Previewing UFC 230

The UFC returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday night with a short notice Heavyweight Title fight sitting atop the card. The UFC was in desperate need of a main event just a little over 30 days ago and it sure found one. After a crazy comeback knockout in the last 15 seconds of a fight he was losing Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (21-5 1NC #2 Ranked Heavyweight) secured a title shot against Daniel “DC” Cormier (21-1 1NC Heavyweight Champion). For Lewis, it is a crazy quick turnaround, but there is also a giant risk for Daniel Cormier in taking this fight. The card itself feels a little lackluster when you compare it to the previous Madison Square Garden cards, but there are certainly some fun fights on the card. In the co-main event, we have former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris “The All-American” Weidman (14-3 #3 Ranked Middleweight) taking on longtime contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (25-6 1NC #5 Ranked Middleweight). Outside of that, we have 11 other fights to look at for the UFC’s return to Pay Per View.

We kick the night off on UFC Fight Pass at Heavyweight as Adam “Siwy” Wieczorek (10-1) takes on Marcos “Pezao” Rogerio De Lima (15-6-1). Adam Wieczorek scored his second straight win in his UFC run over Arjan Singh Bhullar (8-1) via submission back in April. He returns here to look to break his way into the Top 15. The 26-year-old Poland native has won 9 straight overall as he heads into Saturday. Wieczorek has 6 submissions and 3 knockouts on his record. He can compete with anyone on the mat, and if the fight goes to the mat he could take home a big victory. The move back to Heavyweight comes next for Marcos Rogerio De Lima after a 3-3 run at 205lbs. Pezao has been out of action since April of 2017 following a USADA violation and then an injury to his opponent. He has one fight at heavyweight in the UFC and it was his debut where he walked away with a 20-second knockout win. Pezao has 11 career knockouts, and with not being drained by a potential weight cut we could see that power on display Saturday night. Prediction: Adam Wieczorek via Submission.

We drop down to Bantamweight next as Brian “Boom” Kelleher (19-9) is set to take on Montel “Quik” Jackson (6-0). Brian Kelleher is coming in off a knockout loss to John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (31-8 #6 Ranked Bantamweight). Kelleher came in a full pound overweight. Kelleher has gone 3-2 in the UFC and has looked good in most of his fights. Even in the Lineker fight, he was able to survive a ton of punishment during that fight. Kelleher is well rounded and has finished 7 fighters via knockout and 8 via submission. Kelleher is interesting because when he gets rolling in a fight he looks very good. If he can avoid getting pressured and thrown off his game, he could pick up his 4th UFC victory. Montel Jackson is coming off his 1st career loss in his UFC debut against Ricky Simon (10-1) back in August. The Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series Alum looks to rebound and pick up his first win. Jackson is a knockout artist with 55 career knockouts. The questions will arise if this fight goes to the ground. We need to see exactly what that looks like for Jackson. This should be a fun action-packed fight. Prediction: Brian Kelleher via Decision.

We jump up just one weight class next to Featherweight as Shane “Hurricane” Burgos (10-1) takes on Kurt Holobaugh (17-5 1NC). For Shane Burgos, his first career loss to Calvin Kattar (19-3) came 10 months ago. He has been out of action since and now is set to return. Prior to that loss, the 10-fight unbeaten streak had given Burgos some buzz including his 3 straight UFC wins. Burgos has 4 knockouts and 4 submission wins in his career. Burgos loves to stand and trade and is willing to do that. That is what got him in trouble in the Kattar fight. Burgos is supremely talented and fighting in his home state surely should give him a boost. For Kurt Holobaugh his return to the UFC following a win in the Main Event of the first episode of The Dana White Tuesday Night Contender series did not end well. Holobaugh was knocked out in the 3rd round by Raoni Barcelos (12-1). Holobaugh has gone 0-3 in his two stints in the UFC despite being very successful outside of the world’s largest MMA promotion. Holobaugh has 5 knockouts and 9 submissions to his name, but he needs to not stand and trade here. That is how he got himself in trouble against Barcelos. This one has the potential to be an absolute slugfest. Prediction: Shane Burgos via TKO.

