UFC 187 is finally here!!!! This is the fight card of the year at least as of now. We might have lost Jon Jones in the headliner and Khabib facing Cerrone in a great match. Dana White made a good replacement for Jon Jones though by giving Anthony Johnson a match for the light heavyweight title against Daniel Cormier. As far as replacing Khabib they went a little lack luster with John Makdessi over Michael Johnson but John is rising through the ranks lately so it might be better than we believe. Anyway let’s get to the fights of the year and call all 12 of these fights.
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
Justin Scoggins vs Josh Sampo: The first fight of this amazing fight card will be a flyweight matchup. On one side of the octagon is the UFC’s sixth youngest fighter, Justin Scoggins. Scoggins has a 9-2 record with six wins by knockout and one by submission. Scoggins also has five first round finishes. Scoggins has a black belt in kenpo and trains every aspect of MMA in the gym. In fact he has a success rate of 67% for his takedowns and a success rate of 71% for takedowns defended. On the other side of the octagon is Josh Sampo. Sampo has a record of 11-4 with six wins by submission and five by submission. That means no wins by knockout or TKO. Sampo has a 100% success rate for takedowns, but he only has performed two takedowns. Sampo has successfully defended 38% of takedowns. I am predicting that Justin Scoggins will know to keep this fight standing to avoid Sampo’s submissions and will be able to secure a first round knockout.
Islam Makhachev vs. Leo Kuntz: The next fight will be the first time in the UFC octagon for both competitors. This fight is in the lightweight division. Makhachev is coming into this fight at 11-0 with two wins by knockout and five by submission. Makhachev also attained five of those finishes in the first round. Makhachev is also a four-time Russian Sambo Champion so he will be just as deadly standing regardless of only two wins by knockout. His opponent is the 17-1-1 Leo Kuntz. Kuntz has nine wins by knockout and three by submission with three first round finishes. Kuntz has no formal training in any specific form of martial arts, just the training he has received from MMA gyms. I think this will be a three round fight with transitions from standing to ground and vice-versa. I think Leo Kuntz will be the victor of this fight by decision due to him having more experience.
Mike Pyle vs. Colby Covington: The main event of the online prelims will be a welterweight matchup. The veteran Mike Pyle will take on a much newer Colby Covington. Pyle is 26-10-1 with 16 wins by submission and six by knockout. Pyle has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Pyle is a dynamic grappler with slick transitions and brutal submissions. Pyle is also able to land vicious strikes. Before the UFC, Pyle once held the WEC title at welterweight. His opponent in this fight, Covington will be fighting his third UFC fight. Covington won his last two UFC fights and has a record 7-0. Covington is a two-time NCAA All-American and a Pac 10 wrestling champion with no surprise considering he wrestled for Iowa. Covington could provide a decent match against Pyle’s ground game. As distinguished as Pyle is in both BJJ and MMA, Covington could seriously cause trouble if he can work his folk style wrestling successfully. I think this fight will go two rounds with Covington causing Pyle trouble on the mat, but Pyle will lock in a submission and take the win.
Fox Sports Prelims
(#4)Rose Namajunas vs. Nina Ansaroff: The first fight in the televised prelims is a women’s strawweight matchup. The ranked Rose Namajunas is coming off a loss to the former Strawweight Champion, Carla Esparza. Namajunas is entering this fight with a 3-2 professional record, all of them being by submission. One of her submissions was a flying armbar in just 12 seconds. Namajunas has a black belt in both karate and taekwondo and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Her opponent in this fight is Nina Ansaroff. Nina Ansaroff is 6-4 with four wins by submission, one win by knockout and two of them were first round finishes. Ansaroff is a black belt in taekwondo and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I think this fight will spend short time standing with Namajunas landing most of the strikes then it will be mostly a ground fight after. While it will become a much more even fight on the ground I think Namajunas will walk away with a win by second round submission.
Uriah Hall vs. Rafael Natal: The next fight on the card will be between two seasoned middleweights. First up Uriah Hall has a professional record of 11-4. Hall has eight wins by knockout and one by submission. He is currently on a three fight win streak with the first win being over Chris Leben. Hall is known for his brutal strikes and his ability to strike without showing what he is going to use to hit you. Also, Dana White calls his knockout win over Adam Cella one of the nastiest knockouts Dana has ever seen. The other fighter is Rafael Natal who has a professional record of 19-6-1. Known for his ground game, Rafael Natal has a takedown defense of almost 80%. Natal has eight wins by submission and five different variations of holds. Now that’s not surprising considering he has been practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for twelve years. Even though Natal has a strong ground game, do not overlook his standing skills. Natal has been practicing Capoeira since he was 14. There is no doubt Natal will feel much more in control if he gets ground position, but I believe he will be ready to trade when he finds himself in that position. If Rafael Natal gets ground position quickly I think he could secure the victory. Unfortunately for him, what think will actually happen is that they will stand and bang until Uriah Hall gets another stunning knockout which I predict will be late in the first round.
