It may not be headlined by Jon Jones, and it may have lost Khabib Nurmagomedov, but UFC 187 is still, at least on paper, the most stacked card so far this year. When the former light heavyweight champ was removed from the card and stripped of his title, UFC officials quickly scrambled to put Johnson against Daniel Cormier, the number two contender. The bout lost the drama that comes every time a champ steps into the ring, especially one that has reigned at the top of his division for four years and counting. But unlike many events, UFC 187 is stacked top to bottom and the replacement fight seems just as intriguing given the dominant nature of each fighter involved in the main.
The co-main features another title fight between Chris Weidman, the man who dethroned Anderson Silva, and Vitor Belfort, the long running challenger to the belt. Belfort has been involved in numerous controversies in recent years regarding his past steroid use and the TRT treatments, and professional muscle gazers all over the internet are currently analyzing grainy photos of him at different angles under different lighting like they’re expecting Bigfoot to amble through one of his tattoos. Regardless, as of now, Belfort has passed all tests.
The card also features the return of heavyweight Travis Browne in a bout against a resurgent Andrei Arlovski. We also get four top ranked flyweights going to war, and it’s probably safe to assume that the outcome of one of these fights will determine the next challenger to Mighty Mouse’s title. Joseph Benavidez takes on John Moraga, and John Dodson faces off against Zach Makovsky. In womens action, TUF finalist Rose Namajunas battles Nina Ansaroff.
Weigh In Video and Results
- Main Card (PPV: 10pm EST)
- Daniel Cormier (205 lbs) vs. Anthony Johnson (204.5 lbs)
- Chris Weidman (185 lbs) vs. Vitor Belfort (184 lbs)
- Donald Cerrone (156 lbs) vs. John Makdessi (155.5 lbs)
- Travis Browne (236.5 lbs) vs. Andrei Arlovski (241 lbs)
- Joseph Benavidez (125.5 lbs) vs. John Moraga (126 lbs)
- Preliminary Card (FOX Sports 1: 8pm EST)
- John Dodson (125.5 lbs) vs. Zach Makovsky (126 lbs)
- Dong Hyun Kim (170.5 lbs) vs. Josh Burkman (170.5 lbs)
- Uriah Hall (186 lbs) vs. Rafael Natal (185.5 lbs)
- Rose Namajunas (116 lbs) vs. Nina Ansaroff (120 lbs)
- Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass: 6:30pm EST)
- Colby Covington (170.5 lbs) vs. Mike Pyle (171 lbs)
- Islam Makhachev (155.5 lbs) vs. Leo Kuntz (155.5 lbs)
- Justin Scoggins (126 lbs) vs. Josh Sampo (126 lbs)
Main Card Predictions
Joseph Benavidez vs. John Moraga
This flyweight scrap has fight of the night potential all over it. Benavidez is 21-4, and his four losses come from two opponents, one the current champion (Demetrious Johnson) and one a former champion (Dominick Cruz). Similarly, Moraga is 16-3 with three losses against two opponents, one being the current champion and the other another contender (John Dodson). The two have thirty-seven total wins and a combined seven losses against three other fighters across the flyweight and bantamweight divisions.
This is a tough fight to call. Benavidez has finished fifteen of his fights and Moraga ten of his. Benavidez, who has a good double leg takedown, is also probably the quicker and stronger man on the feet. Dodson has won four of his fights by guillotine including his last come from behind victory over Justin Scoggins, so Benavidez will have to watch for that. Otherwise, Benavidez should be able to scrap together yet another impressive victory.
Prediction: Joseph Benavidez wins via decision.
Travis Browne vs. Andrei Arlovski
Browne’s gruesome loss against interim champ Fabricio Werdum is almost as far removed from our memory as Vitor receiving the Silva front kick, but that’s just because I haven’t played UFC Undisputed 3 in a while. Aside from that fight, in which Browne broke both of his hands, he’s cleared out most of the best of the best in the UFC’s heavyweight division in convincing fashion. Arlovski has enjoyed success since returning to compete in the UFC. He eeked out a split decision over Brendan Schaub at UFC 174 and joined the list of heavyweights who made knocking out Bigfoot Silva look awesome. But all good things must come to an end. Browne is a better striker who has knocked out tough vets like Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem. Arlovski hasn’t been knocked out since 2011, but he hasn’t faced anyone of Browne’s level since well before that.
Prediction: Travis Browne wins via first round TKO.
Donald Cerrone vs. John Makdessi
Donald Cerrone is always willing to step in to fight. Tonight, Cerrone faces his Cerrone in John Makdessi, a 12-3 fighter stepping in on short notice to replace the oft-injured Khabib Nurmagomedov. On paper, this looks like an easy payday for Cerrone. Cerrone has beaten some of the best in the division while Makdessi has losses against Dennis Hallman, Anthony Njokuani, and Alan Patrick. Makdessi is getting the opportunity of a lifetime against Cerrone, the next likely contender for the lightweight belt. A win won’t vault him into the title picture, but a huge win on a stage like this is how names are made in this sport. However, it feels like it’s Cowboy’s time to shine. Cerrone is a slow starter, but his muay thai game is solid enough to win this one. I expect Makdessi to put on a good showing, but Cowboy will have his hand raised at the end.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone wins via decision.
Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort
Aside from the drama surrounding Belfort’s dabbling in Goblin Formula, he’s always been a fairly one-dimensional fighter. Belfort will wait for his opponent to make a mistake before unleashing a 1000 hit counterpunch combo. If that doesn’t work, there is no plan B. Belfort is one of last few remaining soldiers from the UFC’s early days. At 39, the only thing left for him to accomplish is holding a title across multiple divisions. This may be his last shot at that.
While Belfort is trying to put a stamp on his legacy, Weidman is attempting to secure his by defeating yet another member of the old guard. Weidman is quick, accurate, and he may do the best job of mixing up his wrestling and his striking since Dominick Cruz. All of these elements will come into play against Belfort, a contender who is always just a fraction of a second away from knocking someone out. This will be a battle of angles and cage control, both of which seem to go in Weidman’s favor if he applies the same levels of pressure that he used in the Machida fight. If the battle goes to the ground, which it likely will at some point, Weidman’s wrestling will likely top Belfort’s BJJ. Look for Weidman to take this one, but look for it to be a points battle.
Prediction: Chris Weidman wins via first round TKO.
Anthony Johnson vs. Daniel Cormier
Cormier was handed the first loss of his professional career in January. At 15-1, he’s walked through some of the best of the heavyweight division. He tossed around big guys like Josh Barnett and Antonio Silva en route to winning the final Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. In the other corner is Anthony Johnson, a heavyweight that somehow used to cram himself into a welterweight’s body. Since hitting his stride at light heavyweight, he’s beaten some of the best of the otherwise sparse division in spectacular fashion. The big question going into this fight is whether or not Johnson has the gas tank to make it five rounds if it becomes a war of attrition.
Having lost three fights to it, Johnson is no stranger to the rear naked choke, and an accomplished wrestler like DC know this. While promoting the fight, Cormier made the claim that deep down inside Rumble is the same guy who lost to Josh Koscheck. Rumble is out to prove otherwise.
Johnson wins this battle in the power department, and his striking may be better put together than Cormier’s. Johnson, for a huge guy, throws a fairly quick head kick that has dropped numerous foes. He also wins in the reach department which will force Cormier to work to get inside. This wasn’t a problem for Cormier when he faced Jones, but inside might not be the safest place against someone with the strength of Johnson either. Johnson’s best shot is probably to win this quickly, and it’s only going to take one or two shots to do it.
Prediction: Anthony Johnson wins via first round TKO.