UFC 198 is absolutely stacked. What are your three or four most anticipated undercard bouts on Saturday’s lineup from Brazil, and why?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
If you think this card looks stacked, imagine what it looks like if you’re Brazilian (if you are Brazilian, ignore that thought). Prior to Anderson Silva’s removal from the card, UFC 198 was a veritable Who’s Who of big named Brazilian MMA talent. It’s still possible to argue that it’s among the greatest collection of Brazilian greats ever assembled on a card. You can only imagine how hot the home crowd is going to be for this one.
Excluding the main and co-main event, there’s quite a few fights worth tuning in for. Demian Maia is one of the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioners in the UFC today, and he’s recently complained that the UFC has been under-utilizing him as a stepping-stone for up and coming talent. Maia also thinks he should be getting a title shot. He’s not wrong about how the UFC’s been using him, but he’s also not quite at the level that dictates fighting of the belt. Maia has run through lesser competition in a dominant fashion, but his last two fights against top contenders Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields (remember him?) ended up with Maia on the losing side of the equation. A win over Matt Brown would put him one victory against a top five opponent away from a championship fight.
Brown of course, is no pushover. He’s violent and dangerous, with his last six victories coming by way of stoppage (5 KOs, 1 submission). He’s also extremely durable, and if Maia is looking past Brown, it’s a big mistake. Brown has the tools to win this fight and the fight itself has the potential to be a great one.
If you’re looking for fireworks, don’t miss John Lineker vs. Rob Font. Despite being only 26 years old, Lineker somehow has 33 fights on his record. He packs a ridiculous amount of power for such a light weight class (four knockouts in his last six victories). He also packed on a bit too much weight, as repeated misses trying to make 125 lbs. forced him to move up to bantamweight. He picked up right where he left off, with an impressive submission victory over Francisco Rivera last September.
The 12-1 Rob Font is a challenging opponent. Font is a finisher in his own right, knocking out four of his last six opponents and submitting another one. Although he’s two years older than Lineker, he’s got significantly less mileage, sporting a stellar record of 12-1. Currently on a 10 fight winning streak, Font’s first two fights in the UFC have gotten him noticed, and a third consecutive UFC knockout over Lineker will start to get him more mentions as a future title contender. Don’t blink during this fight. These guys are top finishers in any weight class, let alone one that isn’t known for featuring a high rate of stoppages.
And finally, after years of wonder if she would ever fight in the UFC, Cris Cyborg makes her debut in the promotion at a 140 pound catchweight match. Anyone who’s followed women’s MMA knows how completely dominant and devastating Cyborg has been. Her dominance has been Rousey-esque, making most of her bouts seem unfair in how noncompetitive they’ve been. After losing the first fight of her career, she’s won 17 straight, with 15 coming by way of knockout. While Leslie Smith is a durable and reasonable opponent, realistically this is just a showcase for Cyborg, possibly setting up lucrative one-offs against fighters like Ronda Rousey, Meisha Tate, and Holly Holm. As far as must see MMA cards go, this one is right up there.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Vitor Belfort is the premiere fight on the undercard here. At least, for me it is. It’s an extremely exciting matchup and I’m expecting big time fireworks here. Cris Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith is also exciting but just in the sense that it’s Cyborg finally making her UFC debut. Nothing against Leslie Smith, but Cyborg should beat her all across the cage. Smith is tough, but Cyborg is a force. Still it’ll be exciting while it lasts. The other big fight for me is Demian Maia vs. Matt Brown. More than likely Maia will take Brown down and work for the submission, but I’m interested to see how Brown tries to deal with that. All these fights should make for a great evening.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Font and Lineker? Count me in. Maia and Brown? Little Nog and Cummins? There’s a lot of chances here to establish position in your weight class or decide if it’s time to retire (cough Little Nog cough). The main card is just a ton of dynamite ready to explode. Cyborg’s debut? Shogun climbing back in? Belfort vs Jacare? Hell I like the rest of the main card more than the main event. It’s awesome!
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Where to begin? The most exciting fight in terms of action is buried fairly deep in the preliminaries as John Lineker and Rob Font are set to square off in a fast-paced bantamweight battle. Both are known not only as finishers, but as durable dudes as well which should provide an explosive environment in the cage pretty early in the night.
Demian Maia and Matt Brown is another preliminary bout that has a lot of people salivating. Some consider Maia’s grapple-heavy approach to be boring. I’ve found it to be enjoyable watching an artist at the top of his craft going to work. Brown is never in a boring fight if he is at least competitive (him being wrestle-mauled by Johny Hendricks is the only UFC fight I can recall being on the wrong side of entertaining) and feels like he has a point to prove in taking this fight. Should be a damn good one.
Vitor Belfort and Jacare Souza has my full attention as this is a high level striker vs. grappler with neither being lost in the world of the other. I fully expect a finish to come about.
Worth noting is that while I’m happy to see Cyborg make her UFC debut, I’m not excited to see yet another slaughter. Leslie Smith is as game as they come, but she is a natural flyweight who shouldn’t have anything to do with stepping into a cage with Cyborg. I’ll change my tune if Smith makes the fight competitive, though I’m gonna have to see it to believe it.
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