Welcome back to Fakepigskin’s MMA DFS Playbook. We’re here for UFC 226, which goes down in Las Vegas, Nevada at the T-Mobile Arena. UFC 226 has the biggest fight of the year to this point, and was incredibly stacked until a Max Holloway-Brian Ortega fight fell through. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty to be excited for. In the main event, Stipe Miocic takes on Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title. The new co-main event is also a heavyweight bout, with Francis Ngannou facing Derrick Lewis. Let’s get to the breakdown and picks.
Main Card (PPV)
Stipe Miocic ($8,900) vs. Daniel Cormier ($7,300)
In one of the biggest and most important fights in the history of the UFC, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic defends his title against light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier. Miocic is ranked #2 on the pound-for-pound rankings, while Cormier checks in at #4. The UFC rarely puts on fights with guys crossing divisions, let alone a champion versus champion fight. Miocic makes his return following a a brilliant win over Francis Ngannou in January. The champion was an underdog to the challenger, and not many people gave Miocic a chance against the powerful punching French-Cameroonian. He shut Ngannou down, and earned the respect of many new fans in the process. Miocic owns the most title defenses in heavyweight history, and a win over Cormier likely cements him as the best heavyweight in the history of the UFC. For Cormier, he’ll be returning to the division he originally called home. In the Strikeforce promotion, he won the heavyweight grand prix as an alternate. When he came over to the UFC, Cormier stayed at heavyweight for 2 fights, wins over Frank Mir and Roy Nelson. With a win over Miocic, he’d be just the 5th fighter in UFC history to own titles in 2 divisions, and would become just the 2nd to hold 2 belts simultaneously, with Conor McGregor being the first.
The fight itself is incredibly hard to call. I truly think that this could go either way, despite Draftkings pricing, as well as the lopsided betting odds. Cormier is an olympic level wrestler and his hands have only gotten better over the span of his career. Miocic is an incredible athlete for the heavyweight division, and has proven me wrong multiple times.I think Cormier’s path to victory is the takedown. If he can land a few over the slated 5 rounds, I think he has a real chance to own 2 belts. The problem is, Miocic is also a good wrestler, especially defensively. I have a hard time picturing Cormier taking Miocic down at will. With that in mind, I also have a hard time seeing Cormier get the better of the heavyweight champ on the feet. I’ve learned to never doubt Miocic, and I’m not going to do it here. It’ll be a competitive fight, but I think Miocic’s athleticism will lead him to victory. Miocic keeps this one standing, and uses crisp, powerful combos to win the exchanges. The pick is Miocic by unanimous decision.
Francis Ngannou ($9,300) vs. Derrick Lewis ($6,900)
Following the cancellation of the featherweight title bout, Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis will battle each other in the new co-main event of the night. This is a gigantic fight for the heavyweight division, with both men really needing this win for different reasons. Ngannou returns following being thoroughly dominated by champion Stipe Miocic, and needs a win to stay relevant in the title picture. A win over Lewis, ranked #5 in the heavyweight rankings, will put him right on the doorstep of another shot at Miocic. For Lewis, this is a monumental fight against a scary #1 contender. He’s won 7 of his last 8 bouts, with 6 of those coming by way of KO. He’s become a fan favorite, and a win over Ngannou will absolutely put him in the title picture.
This is by far my favorite fight on paper. Both guys are gigantic, and have records littered with devastating knockouts. I am interested to see what will happen if this goes to the later rounds, as both men have questionable (at best) conditioning. Ngannou looked drained against Miocic, and could not mount any offense past the 1st round. Though Lewis has late stoppage wins, he’s gassed in every one of them. I wonder if he can finish a guy like Ngannou if this hits the 3rd round. Unfortunately for Lewis, I don’t see it even getting that far. Stylistically, I don’t see Lewis having what it takes to take Ngannou deep into the fight. Both guys like to stand in the pocket and throw devastatingly hard punches, and I think that bodes worse for Lewis, with Ngannou possessing the most power I’ve ever seen in the UFC. I think Ngannou catches Lewis in the middle of the first round, returning to the winning column in spectacular fashion. The pick is Francis Ngannou by brutal KO in the 1st.
