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Handicapping

UFC 226 Picks

UFC 226: Miocic vs. Cormier and Holloway vs. Ortega Picks to Win
When: Saturday, July 7, 2018
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: PPV
by Scott of Predictem.com

Fight Analysis:

UFC 226 is a card packed with important fights. At the top of the bill is a pair of big title fights. In the main event, current UFC Heavyweight Champ Stipe Miocic defends his belt against UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Daniel Cormier, who looks to add his second championship to his resume. In the co-main event, UFC Featherweight Champ Max Holloway defends against a man some consider to be the heir-apparent in unbeaten challenger Brian Ortega. Let's break down the betting action in UFC 226!

Stipe Miocic, 18-3 (13 KOs, 1 Submission), (-260) vs. Daniel Cormier, 20-1 (9 KOs, 4 Submissions), (+220)
Stipe Miocic defends his UFC Heavyweight Title against Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 226 on July 7 in Las Vegas. This is a momentous bout between two reigning champions, two of the best champions in their respective divisions. Miocic is coming off a record-setting third defense of his heavyweight belt with a huge win over Francis Ngannou in January. His rise to the top of the division has been devastating. At 35, he looks to further-galvanize his greatness, but faces a stiff challenge in Cormier, a champion in his own right and one who presents some matchup difficulties for Miocic.

Miocic was actually the underdog in his last fight against Ngannou, again proving people wrong. It was understandable why people fancied the fierce-striking Ngannou, but the irrepressible Miocic was able to brave through the stormy passages and see his way to another big championship win. Cormier, meanwhile, also looked tremendous in his last outing-a second-round TKO over Volkan Oezdemir. He is 39, four years older than Miocic.

Cormier has only lost to Jon Jones, the second loss overturned by a dirty drug test, drawing some questions over his first win, as well. He has clarified his greatness otherwise and wins over guys like Anthony Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, and others have shown he is a worthy champion. Only a guy in Jones who might be the best MMA fighter of all-time has been able to slow Cormier. He certainly looked good in his last fight. This challenge also seems well-timed. Older and not able to easily make 205 pounds, the weight might suit him. He looked crisp in his last fight, a light heavyweight title defense, but the reigning 205-pound champion has a proven track-record at heavyweight, where he was a contender before dropping down a weight division. Cormier has wins over good heavyweights like Frank Mir, Bigfoot Silva, Josh Barnett, and Roy Nelson.

One cannot, however, rule out the element of size. He's a half foot-shorter than Miocic at 5'10" and will be facing a champion who has been making easy work of massive heavyweights and highly-feared fighters. But coming in at the 225-pound range would mean he's not going to be thrown around. Not to dismiss the wrestling ability of Miocic that of his opponents, but Cormier represents a level of wrestling prowess that Miocic cannot match and has not seen. Cormier is not the striker Miocic is. He can't match the level of menace on his feet that Miocic has seen from recent opponents. But maybe noted striking is not what's needed for a challenge of Miocic and Cormier hopes to use his wrestling to good affect.

Making his wrestling stick is the fact that Cormier is no easy pickings on his feet. Not a natural and gifted striker perhaps, he is respectable enough to be a threat even to Miocic. What really gives his wrestling teeth is his different-level stamina. In a fight that could go some rounds, he looks to put that asset to work. His wrestling isn't simply good, it's Olympic level good. And he's seen it work in the past against even bigger heavyweights than Miocic. Let's also point out that Cormier is a champion in every facet of the term-a winner through and through.

Both fighters have gotten a bad rap for some reason along the way. Miocic might be the most-accomplished heavyweight of all-time and Cormier has been nearly-perfect, with dubious losses to Jones his only setbacks. There is something so low-profile about both men, even though they are both well-known champions. It's something about their vibe that just gives some people license to overlook them. They have people picking against them a lot and losing a lot of money in the process.

It's just so hard to overlook Miocic. Following a '14 loss to Junior dos Santos, he has been on quite the roll. KO wins over toughies like Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski led to a first-round KO win over defending champ Fabricio Werdum in an upset. Alistair Overeem fell in one in a title defense, before Miocic evened the score with dos Santos, also in the first round. The win over Ngannou was surprising to many. He has faced some super-tough guys and for the most part, has run over them.

