A.J. HOFFMAN

UFC 230 preview: Lewis vs. Cormier headlines piecemeal card

Derrick Lewis highlights the UFC 230 card. Harry How/Getty Images

This isn’t the UFC 230 we had all hoped for, but it will have to do. After several potential headliners fell apart, the UFC was able to convince Derrick Lewis to take on Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title, just a few weeks after Lewis came back from the brink of defeat to beat Alexander Volkov in one of the wildest fights of 2018. Dustin Poirier was supposed to take on Nate Diaz, but Poirier was injured. The rematch between Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman was booked for this card, but Rockhold was injured. So we are left with a thrown together card that should make for a good night of fights, if not many that are particularly consequential. 

The main event is for the heavyweight title that Lewis himself said less than a month ago “he didn’t have the cardio” to fight for. Money talks, though, and here we are with a tired Lewis (21-5) fighting the two-division champion, Daniel Cormier (21-1). Cormier isn’t totally fresh himself, as he is still recovering from an injured hand from his starching of Stipe Miocic. Let’s be serious here. Daniel Cormier is a -700 favorite in this fight for a reason. He is one of the greatest fighters of all time, coming off a massive win. Lewis, though, is not a walk-through fight. You can never let your guard down against him, because he can end the fight with one shot. Cormier will also have a hard time holding down Lewis, who has made “get up” one of the most effective moves in his arsenal. Cormier will need to employ a game plan similar to Mark Hunt’s against Lewis, which involved lots of angles and footwork to exhaust the “Black Beast” before he really turned it on. Cormier is clearly the more skilled fighter, but avoiding the fight-ending power of Lewis is not an easy thing to do for 25 minutes.

The co-main event features two middleweights who are trying to make one last run at the 185 lb. title. Chris Weidman (14-3) became an overnight superstar with his knockout of Anderson Silva. He won the rematch, but his career has been a roller coaster ride ever since. He went on a 3-fight skid, getting finished violently in all three fights. He has dealt with multiple injuries and fight cancellations, but broke through for a big victory over Kelvin Gastelum last summer. His opponent, Jacare Souza (25-6) is 39 years old, and if he is going to get a UFC title shot, he has to start that path with this fight. He has lost three fights since coming to the UFC in 2013. Razor thin, split-decision losses to Gastelum and Yoel Romero, sandwiching a head kick knockout at the hands of Robert Whittaker. Jacare is a master on the ground, but his skills have declined in recent years, along with his ability to take big shots. Stylistically, this matchup is very intriguing and should make for one of the best of the night. 

David Branch (22-4) was supposed to be fighting Souza on this card, but the Rockhold injury forced Souza up, and left Branch with a much less exciting opponent. He gets Jared Cannonier (10-4) who has competed at both heavyweight and light heavyweight previously and will make his middleweight debut here. Branch has shaken the reputation of being a one-dimensional fighter, and his striking has markedly improved. Cannonier is a dynamic (albeit not incredibly skilled) striker, but has proven to struggle mightily with takedown defense. That could be a real issue for him in this one. 

The difference in styles between Derek Brunson (18-6) and Israel Adesanya (14-0) make this another intriguing bout. Adesanya is a world-class kickboxer, who has worked hard at improving his defensive wrestling. Brunson was once a lay and pray wrestler, but has evolved (that word used loosely here) into a pressure fighter who hunts for knockouts. It would be wise of Brunson to keep Adesanya on his back, because if he finds himself charging wildly at or counterstriking with Adesanya, it will likely be a quick night for him. 

The prelims feature Ben Saunders, Sheymon Maraes, Sijara Eubanks and a fun matchup of Jason Knight and Jordan Rinaldi.

Enjoy the fights! 

PREDICTIONS:

Cormier by TKO

Souza by submission

Branch by decision

Marshman by decision

Adesanya by KO

Rinaldi by decision

Eubanks by decision 

Moraes by decision

Good by KO

Vannata by TKO

Burgos by TKO

Jackson by decision

De Lima by KO

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