Mike Perry ($8,800) vs. Paul Felder ($7,400)
Mike Perry looks to get back into the win column, but he will have his hands full with fellow striker Paul Felder. This bout was made extremely late, with Perry originally slated to fight Yancy Medeiros. Felder was scheduled to fight James Vick, so he will have the benefit of having a training camp while stepping in as a last minute replacement. Perry has lost his last 2 bouts in a row, and it looks like opponents have figured out how to beat his wild striking game. Felder comes in riding a 3-fight win streak, including a nice KO win over Charles Oliveira. He will be fighting at welterweight for the first time in his UFC career.
This is a fun fight on paper, with both guys bringing incredibly exciting striking games to the table. Each man possesses a 43% striking accuracy, and they both defend strikes well with both well over 50%. Despite Felder coming up in weight, I think the pricing set for this fight is just crazy. With how badly Perry has looked in recent bouts, it’s hard to see him being such a favorite. Perry has struggled with guys who won’t engage in a brawl, and who use their technical striking to keep Perry at bay. Enter Paul Felder, who has an incredibly technical muay thai game. I truly believe this is mismatch, and that Felder is a great value here as an underdog. I see this going the same way it has lately for Perry. Felder will pepper him with clean strikes at a distance for 3 rounds, while Perry tries desperately to catch him with a wild bomb. The pick is Felder by clear-cut decision.
Michael Chiesa ($8,600) vs. Anthony Pettis ($7,600)
In a lightweight bout, Michael Chiesa takes on Anthony Pettis, a fight originally scheduled for UFC 223. Chiesa was pulled from the 223 card following the Conor McGregor tirade when he received cuts on his face from flying glass. Chiesa’s 3-fight winning streak was snapped last June by Kevin Lee by a controversial submission. For some ungodly reason, the referee stopped the fight despite Chiesa not tapping, nor going unconscious from a rear-naked choke. He’ll look to rebound here against Pettis, hopefully putting that terrible loss behind him. Pettis has become a shell of his former self in recent days. Since his last defense of the lightweight title over Gilbert Melendez, Pettis has lost 5 of his last 7 bouts, including his most recent fight against Dustin Poirier, where Pettis was throughly dismantled.
This is a big fight for both guys, and I imagine both to fight with that mindset. Chiesa needs to erase the disappointment from his last fight, and Pettis needs a win to stay even remotely relevant. Pettis holds a clear advantage in the stand-up game, while Chiesa will have the advantage wrestling. Pettis has shown an underrated jiu-jitsu game in some of his early UFC bouts, but I think Chiesa will still have a slight advantage there. I also think Chiesa’s stand-up is decent enough to not be that worried about being stopped on the feet. I see Chiesa doing just enough on the feet to set up takedowns to control Pettis on the mat. I don’t think it’ll be an exciting bout, but Chiesa should win pretty convincingly. Chiesa lands takedowns in every round, grinding Pettis out for a unanimous decision victory.
Gokhan Saki ($8,400) vs. Khalil Rountree ($7,800)
This is a fun fight to open the pay-per-view, with light heavyweights Gokhan Saki taking on Khalil Rountree. Both guys are very big, and very powerful strikers, and the UFC did a great job of putting potential fireworks in the opening bout to kick off the main card. This will be Saki’s 2nd appearance in the UFC, and only his 3rd MMA bout overall. Saki made a name for himself overseas in kickboxing, winning multiple world championships across the biggest kickboxing promotions. His debut in the UFC was a great one, rallying from almost being knocked out himself, to deliver a highlight reel KO of Henrique da Silva. Rountree has become a bit of a knockout artist himself, with 2 brutal KO’s in his last 3 fights.