(#8)Dong Hyun Kim vs. Josh Burkman: The co-main event of the prelims will be a welterweight matchup between two more veterans. The ranked Dong Hyun Kim has a professional record of 19-3-1. Kim is currently on a one fight losing streak to Tyron Woodley, but has won four fights in a row before that. Eight of his last fifteen wins have been by knockout so it is no surprise he is known for his power. Kim is also a fourth degree black belt in Judo which he says helps him a lot in MMA. His opponent for this fight is Josh Burkman who has a professional record of 28-11. Burkman is a well-rounded fighter with nine wins by knockout and eight wins by submission. Burkman also has fifteen first round finishes. Burkman was a college running back and was All-American. He left college to pursue a career in MMA and developed his own system of martial arts. Burkman is known for his powerful slams which will make for an interesting matchup considering his opponent’s expertise in Judo involves many slams. This match should prove to be exciting for all kinds of fans with good action in all aspects and hopefully a few throws. I believe that this fight will prove to be a fairly even matchup and will go all three rounds and Dong Hyun Kim will be the winner by decision.
(#1)John Dodson vs. (#9)Zach Makovsky: The main event for the prelims will be the second flyweight matchup of the night. This is also the first fight of the night where both fighters are ranked. The #1 ranked John Dodson is entering this fight with a record of 17-6. In a division where everyone is fast, Dodson is especially known for his speed. Dodson has nine wins by knockout with one of them being over the current Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw on The Ultimate Fighter Finale. Dodson has won eight of his last nine fights with his only loss being to the Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson. His opponent is the #9 ranked Zach Makovsky. Makovsky has a professional record of 19-5 with six wins by submission and one by knockout. Makovsky has won five of his last six fights and has two first round finishes. I think this fight will be a mostly standing match and John Dodson will use his speed and power to take home a second round knockout.
UFC 187 Main Card
(#2)Joseph Benavidez vs. (#5)John Moraga: The first fight on the main card is the third flyweight matchup of the night between two of the top five ranked fighters. The #2 ranked Benavidez has a professional record of 21-4. Benavidez is a well-rounded fighter with nine wins by submission and six by knockout. Benavidez has won nine of his last eleven fights and has only ever lost to Demetrious Johnson and Dominick Cruz. His opponent John Moraga is #5 in the flyweight division. Moraga has a professional record of 16-3 with five first round finishes. Moraga has eight wins by submission and two wins by knockout. His only losses were to Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson. These two fighters, like almost all flyweights, will start off with a fast-paced standing fight. Then they will most likely shift to the ground and depending on Benavidez’s game plan may stay there. If Benavidez chooses to stay standing then I believe he will win this fight. If the fight stays on the ground then it will be a close battle. I predict that Joseph Benavidez will be able to keep the fight standing and gain a third round knockout or TKO.
(#3)Travis Browne vs. (#8)Andrei Arvloski: This next fight is a heavyweight matchup between two massive names in the division. First up is the #3 ranked Travis Browne. Browne has a professional record of 17-2-1 with thirteen of those wins by knockout. Browne has a 73% success rate for takedowns and an 82% success rate for takedowns defended. Browne makes quick work of his opponents with seven wins in a minute or less and his last three pre-UFC fights lasted a total of 52 seconds. That’s three different people he finished, on average, in about 17 seconds a piece. If you are a newcomer to the world of the UFC you may not know Browne’s opponent for this fight. That is because other than two fights last year he has not fought since 2011. Andrei Arvloski has a professional record of 23-10, but his UFC record is 11-4. He has sixteen wins knockout and three by submission. Arvloski has 12 first round finishes and is the only man to ever finish Roy Nelson. Arvloski even once held the UFC Heavyweight Title. Even though Travis Browne has faced big names in the heavyweight division, he seems to not have had much trouble with his opponents. Well Andrei Arvloski is looking to be his first great challenge and aiming to eventually fight for the title. This fight is going to be brutal no matter who wins. These two are going to go to war and the fans will win just as much as whomever gets his hand raised. This fight is hard for me to call because I enjoy both fighters equally, but I’m going to say that Andrei Arvloski is going to show how badly he wants to be back in the title picture with a TKO victory over Travis Browne.
(#3)Donald Cerrone vs. John Makdessi: This fight was originally supposed to be Donald Cerrone vs Khabib Nurmagomedov, but Khabib had to withdraw due to a knee injury. To replace him, the UFC called on John Makdessi. Makdessi just fought in UFC 186 and won against Shane Campbell. Makdessi has a record of 12-3 and is on a four fight win streak. He has nine wins by knockout and four by decision with five first round finishes. Makdessi has a black belt in kickboxing and trains in Tae Kwon Do. His opponent is the #3 ranked Donald Cerrone. Cerrone has a professional record of 27-6. He is on a seven fight win streak with fifteen wins by submission and four wins by knockout. Cerrone may have a large number of submission victories, but he has no problem striking first. I predict that Donald Cerrone will quickly wear Makdessi down with hard strikes, take him to the ground and get the win via first round submission.
(C)Chris Weidman vs. (#3)Vitor Belfort: The co-main event on this card will be a middleweight title fight. The Champion Chris Weidman has a record of 12-0 and has successfully defended his title twice so far. Weidman was a wrestler in college, being a two-time Junior College All-American and a two-time Division I All-American. This has shown to help him in the octagon with 100% of all takedowns avoided. Weidman is also a US Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion so it should be no surprise that he has three submissions to go along with his five wins by knockout. Weidman also has five first round finishes. The challenger for the title is the seasoned Vitor Belfort. Belfort has a record of 24-10 with wins coming from the middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. Vitor has 17 wins by knockout and three wins by submission. Over his career, Belfort has faced eight different UFC or PRIDE champions with two of the most recent being Jon Jones and Anderson Silva. This fight could potentially be mostly on the ground, but I urge you not to turn away. Both of these fighters are known to throw punches in their ground game and watching their clash of two different grappling styles could make this match hard to call. I am going to say that this fight is going to go into the championship rounds with the fighters keeping it evenly matched. I actually think it is going to go all the way and Vitor Belfort will break the streak with a win by split decision.
