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UFC 226 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC 226 is here and boy have we got a fantastic card on our hands.

A super fight headlines this event with Stipe Miocic defending his heavyweight strap against light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. The card lost an amazing featherweight title fight in Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega, but that didn’t ruin it.

UFC 226 features many other must-see match ups, as power punchers Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis collide in a heavyweight contest, former UFC champ Anthony Pettis takes on fellow veteran Michael Chiesa, top prospect Paulo Costa battles Uriah Hall, Paul Felder moves up a weight class to take on fan favorite fighter Mike Perry, and so much more.

What: UFC 226

Where: T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

When: Saturday, July 7. The two-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 7:00 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8:00 p.m. ET, and the five-fight main card begins at 10:00 p.m. on pay-per-view.

Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier

Man, I’m really excited for this one. Stipe Miocic, the UFC heavyweight champion, will be defending his title in hopes of becoming arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time, while stopping Daniel Cormier from becoming one of the few fighters to hold two UFC titles in different divisions.

Miocic is a precise and technical striker that also packs a good amount of power behind his strikes. He is one of the better athletes at heavyweight, as he’s very agile, quick and possesses a deep gas tank. Miocic is also a skilled wrestler, capable of stopping high level takedowns, and capable of scoring his own too.

Cormier is not as dangerous on the feet as Miocic, but he can be effective with his striking and he’s proved to have knockout power. His biggest asset is his wrestling. The UFC light heavyweight champion is great on the clinch and has phenomenal trips. He also has good ground-and-pound and solid top control.

This one seems to be a tough pick for many, but I feel fairly confident that Miocic will pull this one off. There is no doubt that Cormier is the better wrestler, but Miocic will have a big size advantage that should help him in the clinch. Miocic also has a good gas tank, maybe not on Cain Velasquez’s level, but good enough to avoid getting completely worn out by Cormier’s pressure. On the feet, Miocic has the advantage, as he hits harder and I find him to be more technical. I think Miocic should be able to stuff Cormier’s takedowns while landing the more significant shots of the fight.

Pick: Miocic

Francis Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis

This fight is not nearly as meaningful as the headlining bout, but Francis Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis offers an appeal that Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier doesn’t.

Francis Ngannou is a berserker with frighting knockout power. He is a solid boxer and a gifted athlete. Ngannou is explosive and powerful, but that comes at a price – his cardio is not the best. Regardless, Ngannou is a massive threat to anyone at heavyweight.

Derrick Lewis is also a big heavyweight with plenty of knockout power. He might not be on the same level as Ngannou when it comes to raw strength, but he’s not too far from it. To me, Lewis seems a bit more technical and more experienced than Ngannou. But will that be enough to get past Ngannou’s freakish power?

Maybe, but likely not. Lewis is not a fast heavyweight and not one that moves too well either. I don’t think there is a man alive that can take a clean shot from Ngannou and still be standing. If you want to get a win over the Cameroonian, you’ll have to move a lot or hope that you can first and clean. I don’t think Lewis has the movement to avoid Ngannou’s punches and I don’t think he’ll land first either. Anything goes between these two, but I like Ngannou’s chances.

Pick: Ngannou

Paul Felder vs. Mike Perry

This is a fun booking that promises a lot of action. Yet, I’m not fully in favor of this fight.

Mike Perry is a freak athlete that’s young and shows a lot of potential. He’s also a great personality outside of the cage so there is a lot of upside to this welterweight prospect. Perry is currently on a two-fight skid and in need of a tune up fight to get some momentum going. Paul Felder, although a lightweight, is far from a tune-up fight.

Felder is experienced. He has very technical Muay Thai and good grappling awareness. He is also quick, carries good power, and has shown finishing ability. Meanwhile, Perry is extremely durable and hits hard. He has solid striking technique, but he’s not as polished as Felder. On the ground, both fighters are equally skilled.

So will Perry’s youth, athleticism, and power top Felder’s superior technique and experience? I think it’s possible, but not likely. I find Felder to be too seasoned and too skilled on the feet to lose a stand-up battle against Perry. “Platinum” has been training under Jackson-Wink, and I do wonder how much he’s improved. My guess is a lot, but not enough to beat Felder.

Pick: Felder

Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis

This should be a good one.

Michael Chiesa is big for the division, long, rangy and complete. He can strike with high-level strikers and he can grapple with skilled ground technicians. Chiesa doesn’t really have any big holes in his game. It’s worth noting that Chiesa possesses a high work rate, which is something Pettis has experienced issues with in recent times.

Pettis might be on a rough streak, but the man has to be taken seriously. Pettis is quick, explosive and very technical on the feet. His wrestling defense has been suspect in recent times, but he still remains a fairly dangerous fighter on the ground, as Pettis can threaten from off his back.

I find this fight to be a favorable match up for Chiesa. I see Chiesa dictating the pace and going after Pettis. The former champ will have his moments in the fight, but I don’t see him stopping Chiesa and I don’t like the odds of him winning a decision.

Pick: Chiesa

Gokhan Saki vs. Khalil Rountree Jr.

We got a striker vs. striker match up to kick off the main card of UFC 226. Fun.

Gokhan Saki is likely the most experienced light heavyweight striker in the world. Saki is a legend in the world of kickboxing. He’s managed to translate some of his kickboxing skills to MMA, but I don’t think he’s been able to fully adapt his standup to MMA, at least not yet. Regardless, Saki remains a dangerous and feared striker that can knockout anyone out at any given time.

Khalil Rountree Jr. has had some promising performances in the UFC, but he’s also had some disappointing ones too. Rountree is not great on the ground, but on the feet he’s competent. He’s quick, hits very hard, and possesses solid technique. Neither Rountree or Saki have great takedown defenses, but that will likely not be needed here.

I think Saki will come out on top here. He’s simply a better striker than Rountree and he also has the better gas tank. Saki scores his second UFC win here.

Pick: Saki


Paulo Costa def. Uriah Hall

Raphael Assuncao def. Rob Font

Curtis Millender def. Max Griffin

Lando Vannata def. Drakkar Klose

Dan Hooker def. Gilbert Burns

Jamie Moyle def. Emily Whitmire

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