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Wednesday May 11th, 2016

Everything you need to know about this weekend’s UFC 198 fight between Fabricio Werdum and Stipe Miocic.

Overview

The heavyweight champion of the world, in boxing going back a century and in recent years in mixed martial arts, is traditionally viewed as The Baddest Man on the Planet. 

But these days the alpha male among the big boys is being overshadowed. Fabricio Werdum is the UFC heavyweight champ, but he’s not appearing in Hollywood action films or sipping Irish whiskey with the fight promotion’s billionaire owners. To his credit, the 38-year-old Brazilian isn’t making headlines with traffic incidents, either. 

Then again, it’s been nearly a year since Werdum took the belt from Cain Velasquez, and this Saturday will be our first peek at him since then. 

When Werdum (20-5-1) takes to the octagon to defend his newish belt against Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC 198 at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, he will be seeking his seventh straight victory in his second stint in the UFC. He may not sell pay-per-views like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, but the heavyweight champ sits above both in the pecking order of their sport. Werdum, a three-time world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, ranks third in the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings, right behind Jon Jones. 

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Miocic (14-2), who has won two in a row, is No. 3 in the SI.com heavyweight rankings (with only Velasquez separating him from top dog Werdum). The 33-year-old Ohioan has a well-rounded pedigree in combat sports, as a former Golden Gloves boxer and collegiate wrestler. He also was someone to be avoided in any bench-clearing brawls that might have popped up during his college baseball career. 

In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of Saturday night’s five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the event’s first four bouts will be available on the UFC Fight Pass streaming service at 6:15.

Background

“I want my shot! Give me the shot!” 

That was Miocic, standing in the octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, yelling through the fencing at a cageside observer. The observer was smiling. 

Dana White was smiling because he liked what he was hearing—the UFC president enjoys fighters letting the world know what they want—and loved what he had just seen. Miocic had just knocked out Andrei Arlovski in less than a minute. 

It was the kind of performance that earns a guy a title shot. 

Miocic originally was slated to get his shot in February, although it came via the back door. After Werdum’s scheduled rematch with Velasquez fell through because the former champ was injured in training, Miocic got the call. But one day after the late-replacement matchup was announced, Werdum was hurt in the gym, too. 

When the UFC rescheduled the title fight, the promotion stuck with Miocic as the challenger..

Last Five Fights

WERDUM (20-5-1) MIOCIC (14-2)

6/13/15 Cain Velasquez W Sub. 3

1/2/16 Andrei Arlovski W TKO 1

11/15/14 Mark Hunt W TKO 2

5/10/15 Mark Hunt W TKO 5

4/19/14 Travis Browne W UD 5

12/13/14 Junior dos Santos L UD 5

6/8/13 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira W Sub. 2

5/31/14 Fabio Maldonado W TKO 1

6/23/12 Mike Russow W TKO 1

1/25/14 Gabriel Gonzaga W UD 3

Tale of the Tape

WERDUM VS. MIOCIC
July 30, 1977  BIRTH DATE Aug. 19, 1982
Porto Alegre, Brazil  BIRTHPLACE Euclid, Ohio
Los Angeles  FIGHTING OUT OF Independence, Ohio.
20-5-1  RECORD 14-2
239* WEIGHT 240*
6’4” HEIGHT 6’4”
77” REACH 80”

* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)

Other Numbers to Count On

56.9: Percent of significant strikes landed by Fabricio Werdum, placing him ninth among all active UFC fighters, according to FightMetric statistics. 

62.6: Percent of opponents’ significant strikes avoided by Stipe Miocic, representing the third-best standup defense in UFC heavyweight history. 

38 years, 9 months: Age of Fabricio Werdum, making him the second-oldest champion in UFC history. (Randy Couture reigned in 2008 at age 45.)

Greatest Hits

Fabricio Werdum becomes UFC champion​:

Stipe Miocic scores one of his five UFC KO’s:

The Matchup

Werdum used to be a one-dimensional fighter—his ground game was (and still is) as sublime as they come, but he had no confidence in his standup. Over the last couple of years, though, he’s sharpened his striking skills and has come to trust them. On Saturday night, though, he would be wise to not trust them too much. 

Miocic is the better boxer, and while the margin of his supremacy might be relatively slim, the challenger would be smart to exploit that advantage rather than testing himself on the canvas against the champ. 

This is not to suggest that the fighters should turn this into a boxer-vs.-grappler match, strictly speaking, but rather that each guy would be playing a dangerous game by getting away from his strength and testing the other guy’s. 

Miocic needs to utilize his wrestling defensively, fending off takedown tries ito render Werdum’s virtuosic submission game irrelevant. And the champ needs to be sharp with his punches and kicks and especially his footwork, keeping his challenger from getting comfortably within striking range. Werdum can afford to mix things up a bit more than Miocic can, but his safest route to retaining his belt is via his world.

The Odds

Werdum is the favorite, with a money line ranging from -147 (bet $147 to win $100) to -175 (bet $175 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Miocic ranges from +125 (bet $100 to win $125) to +145 (bet $100 to win $145).

The Prediction

Werdum has lost only once since 2008, and he’s looked better than ever in recent outings. But he’s not set foot in the octagon in nearly a year, and in that time he’s turned 38. Fighters age suddenly and dramatically, and while we won’t know what Werdum has left until we see him on Saturday night, the hunch is that he’ll look like an older fighter because, well, he is an older fighter. If his reflexes are slowed even a little, that would be troublesome against a guy with fast, potent hands. An upset wouldn’t be a shocker. Miocic by KO.

Fighting Words

“Stipe Miocic, I think he’s nervous when we go to the ground. This is no good for him. When it goes on the ground, I finish him.” — Fabricio Werdum

“He’s got a black belt, and he uses it well. But it gets harder to do jiu-jitsu when you get punched in the face.” — Stipe Miocic

The Rest of the Card

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Vitor Belfort, middleweight; Anderson Silva vs. Uriah Hall, middleweight; Cris “Cyborg” Justino vs. Leslie Smith, 140-pound catchweight; Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Corey Anderson, light heavyweight. 

Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Demian Maia vs. Matt Brown, welterweight; Warlley Alves vs. Bryan Bsrberena, welterweight; ThiagoSantos vs. Nate Marqueardt, middleweight; John Lineker vs. Rob Font, bantamweight. 

Online prelims (6:15 p.m., UFC Fight Pass): Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Patrick Cummins, light heavyweight; Francisco Trinaldo vs. Yancy Medeiros, lightweight; Sergio Morales vs. Luan Chagas, welterweight; Renato Moicano vs. Zubaira Tukhugov, featherweight.

Programming Notes

Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. There will be an hour-long postfight show on Fox Sports 1, starting at 1 a.m. ET.

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