(#1)Anthony Johnson vs. (#3)Daniel Cormier: The main event for tonight was supposed to be a title fight between the Champion Jon Jones and #1 Anthony Johnson, but due to outside complications Jones was pulled from the card and stripped of his UFC title. In order to save the card, the UFC called on #3 ranked Daniel Cormier to fill the spot and fight Anthony Johnson for the now vacant Light Heavyweight Championship. Anthony Johnson has a record of 19-4 with his first UFC win winning him Knockout of the Night in the TUF8 Finale. Johnson is on a nine fight win streak with a total of thirteen knockout victories. He is known for his speed just as much as his power. Johnson stands at 6’2” with a 78 inch wingspan. Johnson’s opponent is Daniel Cormier. Cormier has a record of 15-1 with his only loss being his last fight against Jon Jones. Cormier stands at 5’11” with a 72 inch wingspan. He is also a powerful fighter with eight wins by knockout, and he just recently moved down from heavyweight. Cormier was a decorated collegiate wrestler and is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This fight is going to prove to be a battle in all aspects of MMA. Either man could win this one, but I am worried for Cormier about Johnson’s difference in height and reach. I personally think Cormier could have beaten Jones in their fight had Jones not had so much of a reach advantage. Now with that being said, if Dan is able to stay close without taking too much damage he could take this one. I think this fight will go to the fourth round with both men putting everything they have into every second of this fight. Then in the fourth round I predict that Johnson’s reach will give him the upper hand to get a few more better placed shots to knock Cormier down and secure a TKO victory.
Justin Scoggins (9-2) vs Josh Sampo (11-4): The opening fight is a flyweight battle that will excite the fans. Justin Scoggins is coming in losing his last two fights and will be looking for a turn around. He has 7 stoppages of his 9 wins, and 5 of those stoppages are in the first round. He is the 6th youngest fighter on the UFC fighter so the two loses are ok because every fighter has their struggles and lessons to learn. His one loss was a split decision which I didn’t really agree with the decision on and his other loss was to a freak in John Moraga. Scoggins will look to rebound here to open the night using his incredible striking and great takedowns to keep Sampo out of it. Scoggins has a great pace to him and is one tough dude with KO power behind each and every punch. He is a good take down type of guy and needs to work on his ground game to become a legit contender at the flyweight division. Now in the other corner is a great fighter in Josh Sampo. Josh is a good fighter with excellent wrestling skills. His fight style and strength is honestly the one weakness and only weakness as of now in Scoggins game. Sampo is also entering this fight on a 2 fight losing streak looking to hopefully turn it around. He has never knocked out an opponent, his 11 wins are split 6 by submission and 5 of them by decision. Sampo has great technical skill and has 3 first round finishes which means three first round submissions. Sampo is going to have to take this to the mat to pull off a win against Scoggins and must avoid standing up with him. Now it’s time to call this one and I can honestly say it’s pretty hard to call. I am going to pick Justin Scoggins to beat Josh Sampo in a second round KO/TKO early in the second round.
Islam Makhachev (11-0) vs. Leo Kuntz (17-1-1): This is an interesting lightweight battle featuring new comers to the UFC. Islam will be entering his first ever UFC match and will look to remain unbeaten professionally and start his UFC career out the right way. Islam is from an interesting background being that Khabib’s father is his coach in Russia. He is a phenomenal wrestler with great submission skills. He has finished 7 of his 11 wins through 2 KO/TKO’s and 5 submissions. Islam is a dangerous submission expert as it seems he can pull one off from any position on the mat. Five of those seven finishes are in the first round as well which makes him one exciting fighter for the fans to watch. Islam is a young guy at 23 years of age and will most likely be a mainstay in the UFC and look to start moving forward in the UFC starting with this fight. He is coming up against another new UFC fighter who is as well fighting his first UFC fight, Leo Kuntz. Leo is an older newcomer at 31 years of age. His 17 professional wins have 12 stoppages, 9 by KO/TKO and 3 by submission. Leo is entering on a five fight win streak professionally. Since his loss though he is 14-0-1 separating his win streaks with a draw. Leo is a strong lightweight with KO power obviously shown through his 9 KO’s. He is one tough dude who can take a beating and last all three rounds seemingly with no condition issues at all. His muytai style of fighting is going to have to adjust and grow in the UFC against the best fighters in the world. This fight between the two UFC new comers will be exciting and I got it going all three rounds for a unanimous decision for Islam Makhachev.
