cemetery most of his opponents because he punches with the speed of a flyweight. That, and he hits like a locomotive. Working in the favor of the Cameroonian Frenchman is his iron chin, so anyone hoping to get into a barroom brawl with Ngannou is fucked.

Including Derrick Lewis.

The problem for the “Black Beast” is that stylistically, he’s exactly the same fighter as Ngannou, only smaller, slower, and fatter. Miocic beat “The Predator” because he used mixed martial arts. For Lewis, the “mixed” in his martial arts means sometimes he mixes in beer runs during his workouts. I honestly don’t think Lewis even cares about winning a title. He wants to get into the cage, try to take someone’s head off, and win as many knockout bonuses as he can.

That’s why we see the same Lewis in every bout. I don’t think that’s true with Ngannou, but even if it was, it would still be enough to win this fight on Saturday night. Assuming Lewis doesn’t get gun shy and start holding Ngannou against the cage, I can’t imagine this titanic tilt leaving the first frame.

Final prediction: Ngannou def. Lewis by knockout

155 lbs.: Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (20-7) vs. Mike “Maverick” Chiesa (14-3)

It’s been hard to watch the decline of Anthony Pettis, who in his prime was not just beating the best guys in the lightweight division, he was finishing them. Not only did he become the first fighter to submit Gilbert Melendez, he folded Donald Cerrone like a Texas Trapper Keeper back when “Cowboy” was mowing guys down with ease.

Then came a decisive loss to the reborn Rafael dos Anjos, part of dreadful 2-5 streak that included a couple of ghastly trips down to featherweight. I know for a fact that “Showtime” can strike, has great jiu-jitsu, and cardio to go as long as he needs to. So like, what the hell is going on? Only Pettis knows for sure, but his last performance against Dustin Poirier did not leave me feeling overly optimistic about his future.

Chiesa has performed much better during that span but he’s also been fighting the second string. Colton Smith? Mitch Clarke? I can’t stack them up against the murderer’s row lined up against Pettis. In fact, “Showtime” has faced four former and one current champion during the time Chiesa has been employed with UFC.

In addition, “Maverick” has been unable to break through to the next level. His loss to Kevin Lee was particularly disheartening because it was supposed to be the fight that proved he belonged. Instead, it proved he can yell really loudly about early stoppages. Interestingly enough, I still pick him to win the fight. Assuming he doesn’t abandon all logic and start playing kickboxer, I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t use his size and grappling skills to get this fight to the floor, where Pettis is still dangerous, but grossly inept at getting back to his feet. Until I see otherwise, I have to assume the once-great “Showtime” is still lost in his own head.

Final prediction: Chiesa def. Petti by unanimous Guida

205 lbs.: Gokhan “The Rebel” Saki (1-1) vs. Khalil “The War Horse” Rountree (6-2, 1 NC)

Gokhan Saki? More like Broken, Sucky ... AMIRITE?!? I know “The Rebel” is supposed to be the biggest deal in the history of big deals and that’s based on his success on the kickboxing circuit, but there are a couple of things to consider here. Saki (1-1) hasn’t had a meaningful win between the ropes in over four years, and that came by way of broken leg against Tyrone Spong. He recycled a can roughly a year later then went into “Fight no more forever” mode when GLORY started playing contractual games. Fast-forward to 2017 and Saki was standing inside the Octagon and managed to pull off a first-round knockout against Henrique da Silva. I think my concern was how quickly his tank emptied in that bout, allowing the Brazilian to mount an offense and batter him against the cage. Without Saki’s Hail Mary walk-off, this might be a very different conversation. The “Turkish Tyson” is also coming off a major injury.

In my (usually worthless) opinion, Khalil Rountree gets a lot of unwarranted criticism. The Syndicate MMA product cut his teeth on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23 and performed well, but was unable to capture the glass trophy and put up double zeros in his first two Octagon appearances. He’s since righted the ship with a pair of knockouts before last December’s no contest and I believe at just 28 years-old, we have yet to see the best of the hard-hitting “War Horse.” Prior to making his MMA debut, Rountree was making sandwiches at Jimmy John’s, which is very Patrick Cummins-like in his rags-to-riches story. Every card has a major upset and I think the fear of deli meat drives Rountree to fight like his career depends on it (it might). That means following a blueprint which does not include standing in the center of the cage trying to bang. Look for a lot of hugging, mugging, and body-to-body contact to wear Saki down and drain him of his power, where Rountree can eventually secure the takedown and finish him late. Sound crazy? No crazier than it did at Cage Carnage back in 2004.

Final prediction: Rountree def. Saki by technical knockout

170 lbs.: Paul “The Irish Dragon” Felder (15-3) vs. Mike “Platinum” Perry (11-3)

(Prediction courtesy of Patrick Stumberg)

Paul Felder (15-3) is 5-1 since consecutive losses to Edson Barboza and Ross Peason, securing three consecutive (technical) knockout victories. He was originally slated to fight James Vick in Boise, Idaho, but answered the call when Vick got called up to face Justin Gaethje and Yancy Medeiros busted a rib.

“The Irish Dragon” has knocked out 10 opponents and submitted one other.

Mike Perry’s (11-3) thunderous knockouts of Jake Ellenberger and Alex Reyes put him within spitting distance of title contention, only for Santiago Ponzinibbio to out-slug him in a grueling affair. He returned two months later against Max Griffin in what looked to be a rebound fight, but “Max Pain” defied considerable odds to pick Perry apart and secure a decision.

Seven of his 11 knockout wins have come in the first round.

Perry has all the tools to be a truly standout Welterweight, boasting hellacious power, hand speed and physicality, but his technique isn’t advancing the way it should. While losses to Alan Jouban and Santiago Ponzinibbio are understandable, Griffin is someone he should have destroyed. Felder is durable enough, adaptable enough, and versatile enough on the feet to recreate Griffin’s winning effort.

There is the concern of Felder being unable to stand up to the power of a genuine Welterweight, but he has absorbed blows from quality finishers like Edson Barboza and Daron Cruickshank without flinching. I have faith in his ability to steer clear of Perry’s bombs and pick him apart for a decision win.

Prediction: Felder via unanimous decision

That’s a wrap. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 226 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

To see who else is fighting at UFC 226 click here.

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