The UFC heads to Mexico City Arena for UFC Fight Night 98. We’ve had a few weeks off from mixed martial arts, and the last card was a bit underwhelming. But UFC Fight Night 98 picks off a four-week stretch of five UFC events, and this card has plenty of matches with a lot of potential.
The main event features lightweights Rafael dos Anjos and Tony Ferguson squaring off in a match which should be close. At least that’s what Vegas is expecting. Dos Anjos (-140) is a slight favorite in this battle, and he’ll try to use his devastating kicks to weaken the high-energy El Cucuy. Ferguson enters this bout on a eight-fight win streak, and his signature move is the D’Arce Choke, which he used to submit Lando Vannata and Edson Barboza in each of his past two outings. Dos Anjos is a much more experienced grappler, however, and will not be sucked in easily.
The card is littered with lightweight intrigue, and Poland’s Marcin Held comes over from the Bellator ranks to make his UFC debut against Diego Sanchez. Held enters as a considerable favorite (-260) thanks to his strong ground game and the fact Sanchez has been struggling of late. He lost last time out by first-round KO/TKO to Joe Lauzon at UFC 200, and he has two wins in his past six bouts, and five wins over the past 12. Sanchez is a grinder, and will make Held work. Whether picking for or against Sanchez, know his bouts will usually go to the card and that’s not good for big points in DFS.
Also in lightweight action, the Rashid Magomedov-Beneil Dariush battle should be memorable, and Vegas has Magomedov (-155) installed only as a slight favorite. Dariush has a strong ground game, while Magomedov is an outstanding striker with plenty of power. Both are very good fighters, although Magomedov tends to have brief lapses in intensity. If he gets caught napping and taken down to the ground, watch out.
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Sam Alvey ($9,100 vs. Alex Nicholson): Alvey is a powerful fighter who can sometimes lull the opponent into a false sense of security. He doesn’t come out like a ball of energy, but rather bides his time and picks the right spot to strike like a cobra. Nicholson’s footwork isn’t great, and Alvey when catches him with one of those devastating punches it’s over. It’s actually not a matter of if, but when. Count on a win by KO/TKO before the end of Round 2 in this one.
Marcin Held ($9,000 vs. Diego Sanchez): As mentioned, Held makes his UFC debut against the grinder Sanchez. Held is known for his strong ground and pound game, and Sanchez has never been submitted in his career. That’s one of the most intriguing things about this fight, as the Pole looks to go where no one has gone before. Sanchez is just looking to hold on at this point of his career, while Held is an up-and-comer on the rise. Look for Held to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the fading star and get this done early.
Marco Polo Reyes ($8,900 vs. Jason Novelli): Reyes does not just have the name of a famous explorer or fun game to play in the pool in summer with the kids. He is a ferocious fighter, too. Novelli is a well-rounded fighter, not lacking in any particular area, but also not doing one thing very well, either. Reyes is, by far, the more powerful fighter in this one and it is going to show from the outset. Look for Reyes to take the fight to Novelli early, and for the underdog to be overwhelmed from the get-go. If this one doesn’t end by KO/TKO before the end of Round 2 that will be the upset of the night.
Marco Beltran ($7,700 vs. Joe Soto): Beltran will face Soto, who steps in on short notice to replace Guido Cannetti, who was pulled from the card due to a potential anti-doping issue. Soto was once a bantamweight title contender, now he is just hanging around. Soto still has an outstanding ground game, and that will never go away, but he lacks the overall strength to force Beltran down to make that work for him. If Beltran can keep him upright and work him over with punches, this one could get ugly really quickly.
Beneil Dariush ($7,800 vs. Rashid Magomedov): This will be a hotly contested battle featuring two very good strikers, and it could end up going the entire 15 minutes. However, you can expect Magomedov to want to try and keep this fight upright, going toe-to-toe with Dariush for an exchange of heavy strikes, while Dariush will want to get Magomedov to the mat early and often. The southpaw Dariush has been improving with his striking, although he was outworked by Michael Chiesa at UFC Fight Night April 16. He bounced back with a KO/TKO against James Vick at UFC 199. That’s not normally his M.O., but shows how far he has come as a striker. He is starting to become a very well-rounded fighter, and he should inch by Magomedov. As your No. 5 or 6 option he is a solid upset option.
Erick Montano ($7,400 vs. Max Griffin): The one knock against Griffin is that his takedown defense is lacking, and that’s what cost him against Colby Covington at UFC 202 in mid-August in his debut in UFC. Montano will have anything but a cake walk, as Griffin has proven to pack a ton of punch if he can keep the fight upright. However, Montano is a No. 6 fighter with a bit of upside if he can get this fight on the ground and get his hooks into Griffin, holding on for dear life.