Mike Pyle (26-10-1) vs. Colby Covington (7-0): This welterweight battle is the main event of the online prelims and I am shocked to see Mike Pyle on them to be honest. Mike Pyle is a UFC great granted he is 39 years of age and towards the end of his UFC career. Mike is a finisher and a fan favorite due to that alone. He has finished 22 of his 26 victories. Sixteen of those wins are by submission and the other six are by KO/TKO. He has won 8 of his last 11 fights and 4 of his last 5. Mike is a phenomenal ground game fighter with the ability to pull off a submission from anywhere and no matter how bad he is getting beat he seems he can pull off a surprising, out of nowhere submission. He loves when standing up to go to the clinch and use his phenomenal knees. He said himself when it comes down to his submission and ground game his favorite grappling technique is any that finishes the fight. He is definitely a crowd pleaser as he hates to leave the fights to the judge’s scorecard which is beyond understandable. His last five victories have been by KO making me wonder if his submission game is as strong as it used to be. In the other corner of the main event of the online prelims is Colby Covington. Colby is undefeated and is 27 years of age fighting his 3rd UFC fight and only his 8th fight professionally. 8 fights total after this fight win or lose is still less than the amount of loses that Mike Pyle has and only one third of the amount of wins. Covington has no real wear and tear and is the fresher fighter. He has finished five of his seven wins three of those finishes are first round stoppages. Covington has three submissions and two KO/TKO’s that show his well-rounded ability to finish his fights. Colby is 2-0 in the UFC, his two victories displayed his ability to be a well-rounded fighter. He won the first one by KO/TKO and then the second one by submission. Covington is the perfect matchup for Mike Pyle as both fighters have the ability to finish the fight anywhere. This fight could honestly be a headliner of a regular prelim but due to the stacked fight card ahead of it, it will be a great online prelim for UFC fightpass. I am so excited for this fight and I am going to take the veteran of the octagon to win here and bring home a second round KO/TKO.
Fox Sports Prelims:
#4 Rose Namajunas (3-2) vs. Nina Ansaroff (6-4): This will be a phenomenal matchup in the women’s strawweight division. Rose is a great fighter who got off to a bad start in the UFC losing to Carla Esparza. I truly believe Rose was the better fighter who just had a bad day in the octagon which happens to everyone. She is a very exciting fighter who has managed to finish all three of her professional wins. All three of those finishes have been by way of submission one of those was a flying armbar. She in her amateur career with two knockouts meaning she can stand-up and knock people out. Rose can be a very fast pace fighter who can land a random strike out of nowhere, sometimes it seems she does it just to throw her opponent off of their game. Not that this has anything to do with her fighting ability but she is engaged to heavy handed Pat Berry a UFC veteran. Rose is a well-rounded fighter with great jiu-jitsu skills and an incredible submission game. Rose is going to make sure this fight is a great one for the fans and that means an exciting one nonetheless. Now standing across from Rose is Nina Ansaroff who is also coming off her only match in the UFC being a loss. Her loss was a unanimous decision which I could have seen the argument she didn’t get a break from the judges. She enters this fight winning five of her last six fights professionally. She has 4 wins by KO and one by submission in her 6 wins and that means a combined five finishes through a stoppage, two of them in the first round. Nina is a great stand-up fighter with great striking skills and the ability to end the fight fast out of nowhere. Don’t mistake Nina as a standing fighter who can’t fight on the mat because she is a very well rounded fighter with the ability to fight well on the mat from control and from her back. This fight is going to be a fight from top to bottom exciting and will be so hard to call. I am going to go with Rose Namajunas who will possibly get a shot at the title next if she pulls off this win. I think Rose will win by second round submission through a rear naked choke.
Uriah Hall (11-4) vs. Rafael Natal (19-6-1): This is a middleweight bout among two guys who I cannot figure out how they haven’t managed to get ranked yet. Uriah Hall is a freak I honestly wish that was all I had to say because honestly this guy is so underrated it is unreal. He is coming into this fight on a three fight winning streak 2 of those finishes are first round doctors stoppages, one of them sadly ending the career of UFC standout Chris Leben. He has won nine of his fights by stoppage and 8 of those being KO/TKO finishes and one by a heel hook submission maneuver. Uriah has one punch KO power better than anyone in his UFC division. Uriah’s athleticism is incredible to boot and makes for a very strong and athletic fighter which is what the UFC needs to keep the fans always excited. His first two professional loses were to Chris Weidman and Costa Philippou two top level contenders one being the champ, for now. Uriah is a very confident fighter who loves to push the pace and force the other fighter to fight off of his heels as he retreats most the fight trying to avoid the big blows from Hall’s incredibly strong hands. As long as he controls the octagon he seems to have no issue pulling off a win through his own making. Now to the other side of Hall is Rafael Natal who is a great fighter in the middleweight division. Natal has a great ground game which is in a way the weakness of Uriah especially if he can get Hall to the ground and avoid standing and taking a big blow from his heavy hands. He has won five of his last seven fight, only 3 of his last five though. He has let 8 finishes go to the judges score card while the other 11 have been through 3 KO/TKO and 8 through submission. He has some of the best ground game in the division one that could match Chris Weidman’s ground game possibly. Natal does have good stamina and can go all three rounds without it affecting much of his game as he doesn’t seem to really change pace regardless. This fight will either go to the mat in favor of Natal or Hall will use his good takedown defense and keep this fight on their feet. If Hall manages to do this he will be the dominant fighter in this battle, if it goes to the mat it slightly favors Natal but Hall does have a decent ground game which I believe he is working on improving. I am going to pick the beast himself to win this fight and take Uriah in the first round late with a KO/TKO.
