UFC 230 MATCHUPS
A breakdown of the fights on the main card of Saturday’s UFC 230 card at Madison Square Garden in New York, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Daniel Cormier (21-1, 1 No Contest) vs. Derrick Lewis (21-5, 1 No Contest)
Class: For Cormier’s heavyweight title
Line: Cormier -650
Storyline: Cormier appeared to have no interest in taking a fight until either Brock Lesnar or Jon Jones was ready to come off suspension, but decided to put those massively lucrative opportunities on the line to take a short-notice fight against Derrick Lewis when this event needed a headliner. Cormier saw it as a chance to make a quick payday against an athletically-inferior opponent. It’s not without some risk, though. Lewis has won nine of his last 10 fights and has a ton of power, as evidenced by his last-second win over Alexander Volkov last month in a fight he was losing for nearly the full 15 minutes. Lewis has the proverbial puncher’s chance and it’s probably his only shot. He will need to land his right hand at some point in order to change the fight. Cormier has many more paths to victory and should have a massive cardio edge. The one question may be his surgically-repaired hand, but Cormier insists it will be fine. Cormier has never lost a round in 14 fights at heavyweight.
Hill’s Pick: Cormier by second-round submission
Fang’s Pick: Cormier by fourth-round knockout
Chris Weidman (14-3) vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (25-6, 1 No Contest)
Line: Weidman -190
Storyline: Weidman expected a showdown with fellow former champion Luke Rockhold, but Rockhold was hurt during training camp and was forced to pull out. Souza is one of the most accomplished grapplers in the sport and is difficult to prepare for on short notice, but it’s actually a decent matchup for Weidman. While he is known for his wrestling and has developed as a striker, Weidman is actually an elite grappler. Souza can submit anyone at any time, but Weidman should be able to neutralize his jiu-jitsu and possesses a clear edge in wrestling and technical striker. Souza is a bit wild in his striking, though he does have power. Weidman will have to avoid that.
Hill’s Pick: Weidman by decision
Fang’s Pick: Weidman by decision
David Branch (21-4) vs. Jared Cannonier (10-4)
Line: Branch -350
Storyline: Branch was slated to get a big opportunity against Souza, but lost out on the fight when Souza moved up the card to face Weidman. He’ll need to avoid letting that disappointment affect his performance. Branch has developed quite a bit as a striker, but should return to his roots against a powerful slugger with limited skill on the ground and questionable cardio. The more the fight stays on the feet, the more Branch is allowing Cannonier a chance to land something. Branch could win on the feet, but is unlikely to lose on the mat. He will probably look to get it there early and often.
Hill’s Pick: Branch by second-round submission
Fang’s Pick: Cannonier by second-round knockout
Karl Roberson (6-1) vs. Jack Marshman (22-7)
Line: Roberson -275
Storyline: Both are aggressive strikers, though Roberson is a bit more well-rounded. Marshman will try to make this a brawl. He’ll want to fight at close range and will be more than willing to stand in the pocket and exchange big shots. Roberson will try to maintain fundamentals and keep more of a distance. He’s capable of picking Marshman apart from the outside, but he could also walk him down or change levels and get a takedown. Marshman isn’t known for his grappling, but has posted five submission victories in his career. Roberson just has more paths to a win, which is why he is favored. Marshman has an edge in experience, however, and probably has a better chance than the line would indicate.
Hill’s Pick: Marshman by second-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Marshman by second-round submission
Derek Brunson (18-6) vs. Israel Adesanya (14-0)
Line: Adesanya -335
Storyline: Adesanya is a flashy striker who is quickly making a splash in the UFC. His ability to combine a dynamic and explosive style with an entertaining personality makes the New Zealander one of the more intriguing young stars to emerge at middleweight in quite some time. This is a huge test, however. Brunson’s wrestling could prove to be Adesanya’s kryptonite and he has enough power to be a problem on the feet. Adesanya has the ability to make opponents look silly and could do the same to bettors looking to back Brunson, but there is far too much value on Brunson to not take a shot on him at the window.
Hill’s Pick: Adesanya by third-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Adesanya by third-round knockout