I’m excited to see this one play out, especially if Rountree decides to keep this fight on the feet. I think he will, as he has not recorded a single takedown in any of his UFC bouts. This one will set a great tone for the rest of the card to follow, as both men will look to end the fight with one powerful strike. I’m surprised Saki isn’t a bigger favorite, but I have to assume his inexperience in MMA factors into that. I don’t think it truly matters in this bout, and Saki is definitely the one to target. With virtually no threat of a takedown from Rountree, Saki can swing for the fences here. I think it ends early in the first round, with Saki winning by a walk-off brutal KO.
Preliminary Card (FS1)
Paulo Costa ($9,400) vs. Uriah Hall ($6,800)
Headlining the preliminary card is an exciting match-up at middleweight between Paulo Costa and Uriah Hall. We last saw Costa in November when he destroyed former welterweight champ Johny Hendricks, winning by TKO in the 2nd round. He’s undefeated as a professional, and 3-0 within the UFC with 3 stoppage wins. He’s incredibly built, and looks like the next super star from Brazil. Uriah Hall will definitely have his work cut out for him in this one, a fight he needs to win badly. He likely saved his job in his last bout, when he knocked out Krzysztof Jotko. Prior to the win, he dropped 3 in a row to Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson, and Robert Whittaker. He’s never lived up to the hype generated on The Ultimate Fighter, and will likely need a win again to stay with the promotion.
The pricing from Draftkings indicates a pretty big mismatch, and I can’t disagree. With how great Costa has looked, coupled with how bad Hall has looked at times, this is an easy one to call. I truly believe the UFC has one of their next stars in Costa, and he’ll be headlining cards in Brazil in no time. I think both men feel each other out on the feet for a bit before a powerful combo from Costa finds its home on Hall’s chin. I’m taking Costa by KO in the 2nd round.
Raphael Assuncao ($9,000) vs. Rob Font ($7,100)
At bantamweight, #3 Raphael Assuncao takes on #11 in an intriguing bout for the division. Assuncao has quietly become one of the best, most consistent, and most under appreciated fighters in UFC history. Since dropping to 135 lbs. in 2011, Assuncao has lost just one time, winning 10 of 11 bouts, but has yet to be given a title fight. He’s beaten much of the elites of the division, with wins over champion TJ Dillashaw, Aljamain Sterling, and Marlon Moraes. With a win over Font, the UFC will have a hard time denying him a big fight. Font has also been consistent in his short time with the UFC, winning 5 of his 7 bouts with the promotion. He’s a big finisher, with all 5 wins coming by way of stoppage.
While I can never bring myself to root for Assuncao, I can’t help but appreciate his skills as a fighter. Not many fighters win 10 of 11 bouts and go virtually unnoticed by fans, and it’s a bummer for Assuncao. I think this will be yet another typical Assuncao performance. I think he competes well on the feet with Font, and takes him down when he wants to. He’ll grind him out for a unanimous decision win, leaving the UFC with big problems in the match-making department. The pick is Assuncao.
Lando Vannata ($9,000) vs. Drakkar Klose ($7,200)
This is great fight buried on the prelims that could easily end up being fight of the night. Fan favorite Lando Vannata makes his return to face Drakkar Klose. Vannata burst onto the scene with a solid performance against Tony Ferguson in his debut with the promotion, a last minute booking. Vannata was a heavy underdog, but almost finished Ferguson in the 1st round, and performed incredibly well considering the circumstances. He’s disappointed recently, with a loss to David Teymur, and a draw to Bobby Green. Nevertheless, he doesn’t disappoint with the fans, as 3 of his 4 UFC bouts has earned “Fight of the Night.” Klose hasn’t been with the promotion long, but is 2-1 to this point, with his only loss also coming to Teymur.
I can’t imagine this being anything less than a compelling fight when it comes to action. Vannata likes to perform, and Klose’s style will mesh well to create a fun fight for fans. I think the striking battle will be back and forth until Vannata pulls off something incredible, like his win over John Makdessi by wheel kick. He’ll land a nice combo and finish Klose with something incredible. Klose is a decent fighter, I just don’t think he’s on Vannata’s level of creativity. The pick is Vannata by KO.