#8 Dong Hyun Kim (19-3-1, 1NC) vs. Josh Burkman (28-11): This is a welterweight battle with two top level fighters in the division squaring off. Kim is entering this fight following a loss against Tyron Woodley who is in my opinion one of the best, most underrated fighters in the UFC. Kim has won 4 of his last five fights though coming in strong here. He is a very well rounded fighter who can fight with the best of them standing up. His ground game is something else though, it is absolutely incredible. He has great judo and an overall great takedown game. Eight of his last 15 wins are by KO/TKO. What I love most about Dong Kim is that he is a very aggressive fighter who seems to never back down and continues to march forward and brings the fight to his opponent. Dong Hyun Kim is a beast with one of the best games in the division. His takedown defense is pretty good at 81% which is impressive since his division has some great guys with their abilities to take someone down. He is standing opposite in the cage of Josh Burkman. Josh Burkman is a very well rounded fighter who can perform everywhere. Burkman is coming into this fight with a 1-3-1 record in his last five fights. He is a great grappler and is known for his ability to bring a big carry and slam to his opponents. He has finished 17 of his fights, nine wins by KO and the other eight are by submission. Burkman has finished 15 of his 17 finishes in the first round showing his ability to come out fast and ready to bring the fight to his opponent. This fight will be extremely exciting the second they touch gloves. Both fighters are known for their aggressiveness and ability to bring the fight to their opponents. Both fighters are also known as well-rounded fighters who get their opponents to the mat in their own ways. Burkman gets his opponents to the mat with a strong slam after a pick up and carry while Kim gets their opponents to the mat with a good judo throw or just a strong grapple game. This fight will be so much fun so hold on to your butts as its time for things to get thrilling. I am going to pick Kim to win by a third round KO/TKO through ground and pound.
#1 Josh Dodson (17-6) vs. #9 Zach Makovsky (19-5): The Flyweight division fight here is going to be thrilling with two top ten contenders in the division squaring off. Josh Dodson is back after not fighting for almost a year now. Dodson is an incredible fighter with phenomenal striking and be a beast that can knockout anyone anywhere. Dodson is extremely fast paced and so much fun to watch because he can explode quickly from nowhere. His footwork is fast and helps him avoid takedowns and keeps him moving and gives him the ability to avoid the big blows and keeps himself with the advantage to stay in the match longer. His hidden ability is the ability to explode from nowhere like going from 0 -100 in a second flat. His nickname is the magician for a reason and I think it is his ability to out of nowhere knockout any opponent. He has finished 11 of his 17 wins 9 of those through KO/TKO’s and the other two by submissions. He is entering this fight winning eight of his last nine fights. His lone loss in those 9 previous fights being to the unbeatable Demetrious Johnson in a 5 round brawl in a unanimous decision. He is the winner of the Ultimate Fighter beating TJ Dillashaw in the finale who is currently the champion in the bantamweight division. Dodson is an incredible fighter who is one of my top two picks to be able to beat Johnson. Standing opposite of Dodson though is Zach Makovsky. Zach is a very good well rounded fighter. He has great wrestling skills as well as a good grappling game. The only thing I do not like about Makovsky’s game personally is that he is a slow paced fighter and lets most of his fights go to decision. He has won only 7 of his 19 fights by stoppage. His 7 stoppages though are done through 6 submissions and one KO. He is like Dodson coming in winning a lot of his previous fights, he has won five of his last six fights. Makovsky was a division one wrestler who hold a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Marcelo Garcia. I am sure Makovsky will try and get this fight to the mat fast and hope that Dodson doesn’t finish him anyway from the mat. Makovsky is the slightly better wrestler but it is a very minute amount that really I would say would never guarantee him the victory over Dodson. I think if this fight stays standing we will be in for a real treat because we will get to watch Dodson fight standing up and that is all in itself thrilling. I am going to pick the Magician to win this one through a Dodson first round KO/TKO.
#2 Joseph Benavidez (21-4) vs #5 John Moraga (16-3): Oh boy back to back Flyweight battles one ending the prelims one kicking off the main card! Benavidez is my other option to be able to beat Johnson possibly one day. That being said he needs to focus on his matchup here because he is in for a real test. Benavidez has amazing speed just like Johnson and Dodson and can unleash a flurry in a matter of seconds that could finish a fight quickly. Benavidez trains with some of the top fighters in the UFC since he trains in the gym team Alpha Male. In that gym he trains with the likes of TJ Dillashaw, Chad Mendes, and Uriah Faber meaning he gets to train with guys who have phenomenal conditioning and great all-around games which helps him improve his all-around game. Joseph has four losses all four coming in the UFC but that being said all four are against two absolutely incredible fighters, Demetrious Johnson and Dominick Cruz. Three of those loses are in championship matches as he just hasn’t managed to crack the win category when fighting for the belt. He has finished fifteen of his twenty-one wins. Those fifteen wins are won though nine submissions and six KO/TKO’s. Benavidez’s fast paced fight style leads to his ability to move forward a lot and put pressure on his opponent on a constant basis. He is a good fighter on his feet but he is a better fighter on the mat. His ground game and submission skills are beyond incredible. On the ground he is good at more than just his wrestling skills, he has a great ground and pound. He has won 9 of his last 11 fights both of those loses coming to Demetrious Johnson in the title fights as it just seems to be the hurdle he cannot for some unknown reason find a way to jump over. This fight though is not against the champion it is against John Moraga. John Moraga is one of those fighters at the top of the division who I absolutely love to watch fight. He is a great wrestler and submission artist. He has half of his victories through submission with 8 wins by way of submission and two more added by KO/TKO having finished 10 of his 16 wins. He has lost both his matches to John Dodson one pre-UFC and then his most recent loss to Dodson due to a second round doctors stoppage. He has been championship caliber worthy meaning has fought for the belt before but he lost to Demetrious Johnson. He was a wrestler in Arizona State and his wrestling game in the UFC has been incredibly good as well. He is going to be looking to take this fight to the mat possibly but he needs to be careful because his opponent Benavidez is equally good on the mat and can finish anywhere. This fight is going to be good no matter where it goes because both fighters are very well rounded and able to fight well in all elements of the sport. I am going to pick Benavidez with a second round submission because I believe he has a slight edge in all elements of his game though I think Moraga will look great during this fight.