We close out the Fight Pass portion of the card at 155lbs as Matt “The SteamRolla” Frevola (6-1) takes on Lando “Groovy” Vannata (9-3-1). Matt Frevola followed up his contract earning performance on the Contender Series with a first-round TKO loss to Marco “El Toro” Polo Reyes (7-5) back in January. Prior to that Frevola had won all 6 of his professional fights including 3 by submission. Frevola is a talented wrestler, and he will need that in this matchup. If Frevola can get the fight to the ground and get on top, he should have a decided advantage in this one. For Lando Vannata it has been a rough go as of late. After nearly defeating Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (26-3 #1 Ranked Lightweight) on short notice in his UFC debut and wheel kicking John “The Bull” Makdessi (16-6) Vannata has gone 0-2-1. He now is in desperate need of a win. Vannata is an unorthodox striker and his style can cause a problem for anyone he faces. Vannata has 4 knockouts and 4 submissions on his record. He will need to go out there and focus on the experience he has with high-level opponents to get him back in the win column. Prediction: Lando Vannata via Decision.

We move to FS1 and to 170lbs as Lyman “Cyborg” Good (19-4 1NC) takes on longtime UFC veteran Ben “Killa B” Saunders (19-4 1NC). For Lyman Good, a split decision loss to Elizeu “Capoeira” Zaleski Dos Santos (20-5 #15 Ranked Welterweight) in 2017 has been his only fight since 2015. An injury and a failed drug test in 2016 saw Good only get into the cage once in that time frame. When Good does step into the cage he has been solid. With 9 knockouts and 3 submissions to his name. The New York City native now looks to get his career restarted.  For Ben Saunders, a rough patch is the best way to describe what he’s been going through. Saunders has lost 3 of 4, and now returns looking to get back in the win column. Saunders is a real veteran of the game with 34 pro fights. The Ultimate Fighter Season 6 alum has 10 career knockouts and 7 submissions. Saunders needs to stay off the fence, but if he gets there use his elbows to open up some space. Prediction: Lyman Good via TKO.

We head back down to 145lbs as Julio Arce (15-2) takes on Sheymon Moraes (10-1). Julio Arce has burst into the UFC with a 2-fight win streak that was punctuated with a 3rd round submission win over Daniel “Kid Dynamite” Teymur (6-2) in June. Arce first came into the UFC universe though season 1 of the Contender Series which got him his UFC contract. The Queens, New York native is another member of Tiger Schulman’s team who has some serious striking. For Sheymon Moraes a solid rebound came in August where he scored a 3-round decision win. That took the former World Series of Fighting fighter to 1-1 in the UFC. Moraes has 5 career knockouts on his resume, and he is going to look to swing for the fences early. Moraes is going to need to avoid the ground game as his only career losses have come via submission which Arce can most certainly pull off. Prediction: Julio Arce via Decision.

The only females on the card are next as Sijara “SarJ” Eubanks (4-2 #4 Ranked Flyweight) is set to take on Roxanne “The Happy Warrior” Modafferi (22-15 #7 Ranked Flyweight). Unsurprisingly Sijara Eubanks missed weight for this fight. The weight cut struggles continue for the finalist of Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter. Eubanks missed weight and needed to be hospitalized heading into the finals and was pulled from the card and replaced by Modafferi. When Eubanks is in the cage however she uses her grappling and wrestling to her advantage. She can get her opponent to the mat and just ground and pound her way to victory. These two actually met up in the semifinals on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter and that is how Eubanks made her way to the finals. Eubanks needs to employ the same game plan heading into this matchup. For Roxanne Modafferi, she needs to learn from her mistakes in their first matchup. She allowed Eubanks to push her around on the mat and was unable to get out of bad positions. Modafferi was the number 1 seed on that season of the show and is coming off a big TKO victory over former Invicta FC champ Barb “The Little Warrior” Honchak (10-5). Modafferi is a very talented grappler and if she can get on top she can be suffocating. This is a really interesting matchup despite having seen it before on the show. Prediction: Rozanne Modafferi via Submission.

