UFC 230 predictions

The big boys are taking over “The Big Apple”.

It’s a main event that materialized in a flash, but there will be no missing heavyweights Daniel Cormier and Derrick Lewis when they rumble into Madison Square Garden for UFC 230 on Saturday night. This will be Cormier’s first defense of the heavyweight championship that he won four months ago, and he’ll be looking to keep it in his collection alongside the light heavyweight title that he also currently holds.

Lewis, a people’s champion if there ever was one, enters his first UFC title opportunity on the strength of nine wins in his last 10 fights. It’s rarely a smooth ride for “The Black Beast,” but that’s part of what makes his come-from-behind finishes so appealing. One good punch is all it will take for him to change the course of history.

In the co-main event, New York native and former middleweight champion Chris Weidman fights former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza in a bout that could determine who is next for a shot at UFC gold. Weidman hasn’t always had the best luck in his home state, so it remains to be seen if he can draw on the power of a boisterous crowd to triumph over the dangerous “Jacare”.

Also on the main card, middleweight veteran David Branch looks to spoil short-notice opponent Jared Cannonier’s divisional debut, middleweight finishers Karl Roberson and Jack Marshman battle to climb the ranks, and rising middleweight star Israel Adesanya faces his toughest challenge yet in Derek Brunson.

What: UFC 230

Where: Madison Square Garden in New York

When: Saturday, Nov. 3. The four-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 6:15 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the five-fight pay-per-view main card begins at 10 p.m. ET.


Daniel Cormier vs. Derrick Lewis

This unexpected title fight is likely to have an entirely predictable outcome.

First off, despite the odds being heavily in Daniel Cormier’s favor, Derrick Lewis is not an opponent he can mess around with. Though “The Black Beast” is more well known for his late finishes, he should come into this one with an increased sense of urgency and Cormier has to be prepared for an early gamble.

Cormier has dealt with dynamite-fisted foes before, most notably in two outings against Anthony Johnson at light heavyweight. In both instances, Johnson put Cormier on notice with his power, only for Cormier to outlast him and win via submission. Does Lewis, who is considerably slower than “Rumble,” have a realistic shot of landing the finishing blow that Johnson couldn’t?

The last time Lewis had trouble with a wrestler, it was against burly Russian Shamil Abdurakhimov a couple of years ago. Abdurakhimov was able to take Lewis down multiple times, but couldn’t muster up the offense on the ground needed to put Lewis away. Unfortunately for Lewis, Cormier is not Abdurakhimov (shocker) and he won’t have the same issues putting a beating on Lewis when he’s in top position.

It will take a few trips and slams for Cormier to wear Lewis down. Once he does, he’ll pour on the ground-and-pound until the referee has no choice but to step in for the stoppage.

Pick: Cormier

Chris Weidman vs. Ronaldo Souza

Fans have long clamored to see these two elite middleweights collide, and for good reason. Chris Weidman and Ronaldo Souza are both capable of authoring vicious finishes whether it’s by submission or knockout, and it will be surprising to see either man make it to the final bell on Saturday.

Weidman will probably look to keep this one standing, though it will be fascinating to see how this one develops should it go to the ground. As accomplished as Weidman is on the mat, there’s a reason that “Jacare” is consistently touted as being on another level among Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists in MMA. Weidman’s mix of elite wrestling and strong submission skills makes him a potent ground fighter, but few would dare to challenge Souza in that area lest they find themselves caught in the alligator’s jaws.

On the flip side, while Weidman is a great striker, Souza is no slouch in that department either. The 38-year-old loves to throw big shots on the feet and Weidman has been susceptible to getting caught, especially when it looks like he’s ahead on the scorecards.

Weidman must show improved defense so that he can give himself time to find the range to throw combinations and back “Jacare” up, limiting the dangerous Brazilian’s options. Souza will eventually open up, and if Weidman can capitalize without leaving himself vulnerable, he’ll snag a knockout and keep himself in title contention.

Pick: Weidman

David Branch vs. Jared Cannonier

Credit to Jared Cannonier for stepping in on short notice and successfully making weight here after previously competing at 205 pounds, but David Branch has to be one of the worst fighters to challenge with limited prep time.

Branch is a grinder of the first order, the kind of opponent who will drain you in the clinch, pin you to the fence, and frustrate you with measured striking. Stylish or not, Branch gets the job done.

Even if Cannonier finds success on the feet, there’s not a lot he’s going to be able to do if Branch decides to tie him up and work for trips. And on the ground, Branch will have a huge advantage. If Cannonier is further depleted by his cut to middleweight, he’s really going to be in trouble.

The grappling gap will decide this bout and Branch should cruise to a decision or possibly even hand Cannonier his first submission loss.

Pick: Branch

Karl Roberson vs. Jack Marshman

Jack Marshman’s solid chin is both a gift and a curse. The Welshman typically marches forward in his fights without fear, taking the best that his opponents have to offer and firing back in kind. Unfortunately for Marshman, this quality that has served him well for much of his career is also likely to sink him in this matchup.

What he lacks in experience, Karl Roberson more than makes up for with his frightening finishing ability. The New Jersey native is like a coiled spring, just waiting to unleash a sharp left hand or elbows in the clinch. He was uncharacteristically impatient in his last fight with Cezar Ferreira, which cost him as he was defeated for the first time in his career.

Marshman is a good striker and if he can set the tone early on the standup, the fight is his for the taking. The ground battle should be fairly even as Marshman has decent jiu-jitsu and Roberson has shown a knack for hunting for submissions.

Roberson’s speed should be the difference here. He’ll land early and often en route to picking up a knockout win.

Pick: Roberson

Derek Brunson vs. Israel Adesanya

The fights only get tougher for the ever-confident Israel Adesanya from here on out.

A kickboxing convert of the highest order, Adesanya answered a lot of questions in his last outing against Brad Tavares, dominating the UFC vet in every aspect of the game for three rounds. Repeating that performance at UFC 230 will be difficult as Brunson is an entirely different kind of beast.

Brunson is going to come out of the gates hotter than any of Adesanya’s previous UFC challengers. Finishing in the first round is what Brunson does and you can bet he’s dying to add the unbeaten Adesanya to his list of quick conquests. That may play right into Adesanya’s hands. “The Last Stylebender” is one of the most well-versed strikers at 185 pounds and his arsenal has more than enough weapons to fend Brunson off.

Wrestling could be a factor here as Brunson is more than capable of shooting in for a double leg and dragging Adesanya down. But Adesanya’s takedown defense is evolving rapidly and his top shelf athleticism and wiry body makes him difficult to hold down.

This fight will be contested mostly on the feet, and if that’s the case, all signs point to an Adesanya victory.

Pick: Adesanya

Undercard

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