UFC 198 Preview: Can Stipe Miocic avoid Fabricio Werdum’s jiu-jitsu?

The UFC brought out just about every Brazilian legend it could find for its debut event in Curitiba, Brazil, and with a sold-out Arena da Baixada and an expected attendance of close to 45,000, it’s only right to put on a “Brazil vs. the World” event. 10 out of the 12 bouts will be a countryman against a foreigner, headlined by the UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum defending his belt against Cleveland, Ohio’s Stipe Miocic. In the co-main event, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will take on Vitor Belfort in one of just two “Brazil vs. Brazil” fights and this matchup will likely determine the next number-one contender in the middleweight division.

The rest of the card is absolutely stacked and includes the UFC debut of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and a nice mix of veterans and rising prospects, so be sure to tune in on Saturday! Without further ado, here’s a look at the main and co-main events and predictions for each:

Main Event: UFC Heavyweight Championship- Fabricio Werdum (c) vs. Stipe Miocic

Fabricio Werdum pulled off a shocker when he beat Cain Velasquez for the undisputed heavyweight title last June in Mexico. Velasquez, one of the most dominant heavyweight fighters ever, gassed early due to the altitude in Mexico City (a story for another day) and Werdum locked up a guillotine in the third round. Stipe Miocic has won five of his last six, most recently knocking out former champion Andrei Arlovski in January.

Werdum has been known as one of, if not the, best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in all of Mixed Martial Arts. In addition to his win over Velasquez, he also holds submission wins over legends like Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira and Fedor Emelianenko. His striking has caught up to his ground-game, evidenced in his dominant win over Travis Browne and his knockout of Mark Hunt. Even though Werdum’s stand-up is no longer pedestrian, his bread-and-butter is his grappling. If he locks onto a limb, whether on the ground or in the clinch, the fight can end at any moment.

Miocic is a high-level striker with cardio for days. He’s also a strong wrestler and claims he’s not afraid to grapple with Werdum, but he should avoid the ground at all costs. Scoring a takedown against Werdum isn’t an advantage in any sense, the champ welcomes all opportunities for grappling exchanges. As a former Golden Gloves participant, Miocic has polished boxing skills and his NCAA Division I wrestling-base should allow him to fend off any takedown attempts from Werdum.

This fight is tough to call. Miocic has the advantage on the feet, but Werdum can hold his own in striking exchanges. Werdum also has the more diverse striking arsenal, using more kicks and knees. Miocic must push the pace with forward pressure and use his reach-advantage to keep Werdum at distance. His speed, precision and timing gives him a good chance at finishing the fight.

Prediction: Miocic TKO, 3rd Round.

Co-Main Event: Jacare Souza vs. Vitor Belfort

There are a ton of intimidating fighters, but for some reason I see Jacare Souza as the scariest guy in the UFC. His “gator crawl” celebration just creeps me out. Next to Werdum, Jacare is one of the best BJJ artists in MMA. He’s a very adept wrestler who uses strong judo-throws and double-leg takedowns to get the fight to the ground, and once he gets you to the ground he smothers you like a wet blanket.

Vitor Belfort has been fighting in the UFC since 1997 and still finds away to be one of the top fighters in his division. He’s coming off a round-one knockout of Dan Henderson and looked just as scary as he ever has. Belfort likes to blitz his opponents and overwhelm them with strikes and he’s added more kicks to his attack, earning knockouts by head-kicks and spinning wheel-kicks.

Belfort likes to use blitzes to overwhelm his opponents with strikes and look for the knockout. But that recklessness sometimes leaves openings for him to be taken down, so if Jacare can time his shots he won’t have trouble getting the fight to the ground. Belfort is also a black-belt in jiu-jitsu, but not on the level of Jacare.

Prediction: Jacare Submission, 2nd Round.

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