We close out the prelims with a Featherweight matchup as Jason “The Kid” Knight (20-5) takes on Jordan Rinaldi (13-6). Jason Knight was on a 4-fight win streak and flying into the top 10 at 145lbs. Then it all came crashing down with 3 straight losses. His last loss came via split decision to Makwan “Mr. Finland” Amirkhani (14-3). Knight needs to get back to the basics that got him into the Top 10. He is certainly young enough, at only 26 the Mississippi native still have a long road ahead of him in his UFC career. A win here though is a complete necessity. His 13 career submissions are what stand out. Knight needs to be proactive and not look to just brawl, which is what has gotten him into to trouble in his last 3 matchups. For Jordan Rinaldi, a 1-2 UFC record is what brings him into the cage. His last time out he was knocked out in the first round by Gregor “The Gift” Gillespie (12-0). Rinaldi is another talented guy on the ground. He has 8 career submission wins. He may be able to use the overzealousness of Knight to his advantage This one could be a pretty serious grappling contest. Prediction: Jason Knight via Submission.

It was now time for the main card and it kicked off its slew of 185lb fights with Derek Brunson (18-6 #6 Ranked Middleweight) taking on rising star Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (14-0 #9 Ranked Middleweight). Derek Brunson had a 2-fight win streak snapped in January when a head kick ended his night in the first round. Brunson is a knockout artist with 11 career knockouts on his record. Brunson has been a guy who has consistently milled around the Top 10 for the past few years. His explosive and powerful striking makes him a dangerous matchup for anyone at 185lbs. If Brunson can get his striking off early he can make quick work of anyone. Israel Adesanya has burst onto the UFC’s radar going 3-0 since debuting in February of this year. The former kickboxer is an extremely talented and powerful striker. Prior to joining the UFC, he had gone 11-0 with all knockouts. Adesanya has gone the distance in his last 2 fights, but his dominant 5 round decision win over Brad Tavares (17-6 #10 Middleweight) showed that he was for real. Adesanya could be on the verge of superstardom with a big win at Madison Square Garden. Prediction: Israel Adesanya via TKO.

Two more Middleweights entered next as Karl “Baby K” Roberson (6-1) is set to take on Jack “The Hammer” Marshman (22-7). Karl Roberson is coming off his first career loss to Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira (14-6) back in May. Roberson got into the UFC from The Contender Series. He is a talented striker who has heavy hands. Roberson needs to focus on getting his striking going early. His submission loss showed an opening is his defense that hopefully in his time away has been fixed. Roberson is an intriguing prospect and win over Marshman will go a long way to begin to build his momentum at 185lbs. Jack Marshman is a bruiser. He has gone 1-2 in his last 3, but he gets involved in absolute slugfests. Marshman has 13 knockouts on his record and has no problem standing and trading. He will need to be smart in this matchup with Roberson, but if he gets one big right hand off he could find himself back in the win column. Prediction: Karl Roberson via TKO.

The 3rd of 4 Middleweight main card fights is next as David Branch (21-4 #7 Ranked Middleweight) takes on Jared “The Killa Gorilla” Cannonier (10-4). David Branch bounced back from a tough loss with an impressive 1st round knockout of Thiago “de Lima Marreta” Santos (19-6 #14 Ranked Middleweight). Branch is a former two-division champ in the World Series of Fighting and has been solid in his return to the UFC. His boxing is where he thrives in the cage. If he can find his range early he can head home very quickly. Jared Cannonier now moves to his third weight class in the UFC. He made his UFC debut at Heavyweight in 2015 before dropping to 205lbs in 2017. Cannonier now moves down to 185lbs in search of a permanent home. Cannonier has power with 5 career knockouts, but its consistency that has plagued him. He has a bigger frame than Branch, and he can use that size advantage to help him in this matchup. Cannonier has a big opportunity here in his 185lb debut against a top 10 guy where a win could launch him close to the Top 15. Prediction: David Branch via Decision.

