The UFC is headed back to Madison Square Garden for UFC 230. The MSG card is usually a flagpole event for the UFC, but that’s not the case this year. Conor vs Khabib at UFC 229 was the real flagpole event with 2.4 million PPV buys estimated. UFC 230 didn’t even have a main event until after UFC 229 finished. And it was Derrick Lewis stealing the show with his late knockout win and post fight interview. Lewis made the most of his moment and the UFC is capitalizing on his newfound popularity by booking him against Daniel Cormier in the main event in New York. Overall, the main card is pretty solid with Rockhold vs Weidman, Branch vs Souza and Brunson vs Adesanya, also on the card.
I’ve given my picks for the four main card fights below. All of the odds are taken from BetOnline.ag, our top rated betting site for MMA. Here’s our full BetOnline review for you to check out if you’re interested in opening an account and placing some bets.
Daniel Cormier vs Derrick Lewis
Cormier took this fight because he thinks Lewis is easy work. He even came out and said that he refused to take a rematch against Stipe Miocic because his hand isn’t 100% and he needs to be in peak form to beat Stipe. On the flip side, he sees a clear path to victory to beat Lewis and stated that he thinks the only way Lewis beats him is by knocking him out, while Miocic has other routes to victory. I’m surprised Cormier came out and said these things, but I think he’s bang on.
Cormier should be able to close the distance and grind Lewis to the mat and then go to work doing some damage, but mostly winning rounds. Lewis will need to land a big punch and finish the fight if he hopes to win. That said, Lewis has shown the ability to win this way on many occasions. As much as he says his cardio is poor, Lewis fights a smart style where he conserves enough energy to still have fight ending power late. Just look at when his finishes have happened. He finished Alexander Volkov just seconds before the final bell last month, he KO’d Tybura in the 3rd round, KO’d Travis Browne in the second round after taking a lot of damage, KO’d Shamil Abdurakhimov in the 4th round after being taken down four 15+ minutes in a row. The guy can be outmatched, but still find a way to win.
That said, I think Cormier is too crafty to get caught in this fight. He’s way faster than these other heavyweights that Lewis has knocked out and he puts such a pace on his opponents that I think Lewis will truly gas out and lose his power.
This should be a clear cut win for DC, who is risking some big fights (Lesnar, Jones, etc) to save this card.
Play: Cormier -750
Chris Weidman vs Luke Rockhold
Rockhold won the middleweight belt from Weidman at UFC 194. Just three years ago these two were the biggest names in the division. After that fight, Rockhold proceeded to get upset by Bisping, sending the division into disarray as the UFC set up a couple carnival fights with Bisping as champ. After that loss Rockhold took over a year off, came back to beat David Branch and then lost to Yoel Romero in an interim title fight at UFC 221 (Romero came in overweight).
I always thought of Weidman as a fraud champion. Yes, he beat Anderson Silva twice, but after that he got two very easy title fights against Brazilian legends that were far past their prime in Machida and Belfort. Once he finally faced a real contender (Rockhold) he lost the belt convincingly. After that loss he fought two more legitimate top 5 middleweights losing to Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi. Weidman beat Gastelum his last time out, but he was simply way bigger than Gastelum, who couldn’t handle his wrestling.
Rockhold has looked rusty in his last two fights, but at his best he’s an elite fighter. Weidman is a guy who received all the accolades in the world, but in my opinion his championship run was a bit of a sham. Yes, he beat some legends, but Silva, Machida and Belfort were all far past their primes (and the Silva wins were weird). I don’t think Weidman can really hang at the top level in this sport. He’s just not athletic enough.
Weidman wins when his wrestling is far superior to his opponents. In this matchup, Rockhold will be able to hang on the mat and should be the better striker and submission grappler. I think Rockhold will get this win and be right back in the title conversation.
Play: Rockhold -138
David Branch vs Ronaldo Souza
Jacare should win this fight. David Branch is never an easy out, but Souza has great grappling skills and if he can get this fight to the mat I think it’s over. Branch doesn’t have many finishing weapons, which means Jacare will have plenty of time to work. I actually think Jacare is better on the feet and the mat. Branch will try to make this fight a grind, which is his only path to victory.
I like Souza to find a way to get the win and probably early.
Play: Souza -175
Derek Brunson vs Israel Adesanya
Adesanya could be the next big star in the UFC. He looked unbelievable in his win over Brad Tavares, but that’s now two fights in a row (Vettori and Tavares) where Adesanya was unable to get the finish. Prior to those fights, Adesanya finished every other fight in his career.
Even if Adesanya is the crisper and cleaner striker, Derek Brunson definitely has the fight finishing power. This is a guy with first round knockouts over Alvey, Hall, Kelly and Machida. Brunson is also susceptible to getting caught overextending himself on the feet, so this may be a case of which fighter lands the first clean strike.
The wild card in this fight is the fact that Brunson is also a high quality wrestler. Both Vettori and Tavares secured takedowns on Adesanya, and neither guy is really known for their wrestling. Brunson isn’t known for his wrestling much anymore, but that’s because his fights have been finishing before he’s had to use it. When he does include wrestling in his gameplan his takedown accuracy is actually a very strong 32%. In fact, Brunson even got 3 takedown against Romero in their fight, which shows how strong his takedown game is.
This fight could end early with either guy getting a KO. That said, if it goes past the first round I expect the takedown of Brunson to play a big factor in this fight and for the following ground and pound to do some real damage to Adesanya.
Play: Brunson +260