UFC 226 is the kind of card that can lose one of its biggest fights a few days out from the event and still look good on paper.
Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will put his belt on the line against light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in a superfight that is almost guaranteed to be entertaining. However, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway was forced to withdraw from the bout due to concussion-like symptoms, per Ariel Helwani of ESPN.
The news has left Brian Ortega—who was supposed to challenge Holloway for his title—without an opponent and unlikely to take a replacement fight, according to Helwani:
The rest of the card has intriguing bouts sprinkled throughout. Francis Ngannou makes his first appearance in the Octagon since losing to Miocic in a title fight. Michael Chiesa and Anthony Pettis get to meet in the cage after their original bout was canceled thanks to Conor McGregor, and world-class kickboxer Gokhan Saki will make his second appearance in the cage.
Here's a look at the complete card along with the latest odds and the latest hype for the biggest fights on the card.
Ticket Info: StubHub
Odds via OddsShark in moneyline form (+110 wins $110 on a $100 bet)
Main Card (10 p.m. ET, PPV)
- Stipe Miocic (-265) vs. Daniel Cormier (+205) - heavyweight championship fight
- Derrick Lewis (+290) vs. Francis Ngannou (-380) - heavyweight
- Michael Chiesa (-160) vs. Anthony Pettis (+130) - lightweight
- Gokhan Saki (-145) vs. Khalil Rountree (+115) - light heavyweight
Preliminary Card (8 p.m. ET, FS1)
- Uriah Hall (+325) vs. Paulo Henrique Costa (-450) - middleweight
- Paul Felder (-150) vs. Mike Perry (+120) - welterweight
- Raphael Assuncao (-175) vs. Rob Font (+145) - bantamweight
- Max Griffin (+140) vs. Curtis Millender (-170) - welterweight
Preliminary Card (6:30 p.m. ET, Fight Pass)
- Daniel Hooker (-130) vs. Gilbert Burns (+100) - lightweight
- Drakkar Klose (+145) vs. Lando Vannata (-175) - lightweight
- Jamie Moyle (-230) vs. Emily Whitmire (+180) - women's strawweight
Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier
For a legitimate superfight between two current champions, it doesn't feel like the main event between Cormier and Miocic has received the buildup one might expect.
Then again, that's been the case for Miocic throughout his reign as a champion. He's may be the most unassuming heavyweight champion despite being the most successful one.
Miocic has successfully defended the belt three times, with the last time coming as an underdog against up-and-comer Ngannou. Cormier wasn't impressed by the fact the champion couldn't finish him on the ground, though.
"This dude's a good champion. He is, and I love Francis Ngannou, I think he's a great guy, but if I spent 22 minutes on top of him, I would have gotten four or five submissions and found a way to get some TKO stoppages," Cormier said, per Damon Martin of MMA News.
The obvious concern for Cormier is going to be making the move up to heavyweight. Miocic will tower over DC at 6'4" and 245 pounds.
But as Cormier pointed out in a pre-fight workout captured by MMA Fighting, he hasn't lost a fight as a heavyweight:
That could have been a function of the heavyweights he fought, though. When Cormier was in the heavyweight division, the only fighter with the kind of athleticism and speed he brought to the table was teammate Cain Velasquez.
Miocic is cut from that cloth, but he has found a way to stay healthy and fend off all the challengers for the belt he's seen thus far.
That should once again be the case as Miocic gives Cormier a violent welcome back to his former division.
Prediction: Miocic via third-round TKO
Derrick Lewis vs. Francis Ngannou
While Miocic looks to improve upon his record for consecutive title defense in the heavyweight division, Ngannou will look to reclaim the momentum lost from his fight against the reigning champion.
Ngannou's wrestling was exposed by Miocic for five rounds as the Cameroonian never got a chance to showcase his impressive knockout power.
That shouldn't be a problem against Derrick Lewis. The 33-year-old is all about the art of the knockout as well, with 17 of his 19 career wins coming that way, and he's not particularly impressed with Ngannou's otherworldly power.
"It's just his punches. I don't have to worry about nothing else. None of his kicks or anything, not his grappling. Just his punches. That's about it," Lewis said, per Martin. "I'm not impressed with nothing. Of course he hits hard. We all hit hard in the heavyweight division. It just takes one punch from either one of us. I think it's more than that. You've got to be really well rounded in this sport. It's mixed martial arts. It's not just boxing."
Of course, saying all you have to worry about with Ngannou is his punches is akin to saying all you have to worry about with a lion is its bite. It's still a pretty worrisome thing to have to deal with.
For his part, Ngannou hasn't brought a lot of trash talk to the table, but he has vowed to fight smarter than he did against Miocic.
"OK, I'm another big guy," Ngannou said, per Simon Samano and Ken Hathaway of MMAjunkie. "Instead of going forward, we will be smarter and go back to the Francis before the last fight. Watch my opponent, leave it, come to me, and as soon as he gives me the opportunity, I take it."
Before the championship fight, Ngannou was revered for his ability to show rapid growth between every fight. Running into the buzzsaw that is the champion doesn't change Ngannou's ability to develop and evolve as a fighter every time out.
Expect to see an even more refined Ngannou as he finds a way to counter Lewis and end this fight early.
Prediction: Ngannou by first-round TKO