After yet another terrible build-up to the UFC’s main attraction on ‘International Fight Week’ – we’ve finally made it bruised and battered to UFC 226.
Losing Max Holloway mid-week through a hopefully not too serious ‘concussion-like’ injury was simply par for the course for the UFC’s blockbuster summer PPV as for the fourth consecutive year, a title fight has had to be cancelled. Add in Daniel Cormier falling over and Michael Chiesa missing weight with Anthony Pettis only agreeing to the bout after prolonged discussions, and we’ve got a classic case of the MMA Gods showing their wrath.
Fortunately, despite all of the shenanigans that we’ve slowly become accustomed to in the world of MMA, UFC 226 is still absurdly stacked from top to bottom. With a barnburner of a fight in Gilbert Burns vs Dan Hooker hidden away on the FightPass prelims, you know that this card is unreal.
The preliminary card features four barnburners as Curtis Millender takes on Max Griffin, ‘Groovy’ Lando Vannata returns against Drakkar Klose, Rafael Assuncao squares off against Rob Font in a bantamweight title eliminator and Paulo Costa looks to erase Uriah Hall.
The main card, however, is somehow even better. With four fights seemingly designed for pure entertainment, the headliner sitting atop of UFC 226 sees Daniel Cormier, UFC light heavyweight champion, take on arguably the heavyweight GOAT in Stipe Miocic for the chance to become a simultaneous two-weight champion.
Either Cormier cements his position as a true all-time great or Stipe Miocic does.
I personally cannot wait so let’s get down to the analysis and predictions:
Stipe Miocic (18-2) vs Daniel Cormier (20-1, 1 NC)
This is such a brilliant fight.
Two greats with similar skillsets and two champions who have little else to prove.
In Stipe Miocic you have a fighter who has pretty much dominated at heavyweight, a feat unseen of in the UFC’s 265 lbs division.
With smart boxing, big power and solid wrestling, Miocic has seen off some terrifying challengers.
In Daniel Cormier, you have a fighter who has gotten better and better despite his age all the while remaining loyal to his Olympic level wrestling base.
While on the feet he may not have the power that Miocic has, his boxing has come on leaps and bounds – especially when in close in an attempt to negate his short stature.
Honestly, this fight could go either way and while Miocic’s larger frame could be a huge factor, I think the underdog’s pace will allow him to pick up enough rounds to make history.
Pick: Daniel Cormier
Francis Ngannou (11-2) vs Derrick Lewis (19-5, 1 NC)
Two of the biggest heavyweights in UFC history meet here and I cannot contain my excitement.
With both men harbouring bad blood towards the other, I fully expect some ‘swanging and banging’ to use Derrick Lewis’ words and as a result, this fight will come down to the heavyweight power lottery.
As both are two of the hardest hitters in the division, I think the first man to land a meaningful strike will be the winner here. While both men have deceptive speed, I think Ngannou’s taller frame will allow him that extra bit of range to work in and score a knockout victory.
Pick: Francis Ngannou
Paul Felder (15-3) vs Mike Perry (11-3)
I think this fight boils down to how Felder can handle the power of Mike Perry.
While stature-wise Felder is the bigger man of the two, Perry holds some serious power at welterweight and is accustomed to the weight class.
With Felder the more technical of the two fighters, ‘The Irish Dragon’ will need to use his smarts and avoid brawling with Perry – ‘Platinum’s’ best chance of victory.
It’s a tough fight to call, but I’ll side with Felder sticking and moving his way to the ‘W’.
Pick: Paul Felder
Michael Chiesa (13-3) vs Anthony Pettis (20-7)
The blueprint for defeating Anthony Pettis has long been established since his loss to Rafael dos Anjos and as a result, he has gone 2-5 in his last seven.
While Pettis is an underrated grappler and a phenomenal kicker, his stand-up remains tied to the fact he needs space to work within. By pressuring Pettis his footwork becomes unstuck and he’s simply unable to chamber his kicks.
Whether Michael Chiesa will follow that line of thinking, however, is dubious. ‘Maverick’ is a very well-rounded fighter but he’s never seemed to be the type of fighter to dictate how a fight unfolds. He’s a rangy striker and doesn’t normally produce a high output so I’m sceptical as to whether he’ll come out of the traps on the front foot.
Ultimately, I don’t think Chiesa will have the tools to dominate against Pettis. Chiesa has already pronounced this fight as his last at lightweight and I’m predicting him to go out with a loss as his takedown and striking threats shouldn’t be too much for ‘Showtime’ to handle.
Pick: Anthony Pettis
Gokhan Saki (1-1) vs Khalil Rountree (6-2, 1 NC)
If this fight goes the full 15 minutes, it’ll either be the best fight in history or the worst.
Both Saki and Rountree have ridiculous power and ridiculously short gas tanks so hopefully, this will be a short-and-sweet experience.
It’s apparent that with his kickboxing background, Gokhan Saki is the more technical and accomplished striker out of the two but with the sheer number of bouts he’s competed in, Saki’s chin could be compromised if Rountree finds an opening.
With wide hooks and thunderous kicks to all targets available to him, Rountree looks to put all his might into every strike while he certainly isn’t one to search for the takedown or initiate grappling exchanges.
If logic applies to this fight, Saki’s combat experience should pay dividends and allow the Dutch-Turkish fighter to use his superior technique and counter the opportunities Rountree offers up.
Pick: Gokhan Saki
(Last Predictions: 1/6, Total: 57/96, 59% Success Rate)
(2017: 60% Success Rate)