#3 Travis “Happa” Browne (17-2-1) vs. #8 Andrei Arlovski (23-10-0, 1 NC): The only heavyweight battle in this fight card is a big one to say the least. Travis Browne is a monster an absolute tank of a man who I honestly think is the only heavyweight besides Stipe Miocic that can beat Cain or Fabricio at this point. Travis is an incredible 6 foot 7 inches tall with probably one of the most athletic builds in the business. He is one of the few heavyweights that doesn’t seem to sport a gut on him, I am not saying the other ones are fat or not athletic. He is a great mixed martial artist who has a phenomenal all-around game. Browne has a great takedown defense with an 82% success rate at defending the takedown. His hands when striking always seem to be well places and efficient he doesn’t seem to waste much energy even to deliver a big blow. In his last 5 fights Happa is 4-1 all four of his wins are first round KO/TKO victories and his sole loss was to Fabricio in a unanimous decision which displayed his ability to last all 5 rounds and take a punch while doing so. Travis is one of the best finishers in the UFC finishing 15 of his 17 victories 13 by way of KO/TKO the other two are by submission. This guy is a fast paced ridiculously entertaining fighter who has finished SEVEN fights in UNDER one minute. He has been a fast paced quick finisher before he even joined the UFC. His last three pre-UFC fights lasted a combined 52 seconds. If fans are trying to find a fighter to be a fan of and someone who can always bring them excitement when he steps inside the cage they should look no further than the big Hawaiian, Travis Happa Browne. He is a complete fighter who has great footwork and the ability to take his share of heavy shots. His ground game is constantly improving and shaping up to be a great one especially inside the heavyweight division. He is now a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Travis is honestly a star on the rise and at 32 years of age I think he is just hitting his prime and will continue to deliver until he is given the title shot he deserves and I personally believe he should be the second ranked heavyweight because I truly believe he is at this point a better fighter than Junior Dos Santos. Now all that being said is an opponent who could easily climb back into title contention in the heavyweight division in Andrei Arlovski. Andrei is an extremely dangerous fighter. He is the definition of one hit KO power. He has good footwork and a great ability to fight in the clinch as well. His take down defense is a bit more impressive than Travis Browne’s as Arlovski has a takedown defense sitting currently at 86%. Arlovski just like Browne is a finisher of his fights, finishing 19 of his 23 fights. Those 19 finishes show off his ability to deliver the big blow as he has 16 wins by KO/TKO and only three by submission. He has 12 first round finishes and has won 3 straight coming into this fight. He left the UFC in 2008 and only managed to go 2-4 outside of the UFC really struggling against guys like Antonio Silva and Fedor Emelianeko. When you count his previous UFC bouts he has actually won 5 of those in a row going back to 2006. He is clearly a veteran inside the cage and at 36 years old he is still someone to easily be afraid of regardless of his age. His ground game is decent but if you compare it to his opponent Travis Browne’s game he doesn’t match up in skill on the mat very well. Meaning if Arlovski has it his way he will keep this fight standing and try and land his heavy fists and look for the KO finish. The thing is I believe Travis will be glad to stay standing as well and use his length at his advantage and look for his KO finish as well. That means if these two decide to turn this into a brawl we could see one of the best Heavyweight matches in a long time and possibly fight of the year. These guys are two absolute tanks colliding it is almost like the US vs Russia just as their countries would represent. I am going to go with the fighter in my opinion that just seems to be really hot right now and who knows this win could get him a title shot. So I will take Travis Browne in a third round KO/TKO after a bloody back and forth brawl.
