UFC 198: Werdum vs. Miocic Date: May 14th, 2016 Location: Curitiba, Parana, Brazil Venue: Arena da Baixada Broadcast: Pay-Per-View UFC Middleweight Contender ‘Jacare’ Souza (22-4, 1 NC) Former Mundials and ADCC champion ‘Jacare’ Souza transitioned from the Brazilian regional scene to Japan, where he became a finalist in the 2008 DREAM middleweight grand prix, losing to Gegard Mousasi. From there he moved to Strikeforce, where three fights into his tenure, he became the promotion’s middleweight champion with a decision victory over Tim Kennedy. The remarkable part about the win over Kennedy is that ‘Jacare’ won the bout primarily on the feet. He defended his title once against future UFC champion Robbie Lawler, but dropped the belt to another future UFC champion in Luke Rockhold in his next outing. Another three wins in Strikeforce followed the title defeat, and at that time the promotion was dissolved into the UFC. ‘Jacare’ has continued to show improvements in his striking since coming to the UFC, but has remained true to his roots scoring three submissions among his five UFC wins. He also avenged the earlier loss in his career by dominating Mousasi. With a shot at the middleweight title on the line, ‘Jacare’ dropped a razor close decision to Yoel Romero at UFC 194. The BJJ phenom still remains at the top of the division, and will look to begin a new winning streak against Vitor Belfort at UFC 198. UFC Middleweight Contender Vitor Belfort (25-11) After re-entering the UFC for a third time — this time as a middleweight — Belfort made an immediate impact, knocking out Rich Franklin at UFC 103 to earn a title shot against Anderson Silva. While it was delayed, he eventually got his crack at a UFC title again, but lost in highlight reel fashion to Silva’s now infamous front kick. Another two first round stoppages, a glut of injuries, and a cancelled UFC event later, Belfort found himself facing Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title at UFC 152. He was inches away from capturing the title with a first round armbar attempt, but Jones persevered and stopped Belfort in the 4th round. Belfort’s quick increase in size leading up to the Jones bout was eventually revealed to be due to synthetic testosterone, which he fought with throughout a phenomenal 2013 with a testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) exemption. Knockouts of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson had Belfort in the running for fighter of the year. The three wins earned Belfort another middleweight title shot, but it was delayed for a year and a half due to Chris Weidman injuries and Belfort no longer being allowed to use TRT. When the bout rolled around in 2015, Belfort was stopped in the first round. A rubber match with Dan Henderson ended almost the same as their 2013 bout to get Belfort back on track, and he’ll next face ‘Jacare’ Souza at UFC 198 in yet another bout with title implications. Opening Odds Breakdown: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened ‘Jacare’ a -350 favorite (bet $350 to win $100) and Belfort a +250 underdog (bet $100 to win $250) at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Since opening, the line has tightened a little bit, and Souza is now -320, with the comeback on Belfort at +260. While ‘Jacare’ has more tools, is closer to his physical prime, has better cardio, and wins over relevant opponents within the last five years without synthetic help, it’s hard to discount Belfort’s chances in the opening minutes of this bout. Vitor has the faster hands, more power, and is more than willing to blitz an opponent early. For someone like ‘Jacare’ who has been knocked out a couple of times (although not since 2008) and rocked on other occasions (including his last bout against Yoel Romero), the first half of the first round will be very dangerous. I think he’s smart enough to know this and will look to get Belfort to the ground early. Despite Belfort’s black belt he’s severely outmatched on the floor, and ‘Jacare’ may be able to find the same quit in him that Chris Weidman did. Betting this one is tricky, although I am fairly confident in Souza. With the moneyline just over 3-to-1, he could be a parlay leg, but the likelihood of him finishing this fight is extremely high so it may be worth it to look at the Inside the Distance prop instead. That currently sits at -178, which is pretty good for a guy who has 18 finishes in 22 career wins against a guy who has been finished in all of his losses over the past decade.