Why UFC 198 will be even better than UFC 200
When Brazilian MMA fans enter the sold-out Estadio Atletico Paranaense for UFC 198 this weekend, they'll likely be in store for what on paper appears to be the biggest and best card of 2016. Yes, even bigger than UFC 200.
UFC 200, headlined by the light heavyweight title grudge match between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, is no doubt incredible in its own right, with three title fights (one interim) and a bunch of other incredible matchups. But when placed side-by-side with UFC 198, the competition is close.
First of all, every main card bout features a legend. Not just stars. Not just good fighters. But legends.
One of the greatest heavyweights of all time, Fabricio Werdum, defends his heavyweight title in the main event against heavy-handed Cleveland native Stipe Miocic. Werdum has only lost twice since 2008, posting career-defining wins over Cain Velasquez and Fedor Emelianenko along the way, and could be the best Brazilian fighter on the roster.
In the co-main event, second-ranked middleweight "Jacare" Souza and third-ranked Vitor Belfort will engage in what is safe to assume will be an absolute brawl between two former champions. Belfort is looking for one more run at the title while Souza would love to earn another crack at the man who took his Strikeforce belt, Luke Rockhold.
Even former light heavyweight champion and all-time great Mauricio "Shogun" Rua makes an appearance on the main card against Ultimate Fighter season 18 winner Corey Anderson as Rua looks for his 24th career win.
Most importantly, however, the main card features the long-awaited debut of Cris Cyborg. The Brazilian superstar touts a 15-1 professional record, with 13 of those wins coming by KO. A former Strikeforce and Invicta FC champion, Cyborg is a pioneer of women's MMA and fans have been clamoring for her arrival for years. Her appearance alone is worth the price of admission.
And that's just the main card.
In the featured bout of the FS1 prelims, one of the best grapplers to ever grace the Octagon, Demian Maia, faces off against ever-entertaining welterweight Matt Brown. Maia began his illustrious UFC career with five straight submission, four of which won Submission of the Night, and he has beaten some of the promotion's best during his near 30-fight career.
UFC 198 isn't just offering legends, either. The rest of the prelims is stacked with some of Brazil's best rising talent, like Ultimate Fighter winner Warlley Alves, Thiago Santos and John "Hands of Stone" Lineker, who combine for 31 career finishes.
Even UFC Fight Pass is getting in on the fun as Antonio Rogerio Nogueira takes on Patrick Cummins. Nogueira has beaten the likes of Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, Vladimir Matyushenko, Alistair Overeem (x2) and Dan Henderson and would probably love nothing more than to get another win on Brazilian soil.
From top to bottom, UFC 198 is stacked. The promotion has built a card that not only appeals to their significant Brazilian market, but to the hordes of fans that watched MMA evolve during a time when the country dominated the sport.
And while it lacks the casual-fan appeal that UFC 200 is likely to draw, and there's always the potential all the fights could be duds, I'm more than willing to shell out 60 bucks for what, on paper, appears to be the best card of 2016.