#3 Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (27-6) vs. John Makdessi (12-3): This lightweight fight used to be another one of those fights where every UFC in the world was excited for because it was originally Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Cowboy Cerrone but Khabib just couldn’t stay healthy. So they have replaced him at least instead of scrapping the whole fight and reached a bit to get John Makdessi who is an upcoming fighter in that division but I believe there were better options. That being said this fight is actually an extremely exciting one regardless because who can’t get excited for a Cowboy Cerrone fight? I know I can every single time and regardless in the drop down in rank that his opponent has I believe since Khabib got injured that if he wins he should get the title shot. He shouldn’t be punished for Khabib not being able to stay healthy. This is already his third fight this year and he fought in 4 last year and 4 in the year before that. Last year though he won all 4 of his fights and is entering this fight on a 7 fight win streak, as he has won 17 of his last 22. Cerrone is probably as on fire as they come right now and his skill set makes it really hard to see him losing anytime soon. He is a Muytai fighter with an incredible game from top to bottom. Standing up he is one of, if not the most dangerous fighter in his division. When it goes to the clinch he seems to be a complete genius at controlling and using his strikes well there as well. When it goes to the mat Cerrone’s ground game is actually elite but most UFC analyst and fans in general seem to kind of forget that and trust me that’s never a mistake his opponent wants to make. Cerrone loves to avoid the judges score card as he has finished 19 of his fights. He has done so by way of 15 wins by submission and the other 4 are by way of KO/TKO. Now most people would see that number and say if he is known for his striking why are his submission numbers so high? There are two reasons for that. First reason being that Cerrone gets a lot of knockdowns and if he can’t finish in a quick flurry from on top once knocked down he is a great fighter on the mat and will find a way to put his beat up opponent in a submission instead. The second reason that the number is so high is that his opponents in this division are made up of a lot of wrestlers and guys who have tried taking Cerrone to the mat and once they do he is still very dangerous and at times has capitalized on those opportunities for a submission. Now I said he gets a lot of knockdowns but don’t take that as Cerrone doesn’t have one hit KO power to finish a fight. He doesn’t have the heaviest hands in the division but he does have some pretty strong shots. He will most the time beat up his opponent to the point where one really good blow will set them on their rear ends or knock them out cold. This guy is a serious threat to the title and I believe he deserves the title shot immediately after this fight so in other words as soon as it can be scheduled it should. Now in the other corner from the monster Donald Cerrone is the man John Makdessi who regardless that he is 30 years of age seems to be fighting like a youngster. Makdessi will have actually fought less than a month before this fight, on April 25th where he scored a first round beating over Shane Campbell. Makdessi is a good well rounded fighter who is starting to make some noise in the lightweight division. I say he is well rounded because he does have a ground game apparently although we haven’t seen it in the UFC yet. He is trained by UFC future hall-of-famer GSP’s trainer Firas Zahabi meaning he for sure should have a good ground game regardless that it remains unseen. Makdessi though does have a great standup. He has 9 wins by KO the other three are by way of the judges score card. His 9 KO’s aren’t really the thing that truly stands out to me though as he has finished 5 of those 9 in the first round including his last fight. He comes into this fight against the cowboy winning 4 of his last 5 fights and knowing that if he pulls of this “miracle” win over the cowboy he would instantly see a possible top 10 rank inside the lightweight division. So knowing that so far Makdessi has not taken a fight to the mat and the knowledge that Cerrone loves to fight anyone standing up means we could be in for a real treat here as these two could stand and trade punches as long as the other can take it. I am going to make the choice I just can’t see not making and take Cerrone to win this one. I think he will knock Makdessi on his butt somewhere in the second round and take his back after a sprawl and get the rear naked choke for the victory.
(C) Chris Weidman (12-0) vs #3 Vitor Belfort (24-10): For some reason that song are you ready for this keeps playing in my head when I think of this fight. Anyway this is the Co-main event of the evening and it is for the undisputed middleweight championship. Fighting out of the blue corner we will have Vitor Belfort aka the Phenom. I personally believe that Vitor is the definition of the all-around fighter. This guy can fight anyone anywhere no questions asked. His striking is just I mean forget about it, if you’re getting hit by this guy to much I don’t care who you are who how much of a granite chin you have it doesn’t matter. Vitor is known for his incredible boxing skills and to accompany those boxing skills he has extremely explosive hands. Now most fighters that can punch and fight standing like he can are good on the mat as a secondary option but honestly Vitor is so good on the mat with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu background it could even be argued to be as good as his standup ability. It seems to me that this man hates the judges as much as every fan does because this guy has finished 20 of his 24 wins doing everything he can to keep it out of the fickle judges hands. 17 of those 20 are KO/TKO victories and the other 3 obviously by submission. He enters this fight winning 10 of his last 12 and 8 of those 10 are by way of KO victories. His last 3 losses in the UFC come against three future hall of famers. Those three being Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, and Dan Henderson. In his career in the UFC and Pride he has faced the best of the best in Jon Jones, Silva, Henderson, Couture, Liddell, Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz, and Wanerlei Silva. This man has faced the best and beat Randy Couture, Wanderlei, Franklin, and Henderson in his last fight. Vitor fought back at UFC 12 in 1997 and yet here he is still fighting at the top level and honestly looks as good as ever. This guy might be 38 years of age but he fights like a young kid hungry for that title and he is here to give Weidman his first loss and take what he believes is his. Vitor is a ferocious fighter with a ton of power especially in this weight class he is going to be so strong and lean I think being that he is healthy now after not fighting since 2013 it is going to be the world of difference. The last part of Vitor’s fighting that I almost forgot to mention is his uncanny ability to land a head kick out of nowhere. These head kicks aren’t just change of pace head kicks either because if they land an open shot, well then goodnight enjoy your dreams because if he lands an clean head kick on Chris he will wake up later realizing he doesn’t have the belt anymore. Fighting out of the red corner is the defending, reigning, undisputed middleweight champion of the world Chris Weidman (Did you do a Bruce Buffer voice when reading that?). This guy is the man responsible for ending Anderson Silva’s reign over the division for so many years. He is undefeated professionally and I mean even during his college years he was an incredible wrestler. In college he wrestled and beat Phil “boneheaded” Davis (sorry I am mad about him leaving the UFC for dumb Bellator) and Ryan Bader. Once in the UFC he even beat the wrestling machine Mark Munoz granted it was by KO. Now Weidman does tend to finish his fights just like Vitor does as that 8 of his 12 wins are by stoppage. Five of those wins are by KO the other three by way of submission. Now if you listen to people talk about Chris and all you hear them talk about is his gritty type of fighting and wrestling stop them and mention his KO power. Because one of his hidden underrated abilities is to finish a fight with one clean open shot. The last part of Chris’ game that really needs to take focus here is that he is nearly impossible to be taken down. He has a 100% takedown defense and that’s after facing people like Mark Munoz, Anderson Silva twice, and Lyoto Machida. Weidman honestly reminds me a lot of Daniel Cormier by that I mean they both have incredible wrestling and ground game abilities yet they can deliver a knockout punch with one shot, all while being impossible or nearly impossible to be taken to the mat. Now picking this fight hard because both fighters are pretty incredible and I honestly can’t give an edge to either fighter on the mat or standing. So it comes down to the young champion who is 12-0 or the guy who has fought forever yet still looks like he is in his prime. I am probably the only person on the planet this week going to say this but I am going to take a Vitor Belfort KO of Chris Weidman in the fourth round giving us a new middleweight champion and giving Weidman his first loss as well as a much needed piece of humble pie.