We head to the Co-Main event as former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris “The All-American” Weidman (14-3 #3 Ranked Middleweight) taking on longtime contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (25-6 1NC #5 Ranked Middleweight). Chris Weidman finally got back in the win column with a defeat of Kelvin Gastelum (16-3 1NC #4 Ranked Middleweight) in July of 2017. Since then he has been on the shelf with a surgery. He was originally supposed to face Luke Rockhold (16-4 #2 Ranked Middleweight) however an injury to Rockhold moved Jacare into the slot. Weidman is a super talented guy who’s rise through the UFC ranks saw him dethrone former longtime champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva (34-8 1NC). Weidman defended the belt 3 times before dropping it to Rockhold. Weidman’s wrestling is where he takes control of fights. He was dominating former Title Challenger Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero (13-3 #1 Ranked Middleweight) before a flying knee ended his night. Weidman will have the hometown fans on his side, and he has a chance to firmly plant himself in the title picture. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is one of the most talented grapplers in MMA today. Jacare may be 1-2 in his last 3, but he has fought nothing but high-level opponents in his UFC run. Jacare lost a tough split decision to Kelvin Gastelum the last time he was in the cage. He steps in here against Weidman on short notice, but Jacare will be ready. If he is able to get this fight on the ground in a dominant position he could walk away right back in the title hunt. Prediction: Chris Weidman via Decision.

Finally, the Main event is next as the former Double Champ Daniel “DC” Cormier (21-1 1NC Heavyweight Champion) will take on Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (21-5 1NC #2 Ranked Heavyweight). Daniel Cormier took the Heavyweight title from the most successful UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic (18-3 #1 Ranked Heavyweight). Cormier at the time was the Light Heavyweight Champion, and it made him the second person in UFC history to hold 2 titles simultaneously. Everyone expected the matchup to be Daniel Cormier and the returning Brock Lesnar (5-3 1NC) however because of Lesnar’s USADA suspension and having to be reinserted into the testing pool that isn’t possible until early 2019. With this card needing help, Cormier stepped in to defend that Heavyweight title. DC now puts that opportunity aside for now and looks to defend his title against another worthy foe. Cormier is going to want to get in close and force Lewis up against the fence. He needs to avoid the ground and pound from Lewis at all costs. A win here keeps the plan of facing Lesnar and a multimillion-dollar pay day alive. Cormier will need to do what he did to Miocic, make the fight ugly get in close and control Lewis all over the Octagon. If DC can’t get that done he could see himself go from double champ to 0 belts in less than month after giving up the Light Heavyweight title. Derrick Lewis is not the most in shape UFC fighter. He doesn’t look like a Greek god, and maybe he only trains 30 minutes a day as some people claim. With all that considered however he is one of the most dangerous Heavyweights in the world. Lewis can end a fight with one punch at any time. We just saw that on October 6th, only 29 days ago when Lewis was battered for 14 minutes and 45 seconds. Until a gigantic overhand right floored giant Russian Heavyweight Contender Alexander “Drago” Volkov (29-7 #5 Ranked Heavyweight). Lewis has struggled with cardio and back issues, but as fights go on he just always seems to pull it out. He is nearly impossible to keep on his back, as his power and strength allows him to push his way back to his feet quickly. His ground and pound is vicious and unforgiving. Lewis has the chance to play the spoiler, and if he does you can only imagine what his already legendary post-fight interview is going to sound like. There is almost a feeling in the air that DC may be overlooking Lewis a bit too. Lewis is not a guy you can overlook. This should be a fun fight that saved a card and may give us the biggest moment on Saturday. Prediction: Derrick Lewis via TKO.

The UFC may not have stacked this Madison Square Garden card like they had in the past, but injuries played a role in that. The cancelation of Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier (24-5 1NC #3 Ranked Lightweight) and Nate Diaz (20-11) due to a Poirier injury. However, the hype surrounding Derrick Lewis because of his performance at UFC 229 and the addition of Daniel Cormier certainly made this card better. Honestly, the Middleweight gauntlet on the main card is going to be a ton of fun. This is a can’t miss card and you know with New York and their commission there for sure will be something screwy that goes on Saturday Night.

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A longtime MMA fan who has followed the UFC for over a decade. Greg dove headfirst into the MMA world during the rise of Chuck Liddell and now spends most of his free time watching old events on UFC Fight Pass. Also, a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan who will hopefully one day see a Flyers Stanley Cup or an Eagles Superbowl victory, but he's not counting on it.

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