Miocic, like Cormier, is a born winner. His skill-set might not light the world on fire, but the man knows how to cultivate wins in what seem like near-impossible conditions. He is truly as tough as they come. You really have to beat him, as he will not undermine himself. He has a great temperament for a fighter and his mental-game is a big part of how he was able to break free from the pack to become perhaps the most-accomplished heavyweight in UFC history. Miocic is a well-rounded fighter. He lands smartly-delivered strikes. Miocic can dominate in a short fight or prevail over the distance. He doesn't have the stamina or wrestling that Cormier has perhaps, but he is still solid in those areas.

Neither man is easy to bet against, making this a really tough pick. A solid case can be made on behalf of both fighters. Miocic is on one heck of a roll over his last handful of fights, against guys who on the surface appear more-fearsome than whom he is facing in this fight. I just think at this price, Cormier offers some righteous upside. He is a fantastic fighter whose skills would seem to translate well in this matchup. I'm taking Cormier.

My Pick to Win: I'm betting on Daniel Cormier at +220. Betting value plays into it, as does his wrestling ability, which is beyond anything Miocic has been able to withstand in his career. Find the lowest favorite odds and highest paying underdog odds for this fight at 5Dimes!

Max Holloway, 19-3 (9 KOs, 2 Submissions), (-210) vs. Brian Ortega, 14-0 (3 KOs, 7 Submissions), (+175)
In a terrific fight for the UFC Featherweight Championship, reigning Max Holloway takes on unbeaten top challenger Brian Ortega in the co-main event of UFC 226. Holloway has cemented his championship status, coming off 12 straight wins and two championship truimphs over Jose Aldo. He looks to take another step in his title journey against a dangerous and undefeated contender in the 27-year old Ortega. Fresh off a KO win over Frankie Edgar and having stopped several other notables, he looms as a threatening proposition for the defending champion.

Beyond Ortega being a handful, some might not like the way Holloway is entering this fight after the fallout from UFC 223. Holloway, still only 26, was penciled in to face Khabib Nurmagomedov on short notice for the lightweight title, a bout that was ditched after a rough weight-cut by Holloway. So now a few months later, he's coming in ten pounds lighter than that and it's a little troubling. Holloway, however, didn't get to this point by succumbing to what might bother other fighters. Steadfastly, he climbed to the top after first appearing in the UFC shortly after turning 20. His list of victims reads like a who's-who in recent relevant 145-pound history.

Holloway is an animal in the ring. At first glance, it might not appear flashy. He isn't a highlight-reel guy perhaps, but he is a ferocious fighter and has the innate ability to simply hurt and outfight people. He has stamina for days and has shown that he can go to war and come out ahead. Underneath all the bravado and fearlessness is a solid handle on all the fundamentals.

With his best wins having come against some of the old-guard in the featherweight division, Holloway will now be facing the new wave in this fight against Ortega. He brings a lot to the table and we'll see how he applies it against the number-one featherweight in the world. Ortega's striking power has been on display in his UFC run, as he has gotten rid of guys with punches and knees. He has been able to get on his opponents' necks and apply finishers with three choke-wins in his last five fights. And in terms of sheer dimensions, he matches up well with the champion with respectable length at 5'8." His jiu-jitsu is incomparable in the 145-pound weight class. He has a unique way of setting it up, with an aerial aspect to his BJJ. If he starts to get a hold of someone, it usually leads to doom. He's a finisher-both on his feet and especially on the ground, with all his UFC fights having ended inside the distance.

Holloway has a giant challenge in front of him. On the ground, Ortega's game is far more-lethal. Holloway relishes a brawl, but even that doesn't seem like an easy route against Ortega, especially after he crushed Edgar in his last fight. At the same time, recent issues aside, Holloway can't be looked at like the old wave. He's actually the younger man and has continued to improve in all his fights. If one is going to be wrong in a pick like this, at least it should be in the spirit of trying to be ahead of the curve. This could be the last time you can bet on Ortega at a good price in quite some time. I'm taking the underdog challenger.

My Pick to Win: I'm betting on Brian Ortega at +175 betting odds. The champion is indeed a handful, perhaps the best 145-pounder ever. Ortega, however, represents the kind of modern fighter who excels at a lot of different things. Lately, if he gets a hold of you, it's curtains. I think he is a good betting value at +175. Bet your UFC 226 picks for FREE by taking advantage of a giant 50% bonus at Bovada Sportsbook.

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