#1 Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (19-4) vs. #3 Daniel Cormier (15-1): Ok everyone is annoying me with this crap about this fight being in the shadow of Jon Jones and his mindless stupidity. The only way this division can move on is a new champion and we are going to get one here so let’s shut-up about Jon Jones and focus on this amazing fight we are getting here. Yes if you missed it this is for the vacant light heavyweight title of the world. This fight will not let anyone down unless it goes to the judges score card but honestly with Rumble and DC in this one I don’t see that possibly lasting 5 rounds. Now I am going to start with the last guy to fight Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier or as I will call him DC. When DC lost to Jon Jones earlier this year it was his only professional loss of his career. He is entirely known for his wrestling skills as he is a two time Olympic wrestler. Now when I say he is entirely known for his wrestling please don’t read into that as he can only grapple and use his ground game. As a matter of fact professionally he has stopped 10 of his 15 wins and 8 of those 10 are by way of KO/TKO. Daniel is a former heavyweight contender who only 3 fights ago decided to try his hand in the light heavyweight division. In the heavyweight division DC didn’t beat just plain old nobodies, he beat Antonio Silva, Josh “the overrated” Barnett, Frank Mir, and Roy Nelson. Since joining the light heavyweight division he has gone 2-1. The one loss was his last fight and it was against Jon Jones which was also the first fight we ever saw Daniel Cormier get taken to the mat. I believe we will see an inspired DC this fight more than he even was with his bitter rival Jon Jones. I know DC enters this fight as the favorite according to the so called experts and the betting odds but he believes people still see him as the underdog. He will be looking to beat Anthony Johnson the same way the others who have beat him, take him to the mat and out wrestle him. If DC does stay standing he will be at a reach disadvantage and I also believe he will be the weaker of the two. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t see him land a devastating overhand right to sit Anthony Johnson on his rear end. Now in the corner opposite is the heavy handed monster Anthony Johnson. Anthony was the original opponent for Jon Jones and is the number one ranked fighter in the light heavyweight division. His last fight I picked against him honestly when he fought Alexander Gustaffson and man was I wrong. Rumble came into that fight the aggressor and just absolutely dismantled the guy I honestly believed to be the top fighter in their division. Anthony Johnson is strongly known for his absolutely devastating strength and the ability to be the aggressor landing big shots. His wrestling game is his one weakness but with his 85% takedown defense he hopes to protect his one weakness well. His last two fights he just absolutely destroyed his opponents Gustafsson and Antonio Nogueira with first round KO’s. He will look to carry his hot hands literally into this fight against DC and hope to walk out the new champion which it seems people are believing he will not be able to regardless of being the more athletic and longer opponent. His athleticism gives him great ability to last a fight if need be and gives him amazing speed especially for his size. He is one of the most impressive fighters to watch in my opinion if he is on his game that is of course. All but 2 of rumbles wins have been by way of KO and he is just an absolute crowd pleaser extraordinaire. Rumbles two most recent losses have come to smaller opponents though in Vitor Belfort who we will all have the pleasure of watching in the co-main event and Josh Koscheck both losses by submission showing the weakness in his game is definitely there and might be the reasons the so called experts are picking DC. Rumble to me looks more determined and ready than ever before for a title shot. I think the Blackzillians and his teammate Suga Rashad Evans are going to have helped him train and be prepared for this fight. Suga knows what it takes to be a champion in the UFC and in the light heavyweight division. I am really excited to see this fight but that probably could be without saying because I don’t know a UFC fan that isn’t excited to see this belt around someone else’s waist for the first time in 4 years since Jones took the belt from Shogun. I can say this one is going to be close but that should be a no brainer now I mentioned it before it seems the odds and experts have DC beating Johnson here I am assuming due to the ground game of DC and lack of one in Rumble. I am not so inclined to count out the monster in Rumble and I will pick the underdog and say Anthony ends this one in the third round not even making it to the championship rounds. I believe his strength, speed, and length will be too much for DC since Johnson is the aggressive fighter and will be able to use his range more by being so. I think after two incredibly close rounds Johnson will catch DC somewhere in the third with a strong overhand right and flurry in for the finish getting the KO victory and walking out the new UFC light heavyweight champion.