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UFC 198 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A celebration of all things Brazilian MMA takes place on Saturday as the UFC visits Curitiba, Brazil for a showcase of what Latin America's largest country has to offer. The card features a heavyweight title fight plus the UFC debut of Cyborg and more.

What: UFC 198: Werdum vs. Miocic

Where: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba, Brazil

When: Saturday, the three-fight Fight Pass preliminary card starts at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 preliminary card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight pay-per-view card kicks off at 10 p.m. ET.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic

For me, the difference between these two excellent fighters is two-fold. First, Werdum has more ways to win. From his devastating clinch attacks to his unreal guard to even his ability to strike at range, the Brazilian has more weapons. Notably, Miocic has fewer of them, but also different capabilities. His short-range boxing talents far surpass Werdum's. Taking inventory on the whole, however, Werdum simply has more options at his disposal.

Second, Miocic is willing to take more risks. That can often be a good thing, but against a fighter who doesn't do that and, in fact, has become quite good at avoiding bad predicaments through both better defensive fundamentals and other forms of retreat, I'm not so sure it'll work. Simply put, Werdum is hard to hurt. Even if you nail him with a tremendous shot, most want no part of his guard, leaving them with limited choices. This is all assuming, of course, that he can be drilled. His mastery of range has improved. So, you're faced with a fighter who has become increasingly difficult to tag cleanly with one who has more offensive options when he bails to his back. That's a lot to ask of opposing fighters.

Miocic has fight-ending power in his right and likely a will that few other men in the UFC can match. If Werdum isn't careful or crafty (as he usually is), he can give this away. But if he continues to fight like he has been, he'll raise the heavyweight belt above his head on Saturday night.

Pick: Werdum

More Coverage: UFC 198 Results | UFC news

Ronaldo Souza vs. Vitor Belfort

Like Shogun, I still think an older, lesser Belfort is trouble for just about any middleweight early. He still possesses hand speed and enough power to cause trouble. While a noted black belt on the floor, however, Belfort is no match for Jacare. If Souza is prudent, he'll wait patiently to take this to fight canvas where he'll work his superior passing game. Things could be shaky early if Jacare isn't careful (although he's massively improved on the feet himself), but with patience and timing into his takedown entries, he should be able to wrap this up with a relative amount of ease.

Pick: Jacare

Cris Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith

I don't want to belabor the point here. We all know how volatile MMA can be. A Smith win would be a monumental upset and yet, somehow, par for the course in mixed martial arts. That said, picking Smith over Cyborg doesn't seem like the most probable outcome from this vantage point.

Pick: Cyborg

Mauricio Rua vs. Corey Anderson

Anderson is a very talented and improving fighter, but the hype around him is a touch ahead of where it should be. He does have the ability to be a tremendous talent, but there's a lot of his game that is in nascent or other developing stages, to the point where a veteran talent, even one as worn down as Shogun, can take advantage. That is especially true early. Shogun's ability to sustain attacks over the course of a fight at this point seems pretty minimal, but he can create a mess early. For someone like Anderson who struggled with Tom Lawlor early, this is something to watch. That said, Anderson does have good perseverance, the ability to wrestle in the event of trouble and, most importantly, adapt between rounds. As he finds his range and works behind his jab, he gets harder and harder to fight. I'm not overly confident about his chances on Saturday, but there's enough reason to believe he can get the job done.

Pick: Anderson

Warlley Alves vs. Bryan Barberena

Stranger things have happened in MMA, but this seems like a pretty open road for the Brazilian. He's the bigger and better athlete with ferocity in every nook and cranny of his game. Barberena is tougher than he's given credit, but he seems very much outmatched and likely to get overwhelemed. I don't know if it happens with Alves' trademark guillotine or something else, but there's too much water for the dam not to break here. This is the Brazilian's fight to lose.

Pick: Alves

From the preliminary card:

Demian Maia def. Matt Brown
Thiago Santos def. Nate Marquardt
Francisco Trinaldo def. Yancy Medeiros
Rob Font def. John Lineker
Patrick Cummins def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Sergio Moraes def. Luan Chagas
Zubaira Tukhugov def. Renato Moicano

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